Best Pre-College Summer Programs

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Are you ready to find your fit?

Summer doesn’t have to be a time for high-achieving high school students to fill with binge watching Netflix, lounging around the house, and/or getting a temporary job. Why not “test drive” that college you’ve long dreamt of attending? Would you like to make the transition to the whole college experience easier by giving it a trial run? Is there a favorite area of study that doesn’t push you far enough in high school? Do you have an artistic talent you would like to refine with the helpful guidance of a college instructor?  Is there an area of study that you would like to explore? Could you use some help in a subject that is giving you trouble? If any of these things are true for you, then you should take advantage of one of the growing number of summer programs being offered by many of the top-ranked colleges and universities.

Pre-college summer programs are much more fun and rewarding than a traditional campus tour. Most competitive colleges and universities offer at least one pre-college summer experience. These programs give students opportunities to explore campuses, meet with instructors, take courses, and get a sense of college life. Such experiences can be beneficial to high school students still exploring schools, majors, and career paths.

The variety of summer programs abound. There are residential and commuter options. There are programs that offer college credits and those that do not. There are those that are less than a week and others that can have you on campus for as many as eight weeks. Some are selective and available only to the most qualified students, and others operate on a first-apply first-accepted basis. Some have only a few open slots, others have many. Some are free of charge to those accepted, others offer financial assistance to those who need it, and still others are tuition-only. Students are encouraged to explore the schools, the length of the programs, the courses offered, and the costs of attending.

With so many options, it is almost guaranteed that any student interested in the pre-college experience can find a good fit for their schedules and interests. But the number of options can be a little overwhelming. We at College Choice hope to make your exploration easier. We have compiled a list of the 35 best pre-college summer programs, considering criteria such as: 1) a representative cost of one week of an extended-stay residential program; 2) the number of summer program options a school offers; and 3) the reputation of the programs based on freely available sources like U.S. News & World Report and directories of pre-college summer programs.

While students in pre-college programs can gain from getting a jump start on college credits, dipping a toe in the waters of higher education, exploring a fascination, honing a skill, or just simply having something to do for the summer, they should not forget it is summer after all. Have fun!

Top 10 Best Pre-College Summer Programs

Rank School Location
1 Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta, GA
2 University of Notre Dame Notre Dame, IN
3 Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, PA
4 Brigham Young University Laie, HI
5 Purdue University West Lafayette, IN
6 California State University Long Beach Long Beach, CA
7 Rochester Institute of Technology Rochester, NY
8 James Madison University Harrisonburg, VA
9 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Blacksburg, VA
10 University of Houston Houston, TX
Advertisement CollegeChoice.net is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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What are the top Pre-College Summer Programs?

Best Pre-College Summer Programs Badge

To compile the College Choice score for Best Summer Programs, we considered four factors: typical cost for a week of a residential program, the number of programs/courses offered, the reputation of the school, and reputation of the summer programs. We were aware that many programs had scholarship and no-cost options, but in calculating the cost score, we selected an example, middle-range, tuition-based program on offer by each school, selecting neither the cheapest nor the most expensive if there was a wide variety. Calculating the score for the number of programs and courses was little more than counting those things and assigning a score from 1 to 100 based on the count. A school’s reputation score was based on its ranking and score from US News and World Report. The score for the reputation of the programs was a bit less straightforward. We calculated that score by compiling rankings for summer programs from sites that specialize in summer program information. These sites included USummer, Student Educational Programs, and College Transitions, among others.

Rankings

See our rankings methodology page.

  1. Georgia Institute of Technology
    Location

    Atlanta, GA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Located in the heart of Atlanta, the Georgia Institute of Technology is situated on 400 tree-lined acres. U.S. News & World Report ranks Georgia Tech seventh among all national public universities. As a technologically focused institution, Georgia Tech offers innovative undergraduate and graduate programs to over 25,000 total students. One of the institute’s acclaimed undergraduate programs is aimed at providing students with an understanding of Industrial Design at the intersection of design, technology, and business.

    Program Features

    The program at Georgia Tech leads to a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design. Students will take between 16 and 18 credit-hours in most semesters in order to graduate in four years. This degree offers three specializations: Product Development and Innovation, Health and Well-Being, and Interactive Product Design. Required coursework for this degree includes the following:

    • Introduction to Sketching and Modeling
    • History of Modern Industrial Design
    • Human Factors In Design
    • Interactive Product Design Studio

    Notables

    Atlanta offers extensive opportunities for Georgia Tech students to work with nationally and internationally influential clients. Undergraduate students may work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MailChimp, Coca-Cola, Porsche, or another globally engaged organization. Georgia Tech also allows students to pursue the Industrial Design program as a minor.

  2. University of Notre Dame
    Location

    Notre Dame, IN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Founded in 1842, the University of Notre Dame is a leading research institution anchored in Catholic values. Notre Dame’s 1,250-acre campus, adjacent to South Bend, IN, is home to a student body of over 12,000. The Industrial Design program at Notre Dame provides undergraduate students with opportunities for study abroad, internships, and participation in the International Design Excellence Award competition.

    Program Features

    Students can choose either a Bachelor of Fine Arts or a Bachelor of Arts in Industrial Design. The BFA track requires 22 courses (67 credit-hours) within the major, while the BA track requires 12 courses (36 credit-hours) within the major. Students will need to earn a 3.25 GPA in seven core courses before they are formally admitted to the BFA program. Coursework for the BFA degree may include:

    • Industrial Design: Digital Solid Modeling
    • Origins, Concepts, and Processes of Graphic Design
    • History, Application, and Art of Typography
    • Industrial Design: Collaborative Product Development

    Notables

    Because the BFA track features more design studio experiences, students earning this degree will graduate with a larger portfolio than BA students. On the other hand, the BA track is ideal for students who would like to double major, or pursue a customized program of study at the intersection of industrial design and art, engineering, anthropology, or another complementary field.

  3. Carnegie Mellon University
    Location

    Pittsburgh, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    In the 2018 World University Rankings from Times Higher Education, Carnegie Mellon University was named to number 17 in the United States (and number 24 globally). The university’s School of Design is one of the oldest and most respected design schools in North America. Reflecting the transdisciplinary nature of industrial design, the School of Design’s undergraduate programs allow students to customize their degree path based on their career goals.

    Program Features

    Students may choose to earn a Bachelor of Design with an emphasis in Products, Communications, or Environments. Alternatively, students can pursue an Interdisciplinary Degree. This program allows students to evenly balance their study of design with study in the humanities or sciences. Both of these degrees are highly flexible, allowing students to take courses such as:

    • Collaborative Visualizing
    • Human Experience in Design
    • Color for Communications and Environments
    • Type, Form, Meaning, and Context

    Notables

    Carnegie Mellon operates a unique program called the Integrative Design, Arts, and Technology Network (IDeATe), which is designed to foster collaborative, interdepartmental studio experiences. Through the IDeATe Network, undergraduate students can add a concentration in one of eight creative industry areas. Concentrations are available in animation and special effects, sound design, entrepreneurship for creative industries, and more.

  4. Brigham Young University
    Location

    Laie, HI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Brigham Young University is a top-ranked research university enrolling approximately 30,000 undergraduates and 2,800 graduate students. The campus of BYU is located in Provo, UT. The university’s comprehensive academic programs include over 170 undergraduate majors and more than 100 undergraduate minors. The Industrial Design program emphasizes the use of state-of-the-art tools to communicate ideas and the application of end-user psychology in the design process.

    Program Features

    Presented by the Ira R. Fulton College of Engineering, the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Industrial Design prepares students to create, develop, and communicate product and service concepts. Undergraduates will complete all 100-level foundation courses before applying to the Industrial Design program. This is a limited enrollment program: Admission is capped at 40 students. Available coursework for this degree includes:

    • Tools, Materials, and Processes for Industrial Design
    • Exploration in Innovation Design Techniques
    • Furniture Design and Advanced Woodworking Processes
    • History of Interior Design and Architecture

    Notables

    This program provides extensive opportunities for multidisciplinary team projects, internships, and field experiences with industry groups. Industrial Design students may be eligible for departmental scholarships based on talent, need, and leadership. Students who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will receive a lower tuition rate than non-members.

  5. Purdue University
    Location

    West Lafayette, IN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    The flagship campus of the Purdue University system is located in West Lafayette, IN. U.S. News & World Report recently ranked Purdue at #18 on its list of the Best Public Universities (and #56 among the Best National Universities, public and private). Through Purdue’s Industrial and Interaction Design program, students will learn to utilize problem-solving innovation to develop and create products, systems, and services.

    Program Features

    Students at Purdue can earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Industrial Design. This degree is presented by the Department of Art and Design within the acclaimed Patti and Rusty Rueff School of Visual and Performing Arts. In addition to a 36-credit-hour Industrial Design required core, this degree path offers an array of electives from which students may choose. Available elective coursework for the BFA in Industrial Design includes:

    • Lighting Fundamentals of Photography
    • Computer Modeling and Animation
    • Information Visualization Design
    • Studio in Visual Communications Design

    Notables

    Students in this program will use industry-standard modeling and rendering software such as Rhino 3D, Solidworks, and Keyshot. After passing a required portfolio review in the spring of their sophomore year, students will have 24-hour access to dedicated design studios. In their junior and senior year, undergraduates will work with practicing industrial design professionals on corporate sponsored projects.

  6. California State University Long Beach
    Location

    Long Beach, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    A member of the 23-school CSU system, California State University Long Beach is a hub of innovation and discovery. Research and technology parks throughout the Greater Long Beach area are home to companies spun off from campus-originated research projects. Graduates of the Industrial Design program at CSULB have gone on to careers in motion picture special effects, transportation technology, medical design, computer and microchip technology, and small consumer appliances.

    Program Features

    CSULB’s program leads to a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design and requires 120 semester-units. The curriculum for the degree covers rapid visualization, materials and processes, presentation techniques, design methodology, financing principles, and other key skills for industry professionals. Specific course titles for Industrial Design majors include:

    • Modeling and Prototyping Techniques
    • Design Materials and Tools
    • Advanced Idea Generation for Designers
    • History and Theory of Design

    Notables

    Undergraduate students will have the opportunity to participate in corporate sponsored projects. In the past, partners for these projects have included Unisys, General Electric, Hewlett Packard, Apple, General Motors, Toyota, and many other globally influential brands and organizations. In addition to the BS in Industrial Design, CSULB’s Department of Design also offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design and a Bachelor of Arts in Design.

  7. Rochester Institute of Technology
    Location

    Rochester, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    In 2018, Princeton Review ranked the Rochester Institute of Technology among the Best Northeastern Colleges. RIT occupies a 1,300-acre campus in Rochester, the third largest city in New York State. International campuses are located in Croatia, Dubai, and Kosovo. The multidisciplinary Industrial Design program at RIT will provide career preparation in a number of complementary fields, including publishing, photography, engineering, and information technology.

    Program Features

    The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Industrial Design degree incorporates foundational coursework in the liberal arts, art history, major-specific courses, studio electives, and open electives. The options for the art history electives are diverse: Students might choose to take courses in topics such as Renaissance Painting in Flanders, Art and Architecture of Ancient Rome, or Scandinavian Modernism. A typical degree path might also include courses such as:

    • 3D Design
    • Integrated CAD
    • History of Industrial Design
    • Industrial Design Career Planning

    Notables

    RIT maintains membership in numerous professional organizations, such as the Industrial Designers Society of America, Society of Environmental Graphic Designers, American Institute of Graphic Arts, and International Interior Design Association, among several others. These organizations provide students with opportunities to participate in enrichment activities, attend conferences, and network with other professionals in their field.

  8. James Madison University
    Location

    Harrisonburg, VA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Enrolling approximately 22,000 undergraduate and graduate students, James Madison University is located in the picturesque Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. JMU ranks among the top 100 Best Values in Public Colleges, according to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. The ranking reflects a combination of outstanding tuition value and top-tier academic quality. Undergraduate students will benefit from the cutting-edge, career-focused academics in JMU’s Industrial Design program.

    Program Features

    JMU offers a program leading to a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design. This degree requires 41 credit-hours in general education courses and 78 credit-hours within the major. Another six credit-hours are required in scientific literacy and quantitative methods courses, bringing the required total to 125 credit-hours. Coursework within the Industrial Design major may include:

    • Science, Technology, and Society
    • Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship
    • Systems Design and Placemaking
    • Survey of World Art: Prehistoric to Renaissance

    Notables

    There are a limited number of seats in upper-division classes for the Industrial Design major. Students pursuing this degree will need to pass a portfolio review before they enroll in upper-division coursework, and admissions are competitive. After graduation, students will be qualified to pursue a career in product design, lighting design, model making, social innovation, and many other fields.

  9. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
    Location

    Blacksburg, VA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    In a “Their Students Love These Colleges” ranking from the Princeton Review, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University earned first place among 382 institutions. Home to nine colleges and a graduate school, Virginia Tech offers 110 bachelor’s degree programs and 170 master’s and doctoral degree programs. The nationally renowned School of Architecture and Design at Virginia Tech offers undergraduate degrees in Architecture, Interior Design, Landscape Architecture, and Industrial Design.

    Program Features

    Virginia Tech’s Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design aims to nurture a student’s independence. With a focus on humanistic delivery of services, systems, and products, the Industrial Design program emphasizes innovative technological development as well as ethical responsibility. Offering open studios and dedicated desk space, this program is deeply rooted in a “learn by doing” approach. The degree path features the following required courses:

    • Computer Aided Industrial Design
    • Human Factors
    • Design Visualization
    • Professional Practice and Entrepreneurship

    Notables

    All Industrial Design majors will be required to complete six credit-hours in professional electives. These electives may be earned in subjects such as Metals and Metal Processes, Technical Writing, Public Speaking, Sculpture, Digital Art, and many other fields that intersect with design. The Industrial Design program is also available as a minor for undergraduates.

  10. University of Houston
    Location

    Houston, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    The University of Houston is a state university established in 1927. Today, UH serves more than 45,000 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students. The Corporation for National and Community Service has recognized UH for addressing community challenges and promoting lifelong civic engagement among its students. The conceptual framework of UH’s Industrial Design program is based on three core principles: Integrated Learning, Collaborative Learning, and Project-Oriented Learning.

    Program Features

    The Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design was established in 2003. It was the very first undergraduate program of its kind in the surrounding four-state region (Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and New Mexico). The degree is presented by the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture. Students in this program are required to complete at least 132 credit-hours, which they may earn through courses such as:

    • Architecture Design Studio
    • Design Research Methods
    • Design Interaction
    • Design Practice and Business

    Notables

    UH is home to the Burdette Keeland Design Exploration Center, a premier digital fabrication facility. The center is open to students of Industrial Design and integrated disciplines such as Architecture and Interior Architecture. All three of these disciplines share the same undergraduate curriculum for the first semester. Students who wish to continue on to graduate study can earn a Master of Science in Industrial Design from UH.

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