Best Pre-College Summer Programs for 2017

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!

What are the top Pre-College Summer Programs?

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.

2017 Ranking

See our rankings methodology page.


Emory University

College Choice Score: 100.00

Typical Cost per Week: $969.50

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Emory University in Atlanta, GA offers a small liberal arts college environment within a major research university. The idyllic, tree-lined setting in the heart of a major metropolitan city is a perfect place for college-bound high school juniors and seniors to explore dozens of subjects and get a glimpse of academic and residential life.

Students live together in one of the university’s residence halls, participate in a variety of activities, excursions, and programs, and explore subjects with professors who are leading experts in their fields.  They may enroll in two-week non-credit courses or three-week institutes. Motivated students looking to get a head start on college can choose to enroll in six-week courses with college students and earn college credits.

With approximately 100 students enrolled in the pre-college program at any given time, the relatively small size ensures that students receive personal attention from instructors and residence life staff. They also are able to meet a larger percentage of their classmates.


University of Michigan

College Choice Score: 99.84

Typical Cost per Week: $650.00

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The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor has one of the most robust slate of summer programs for youth of all ages. From weeks-long residential camps to day programs, from art to science to business, the university offers a wide variety of academic and enriching options. Some of the most exciting programs for students exploring the college experience include the following:

ArcStart is a three-week long residential program offering students an introduction to architectural design. Students participate in a college architecture studio, build skills in workshops, and visit significant architecture projects in the region.

MPulse Summer Performing Arts Institute is a three-week residential program providing exposure to the School of Music, Theatre & Dance in the areas of music performance, music technology, musical theatre, theater and dance.

The Summer Engineering Exploration Camp is a one-week, residential camp for students interested in engineering. Participants spend a week applying engineering concepts to solve a variety of design challenges, as well as learning about numerous engineering disciplines.

In addition to these programs there are also options for those interested in business, the health professions, language and culture, science, technology, and mathematics.


Carnegie Mellon

College Choice Score: 96.73

Typical Cost per Week: $1,290.50

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Carnegie Mellon is a world-class university in Pittsburgh, PA, offering six highly regarded summer pre-college programs. Each of these programs gives students a glimpse of what life is like on the 143-acre urban campus.

The Advanced Placement/Early Admission (AP/EA) program is for those students wanting to get a head start on their college degree. Whether the student eventually attends Carnegie Mellon or not, talented and motivated high school students can take university courses and earn college credits.

The Architecture Program is structured to introduce students to design creativity, historical perspective, technical excellence, social responsibility, and global and environmental leadership. Students are able to experience studying architecture in a university setting.

The National High School Game Academy explores the video game industry and the skills needed to be successful in it. The program blends hands-on exercises and traditional lecture and discussion.

Carnegie Mellon also offers programs in Art and Design, Drama, and Music. All of the programs except AP/EA, which allows commuter students, are six-week residential programs. Carnegie Mellon’s summer Pre-College is literally the shortened version of a first semester of college.


Indiana University

College Choice Score: 91.12

Typical Cost per Week: $528.00

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With nearly thirty summer programs on its Bloomington campus, Indiana University has something for high school students with almost any academic interest. Upper-level high school students can get a taste of college life while meeting peers with similar interests. The following programs are some of the exceptional options in technology, science, language, the arts, and more:

The Jim Holland Summer Enrichment Program is an exciting opportunity for underrepresented high school students to broaden their horizons in science. Students can explore genetics, evolution, environmental, molecular biology, plant sciences, or a host of other scientific fields in this week-long residential program.

The Business is Global: Summer Language Program provides students with an experience at the intersection of business, language, and culture. The School of Global and International Studies combines forces with the Kelley School of Business to expose students to the cultures and communication styles of East Africa, East Asia, and Turkey, as well as the business practices in these regions and North America.

The Informatics and Computing Summer Camp is a week-long residential program that introduces students to latest trends in information technology, the Internet, Web design, networking, new media, database, gaming, and more. The experience gives students a glimpse of college life, allows them to explore career paths, learn from experts in the field, and have loads of fun with fellow campers who have similar interests.


Harvard University

College Choice Score: 89.64

Typical Cost per Week: $1,642.85

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In Harvard University’s summer programs, students are able to prepare for the transition to college life at one of the world’s premier universities. Located near Boston in Cambridge, MA, Harvard offers two options for summer pre-college programs.

Three two-week Pre-College Program sessions give students a residential and academic experience without the pressure of grades. Students can attend for two, four, or six weeks. The program offers over 50 noncredit courses in subjects like law, philosophy, computer programming, and public speaking. The structured days include classes, workshops, team-building events, and a variety of social activities.

The Secondary School Program is more of a full immersion into college life. There are over 200 courses for students to choose from for full college credit. Classes are attended with university undergraduates as well as other motivated high school students. This seven-week session allows for more freedom in structuring students’ days, giving them a taste of the independence they will have in college.


Northwestern University

College Choice Score: 88.23

Typical Cost per Week: $1,272.00

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At its campus in Evanston, IL, Northwestern University offers a handful of exceptional supplemental enrichment programs. Some of them provide credits, while others give students opportunities to explore subjects or develop talents without the pressure of grades.

The university’s Center for Talent Development’s Equinox program provides rigorous acceleration opportunities for academically gifted and talented students. There are two three-week session and a five-week session available depending on the courses chosen. Students may be eligible to earn one or two semesters of high school credits upon successful completion of Equinox courses.

The National High School Institute (NHSI) is a summer program focusing in debate, speech, music, film, video, and theater arts. Each area offers a five-week program that is intensive and immersive, but also fun and enriching. NHSI bills itself as “The premier university-based summer program for outstanding high school students—since 1931.”

Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism offers a five-week summer program where students can immerse themselves in learning about all sorts of media. Students study writing, reporting and editing for print, digital and broadcast.


University of Pennsylvania

College Choice Score: 87.92

Typical Cost per Week: $2,566.00

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At Penn’s historic campus in Philadelphia, academically talented high school students have the opportunity to experience the challenge of an Ivy League curriculum in a three or six week summer program. six academies offering subject-intensive three week programs in two sessions.

The Summer Academies offers subject-intensive three week programs in biomedical research, chemistry research, experimental physics research, neuroscience research, social justice research, and mathematics. Residential and commuter options are available.

In the Pre-College Program students enroll in undergraduate courses alongside Penn students and receive college credit, while exploring the university as a residential student. It is a true Penn experience. A similar commuter option is available in the Young Scholars Program.

In addition to these university-wide programs, several of Penn’s departments administer independent summer programs as well. Students interested in everything from business to architecture to engineering and more can find a program at Penn to help them explore and prepare for college life.


University of Notre Dame

College Choice Score: 87.41

Typical Cost per Week: $1,700.00

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The University of Notre Dame offers over twenty different courses through its Summer Scholars program on its campus in South Bend, IN. These intense two week programs are rigorous and rewarding. Students are eligible to receive one college credit upon completion of a program track.

Students spend a good deal of time in classes and completing coursework outside of the classroom. But there is ample time to the social and residential facets of college life that is unique to Notre Dame. Science and technology programs range from astronomy to psychology; while humanities programs range from debate to Shakespeare.

In addition to the Summer Scholars program, Notre Dame accepts 100 students to its Leadership Seminars each summer. Students in this program explore topics affecting the global community like Popular Culture and Social Change, Just Peace, and Science, Ethics and Responsibility. Students accepted to this two-week program have all of their expenses paid and are eligible for college credit.


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Stanford University

College Choice Score: 85.88

Typical Cost per Week: $1,700.25

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World renowned Stanford University offers exceptional high school students the opportunity to take Stanford undergraduate courses and earn college credits in its High School Summer Program. Students can choose up to 5 courses from among 145 different classes across 30 departments within the University.

Summer College students enjoy an extraordinary array of social, cultural, and educational programs, events, speakers, and trips, all uniquely situated in the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area of Northern California. They also have access to free tutors in most academic areas, academic skills coaches, and academic advisors during the eight weeks of the summer term.

Stanford also offers three to five week Pre-Collegiate Institutes. These programs are not available for a grade or credit, but they provide in-depth hands-on exploration of an array of advanced topics. Among these institutes upper-level high school students might check out Stanford University Mathematics Camp, Summer Humanities Institute, Summer Arts Institute, or Stanford Medical Youth Science Program.


University of Chicago

College Choice Score: 85.73

Typical Cost per Week: $2,166.00

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The University of Chicago is one of the top ten universities in the world. At its beautiful campus in one of the country’s largest cities, high school students have several options for a summer of enrichment.

Students may choose from one of five High School Programs: UChicago Immersion, Research in the Biological Sciences, Stones and Bones, Traveling Academy, or UChicago Arts and Sciences Summer. These programs are comprised of carefully curated courses taught at the college level but reserved only for high school students. Lasting three or four weeks, the programs offer small courses with experiential and seminar-style learning.

High school students may also enroll in Summer Quarter Undergraduate Course Offerings offered each summer by the University of Chicago College in over 20 subject areas. Local Chicago students can challenge themselves by enrolling in vigorous university courses through the Summer Bridge Program.

The Neubauer Family Adelante Summer Scholars program gives top students engaged in Hispanic and Latino communities an opportunity to participate in select University of Chicago Summer Session courses free of charge.


Carleton College

College Choice Score: 84.08

Typical Cost per Week: $998.00

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Just 45 minutes south of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, in the serene city of Northfield, MN, highly ranked Carleton College provides an array of summer programs that give students an opportunity to experience life at a small liberal arts college. The programs range from one to three weeks and give students introduction and enrichment in one of seven broad areas of study.

The Summer Languages and Global Issues Institute is designed to increase student confidence in speaking. In this immersion program students explore language, politics, culture, religion, history and economics.

The Summer Writing Program is designed for college-bound students with strong reading and writing abilities. Students read both contemporary and traditional literature and then develop three college essays with the help of discussion sections and writing workshops that focus on expository prose.

Carleton also offers Summer Institutes for Science, Computer Science, Humanities, and Quantitative Reasoning. As well, the Carleton Liberal Arts Experience selects 52 high school students who have just completed their sophomore year and bring them to Carleton, all expenses paid, for a one-week summer program. The program provides a glimpse of a liberal arts education through an array of courses in science, art, social sciences, and technology.


Brown University

College Choice Score: 82.13

Typical Cost per Week: $1,606.00

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Brown University in Providence, RI attracts many talented students to its summer programs because of the academic rigor and the chance to get a taste of life at an Ivy League university. There are five summer programs suited for upper level high school students who want to prepare themselves for life at college and beyond.

The Brown Leadership Institute is a two-week residential program aiming to help students develop and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes associated with effective and socially responsible leadership. This institute also partners with the Berklee Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship to provide a second and unique opportunity for those looking to hone their entrepreneurial and social leadership skills. Students spend a week in both institutes.

The Brown Environmental Leadership Lab provides high school students unique opportunities to study the interactions between natural and social systems. In addition these programs include leadership curriculum with the aim of developing socially responsible leaders.

Summer@Brown is a program offering multiple 1-4 week sessions that allow high school students to take non-credit liberal arts and science courses. Brown’s Pre-Baccalaureate Program gives students a chance to get a head-start on college credits by taking undergraduate courses right along with Brown undergraduates. This highly selective program allows students to take 1-2 courses over a seven-week period.


Cornell University

College Choice Score: 81.90

Typical Cost per Week: $2,017.00

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Summer College at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY offers academically motivated high school students an unparalleled opportunity to take courses at a great Ivy League university while earning college credit. Programs run from two to six weeks, allowing students an opportunity to discover what college life is like while participating in a specialized program from among ten wide areas of study.

For instance, there are five specialized programs offered within Architecture, Art, Design, and Fashion. Students can choose one of four three-week programs and earn three college credits by completing Art as Experience, Design Immersion, The Fashion Studio, or Transmedia: Image Sound Motion. There is also a six-week curriculum in Introduction to Architecture for which students may receive six college credits.

Similar programs are also offered in Business, Hotel, and Leadership; Debate and Literature; Engineering and Robotics; Government, History, Law, and Public Policy; Medicine, Psychology, Research, and Science; Social Change and Sustainability; and Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science. There are also Dual Programs and a MyCUSC program that allows students to tailor their summer experience to their interests and needs.

Cornell also makes available programs for speakers of other languages. The College Success program helps ESL students acclimate to college life. The English Immersion Program gives ESL students an opportunity to hone their English skills over the course of six weeks in the summer.


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Tufts University

College Choice Score: 81.38

Typical Cost per Week: $548.00

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Tufts University in Medford, MA has five Summer Study Programs for high school students. Participants in these programs can catch a glimpse of what college life is like, investigate a possible major, and earn college credit.

In Tufts Summer Writing Program, students use texts and film to learn to navigate the relationship between writer and reader, and develop critical literary skills. In this six-week intensive introduction to college writing, students are encouraged to build on their critical thinking skills and see the world around them as a “text,” waiting for interpretation.

The Foundations of Law & Ethics program focuses on the practice of the law and our modern legal system from the perspectives of philosophy, the history of jurisprudence, and current social and applied sciences. Similarly, the program Health Science Honors concentrates on the philosophy and practice of medicine

The program for Bioinformatics Inquiry through Sequencing allows students to complete molecular biology and genetic laboratory techniques, work with a next-generation DNA sequencer, and use advanced computer technology.

Tufts also gives high school seniors the opportunity to become a member of the Tufts undergraduate community for six weeks during the summer. Students can register for college courses and take them right along with Tufts undergraduates.


Massachusetts Institute of Technology

College Choice Score: 80.52

Typical Cost per Week: $1,523.00

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The Massachusetts Institute of Technology does not offer a traditional open-enrollment summer school program where any high school student can come to campus to take courses and live in the dorms.  There are, however, four selective summer programs for students to consider if they want the MIT experience at the famous Cambridge, MA campus.

Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science is an intensive six-week residential academic enrichment program for about 80 promising high school juniors who intend to pursue careers in science, engineering, and entrepreneurship. The program is free of charge to participating students.

Women’s Technology Program is a four-week summer experience for 60 female high school students to explore engineering through hands-on classes (taught by female MIT graduate students), labs, and team-based projects in the summer after their junior year. Students select a focus of either Electrical Engineering and Computer Science or Mechanical Engineering.

MIT Launch is a four-week intensive program that teaches high school students entrepreneurial skills and mindset through starting real companies.

The Summer Science Program is a summer experience co-sponsored by MIT. It takes place in New Mexico and Colorado, giving students an opportunity to learn mathematics, physics, astronomy, and programming while concentrating on one central research project over the program’s 6 weeks.


Johns Hopkins University

College Choice Score: 80.17

Typical Cost per Week: $2,034.00

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Johns Hopkins, a widely acclaimed university in Baltimore, MD, opens its campus to high school students in the summer through two general programs. The Summer University program welcomes qualified pre-college students to take courses alongside visiting undergraduates. Students may choose from among a variety of science courses and they can earn one or two credits upon completion. Students wanting a residential experience can take a course over one five-week period or choose one or more courses from among three two-week mini-terms. Commuter students have similar options available.

The Discover Hopkins program runs during the same times as the two-week mini-terms of the Summer University program. Discover Hopkins are intensive programs designed to expose high school students to topics from different perspectives. The curriculum is comprised of classes, guest speakers, and guided field trips. Students can register for one course per session and they may enroll in up to three sessions.

Johns Hopkins also offers two specialized summer programs. ESL programs help students refine their English skills and improve test scores. The Engineering Innovation program engages students interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.


Georgetown University

College Choice Score: 79.49

Typical Cost per Week: $1,998.00

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Georgetown University located in a historic neighborhood in Washington, DC gives high school students the opportunity to experience life as a Hoya through two summer offerings. The Pre-College Program gives high school students a taste of college life without the pressure of grades. These non-credit experiences equip students with the told and skills for college success and span from accelerated, one-week institutes to three-week programs.

There are over a dozen one-week institutes including subjects like American Politics and Sports Industry Management. The three-week programs are fewer but more immersive. They include Medicine, Economics, Foreign Policy, and Business and Leadership.

If students are interested in earning actual college credits, Georgetown offers two five-week sessions during the summer in which high school students may enroll in courses alongside undergraduates. Students in the Fundamentals and Summer College program may enroll in one course per session for total of six college credits.

Highly motivated high school students who are seeking a rigorous academic experience are able to take two courses per session, earning twelve college credits over the course of ten weeks. Students who complete two courses in a session will receive a Summer Honors Intensive Certificate upon completing their studies.


Syracuse University

College Choice Score: 78.61

Typical Cost per Week: $1,403.00

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Syracuse University invites high school students to its campus in central New York for a broad range of 2-, 3-, 4-, and 6-week programs. These programs represent the various colleges and schools at the university and they give students a glimpse of college life at the renowned private research university.

The two-week programs are offered in three sessions over the course of the summer. Most programs are non-credit and students are encouraged to enroll for more than one session. Courses range from photography to sports management to criminal justice and much more. The university also offers a 3-week noncredit session in Acting & Musical Theater that enables students to gain college level exposure to the theater arts.

In partnership with World Learning and the U.S. Department of State’s EducationUSA network, Syracuse offers a 4-week EducationUSA Academy. The Academy consists of 20 hours per week of intensive English classes and language instruction provided by Syracuse’s English Language Institute. College preparatory programming is integrated into both the English language instruction and multiple workshops. Students also visit campuses of a variety of higher education institutions.

All of the six-week courses are college-level courses for which students can earn college credits. A variety of courses are offered in several areas of study. Some of the courses are exclusive to Summer College students, while others are open to both Summer College students and Syracuse undergraduates.


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Washington University

College Choice Score: 77.72

Typical Cost per Week: $1,685.00

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Summer Experiences at Washington University offer a variety of programs for academically advanced High School students. There are three main avenues students may explore for experiencing college life on the university’s campus in St. Louis, MO during the summer months.

For international students wanting to improve their English language skills, Washington University hosts an EducationUSA Academy. This three-week program includes English training, college preparation, and social and cultural experiences.

Students who want to earn college credits should consider the Summer Scholars program. In this selective five-week program, students live on campus, enroll in courses, and study alongside college students. There are a vast number of introductory undergraduate programs in which students can enroll.

Washington University’s Summer Institutes program offer high school students both an academic and a career experience. Traditional classes and labs are combined with organized field trips, guest lectures, and other activities. Past institutes have included Environmental Studies and Sustainability, Leadership, Pre-Engineering, Pre-Medical, Writing, and Philosophy, Neuroscience, and Psychology.


Vanderbilt University

College Choice Score: 76.70

Typical Cost per Week: $1,192.00

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Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN provide summer programs that allow exceptional high school students the opportunity to experience being a Commodore. The programs are administered either through the Program for Talented Youth or the Center for Science Outreach.

In addition to its several year-round programs, the Program for Talented Youth offers the Vanderbilt Summer Academy. For upper-level high school students, the residential program is three weeks long and includes accelerated courses with Vanderbilt professors, lecturers, and graduate students.

The Vanderbilt Center for Science Outreach offers a six-week summer program called Research Experience for High School Students. This program is an intense scientific research internship, centering on full immersion in a research lab at Vanderbilt University or Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Participants in the internship work on an independent research project under the guidance of a research faculty member and attend group breakout sessions. The program is not residential but out-of-town students are encouraged to enroll if they have suitable supervised housing arrangements.


Oberlin College

College Choice Score: 75.80

Typical Cost per Week: $750.00

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The Summer Programs at Oberlin College and Conservatory in Ohio are specialized music and voice programs. Talented high school students can expand their repertoire, improve technique and performance skills, and enjoy the experience of making and performing music in a supportive and collegial environment in these one to two week programs.

The curriculum includes working with resident and guest faculty, daily master classes, individual and group coaching sessions, audition and performance techniques, and much else. At the end of their sessions, students can take part in a recital, a group performance, or other program.

The workshops, institutes, and academies include Baroque Performance Institute, Flute Academy, Hinton Bass Institute, Organ Academy, Percussion Institute, Sonic Arts Workshop, Trombone Workshop, Trumpet Workshop, and Vocal Academy. Depending on the program, students may be eligible for college credit. Though students work hard in these intensive programs, there is time to explore college life in the wider Oberlin community.


Davidson College

College Choice Score: 75.69

Typical Cost per Week: $1,333.00

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Davidson, NC is a small lakeside town on Lake Norman north of Charlotte and is home to one of the country’s very best liberal arts colleges. Each summer Davidson College hosts an exceptional academic experience for high school students who want to enrich their college application process and prepare themselves for the college experience.

Lasting most of the month of July, Davidson’s July Experience gives students the opportunity to enroll in two courses from among the dozen or more liberal arts class options. The courses do not carry secondary school or college credit, but they do expose students to full-time Davidson faculty, life in residence halls with students from across the country and around the world, and sessions about the college admission process.

Participants in the July Experience also choose from a wide variety of recreational and social activities on campus. There are many on-campus events including a talent show, JE Olympics, and movie nights. Off-campus excursions include a full day at the US National Whitewater Center.


University California Los Angeles

College Choice Score: 75.61

Typical Cost per Week: $1,732.50

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At the University of California Los Angeles advanced high school students who wish to gain academically challenging college-level experience have an array of options in the Precollege Summer Institutes. Most of the over a dozen or so institutes have mandatory or optional housing, giving high school students not only academic exposure to college-level courses, but also a residential experience at one of the country’s most diverse universities in one of its largest metropolitan areas.

Given its location near the center of film, television, and other media, it is no surprise that UCLA’s summer institutes include programs like Acting and Performance, Art, Dance/Performing Arts, and Design Media Arts. But there are also several other areas of study for students to explore including Mock Trial, Applications of Nanoscience, Architecture, and Model United Nations.

The institutes are offered in one to three week sessions, many of which provide more than one session throughout the summer. All of the institutes have world-class instructors and some invite guest presentations and lectures from Los Angeles’s vast pool of talented professionals.


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Barnard College

College Choice Score: 74.38

Typical Cost per Week: $1,800.00

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For over 120 years women have been coming to Barnard College in New York City to receive a world-class education. In the summers Barnard College offers high school women a taste of the college experience they have been offering since they were the first college in the city where women could receive the same liberal arts education as men.

With six distinct programs to choose from, students have the unique opportunity to explore an area of interest on a deeper level through both in-class discussions and city exploration. Summer Programs at Barnard are more than just an experience of the historic college; they are also an experience of the nation’s largest city.

Ranging from one to four weeks, the programs include Liberal Arts Intensive, Young Women’s Leadership Institute, Entrepreneurs-in-Training, Dance in the City, and Summer in the City. The Summer in the City program is a pre-college program offering nearly twenty courses, from which students may select two.


Michigan State University

College Choice Score: 73.72

Typical Cost per Week: $825.00

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The Spartan Youth Programs at Michigan State University in East Lansing have a wide range of exciting opportunities for youth to improve their knowledge and skills in specific subject areas. The programs serve all ages from pre-kindergarten to high school. With over forty residential academic and arts programs for high schoolers alone, a summer at Michigan State is a possibility for almost everyone.

Spartan Youth Programs offer many of the more traditional summer camps such as Science, Mathematics, Engineering, Journalism, Photography, Debate, and Writing. In many ways what sets Michigan State apart are its extraordinary programs.

For example, the 3D Animation Camp is an intensive one-week program that teaches students the basics of creating computer-generated imagery. It is offered in two different sessions. Students are encouraged to enroll in this camp one session and either Digital Cinema Camp or Video Game Design Camp in another.

All of the residential programs provide students with an enriching college trial run. Activities and programs are scheduled for evenings so that students get not only an academic immersion but a social experience as well.


The College of William and Mary

College Choice Score: 72.78

Typical Cost per Week: $1,383.00

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William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA is the country’s second oldest college. It is one of the nation’s elite public schools and considered one of the eight “Public Ivies.” This prestigious school opens its doors to high school students for several pre-college programs in the summer.

High school seniors may enroll in full-credit college courses during the two summer sessions at William & Mary. High school juniors and seniors can also participate in the National Institute of American History and Democracy’s Pre-Collegiate Summer Program in Early American History. This fast-paced, in-depth, and immersive program includes hands-on exploration of the many colonial, revolutionary, and Civil War sites and museums in Virginia’s Chesapeake region.

Young Shakespeare Camps guide budding actors and actresses through the meaning of Shakespeare’s language, the choreography of stage combat, and the demands of period costuming. At the end of this intense one-week program participants put on an abridged version of a Shakespeare comedy.


Boston College

College Choice Score: 72.46

Typical Cost per Week: $1,167.00

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The Boston College Experience is a collection of programs that run between two and six weeks, offering high school students a chance to experience college life and enrich their academic talents. With access to BC’s pristine campus and its many resources, as well as the cultural offerings of the Boston metropolitan area, participants in the Boston College Experience are well equipped for their upcoming college search and future college life.

BCE Honors gives high school students a summer to be college students. They may enroll in classes with undergraduate students. BCE Math Experience is much like the Honors program but with a focus on advanced math courses. Likewise, the Writers in the Making program focuses on the work and craft of writing. Students may earn up to six college credits in each of these programs.

For an equally enriching experience without the pressure of grades and earning credits, Boston College offers the Summer Challenge program. High schoolers can learn a new subject and experience the life of a college student. For those students interested in journalism, Boston College offers a collaboration between the New England Center for Investigative Reporting and Boston College. In this program, students get the chance to learn valuable journalism skills and strengthen writing, research, and critical thinking skills.


Middlebury College

College Choice Score: 71.76

Typical Cost per Week: $1,373.75

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In Vermont’s Champlain Valley, Middlebury College has been a leading liberal arts college since 1800. For the last 100 years Middlebury Language Schools have been offering immersive language programs for beginners and advanced students alike. High school students can get a glimpse of Middlebury’s language curricula with a four-week language and cultural immersion experience in the Summer Language Academy.

Students who want to accelerate their language skills, while enjoying a pre-college summer camp experience with other like-minded teens will find no better summer program than Middlebury’s Summer Language Academy. It is a 24/7 immersive program that has proven results in both proficiency and confidence.

Students of the Summer Language Academy learn a language in a cultural context with hands-on, enthusiastic, and supportive mentors who themselves have had an immersive cultural experience. The instructors, advisors, and mentors have lived abroad and know the struggles of learning a new language. They are dedicated to helping students learn in fun and engaging ways.


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University California San Diego

College Choice Score: 68.55

Typical Cost per Week: $1,267.00

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The University of California San Diego Academic Connections is a pre-college program connecting high achieving high school students with exceptional graduate students, renowned university faculty, and other experts in a variety of subject matters. US News & World Report recognizes UCSD as one of the ten best public universities. And the city of San Diego is unparalleled in its beauty and climate. Spending a portion of a summer at UCSD is a treat high schoolers will be hard pressed to top.

UCSD offers over two dozen college-level courses to the outstanding high schoolers who are looking to get a jumpstart on their college experience by participating in Academic Connections. Courses are intensive three-week offerings, meeting five hours per day with limited class sizes.

In addition, students live on the beautiful UCSD campus, which gives them a chance to see what college life is like first hand. Very little time is unstructured. There are extracurricular activities many evenings and weekends, including sports, arts, crafts, dances, talent shows, and much more.


Boston University

College Choice Score: 67.23

Typical Cost per Week: $1,372.00

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During Boston University’s Summer Term, high school students have five options for a pre-college experience. Each program gives students the opportunity to explore new subjects, make new friends, participate in social activities on campus and in the greater Boston area. In short, the programs expose students to the wonderfully enriching life of a college student.

Only the High School Honors program provides the opportunity for earning college credits. For six weeks upper level high school students may choose from more than 80 college courses and potentially earn 8 college credits.

The Research in Science & Engineering Internship/Practicum is equally long, giving students a six-week experience of conducting university-level research in labs with faculty mentors. In the Academic Immersion program students spend three weeks immersing themselves in the study of a single academic topic. For the summer of 2016, the topic was Introduction to Medicine. Interested students should check the program information for future Academic Immersion topics. Finally, the Summer Preview program is a week-long seminar for high school underclassmen that gives them a sneak peek of college life.


University of Southern California

College Choice Score: 64.58

Typical Cost per Week: $1,976.00

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University of Southern California Summer Programs for High School Students have a tradition of offering excellent summer experiences for gifted high school students. With a balance of academic and campus life, the two and four week programs prepare students for college life in the nation’s entertainment center, Los Angeles.

The courses in USC’s Summer Programs are more interactive, engaging, and challenging than the traditional accelerated high school course or the general college introductory course. Through the combination of lectures, hand-on workshops, labs, guest speakers, and field trips throughout the Los Angeles area, students get an experience unlike any other.

The two-week non-credit option immerses students in areas of their choice from among the options of Architecture, Performing Arts, Pre Health/Global Studies, and Visual Arts. The four-week credit option is also an immersive curriculum but it allows students to earn three units of USC elective credit upon completion. Students may choose from among twenty courses in a variety of areas.


Columbia University

College Choice Score: 64.19

Typical Cost per Week: $3,548.00

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For thirty years Columbia University has been offering summer programs to high school students at its campus in New York City. High-achieving high school students get an intensive and collaborative experience of college life at an Ivy League institution and in the The Empire City.

Three programs are available. The Campus Immersion Program is the only one that is designed to be residential. Students in this program live and study with other high-achieving peers. The three week program allows students to pursue one of over fifty subjects, including business, law, the arts, humanities, and the physical, biological, and social sciences. Courses are taught by expert instructors, allowing students to build their academic skills and college preparedness in collaboration with a global cohort of bright and talented classmates. There are many extracurricular opportunities on campus and in the city, many of which are available only to Campus Immersion Program participants.

Columbia also offers two commuter programs. The Academic Immersion program is much like the Campus Immersion program without the residential component. Columbia’s One-Week Intensives allows students to study topics in the arts, humanities, social sciences, medicine, and business, while also taking in college skills seminars, community awareness and social activities as a way for college preparedness.


Arizona State University

College Choice Score: 62.94

Typical Cost per Week: $1,260.00

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The summer programs at Arizona State University in Tempe are abundant. The Collegiate Scholars Academy offers high-achieving high school students the opportunity to get a head start on their college experience by enrolling in ASU courses. The university courses in the Collegiate Scholars Academy have a specific academic or career focus and academic credit is assured once a passing grade is acquired. Housing and transportation are not provided.

For those wanting a pre-college campus experience without the stress of grades, several residential programs are available through The Summer Enrichment Programs. The options are numerous, giving high school students with all sorts of interests a chance to get the ASU experience.

The many residential Summer Enrichment Programs include options like the Ultimate Technology Boot Camp. In this program students spend ten days learning how to create mobile apps, develop cutting edge games, design and build robots, and more. Students interested in engineers should consider the Summer Transportation Institute. Participants spend four nights and five days living on the Arizona State University Polytechnic campus and learning how all types of engineers (from aerospace to software) plan and maintain systems of transportation around the state of Arizona. There are also programs in engineering, medicine, forensic science, business, journalism, and more.


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Yale University

College Choice Score: 58.65

Typical Cost per Week: $2,750.00

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Yale University’s Young Global Scholars Program for Outstanding High School Students give participants an exciting summer studying and living in Yale’s historic residential college in New Haven, CT. Students attend classes in beautiful lecture halls and classrooms, eat in award-winning dining halls, meet fellow students, and learn from renowned professors and other leading practitioners.

Programs are two weeks long and are offered in six areas of study. Students interested in American legal principles, economic ideas, and the values and practices of government will find the Politics, Law, & Economics program an enriching experience. The International Affairs & Security program emphasizes leadership development, and draws on historical examples and contemporary issues to help students think strategically and negotiate potential responses to complex international dilemmas.

The Young Scholars session on Technology, Innovation & Entrepreneurship focuses on cutting edge work in technology with theories of innovation and problem solving. Students in the session on Applied Science & Engineering concentrate on the study and application of physical and computer sciences as well as engineering. For those interested in the study and application of the life sciences, the Biological and Biomedical Science program will lead them through interests ranging from molecular to global. Finally, participants in the Sustainability, Energy & Environment session analyze and discuss how people have influenced the natural world, and what effects those interactions have had on modern-day society.


Texas Tech University

College Choice Score: 58.45

Typical Cost per Week: $650.00

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At Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX, enterprising high school students can have an enriching summer by participating in one of the five residential camps or programs on offer. The academically challenging programs give students a chance to explore a topic in creative ways while also experiencing the life of a college student.

Science: It’s A Girl Thing is a week-long residential camp for girls. The purpose of the program is to allow girls to explore new fields in science. Students explore an array of topics in science with the hope that their interests will be sparked toward a lifelong career.

Covering all aspects of sports media, from sportscasting to content production, Texas Tech’s Sports Media Camp is a week of exciting exploration. The camp is made possible by the Texas Tech College of Media & Communication faculty with other industry professionals.

For students with technological interests, Texas Tech offers two incredible weeklong programs. Generation TECH is an introduction to the field of renewable energy and an opportunity to consider renewable energy technologies as a future academic pursuit. Minecrafter Camp introduces students to computer programming, computer coding, and video game design.

Shake Hands with the Future is a weeklong camp allowing academically talented students to experience university life and attend two classes. The camp includes field trips and recreational activities.