Top Pre-College Summer Programs to Enhance Your College Application

07/03/202314 minute read
Top Pre-College Summer Programs to Enhance Your College Application

Pre-college summer programs offer students the opportunity to explore their interests, gain valuable skills and knowledge, and experience college-level coursework before beginning their college career. These programs can be a great way to challenge oneself academically and develop leadership and teamwork skills. Additionally, they can provide valuable exposure to different college campuses and academic fields, which can help students make more informed decisions when selecting a college.

Moreover, participating in a pre-college summer program can provide students with opportunities to build relationships with professors and other professionals in their field of interest. These connections can be valuable when it comes time to apply to college, as they can provide strong letters of recommendation and other forms of support.

Types of Pre-College Summer Programs

Pre-college summer programs are designed to provide high school students with an opportunity to gain academic and social experiences in a college setting. There are different types of pre-college summer programs, each with unique features and benefits. Below are some of the most common types of pre-college summer programs:

  • Academic programs: These programs provide students with an opportunity to take college-level courses in various academic fields, such as science, technology, engineering, mathematics, humanities, and social sciences. Academic programs offer students the chance to experience college coursework, earn college credits, and get a taste of college life.
  • Enrichment programs: These programs focus on providing students with experiences that will enhance their academic and personal growth. Enrichment programs can include workshops, seminars, and cultural events. Some enrichment programs may focus on specific areas of interest, such as creative writing, journalism, or performing arts.
  • Leadership programs: These programs help students develop leadership skills, teamwork, and problem-solving abilities. Leadership programs often include activities such as group projects, team-building exercises, and workshops on leadership strategies.
  • Internship programs: These programs provide students with an opportunity to gain practical work experience in a field of interest. Internship programs can be found in various industries, including business, healthcare, law, media, and technology.
  • Community service programs: These programs allow students to engage in community service projects, such as volunteering at a non-profit organization or participating in environmental conservation efforts. Community service programs help students develop empathy, leadership, and problem-solving skills.
  • Test preparation programs: These programs help students prepare for college entrance exams, such as the SAT, ACT, or GRE. Test preparation programs may include practice exams, coaching sessions, and test-taking strategies.
Differences in Summer Programs
Online or In-PersonThe Covid pandemic allowed a lot more students to pursue programs online and if you are not able to physically travel to a university and dedicate the time, online options are great for you.
Official University Programs or Independent InitiativesWhile colleges run summer programs, many organizations like NASA, the New York Times or the Smithsonian also have their own programs. If you are looking at a specific course of study, there is merit in searching through non-university programs also, but make sure it is through an accredited organization.
Rigorous or FlexibleWhile some summer programs have your entire day scheduled, others leave more room for students to pursue other activities as well. Online programs are of course the most flexible. When applying to a program it is good to see how much time each program requires and whether you will have that.
Expensive or AffordableThere are many great free summer program opportunities. Be aware of your budget and also the value a program would add to your profile. Unless there is a good reason, do not go for the very expensive programs.

Benefits of Pre-College Summer Programs

Participating in pre-college summer programs can offer numerous benefits for students. Some of the most significant benefits include:

  • Academic preparation: Pre-college summer programs can provide students with an early exposure to college-level coursework and academic expectations. This can help students feel more prepared and confident when they begin college.
  • College readiness: Pre-college summer programs can also provide students with a better understanding of college life, including the social and cultural aspects. This can help students make a smoother transition from high school to college.
  • Career prep: If you are interested in pursuing a career path, a summer internship can be a great way for you to learn more about the field. It can be a good window into what the daily life of someone in the career looks like.
  • Networking opportunities: Pre-college summer programs allow students to meet and connect with peers from diverse backgrounds who share similar interests. This can help students build relationships and networks that can be valuable throughout their academic and professional careers.
  • Personal growth: Pre-college summer programs can offer students the chance to develop important skills such as time management, independence, and resilience. These skills can benefit students in college and beyond.
  • Competitive edge: Participating in a pre-college summer program can help students stand out on college applications and demonstrate their interest and dedication to a particular field of study.

Best Pre-College Summer Programs

Here are the top programs in different fields of study and interest. Check out Crimson’s Summer Apply to explore programs based on age, location, interest or university. You can also find everything from application deadlines to fees on the site.


1. Research Science Institute (RSI) at MIT

  • Grade: 11
  • Format: Residential
  • Fees: $0

2. Summer Academy for Math and Science (SAMS), Carnegie Mellon University

  • Grade: 11
  • Format: Combination of virtual and residential
  • Fees: $0

3. The Ross Mathematics Program

  • Location: Columbus, OH or Terre Haute, IN
  • Grade: 9-12
  • Format: Residential
  • Fees: $6,000


1. University of Pennsylvania: American Sign Language and Deaf Culture Academy

  • Grade: 9-11
  • Format: Online
  • Fees: $5,500

2. Duke Summer Session

  • Grade: 10, 11 and College first year/freshmen
  • Format: Online and commuter
  • Fees: $2,705

3. Columbia University: College Edge

  • Grade: 9-12
  • Format: Commuter
  • Fees: $2,204


1. Wharton Global Youth On-Campus Program: Leadership in the Business World

  • Grade: 11
  • Format: Residential
  • Fees: $8,999

2. Leadership Institute, Brown University

  • Grade: 9-12
  • Format: Residential and Online
  • Fees: $5,171

3. Leadership for Social Change, Tufts University

  • Grade: 11, 12, High School Gap Year
  • Format: Residential or Virtual
  • Fees: $3,800 for Virtual or $5,500 for Residential

Natural Sciences & Ecology

1. Columbia University Science Honors Program

  • Grade: 10-12
  • Format: Commuter
  • Fees: $600

2. The University of Chicago: Research in The Biological Sciences (RIBS)

  • Grade: 10, 11
  • Format: Residential
  • Fees: $13,200

3. Berkeley Summer Computer Science Academy

  • Grade: 10, 11
  • Format: Residential
  • Fees: $4,600

Law, Government & Politics

1. Stanford Summer Session

  • Grade: 9-12
  • Format: Residential and Commuter
  • Fees: $15,875 for Residential or $4,926 for Commuter

2. Young Global Scholars: Politics, Law, & Economics, Yale University

  • Grade: 10, 11
  • Format: Online
  • Fees: $3,500

3. Summer Discovery Penn Law

  • Grade: 9-12
  • Format: Residential and Commuter
  • Fees: $9,501 for Residential or $5,997 for Commuter

Arts, Architecture & Design

1. Secondary School Program, Harvard University

  • Grade: 10-12, Freshmen Year of College
  • Format: Residential, Commuter or Online
  • Fees: $13,750 for Residential and $3,600 for Online

2. Berkeley Changemaker

  • Grade: 10, 11
  • Format: Residential
  • Fees: $4,600

3. Pre-College Design Program, Carnegie Mellon University

  • Grade: 10, 11
  • Format: Residential & Commuter
  • Fees: $9,950 for Residential and $7,225 for Commuter

Application Process and Requirements

The application process for pre-college summer programs may vary depending on the program and institution offering it. However, here are some general steps that students may need to follow:

1.      Research programs: Students should research pre-college summer programs that align with their interests and goals. This can involve searching online, asking guidance counselors or teachers, and attending college fairs.

2.     Check eligibility: Students should check the eligibility requirements for each program to ensure that they meet the criteria, such as age, grade level, and academic standing.

3.     Check deadlines: Many summer programs have a rolling application date, so make sure you check the deadline for the program of your choice.

4.     Gather application materials: Students will need to gather various application materials, which may include transcripts, test scores, essays, letters of recommendation, and a completed application form.

5.     Submit application: Students should carefully follow the application instructions provided by each program and submit their application before the deadline. Some programs may require an application fee, which students should be prepared to pay.

6.     Wait for admission decision: After submitting the application, students will need to wait for the program to review their application and make an admission decision. This process may take several weeks or months.

7.     Accept admission offer: If accepted into the program, students should carefully review the admission offer and follow the instructions provided to accept their spot in the program.

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Financial Aid and Scholarship Opportunities

Financial aid and scholarship opportunities may be available for pre-college summer programs to help offset the cost of tuition and other program expenses. Here are some examples:

  • Need-based financial aid: Some programs may offer need-based financial aid to students who demonstrate financial need. This aid may cover some or all of the program's cost, and students may be required to submit a form or other financial documentation to apply.
  • Merit-based scholarships: Some programs may offer merit-based scholarships to students who demonstrate academic excellence, leadership skills, or other exceptional achievements. These scholarships may cover some or all of the program's cost, and students may be required to submit an additional essay or application to apply.
  • Program-specific scholarships: Some programs may offer scholarships that are specific to the program's mission or focus. For example, a program that focuses on STEM may offer scholarships to students who demonstrate a strong interest or aptitude in STEM fields.
  • External scholarships: Students may also be able to apply for external scholarships to help cover the cost of pre-college summer programs. There are many organizations and foundations that offer scholarships to students, and students can search for these opportunities online or through their high school guidance office.

It's important to note that the availability and amount of financial aid and scholarships may vary depending on the program and institution offering it. You should carefully review the program's website or contact the program's admission office to learn more about financial aid and scholarship opportunities and how to apply.

Final Thoughts

In summary, pre-college summer programs can play an important role in a student's college application process. They can provide valuable academic and personal experiences, help students make informed decisions about college, and strengthen a student's application by demonstrating their intellectual curiosity, academic achievement, and willingness to take on challenges.

We know how important summer programs are and how overwhelming the search can be, which is why Crimson’s Summer Apply is designed to help students save, organize, and view their favorite programs all in one place. To learn more, book a free consultation.