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The 12 Best Pre-College Summer Programs


As a high school student, it’s hard to know what colleges are looking for in their applicants. Officer positions in clubs and good grades in advanced-level classes are always a nice place to start, but it’s the students who go the extra mile (literally!) who tend to catch the eyes of admission officers.

Summer vacation can be a great time to get ahead, especially if you decide to attend an academic program. Whether you’re a business buff or a journalism junkie, there’s a summer program that can help you learn more about your future career field and develop connections for the future. It’s never too early to start racking up experiences for your resume, and summer programs are also an effective way for any high school student to get a taste of college living!

The programs listed below are held at universities in the top of their field. Check out some of the leading ranked programs in the country, broken up by area of interest!


1.Leadership in the Business World 

This program is held at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, one of the top business schools in the nation. Here, rising high school seniors spend four weeks in intensive classes revolving around leadership in business.

Application deadline: Feb. 21, 2014

Program dates:  July 6 – Aug. 2, 2014

Cost: $6,595 (covers tuition, housing, most meals, activities and weekend trips)

To apply: Submit your high school transcript, school profile (you can get this from your school office or guidance counselor), two letters of recommendation from teachers, a short essay, an application fee of $75 and the application on the program website.

2.Young Women’s Institute 

This two-week program is held at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University Bloomington and is exclusively for women who are currently juniors in high school (2013-14 school year). It offers a look into college life while enforcing a passion for business and is located at a renowned undergraduate business school.

Application deadline: April 15, 2014

Program dates: June 8-13 or June 22-27, 2014

Cost: Participants only need to cover transportation to and from Bloomington and personal expenses.

To apply: Send your high school transcript and one letter of recommendation and fill out the application on the program website.


3. Medill-Northwestern Journalism Institute 

Also known as Medill cherubs, this intensive, five-week program is held at Northwestern University in Illinois for rising high school seniors interested in all areas of journalism.

Amanda Ritter, a freshman at Northwestern University, says attending this program gave her invaluable skills. “The professors and instructors taught me how to write better, conduct interviews and utilize social media in a professional way,” she says. “We were fully immersed in the journalistic experience.”

Application deadline: March 26, 2014

Program dates: June 29 – Aug. 1, 2014

Cost: $5,200, which covers tuition, room and board, health service, field trips and group events.

To apply: Submit your high school transcript, one letter of recommendation and work samples and fill out the application on the program website

4. Syracuse University Summer College: Creative Writing – Fiction & Poetry Program

The two-week program is held at Syracuse University in New York. It provides students with the essentials to write poetry and fiction at one of the top creative writing programs in the country. During the program, students will build a portfolio of their work and listen to guest lecturers.

Application deadline: May 15, 2014

Program dates: July 27 – Aug. 8, 2014

Cost: Residential: $2,418, Commuter: $1,610

To apply: Submit your high school transcript and most recent report card and complete the application on the program website.


5. The Pre-College Drama Program at Carnegie Mellon University 

This six-week program aims to prepare students for college auditions. It is held at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania for students between the ages of 16 and 18 who have completed their sophomore year of high school. Student Carly Valancy attended this program and says it made her realize she wants to be at a school with a conservatory-style program.

Her most memorable moment also helped her grow as a performer. “I was in the middle of a voice lesson and my voice cracked,” she says. “I was embarrassed at first, but my teacher smiled and asked me to sing the note again. I had a breakthrough, and ever since then I've been really singing correctly. Carnegie Mellon is the reason I am even going to school for theatre.”

Application deadline: Rolling

Program dates: June 28 – Aug. 9, 2014

Cost: Resident: $7,402
(covers tuition, housing, dining and activities fee),

Commuter: ($5,141
covers tuition, housing and activities fee)

To apply: Apply here. You will need to submit your high school transcript, your standardized test scores, an activities resume, an essay, a drama resume, a recommendation from your guidance counselor or two teachers and the Pre-College Cover Letter.


6. Parsons Summer Intensive Studies: New York

This four-week-long program is held at Parsons The New School for Design in New York City and is for students who are 16 to 18 years old. Students take rigorous classes and take part in special events such as guest lectures and activities designed to prepare them for a career in the fashion industry.

Application deadline: Rolling

Program dates: May 27-June 30, 2014 or June 30-July 25, 2014 

Cost: $3,364

To apply: Visit the program website and check out the classes offered.

Engineering and Science

7. Engineering Innovation at Johns Hopkins University

This four-week program is held in Maryland and is designed to help students develop skills to think like an engineer. In order to apply, students need to have completed Algebra II and Trigonometry classes and a lab science (physics, chemistry, biology) and be able to work a spreadsheet application, such as Excel.

Application deadline: March 1, 2014

Program dates: June 30 – July 25, 2014

To apply: Fill out the application on the program website.


8. Freedom and Justice in the Western Tradition at Cornell University

This three-week program is held at Cornell University in New York and offers opportunities for college credit. With a focus in pre-law, it is open to high school sophomores, juniors and seniors.

Annie Leiman, a freshman at Cornell University, attended this program the summer before her junior year of high school. “My favorite experience was getting lunch with my professor with my classmates and getting to know a real, esteemed Cornell professor,” she says. “As a current Cornell student, I definitely felt more prepared coming here because of the program!”

Application deadline: May 2, 2014

Program dates: June 21-July 12, 2014

Cost: $6,020

To apply: Submit your high school transcript, current grade report, test scores, a letter of recommendation and the application on the program website.

9. American Law and Litigation at the University of Chicago 

Students who will be sophomores, juniors or seniors during the 2014-15 academic year are able to take a law course for three weeks at the University of Chicago. Attendees get the opportunity to see how the law system works by reading real cases and preparing for court. This program allows students to practice oral advocacy and includes a trip to the federal court in Chicago.

Application deadline: Session I: April 15, 2014, Session II: May 1, 2014

Program Dates: Session I: June 23-July 11, 2014, Session II: July 14-August 1, 2014


  • Tuition: $3,440
  • Room and board (if in residence): $1,707
  • Residential program fee (if in residence): $290
  • Student life fee (required for all students): an estimated $335
  • Student health insurance (optional): an estimated $1,007

To apply: On the website, add the program to your shopping cart and begin the application.

General Studies

10. PreCollege Summer Program at Pratt Institute

This four-week program is held at Pratt Institute in New York and allows students to study art, design, architecture or creative writing. High school students who are 16 to 18 years old and have completed their sophomore year of high school take three classes and one course of their choice for college credit. Students are able to enhance their portfolios, listen to guest lecturers in the field and attend social and cultural events. All levels of experience are welcome.

Application deadline: April 1, 2014

Program dates: July 7–Aug. 1, 2014

Cost: $3,298 plus fees: $866 for housing,
$740 for a meal plan, $112 for local transportation fee (30-day MetroCard for Brooklyn residential students only), $175 optional board (lunch) only for commuters

To apply: Submit a letter of recommendation, a letter of intent detailing why you want to attend the program, and a completed application form (found on the program website).

11. National Student Leadership Conference

The National Student Leadership Conference offers a range of topics for students to study, from sports and entertainment management to forensic science. The locations and lengths of the programs vary by subject, and all high school students are able to apply. These programs are held for motivated, dedicated and ambitious students who want to develop leadership skills, experience life on a college campus and explore future career options.

Application deadline: Rolling

Program dates:Vary by program

Cost: Varies by program

To apply: Fill out the application on the program website.

12. Brown University Pre-College Programs

Each summer, Brown University offers almost 200 courses for students who have completed their freshman year of high school. Students can take multiple courses, getting the feel of receiving an Ivy League education without the pressure of grades. From African studies to medicine, the program offers a variety of subjects so that students can see what interests them.

Lauren Timlin, a freshman at the University of Florida, studied critical writing through this program. “I met people from all over the world, like Colombia and Hong Kong, and learned about their cultures,” she says. “I also learned expressive writing skills from excellent professors and got to learn in an Ivy League environment.”

Application deadline: Rolling

Program dates: Multiple sessions between the dates of June 16 and Aug. 8, 2014

Cost: Varies depending on course length

To apply: Submit your high school transcript, an essay and the application found on the program website.

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