Pre-college summer programs have become a popular way for high school students to test drive the college experience, and for colleges to show off their wares to potential applicants. It’s way more immersive than just touring a college, but a little less intense than the real freshman year (you probably won’t put on 15 pounds in a week or two). We’d call it college with training wheels, but training wheels aren’t cool, and pre-college programs definitely are.
There are pre-college programs for every interest – STEM and the performing arts, business and medicine – and from every kind of institution – public and private, huge and tiny, traditional and radical. Every pre-college program is different, whether they’re focused on academics or research, personal growth or course credits, but they have a lot of things in common in approach and purpose.
Above all, pre-college summer programs are about giving high school students a meaningful, maybe even life-changing experience. Of course, with the specter of the Covid-19 pandemic still lingering, pre-college programs are going to look a little different this year. Many have gone to a virtual format, or shortened their programs. On the upside, costs are considerably down for most programs, making for even more of a value.
How We Choose the Best Value
All of the pre-college summer programs we feature here come from regionally-accredited, highly reputable colleges and universities. Most of these institutions are regularly featured in the Value Colleges Best Value rankings.
Programs are ranked by overall value, based on their cost and student satisfaction. Other data comes from IPEDS and Niche.
1. University of Washington
The University of Washington’s Summer Institute for Mathematics offers one of Washington State’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students with its four, 2-week intensive online classes for motivated students interested in exploring the nature of mathematics from theory to application. As one of the best pre-college summer programs available in the Northwest, the University of Washington’s are modified from year to year but previously have included combinatorics, methods of argument, and game theory, to name a few. Applicants must be 14 years old by mid-March before the summer program and have completed three years of high school math.
Established in the early-1860s, the University of Washington is the state’s flagship campus and a recognized ‘public ivy’ league school. The University of Washington is recognized among the oldest of all schools on the west coast.
2. Purdue University
Purdue University offers one of Indiana’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students, with its Summer College for High School Students that allows high school students to explore college life through a hybrid-delivered mix of courses and workshops. Students enrolled in Purdue University’s best pre-college summer programs offer students one, four, eight, and twelve-week options that allow students to plan around their summer studies. Students have the option of living on campus but must be 16 years old and have completed their sophomore year with a GPA (cumulative) of 3.3).
Established in the late-1860s by businessman John Purdue, Purdue University is now the flagship campus of the Purdue system of universities and also a space-grant and sea-grant school. The school offers nearly 300 academic degrees for undergraduate and graduate students. Purdue’s student enrollment of approximately 43,250 students makes it the second largest school in the Hoosier state.
3. North Carolina State University
North Carolina State University offers some of North Carolina’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students that are available for students from ages 14 to 17. IN addition to a traditional 4H camp, there are programs for those students interested in plant science or veterinary medicine or North Carolina State’s CAMINOS pre-college program that facilitates the transition to college for juniors or seniors. Another of North Carolina State’s best pre-college summer programs includes the communication camp for those high school students with a serious career interest in TV production, public speaking, or broadcasting, among others.
Established by the state assembly in the late 1880s, North Carolina State University (NC State), a land-grant school, is now a member school of the UNC system and a land-grant university. The school’s urban Raleigh campus covers more than two thousand acres and serves approximately 35,750 students. NCSU’s campus is divided into three primary sections, with the oldest parts dedicated to academics.
The University of California, Los Angeles’ Summer Sessions offers one of California’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students that allows high school students to earn college credits during UCLA’s 1 to 3 week concentrated sessions. UCLA’s best pre-college summer programs are offered to students across the globe as they are all remote learning options. These pre-college sessions for high school students provide opportunities across a number of options like a ‘mock trial,’ acting/performance, science lab, game lab, economics lab, or the critical thinking institute, to name a few.
UCLA was established in 1919 as a public school. UCLA is the second oldest of the state’s university’s ten campuses. Additionally, this land-grant and space-grant school is home to more than 45,350 students vying for degrees and diplomas online and on-campus. Forbes ranks UCLA among the top schools in terms of value for a public university.
Format: Remote only
5. Georgia Tech
The Design College at Georgia Tech offers one of Georgia’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students through a variety of video conferencing for students interested in design. These best pre-college summer programs are open to students who have at least completed their sophomore year in high school. Participants engage in discussions, guided exercises, and live classes, with a max class size of 28. Students have the choice of two sessions, with each session offering a modified focus in one session in music technology design.
The Georgia Institute of Technology ( G. Tech) is a multiple campus institution of higher education that was founded in the mid-1880s as part of plans to rebuild the south after the civil war. Georgia Tech is a space-grant school with more than 36,400 students and an endowment that exceeds $2 billion. Students hailing from outside Georgia come from NJ, Florida, Texas, NC, and Virginia, among others.
Format: PreCollege Design offered via video conferences
6. University of Texas at Austin
The Summer Discovery program at the University of Texas at Austin offers high school students in Texas some of the best pre-college summer programs across a number of topics for students who are aged 14 through 18. These UT best pre-college summer programs for high school students, which are available entirely online, include fashion computer tech, python programming, law/society, sports medicine, public speaking, or digital media/marketing. Each of these summer discovery programs is available for grades 9 through 12 and runs three weeks until completion.
Established in the mid-1880s, the University of Texas at Austin is a member of the state’s university system and the flagship campus. The school’s 400+ acre campus is home to seventeen libraries and more than 50,650 students. the University of Texas Austin is recognized as one of the few public ivy league universities across the United States.
7. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The University of Illinois’s Illini Summer Academies offers a 4-H college experience that is available online. UIUC’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students include options for veterinary medicine, computer/electrical engineering, business, environmental science, future teachers, agriculture, animal sciences, and honeybees/beekeeping, among others. These best pre-college summer programs are open to Illinois students from across the state. However, costs vary depending on the program, and space may be limited, so students are encouraged to apply early.
Established in the mid-1860s as a land gran school, the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign is also the flagship campus and a space- and sea-grant institution of higher learning with more than 52,150 students. The University of Illinois (UI Urbana-Champaign) holds the distinction of being recognized among the public ivy league universities in the nation.
8. Virginia Tech
The Computers and Technology division and the Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity (C-Tech2) at Virginia Tech offer one of Virginia’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students that is available 100% online. Students enrolled in V Tech’s best pre-college summer programs provide educational opportunities for high school students to explore engineering (and its many applications) in fun and exciting ways. Each session for Virginia Tech’s pre-college program runs for two weeks.
Established in the early 1870s as a mechanical/agricultural college, Virginia Tech is also a senior military school (one of only six in the country) with a student enrollment of approximately 36,150 students. The university offers more than 275 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Virginia Tech’s first student walked more than two dozen miles to the school to register, and each year, first year cadets reenact this journey.
9. Harvard University
Harvard University offers one of the best pre-college summer programs for high school students through its distance learning platform. Each of Harvard University’s best pre-college summer programs runs two weeks, with three sessions offered during the summer session, which runs between the end of June and the first week in August. Students are offered an academic opportunity to explore their academic pursuits and make lifelong relationships with peers and mentors/faculty. Class sizes for these Harvard programs are limited to 20 students. As such, students are strongly encouraged to submit their applications as early as possible.
Established in 1636 by clergyman John Harvard, Harvard University is now recognized among the most prestigious school in the world and the oldest university in the nation. Additionally, Harvard University is a space-grant university with more than 20,000 students on its Cambridge campus, across the Charles River from Boston and Boston University. Harvard College acquired the first printing press known to have existed in North America.
10. Indiana University Bloomington
Indiana University Bloomington offers some of Indiana’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students, with are dozens of pre-college programs from which high school students can choose. Among the available University’s best pre-college summer programs from IU Bloomington distance-learning includes overseas students, choir, game development, music, dance, business, engineering/math, SEED, STEM, composition skills, cinema academy, future-focus, study skills, college auditions for music majors, and language immersion, to name a few.
The Bloomington campus at Indiana University is a space-grant institution that was established in 1820., first as a state0seminary IU Bloomington is a member and flagship school of Indiana’s state university system with a student enrollment of approximately 43,450 students. Several buildings on campus are listed in the register of national historic places, and UI Bloomington’s student union is the second largest across the globe.
11. University of California, Berkeley
The Pre-College Scholars Programs at the University of California, Berkeley offer some of the nation’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students that are available online and offer UC Berkeley earned credit. These best pre-college summer programs are available to domestic and international students. Available programs range across academic disciplines from STEM to humanities and more. All summer scholar programs are offered through UC Berkeley’s Digital Learning Services.
Established as California’s first land-grant school under the Morrill Land Grant Act, the University of California is one of the fourteen member schools (and the first founding member) in California’s university system. The main campus of Berkeley (and online) is home to more than 42,850 students. The University of California’s Berkeley campus played a significant role during the Manhattan Project and other scientific advances.
12. Yale University
Yale University’s Summer Sessions offers two virtual sessions of the best pre-college summer programs for high school students who live in Connecticut and beyond. Each of these best pre-college summer programs from Yale University allows high school students who are accepted into the program to take two credit courses per session of those classes that are eligible for the pre-college programs. Eligible students must have successfully finished their junior year of high school and be at least 16 years of age when the ‘summer sessions’ program begins.
Established in 1701 and recognized as one of the nation’s colonial schools, Yale University is named for the university’s largest benefactor, E. Yale. The Ivy-league school’s college-town campus covers more than 1,000 acres and approximately 11,850 students. Yale was originally an institution dedicated to theology.
13. Duke University
Duke University’s Summer Sessions offers some of the best pre-college summer programs for high school students that are available on-campus and, for the summer of 2021, online. These best pre-college summer programs run three weeks, with two sessions available in the summer session. The available pre-college programs include econometrics, big data, law, bioethics, chemistry, engineering, and scientific research/communication, all available online. Classes include both synchronous and asynchronous classes that meet from Monday to Friday.
Established as Brown School in the late 1830s, Duke University is now recognized among the most prestigious schools in the world. Duke’s campus spans more than 7,500 acres and is home to approximately 15,550 students. Admission to Duke’s undergraduate program is considered among the most selective in the nation. for the class of 2024, Duke University’s acceptance rate was less than 8%.
Format: online only for summer 2021
14. University of California, San Diego
The University of California, San Diego’s Academic Connections offers some of the Golden State’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students, offering two sets of programs entirely online. UC San Diego’s best pre-college summer programs offer high school students the opportunity to explore research and study options in hopes of fine-tuning their future education plans. UC Scholar’s programs offer options in life sciences, bioengineering, sports medicine/oncofertility, or design lab. The GELS (Global Environmental Leadership & Sustainability) program offers pre-college program options in DC, Hawaii, and Biosphere 2.
Established in 1960 as a public school, the San Diego campus at the University of California is a land, sea, and space-grant university with a student enrollment of approximately 40,150 students. UC San Diego is a member of the state’s university system and the most southern campus in the state.
15. Rutgers University
Rutgers University’s Pre-College Summer Programs offer some of the east coast’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students from ages 16 to 18 years old. Rutgers University’s pre-college programs have been recognized among the best pre-college summer programs College Consensus. These pre-college programs include summer scholars and summer academies in the areas of engineering, leadership, law, and physical therapy. Graduating seniors have the chance to earn college credits prior to entering their first year of school, and those preparing for the SAT or ACT can opt for a summer session preparation course of study.
Established in the mid-1760s in response to the earlier creation of nearby Princeton, Rutgers University now operates as the state university of New Jersey – multiple campuses in central and northern New Jersey. Rutgers University is recognized as one of the nation’s colonial colleges and is the 9th oldest school in the nation.
Format: MOST online, a few courses will require in-person
16. University of California, Davis
The University of California, Davis offers one of the nation’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students that can be completed entirely online. Students in grades seven through twelve have the opportunity to begin their studies early with one of UC Davis’s best pre-college summer programs. These two-week summer programs that prepare students for college include study skills, exploring academic careers, and college readiness, among others. Students can also choose from several immersion programs that include cyber sleuth, forensics, medical mysteries, or entrepreneurship.
The University of California (UCD) was established in the early-190ss as a university farm. UC Davis is one of ten schools that are organized under the UC university system with a student enrollment that nears 40,000. The University of California (UC-Davis) is recognized as one of the few public ivy league schools in the United States.
17. University of Maryland
The University of Maryland’s Office of Extended Studies offers some of Maryland’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students that are available online. These best pre-college summer programs offer high school students the opportunity to earn college credits while experiencing college level studies. These three-week experiences offer students the chance to enroll and complete a three-credit course from UMD. Course selections include architecture, forensics, film studies, AI, writing, politics, law, social psychology, business, education, engineering, public health, and critical digital making, among others.
Founded as an agricultural school in the mid-1850s, the University of Maryland (UMD) is now a member school of the Big Ten conference and the flagship school of the university system. UMD serves more than 40,850 students from its twelve colleges/schools. The school’s nearby location to the nation’s capital has created a host of significant research opportunities for staff, faculty, and students.
18. University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania offers two sessions of the best pre-college summer programs for high school students available online from a Pennsylvania-based school. Eligible students for Penn’s best pre-college summer programs must be in tenth or eleventh grade, with students welcomed from all over the world. Classes that offer college credit from the University of Pennsylvania’s summer session include several options in biology, with limited space available, so potential students are encouraged to apply as early as possible.
The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) is an ivy league institution of higher education that was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1751. This colonial college serves more than 22,150 students on its several campuses and online. Penn holds the distinction of being home to the first student union constructed for this purpose, Houston Hall, which was built in the mid-1890s.
19. Wake Forest University
Wake Forest University’s Summer Immersion programs offer students the opportunity to explore their passion with the faculty from some of the best pre-college summer programs in North Carolina. These best pre-college summer programs for high school students from Wake Forest University offers high school students more than 20 options include animation, business, photography, bioscience, debate, finance, health, law, politics, neuroscience, medicine, writing, technology, and psychology, to name a few. Classes offered through this immersion program include a mentorship with a university staff member.
Wake Forest University was established in the mid-1830s by the Baptist Convention of North Carolina. This research school is home to approximately 8,650 students who can join and participate in more than 200 clubs. Wake Forest University’s name comes from the name of the original location of the school.
20. University of Massachusetts Amherst
The University Without Walls at the University of Massachusetts Amherst offers some of New England’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students that are available entirely online. These 22 best pre-college summer programs from UMass Amherst include veterinary medicine, engineering, design, management, psychology, psychology-related psychology, astronomy, ethics, kinesiology, python programming, data science, equine science, digital drawing, coding/data visualization, and music & technology, to name a few.
Established as an agriculture college in the mid-1860s, the University of Massachusetts (UMass Amherst) is a member of the state’s university system and the Pioneer Valley’s 5-College Consortium. The school’s suburban campus in western Massachusetts (and online) is home to approximately 30,250 students. When founded, “Massachusetts Aggie” was funded by the Federal Morrill Land Act as a land-grant school.
Format: Online only
21. University of Alabama
The Continuing Studies College, in conjunction with UA’s Early College at the University of Alabama offers some of Alabama’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students from its Tuscaloosa campus and online. The University of Alabama’s best pre-college summer programs are available in more than 75 class options that include either one 10-week term or several four-week terms. Among the classes available from the University of Alabama’s pre-college program are college readiness, anthropology, astronomy, biology, art, chemistry, languages, law, criminal justice, film, mathematics, and sociology and theology, to name a few.
Established about 100 years ago, in 1820, the University of Alabama is now the flagship campus of the state with a student body of approximately 38,150 students. In addition to being a land, sea, and space-grant school, the University of Alabama is the oldest and the largest school in the state. The school’s football team – the Crimson Tide, is considered among the most winning college football teams in history.
22. University of Houston
The University of Houston offers a variety of sponsored virtual summer camps that are among the best pre-college summer programs for high school students available in the marketplace. UH’s best pre-college summer programs include classes in architecture, business, art, speech therapy, pharmacy, jazz, music, scholars, STEM, writing, filmmaking, engineering, girls coding academy, and a STEM summer tech camp for those students entering grades three to six.
Established in 1927, the University of Houston offers more than 275 academic degree programs both online and on its flagship campus in Houston. The school’s student enrollment of approximately 46,050 students makes the University of Houston one of the top three largest schools in the Lone Star State. It is estimated that the University of Houston contributes to the state’s economy about $3 billion with its nearly 25,000 job opportunities in the area.
23. University of North Carolina at Greensboro
The CVPA School of Art at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro offers some of North Carolina’s most innovative and best pre-college summer programs for high school students that are available online. These best pre-college summer programs from UNCG are organized into morning or afternoon scheduled options. Available classes include photography, drawing, storytelling/animation, and time-based media. This intensive summer of art and design offered online by the University of North Carolina has been offered through the distance-learning platform for the past seven years.
Established as a teacher’s school for educators in the early-1890s, the University of North Carolina (Greensboro) now operates as a research school and a member of the state’s university system. The school’s urban campus in Greensboro covers more than 200 acres and is home to approximately 19,550 students. UNCG’s various colleges/schools offer more than 125 undergraduate and graduate degree programs on-campus and online.
24. Brown University
Brown University offers a variety and some of Rhode Island’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students that run for one to six weeks, depending on the pre-college program selected. Students enrolled in these best pre-college summer programs from Brown University can experience the Brown ivy-league experience. This prepares them for their next step in their academic career. The summer at Brown programs are available on-campus, online, or as a hybrid delivered pre-college program, which determines the exact length of the program.
Established prior to the American Revolution in 1764, Brown University is a private university with a student enrollment of approximately 10,150 undergraduate and graduate students. When established, Brown was the first institution of higher learning in the nation that accepted students independent of the student’s religious affiliation.
Format: 1-6 week on-campus programs
25. Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins University’s Summer and Intersession Programs offers a variety of the best pre-college summer programs for high school students available online. Johns Hopkins’ best pre-college summer programs are available as a two week summer intensive program or one of the various college-credit classes that run anywhere from five to ten weeks during the summer session. As one of the finest research universities across the globe, Hopkins also offers pre-college programs in the areas of STEM, medicine, psychology, humanities, social sciences, and film, among others.
Established in the mid-1870s, Johns Hopkins University is one of the nation’s premier research schools, leading in R&D spending for many years. From its Baltimore campus, Johns Hopkins University is home to more than 25,850 students. Johns Hopkins University maintains multiple campuses, with international facilities in China and Italy.
26. Georgetown University
Georgetown University offers a variety of immersive and some of the best pre-college summer programs for high school students living in the Washington DC greater metro area. These best pre-college summer programs are offered virtually across one to five weeks and offer college credit to eligible high school students. These pre-college programs include politics, writing, medicine, politics, intelligence, science, business, social justice, leadership, economics, sports industry management, and campaigns & elections, to name a few.
Established by Jesuits in the late 1780s, Georgetown University now operates as a comprehensive research institution of higher learning with a campus in DC and in Qatar. Georgetown University is considered the oldest of Catholic schools in the country, and it is organized into ten colleges/schools. Georgetown University’s campus overlooks the Potomac, with a National Historic Landmark building on campus.
27. Smith College
Smith College offers some of New England’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students that are available on Smith’s beautiful western Massachusetts campus or online. These best pre-college summer programs from Smith College are open to young women (female-identified) who are about to enter high school (grades 9 – 12). There are five options from which to choose – women, gender and representation, college admissions, sustainable futures – maintaining positivity, creative writing, and the science/engineering program. It is noted that Smith College offers a variety of pre-college classes throughout the entire year for interested students.
Established in the early 1870s, Smith College is a private college for women and the largest member school of the Seven Sister schools (and the Five College Consortium) located throughout the northeast. Nearly 3,000 students attend classes online and on Smith’s Northampton, Massachusetts’s campus. Smith College’s alumni include recipients of Emmy, Peabody, Academy, and Pulitzer Prize awards, among others.
Format: On-campus AND virtual programs offered
28. University of Vermont
The Distance and Continuing Education Division at the University of Vermont offers a variety of Vermont’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students that are available to those students who have completed the tenth, eleventh or twelfth grade. The University of Vermont’s best pre-college summer programs offer college credit classes that cover four weeks. The available options for UVM’s virtual pre-college classes include health & medicine, storytelling, neuroscience introduction, biomedical science, drones for mapping, and facing environmental futures.
Established as a public university in the early 1790s, the University of Vermont operates as a land-grant school and the state’s flagship campus with a student enrollment of approximately 12,750 undergraduate and graduate students. In addition, the University of Vermont is a sea and space-grant research school. The University of Vermont is recognized among the oldest of universities in the nation and a member school of the original public Ivy League schools.
29. Skidmore College
Skidmore College’s Precollege Programs are ranked among the top ten by College Consensus. These best pre-college summer programs for high school students are all available 100% online through Skidmore’s distance learning platform. There are 13 available best pre-college summer programs offered by Skidmore College that include physics of sound (including a music lab), history, writing, economics, anthropology, earth science, genetics, psychology, genetics, the history of the world’s oceans, and sociological perspectives, to name a few.
Founded as a women’s industrial club for liberal arts in 1903, Skidmore College now offers more than 50 academic majors at the baccalaureate level. From its upstate New York location, Skidmore College is home to approximately 2,550 students – primarily undergraduate. Men were admitted to Skidmore College in the early-1970s, the same time the Phi Beta Kappa chapter was created on campus.
30. South Dakota Schools & Mines & Technology
The South Dakota Schools & Mines & Technology offers a variety of the best pre-college summer programs for high school students from its campus in Rapid City. These campus-based Mellon’s best pre-college summer programs from SD Mines are available as a day program or a residential camp in the areas that include weather, green chemistry, biomedical, programming, rocket science, geology, health science, mining, materials, and fossils, to name a few.
Founded in the mid-1880s, several years before South Dakota reached statehood, the South Dakota Schools & Mines & Technology’s campus is located near the Black Hills with approximately 2,500 students. The South Dakota Schools & Mines & Technology participated in the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis and holds the distinction of operating the 1st licensed radio station in the state.
31. Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University offers some of Pennsylvania’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students for those students entering high school as juniors or seniors. For 2021, Carnegie Mellon’s best pre-college summer programs are being offered entirely online. Carnegie Mellon University’s pre-college programs are available in various areas of study, which include computers, design drama, writing, design, biology, art, music, math/science, and game academy, among others. Pre-college summer session classes offer high school students the opportunity to earn college credits from more than two dozen course options.
Carnegie Mellon University (Carnegie Mellon) was founded at the beginning of the 20th century as a technical school. Carnegie Mellon University is also a space-grant school with an endowment that exceeds $2.5 billion and a student enrollment of approximately 15,000. Carnegie Mellon University’s students hail from more than 100 international locations.
Format: Remote options ONLY for 2021
32. Cornell University
Cornell University’s SCE Precollege Studies offers a variety of New York’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students that is available entirely online for the Summer of 2021. Cornell’s best pre-college summer programs include college credit classes in the areas of art, architecture, management, anthropology, American studies, various sciences, communication, writing, literature, design, engineering, English, economics, hotel administration, law, nutrition, and music, to name just a few. These pre-college classes are a great option for students who wish to get a jumpstart on their college careers.
Established in 1865, Cornell University is an Ivy League research school that serves more than 23,950 students from its upstate New York campus, online, and its two satellite facilities. The school is both a private and statutory school, plus a space and sea-grant institution of higher education. Cornell University holds the distinction of being a land-grant school that operates privately.
Format: online only for Summer 2021
33. Boston University
Boston University’s Summer Term HS offers a variety of the best pre-college summer programs for high school students that are available on the university’s Charles River campus and online. One of these best pre-college summer programs includes a two-week summer challenge that allows students to push themselves to test academic limits while making new friends and colleagues. The summer challenge is offered in three different sessions and now, with an alternative program at night. There are more than twenty seminars to select from include law, writing, philosophy, science, file, computers, business, and psychology, to name a few.
Established in the late 1830s with a United Methodist Church heritage, Boston University now operates as a nonsectarian comprehensive school with a student enrollment of 34,150 students. Boston University maintains several campuses in the Boston area, including the medical center in the south end of Boston. Boston University has been ranked among the best and most innovative schools in the nation.
34. Tulane University
Tulane University offers some of New Orleans’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students and middle school students opportunities to explore their passions and talents while experiencing college from an online perspective. These best pre-college summer programs are available in two, and three-week options where eleventh and twelfth students can earn college credits, and rising students (grades 6 through 12) have the option to enhance their academic horizons through enrichment classes. Featured options include Astro Camp, architecture, neuroscience, computers, math, psychology, health, women’s advocacy, and sports analytics, to name a few.
Established as a medical school in the mid-1830s, Tulane University is now a comprehensive institution of higher education and a space-grant school. The school’s campus in the Big Easy is home to more than 13,900 students and more than one thousand faculty members. Alumni of Tulane include governors, members of congress, and the Costa Rican president, among others.
Format: Online only
35. University of Rochester
The University of Rochester offers a few of the best pre-college summer programs for high school students in the western portion of New York state, as well as through the distance learning platform online. Among these best pre-college summer programs from the University of Rochester are intensive studies, non-credit classes, and college-credit classes. Those Monroe County students who will be 11 or 12th grade students can opt to enroll in a community math program (Linear Algebra with Differential Equations is recommended) at a reduced tuition. Students must attend an orientation meeting as part of the program.
Established in 1850 as a private school, the University of Rochester now operates as a space-grant school with a student body that exceeds 12,050 students. e University of Rochester offers programs in more than 190 academic majors, with a robust research spending budget that nears $400 million. The University of Rochester is one of the largest employers in New York’s Finger Lakes district in the upstate portion of the state.
Format: Virtual, some Live instruction
36. Eastern Kentucky University
Eastern Kentucky University’s Summerfest programs are considered among the best pre-college summer programs for high school students available online. These best pre-college summer programs from Eastern Kentucky University offer students an opportunity to get a jumpstart on their college career and speed up the time to complete a college degree. Students can sign on to EKU’s distance learning platform at any time from anywhere in the world. Available options include ethics, physics, chemistry, human anatomy, psychology, and microeconomics, to name a few.
Established in the mid-1870s as Central University, Eastern Kentucky University is a multi-campus institution of higher education with a student enrollment of approximately 15,550 students. Eastern Kentucky University offers more than three -ozen online options. In addition, Eastern Kentucky University operates as a space grant institution of higher education. Eastern Kentucky University has always been dedicated to educating educators, with the school awarding its first education doctorate in leadership in 2010.
37. New York University
New York University’s Precollege offers some of New York’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students from its iconic campus in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. These NYU best pre-college summer programs are available from several NYU schools in the areas of art, media studies, economics, policy, education, science, and more than a dozen options from the College of Arts and Sciences. In addition, students can opt for a College 101 workshop in which they can hone their study and application skills required to succeed at that collegiate level.
Founded as a research university in the early 1830s, New York University is now a space-grant higher learning institution with a student body of about 51,650 students. NYU’s campus surrounds Washington Square Park and another facility in Brooklyn. New York University’s first class in 1822, was all men, with classes first held near NYC’s City Hall.
38. Hollins University
Hollins University offers its Hollinsummer programs, which are some of Virginia’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students. Hollins University’s best pre-college summer programs are offered online and on-campus, although the campus-based programs may be moved to virtual (if possible), depending on the school’s current policies. Available programs include social justice, creative writing, theatre, science, research, an introduction to law, and equine studies and riding. These pre-college programs are ranked among the top pre-college programs for 2020. These programs for pre-college students are available for girls entering the 9th to 12th grade.
Hollins University was established in the early 1840s as a seminary. The school’s Roanoke campus serves approximately 550 students. Hollins University holds the distinction of being one of the oldest higher learning women’s institutions in the nation and the commonwealth’s first chartered school for girls.
Format: May be on-campus for 2021 (TBD)
39. Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green State University offers some of Ohio’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students that are campus-based and available through BGSU’s distance-learning platform. BGSU’s best pre-college summer programs are available through the school’s College Credit Plus (CCP) program. Interested students have the opportunity of earning high school credits while also earning college credits simultaneously. Pre-college students are given experiential opportunities to understand the college experience and a chance to finish school early.
Founded in 1910 as a state teacher’s college, Bowling Green State University is also a member school of the state’s university system. Bowling Green State University (BGSU) maintains several campuses with a student enrollment of approximately 22,850 students. Students participate in an annual dance marathon, which is a student-organized charitable event.
Format: Residential or Online – College Credit Plus program (via Ohio Higher Ed)
40. Sewanee, The University of the South
Sewanee, The University of the South, offers seven of Tennessee’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students on its scenic mountaintop campus in the Tennessee Valley. Students enrolled in Sewanee’s best pre-college summer programs can opt for the choral institute, English, environmental studies, public speaking, music, finance, and a young writer’s conference. High school students have the opportunity to enjoy the campus’s most beautiful season while exploring college classes.
The University of the South (Sewanee) was established in the mid-1850s by the Episcopal Church and managed by 28 dioceses from southern districts. The school’s rural campus sits on the Cumberland Plateau and covers more than 12,000 acres. About 1,500 students attend classes online and on-campus. Construction of many buildings on campus was temporarily halted during the Civil War.
41. Emory University
The Office of Summer and International Programs at Emory University offers a variety of Georgia’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students that offer college credit through its distance learning platform. These best pre-college summer programs are offered in two six-week sessions and offer dozens of options, depending on the student’s area of focus and interest. These classes act as the beginning of the student’s permanent college record. International students are welcome to apply to all Emory University’s online course offerings. Note that coursework requires the participation in synchronous sessions each week, with a weekly time commitment of about 15 to 20 hours.
Founded in the mid-1830s, Emory University is a research school in Atlanta with a student enrollment of approximately 15,150 students. Emory University holds the distinction of being the second oldest of all private schools in the state of Georgia.
42. Alfred University
Alfred University offers two of the Empire State’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students that are available entirely online. These two best pre-college summer programs from Alfred University include a virtual drawing workshop & camp and a virtual creative writing institute for high school students. The writing program offers an introduction to many genres that include creative nonfiction, poetry, and short fiction. The virtual drawing program from Alfred University is available to students entering the tenth, eleventh and twelfth, grades.
Alfred University is a private school located in southwestern New York State that was established in 1836 by 7th Day Baptists but operates nonsectarian. Alfred University now operates partially as a statutory college and space-grant school that serves approximately 2,250 undergraduate and graduate students. Hillary Clinton made a campaign stop at Alfred University when vying for her New York senate seat.
Format: Virtual Creative Writing and Drawing camps
43. Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Worcester Polytechnic Institute offers some of New England’s best pre-college summer programs with its online ‘Frontiers for Credit’ pre-college programs. Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students are available to students who are entering the 11th or the 12th grade and offer college credit while students experience college level coursework. Classes are available across a wide spectrum of topics that include chemistry, math, business, language, music, law, psychology, biotechnology, physics, and CAD, among others. Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s pre-college options run five weeks and require the same rigorous studies as any college program.
Established in the mid-1860s, Worcester Polytechnic Institute is a research school in central Massachusetts that serves approximately 4,050 students through its more than one dozen academic divisions. Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s research includes biotech, surface metrology, nanotechnology, and information security, to name a few.
44. Spelman College
Spelman College’s College Prep Institute offers two sessions of Atlanta’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students that are available entirely online. These Atlanta’s best pre-college summer programs include life skills (resume writing, college prep, relationship skills), leadership, and test prep. Each of these pre-college programs offered by Spelman College runs during a two week virtual session, with the first beginning in mid-June and the second session beginning during the second week in July.
Spelman College (Spelman) was established in 1881 as a female seminary and is recognized as an HBCU women’s liberal arts institution of higher education. The school’s Atlanta campus is home to approximately 2,000 students. Spelman College holds the distinction of being the oldest school in the nation that is a private HBCU for women offering liberal arts education.
45. Adelphi University
Adelphi University’s Office of High School & Pre-College Programs offers a variety of New York’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students on the school’s Long Island, New York campus. Adelphi’s best pre-college summer programs include a variety of subjects that include medicine/health, sexuality studies, social justice through a trauma perspective, education, nursing, human rights, digital technology, coding, business, acting and art, psychology & pop culture, and computer programming, among others. Adelphi University even offers Manhattan-based options, although non-credit classes in an exploration of NYC art or professional sports as a business.
Founded in the mid-1890s, Adelphi University is a private school with a student enrollment of approximately 7,650 graduate and undergraduate students. As the largest private school on Long Island, Adelphi University also offers more than 100 study abroad opportunities.
46. Brandeis University
Brandeis University is among the most elite universities in the nation and offers some of the best pre-college summer programs for high school students that are campus-based and available online. Some of these best pre-college summer programs from Brandeis University include app design, social justice/inequality and race, a precollege immersion program, the genesis project, and global health/social justice. Program start dates and associated costs will vary based on the topic selected by each pre-college student. Potential students should check out the available scholarships offered by Brandeis University’s pre-college programs throughout the year to review available options.
Established in the late 1940s, Brandeis University is a private research institution of higher education that is situated outside of the city of Boston. More than 5,650 students attend classes online and on the school’s suburban campus. Brandeis University is named to honor the first Supreme Court Justice in the nation of Jewish Heritage.
Format: Both Residential and Virtual programs offered
47. Rhode Island School of Design
Rhode Island School of Design’s Continuing Education Division offers 15 to 18 year old high school students some of the most advanced online and best pre-college summer programs for high school students in Rhode Island. RISD’s immersive classes are offered in two sessions. High school students enrolled in RISD’s best pre-college summer programs have these options – animation, art/science ecologies, mixed media, art/& social justice, architecture, photography, drawing, design, fashion, graphic design, and sculpture, to name a few.
Founded in the late 1870s as a private school for design and art, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is affiliated with its neighboring school, Brown University. The school’s Providence, Rhode Island 10-acre+ campus serves approximately 2,450 undergraduate and graduate degree students. Rhode Island School of Design has been ranked among the top fine arts programs in the nation and the world.
48. Fairleigh Dickinson University
Fairleigh Dickinson University offers some of New Jersey’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students that are available online 100%. Students enrolled in Fairleigh Dickinson University’s best pre-college summer programs offer a variety of classes that allow pre-college students to earn up to twelve earned credits over the summer session. Pre-college students can opt for programs in health, writing, coding, law, statistics, data science, materials science, pharmacology, finance, astronomy, psychology, and venture capital entrepreneurship.
Established in the early 1940s as a junior college, Fairleigh Dickinson University (Fairleigh Dickinson) is now recognized as one of the largest private universities in the Garden state. The school’s multiple campuses in north New Jersey offer more than 100 academic degree programs to its more than 11,150 students. FDU also maintains a robust distance learning platform that offers students more than 20 academic degree programs and options.
Format: Online Only
49. Marist College
Marist College offers some of the nation’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students that are available online, with optional on-campus visits for interested students. Marist’s nation’s best pre-college summer programs include fourteen options in the areas of fashion, health, communication, law, psychology, entrepreneurship, environmental science, data science, cybersecurity, and business, to name a few. These pre-college programs run three weeks during the month of July in the summer session.
Established by the Marist Brothers in the late-1920s, Marist College is a private school that operates as a nonsectarian Christian school. The school’s campus along the Hudson River is about an hour and one-half from New York City and home to approximately 6,450 students. Marist College maintains a campus in Italy that offers more than four dozen semester options abroad.
50. Susquehanna University
Susquehanna University offers some of Pennsylvania’s best pre-college summer programs for high school students, offering both campus-based and virtual pre-college options. These best pre-college summer programs include business programs in leadership or business finance. Additionally, there are programs available from the arts and sciences school in music (wind ensemble, strings, keyboard, choral), writing, ecology, and acting. The summer workshop for writers at Susquehanna University has been running consecutively for more than three decades and features poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction.
Established in the late 1858s, Susquehanna University is a private school that serves approximately 2,050 students. Although first a women’s school, Susquehanna University is now a coeducational Lutheran higher learning institution. Susquehanna University is organized into two schools, the Arts & Sciences and world-renowned business programs from the Weis Business School.
Format: In-person + Virtual options
What Makes the Best Pre-College Summer Programs?
In a lot of ways, a pre-college summer program is an extreme form of advertising for a school; high schoolers get an idea of how they would live and what they would do if they were students at University XYZ, and if the school does it right, every summer program student will be applying to University XYZ as soon as they get home.
More importantly, though, a good summer program is enriching for the students and the school. While some pre-college programs are intended for high-achieving, super-ambitious students, many others are for the underrepresented student: first-generation, low-income, immigrant, or minority. And these programs are invaluable, showing students that college – and the financial and professional benefits that come with a college degree – is in their reach. And it helps the school find promising students that might have missed out without the pre-college program.
So, a really great pre-college summer program will showcase everything that makes that institution special. A major, world-renowned research university should give high school students access to current technology and introduce them to contemporary research. A beloved small liberal arts college should envelop a young person in support, motivation, community, and mentorship.
So what should you look for in a pre-college program? We’d say four things are ideal:
For-Credit Courses – All pre-college programs feature classes, workshops, labs, and seminars, but not all help students earn transferable college credits. The ones that do may be more expensive, but some will allow students to earn as much as 6 or 12 credits – a serious jump start on the freshman year, whether you go to the same school or not.
Realistic Residential Experience – One of the keys to a great residential pre-college program is the “residential” part. Often, the pre-college program is designed to simulate the freshman year residential experience (even the US Coast Guard Academy does an approximation of their punishing “Swab Week,” though not quite as extreme). Giving students a taste of college life (even with an early curfew for high schoolers) is a big plus.
Reasonable Tuition and Scholarship Opportunities – Pre-college programs can be very expensive, or seem expensive at first glance, but Value Colleges is always about weighing the elements to find a balance. Many program offers full or partial scholarships based on merit or need, and some are free altogether. Others keep tuition low to begin with to attract students who might be dedicated, but not wealthy.
Mentorship from Experts – If high school students are going to go to a residential pre-college summer program, it’s fair to expect courses to be taught by real experts. Many summer programs are taught by graduate students who are immersed in the latest research, or by actual faculty members who are doing that research.
Why Should High Schoolers Take a Pre-College Summer Program?
High-schoolers may be reluctant to give up their last summer of freedom for a pre-college program, but there are plenty of reasons a pre-college summer program is worth it.
Precollege summer programs give high schoolers a chance to experience college life over summer vacation. These programs range in length, typically lasting one to seven weeks. Students taking pre-college summer programs focus on specific subjects such as leadership, writing, engineering or entrepreneurship. Summer programs may offer commuter or residential options, and students often get to stay on campus with other participants.
These programs give students the opportunity to take lectures from visiting scholars and college professors. Students participate in social activities and may even attend classes at private colleges since several Ivy League schools offer these pre-college summer programs.
The competition for precollege summer programs varies with some programs being open to anyone who wants to attend and others including a rigorous admissions process. Programs that require an application process may ask students to include essays and teacher recommendations and submit their standardized test scores.
Some programs can be on the pricey side, so students and their parents should ensure that the courses offered align with the students’ interest. Students who do well in pre-college summer programs are sometimes perceived as stronger applicants in the admissions process.
Are Online Pre-College Summer Programs Worth It?
There are many advantages of pre-college summer programs online, including boosting a student’s chances of college admission and gaining independence and leadership skills.
Pre-college summer programs online can help students improve their chances of getting accepted into colleges and developing independence and leadership skills. As college applications become more competitive, students are constantly trying to find new ways to stand out. Attending pre-college summer programs for high school students online shows that a student has an excellent work ethic and initiative.
Attending a pre-college program shows that a learner is serious about their academic future. These programs also give attendees a chance to delve deeper into scientific, literary and other interests. For example, some programs focus on writing essays, which can help students who are applying for colleges write compelling essays for the applications.
Some summer programs offer residential options, and attendees get to stay on the college campus. Sometimes, that means spending time living in Ivy League colleges that might otherwise be out of reach.
Pre-college summer programs for high school students online can allow students to brush up on their coding skills, make new friends and explore subjects they are passionate about. From Silicon Valley to the nation’s capital, there are pre-college summer programs in every corner of the country. This may give some students an opportunity to travel and see more of the country as they complete their courses.
Pre-college programs put leadership skills to the test as students live in a community of their peers. Students can brush elbows with other rising stars who represent the best and brightest of their generation. Some programs focus on debates, negotiation and leadership skills.
Students often make lasting friendships as they immerse themselves in the subject. Pre-college programs help learners with a passion for technology, theater or literature take a deep dive into their area of focus.
Pre-college summer programs for high school students online allow learners to attend programs from the comfort of home, making these enriching programs available to a wider subset of students.