Best Pre-College Summer Programs in the U.S.

Most universities offer summer programs in various areas of studies. These courses are open to visiting students, international students, and high school students. These summer programs can help you gain an academic edge with courses that are out of your regular curriculum. If you are a pre-college student, attending summer school looks great on applications and it’ll also give you a taste of college life.


The best part about summer programs is that they need not be only about classes. Most of these universities are located in cultural hubs or close to the outdoors, which means there are plenty of opportunities for some fun.

Here are a couple of summer programs that you could consider.

Brown University

Brown University’s pre-college programs, usually seven weeks long, are for students from grades six to twelve. Students who require financial aid may benefit from Dean’s Scholarships. You can choose from a pre-bacc credit program, pre-college online courses, location-based courses, and more.

Location: Providence, RI

Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University offers high school students the chance to explore college life with its summer pre-college programs in architecture, drama, art, design, music, and video games. You can also opt for the Advanced Placement/Early Admission that allows you to take college credit courses.

Location: Pittsburgh, PA

Cornell University

Cornell University offers on-campus, off-campus and online courses that last three to six weeks. Some of the benefits of doing these courses include earning college credits and a Cornell University transcript, and access to special admissions workshops. There are programs in Fashion, Business, Government, Engineering, Literature and Medicine.

Location: Ithaca, NY

Columbia University

Columbia University’s summer courses are spread over 50 subject areas that include Women and Gender Studies, Visual Arts, Pre-Law, East Asian Languages and Cultures, and lots more. Once you complete the course with the requisite grades, you even get a one-term or multi-term certificate.

Location: New York, NY

San Diego State University

SDSU has summer courses that are on-campus along with 100+ online courses. The duration of courses lasts from six to thirteen weeks. It also helps that the SDSU campus includes the Aztec Recreation Center with an Aquaplex, and you may get there in time for Comic Con.

Location: San Diego, CA

Syracuse University

Syracuse University Summer College has programs that last two to six weeks long. Programs cover a wide range of subjects. Sample this: Animation & Game Design, Coding, Social Media Strategy and Analytics, and Spanish Immersion. There are both credit and non-credit programs.

Location: Syracuse, NY

University of Chicago

High school students can explore UChicago Immersion, Stones and Bones, Research in the Biological Sciences, and Traveling Academy. They are short courses of less than a month but packed with discussions and seminars. It is also open to visiting students, international students and UChicago students.

Location: Chicago, IL

University of Miami

The University of Miami offers sophomores and juniors in high school the Summer Scholars Program where they can earn college credit and take classes with college professors. A few of the academic specialties are Sports Medicine – Athletic Performance and Injury Management, Crime Scene Investigation and Forensic Anthropology, and Tropical Marine Biology.

Location: Coral Gables, FL

University of Pennsylvania

Penn Summer programs cover 300 credit courses on-campus, live online courses, classes abroad in 11 locales, cultural immersion for international students, and three- or six-week Penn Summer High School Programs. Penn’s Pre-College Program is a residential program while the Young Scholars Program is only for commuters. Both offer undergraduate credits.

Location: Philadelphia, PA

The other great thing about summer programs – you don’t have to jump through too many hoops as the admission process is far more simplified. Most colleges release their pre-college summer programs early, though late December and early January is when things will start rolling, leaving you with plenty of time to choose the best program to explore.