Since part of our college counseling program at Green Ivy includes helping students choose the right fit for summer activities, we wanted to share our best practices for choosing and applying to summer college programs. Remember: look at these programs as a way to expand or enrich a personal interest, and as one option for your summer. There are plenty of free and low-cost ways to create a meaningful summer experience.
We’ve provided our strategies along with a list of specific and reputable programs, ranging from intensive STEM research and sustainability courses to creative writing workshops and entrepreneurship opportunities.
Spend time researching the details of the programs that interest you. Questions to consider: Is it selective? Does it require essays and/or recommendations? Will you be working with faculty or graduate students? What kind of projects will you be working on? The best programs will not only provide intellectual growth, but will also leave you with new skills and tangible results.
Be mindful of due dates and if applicable, ask teachers or counselors for recommendations early. We recommend applying by priority or first-round application deadlines, as many programs fill quickly. A good portion of these programs also ask students to submit one or two teacher recommendations, and ideally, you should give your teachers 2-4 weeks to write your letter.
Apply to 3-5 programs so that you will have options, but won’t be overwhelmed. Be sure you narrow your list to those programs that specifically appeal to you and your goals (as opposed to those your friends may be attending.) Keeping your list targeted will also make the application process manageable and won’t create added stress, especially if you are applying during your junior year. Some programs are incredibly competitive, so applying to a few less selective programs is also helpful.
Summer Program Recommendations:
California State Summer School for Math and Science (COSMOS): Students spend four weeks on a participating UC campus engaging in STEM-focused, hands-on research activities.
Georgetown Summer Institutes and Immersions: These courses range from one to three weeks, and students can choose from a range of subjects, including coding, creative writing, foreign policy, business leadership and social justice.
Iowa Young Writers’ Studio: High school students spend two weeks on the University of Iowa campus writing and taking workshops in poetry or fiction, run by graduate students from the oldest and most respected creative writing program in the country.
Johns Hopkins Engineering Innovation: Over this four or five week program, students learn to think like engineers by participating in lab activities, creating presentations and writing research papers.
NOLS Expeditions: For students interested in outdoor adventure, NOLS offers summer trips around the world which teach wilderness and leadership skills.
Stanford University Summer Programs: Stanford offers a wide range of intensive and residential programs, along with pre-college courses, including those from the Summer Humanities Institute, Mathematics Camp and Summer Arts Institute.
Yale Global Scholars: Two-week academic enrichment and leadership programs ranging from sustainable development and biomedical science to a cultural immersion trip in Beijing.
Where There Be Dragons: Dragons offers authentic cultural immersion programs in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Small groups travel to remote communities with the best educators in the industry to ensure meaningful engagement.