College Prep

Top 7 In-House Precollege Programs by Region

Students taking an in-person immersion program walking their bikes on university campus

Summer enrichment programs for high school students, sometimes called college prep summer courses, provide the opportunity for motivated high school students to take classes at a college and experience college life during the summer. Often, you’ll get the chance to live on campus in dorms, meet your professors, experience mentors, and interact with other like-minded students your age. You genuinely get the real-deal feel of college life as a teenager. Not only is it a memorable experience, but also helpful for your future college applications.

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. Each one of these college prep programs are 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. 

Ultimately, you should follow your interests and ensure you can get hands-on experiences throughout the summer. Using the summer to participate in activities that allow you to utilize skills in a practical setting, while working with others, is a great option to get the ball rolling on your future.  

Most programs range from one to seven weeks long. 

So what should you look for in a pre-college program? We’d say four things are ideal:

What to Look For in In-Person Summer Immersion Courses


Realistic Living 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. Giving students a taste of college life (even with an early curfew for high schoolers) is a big plus.


Reasonable Tuition and Scholarship Opportunities – College enrichment programs can be very expensive, or seem expensive at first glance, but many programs offer full or partial scholarships based on merit or need, and some are free altogether. Others keep tuition low to begin with to attract more students.


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 the research.


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 freshman year, regardless of what school you attend.

When to Apply to In-Person Summer Programs

Some pre-college summer programs offer open enrollment, where anyone can attend, while others require admission through an application process. The selective programs typically require teacher recommendations, application essays, and standardized test scores. Check each program's website for its admission requirements.

Many summer programs open their applications in November or December, with the deadlines in January or February. Students should start working on the summer program essays as soon as the application opens in order to give themselves adequate time.

Types of Courses Offered in Summer In-Person Programs

There are tons of summer enrichment programs that focus on a number of diverse subjects, such as writing, leadership, entrepreneurship, and engineering. Some summer programs offer both residential and commuter options. Students can stay in dorms with their peers or commute from home if they live close to campus. 

So, while there are nearly 160 in-person summer programs across the country, the following list highlights some of the top university summer programs, selected by region. 

  • Brown University (Providence, Rhode Island)
    Nestled in the small state of Rhode Island, Brown summer program classes are either known as Summer@Brown or Summer Pre-College. Overall, there are more than 200 non-credit courses that reflect a wide and diverse range of the classes that are offered in Brown University’s Open Curriculum. 

    These classes are not only meant to put high school students in contact with styles of learning and thinking, seeing and doing that a full-time student at Brown enjoys, but are also meant to engage students with faculty and staff at Brown.
  • Georgetown University (Washington. D.C.) 
    Georgetown's Hoya Summer High School Sessions offer an immersive learning experience that prepares you with the tools needed for college success. Ranging in length from one to eight weeks, their programs span a wide range of subjects, covering everything from forensic science and politics to creative writing. You'll have the opportunity to meet classmates from around the world and earn college credit.

    If getting away for the summer isn’t an option, but Georgetown piques your interest: they do offer several online summer enrichment classes. In fact, with the virtual college prep program, you aren’t limited to summer courses, and can take some year-round!
  • Parsons New School (New York City, New York)
    Parsons Summer Academy offers a variety of dynamic, in-person, non-credit art and design courses for students in grades 3 through 12. You can join them for two weeks in August at our Greenwich Village campus to explore art and design through hands-on projects that develop your creative thinking skills, techniques, and collaborative abilities.

    Similar to Georgetown above, if traveling abroad is not in the cards this year, Parsons Paris also offers several fashion courses online for teens (which can also be taken year-round), while still offering a lot of the same, hands-on approach!
  • Rice University (Houston, Texas)
    Rice’s summer program is an opportunity for currently enrolled Rice students and visiting students from other institutions (including rising high school juniors/seniors and recent high school graduates) to take college coursework for credit. Courses are available online and in person.

    Called the “Visiting Owls Program,” Rice’s college prep summer courses allow you to earn college credit in everything from general physics to principles of economics. Students also get to engage and collaborate with our exceptional Rice faculty.

    Rice University is another school that offers virtual college prep courses geared toward high school students if traveling just isn’t an option. The thing with online programs for teens, like these, is that they are often much more affordable — in addition to more convenient! 
  • UC Berkeley (Berkeley, California)
    UC Berkeley offers several summer programs for high school students. The Pre-College Scholars: Summer Virtual track offers online courses for high school students to earn UC Berkeley credit. The Summer Residential Track allows high school students to live on campus and take advantage of everything UC Berkeley has to offer. Other programs include Freshman Edge, Transfer Edge, Pre-College Programs, Summer Minors, and Certificates. 
  • Wake Forest University (Wake Forest, North Carolina)
    Wake Forest University offers several summer immersion programs. The Summer Immersion Program is for 9th-12th grade students and allows them to explore a particular field of study with access to faculty, resources, and industry professionals. With this program, you can explore more than 20 options, including animation, business, photography, bioscience, debate, finance, health, law, politics, neuroscience, medicine, writing, technology, and psychology.

    However again, if making your way out to the Tarheel state just isn’t a possibility, Wake Forest offers multiple teen academic enrichment programs online, and year-round. 
  • Purdue University (West Lafayette, Indiana)
    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 them to plan around their summer studies.

    As you can see, there are great rewards with going in-house, but a ton of wonderful online immersion programs are available to allow you to learn from the comfort of your own home. So if making the journey to a university isn’t in the cards for you right now, there’s no need to worry!

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