If you’re a high school student with no plans for the summer, consider enrolling in an enrichment program. Spending your summer preparing for college after an intense year of schoolwork might not sound enticing at first, but there are valuable benefits to these programs.

Summer enrichment programs allow students to get a feel of what college is going to be like and help ease the college transition. Many offer the opportunity to network, see what it’s like to live in a dorm room, build relationships with other incoming students, and sometimes gain college credit. While acceptance to a pre-college program does not guarantee undergraduate admissions, they can give you a good sense of what the school environment is like. Plus, programs that offer college credit can lighten your workload during the school year, help you graduate on time and save you money on school tuition in the long run.

Often, summer programs will have a commuter price as well as a residential cost. The commuter program can be less expensive if you have somewhere to stay nearby (like with family or friends), but keep in mind that living in the dorms is part of the experience. Some summer programs also have application fees, but there may be financial aid or scholarship opportunities available.

Below, you’ll find some of the summer enrichment programs available to high school students.

1. Academic Enrichment by Westcoast® Connection

Westcoast Connection offers pre-college enrichment programs to high school students that include courses as well as day trips. There are programs on various domestic campuses, as well as in foreign countries like Spain, Italy, and Canada. Once the courses are completed, students will get either a certificate of completion or college credit, depending on which program they select. There are also language programs that include courses to improve language skills as well as hands-on experience in local communities like Costa Rica and Spain. These are open to high school students in any grade.

Cost: There are several different programs available and pricing depends on the option you choose. The range is wide, from 14 days in Montreal for $4,599 to 28 days in Florence for $8,999.

2. Emory University Pre-college Program in Atlanta

Emory is a liberal arts college that allows rising high school juniors and seniors to live on campus in a residence hall while participating in excursions, activities, and taking classes with professors who are leading experts in their fields. Students can enroll in two-week or three-week noncredit courses. There are also two six-week courses where students can earn college credit. The program is small, which is an advantage for students who are able to get individual attention from professors.

Cost: Prices vary depending on program and course load, ranging from $3,166 to $6,985.

3. Summer at Columbia College of Chicago

Columbia College of Chicago offers this three-week program to high school juniors and seniors who are interested in the fields of art and communications. Students will take college-level courses that can be transferred as elective credits to Columbia College of Chicago and to some other colleges and universities. There are courses in filmmaking, journalism, podcasting, gaming, hip-hop movement and culture, and more. Students live on campus over the course of three weeks where they will also be able to take part in different activities, get to know other students and work closely with professors. It’s a great opportunity for any high school student, but especially those who plan on attending Columbia College of Chicago for college.

Cost: Program tuition for commuters is $3,350 and residential tuition is $5,415.

4. Cornell Summer College in Ithaca, NY 

This summer program offers several options—you can choose two-week, three-week, five-week, or six-week courses. Students will work closely with Cornell professors, attend college fairs, learn more about the application process, and experience college life by living on campus with a roommate. The  programs range from three to six college credits and include design, biological research, macroeconomics, business, fashion, and songwriting.

Cost: Prices vary depending on the program you choose. A three-week, three-credit program on-campus will cost $7,275, while a six-week, six-credit course will cost $14,550. Financial aid is available.

5. Colorado State University’s Native Education Forum in Fort Collins, CO

The Native Education Forum is a five-day program for rising high school juniors and seniors who are interested in Native American and Indigenous issues. Students enrolled in the program will get college classroom experience, research critical Native American/Indigenous community issues, earn one academic credit, and work closely with professionals to learn more about college applications. Participating students are also eligible to receive a Partnership Award Scholarship if accepted to Colorado State University.

Cost: Free. Students only need to pay for textbooks, supplies, transportation, and recreation.

6. Syracuse University Summer College in Syracuse, NY

Summer College offers a variety of different programs that can be anywhere from two-to-six-weeks long for high school students in any grade. There are several program options available, from forensic science to acting to graphic design, and can vary by length and number of credits offered. For example, the forensics program is six weeks long, with college-level courses and hands-on activities like being part of an actual forensic crime scene. This program can give students six college credits. Photography, on the other hand, is a two-week program offering classes taught by professors and hands-on experience but no college credit. Courses can be taken online, on campus, or a hybrid combination of both. Not all courses are taught in all formats.

Cost: Tuition varies depending on the amount of credits you receive. A non-credit online course is $2,500 and a six-week, six-credit, on-campus course is $9,985.

7. Harvard’s Pre-college Program and Secondary School Program in Cambridge, MA

Harvard University offers two different summer programs for high school students ages 15-18: the Pre-college Program and the Secondary School Program. The Pre-college Program is exclusively on campus and runs two weeks and offers a choice of over 100 courses. Although you won’t get college credit, you will learn at a college level, live on campus and do many pre-college activities.

The Secondary School Program is a seven-week program that Harvard calls a “test-drive of college.” You’ll take college-level courses where you’ll receive college credits you can transfer to your school of choice. You’ll also take trips to other colleges and can set your own schedule. Students can choose to live on campus, commute, or do the program online.

Cost: For the Pre-college Program, tuition is $4,950. For the Secondary School Program, it’s between $3,500 to $13,200 depending on whether you’re taking the courses online, commuting, or living on campus. There’s also a non-refundable $75 application fee, and financial aid is available.

8. High School Journalism Institute at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN

If you’re looking for a career in journalism, this program is a great option for high school students in any grade. Students participate in five-day workshops on all things journalism, learning how to examine the media and develop the skills necessary for college courses. Although credit is not offered, the program is an effective way to introduce yourself to college-level academics. The workshops give students hands-on experience and offer instruction on how to do school projects and write for school publications.

Cost: Workshops are $465 for a five-day session. That includes tuition, housing and a $90 meal card, as well as most supplies. Grants are available.

9. Smith College Pre-college Summer Program in Northampton, MA

The Smith College Pre-college Summer program is for young women, female-identifying, or gender nonconforming students who are rising ninth, tenth, eleventh, or twelfth graders. It offers them the chance to strengthen their college applications and experience college-level courses and hands-on activities. There are several different programs to choose from, including Science and Engineering, Creative Writing Workshop, a college readiness course, Field Studies for Sustainable Futures, and a Women, Gender, and Representation course. Students will live on campus and potentially have a roommate. Depending on the program you choose, it can be a week or a month long.

Cost: It depends on the program, but it will cost upward of $2,595 for a one-week course to $7,298 for a six-week course. Financial aid is available.

10. C-Tech² at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA

Targeting female-identifying juniors and seniors, C-Tech² is a 2-week STEM program held on campus at Virginia Tech. Expect hands-on projects, meeting industry representatives, getting to know the Virginia Tech campus, and more. There’s also a Cybersecurity Capture the Flag Competition sponsored by the CIA.

Cost: $2,000 for two weeks, with scholarships available.

Summer enrichment programs are wide-ranging and there is something for everyone, whether you’re looking for college credit, to get more comfortable with campus living or to meet people at your college before fall. To get started, talk to your high school counselor about options or do a quick online search to find out what’s available.

This article was updated in 2022. Confirm offerings and pricing with program websites and admissions offices.

The programs and institutions listed in this article are not affiliated with, and do not endorse, this site.  

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