If you’re a high school student with no plans for the summer, you may want to think about enrolling in an academic enrichment program. Spending your summer preparing for college might not sound enticing at first, but there are some valuable perks to consider. Here are 10 standout enrichment programs to have on your radar.

What are academic enrichment programs?

Summer academic enrichment programs allow students to get a feel for what college is going to be like, which can make for a smoother transition. Many offer the opportunity to network, see what it’s like to live in a dorm, build relationships with other incoming students, and sometimes gain college credit. While acceptance to a pre-college program does not guarantee undergraduate admission, it 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.

How much do summer enrichment programs cost?

Prices vary widely based on the program and course load. Summer programs often charge a commuter price for those who are living off-campus, which is cheaper than staying in a dorm. You might have to cover application fees, but there may be financial aid or scholarship opportunities available.

10 academic enrichment programs to consider

1. Academic Enrichment by Westcoast® Connection

  • Where: All over the world
  • Who it’s for: Seventh to twelfth grade students (12 to 18 years old)
  • Cost: Pricing varies based on the program; three weeks in Montreal costs $6,599, while four weeks in Florence costs $10,399

Westcoast Connection offers pre-college enrichment programs to high school students that include extended courses as well as day trips. There are programs on various domestic campuses, as well as in foreign countries like Spain, Italy, and Canada. Students don’t earn college credit but can gain hands-on experience in local communities all over the world.


2. Emory University Pre-College Program

  • Where: Atlanta, GA
  • Who it’s for: High school sophomores and juniors who are at least 15 years old and have a minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Cost: Prices vary depending on the program and course load, but range from $3,135 to $7,670 (scholarships available)

Emory is a liberal arts college that allows high school students to participate in campus activities and take classes with professors who are leading experts in their fields. Students can enroll in two-week non-credit courses. There are also two six-week courses where students can earn college credit. Emory’s Pre-College Program is small, which is an advantage for students who are able to get individual attention from professors.


3. Summer at Columbia College of Chicago

  • Where: Chicago, IL
  • Who it’s for: High school students aged 15 to 18 who are interested in the arts, media, or communications
  • Cost: $3,450 for commuters; $5,620 for students who live on campus

Summer at Columbia College of Chicago is a four-week program that lets students 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 related to cinema and television, game development, illustration, and photography. Students can live on campus, 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.


4. Cornell Summer College

  • Where: Ithaca, NY
  • Who it’s for: Rising high school juniors and seniors who are at least 15 years old can attend online (must be 16 for in-person classes)
  • Cost: $1,750 per credit for online courses and for students who attend in person but live off campus

Cornell Summer College allows students to work closely with Cornell professors, attend college fairs, learn more about the college application process, and experience college life. The programs vary and could allow you to earn up to 15 college credits. Courses include macroeconomics, American Sign Language, fashion design, and more. Note that the residential program will not be offered in 2024. Interested students can attend in person if they live off campus, or opt for an online experience.


5. Colorado State University’s Native Education Forum

  • Where: Fort Collins, CO
  • Who it’s for: Rising high school seniors and incoming CSU freshmen
  • Cost: Free

The Native Education Forum is a five-day program for students who are interested in Native American and Indigenous issues. Participants 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.


6. Syracuse University Summer College

  • Where: Syracuse, NY (some enrichment programs are available at satellite campuses)
  • Who it’s for: High school juniors and seniors, as well as recent high school graduates
  • Cost: $995 to $9,765, depending on the program and whether you live on campus, commute, or attend online

Summer College is designed to help students build confidence and prepare for college life. It offers a variety of different programs that can range anywhere from two to six weeks. You can live on campus, commute, attend online, or opt for a hybrid model. There’s a wide array of courses, from architecture to musical theater. Programs vary by length and number of credits offered.


7. Harvard’s Pre-College Program and Secondary School Program

  • Where: Cambridge, MA
  • Who it’s for: High school students who are at least 16 years old
  • Cost: $5,500 for the Pre-College Program; $3,900 to $14,250 for the Secondary School Program, depending on the program length and whether you live on campus, commute, or participate online (scholarships available)

Harvard University offers two different academic enrichment programs for high school students:

  • The Pre-College Program: This program, which is exclusively on campus, runs for two weeks and offers a choice of around 100 courses. Although students won’t get college credit, they will learn at a college level, live on campus, and do many pre-college activities.
  • The Secondary School Program: This is available as a seven-week program or four-week program. Students will take college-level courses and receive college credits. There’s also guidance on the college application process. Students can choose to live on campus, commute, or do the program online if they opt for the seven-week program. Students must live on campus to participate in the four-week program.


8. High School Journalism Institute at Indiana University

  • Where: Bloomington, IN
  • Who it’s for: High school students interested in journalism
  • Cost: $515 (grants available)

Students participate in five-day workshops about journalism and media-related topics. College credit is not offered, but the High School Journalism Institute is an effective way to introduce yourself to college-level academics. Workshops provide hands-on experience and offer instruction on how to approach school projects and write for school publications. Housing is included.


9. PreCollege Programs at Smith College

  • Where: Northampton, MA
  • Who it’s for: High school students who identify as female or gender nonconforming
  • Cost: Varies by program and can range anywhere from $2,660 to $8,082 (financial aid available)

The Smith College PreCollege Programs give high school students the chance to strengthen their college applications through college-level courses and hands-on activities. There are several different enrichment programs to choose from, including:

    • Science and Engineering
    • Creative Writing Workshop
    • College Readiness
    • Sustainable Futures
    • Women, Gender, and Representation

Students will live on campus and potentially have a roommate. Depending on the program chosen, it can be a week or a month long.


10. C-Tech² at Virginia Tech

  • Where: Blacksburg, VA
  • Who it’s for: High school juniors and seniors who identify as female
  • Cost: $2,250 (scholarships available)

C-Tech² is a 2-week STEM program held on campus at Virginia Tech. Students can expect hands-on engineering projects and opportunities to network with industry leaders. There’s also a Cybersecurity Capture the Flag competition sponsored by the CIA.

Summer academic enrichment programs can have a lot to offer, whether you’re looking for college credit, a glimpse into campus living, or a chance to meet people before beginning college. To get started, talk to your high school counselor or do a quick online search to see what options are best for you.

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