College guidance

University summer programs: why high school students should sign up

We look at the benefits that a high school student can derive from attending a university summer program, and also share a few recommended programs that your students can explore right now.

Richard Lord
May 16, 2022
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5min

Many universities worldwide run residential, online, or hybrid summer programs for high school students who want to advance their learning and check out what university life is like. Such programs usually consist of courses taught by academic staff, some generalist in nature, while others focus on particular areas like STEM or the arts. They range from a few days to several weeks long, with most coming in at around the two-week mark. Most summer programs charge a fee, which usually but not always covers teaching, food, and lodging.

Why should high school students attend a summer program

There are numerous ways in which students can benefit from a summer program. While the educational benefits are self-evident, there are also significant personal and social advantages to university summer programs.

Academic benefits

While some students might groan at spending some of their summer holidays in the classroom, it can be an excellent learning opportunity. Such programs allow students to dig deeper into subjects they find particularly interesting in a way that might not have been possible during term time, with all the other demands on their time. It can also be an excellent way to check out whether a subject is right for them as a university major. Plus, students will be able to discover the academic level that university is likely to demand and work out where there are gaps they might need to plug in their knowledge or skills.

Exploring new avenues

Similarly, there might be a subject that a student is interested in but hasn't found the time or opportunity to explore so far. A summer program is a perfect chance to go on a voyage of academic discovery and learn about new subjects they might like. Moreover, when it comes to the learning experience, the universities that host the programs will often be able to offer more extensive and varied learning facilities and support than schools can. Thus, a summer program can be ideal for students to expand their academic horizons and potentially discover whole new areas of study they might not previously have been exposed to, particularly those at the cutting edge of technology.

Getting to know a target university

As well as checking out subjects, summer programs can be a chance to check out a specific school. There's no better way for a student to decide whether they'd like to spend the next three or four years living and studying in a place than by spending a few days or weeks there.

A taste of the student life

Summer programs allow students to experience life on a college campus and find out what it's like to live as a student. Depending on the university's location, they are also a chance for students to experience a different place and culture. The whole experience can be like a trial run for the real thing – and that can make their first term at college more straightforward, with less time spent adjusting to their new lifestyle.

 Personal growth

Such programs are also an excellent way for students to build confidence in their ability to learn independently and in their social skills, interacting with other students from outside their usual peer group – likely to share at least some of their interests.

 Building towards college applications

Attending a summer program shows enthusiasm and a good attitude. It is likely to impress college admissions officers – particularly if the student is considering applying to the college where they attended the program. Students can also view a program as a chance to build their portfolio of work, particularly if they're interested in a creative subject like visual art or drama. Summer programs can also be helpful once they get to college since some even allow students to earn college credits.

Your students can gain a lot from attending a summer program at a university.

Summer programs that are available right now

In-person or hybrid summer programs:

  1. The IEU Summer Program at IE University in Spain (4-15 July) is a two-part course. The first part focuses on soft skills such as leadership, personal branding, public speaking, and teamwork, and the second on academic workshops.
  2. The Spark Lab Program at Canada's York University (July) allows students to get hands-on experience of lab-based learning across physics, biology, and chemistry.
  3. Also in Canada, Trent University's GOOSE International Youth Camp (various dates)provides classes in subjects including English, business, environmental sciences, coding, communications, robotics, and healthcare, and the chance to sample the outdoor attractions of the host country.
  4. Canada's largest university for art and design, the OCAD U, offers the Portfolio Programming program (11-15 July or 18-22 July) to show students how to build and present a portfolio of work that will stand them in good stead.
  5. Imperial College London's two-week Global Summer School (July or August) offers a choice of three academic streams, all focusing on STEM subjects: Engineering, Physics, and Medicine, and Life Sciences.
  6. The Pre-University Summer School at the University of Warwick in the UK (5-15 July), features courses in either Economics and Finance or Social Sciences, alongside a social and cultural program.
  7. The two-week-long York Global Summer Schools program at the University of York in the UK (3-17 July or 17-31 July), features a combination of academics and excursions, including an introduction to the York Strengths Employability Skills program.
  8. At Portland State University in the US, the Summer Business Institute (18-29 July) is aimed at students from historically disadvantaged groups. It focuses on diversity and inclusion, social responsibility, and sustainability in business.

Summer programs taught entirely online:

  1. In the UK, the University of Bath's International Summer School (1-5 August)features academic activities and sessions on applying to and studying in the UK.
  2. The 2022 Architecture Career Discovery Program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the US (11-22 July) exposes students to the experience of enrolling in an undergraduate architecture program, guiding them through every step of drawing up their building proposal.
  3. The Berkeley Pre-College Scholars Summer Virtual track (June-July) is open to students aged 16 to 18 looking to experience college-level courses offered online by the University of California at Berkeley. Students can choose from a wide range of disciplines, including Arts & Humanities, Social Sciences, STEM, and much more!
  4. Cornell University welcomes high school students for college-level courses during the summer, and a wide range of subjects is available for online study.

Find out what your peers say about summer programs and other topics by checking out the Cialfo Community, where high school counselors can meet and share experiences and information.

To get your school a free account on Cialfo, sign up here.

Share summer program information with your students by sending them the infographic below.

We want to thank all the Universities that shared their summer program information with us so that we could make it available to our community.

Download our one-page Summer Programs infographic to share with your students

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