Breaking Down Pre-College Summer Programs

Even though summer break is desperately awaited, when it finally arrives, a lot of students find themselves empty-handed and with nothing to do. You’ve tried a new hobby, read 12 books, took up a new sport, and biked around your neighborhood a few too many times… now what. After all, it is a long stretch of time and after the seventh book you finish, you feel like you need a change of pace. With school deadlines in the clear and an overall feeling of relaxation, you can use this time to invest in yourself and your education by applying for a pre-college summer program.


What is a college summer program?

A pre-college program is a compilation of courses offered by most colleges and universities in the US during the summer that help prepare high school students for college. Pre-college programs usually take place during the summer. The time frame for these programs differs depending on what you want to concentrate on. They can last as little as a week to more than a month. It is a very productive way to spend the summer if you choose courses that will enrich your education and understanding of subjects you enjoy. These courses are not necessarily only academic. If you are interested in the arts, for example, you can sign up for programs like Sotheby’s Institute of Art Program and The UCLA Acting and Performance Summer Institute which can help you explore your creative side. 

You may feel apprehensive about taking these programs because you rather spend the summer enjoying your free time, but these pre-college summer programs are tailored to high school students looking for a balance of education and fun. There are several activities planned to integrate the students within themselves and also with their environments. 


The benefits of doing a pre-college program

  • Helps you determine what you are interested in… and what you’re not interested in.

    One of the most crucial benefits that is oftentimes overlooked is that taking summer courses can help you decipher and file down your interests. For example, if you like programming and computer science, you can do the Cybersecurity program at Syracuse and determine if it is something that you want to pursue or not. It also might save you from having a lot of uncertainty when starting college and having to choose courses for freshman year.

  • You get to experience what college is like before actually starting college

    A lot of college programs require you to stay on-campus in order to attend them. This is a great opportunity to see what college is like. You get to experience the dorm life and the feeling of unfamiliarity prior to freshman year. This can help you shape your expectations for college and help you ease into freshman year. If you are also certain of a school you want to go to, looking into their pre-college courses might benefit you in determining whether this is the right school for you by getting a taste of what your life might be like. For example, you might really want to attend the University of Miami in Florida even though you have never visited. After applying as a freshman, you'll most likely have to spend at least a semester at UM before being able to transfer out. During this time, you realize you would like to live in a college town, something a little more rural, and you would like to experience seasons. A school like Syracuse University would be a better fit and you could have been able to test it out by attending UM’s pre-college summer program and realizing it was not for you. These courses also prepare you to affront the reality of the future, giving you a taste of how demanding classes at a certain college will be and what will be expected from you.

  • It helps you develop independence and responsibility

    For a lot of students who chose to go to college out of state or to leave their homes, attending college is the first time they will be living by themselves.This change can be extremely difficult because of how sudden it is. As a student who has stayed at a college campus during a summer program, you are able to experience this beforehand and become prepared for when it happens. It puts you in a position where you are forced to further your independence. You are the one who needs to be on time at the cafeteria to make sure you can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, budget to be able to do certain things and not overspend on unnecessary things, do personal chores you might not be used to doing, etc. You also have to budget your time. You are the one responsible to get yourself to class and responsible for choosing what you do during your day. Your parents are not there to check up on that you did your homework, so it's up to you to do it. Pre-college programs help you develop skills that will come in handy when you get suddenly thrown into the woods when you move away to college.

  • Meet new people and start networking

    A lot of like minded people will end up attending the same program you will be going to. These people can end up being your life long friends and maybe even your coworkers. These relationships won’t only help you understand how to make friends when starting college, but it also molds your environment to have people around you who are going through the same thing and same changes as experiencing college life for the first time. Take advantage of who you meet and keep those connections because even if you don't end up going to the same college, you can keep contact. Remember to also develop professional connections. A lot of the people around you will be the leaders of the future and you should take advantage of these experiences and the pool of knowledge that you are in.

What to consider when choosing a pre-college summer program


The programs tend to vary in costs. Ranging from hundreds of dollars (mostly for online college programs) to $6,000 dollars, these programs are not cheap. You need to consider if these costs are worth it as they most likely are subtracted from your college funds. Talk with your parents and counselors to determine if this is something you want to invest in.

Research scholarships that may help you cover the costs. What a lot of students do is that they work the first or second half of the summer to gather the money and use it towards their college program. There are options that can help you afford these courses, but you have to be determined to do the research. 


You need to determine if the location is going to be an issue. There are some schools that are located far from major cities and thus you need special transportation to get there. For example, Cornell students usually have to take long bus rides to arrive on campus and UCSB students who are out of state are forced to pay high fees to fly into the small airport in Santa Barbara or spend hours in a bus from Los Angeles. 

You also need to remember that you need to add the cost of transportation to the already high cost of tuition and board.


To optimize summer and do everything you want to do, you need to decide how long you are willing to spend away at a pre-college summer program. Determine how long you want to stay away realistically such that allows you to get other things done during the summer. For example, if you are in your summer of junior year going to senior year, it would be smart to leave some time of the summer to wrap up studying for the SATs and ACTs and to start your college applications, your personal essay, and the supplements. You also have to consider that it is summertime, and if you want time for yourself to relax and have fun with your friends, you deserve it. Figure out your time wisely

Remember to not take these courses for your college applications. These are meant to reflect your interests and to show your enthusiasm to learn about a certain topic. It is not about you doing a summer program to write it down on your application, but what you learn from it. 

If you are considering attending a summer program, you can click here to see what options you have. These programs range in affordability and topic. You can also find a variety of other activities you can do during the summer.

Contact a Prepory college admissions coach and start your college admissions journey.

Our college admissions experts are here to guide you from where you are to where you should be. Through our comprehensive curriculum, individualized coaching, and online workshops, you are set for success as soon as you connect with us.

During our initial consultation, we will: 

  • Assess your student’s applicant profile and higher education goals 
  • Provide detailed information about our services and programming
  • Share tips on how to navigate the U.S. college admissions process 

Let's get started!

Subscribe to our blog!