Free and Low-Cost Pre-College Summer Programs

A pre-college summer program is a short-term academic program designed for high school students who are interested in getting a head start on their college education. These programs typically take place during the summer months and are hosted by colleges and universities.

Pre-college summer programs offer students a less stressful way to take initial college-level courses. Students are able to gain valuable experience and explore potential career paths, all while gaining confidence and comfort on a college campus.

Studies suggest a positive correlation between participation in pre-college programs and a stronger sense of belonging in college. For example, research by the National Summer Learning Association found that students who participated in pre-college programs reported feeling more connected to their peers and faculty at their chosen universities.

Studies have also shown a link between pre-college program participation and improved academic performance in college. A study published in the Journal of College Admission found that students who participated in a pre-college program had higher GPAs in their first year of college compared to those who did not.

Simply put, pre-college programs open doors to more college and career options for students who participate in them.

Visit the Pre-College Summer Program websites below to find more information about course options, program eligibility, start and end dates, required materials, housing, additional activities, and more.

How to Use This Pre-College Summer Program List

View the full list in this window or click ‘view larger version’ in the bottom right corner of the table for an expanded view. The list can be filtered, sorted, or grouped based on applicable characteristics.

4 Questions to Help Students Choose a Pre-College Program

For many students, the process of finding and then applying to pre-college summer programs can feel just as important (and just as complex) as applying to college. 

Below, we share some essential questions your students can ask to evaluate and decide on the right pre-college summer program for their needs. 

What is your goal for attending a pre-college program?

Students should clearly understand why they want to attend a pre-college program. Understanding will help them identify programs that align with their goals and interests.

Maybe they hope to jump-start their academics, or maybe they want to spend time on a campus to see if the school's vibe works for them. No matter the reason, it helps to recognize it first.

What academic topic(s) do you want to learn about?

By identifying the academic topics they are most interested in learning about, they can narrow down their search to find programs or workshops in those subjects. 

How far away would you be comfortable going for a program?

Some programs may be located close to home, while others may require the student to travel a significant distance. It is important for them to consider the logistics and costs of travel when evaluating programs.

How long of a program are you comfortable attending?

Programs can range in length from a few days to several weeks, so students will want to choose a program that fits their schedule and availability. 

Students should also know that application and financial aid deadlines for pre-college programs vary a lot. So, staying organized and making a plan is critical for securing a spot in a free or well-funded program!

For even more information about applying to these programs, watch our Pre-College Summer Program webinar for more insights.

Tips for Helping Students Find Pre-College Programs

Understanding your student’s goals and limitations for attending a pre-college program improves your ability to guide them to an appropriate and affordable option for the summer.

Empower them to research programs before deciding where to apply and be sure they know the red flags to look out for in this process. The cost of attending (or applying to) a program should never outweigh the benefits – and students should never go into debt to participate in a program!

To help students in your college readiness program find the ideal summer program, consider creating a survey for tenth and eleventh-grade students and their families.