Summer Programs and American Pie


Sabrina Khan

Summer has always been synonymous with relaxation, for me.
Most of my elementary-school summers consisted of me hanging around in my bedroom, the park, or at my grandparent’s house playing computer games and messing around with my sister. It was a good time then – I was young, what more could I ask for? – but as I grew older I wanted to branch out. It seemed like six-weeks of opportunities were wasting away, and I wasn’t sure how to spend them anymore.
That year my parents (probably my mom, she’s notorious for knowing everything school-related) found a program called the Center for Talented Youth through Johns Hopkins University. I had to take a test to qualify (I passed by one point) which was followed by the requisite ~$4,000 payment to join the program. When I was accepted, I could choose from courses like Astrophysics and Psychology, and live on campuses from Stanford University to Franklin and Marshall College. In the three years that I participated in the program, I took the courses Writing and Imagination, Data and Chance and Mathematical Logic. It was three-years of academics, parties and weird reenactments of Don McLean’s American Pie***.
And it was amazing!
Though each program is different, they all retain the same core values of education, entertainment and immersion. You will be challenged; most of the time you’ll probably spend in class, but if it’s something you enjoy learning, who cares? Depending on which courses you choose to take, you may take trips to local museums, work on archeological digs and perform forensic work in a real lab. In my Math Logic class, we derived proofs of famous math theorems (yes, that’s very nerdy), and in my Data and Chance class we tossed Barbie dolls off the roof of our building with giant bungee cords (we earned lots of street cred around campus for that stunt).
The organizers and teachers also respect that this is your vacation, because for the most part, it’s theirs as well. They’ll schedule weekly (sometimes daily) parties for you, you’ll go on field trips with your living-groups, and there are program-wide activities like capture the flag for you to join in on. To make things even more interesting, your fellow campers will hail from all over the world. These are the people you will be living and learning with. They will help you through all of the first-time-away-from-home problems like doing your laundry, roommates, homesickness and getting locked out of buildings all the time. Chances are, these people are going to be your classmates in college as well. You will be engaged as rigorously socially as you will be intellectually.
The CTY program is one of hundreds upon hundreds of programs available for high school and middle school students. The recent influx of programs (mostly as a result of colleges realizing the amount of money that can be made through this venture – summer programs are not cheap) makes it easy to find one best-suited for you. Whether you’re into STEM, writing, business or theater there’s hardly a place you can’t go and learn.
They are also a fantastic way for rising juniors and seniors to get to know the colleges they plan on applying to. Since most are residential, you have access to professors, current students, the admissions office and much more. You are free to roam the campus, tour the famous haunts, hacks and frats, and find the school you like best.
(And trust me, there is no better time to take a good look at the dorms. If there are spring-mattresses, you’ll want to come prepared freshman year of college).
Since the number of programs around is growing almost exponentially at this point, I’ve compiled a list of a few East-Coast schools that offer summer programs (below) for you to look through and find a good fit. That said, there are far more out there that can take you as far as Singapore to study. Anywhere you’d like to go, anywhere, is just a Google search away.
Good luck!
***CTYers, as they’re called, have a tradition of singing American Pie after every party. On the Franklin and Marshall campus in particular, certain campers get roles to play from the song (i.e. the Jester, the King and Queen, etc…) and act out the lyrics (‘American Pie’ by Don McLean Lyric Video). Many summer programs have these weird traditions, and it is always a great experience to be part of them.


Summer Programs List:

Harvard (

  • Pre-college Program
  • Secondary School Program

Boston University Programs: (

  • Summer Challenge
  • High School Honors
  • RISE Internship/Practicum
  • Summer Preview
  • Academic Immersion
  • Pre-College Online Learning

Cornell University: (

  • Architecture, Art, Design, and Fashion
  • Business, Hotel Management, and Leadership
  • College Success and English for Speakers of Other Languages
  • Custom Programs
  • Debate and Literature
  • Engineering and Robotics
  • Government, History, Law and Public Policy
  • Medicine, Psychology, Research, and Science
  • Social Change and Sustainability
  • Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science

New York University (

  • NYU Pre-college
  • High school Academy SChool of Professional Studies
  • NYU High School Summer Art Intensive
  • MPAP (arts, music and theatre)
  • G-STEM (Girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and MAthematics)
  • NYU CALI (College Access Leadership Institute)
  • Tisch School of the Arts (Residential Program)
  • Urban Journalism Workshop

Columbia University (

  • Campus Immersion
  • Academic Immersion

Johns Hopkins: (

  • Summer Programs
  • Online Programs
  • Family Academic Programs

University of Pennsylvania: (

  • Summer Academies
    • Biomedical Research Academy
    • Chemistry Research Academy’
    • Experimental Physics Research Academy
    • Mathematics Academy
    • Neuroscience Research Academy
    • Social Justice Research Academy
  • Pre-College Program
  • Young Scholars Program

Rutgers (

  • Summer Scholars Program

Yale (

  • Yale Young Global Scholars
    • Politics Law and Economics
    • Applied Science and Engineering
    • International Affairs and Security
    • Biological and Biomedical Science
    • Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship
    • Sustainability, Energy and Environment

Brown University (

  • Spring Programs: In the Sea, in the Canopy and in the Future
  • [email protected]
  • Pre-Baccalaureate College Credit Courses
  • Online Courses
  • Global Programs
  • Brown Leadership Institute
  • Brown Environmental Leadership Lab (BELL)
  • Intensive English Language at Brown
  • STEM II for Rising 9th and 10th Grade Students
  • STEM I for Middle SChool Students – SPARK
  • Summer Sports Camp
  • Brown Summer High School

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (

  • Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES)
  • Research Science Institute (RSI)
  • Women’s Technology Program (WTP)
  • MIT Launch
  • Summer Science Program (SSP)
  • LLRISE: MIT Lincoln Laboratory Radar Introduction for Student Engineers
  • OEXL Ocean Engineering Experience
  • OSC: Oxford Study Courses
  • iD Tech Camps


  • Clark Scholar Program
  • Garcia Summer Scholars
  • High School Summer Science Research Program (HSSSRP)
  • High School Honors Science/Mathematics/Engineering Program (HSHSP)
  • International Summer School for Young Physicists (ISSYP)
  • Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP)
  • Stanford Institutes of Medicine Summer Science Research Program (SIMR)
  • Student Science Training Program (SSTP)
  • QuestBridge College Prep Scholarship
  • AwesomeMath
  • Canada/USA Mathcamp
  • Hampshire College Summer Studies in Mathematics (HCSSiM)
  • Honors Summer Math Camp (HSMC)
  • MathILy
  • Program in Mathematics for Young Scientists (PROMYS)
  • The Ross Program
  • Stanford University Mathematics Camp (SUMaC)
  • Prove It! Math Academy