Looking for something interesting to do this summer? While summer school may be the last thing on your mind after finishing a long school year, summer is the perfect time to take a class and explore new things, catch up on credit hours, earn college credit, or work ahead on undergraduate course requirements.

Taking a class over the summer also helps you avoid summer learning loss and prepares you for the upcoming school year by keeping you in the routine of going to school over the long summer months.  

Summer learning programs offer different types of courses and diverse experiences for students in high school, college, and beyond — including general education classes and summer study abroad programs

Summer sessions can last from two weeks to two months, allowing you to fit learning into your summer vacation plans — you can still go to the beach and go to summer school! 

What can you learn in summer school? 

Summer school programs offer a wide range of subjects to explore — Harvard Summer School offers more than 400 summer courses for college credit.

If you are a current college student, you can take general education classes or courses in your field of study to complete credit requirements. The general education classes may also be open to high school students looking to kick-start their college education before starting their freshman year.

There are also many summer courses open to adults who are working on certificate programs or who are just interested in learning more about certain subjects, such as creative writing or history.

Harvard Summer School classes are taught by Harvard faculty and visiting faculty who challenge students while offering a rewarding academic summer experience.  

What are the benefits of summer school?

Stay on track 

Taking a summer school class can help you stay on track with your degree program to meet graduation requirements. In summer school, you can:

  • Retake a class you failed or dropped to improve your understanding of the subject and your grade.
  • Take a required class that didn’t fit into your schedule or was full during the regular school year.
  • Take prerequisite courses.
  • Catch up on credit hours to help you graduate on schedule — or ahead of time.
  • Take general education classes, allowing you to focus on your degree classes during the full semester.

Reduce your course load during the school year

The regular full semester can be busy, especially if you participate in extracurricular clubs and activities, have an internship, or work. Taking summer school classes can reduce your course load during the regular academic school year, allowing you to balance all of your obligations. 

Boost your resume or college application

Many summer school courses offer immersive experiences or field work that can’t be done during the regular semester. Some of these courses may not be in your degree program but could benefit you after leaving college. These types of summer sessions look great on resumes, as they show hands-on experience while also demonstrating that you are taking initiative with learning new and different things.

If you are in high school, choosing to apply to a summer program and take summer courses offered by a college looks good on college applications, helping you stand out from a crowded field of applicants. 

Take advantage of smaller class sizes

Summer school class sizes are typically smaller, which means you can get more personal attention from the instructor. This can be especially helpful if you are struggling with a certain subject or are retaking a class. 

Take courses you typically wouldn’t

There are so many mandatory courses to meet graduation requirements that you may have little time to explore other courses that interest you. Summer school offers you the opportunity to take those classes you wouldn’t normally take during the regular school year.

There are also classes and programs that are only offered over the summer, like a summer study abroad program or courses that require field work. Many summer school programs and classes offer immersive experiences that aren’t available during the regular school year. 

Expand your network 

Because summer school class sizes are smaller and many courses offer hands-on learning activities, you will make connections that can become an important part of your network. Building a strong network in college opens doors to career opportunities and supports your professional development. 

Types of summer school programs

There are summer school program options for every learner, including pre-college programs for high school students, degree and general studies courses for current college students, certificate programs for professionals in the workforce, and classes open to those looking to expand their knowledge in specific subjects. 

There are also study abroad programs where high school and college students can immerse themselves in another culture.

Harvard Summer School is an academically rigorous experience for learners of all ages with flexible options that allow people to choose the summer experience that works best for them.

The following summer learning programs are offered by Harvard:

College Programs for High School Students 

Harvard Summer School’s Pre-College Program for high school students is an intensive two-week summer program designed to give students a glimpse of college life on the Harvard campus. With around 100 summer classes to choose from, students participating in the program can:

  • Test their intellect without the pressure of letter grades. Students will be challenged by Ivy League scholars in small, non-credit summer classes to get a feel for what being a student at Harvard is like.
  • Experience a balanced college life. When class is not in session, students will participate in college readiness  and social activities to help them get to know their peers.
  • Discover their passions. Whether they are undecided about potential areas of study or want to take a deeper dive into a subject they love, this program gives them the opportunity to discover what really excites them. 

Secondary School Program 

Harvard Summer School’s Secondary School program is a four- or seven-week academic program for motivated high school students ready to excel in college courses for college credit. The 7-week program offers over 200 summer college courses, and students can choose to live on campus, commute to classes, or take their classes online. The 4-week program has roughly 20 course offerings, with classroom sizes capped at 25 participants, and is a residential only program.

In both versions of the program, students can explore topics that interest them that may not be offered in their high school. Many students who participate in this program return home more confident in their future college major or career. The program includes optional social events and college-prep activities to prepare students for the transition to college. 

Summer School for Current Students

Harvard Summer School offers hundreds of courses for adult and college students in more than 60 different subject areas. Summer school courses are offered in a variety of flexible formats, including in person and online, and last either three or seven weeks. 

Harvard Summer School offers:

  • Harvard faculty and visiting faculty dedicated to helping students expand their skills and sparking intellectual curiosity.
  • A rigorous, inclusive learning environment filled with rich interactions.
  • An intensive curriculum designed to be completed in a shorter summer session than a fall or spring semester.
  • An international network of peers that are driven, curious, and committed to growth.
  • Access to Harvard’s renowned libraries, museums, and computer lab.

Summer Study Abroad Program

Harvard Summer School’s Study Abroad program offers students in college a range of academic experiences and immersive learning opportunities focused on foreign language and location-specific cultural topics in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. 

Program locations include the cultural centers in Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa.  

How to Enroll in Summer School 

While many of the Harvard Summer School courses have open enrollment, students must fulfill class specific requirements prior to registering. These could include an English proficiency test, a passing score on Harvard’s critical reading and writing skills test, a math placement test, or other proficiency exams.

Before enrolling, you will need to create a MyDCE student account if you don’t have one and complete the pre-registration process.

High school students interested in taking summer classes must apply to the Pre-College Program or the Secondary School Program must apply.  

Tuition and fees must be paid in full prior to the start of the summer program. Financial aid may be available to help cover tuition costs.

Spend your summer learning this year by enrolling in summer school. Learn more about the registration process, or contact an enrollment specialist at 617-495-4024 or by email at inquiry@summer.harvard.edu.