Summer is a great time to relax, catch up with friends, and decompress after a busy year in school. But it’s also a great time to start thinking about and planning for the next phase in your academic journey.

At Harvard Summer School, you can do both simultaneously. Harvard offers both non-credit and for-credit college programs that allow high school students to spend time over the summer living like college students, taking college-level courses, meeting new friends, and strengthening their college applications.

  • 7-Week Secondary School Program (SSP): A seven-week immersive program designed to offer a robust college experience while earning college credit. Students can choose between residential, online, or commuting formats and one or two courses (Residential SSP students must enroll in 8 credits).
  • 4-Week Secondary School Program (SSP): A four-week residential program designed to provide students a small class environment to focus their learning on one subject of interest while earning 4 college credits.
  • Pre-College Program: A two-week, non-credit, intensive program designed to offer a glimpse of college life and the opportunity to explore learning for learning’s sake.

While there are many similarities between the two programs, they are quite different. You can apply to only one, so you’ll need to understand what each program offers—and choose which one is right for you—before you submit your application.

The good news is that whatever program you choose, your summer at Harvard will be a truly special experience.

Take a college course on the subject of your choice

All programs are taught by Harvard and visiting faculty and are academically rigorous. You will experience what a college course is like. You’ll have the opportunity to explore a topic that might not be available in your high school or go deeper into a subject such as biology than a typical high school course allows.

What’s the difference?

Each program has its own set of unique courses only open to students in that program.

In the Pre-College Program, you’ll be learning for learning’s sake. Because Pre-College Program courses aren’t graded, you can explore any subject you want without the stress of having to get an A. Classes, taught by Harvard instructors, are small, intensive, and will engage you in interesting debate with other Pre-College students.

Earn college credit in the Secondary School Program. You’ll be earning college credit alongside college students and even some adults. You’ll experience a broad range of perspectives and participate in amazing discussions that just aren’t possible in a high school course. In the 7-week program, you can choose from over 200 different classes taught by instructors who teach at Harvard College, as well as by invited faculty from universities all over the world. The 4-week program has a curated selection of around 20 courses to choose from among popular topics where you’ll form connections with your classmates and instructor.

Experience what it’s like to be a real college student

Both programs give you more freedom and flexibility in your daily schedule than you have in high school. You’ll balance classes with extracurriculars, homework, and social activities, just as you will when you’re in college.

What’s the difference?

Your time in the Secondary School Program will feel like a real college semester. Just like in college, classes meet either four times a week for 2.5 hours (4-Week SSP) or twice a week for 3-hours (7-Week SSP). The rest of your time will be spent studying, and then if you want, participating in college readiness and organized social activities. And, of course, you’ll find time for fun too.

The Pre-College Program is an intensive two-week experience. You’ll be taking one complete college course in just two weeks, with classes meeting every day for three hours. The rest of your time in the Pre-College Program will be spent learning how to balance homework, completing required program activities, and, of course, having fun with friends.

Participate in activities and social events that engage you

Both programs offer an extensive calendar of activities, from college admissions panels to excursions into Boston.

What’s the difference?

Participation in a minimum of eight structured activities is a required part of the Pre-College Program experience. You’ll get to choose the subjects that interest you most from college readiness activities, academic workshops, social events, and off-campus trips.

Learn more about choosing activities with the Pre-College Passport.

You choose how engaged you want to be in the Secondary School Program. We encourage every SSP student to take advantage of the full range of college readiness events and social activities offered throughout the summer, even our 7-Week students not living on campus. The more activities you participate in, the richer your experience will be. 

Explore sample activities offered as part of the Secondary School Program.

Spend the summer on campus at Harvard

Both programs offer the opportunity to live on the beautiful and historic Harvard campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

What’s the difference?

The 7-Week Secondary School Program offers three distinct ways to experience a summer at Harvard.

SSP Residentiallive full-time on the Harvard campus for seven weeks
SSP Commutinglive at home or with an approved adult, but come to campus for classes and social activities
SSP Onlinelog on from home to participate in online classes and virtual activities

The 4-Week Secondary School Program and the 2-Week Pre-College Program are entirely residential experiences. The Harvard campus will be your home for the full two or four weeks . You will live with other students in your program in a Harvard house or dorm, and have the opportunity to explore Cambridge and the Boston area as if you were really in college.

Eligibility Requirements

The admissions committee is looking for mature, academically motivated students who meet both eligibility requirements for the program you want to apply for. So before making your final decision, make sure you meet the appropriate eligibility criteria.

To be eligible for the Pre-College Program, you:

  • Are at least 16 years old by June 22, 2024, and will not turn 19 years old before July 31, 2024.
  • Will graduate from high school and enter college in 2025 or 2026.

To be eligible for the Secondary School Program, you: 

  • Are at least 16 years old by June 22, 2024, and will not turn 19 years old before July 31, 2024.
  • Will graduate from high school and enter college in 2024, 2025, or 2026.

Please Note: Harvard Summer School is unable to sponsor F-1 student visa applications for the 4-week summer term. International students should review their options on the International Students Guidelines page.

Still Having Trouble Deciding?

If you’re still having trouble deciding between these summer programs, we suggest getting some advice from people close to you. They might be able to provide an independent perspective on how each program might work specifically for you.

Your high school guidance counselor: In addition to discussing the merits of both programs, guidance counselors will have personalized advice on whether you should earn college credit (SSP) or explore a non-credit—but still challenging—college course (Pre-College). Additionally, you’ll need them to fill out the counselor report as part of your application.

Your parents or guardians: Your family can help you weigh the time commitment each program requires. You’ll need to make sure that family and individual summer plans won’t interfere with your ability to complete the program of your choice. And you should discuss the cost of both programs with your family as well. 

The team at Harvard Summer School: After reviewing each program’s information on our website, you still have questions, our staff are here to help. 

They can answer your specific questions about each program and help you understand the key similarities and differences between them. Call them at (617) 495-4024, M-F, 9 am – 5 pm, ET or email before you begin the application process to be certain that you are applying for the program that is right for you.

Ready to start your application? Applications for Summer 2024 open on December 1, but join our mailing list to be the first to hear about info sessions and important deadlines.