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What is the Summer Science Program and how does it work?

The Summer Science Program (also known as SSP) offers high-energy and inspiring experiences for teens in hands-on, experimental science. Over 39 days, 36 participants work in three-person teams with 7 faculty. Each team will complete a real research project and analyze original data. They then join a global network of over 2,500 alumni of all ages. SSP will offer six programs in 2022:

  • Three in Astrophysics: Research in Near-Earth Asteroid Orbit Determination at New Mexico Tech, Univ. Colorado Boulder, and Univ. North Carolina Chapel Hill
  • Two in Biochemistry: Research in fungal crop pathogens at Purdue Univ. Indiana Univ.
  • One in Genomics: Research in Evolution of Antibiotic Resistance, also at Purdue

summer science program

You will be asked to choose from the three above areas when you apply for the program.

SSP participants are required to stay on campus throughout the program. However, it is more like a research opportunity than a camp. It is a unique immersion experience that has earned a great reputation for inspiring and instructing some of the best minds in STEM field. Each program has a Guest Lecture Series. Following the presentation, guests and participants can have a reception where they can interact. Many speakers are alumni or former faculty members of SSP. SSP also offers field trips. The entire group can visit a local tourist, cultural, or scientific destination when the programs are conducted in-person once or twice per week. SSP often has special behind-the scenes access. According to SSP’s website, the first examples of trips they offer students at New Mexico Tech are:

The University of Colorado Boulder’s example field trips can be found at the following locations.

Finally, Purdue’s website lists the following locations for example Purdue field trips:



Eligibility to participate in the Summer Science Program

SSP is for current high school juniors and a few exceptional sophomores. They must have completed the pre-requisites by the summer.

Each research program is subject to prerequisite classes. To fulfill a prerequisite, you must complete the course before June in order to earn credit. Here are the requirements:

SSP ResearchApply for YearPre-requisites
AstrophysicsJuniorPhysics and Precalculus, or Calculus
AstrophysicsSophomoreCalculus and Physics
BiochemistrySophomore or JuniorAlgebra, Chemistry and Biology


Does SSP cost money?

The Summer Science Program, an independent nonprofit, is governed exclusively by its alumni and faculty. To keep this life-changing experience financially affordable, they donate.

They allow SSP to guarantee need-blind admissions, and provide aid grants to all admitted applicants. This includes $500 towards international airfare, or round-trip airfare to the United States. SSP considers all factors when evaluating financial need. This includes the number of dependents as well as unusual costs. They say on their website that a family income under about $120,000 will likely qualify for a discounted fee. A family with a household income below $70,000 is likely to be granted free admission.

The program fee is adjusted to each family’s budget. The program fee of $7.950 (2022) covers the cost per participant. You can apply for their financial aid for the program here

No matter what fee you pay, it covers all expenses including room and board, tuition, supplies, local transportation, and any other costs.


Is the summer science program good?

SSP has had a positive impact on young people for over six decades. Last year, SSP celebrated its 60th anniversary. It is often called the “educational experience of a life time” by many alumni.

The Summer Science Program is science-based, but past participants have gone on to become judges, CEOs, teachers, designers and many other positions. This is a testament to how broad the skills that participants can acquire from it.

Because participants have a better understanding of themselves, their goals and what they are interested in, how they compare with other high-achieving peers, they can be better college applicants. Admissions officers recognize that SSP is not an “easy ticket” to college admissions, but they know that our alumni have the skills and knowledge to succeed in any STEM major.

SSP will provide a letter of completion after the program, but not a personal assessment. A faculty member may provide a recommendation letter. This is at the discretion of each faculty member.


Is The Summer Science Program Prestigious?

The Summer Science Program is one of the most prestigious programs for high school students across the country. Many college administrators are well-versed in this program, and they hold it in high regard. Jarrid Whitney, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment at Caltech, explains that the admissions committee aims to attract students who are passionate about STEM beyond academic excellence. SSP is an incredible program that inspires scientific inquiry in our prospective students!” It also has a 10% acceptance rate.


How selective is the Summer Science Program | Summer science program acceptance rate

On the Summer Science program website they say that the summer science program acceptance rate is 10%.


How to get into the program

For the program, please refer to the eligibility requirements I have listed. You have a greater chance of being accepted if you meet the eligibility requirements. According to SSP, admitted students are getting top grades in advanced science and math courses. They say they look for evidence that demonstrates good character and motivation and consider any obstacles students might face such as limited resources at home or school. You have ample opportunity to describe your circumstances in the application. They consider your motivation and preparation, as well as how the experience will benefit you. This subjective judgment is made by SSP. They encourage applicants from traditionally underrepresented racial or ethnic groups to apply.


Other resources:

There are a variety of other science programs for high schoolers and I’ve made posts about some of these high school science programs explaining what they are. You can view my post on the Summer Science ProgramNational Youth Leadership Forum, and the National Academy Of Future Physicians. You can also read my post about medical school student loans.

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