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Boston University Summer Challenge: Should You Go?


In this guide, I'll be discussing the Boston University Summer Challenge, a summer program for high school students at Boston University. During the program, students take non-credit college-level courses, live on campus, and explore all that BU and Boston have to offer.

While you can read about this program on the BU Summer Challenge website, the information available is somewhat spotty and what is there can be difficult to dissect. For this reason, I spoke to the program coordinators and gathered everything you need to know about the program into this easy-to-read guide. I’ve created a Table of Contents so you can find the specific info you need, but I suggest reading the entire article in order:

  • What Is the BU Summer Challenge? What Do You Do?
  • Why Should You Attend?
  • How To Apply and Application Requirements
  • How Much Does It Cost?
  • Tips on How to Get In  

Featured Image: Via Wikipedia


What Is the Boston University Summer Challenge? What Activities Do Participants Do?

The Boston University Summer Challenge is a two-week program for rising high school sophomore, juniors, and seniors that offers a preview of college life. During each of the three summer sessions, between 100 and 300 high school take two non-credit seminars and live on BU’s campus in the dorms. 

As a participant, you choose a morning seminar and afternoon seminar. In between your morning and afternoon seminars, you have lunch in one of BU's dining halls. After your afternoon seminar and on weekends, you participate in organized social activities such as exploring areas of Boston, shopping, seeing improv shows, and more. The exact social programming will vary from year to year.

You also have plenty of free time to do your seminar assignments, explore Boston on your own, and explore BU's campus (you'll have free access to the libraries and can purchase a short-term membership to Boston University's Fitness & Recreation Center). 

In your seminars, you'll be expected to attend lectures, engage in discussions, attend field trips, and complete individual work, group work, and project-based assignments. The seminars have small class sizes (10 to 24 students) to ensure that you get sufficient attention from your experienced college instructors as you are challenged with the college-level material taught in your seminar. Each seminar ends with a final in-class presentation. At the end of the summer (typically, in August/September), a certificate of completion and letters of evaluation from both seminar instructors will be sent to you.

Listed below are the seminars that were offered in Summer 2015. (Summer 2016 seminars have not yet been announced.)  


Morning Seminars


Afternoon Seminars


Who’s Eligible for the BU Summer Challenge Program?

The basic application requirements for all applicants are:

  • Be a rising high school sophomore, junior, or senior

If you’re an international student, you also must meet the following qualifications:

  • Have a valid passport
  • Have health insurance

While these are the only requirements needed to apply, there are more qualifications that will help you get in. Read those below in our Tips on How to Get In section. 




What Are the Program Dates for Summer 2016?

The programs dates for Summer 2016 are:

  • Session 1: June 19 - July 1, 2016
  • Session 2: July 10 - July 22, 2016
  • Session 3: July 24 - August 5, 2016


Why Should You Attend the BU Summer Challenge Program?

I’d highly recommend doing the Boston University Summer Challenge if you can afford it and it works in your summer schedule. I participated in a similar program at UCLA, and the program helped me figure out whether I was interested in attending UCLA (which I found out I wasn’t) and what kind of coursework I wanted to pursue. I’ve broken down the pros and cons of attending the program below.


Pros of BU Summer Challenge

  • Test out BU to see if it’s the right college for you. 

  • Take non-credit college courses to help figure out what you might be interested in majoring in (you could find out you hate art and want to study biology or vice versa). It's better to figure this out in high school rather than halfway through college when you've already spent a lot of time and money on classes you ended up not liking.

  • Receive two letters of evaluation (one from each of your seminar teachers) at the end of the program, which could be used as supplementary letters of recommendation for college.

  • As a residential student for two weeks, you get to test out living away from home for the first time. My friends and I who did the UCLA summer program struggled a lot less with homesickness once we started college than our peers.

  • Have a college program on your resume for your college applications.

  • While there is no guarantee of admissions and no guarantee that participating will better your chances of admission, the BU admissions office likes to see that you’ve shown a significant interest in the university. Doing this program will show them your interest.


Cons of BU Summer Challenge

  • Expensive (I discuss the exact cost below). 

  • You can't get college credit while some similar programs such as the Emory Pre-College Program do offer classes for credit.

  • No financial aid available while at some other programs such as the Emory Pre-College Program, there is financial aid available. 


How to Apply and Application Requirements

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis beginning in the January before the summer session. You typically receive a response via email within three weeks of submitting your application. The application deadline for summer 2016 has not yet been posted. It will be posted on the BU Summer Challenge website after December 15th.  However, as the website says, students who apply earlier "are more likely to receive the session and seminar selections of their choice," so you should submit your application ASAP. 

To apply, you must:

  • Pay a $50 non-refundable application fee paid by credit card.

  • Complete an online application that includes a 500 - 750-word personal statement describing why you want to attend the BU Summer Challenge Program.

  • Email a copy of your complete high school transcript, including your fall grades, to

Additionally, international students must:

  • Complete an international student form.

  • Submit a copy of your passport.

  • If the primary language of instruction at your high school is not English, you will likely be asked to provide proof of proficiency such as a TOEFL score (though this is on a case by case basis).




How Much Does BU Summer Challenge Cost?

The fee for the BU Summer Challenge includes tuition, housing, and all meals in the dining hall. It also includes textbooks and all sponsored activities during the two-week program. The program cost for the BU Summer Challenge in 2015 was $3730. This may be changing for Summer 2016, but it hasn’t yet been announced. Additionally, as I mentioned earlier, there is a $50 non-refundable application fee (which will stay the same in 2016).


Is There Financial Aid?

Unfortunately, there is no financial aid available for this program. However, I have some advice for quick ways to raise money if you're hoping to attend but can't afford tuition: 

  • Try using an online crowdfunding platform such as Go Ennounce (which is specifically for students looking to fundraise), Go Fund Me, or IndieGoGo
  • Write letters to friends, family, employers, local businesses and churches asking for support.
  • Reach out to civic organizations in your area, such as Rotary and Kiwanis, to see if they could offer a scholarship.


3 Tips on Fundraising Your BU Summer Challenge Tuition  

Tip #1: When you write your explanation on the crowdfunding platform, write your letters to the community, or reach out to civic organizations, make sure you share your personal story and explain why the BU Summer Challenge program is important to you and will help you achieve your future goals. This explanation should be similar to your personal statement for the program (which, as I said above, asks you to describe why you want to attend the BU Summer Challenge Program). 

Tip #2: Share your fundraising campaign on social media and ask your friends and family to share your campaign on their social media if they're unable to donate. 

Tip #3: Write a thank you note for every donation you receive. 


Tips on How to Get Accepted

If you’re hoping to attend the Boston University Summer Challenge, your high school transcript and personal statement need to show you off in a positive light.

While there is no specific GPA required for admission, the program coordinators said they preferred applicants with at least a 3.0 unweighted GPA. To have the best shot of being accepted, you should try to get your unweighted GPA at or above a 3.0. While you may not have a lot of time before applying, there are ways to raise your GPA fast.

The BU Summer Challenge Program does not tell the public its acceptance rate, but the program website says they look for "motivated high school students who are taking a college preparatory curriculum. Your high school transcript and personal statement are both taken into account when admission decisions are made." Additionally, I spoke to the program coordinators who indicated that most students with a 3.0 or higher are accepted into the program. 

For your personal statement, make sure you show off your personality, explain your love for BU, and explain why you want to be a part of the Summer Challenge. If you need help writing the personal statement, read our other great guide with tips on writing a personal statement.


What’s Next?

Learn about other pre-college programs such as the Emory Pre-College Program

Not sure where you want to go to college? Learn how to do college research right

Not sure how you'll pay for college? Check out our guide to paying for college.  



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Dora Seigel
About the Author

As an SAT/ACT tutor, Dora has guided many students to test prep success. She loves watching students succeed and is committed to helping you get there. Dora received a full-tuition merit based scholarship to University of Southern California. She graduated magna cum laude and scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT. She is also passionate about acting, writing, and photography.

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