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What Is Stanford EPGY and Summer College? Should I Join?


Have you heard about Stanford EPGY, a summer program for high school students? Curious about what it would be like to spend a summer on Stanford's campus?

Well, it turns out that the program formerly known as Stanford EPGY is now two different programs. We will break down what the different programs are and outline the benefits and costs of each.

Feature image via Wikimedia


What Exactly Is Stanford EPGY?

Stanford EPGY (which stands for Educational Program for Gifted Youth) used to encompass summer programs at Stanford for middle and high school students as well as online courses available year round.

However, EPGY has now split up into two different components – the online component (now known as, a website still associated with Stanford) and the summer programs component (now called Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes). This can make it confusing for students to figure out which program might be best for them.

Furthermore, there is also a program called High School Summer College, where you can attend Stanford for a full academic quarter during the summer and take actual Stanford classes. It’s sometimes overshadowed by EPGY so high school students don’t hear about it.

I realize the fact that Stanford has these three high school programs can be confusing, but I can guide you through it – I participated in some of these programs as both a high school student and as a counselor during college! I will go through each program, explain what it is, how to apply, and whether or not it would be worth it for you to participate.


 Image via


What Is, which used to be a part of Stanford EPGY, is a way for advanced students to take courses online to access more advanced topics or supplement what they are learning in school.

Stanford moved to with the help of an outside company (Redbird Advanced Learning) to make their EPGY online program more convenient. The service is more responsive and the interface is easier to use than it was with the old EPGY online courses.

Courses span from typical math courses like geometry and calculus to specialized programming and physics classes. There are a few language arts courses as well.


How to Apply

You can enroll in any course at as long as you can pay the fee (about $495 per each 3-month course) and meet the prerequisites. You can look through the courses and apply online here.

There is also financial aid you can apply for by emailing or calling 844-944-3833.


Is Worth It?

Whether is a good choice for you depends on your needs. If you want to challenge yourself but don’t have access to honors classes, AP courses, or other resources near you, online courses are a great way to add advanced courses to your schedule. Especially if you tend to be good at learning independently or outside of traditional classroom settings, online classes can be great.

If your high school does offer more challenging classes, or you have access to a local community college or university, you might want to consider taking courses locally instead. Your high school classes are likely cheaper than additional online classes, and honors, AP, and IB programs can offer rigorous curriculums close to home (learn more about AP and IB here). This is especially true if traditional classroom settings work well for you.

Either way, explore all of your potential advanced class options before signing up for any online courses.


Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes


Image via Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes


What Is Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes?

Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes (SPCS), formerly EPGY, is a residential summer program where you take an academic course and participate in typical camp activities (sports, crafts, and local excursions).

You can do SCPS as a high school student. Most of the programs run for three weeks. You can choose to attend either Session 1 (June 19 - July 8 in 2016), Session 2 (July 11 - July 30), or take a course that spans both sessions.

For each session you take one class intensively, and live with the students taking the same course. Course options span from Creative Writing to Particle Physics to Robotics to International Relations to Cryptography, just to name a few. The course options have been expanded recently so there are more options to choose from than in the past.

The schedule typically consists of class in the morning, discussion sections or class work in the early afternoon, and activities later in the afternoon and evening. Your time is quite structured throughout the program, though you get to choose which activities to participate in.


Special Programs Within SPCS

In addition to the various SPCS course options that we linked to above, there are also two special programs within SPCS. Read about them below.


Summer Humanities Institute

This is a program centered around rigorous humanities courses in history and philosophy, taught by Stanford professors (note that some of the SPCS courses are taught by instructors and not full-on professors). Full disclosure: I worked at the Summer Humanities Institute in 2013 as a Residential Counselor. To be honest, I was jealous this program wasn't around when I was in high school! The courses were definitely rigorous, on par with typical Stanford courses. The students also got the chance to write long research papers while working with the counselors, teaching assistants, and professors. 

In short, the Summer Humanities Institute provided an intense academic experience while also giving high school students interested in the humanities a chance to get to know like-minded students from across the country and the world. Furthermore, the SHI has expanded for 2016, with six different courses being offered. (The schedule is the same as SPCS, with two sessions to choose from.)  If you're looking into any of Stanford's summer programs, you should consider the Summer Humanities Institute, especially if you're interested in literature, history, or philosophy.


Summer Arts Institute

New in 2016, SPCS is now running the Summer Arts Institute. With courses centered on the arts, including theater, music, and architecture, this is a program geared towards students specifically interested in the arts. Stanford has been increasingly committed to the arts, so this summer program gives high school students a chance to see Stanford's resources for budding artists, musicians, and actors. No previous experience in the arts is necessary to apply, so the program is accessible to a wide range of students. Your application will be evaluated holistically, meaning your grades, test scores, and individual experiences will all be considered. This is a great program to look into if you have specific interest in the arts but want a more challenging, academic experience than your typical summer drama or dance camp. 


How to Apply

To apply to SPCS, you will apply to either the class or special program you want to be in – you’ll list your preferences on your application. Your application will be reviewed with those courses and/or programs in mind. Keep in mind some courses (like the Computer Stience courses, for example) tend to be more popular and therefore more competitive. The Summer Humanities Institute is also getting increasingly competitive year to year. We recommend applying for these programs as early as possible if you’re set on getting in to them.

You’ll submit an application with your demographic info, a $50 fee, work samples, your most recent transcript or grades, a teacher recommendation, and recent standardized score report (for more about these components see the materials page).

You can apply as early as January 20 (the early decision deadline) or by March 30 at the latest. As soon as you decide you’re interested, I recommend you go ahead and apply. This will give you the best shot at admission to your first choice class or program.

SPCS is selective, so you’re more likely to get in if you apply to a less popular class. That said, getting into SPCS is not nearly as difficult as getting into Stanford. Don’t be deterred from applying because you think you won’t get in!



Tuition for SPCS runs at $6300 for a high school session. The Summer Arts Institute is $6,000 for the session, as well as the Summer Humanities Institute. Tuition includes instruction, housing, meals, and field trips.

You can apply for financial aid after you’ve submitted your program application. You’re encouraged to apply early since there is a limited amount. Again, if you’re set on going to SPCS but think you will need financial aid, apply as early as possible to maximize your chances of getting financial aid.


Is SPCS Worth It?

While I didn’t participate in SPCS as a high school student, I did work there as a Stanford student and thought it was a great program. You can get a rigorous academic experience while also getting a taste of what it’s like to live on Stanford’s campus. Especially since you are only taking one class, it’s a great opportunity to delve deeply into one topic you’re interested in.



Students in the Summer Humanities Institute got to use Stanford's Green Library to work on their research papers. Image via Stanford University Libraries.


You can also use SPCS as an opportunity to take a class you can’t usually take as a high school student, like robotics or philosophy.

It’s also possible to get a letter of recommendation from your instructor or professor at SPCS, which can be a boost to your college applications.

However, you do have to follow a daily schedule and, from experience, you are supervised much more than the High School Summer College students are. If you want a more independent summer experience, you might consider High School Summer College instead.


Stanford High School Summer College


Image via Stanford High School Summer College.


What Is High School Summer College?

In High School Summer College (HSSC), you get to participate in a full academic quarter at Stanford over the summer, which lasts eight weeks. You take real Stanford classes alongside Stanford students and live in dorms on campus. It’s a big commitment! I did this program when I was in high school so trust me when I say it’s not your typical summer program.

You take two or three classes during the summer. That might not sound like a lot, but these are Stanford courses so they will more than fill up your time!

This also means you get a Stanford transcript with actual Stanford courses on it at the end of the summer This sets HSSC apart from the SPCS programs and many other summer university programs you might be considering.

Furthermore, you live on campus in Stanford dorms. The RAs are current Stanford students. This means you really get a sense of what it would be like to go to Stanford. The RAs run clubs and there are weekend excursions to places like San Francisco and Monterrey.

While you are monitored much more closely than you are in college – there is a curfew – this program is excellent if you want to get a taste of what college will be like. Aside from your classes and dining hall hours, you’re free to set your own schedule – when you want to study, when you want to hang out with friends, and when to participate in clubs. You can also take advantage of on campus resources like practice rooms if you play an instrument, or use the gym and recreation facilities.


How to Apply to HSSC

To apply, submit the online application, which is a college-like application that includes an essay, test scores (if you want), and a letter of recommendation.

It’s a selective program, though the program doesn’t release data on how selective. It’s definitely not nearly as selective as getting into Stanford regularly. Still, put your best foot forward with a great essay and the best standardized test score you have available if you’re set on getting in.

The program usually fills up and has a waitlist, so apply as early as possible. You can apply beginning in the fall. Try to submit your application by March or earlier if you're set on getting on a spot.

When I did HSSC back in summer 2009, we stayed in the Lagunita Court dorms. All Summer College students are guaranteed housing on Stanford's campus. Image via Wikimedia.



HSSC costs close to $12,000 for the summer, including books, housing, and personal expenses. You can apply for financial aid, though you should recognize it’s limited and not a guarantee. Again, the earlier you apply, the more likely you are to get financial aid.


Is HSSC Worth It?

It’s worth noting that HSSC is a very expensive program, putting it out of the reach of many families. It also takes up pretty much your entire summer, which can make it hard to schedule in for many students.

That said, I did this program as a student in Summer 2009 and had a great experience. I really loved getting to take real Stanford courses – and even got a jumpstart on what eventually became one of my areas of study at Stanford by taking an Introduction to International Relations class. Furthermore, I think doing very well in my courses that summer strongly helped my Stanford application.

I would caution students that if you do go, be careful about how you spend your time. Because the program encourages students to set their own schedules, many students got caught up in the social aspects of the program and neglected reading, studying, and problem sets. There is no point in spending money on the chance to take Stanford courses and then wasting that money by not putting in a sincere effort.

And finally, while I did this program and eventually got into Stanford, it is not by any means the only way to get admitted. You can take advantage of college courses, research opportunities, and volunteering close to home and put together an excellent application for Stanford. Make sure you explore a range of summer options before deciding on something as intense as HSSC.


Will Doing a Summer Program at Stanford Get Me Admitted?

The short answer is no. Each of these programs is less competitive than getting into Stanford for real, which means many students who do these programs end up getting rejected from Stanford.

In other words, these programs are definitely NOT a guarantee of admission to Stanford. Don’t go to one of these just because you think it’s a free ticket to Stanford.

That said, doing an academic summer program is one way to show your intellectual interests to college admissions officers, and also to demonstrate your academic strengths. This is true of programs at Stanford as well as programs at other universities.

Again, it’s important to use your time at these programs wisely. Do well in the classes, get to know the instructors/professors, and get the most out of the experience as possible. Don’t get caught up in the social experience and neglect the academics.

Doing well and/or getting an extra letter of recommendation from a professor or instructor could increase your chances of getting into Stanford, but you should make sure the other parts of your application are strong as well – including your GPA, SAT/ACT scores, etc. Unfortunately, doing really well in a summer program won’t make up for a low GPA or a less-than-average SAT/ACT score.

The bottom line is that academic programs at Stanford are a great way to challenge yourself, meet other like-minded high school students, and add something extra to your college application. Just don’t expect them to guarantee your admission to Stanford, and be aware there are likely other, cheaper options to enrich your studies close to home.



Image via SLAC.


What’s Next?

Also studying for the SAT/ACT? Want a score good enough for Stanford or Ivy League schools? Learn how to come up with a target SAT or ACT score based on your dream schools, and also read about ACT and SAT scores for the Ivy League.

Have you already taken the SAT/ACT? Thinking about retaking it but not sure if it will be worth it? Learn for sure if you should take the test again.

Shooting for a perfect SAT/ACT score? Get tips from our full scorer for the SAT and the ACT.

Considering the AP or IB program? Learn the differences between the two and which program you should do.


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Halle Edwards
About the Author

Halle Edwards graduated from Stanford University with honors. In high school, she earned 99th percentile ACT scores as well as 99th percentile scores on SAT subject tests. She also took nine AP classes, earning a perfect score of 5 on seven AP tests. As a graduate of a large public high school who tackled the college admission process largely on her own, she is passionate about helping high school students from different backgrounds get the knowledge they need to be successful in the college admissions process.

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