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What Is Summer Institute for the Gifted? Should You Join?

Posted by Halle Edwards | Aug 25, 2019 10:00:00 AM

Other High School, Early Achievers (7th/8th Grade)



Want to challenge yourself this summer? Interested in showing colleges some of your academic interests? If so, you might heave heard about the Summer Institute for the Gifted.

In this post, we'll explain what the Summer Institute for the Gifted is all about; cover logistics such as application materials, cost, and dates; and help you decide whether it's a good fit for you.

Feature image: Alfred Hutter/Wikimedia


What Is Summer Institute for the Gifted?

The Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG) is an academic summer program for the "gifted and talented" aged 5-17. "Gifted and talented" basically means that you have been placed in a gifted program in school or that you have tested above the 95th percentile on a nationally normed test (we'll go over the eligibility info in more detail below). You don't have to take a special test or submit an elaborate application to be considered.

The program consists of three-week sessions held on various campuses around the country. Some camps are residential (meaning you live on-campus for the entire session) but also allow for commuter students, whereas others are exclusively day programs.

Each program has its own dates. The earliest programs begin in late June and run through mid-July, while the latest programs run from late July to mid-August. (See specific dates for the residential programs and day programs on SIG’s website.) 

If you're in a residential camp, you take a series of courses during weekdays and participate in recreation during evenings and weekends.


What Are SIG Classes Like?

Your classes will be a mix of academic (in subjects from the humanities, science, and math) and recreational. Courses vary by location and are mostly separated by age level. So you might be in some academic classes with only students of your grade but in recreation classes with students of various ages.

You sign up for your classes before you get there, but you can change your courses in the first two days. This gives you a chance to get a feel for different classes and hopefully come up with a schedule that’s a good balance for you.


Schedule and Residential Life at SIG

You take your classes during the day from 8:45 am to 4:15 pm with a lunch break, followed by a recreation period, dinner, and a study tutorial in the evenings. So in some ways it’s kind of like your schedule during the school year, but a bit more intense since you’re living with other students and taking more challenging classes.

On the weekends, there are local excursions, planned activities, and free time.

You live in a residence hall with students of your same age and gender, and also have a roommate (it’s possible to request a single room, but it’s a bit more expensive).



While the layout and size will vary, you can expect your typical dorm room to have a bed, dresser, desk, and, of course, a roommate!


The day programs consist of the academic portion of the program, but you don’t stay in a residence hall or have weekend activities. The day program could be a good option if you want the academic experience but have other extracurricular or social commitments over the summer.


Locations for Summer Institute for the Gifted

SIG has a variety of locations all across the country. The residential programs are housed at universities, and the day programs are housed at a mix of universities and local schools. See below for a complete list.


Residential Program

  • Bryn Mawr College (Pennsylvania)
  • Emory University (Georgia)
  • Fairfield University (Connecticut)
  • Princeton University (New Jersey)*
  • Tulane University (Louisiana)
  • University of California, Berkeley (California)
  • University of California, Los Angeles (California)
  • University of Chicago (Illinois)
  • University of Miami (Florida)
  • Yale University (Connecticut)

 *Does not allow for commuter students.


Day Program

  • Boston University (Massachusetts)
  • Bryn Mawr College (Pennsylvania)
  • California Lutheran University (California)
  • Echo Horizon School (California)
  • Emory University (Georgia)
  • Explorations Prepatory School (Texas)
  • Fairfield University (Connecticut)
  • The Foote School (Connecticut)
  • Montclair State University (New Jersey)
  • Pine View School for the Gifted (Florida)
  • Sarah Lawrence College (New York)
  • Seattle Country Day School (Washington)
  • Stuart Country Day School (New Jersey)
  • University of Miami (Florida)
  • The Woods Academy (Maryland)
  • The Wesley School (California)


How to Get Into SIG

You can apply online or by mail for SIG. To apply, you'll need to pay a $125 application fee and send in an application form.

The application form is pretty straightforward — you give your personal and demographic info, say which program you want to attend, and list your course preferences.

Finally, if it’s your first year, you must also submit eligibility info. You have to meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Score at the 95th percentile or higher in one of the major content areas of a nationally normed standardized test administered by your school (this includes a lot of state testing or the SAT/ACT). See a full list of tests here.
  • Participate in an academic talent search.
  • Be identified as gifted or participate in a local or school gifted program.
  • Score at least two standard deviations above the mean, or at the 95th percentile level or higher, on any individual or group-administered, nationally normed standardized intelligence assessment.

  • If none of the above are available for you (your district doesn't have a gifted program, you haven't taken any of the standardized tests listed by SIG, and there are no talent searches you can participate in), you can have two teachers at your school fill out letters of recommendation for you instead.

You should apply early in the year as programs, especially the ones at Princeton and Yale, tend to fill up before summer. Admissions are rollingso you need to apply to popular programs as early as possible. Less popular locations might still have open spaces through June.

If you're interested in attending SIG in future years, try to apply as early as possible to maximize your chances of getting your first-choice location. 


Cost of SIG

SIG costs between $2,795 and $5,995, depending on the location, for the three-week residential option. The day programs are cheaper: between $1,345 and $2,295.

You can apply for financial assistance using this form. Try to apply early if you anticipate needing financial assistance, as funds for these types of programs tend to run out closer to the start dates.


Is SIG Worth It?

You can definitely get a challenging academic summer experience by doing SIG. Many former participants say good things about the experience on online forums and blogs. In particular, many participants say it can be rewarding for students to meet other academically gifted students and make friends from different parts of the country.

That said, your time is very scheduled and the program is expensive, so you might want to consider other opportunities closer to home if you want more flexibility. You certainly won’t be penalized in the college admissions process for not doing a program like SIG. Especially if you live in a district where you have access to challenging classes or a gifted program, the benefits might not be that substantial.

Other great summer options include participating in local music competitions, volunteering, doing research, or taking classes at local community colleges or universities. Explore both local options and programs like SIG before deciding what's right for you. The main goal is to use your time over the summer to dig deeper into an academic or extracurricular interest. SIG is one way to do that, but make sure you consider other possible options to get the most out of your summer!


What’s Next?

Curious about other summer programs? Learn about the programs at Johns Hopkins (CTY),  Duke TIP's 7th Grade Talent Search and Stanford (EPGY). Read about a range of academic summer programs so you can decide which one might be right for you!

Wondering when you should start studying for the ACT/SAT? Get a guide for both tests so you can maximize your score (click here for ACT and here for the SAT).

Trying to decide which high school to attend? Learn about AP and IB programs to help you decide which is the best one for you.


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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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