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Best Math Summer Programs for
High Schoolers 2021

So you’re really good at math and you want to challenge yourself this summer. There are a number of options as to how you might spend your time, but some are more worthwhile than others. Some programs are more competitive than Ivy League admissions, while others might just be a way for universities to make money during the summer. 
*** Updated Feb 1st, 2021***

Alex Photo for The Admissions Angle

By ALEX LOVELESS

One of the major ways that math summer programs differ from other summer programs is the problem set requirement of the application. For the top programs, like Ross, PROMYS, and SUMaC, these problem sets are extremely difficult – much more difficult that you’ll find on the SAT Math, AP Calc, or even AMC 10/12 exams. The problem sets require a ton of critical thinking and the admissions officers are interested not as much on your answers, but the work that you show to reach those answers. They’re interested in your mathematical problem solving methods and your thought processes just as much as they are in your ability to get the right answer. These problem sets usually release at a certain date and you are given a time window of weeks to solve and submit your solutions with your application. 

The list below represents the math programs that we’ve had students attend and really enjoy, programs that we’ve heard great things about, or programs that we know admissions officers from great STEM schools have heard about. To get a better idea as to the competitiveness and admissions value of each program, I’ve tiered the programs into four categories: S Tier, A Tier, B Tier, and C Tier. 

S-Tier: Must Go If Admitted

1) MOSP (Math Olympiad Summer Program)
Program Dates: TBD Summer 2021
Registration Deadlines: Varies, but the absolute last deadline for registering for the late registration of the AMC 10/12 B exam is Jan 9th – 13th, 2021**
**Dates are for registration in the US only. International registration dates differ depending on region. 

The Math Olympiad Summer Program is the most selective math summer program in the US because it produces the US team that competes in the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO), the most competitive high school math competition in the world. In order to qualify for MOSP, students must first take the AMC 10 (American Mathematics Competition 10) or AMC 12 exam and score sufficiently high enough to qualify for the AIME (American Invitational Mathematics Exam). Then, if the combined scores from AMC 10/12 + AIME are high enough, a student qualifies for the USAJMO/USAMO competitions (USA Junior Mathematical Olympiad/USA Mathematical Olympiad). The winners of this competition are invited to the MOSP.

As you can see, qualifying for the MOSP is an extremely long and challenging process. Only the absolute brightest mathematics students (about 60 high school students) can qualify for the summer program. The only benefits of attempting to qualify for this program versus the other programs on this list is that there is no application process and that it’s free to attend. Students qualify solely on their performance in the mathematics competitions listed above and have no essays to write. Taking the AMC 10/12 exams can be helpful to admission to some STEM schools, especially if you qualify for the AIME, so you may think about taking the test. The vast majority of readers here are not going to be this level of math genius, so I’ll end here by reiterating that IF you’re able to qualify, you must attend.

A-Tier: The Big Three

2) PROMYS (Program in Mathematics for Young Scientists)
Program Dates: Online – July 4th – August 14th (six weeks)
Application Deadline: April 1st, 2021
Cost: $2,500 (financial aid available)
International Students: Yes

3) The Ross Program at Ohio State
Program Dates: Online – June 21st – August 6th (six weeks)
Application Deadline: April 1st, 2021,  Applications read starting March 1st, 2021
Cost: $1,500 (financial aid available)
International Students: Yes

4) SUMaC (Stanford University Math Camp)
Program Dates: Online – Session 1: June 21st – July 9th, Session 2: July 19th – August 6th
Application Deadline: March 10th 2021
Cost: $3,250 (financial aid available)
International Students: Yes

The Big 3 summer programs are less competitive than qualifying for MOSP, but they are still extremely difficult to be admitted into. Each program’s acceptance rate is under 10%, making it about on par with many Ivy League undergraduate admissions rates. As such, many of the top universities in America, particularly the STEM focused schools, look extremely favorably on students who have attended these summer programs. They are some of the most challenging and rewarding camps for students that wish to expand their knowledge in mathematics.

Both Ross and PROMYS are similar in their focus on number theory, proofs, and research. These skills can be useful for the USAMO competition, but for the most part, work done at these camps doesn’t necessarily translate directly to better preparation for math competitions. Instead, they focus on the exploration of topics and the proof process. SUMaC is different in the types of topics that it offers, focusing less on number theory. They have two programs that explore different topics. Program I focuses on abstract algebra, group theory, and a little bit of number theory while Program II focuses mostly on topology with a little bit of group theory. (These topics may change slightly year to year) While research exploration is encouraged, none of these programs will produce a research level paper or project that you can submit to research competitions. They are mostly explorations of previously researched topics, which is still quite valuable.

All three programs are quite challenging, so you can expect to be assigned a lot of homework to work through between classes. While socializing certainly happens, much of it revolves around completing projects and problem sets, with many students forming study groups to help each other tackle the difficult assigned work. These programs are certainly some of the best programs a student can attend to really challenge themselves in the subject of mathematics.

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B-Tier: Competitive, Challenging Experiences

5)  Canada/USA Mathcamp
Program Dates: Online, July 3rd – August 8th (5 weeks) 
Application Deadline: Information released January 29th
Cost: $1,500 (significant financial aid available)
International Students: Yes

6)  AwesomeMath
Program Dates: Online, Session 1: June 7th – June 25th, Session 2: June 28th – July 16th, Session 3: July 19th – August 6th
Application Deadline: Early deadline: January 24th, Regular deadline: March 28th, Late deadline: May 16th
Cost: $875 – $995 per course (discounts given for early applicants)
International Students: Yes

7)  HCSSiM (Hampshire College Summer Studies in Mathematics) 
Program Dates: June 27th – August 7th
Application Deadline: Rolling but usually run out of spots in mid April
Cost: $4,913 (financial aid available)
International Students: Yes

There are certainly arguments to be made for some of these programs to change spots, but this is where I landed with them in terms of admissions value. While these programs are overall, less competitive than the ones in Tier 2, Mathcamp is close. AwesomeMath and Hampshire College are slightly easier in terms of competitiveness but these programs are more about the experience and relationships made than the admissions value. 

Each program is quite different, as AwesomeMath focuses almost exclusively on preparing for competition mathematics. Many of the instructors there were heavily involved in IMO, USAMO, and many other math competitions, so they have great practical experience with competitions themselves. If you’re looking to boost your AMC/AIME/USAMO scores, this is the program for you. Mathcamp and HCSSiM focus more on exploring math topics on your own time and for the sake of loving the subject. Mathcamp has no set curriculum and students can choose their own math adventures, and there’s plenty of time to socialize and participate in projects or other math-related activities. HCSSiM also focuses on enjoying math for the sake of the subject rather than focusing on competition prep, but with a quirkier bent. Students are partitioned into two workshops and then later can choose mini courses that they’re interested in. The HCSSiM “Interesting Test” gets nerdy with its quizzes and method of provoking critical thinking from its students. They also promote the community experience on campus through a number of organized student events.

These programs are looked at favorably by other math programs and will probably be recognized by admissions offices though they won’t get you noticed as much as a Tier 2 program. Nevertheless, making a great connection with a professor there could lead to an awesome supplemental recommendation letter. These programs can also be great for building up your resume to apply to a Big 3 program the following summer.

C-Tier: Great for Younger Students

8) Mathworks at Texas State
Program Dates: June 27th – July 31st
Application Deadline: April 15th, 2021
Cost: In person – $800/week, Virtual – $500/week
International Students: Yes

9) MathILy at Bryn Mawr College
Program Dates: July 2021 (Exact dates and online/residential TBD)
Application Deadline: April 27th, 2021
Cost: if online – $2,150, if residential – $4,800 (financial aid available)
International Students: Yes

10) Prove It! Math Academy 
Program Dates: closed for 2021
Application Deadline: N/A
Cost: N/A
International Students: Yes

**11) MathPath
Program Dates: June 27th – July 25th at Mount Holyoke College
Application Deadline: Rolling but recommend applying before mid-March
Cost: $5,200 (financial aid available)
International Students: Yes

These programs are not quite as competitive as the above programs and sometimes don’t even have problem sets on their application. They won’t have very much admissions value as an activity on your resume, but they could still open some doors to recommendations or other programs or scholarships. These programs still challenge students mathematically and can also be a great place for young students to explore their interests in mathematics. 

There are probably a few more programs that belong in this category, but these are the ones that I’ve heard of. If you don’t care about admissions value, these programs can be a great option to spend time in the summer. However, without the residential experience and community aspects of the virtual programs, they might not be worth the cost. 

**Mathpath is for students aged 11-14, so it’s actually geared towards middle school students. For anyone looking to get a head start with younger students, it’s a good option and many of the students there go on to more challenging high school math programs, like its sister program, Canada/USA MathCamp.

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