Summer School

Regionally Accredited (RA) Graded Credit has the highest level of transferability and acceptance. These credits result in a letter grade on a college transcript. Credit options in this section are solidly transferable into colleges that accept transfer credit.

Summer school should NOT be confused with dual enrollment, but sometimes dual enrollment programs also offer summer programs. This page refers to programs that are specifically offered separate and apart from a college’s dual enrollment program. In fact, sometimes colleges only offer summer programs for college credit, and don’t offer dual enrollment as a regular option. These programs are generally self-pay, and operate outside the regular dual enrollment funding guidelines. Sometimes these programs include residential room and board, and I’ve even found summer programs that include studying abroad!

A summer program, especially those at selective colleges, is an opportunity for the student to explore the campus and take classes that would not otherwise be available. Most selective colleges don’t offer dual enrollment, so this is an opportunity many people find appealing.

Many colleges, even Harvard University, will allow high school students the opportunity to enroll for summer school on campus, online, or through study abroad separate and apart from any dual enrollment program. Many times, the summer session is “open enrollment” but that’s not always the case. Programs like the one at Harvard, Duke, or Brown, are exceptionally competitive, and not everyone will be picked to enroll.

Watch the Wording

“For college credit” summer programs will usually be recorded in one of 4 ways.

  1. BEST: The credit is graded and recorded on the college’s institutional transcript as a regular undergraduate course. This credit will transfer well. Ask the college directly if the credit can be used towards a degree at the college you’re attending for summer session. This will vary greatly from school to school.
  2. BETTER: The credit is graded and recorded on a different college’s institutional transcript as a regular undergraduate course. As long as that college is regionally accredited, this should not pose any problems, but you’re paying premium price for a less-than-premium transcript. It is unlikely to count toward a degree at the college you’re attending for summer session but will likely count at the institution recording the credit, as well as at other colleges that accept transfer credit.
  3. FAIR: The credit is non-graded and recorded as “credit” or “cr” on the college’s institutional transcript as a pass/fail undergraduate course. This is not a deal breaker, but pass/fail credit like this won’t transfer well. It is unlikely to count toward a degree at the college you’re attending for summer session.
  4. POOR: The credit is non-graded and recorded as “credit” or “cr” on an ACE/Credly/Acclaim transcript. This type of credit is unlikely to transfer anywhere and also unlikely to count toward a degree at the college you’re attending for summer session.

Like dual-enrollment, if the graded credits are recorded on an official transcript at a college, those grades have to be disclosed on future college applications. The only time the credit would not have to be disclosed is when it falls under option 4 above as ACE credit.

Most summer school programs range from 2–8 weeks and result in 3 or more college credits. These programs are a faster pace than a traditional 16-week semester, but not always more “work” since the structure may include extra recreation or enrichment opportunities.

For any summer program you’re considering, there are several important things to check in advance:

  • Confirm that the college / university is regionally accredited.
  • Is the program in person or do students attend remotely?
  • Is it a day program (sleep at home) or a residential program (sleep away)?
  • Ask: How is the college credit documented? (see the 4 options above)
  • Ask: What happens if your teen doesn’t pass?
  • Ask: What is included in the program cost? What costs are extra? Books? Fees? Parking? Meals? Transportation? Software? Proctoring?

Timing is Everything

Summer sessions that generate college credit during high school will be part of the year the student finished. Think of the summer as the “end” of the school year.

An exception is when a student takes classes after 12th grade/high school graduation. Target colleges may choose to count those credits as “outside” of high school, which would open a question as to whether those credits could turn your student into a transfer applicant. This is NOT universal.

HS4CC advice for graduating teens is to be sure any college credit course is started before the student graduates high school. It’s ok for the course to “finish” after graduation, but if you need to make a case for that credit being “inside” high school, the best way to guarantee that is by making sure the dates work.

Example: Summer program begins on June 2nd. High school graduation should be June 3rd or later.

5 Summer Programs for College Credit

  1. Brown University (RI)
  2. Duke University (NC)
  3. Georgetown University (MA)
  4. Harvard University (MA)
  5. Hillsdale College (MI)

Summer Program Can be Harder

  1. Accelerated Pace: Summer classes are typically condensed, covering the same material as regular semester-long courses in a shorter time frame. This means the pace of learning will be faster, and you’ll need to prepare your teen to dedicate more time and effort to their studies. Be ready for intensive coursework and tight deadlines.
  2. Time Management: With the accelerated pace, effective time management becomes crucial. This is a great teaching opportunity. Help your teen learn about balancing summer classes with other commitments, such as work, internships, volunteering, or personal activities.
  3. Independence: Summer college classes often assume a higher level of independence from students, especially if the student is in a residential on-campus program.