Admissions FAQ


Whether to Apply

A. Read the website. Watch a few videos. If what you see excites you, and you’re excelling in your science and math classes, and you meet the pre-requisites, you should apply. Don’t worry about whether you can do the research; if you’re admitted, we’ll teach you how. None of your peers have done this research before either, so everyone will be challenged and no one will be bored. 

A. In recent years the admission rate has been around 10%, so definitely have an alternate plan for your summer. However, some applicants are surprised that they are admitted, and others are surprised that they are not. We look at each application as a whole and in context of your life circumstances. Besides academic preparation, we consider character, motivation, and how much the experience would impact you. And even if you’re not admitted, applying will be good practice for your upcoming college applications.

A. Yes. And to prove it, your parent need not even apply for aid until after you are admitted. (Exception: parents of international applicants must apply for aid before the deadline, due to the time pressure of visa applications.)

A. That’s not a good reason to apply. If the idea of working very hard on a research project for most of the summer doesn’t thrill you, then find a different opportunity that does.

A. Definitely. After SSP you’ll understand yourself better, and therefore which colleges will be a good fit. That will make you a better college applicant and a better college student. Specifically, you’ll have a visceral sense of whether a STEM major at a selective college is the right path for you, or not. 

A. Very few sophomores are admitted. We strongly encourage most sophomores to wait, for two reasons:
  1. From our perspective, a) every sophomore we admit is taking a spot from a junior who will never get another chance; and b) every sophomore will be better prepared as a junior next year.
  2. From your perspective, if you are not admitted, you will likely feel too discouraged to apply again next year (that’s human nature), even though your application will be stronger and chance of admission higher. (You must start a new application if you apply a second time as a junior.)
If you are a sophomore excelling in math & science courses normally taken by seniors, then consider applying as a sophomore.

A. No. You must commit to arriving on the designated day and staying on campus until the designated departure day. Feel free to inquire, but exceptions are rarely granted. We know you’re good at multitasking, but SSP is an all-or-nothing immersion experience.

A. If it takes only an hour a week or so, fine. Otherwise, probably not. There is very little free time, and you will want to reserve it for social and recreational activities.

A. Maybe, depending on the nature of the condition. The intensity and challenge of SSP stresses participants mentally and physically, much more than high school or even college. There is no time for making up for lost time. Unfortunately we cannot accommodate some conditions that a high school can, mostly because of SSP’s residential nature.

A. Yes, assuming you meet the prerequisites. We don’t require any particular test, nor do we rank applicants by test score. Test scores simply increase our confidence that your transcript reliably reflects your preparation, and helps us compare applicants from around the world with vastly different educational backgrounds.

A. By “precalc” we mean a course covering trigonometry and matrices. You will need to understand those topics coming in; there is no time to teach them during SSP.

A. This is a difficult and frustrating situation. We are unable to supply a “letter of invitation” to anyone before international admission decisions are released in mid-March. But since the pandemic hit, in some countries mid-March is too late to start a U.S. visa application for June travel. U.S. embassies and consulates are still understaffed so the wait time for an interview can be many months. Our policy in 2023 is intended to prevent what would be the worst case for everyone: you apply to SSP, you are admitted (yay!), you apply for a visa then wait, wait, wait. June arrives, still no visa. Your summer plans are ruined, and we have to scramble to fill your spot on short notice. Unfortunately, your only conclusion and ours has to be: if you can’t get a visa by February 3, without a letter from us and before we release admission decisions, make other summer plans. We’re sorry but that’s the reality.

A. Caltech and Harvey Mudd were in the original consortium that operated SSP for many years. We continue to cooperate with them, and added MIT as an affiliate in 2009. While participation in SSP will make you a better college applicant, it is no guarantee of admission to any college.

Financial Aid

A. Only a parent or guardian may apply for aid, by submitting the Financial Aid Application, which you request on the status page of the application portal.

A. U.S. applicants will be invited to apply for aid at the time of admission. International applicants must include the aid application by the published deadline.

The Financial Aid Application is designed to help the Financial Aid Committee judge how much your family can reasonably afford. Major considerations include income, assets, college expenses for your family members, and special circumstances such as unusual expenses or unemployment. SSP is typically free for a student receiving reduced price lunch at school, or with a family income of less than $70,000 (assuming typical expenses). A family income under about $120,000 will likely qualify for a discount.

A. Financial aid is “need-based” not “willingness-based.” If your family is well-off, the better approach is to discuss with your parent why and how attending SSP will benefit you. Ask your parent to contact us.

A. Yes, if the aid application is included with the rest of the application materials. We will need English translations of income tax forms and other documents.

A. If needed, yes, and on request we will purchase the ticket directly. For international applicants, travel aid is limited to $500.

A. The program fee includes tuition, housing, meals, supplies, and local transportation. There are no other required fees or charges. We suggest bringing $100-$200 for snacks, souvenirs, and other miscellaneous optional expenses. Participants receiving full aid will get a cash stipend for those, in addition to airfare.

A. Yes, but not from SSP itself. If you participate in a college counseling or prep organization such as Questbridge or Jack Kent Cooke Scholars, ask them if funds are available for enrichment programs. Mu Alpha Theta members may apply for a grant. Some students raise money themselves, from part-time jobs, extended family (grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc.), neighbors, family friends, or local civic groups (Rotary, Lion’s Club, etc.) or businesses. Be creative!

How to Apply

A. No, you must choose one when you register. You may change to another project while the application is open, but you may not change after the deadline.

A. The International deadline applies to anyone who is not a U.S. citizen, regardless of where you currently attend high school, as well as U.S. citizens who attend school outside of the U.S.
Important Note to Exchange Students: if you will return home when the current school year ends, and your current US visa will expire before the end of SSP, you may not have time to apply for and receive a new visa before SSP starts. That may make it impossible for you to attend! Before applying to SSP, make sure you have a plan to solve this problem, assuming the usual delays in getting a US visa in your home country. We do not allow students to arrive late for any reason.

A. We prefer evaluations from your current science and math teachers if possible. If necessary we’ll accept evaluations from any two adults in your life. Think about who can describe your character, interests, and academic preparation. A teacher is better than a coach, a science teacher is better than a history teacher, a current teacher is better than one from a prior year, and a teacher who knows you well is better than one who does not.

A. The third evaluation does not have a set format. If it is a teacher, using our form is helpful.

A. Yes, but don’t push your luck. See next question.

A. Doing whatever you need to do to get all required parts of your application to us by the deadline is your responsibility. Confirm with your teachers and school that they sent the required parts, and to log in to confirm that we have them. Don’t assume anything. Once the deadline is passed, we need to move our process along quickly. Unlike many programs, we do not use “rolling admissions”. A late application is a late application; why it is late is not especially interesting to us.

Login Help

A. If you see “The information you provided does not match our records” it is likely that you are logging in with an email that is different from the one we have on record. If you have more than one email address, first please make sure you are logging in using the same address you used to register. Try using your other email address(es) even if you don’t think you intentionally entered another one. Also, it is possible that your browser’s autofill option overwrote your email with another (i.e., a parent’s) email, so you might try those too.

If you are able to log in to some but not all parts of the application, or if the page simply reloads, try clearing cookies/cache from your browser, and make sure your browser is set to allow cookies from Or try using a different browser or a different computer to log in.

Please do not register a second account to try to solve log in issues. In some cases your first registration did not go through, but check before you start again, or if you do create a second account let us know so we can delete one.

Applicants with two accounts risk having application pieces logged in two different places and not having either application marked complete.  Email for additional help.

After you Apply

A. Yes, as long as the rest of your application is received by the deadline, you may email a scan or screen shot of your subsequent test report to

A. From the Admissions tab select Application Status on the left menu to see which application parts have been logged for you. After an application piece arrives, it can take up to a week for us to open, process, and log it, so wait before inquiring.

A. Before the deadline, you may log in and enter the new test scores into the online form, and email a screen capture or scan of the score report to admissions [at] ssp [dot] org. After the deadline, you may write a note in the box provided when you check your application status.

A. Each application is read and carefully considered by an Admissions Committee of volunteer alumni and former faculty.

A. About 5-6 weeks after the deadline, we will update your application status and email decisions to applicants. Log in to check.

A. Everyone on our Alternate List is qualified to attend, and some will be offered admission. But you should have a backup plan for the summer.

During the Program

A. Yes. Complete travel instructions (and lots of other instructions) are sent to admitted students with their enrollment documents.

A. No. SSP is an “immersion experience”. During the program students stay super busy; there is “unscheduled time” but little “free time”. You can count on carving out no more than about half an hour a day for a purely personal activity. Really. You should arrive with no other commitments to worry about for the duration.

A. SSP welcomes participants from any religious tradition, but cannot accommodate every religious practice. Attending a local service on Sunday morning is likely possible if there is one operating nearby; attending on Friday or Saturday is also possible but harder to arrange because of required lectures, lab work, and field trips.

After the Program

A. Everyone receives a letter of completion. You may request a letter of recommendation from a faculty member.

A. The short answer is no. Preparing participants to enter science fair competitions is not the focus of SSP. Everyone does the same research, with two teammates, though different teams collect data on different targets. For a competition, you would need to extend that research afterward in some unique way. Some participants have done that.

A. Absolutely! You’ll be a friend and colleague of 35 amazing people from around the world, and a member-for-life of an amazing network. It’s a like a secret club of high-achieving, interesting people of all ages. You’ll encounter fellow SSPers in college and very likely in your career too. You might return to SSP as a Teaching Assistant and Residential Mentor, or just visit on Open House Day. Hopefully you will volunteer, and donate what you can each year to help the next group of young people have their own “educational experience of a lifetime.”