Is SSP for You?

in the control room
Collaboration in the observatory control room


Current sophomores and juniors are eligible to apply, if they will have completed the coursework listed below by summer. Very few sophomores are admitted. Current freshmen and seniors are not eligible. Only coursework taken for credit and a grade is considered. All applicants must have math through at least precalculus.

Research in
Year in School when applying
Astrophysics junior (11th grade) calculus or physics
Astrophysics sophomore (10th grade) calculus and physics
Biochemistry junior or sophomore biology and chemistry

See the FAQs to understand why we require calculus for sophomores but not juniors.

2018 Program Dates

Campus Arrival Departure
New Mexico Tech (Astrophysics) June 17 July 25
Purdue Univ. (Biochemistry) June 17 July 25
Univ. of Colorado (Astrophysics) June 24 Aug. 1

Unfortunately, we cannot accommodate late arrivals, absences, or early departures – see the FAQs.

Imagine yourself …

  • living and working in a close-knit community drawn from around the world, everyone just as interesting and motivated as you are, united by curiosity and exploration …
  • immersing yourself in a fascinating, challenging research project …
  • helping your teammates and being helped in turn, collaborating rather than competing …
  • learning more and learning it faster than you ever thought possible, feeling intellectually challenged as you never have before…

In the classroom

The “SSP experience” accelerates your academic and personal development as you approach important life decisions. Afterwards you will really know whether a STEM major at a selective university is your path – or not. And you will gain practical skills, such as time management, that will help you succeed in college and beyond.

Applications are free and open to gifted and talented high school juniors and sophomores, excelling in math and science courses. There is a program fee, but generous need-based financial aid allows students from lower-income families to attend at a fee they can afford. Some attend absolutely free.

Collaboration in the computer lab
Collaboration in the computer lab

SSP is challenging – material is presented at a pace faster than most college courses, and the schedule is jam-packed – but every participant receives a high level of personal attention from the seven resident faculty, so no one is left behind. The spirit of cooperation is reinforced by the absence of grades or tests.

Should you apply? If the idea of spending most of your summer doing science excites you, and you meet the pre-requisites, then why not? We will carefully evaluate your application holistically and in context, taking in account your motivation, resources, and obstacles overcome. Every year, some people are surprised to be admitted – maybe that will be you! But since we have many more applicants than spots available, you will need a backup plan too.

SSP t-shirts
SSP-wear in the airport on departure day.

Whom do we admit?

To be admitted, you should be earning top grades in the most advanced math & science courses available to you. Your standardized test scores in math and science should also be strong. However, we do not require any test. We do look for scientific pursuits outside of the classroom, and evidence of good character and motivation. We take into account any circumstances that may have presented obstacles to your academic achievements, such as limited resources in your family or school. The application will provide an opportunity to explain your unique circumstances.

two teams taking observations at the Boulder observatory
two teams taking observations at the Boulder observatory

We seek a diverse community at each campus. Women, and those from racial and ethnic groups that are traditionally underrepresented in science, are especially encouraged to apply. We do not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, color, sexual orientation, or national or ethnic origin in admissions or financial aid. 

We do not necessarily admit those applicants with the longest résumé or highest test scores – every year we turn away some with perfect test scores. Given two equally promising and motivated applicants, we will admit the one who is likely to benefit more from SSP. For more on who should apply or not, see the FAQs.

Note: we typically have >25 times more applicants from China and India than we can accommodate. Keep that in mind when deciding whether to apply.