Carnegie Mellon University

Challenge yourself. Earn college credit. Prepare for college success.

Program Overview

Pre-College Summer Session provides high school students with the unique opportunity to take summer courses offered by Carnegie Mellon University for credit.

Students earn college credit while working in an academic setting that mirrors the supportive, rigorous environment of the first year of college. Every summer, Summer Session offers approximately thirty courses from academic disciplines across the university, including in science, humanities, social science, engineering, computer science, and technology applied to the arts. Successful Summer Session students leverage their experiences to demonstrate their ability to succeed in college. Upon successful completion of a course, they receive college credit at Carnegie Mellon University, which is transferable to other institutions that accept CMU college courses for credit.


The Summer Session program is comprised of undergraduate-level Carnegie Mellon courses. The courses are the same ones taken during the fall and spring by Carnegie Mellon students, usually in their first or second years. Students will receive the same rigorous, college-level work as an undergraduate student studying at Carnegie Mellon. All of the Summer Session instructors are vetted by their respective academic departments, and the majority of them are Carnegie Mellon professors who teach these courses during the academic year. 

Students request their courses after admission to the program, as part of the enrollment process completed in the spring (generally February or March).

Students living on campus must remain enrolled in two courses throughout the entire summer. Students living at home (who must have a permanent local address) may enroll in one or two courses. Two courses completed in six weeks is as academically demanding as a full-time undergraduate course schedule.

Courses offered remain relatively similar from year to year. Please see our 2023 Summer Session course list. We do not offer any courses online.

Please note that admittance into Pre-College Summer Session does not guarantee admittance to Carnegie Mellon within the Undergraduate Admission process.

Eligibility and Application Requirements

To be eligible for Pre-College Summer Session, students must: 

  • Be at least 16 years old by the program start date.
  • Be a current sophomore or junior in high school at time of application submission.
  • Be in good academic standing and exhibit the ability to succeed in rigorous, fast-paced coursework.

The application for Pre-College Summer Session consists of the following:

  • Completed online application
  • Unofficial transcript
  • Standardized test scores (optional)
  • One letter of recommendation
  • Responses to essay prompts

Essays are required for the following prompts (300-500 words each):

  • What do you hope to gain from participating in Carnegie Mellon’s Pre-College Programs?
  • What has prepared you for the challenge of rigorous college-level courses?

How difficult is the coursework

In Summer Session, students have the opportunity to take actual Carnegie Mellon courses, often alongside undergraduate students. While most students will be challenged due to the college rigor and pace of the six-week courses, the university seeks to support the education of everyone accepted into the program. If you have questions about the difficulty of the program, please contact the Program Director. We would be happy to discuss further.

What is the grading policy for Pre-College Sumer Session?

Each instructor will announce their grading policy in their course syllabus for determining letter grades (A, B, C, D, and R, with no + or – grades) based upon student performance. Pre-College Summer Session courses cannot be taken on an Audit or Pass/Fail basis. At the end of the program, instructors will submit all grades to the University Registrar. The University Registrar will only retain A and B grades on students' permanent record via the official Carnegie Mellon transcript of grades. No C, D, nor R grades will be recorded. It will be possible to have C grades officially recorded on a student’s Carnegie Mellon transcript, but a request to do this must be made by the student to the University Registrar within one year after the program ends. A grade of C is generally an “average” grade for a course and is considered a passing grade. The C grade will count for academic credit at Carnegie Mellon, but may not count as transfer credit depending on the policy of other institutions. This Pre-College Summer Session grading policy is not the normal grading policy for undergraduate Carnegie Mellon students, but rather a special policy for the Pre-College students seeking to test their backgrounds and skills in challenging university courses without the penalty of failure or low grades.

How many classes can students take? Is there a limit?

Students who enroll in two courses (between 9 and 12 units each, comparable to three to four credits each at other colleges and universities) will experience fast-paced academic work. Two courses in six weeks will be similar to five courses in fifteen weeks, which is a typical workload for degree-seeking undergraduate students at Carnegie Mellon. Students may enroll in up to 23 units.

We recommend that students enrolled in two courses focus on this program during the six weeks. Do not plan to engage in other studies during Summer Session, including preparation for standardized tests or major school assignments. You will be taking college classes and it is necessary to focus on this.

Is it possible to have a job while attending Pre-College Summer Session?

Students enrolled in two full courses should not plan to have a summer job. Students enrolled in fewer than two full courses may wish to consider a part-time summer job.

Will the college credits be transferable?

Every university and college has the authority to determine its own policies about whether to accept credits from another institution of higher education.

While it is therefore impossible to state definitively that these college credits will transfer elsewhere, the following statements are true:

  • Carnegie Mellon considers these to be college credits.
  • Carnegie Mellon offers rigorous coursework.
  • Carnegie Mellon is a widely recognized institution.
  • In order to make a strong case for transfer credits, a student must do well in the course and have that grade recorded.

What if my child decides they don't like the courses they are taking?

With the permission of the academic program director, students may be able to change classes during the first two days of the program. Such changes are subject to space availability and academic appropriateness.