California State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA)

Outside the Bay Area

Parent Reviews

Parents, Sign in to post a review on this page.

Sometimes ATDP has good summer writing classes. We had good luck with 826 Valencia, in San Francisco. In high school, there is the State Summer School for the Arts, which is at Cal Arts. That was a wonderful program, where the teachers really understood how to create a space for young people to write. They are starting a writing workshop at the San Pablo Branch of the Contra Costa County library. There is also a student writing workshop at the Mill Valley Library. Ideally, you will find workshop/class led by a writer, rather than someone who wants to "teach" and focuses on the kind of goals that are necessary in school, but aren't helpful in creative writing.

This recommendation is too late for this year, but there is a little known (around here) but excellent program available to all HS students called California State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA). It's a month long residential program, held at Cal Arts in Valencia. Admission is competitive, and the applications take place in the winter. They accept around 70 students in the creative writing program, 70 in dance, 70 in music, 70 in fine arts, 70 in acting, and 70 in animation. Students are housed in the dorms. It's a great pre-college learning experience. Tuition is very reasonable, and there are scholarships available.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Feedback on CSSSA?

Jan 2013

Our daughter is thinking of applying to CSSSA and we're wondering what sorts of experiences others have had there. Any and all feedback--on quality of classes, living arrangements, social interactions, general happiness- and interest-level of participants, etc. - greatly appreciated! Ellen

My daughter participated in CSSSA 4 summers ago and it was a great experience. She enjoyed being surrounded by kids interested in the arts. It was also a good opportunity to see what dorm life and being away from home was like (so probably good for summer of junior year). There were also field trips, guest lectures and performances. She was able to get 3 CSU units and gained the designation of being a California Arts Scholar. The tuition is modest and they offer a lot of full scholarships based on income so I think it is also a more diverse group than you might find at summer programs elsewhere. The students do have to audition or put together a couple of portfolio items and get a teacher recommendation. It is really a great opportunity for young artists. artist's mom

My son did visual art and loved it; friends have done music and loved it as well. My son had about 36 hours of classes a week, using 5 different media. At the time, he said it felt like art school (but what did he know about that?) He also did Oxbow twice, and my daughter did Oxbow 3 times, and they both did other assorted art programs. Please feel free to contact me directly about more specifics, the difference between different programs, etc. wendy

My daughter attended CSSSA two summers ago (in Creative Writing) and I'm not exaggerating when I say it was a life changing experience for her. I think she felt she found ''her people,'' and loved learning and living with other artists (I think she had one roommate who was a dancer, one who was a filmmaker and one visual artist). In her own classes, she felt strongly inspired to stretch and grow and came back with a number of new pieces. Living in the dorms also helped her more independent self emerge, and helped gear her toward college, as she could now really see herself as a college student.

I am also a high school teacher, and last summer I knew 2 kids who participated in CSSSA (one in instrumental music, one in film) and they also had fabulous experiences. It is a very competitive process, so it's important that the application is well done and shows the student's best work. (And a big plus: because it is state sponsored, it's pretty inexpensive, relatively speaking, compared to any other equivalent program of this quality. My daughter also received 3 units of college credit from CS Humboldt). -Three Cheers for CSSSA

My daughter was at CSSSA this summer (2012). It was transformative! She was in the creative writing section - play writing emphasis. She went between her junior and senior year (she goes to BHS - kids come from all kinds of backgrounds and are from all over CA). CSSSA is somewhat competitive to get into and the application process is kind of daunting (she had to write 10 separate pieces to be reviewed by 3 writers), but wow, wow, wow was it a great experience for her. The kids work their behinds off while they are there, but imagine 500 talented kids (writers, film, visual arts, dance, instrumentalists, vocalists, theater) collaborating across artistic fields and with professionals for one month and living on a college campus - I wanted to go! It's a hidden gem of a program. Sara

My daughter attended CSSSA one summer and it was one of the very best programs she ever attended. the quality of the art instruction was stellar, she loved her instructors, and had a great time with friends. and if the price is still as low as it was a few years ago, it's a program most definitely worth applying to -- good luck! Andrea

Nov 2010

Re: Oakland School for the Arts
Somewhat off-topic, but you might want to check out Innerspark/California State Summer School for the Arts ( It's an affordable 4-week summer program in southern California. A friend sent her son, and he took a music theory course as well as regular music classes. My son did visual art, and had 36 hours of class a week! It's intense, but all the kids I know who went there had fun and learned a lot. Mom of an artsy student

Jan 2002

I teach at a program called California State Summer School for the Arts. (CSSSA). This is an arts organization held for one month every summer. Last year four Berkeley High School students attended. I've taught there eight years. CSSSA offers, fine arts, dance, music, creative writing, film/video, animation, theatre. Students do not get high school credit but can receive 3 units for college. If you are interested, look at their website, . You can also email me for any questions. Aida

I live in Berkeley and my son is a student at BHS. I teach at the California State Summer School for the Arts(CSSSA),a program for high school students interested in the arts.I've taught there for the last seven years. This program offers classes in visual arts, music, dance, creative writing, film/video, animation, and theatre. CSSSA is a state run program, so it receives money from the state, donations from corporations as well as a tuition fee charged to the students. CSSSA sends information to all the high schools in the bay area but many schools don't pass that information to the students and parents. Its a great program if any of your teens are interested in the arts. The students are emersed in their majors six days a week. Its extremely disciplined, with classes starting around 9am and students working on their projects til 9pm. Of course theres breakfast,lunch and dinner breaks. Students must apply and send in slides, photos or video of their work. They also need letters of recommendations from their teachers. They can only participate in one of the majors listed above. I teach in the visual arts. WIthin the visual arts you can major in photography, painting, sculpture, ceramics, computers arts and printmaking. The program is held at CalArts which is located in Southern California. Its about thirty minutes north of Los Angeles. The classes are taught by professionals in their fields. Working artists, writers, musicians, etc. Its a four week program held every summer. Tuition is around $1400.00 for the month. I'm not sure of the exact amount. The tuition includes the classes, room and board. Visual arts students pay an extra $65 material fee. There are scholarships, that pay anywhere from a fourth to almost the entire tuition.

If you're interested in knowing more about CSSSA, check out their web site at . You can request an application through the web site. If you have any questions about the visual arts program or any general questions you can contact me at gogogamez [at] Thanks, Aida

I'm glad someone mentioned CSSSA in the last newsletter. My son participated in the Creative Writing program of CSSSA several years ago. I think he enjoyed it. It was competitive to get into at that time. I had looked into other Creative Writing programs and they were 3 to 4 times more expensive. It's a very stimulating atmosphere and I think it was a good opportunity to have a college like experience while still in high school. I would highly recommend it and suggest you look into it shortly. My recollection is there is an early application deadline and for most programs you need an extensive portfolio. Good Luck. Dibsy