Seeking a Summer Academic Program

Parent Q&A

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  • Hi, interested in recent (post COVID) experiences your teen has had with residential summer programs with an academic focus, like a CTY or similar, with a pre-college feel - living in dorms or similar. Seeking something like this for one or both of my teens, who combined cover interests in both humanities and STEM, so we're pretty open as to subject matter. Not ATDP (not residential and too close to home). Thx!

    Good question! My child's experience was pre-COVID, but I've referred others to the program and their children have had very good experiences post-COVID.

    I highly recommend The School of the New York Times for academically motivated, emotionally mature, and independent high school students. The program is selective and requires a lengthy application. The experience is very structured with a lot of classroom and organized social time. The class offerings and instructors are phenomenal. Behavior expectations are high. Students are well vetted to be set up for success. Discipline is positive and swift (example: on student caught vaping was sent home same day). Best of all, the students get an MTA pass and have full access to all that NY has to offer during their free time. They have to check in/out and be with a buddy. My child attended two summers and found the experiences to be the best of her high school years.

  • Hi, 

    We are a family from Europe that moved here last year. My 7y old is currently in first grade and a little behind on math and reading. Anyone that can suggest an (in-person) academic summercamp in the Berkeley/Albany/El Cerrito area? We are aware of tutoring options, but looking for a class setting to make it more fun for our kiddo (and sell him our idea :). Any leads are welcome. Thank you! 

    Is your child in BUSD? Summer school plus aftercare could be an option for you if you are. It's open to all BUSD students. (This is the link to last summer's info; I don't think this summer's is up yet, but you could call the district.)…

    I'm assuming that Albany and El Cerrito—if you're in one of those districts—have similar offerings. We're in the OUSD and I've received both a text and email about summer school as an option (my kid is also in first grade and was a little behind/was in the reading intervention program, and I think that's why we may have been flagged for priority on summer school.)

    ATDP might be a good option for a low-pressure class setting at the elementary level, though it's a little north of you in Richmond. 

  • My 5th grade son is somewhat interested in overnight camp, but also a little hesitant.  Camp is always a hard sell for him, so I want to find some he will really love this summer - overnight or day camp.  He tolerates all the outdoorsy stuff we do as a family, but got really excited at the prospect of some kind of camp on a college campus.  Does anyone know of any overnight "camp" programs that might be on a college campus like Cal or Stanford or Sonoma State or Davis?  Or an overnight camp program that has academic focus? He's also expressed interest in the Bay Area Writing project day camps, so I'm hoping there are some in person this year.

    I think he sounds like the ideal customer for ATDP.

    CTY had some really bad last minute cancellations in summer 2022, otherwise I'd recommend looking into those programs. I think they need a rebuilding year.

    My daughter loved the Great Book Summer Program (hosted at Stanford and other colleges as well).  It starts for children about to enter 6th grade, so your son is just now older enough.  Some of the sessions have a writing emphasis, but all read and discuss books (and philosophy!) My daughter found her people and looked forward to going every summer.  One caveat:  it's expensive, but for us was worth it.

  • We are looking into sending our son to  a college residential camp program this summer in something with computers (motion graphics etc).  Do you have any to recommend?  Thanks

    My son did various Digital Media Academy camps at Stanford as a younger teen. In high school he did a pre-college program at Emerson (Boston) which he loved and one at Cal Arts (CSSSA). There are pre-college programs all over the country. They usually are talent-based and can be very expensive. CSSSA is one of the most affordable but also very hard to get in. My son gave it mixed reviews but many youth love the program. 

  • My husband and I would like to give our 8th grader some educational support this summer to prepare for high school. He's an average student at the moment and we fear that without help he'll be below average in the future. Do you have recommendations for a summer tutoring course for kids entering high school, preferably near Berkeley, El Cerrito, Albany? Would also appreciate recs of places to avoid. Thanks!

    We recommend Mentoring Academy, near Rockridge Bart. They are also an excellent high school, but have a summer bridge program. Enjoy!

    We were in a very similar place last summer (our son is now a 9th grader).  I wasn't able to find an appropriate summer class for him so I decided to continue on with our tutor that we had just started with earlier that spring, Janet Stephens.  She was working with our son on pre-algebra over the spring but she also works with students to strengthen their reading and writing.  So they continued meeting almost weekly over the summer but focused more on language arts:  he read a book, they discussed it, and they worked on short writing assignments.  In August, they picked up math so that he was ready for Algebra on day 1.

    He has been seeing Janet throughout this school year on a weekly basis, and we will continue to do so thru the summer, and probably 10th grade.  In addition to math and English, Janet has also helped him with a few of the more challenging Biology topics.  Finally, Janet has been wonderful in helping him to improve his organizational skills, especially with assisting him to plan ahead as he juggles schoolwork and a pretty intense athletic schedule.  And as a parent, I greatly appreciate that she provides weekly feedback on what they are working on.

    Her website is:


    I highly recommend Kevin Arnold, the lead tutor of Berkeley Community Tutor, for his professional and effective work with teens -- especially for high school prep, executive functioning coaching, and persuasive writing lessons. Kevin has a wealth of experience as a Berkeley High School teacher, as well as the fact that he's effective and engaging and also fun for my son who is quite particular about who he opens up to. Finding an enjoyable and light-hearted, yet truly professional tutor is not easy. 510-495-7923 

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Elementary School High School

Summer Academic Programs for Kids in Elementary School

Seeking Academic Summer Camp for Rising K and 3rd

Feb 2014

We're seeking recommendations for summer camps with an academic focus for elementary students (one child entering K and the other entering 3rd in the fall). Both children have been attending a small private Montessori, but we have decided to switch to public school in the fall to accommodate our family's long-term financial goals. We are hoping that working on reading, writing, and math in a small class setting over several weeks this summer might help ease their transition from Montessori methods/materials to a not-so-Montessori/traditional classroom. We are pretty flexible on location, cost and schedule. Does anyone have experience with The Academy's summer academic camp? Any other recommendations? Thanks!

I recommend checking out Camp Brainy Bunch, at Oxford Elementary this summer. Chris

Academic camp/summer schools for K-2nd graders?

June 2013

Are there any all-day academics-based summer camps or summer school for Kinder - 2nd grade ages? I'm looking for something in either Berkeley or Albany. My child is in BUSD kindergarten, entering first grade in fall. He is a little behind in reading (some difficulty even with 3-4 letter words), writing, alphabet recognition, etc. I am seeking ways to help him with these skills and to keep him from losing ground during the break. I need M-F full time care (8 am -5:30 p.m.) because of my job. Our Berkeley Public School offers summer school (BEARS program), but only for low income families -- If I had more than one kid, we might qualify, but with an only child, we are not eligible. He will be in play-based child care/camp the rest of the summer. I'm also open to Saturday or Sunday morning lessons of an hour or two per week. Thanks!

You might consider one of the science/art camps like Lawrence Hall of Science or MOCHA, Sarah's Science, or a theater camp like StageDoor. Any of those camps would help with following directions, reading directions, and sequencing of actions. Although it isn't quite as direct, your son will learn and build academic skills in a fun way. Then you could supplement this with some tutoring in the fall if it is needed. anon

Academic summer program for 9 year old

June 2011

I am looking for an all-day (8 a.m. to 6 p.m.) summer program with an emphasis on academics. For a 9-year-old, preference in the East Bay. Any suggestions? Thanks.

UC Berkeley has a great program- Academic Talent Development Program (ATDP). It's an excellent, three week, accelerated academic program. Definitely worth checking out. Kids can pick from a variety of classes, (one class for the entire session) organized by grade/age. Classes are 1/2 day and you can supplement with a UC sports camp on site, for a full day. Last year my 9 year old son took an anatomy class. They dissected fresh eyeballs and other animal organs provided by a local butcher. Melissa

In March Parents' Press had an extensive list of Summer Camps available in the East Bay. Under the Academic heading, here were the choices that fit your criteria:

- Education Unlimited Summer Academic Programs - 510-548-6612 -

- Head-Royce School Summer Program - 510-531-1300 ext. 2500 -

- Orinda Academy Summer School - 925-254-7553 -

- The Academy - 510-549-0605 -

All highly esteemed programs. Best of luck with your search. Hope this helps. CC

Contra Costa College for Kids have a great summer program. This year there will be only one session offered in July because of budget cuts. My 7 years old daughter will be attending. Good selections of classes to choose from. Here's the link:

They are very professional and always promptly response to my email questions. Contact them at: collegeforkids [at] Or (510)235-7800 ext 4564 Elizabeth

Summer Camp with academic focus for 8 year old?

April 2011

My 8 year old son (he'll be a third grader in the fall) could use a day camp with an academic focus for a least a few weeks this summer. I checked into Head-Royce's program but it is already full for his age group; he did Academic All Stars last summer and it was a so-so experience (nice people, but academic portion pretty weak and inconsistent). Looking in the Oakland/Alameda/Berkeley area only. Thanks-- -Kristen

The Academic Talent Development Program at UC is great. The application deadline just passed, but it's possible that not all the classes for his age are full. It's the last 3 weeks of July.

Summer camp w/academics for incoming 6th grader

Feb 2010

I am looking for an academic summer camp for a student starting 6th grade next fall. Something like the Head- Royce program which offers middle school transition courses would be ideal but it is only offered one session when the student is not available. We are particularly interested in building organizational, reading and writing skills. Thank you. concerned

not sure if this meets your exact criteria but check out ATDP (academic talent development) a UC Berkeley summer program with academic topic choices for each grade level... held in Pt. Richmond. Our daughter is younger but loved the class she took last year. They have to apply, get recs., and do homework but it is also felt fun and low stress. chris

Summer programs for gifted 4th grader

Feb 2007

I need a challenge for my son this summer. He is ''gifted'' and is not challenged at all in the Albany school; he's in 4th grade at Oceanview. He works ahead in the ''Challenge'' program, as they refer to it. But I want ''him'' to be with other children like himself and challenged by other children's minds and thinking for once. I would like him be in a community with other children like himself. What about this summer 2007 ? Does anyone have any good experiences with gifted summer programs around the bay area ? Kimberly

Education Unlimited is based in Berkeley and runs academic and artistic summer programs both at Stanford University and UC Berkeley. Their number is 510.548.6612. Most programs are overnight, but there are day-camps too (usually 8:30am - 7pm, and some programs have shorter day options 9-5ish). For elementary school kids there is a Public Speaking Camp, Computer Camp, and Sally Ride Science Camps. If the student is entering middle school, there is also an Acting Camp, and A+ Summer Middle School which is a critical thinking program where they do reading, writing, and logic/problem solving projects.

My son has always enjoyed the Academic Talent Development Program(ATDP) run by UC Berkeley. Experienced, enthusiastic local teachers teach different classes. Check it out at Good luck

Summer Academics for Gifted 7yr old

April 2005

Any suggestions for summer activites/camps/classes for a gifted 7yr old boy? Loves math, construction toys, crosswords and puzzles. Nothing too pricey please - trying to balance cost (we are living on one pretty small income right now) with enrichment. Thanks! Mom in N. Oakland

My son had a wonderful experience with the summer camp at the Academy , around the corner from Willard Park in Berkeley. The morning consists of an academic program. Incoming 3rd and 4th graders will be taught by an author of childrens' books (and popular but occasional subsitute teacher at the Academy), Doug Evans. My son took the program for entering 5th and 6th graders, half of which was taught by a math teacher, the other half by the English teacher. Both programs were very structured and paced according to the skills level of the individual child. Both teachers were great. One can pick up one's child at noon or childcare & other programs, such as swim lessons (or just water play at Willard Pool), are available until 6 PM, and there are outings such as ice! -skating on Fridays. You pay for extras, but the basic childcare of hanging around the yard is also good. The after-care staff (who work year-round) have been with the school, one for 20 years, the other for about 10. One of them is an older man who helps kids with basketball. You are charged only for as much after care as you actually use, though you get a better price if you pay for it in advance. (But you'll be refunded whatever portion you don't use). My athletic kid had more fun there than he did at Golden Bear, which he went to the previous summer. xp

Summer Academic Programs for High Schoolers

College programs for rising 10th graders

Jan 2014

Has anyone sent their child to the Explo at Yale summer program? My daughter's friend might be going this year and is trying to talk my daughter into going with her. (Both will be between 9th and 10th grade this summer.)

My main concern is value. It is expensive. And it is 3 weeks long. I want to know how it will benefit my daughter academically and creatively. I can certainly send her to a local camp if fun is the main goal. I can't see sending her back east and spending $5k for her to have an experience she can have locally for less.

Also, what might be the best age for programs like this one? Is 15 too young? She has been away from home without us before (camps and a London/Paris trip with a group last summer), so I'm not too worried about her ability to cope. It is just that if we are going to splurge, I want it to be at a time/age when she'll benefit most.

-- And if you have sent to your child to a different program, but similar in that it is at a name college and boasts lots of academic and creative classes & workshops, please feel free to share your thoughts on such programs in general. -- Thank you!

UC Berkeley and UC Davis let anyone enroll for summer classes who has completed at least the junior year of high school. It's expensive but definitely transferable credits, and could be very interesting. One of our kid's friends took neurobiology at UC Davis that way.

As a rising senior our son actually lived in the UCB dorms one summer (they are expensive too!) and took a class and worked. It was maybe too much freedom (he hung out with rich European kids), but we felt better knowing that if anything went really wrong, we were 15 minutes away. Everyone survived.

Stanford has some summer programs for rising seniors, I've heard. That's just my two cents.

Anyone had their Teen Take UC Berkeley Summer Classes?

March 2013

Am wondering about my Highschooler take one of the UC Berkeley Summer classes, maybe Philosophy. Do any of you have experience with these classes? Are some better then others? Thank you!! Curious

My teen has never taken a UC Berkeley summer class, but I've taught upper division summer courses. These courses are full, 15-week semester college level courses compressed into a 6- or 8- week timeframe. In other words, you're doing 15 weeks worth of work in something like 40-50% of that amount of time. The pace is fierce. If your teen is interested in doing this, or wants the college application strengthener, this could be a good option. If it is you, not your teen, who wants this, or if either of you think this is a good way to gain a gentle introduction to college, I'd advise against it. Think about it: midterm exams 3 weeks into the subject matter. Classes that meet 3 days a week - often 3 consecutive days - for 3 hours at a time, with little time to absorb the material. Everything on a condensed timeframe: readings, written assignments, everything. I think of it as Olympic level college. In my experience, students take the summer courses because it allows them to: a) get courses that are always overenrolled during the school year, and/or b) graduate in 4 years or less, or c) they failed something and don't want to wait another semester to graduate. Because I've only taught upper-division summer courses I've never had a high school student in one of my classes, but I'd urge you and your teen to do your homework about the specific course of interest before making this decision. Other side of the lectern

It's quite common for local kids to take UC summer courses. A friend's kid took Neuroscience before his high school senior year. Both of my high schoolers took a college course in English, which I think improved their college applications. ANYONE can sign up for a summer class and then move into the UC dorms, although it's quite expensive, but it saved our relationship with our 16-yr-old son to do it. He took one UC summer class (Film Noir?), did his summer reading and papers for high school AP English in the dorm, and worked his downtown retail job. After a couple of weeks son started dropping by to sleep, eat, do laundry, and visit. He became more tolerant and tolerable as he gained psychological distance. Plus we were still nearby in case anything bad happened. Nothing did, although we were considerably startled to find out (months later) that he went skydiving in Napa with a crowd of rich, visiting European students. UC summer classes are a great idea.

Another great option for high school students is to take one of the Academic Talent Development Program (ATDP) classes at UCB in the summer. These are for K-12 kids and can count for high school credit if the school approves. Much less pressure but still challenging. Lauren

Summer college programs for high school senior

March 2011

Can you please recommend any colleges in California/West Coast who have good summer programs for a High School Junior in June. She only has three weeks in June for a program and would love a college campus learning/living experience. It could also be an older teen program not on campus but with a focus on learning -- computers/digital learning/art all good. She's not interested in the Tech groups who use campuses in the summer unless it's geared to a higher level (she did one of the Tech camps at UC Berkeley a few summers back and it was terrible). We appreciate your thoughts and recommendations. anon

Did you know that anyone who has completed junior year of high school can enroll in UC Berkeley summer classes? There are multiple overlapping summer school terms. Check out the summer schedule to see if one works for you. There might be classes or times you like better at different UCs, but only Cal finishes spring semester in May. Also, anyone enrolled in a summer school class can apply to live in the dorms. Expensive but fun. Lotta European kids, too. Been there

Summer High School Chemistry Course?

Feb 2007

My sophomore has got the idea of taking Chemistry/AP Chemistry during the summer, with the theory that this would lighten the homework load for junior year. Is this possible? A good idea? Have experience with any schools/colleges offering Chemistry as a summer course?

Before you sign your kid up for chemistry over the summer, check to see how hard it will be to get it onto his/her transcript. Many school districts frown on this because they see it as a threat because it reduces the number of kids taking a particular course. Both of my kids have friends who have taken classes over the summer through UC, Vista (now Berkeley City College?), DVC, and Contra Costa. Just be sure you can get it to count first. Cathy

Summer college programs for high schooler

Feb 2005

My 11th grader would do well in a challenging summer program that offers college credit and treats the kids like adults -- but has on-site housing and some oversight to reassure her parents. Language programs are one possiblity (child is good in Spanish and Italian, could add French). Education or community service a plus. Pleae suggest anything in NYC, LA, Canada, or someplace comparable. Hope not to break the bank. planning ahead

My daughter attended a summer session at The University of Chicago between her junior and senior years and recommends the program highly. There are two options, and college credit is given for both. The first is to select courses from the regular summer offerings. The second, which my daughter chose, is to take an intesive, hands-on course open only to high school students. Students live in a centrally-located, air-conditioned dorm. There is good supervision, a well-enforced curfew, and a comprehensive orientation, which enable the students to (safely) explore Chicago -- either independently in groups or with the many excursions offered by the program. Students seemed to enjoy a variety of courses. I never heard of any complaints. The program (and the University as a whole) attracts students who want challenging courses. Her course required serious work, including lots of reading and a research paper, but it was also fun. She made friends and had time to explore the city, eat out, shop, and go out to hear music. In my daughter's case, the program was a chance to try out the University before applying for colleges, and she's now a first-year student there.