Frequently Asked Questions

Read through the SSP webpages, then browse the below FAQs or contact the SSP office (617-495-3192 or if your question has not yet been answered.

Questions by category:

Application and admission

May recommendations from more than one teacher be submitted?

Yes. The application asks for a report from a counselor or school head. If you wish to submit additional recommendations, you may.

Is there a class at Harvard on preparing for the SAT?

Although there is no course specifically geared to the SAT, you may find the college prep workshop Preparing for and Taking Tests and Exams in College helpful. You may also choose to enroll in Harvard’s noncredit course Reading and Study Strategies.
This popular and traditional course includes instruction on strategies for taking several kinds of tests, as well as guidance on many other topics (such as time management and in-class notes) designed to enable students to perform better both in college and in high school.

Will attending the Secondary School Program guarantee admission to Harvard?

No, there is no relation between admission to the Secondary School Program and admission to the freshman class at Harvard College.
However, attending Harvard Summer School and performing well will strengthen your application to any college or university. Additionally, the Secondary School Program offers many opportunities designed to help you navigate the college-application process, gain admission to the college of your choice, and enhance your performance once enrolled in college.

Is financial aid available?

Yes, Secondary School Program students who are US citizens or permanent residents are eligible for Secondary School Program financial aid. Before applying for financial aid, it is important to understand the policy. If applying for financial aid, complete your Secondary School Program application by March 23. Completed financial aid applications are also due by March 23. See Financial Aid for instructions on how to apply.

Are you able to waive the $50 application fee for students in need of financial aid?

Unfortunately, we cannot waive the application fee for any applicant.

May homeschooled students apply?

Yes, we welcome applications from students who are being schooled at home. Adults in the student’s life, other than family, may be asked to submit a letter of recommendation. One or two letters are sufficient.

I haven’t taken the PSAT, the ACT, or the SAT yet. May I still apply?


Do I have to take the TOEFL?

Summer School courses are intensive and fast-paced, and most involve a great deal of reading and writing. Thus, if you are not a native English speaker, to document your level of English-language proficiency you are required to submit a TOEFL, IELTS, or Pearson PTE Academic score as a component of your Secondary School Program application.

However, you may request a waiver of the language-test requirement. In rare circumstances, such a request may be granted. A form exists for requesting a waiver of the language-test requirement.

May I substitute my score on the SAT Reasoning Test for a TOEFL or IELTS score?

No. However, if you absolutely cannot take the TOEFL, the IELTS, or the Pearson PTE Academic and wish to request that we waive the language-test requirement, please complete and submit the form.

What are the cut-offs for test scores like the TOEFL or my GPA?

The admissions committee does not use a cut-off figure for any test score, or for grade-point averages (GPA). The committee carefully reads the material in a student’s application, then makes an admission decision based on all the evidence, not just on one score alone.

I submitted my application three weeks ago. When will I hear from the Secondary School Program?

The admissions committee reads application files only after all completed forms, including the counselor report and the most recent transcript, have been filed. You may log in to see which of your applications materials have been received. Once an application is complete, it takes approximately two weeks for a decision to be made and recorded. Please be patient.

What does it mean to be waitlisted?

Applicants who are waitlisted have completed their application, but have been placed on a waitlist either because the admissions committee feels that their grades need to show improvement, or because the program has almost reached capacity.
  • Waitlist for grades. Applicants waitlisted for grades should send the Secondary School Program office a copy of their next grade report. We may accept a student whose grades improve upon review of the additional official report.
  • Waitlist for capacity. The lateness of the application and the rate at which the program has filled forces us to put the applicant on the waitlist. The Secondary School Program waitlist is not ranked. In past years the number of students admitted from the waitlist varied greatly. We regret the uncertainty a waitlist entails for applicants. Students who have been waitlisted for capacity should let the Secondary School Program know in writing as soon as possible (e-mail or regular mail) whether they wish to remain on our waitlist. Secondary School Program will contact the applicant if a space opens up.

My application was not successful. Can you tell me why?

Admissions decisions are made on a rolling, first-come, first-served basis and are very competitive. Each year many deserving young people are denied a place in the program.
Because the admissions committee keeps no notes or minutes of their deliberations, the reasons for their decision cannot be explained. Admissions decisions are final and cannot be reversed.

Academics and registration

I understand that students living on campus must be full-time students. How do you define full-time academic status?

A full-time student is enrolled in 8 credits.

Can you give me advice on choosing what courses to take?

Yes, absolutely. Call us. We know the summer courses well, and when you call, we’ll ask questions that will help us get to know you.

  1. First, think about what your academic interests are, and what general subjects you might enjoy learning more about.
  2. Then review the course offerings in those areas. Read the course descriptions and note the prerequisites. Browse other subjects you may not be familiar with.
  3. If you are a junior or senior, review the selection of summer seminars as well.

When you call us, we will work with you to match your interests with our courses.

One note of caution: teachers, parents, mentors, and other adults—though well meaning—may know little or nothing about Harvard courses and may not give you the best advice on what courses to take. Best practice: call us.

Are there any science research opportunities at the Summer School?

Summer seminars offer research opportunities. There are also laboratory science courses offered that will give students the necessary background to do research later.

How do I petition for permission to enroll in a restricted course?

Students can complete the special enrollment request form, which becomes available as one of the SSP forms in late February, before course registration begins. But you must register for the course first. The special enrollment request will be processed after you register for the course. Your registration will be conditional until your special enrollment request is approved.

Should I buy the textbooks for my courses before the first class meeting?

No. You don’t need to have your books before the first class. In fact, it’s better not to purchase textbooks before the first class because (a) you may not purchase the correct edition, (b) you may want to drop/add (switch courses) after the first class, and (c) there may be new information announced during the first class, such as a different book or a new instructor.

Can I get approval to miss a class?

No, the Secondary School Program office cannot approve any request to miss class. The summer semester is fast-paced and intensive, and often there is no way to make up for missed class time, which may involve not only instruction but also quizzes, recitation, in-class exercises, and so on. Furthermore, leaving campus overnight during the week is inconsistent with Secondary School Program policy, and requests to be away from campus on a weeknight are seldom approved.

Also see the Weekends Policy.

When will I receive my grades?

Grades are available online via Summer School online services about two weeks after the close of the academic session. You will need your student ID number and PIN to view and print copies of your grades. Grades are not automatically sent to students at the end of the summer term. You may request official transcripts at no charge by submitting the transcript request form.

Transcripts and transfer credit

I attended the Secondary School Program last summer and am now applying to colleges. How can I have a transcript sent to the colleges I’m applying to?

Order a transcript for each college to which you would like one sent. Fill out the transcript request form.

I’m in college now and want to transfer the Harvard credits I earned while I was a Secondary School Program student. How can I do this?

You will need to check with the registrar’s office at your college or university. That office will almost certainly ask you to provide them with an official Harvard transcript.

Arriving on and leaving campus

I’m flying to Boston. How do I get to the Harvard campus? Will someone pick me up at the airport?

You are responsible for getting yourself to campus. Transportation from Logan Airport to Harvard is safe, fast, and easy.

Taxi is the preferred carrier, especially for those with heavy luggage. The cab ride costs $35 to $40 and takes 15 to 20 minutes.

Public transportation takes longer, but costs only $2.65. The Silver Line will take you from the terminal directly to the Red Line, which goes directly into Harvard Square. (The subway involves a transfer, which is why we recommend a taxi.)

Also see Directions.

Where should I tell the cab driver to take me?

If you are admitted as a residential student, you’ll start your Opening Weekend check-in in Harvard Yard. Watch for e-mail communications in mid-June directing you to detailed Opening Weekend information.

What if I arrive late during Opening Weekend?

Travel to campus should be scheduled so that SSP students can check in during regular check-in hours on Opening Weekend: Saturday, 9am-6pm, and Sunday, noon-4pm. Arrival on Saturday is preferred. If arriving Sunday, checking in before 3pm is strongly recommended.

We understand, however, that delays en route may be unavoidable. In Massachusetts, people not yet 18 years of age are prohibited by law from checking into a hotel unaccompanied by an adult. Therefore, if you are an SSP student with on-campus housing, and you arrive after check-in closes at 6pm Saturday or 4pm Sunday, you should proceed to the Harvard College campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Go to Widener Gate on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge. Widener Gate is behind Widener Library, directly across the street from SEE Eyewear, 1276 Massachusetts Avenue.

Speak with Harvard personnel at Widener Gate, and tell them you are a Secondary School Program student. Security Guards and Summer School staff at Widener Gate will assist you.

If you become lost, call the Harvard University Police Department at 617-495-1212. Explain that you are a Secondary School Program student and have just arrived. Ask the Harvard Police dispatcher for directions to Widener Gate.

May I arrive after Opening Weekend?

No. We regret that we are unable to permit late arrival to the Secondary School Program. Arriving as late as Sunday mid-afternoon is all right, as there is still time to check in, find your room, and attend evening orientation activities. Arriving later, especially into the first week of classes, makes things unmanageable for the student, as well as for roommates, proctors, and faculty. Additionally, missing a class during the first week of the summer term can make catching up and doing well in a course impossible.

May I arrive late if my New York Regents exam conflicts with the first week of classes?

Regrettably, we cannot approve a request to miss a class because of an exam that must be taken off campus. In fact, Secondary School Program cannot approve any request to miss a class. 

However, there is another option. If you are able to arrive in Cambridge during Opening Weekend, settle in, attend the Sunday evening student orientation, go to your first classes, go home and take your New York State Regents exams, and return to campus without missing any class meetings, your request for an overnight absence will likely be approved.

After you arrive on campus, go over your plan with your Secondary School Program assistant dean as soon as possible. (You will meet your dean during the Sunday evening orientation, if not before.) Your dean will need to know 1) when you will leave, 2) how you will travel, 3) where you will go, and 4) when you will return. Remember that your plan should ensure that you do not miss any class meetings.

May I leave campus for an overnight stay with family or friends?

Like college students, Secondary School Program students are not restricted to campus. Having dinner off campus with a parent or friend is okay on any night. Going away and sleeping off campus overnight, however, requires approval of an Secondary School Program assistant dean.

Details of the Secondary School Program overnight leave policy are spelled out on the Weekends Policy page and in the student handbook, which is available when you arrive on campus and online before the summer term begins.

My high school begins in August before the end of the exam period. May I leave Harvard early to start the fall term back home?

You may leave campus immediately after your last exam. In exceptional cases, students who cannot be in Cambridge at the time of a final examination may petition to take the exam in absentia.

I’m making my travel arrangements. When may I plan to leave campus?

Students often leave campus within a few hours of their last final exam.

Will I need any kind of ID for Opening Weekend check-in?

Yes. To check in and receive your Harvard ID card, you will need to show a government-issued photo ID, such as a passport, driver's license, or state-issued identification card.

If I arrive on campus early on Opening Weekend, before my roommates arrive, do I get to choose which bed is mine for the rest of the summer?

No. On Opening Weekend, Secondary School Program students wait until all their roommates have arrived before determining who settles in which bedroom and sleeps in which bed. This is an excellent way to get to know your roommates and, from the outset, to develop a way to work together constructively to resolve differences. If you (or your roommates) ever need help resolving a dispute, you should seek guidance from your proctor.

Campus life

May I choose my roommates?

No. We try to make the Secondary School Program experience as much like a first-year college experience as possible, and part of that experience is learning to live with new people.

May I know my roommates’ names and home addresses before Summer School begins?

No. Releasing this information would be inconsistent with FERPA. Furthermore, housing assignments are being made and changed right up until the time students arrive at Harvard.

May a friend visit or stay overnight in my dorm?

Yes, under certain circumstances. Prior approval for an overnight guest must be sought and received by the Wednesday before an overnight visit on a Friday or Saturday night (only). Once you arrive on campus, your student handbook will provide further details.

As an SSP student living on campus, am I permitted to leave campus overnight?

If you live on campus, you may be away from campus on Friday and Saturday nights only. You must seek approval for an overnight absence by submitting a request no later than 4 pm the prior Wednesday.

Parents are strongly advised not to surprise you with trips away from campus planned at the last minute, for such surprises can disrupt carefully laid plans for weekend activities and study.

I-20 certificate for the F-1 visa

What is an I-20 certificate and do I need it?

The I-20 is a government form on which Harvard University certifies to the US government that you are eligible for F-1 Student Status.

If you are an international student (not a US citizen or a US permanent resident) whose main reason for coming to the United States is to attend the 7-week Harvard Summer School session, and you will be registered for a total of 8 undergraduate credits in courses held on the Harvard campus, then the F-1 student visa is the appropriate visa for you.

To be issued the F-1 student visa, you must first obtain the I-20 Certificate of Eligibility from Harvard Summer School. See the International Secondary School Students page for full information, including the I-20 requirements.