For Parents and Guardians of Secondary School Students

A letter from the program director

William J. Holinger

William J. Holinger


The Harvard Secondary School Program provides a unique opportunity for high school students to study at Harvard University with college students during the summer. While taking rigorous, engaging undergraduate classes, students enjoy interaction with Harvard University faculty and with peers from around the world.

The challenging academics prepare students for advanced studies. And the credits earned are recorded on an official Harvard transcript and are transferable toward a future undergraduate degree at most colleges and universities.

College prep

The summer session is not just about earning college credit. It’s about preparing students for the next steps beyond high school. We offer a number of college prep activities that will help your student navigate the college selection process.

Also, by taking courses with college students and other adults, your student will be able to gain a sense of what to expect after secondary school.


Rest assured that this program also provides many opportunities for your student to have a great time and make new friends. Students are invited to participate in a talent show, a trivia bowl, musical performances, sports, and many other activities. This combination of academics and fun ensures a well-rounded experience that prepares your student for life.

We communicate with students by e-mail

Your student’s e-mail address may be the most crucial piece of information we have on hand. We communicate directly with students, not with parents or other third parties. And our only method of direct communication is e-mail.

Keeping a student’s e-mail address current is crucial, as is checking it daily. When we send messages, we use the student’s current e-mail address as it is recorded in our database. It is the student’s responsibility to keep that address current by updating it as needed through online services.

Admission and finalizing enrollment

The admission committee looks for mature, academically motivated students who will graduate from high school and enter college in 2016, 2017, or 2018.

Once admitted, students must complete these steps as soon as possible:

  1. Accept their place in the program.
  2. Request housing if your student has been admitted as a residential student. Housing is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis.
  3. Register for courses. Courses with limited enrollment fill quickly. Secondary School Program students living on campus must be enrolled in 8 credits.
  4. Pay in full.


On Opening Weekend, Secondary School Program students who live on campus must wait until all roommates have arrived before they get together and decide who settles in which bedroom and sleeps in which bed. We have found this to be an excellent way for those who share space with others to begin to get to know one another and establish a pattern of working together constructively.

We encourage all students to seek guidance from their proctor if they feel they need help resolving a dispute of any kind.

Safety, accommodations, and supervision

Proctors & ADs-Photo-SSP-2014-Lg.jpeg

2014 Summer School proctors

Four Secondary School Program assistant deans oversee the proctors who live in the residences where your student lives for the summer. Proctors are carefully chosen from an application pool of Harvard undergraduate students. They lead orientations, are responsible for student safety, and serve as a vital source of information. In addition to being residence supervisors, proctors organize fun activities and study breaks.

Because high school sophomores—known over the summer as rising juniors—are typically younger than other Secondary School Program students, they observe a curfew: 11 pm weeknights, 12:30 am weekends. They are housed with a higher ratio of proctors to supervise and assist them.

Students will receive information about where they can expect to live after housing is assigned to students who meet all requirements. They will receive e-mail communications directing them to information on move-in procedures, Opening Weekend festivities, disability services, transportation, and other details about living on campus.

Your student should read the student handbook they will receive, and the policy section of the website, both of which outline student responsibilities in such areas as conduct, attendance, and academic integrity. Harvard Summer School puts safety first, and the Secondary School Program rules prohibiting involvement with alcohol and drugs are an important factor in our effort to provide students with a positive environment for study and growth in the summer. This is why the Secondary School Program supports a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to illegal substances.

We try hard to prevent students from becoming involved with alcohol or drugs, yet every summer we find ourselves sending several of our students home early. Please counsel your student to abide by all Summer School rules and policies, as outlined in the Harvard Summer School Student Handbook (available to students online and as a booklet each June).

Academic counseling

Many academic services are available to high school students during their studies at Harvard. Course-selection advice should come from us. The Secondary School Program staff—including the assistant director, the assistant deans, and myself—has extensive experience counseling high school students on course selection, and looks forward to doing the same for your student.

For specific course-related matters once classes are under way, a group of talented academic tutors is at hand and eager to help. Students are also encouraged to spend time speaking with faculty and teaching fellows. The Secondary School Program assistant deans provide counsel in all areas of student life, personal and academic, as well as oversee student safety and welfare. Learn more about academic advising.

Course selection and registration

Once admitted, students can register for their courses beginning March 1. If students have questions about specific courses, they are encouraged to call the Secondary School Program office.

While our faculty looks forward to working with summer students, during the spring term they are engaged in their regular term-time teaching and research. We ask that parents, as well as students, respect faculty commitments at this time, and not contact instructors directly about summer courses until June. Once the summer term begins, Summer School faculty are eager to work with students and assist them in all their academic endeavors.

If questions or issues arise concerning the appropriateness of a course or qualifications for enrollment that you think cannot wait, by all means contact the Secondary School Program. Secondary School Program staff are knowledgeable and always ready to assist you and your student.

Leaving for the weekend

Going away and sleeping off campus overnight, even with parents or guardians, is allowed on Friday and Saturday nights only, and requires approval of an Secondary School Program assistant dean. 


What advice might I give to parents sending their son or daughter off to seven summer weeks at Harvard? I could probably go on far too long, so I won't. But a New York Times article by Perri Klass, MD, might be helpful for a start.

Student records and information

Lastly, it’s important to note that Harvard Summer School cannot release to family members or guardians information such as a student’s grades or class schedule. It is Harvard Summer School policy, in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), as amended, to provide students with certain protections concerning the confidentiality of their educational records.

Except for information defined as “directory information,” no other information about Secondary School Program students is released outside the University—including to parents, guardians, or family members—without the student’s prior written consent, unless otherwise authorized or required by law. Students have the right to withhold the disclosure of this information. It is our obligation to protect students and their right to privacy.

A summer at Harvard

After completing the Secondary School Program, your student will have grown as a student and as a person. Living like a college student, even for just a summer, will give your student the confidence to succeed as he or she finishes secondary school and moves forward into a bright academic future. We look forward to seeing your student on campus this summer.

Sincerely yours,
William J. Holinger,
Director of the Secondary School Program at Harvard Summer School