2016 Guide to Summer College Programs


The question for families comes up every year around this time as winter turns into spring: What are the kids going to do this summer?

For some parents, the answer might be to send their child away for a week or longer to a summer program at a Catholic college or university.

Catholic higher education institutions offer experiences for a variety of interests, including academic, athletic, and spiritual. Some colleges even offer a chance to go abroad. For teenagers trying to decide where to attend college, these summer programs are a chance to experience a college in a way that campus tours can’t provide.

“It helps them, in my opinion, make a more informed college decision about what’s going to constitute the right fit,” said Molly Roebker, a college adviser at St. Xavier High School, a Jesuit college preparatory school in Cincinnati. “And that’s not only academic of course, but also spiritual, social, and emotional.”

Roebker said pre-college programs can help students and their parents decide how far the student wants to live away from home, the campus size they desire, whether they want a college that has a religious affiliation, and the kinds of programs a college offers. She’s had students attend pre-college engineering programs and decide they don’t want to be engineers.

“I think it’s this whole process of discernment and what can we do to help our young people on that journey,” she said. “So I think they serve an important role in that regard.”

Benjamin Marsh participated in a summer program at Christendom College in the summer of 2014 prior to entering his senior year of high school.

The Catholic liberal arts college in Front Royal, Virginia, was on his short list of colleges to attend. His activities at the camp included taking three short classes (English, philosophy, and history), canoeing on the Shenandoah River, and a talent show. He called it “a nugget of Christendom in a week.”

Marsh, who is a now freshman at Christendom, said the camp was definitely one of the main convincing factors for him to pick Christendom as the college he would attend.

“I got to experience so many different things in a very short amount of time that were really fun,” he said.

Prior to her senior year of high school, Rachel Clark attended a summer music program at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. She said the camp counselors really showed her what the college’s values were about, and they definitely influenced her desire to attend Benedictine. (She’s currently a sophomore studying nursing.)

“I walked the campus every day. I went and sat in some of the same classrooms that I am in class in now as a student,” she said. “I lived in one of the dorms (and) ate at the dining hall. So that was really helpful getting to experience Benedictine College life in a hands-on way and just see how awesome all of that was.”


Enriching your faith

Getting a taste of college life isn’t the only benefit to attending a summer camp at a Catholic college. Many camps offer intense ways to grow in your faith.

While at the Benedictine College camp, Clark saw the passionate faith of the camp counselors (who were Benedictine students) and the Catholic faith in action with Eucharistic adoration and daily Mass. She also saw the opportunities the college offered to practice her faith, whether it would be attending daily Mass or going to confession.

“I knew that when and if I came back as a college student, I would have that Catholic faith right there for me to grow in,” she said.

Marsh, who was homeschooled, said dealing with others— ho didn’t necessarily have the exact beliefs as his family and close friends—did challenge him.

“Do I really believe the Catholic faith or not? And it really helped me come out as a stronger person,” he said. “It was nice.”

Here is a sampling of some programs across the country:


Ave Maria University

Ave Maria, Florida


What: The university hosts its ninth annual youth conference for incoming high school freshman up to outgoing seniors. The 2016 “Exalt” Youth Conference is a weekend of faith, fellowship, music, and speakers to help youth grow into a deeper relationship with Christ and his Church.

When: July 15-17

Cost: The $175 fee per person includes lodging, meals, the conference fee, and a T-shirt.


Benedictine College

Atchison, Kansas


What: The Benedictine College Youth Conference encourages teens to experience their faith through small groups, Bible studies, and the sacraments. The college’s Cathedral program allows teens to explore the Catholic intellectual tradition. Cathedral tracks include voice, leadership, Great Books, and sciences (engineering and chemistry).

When: June 17-19 and July 15-17 (youth conference); June 22-July 1 (cathedral chemistry and engineering); June 26-July 1 (cathedral voice, Great Books, and leadership tracks)

Cost: The youth conference fee is $190. Cathedral voice, Great Books, and the leadership track is $500. The cathedral sciences track is $750 plus a $100 lab fee. Prices include all lodging, meals, events, and a T-shirt. The sciences also include high school lab credit.


Benedictine University

Lisle, Illinois


What: Boys and girls ages 5-13 who are entering kindergarten through eighth grade in the 2016-17 school year are invited. Campers experience outdoor field activities, water activities, and instruction from a youth soccer development program. Indoor activities include computers, movies, arts/crafts, board games, and academic-based activities. Lunch is provided daily.

When: Eleven sessions starting May 31-June 3 and concluding Aug. 8-12.

Cost: A full session fee is $195 or $39 per day with a three-day minimum per session. Visit Ben.edu/Camps for discounted offers.


The Catholic University of America

Washington, D.C.


What: The CUA High School Drama Institute and the CUA High School Musical Theatre Institute are two-week programs for high school juniors and seniors and first-year college students. The university’s Experiences in Architecture program is a three-week summer workshop for students interested in architecture or other design related fields.

When: July 5-15 (drama), July 18-29 (musical theatre), June 13-July 1 (first session architecture), and July 11-29 (second session architecture).

Cost: Varies by program; drama ($2,650); musical theatre ($2,800). Fees for the architecture program are to be announced. Last year’s fees were $2,000 for tuition and all supplies, and $2,000 for room and board.


Christendom College

Front Royal, Virginia


What: Students entering their senior year of high school in fall 2016 are welcomed to register for the college’s summer programs. Current high school sophomores are also asked to register to be placed on a waiting list. Each of six sessions will have about 45 to 50 students. Courses include scripture study/theology, philosophy, The Moral Imagination in Literature and The West and Christianity.

When: Six sessions starting June 12-18 and concluding July 24-30.

Cost: A $500 fee includes tuition, room and board, books, and activity fees. Financial assistance is available.


St. Columcille Institute (Christendom College)

Donegal, Ireland


What: Classes include a theology course about Catholic apologetics, a history course about Ireland and the western ethos, a literature course with a special emphasis on Irish writers, and “three experiential communication workshops aimed at re-energizing the evangelizer in you.” The program is for college-aged students. One doesn’t have to be a Christendom student to attend.

When: July 22-Aug. 14

Cost: $3,750 for Americans. The amount includes the price of courses, room and board, three full meals per day, all excursions in Donegal and Dublin, and round-trip airfare from the United States.


Franciscan University of Steubenville

Steubenville, Ohio


What: “Thirst” high school youth conference

When: Summer 2016 with multiple dates on the university’s main campus plus 18 regional conferences across North America

Cost: Varies depending on the location. The main campus price is $195 per person. Included are six meals, programming, and housing. The price is $170 person (six meals, programming but no housing). Priests are free.


Georgetown University

Washington, D.C.


What: Pre-collegiate programs offer students the opportunity to engage in experiential learning, study alongside expert faculty, and prepare for life as a college student in non-credit programs.

When: Three-week college preparatory (June 26-July 16), three-week immersion programs (July 10-30), and one-week institutes (June 12-July 30).

Cost: The estimated fee for the college preparatory and immersion programs is $5,995 (tuition, housing, and meals) and the estimated fee for the one-week institutes is $2,795 (tuition, housing, and meals).


Newman University

Wichita, Kansas


What: Investigative summer science program for high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Each student will select an interdisciplinary research topic from biology, chemistry, and math.

When: June 13-24

Cost: Room and board and two hours of college credit are free.


Sacred Heart University

Fairfield, Connecticut

What: The university’s summer sessions are an opportunity for visiting students to take one or more courses. More than 100 courses are available. Current Sacred Heart students can take a class to get ahead or explore a new interest. Courses can also be taken online.

When: Three sessions (May 18, June 1, and July 9)

Cost: Visiting students are not eligible for financial aid but current, part-time matriculating students may be eligible.


Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary

Collegeville, Minnesota


What: Youth in Theology and Ministry develops young Catholics and their adult mentors. Its summer institute engages high school youth in college-level theological study, service, justice, prayer, and vocational discernment.

When: June 12-25

Cost: $800 with an early bird rate of $750 if registration is done by Feb. 29.


Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology

St. Meinrad, Indiana


What: “One Bread, One Cup” are five-day liturgical conferences for high school youth groups, and campus and youth ministers. The conferences emphasize community building, leadership development, catechesis, liturgical and spiritual formation, and theological reflection.

When: June 13-17, June 27-July 1, and July 6-10

Cost: The $550 per person fee covers all supplies, meals, lodging, conference T-shirt, and a string bag.


Thomas Aquinas College

Santa Paula, California


What: Students who have completed three years of high school by summer 2016 are eligible for the college’s two-week High School Great Books Program. Writers who the students will study include St. Athanasius, St. Thomas Aquinas, Plato, and William Shakespeare.

When: July 17-30

Cost: The $975 fee includes tuition, housing, meals, books and organized off-campus activities.


Thomas More College of Liberal Arts

Merrimack, New Hampshire


What: The 2016 Great Books Program is for students ages 15-18. The camp includes trips to Boston, the White Mountains, canoeing down the Merrimack River, and other activities.

When: July 10-23

Cost: The $975 cost includes tuition, room, books, and meals. Need-based scholarships are available.


University of Dallas
Irving, Texas


What: The university’s Summer Music Academy is for string, piano, and vocal students in grade 6-12. The university’s music faculty work with students in several settings including private lessons, master classes, music theory classes, and ensembles.

When: June 6-10

Cost: $325 per student, includes daily lunch

Other summer programs are: Shakespeare in Italy (July 6-26), Latin in Rome (July 6-29), Arete: An Introduction to the Classics (July 10-23), and Arete: American Studies (July 10-23). Visit the university’s website for information about locations and cost. Proposed for 2017 is a program in Rome about the Catholic faith and its influence on western culture.


University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame, Indiana


What: The two-week Summer Scholars program is for high school juniors and seniors. Programs of study include American partisan politics, archaeology, astronomy, anthropology of sport, the contemporary Church, global health, law, literature, photography and other disciplines.

When: June 25-July 9

Cost: Tuition and housing fees are $3,400. This includes tuition, room and board, extracurricular activities and class field trips. There is non-refundable $50 application fee. Some programs have lab fees.

Other summer programs at Notre Dame are Study Abroad: Rome (June 4-18), leadership seminars (July 16-27) and a seminary immersion program for high school men who are discerning a vocation to the Catholic priesthood (June 25-July 9).


Wyoming Catholic College

Lander, Wyoming


What: PEAK 2016 is a pair of two-week camps for young college-bound Catholics who seek an introduction to the traditional liberal education and life as a Wyoming Catholic College student. Participants pursue wisdom in study, nature, and prayer. The program is open to students who are entering their junior or senior year of high school and are at least 16.

When: June 25-July 9 and July 10-24

Cost: The $995 fee covers all lodging, food, equipment, recreation fees and excursions. Travel costs to Wyoming are not included.



Picking a summer program at a Catholic college:


Molly Roebker, a college adviser at St Xavier High School in Cincinnati, offers this advice:

  • Know your child.
  • Don’t approach it as just a resume builder. The camp could be a great enrichment opportunity.
  • Students who are ideal candidates probably already have a sense of adventure, are independent, and most importantly, like to socialize and meet students from other areas of the country who are like-minded.


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