Summer Study Programs

Summer Study Programs


For more than 20 years, SUMMER STUDY PROGRAMS has been offering high school students the rare opportunity to "taste" college life while still in an organized and supervised environment. Our mission is to offer "The Total Pre-Collegiate Experience." The program offers a wide variety of college-credit courses, enrichment classes, daily sporting events, intensive sports clinics, special events, evening activities and weekend trips to preview other schools and universities.



Default avatar
No, I don't recommend this program

When I started at summer study this past July, I was very excited to meet new people, get situated in my new small dorm room in the heart of paris, and start my classes at the famous La Sorbonne. However, when I arrived in CDG airport on a rainy, depressing July day, I knew that the program was not going to be anything that I had expected.

My first sign of the bad omen was the fact that the program leaders were anything but friendly. No one introduced their names and, other than a friendly looking white-haired man named Julian, I was very confused who my counselors were and were not. While I understand that everyone was cranky from waking for our 7 AM flight, I still expected a little more direction that I was frankly not given.

By the time we arrived in Paris, one of the campers had already had a near-death experience when one of the double decker buses that we were directed to topple into almost ran into the unaware camper who was standing under the "safety" of an equally unaware counselor. However, at this moment, I still tried to stay positive and kept the assumption that we had just having a bumpy start to what would later be a magical experience. I was wrong, again. After the bus ride passed the 1 hour mark, I knew something was up. I had checked on my phone before I arrived in Paris what the length was to and from the hotel that the program had advertised and the ETA was around 35-45 minutes, traffic permitting. So where were we going? Not Paris, but an extremely sketchy and dark suburb 30-minutes outside of the city by METRO, called Issy-Les-Moulineaux. When we arrived at around 11 AM Paris time, we were all aching with hunger, but were instructed that we could not only not go back to our rooms for a quick nap, but also not eat, before the 2 hour portion of our 6 hour orientation meeting.

The first two hours were painful, but not as bad as the one interim hour we received for a lunch break, where we were walked over to the nearby mall where we were given some 7 euros each to buy something from our choice of "american" pizza (barely cooked and overly salted dough with some also barely cooked sauce and cheese haphazardly thrown on top), some sort of weird vegetable station, or a not-so-classic boulangerie. While this decision was already strenuous, the fact that around 80% of the program were non-french speakers also made ordering the food a feat, as while these kids struggled to muster out a "s'il vous plaît" or a "merci," our counselors seemed no where to be found, so most of the kids didn't even end up ordering. The one positive note I had during this experience was that the mall included a watcher's window overlooking the very unhygienic looking indoor waterpark that was attached to the mall. At this window is where I met one of my first friends, whom sat with me as we watched multiple overaged men try to jump off a rope clearly designed for children and plunge painfully into the water as our stomachs grumbled. However, this one blissful moment proved to be ephemeral as Julian rounded us up once again to return to the Adagio apart-hotel.

I would love to get into the details of how horrible my roommate situation was, but I think that you would become as exhausted as I was, and I really would wish to avoid that. What I will say is that one of my roommates was socially inept (not her or the programs fault, but it did make my stay rather uncomfortable) while the other pilfered through my belongings until one day I realized that 180 of my euros were missing and it was not the non-english speaking cleaning lady. After I begged the staff to switch me out, they then tried to put me into the room of a girl who had already come close to being arrested for shoplifting from Brandy Melville, and I was not going to let them put me into another stealing-situation. Finally, my good friend's roommates ended up leaving the program early (two examples of some students who hated it so much they left at the two week mark) and I was able to move in with her.

As for the program itself, when I took my first 30 minute metro to Concorde, I expected to be brought to some grand Versailles-like institution where I would sit in illuminated baroque-style classrooms and study amongst other passionate French speakers under the guidance of highly-revered French scholars. I was very, very wrong. Instead of courses at the pamphlet-promised Sorbonne institution, we were brought to La Sorbonne pour Les étudiants étrangers: a small modern building, that while being very clean and in nice condition, was not the Sorbonne that I had seen on the internet - what I was promised, and what I had paid for. In my art history class, I was taught by a woman who did not even know what an ankh was while teaching us Egyptian art and architecture - a highly crucial feature in historical Egyptian culture that I learned when I was in 6th grade, and something that I had to teach her about. While I did improve vastly in my drawing style and form, my french class proved to be quite different. Even though my professor for the French course was extremely conversational and interesting, and I definitely enjoyed his approach to teaching, I did not learn anything productive in that class. I believe the only reason why I really liked it is because he agreed to teach us through games and believed that ordering ice cream and sweets in French would suffice as our entire French curriculum.

Bottom line, just don't do it. I believe the program was around $10,000 for 5 weeks and an extra $1,500 for the Amsterdam add-on trip (which I did and it was fantastic - forgot to mention that), but the additional costs of just living and breathing in Paris made the entire summer closer to $20,000. Because the included food options are practically inedible, my friends and I ended up going out to eat almost every night, and that alone cost my family not only an extra $2,000-3,000, but also many more nights of tension-filled phone calls about new allowances. The program recommends around $180 spending money weekly but that does not even come close to the actual $400 needed. A glass of water alone is around 8 euros - almost $12 - and a plate of spaghetti with tomato sauce comes to around $35. My phone bill at the end of the trip was also over $2,000 (unfortunately, not a joke), and while this was more AT&T and my confused mother's fault than anyone else's, it just comes to show how costly the program is beyond its asking price.

Food: As mentioned before, the program advertises that they will provide all breakfast and dinner meals, and that they recommend around 11 euros daily for lunch. The food is either not available or horrible. Breakfast closes promptly at 8:00 AM, but classes do not begin until 2:30 so if one wants to sleep in, they must sacrifice breakfast. The meal, however, for those who were able to make the hours, was fine and offered an assortment of pastries as well as fresh yogurt, fruit, and juices. Dinner options, however, were just awful. We could choose between a really awful Chinese restaurant, a semi-awful Italian restaurant, another pretty awful Italian restaurant, or, if we signed up early enough, could eat at an okay French restaurant that was only available once a week. While this seems like a bad, but manageable assortment, what made the options inedible is that the program designed a special menu for each of the restaurants that restricted the campers to only the cheapest items on the menu that ended up coming down to pizza, salad, or pasta. And if you were especially hungry, you were out of luck, because you could only order one item per night.

Hotel: There was black mold all over my bathroom (while I am not a fungi expert, my parents visited and can attest to this), weird stains on the wall and bed, and they would more often than not be out of towels (what I think would be a hotel necessity). I also was moved out of my room unexpectedly one day because they overbooked it and while they packed up my entire room (without me there!) they accidentally left three of my bathing suits behind. I did not realize this until I returned to America (the program recommended bringing a bathing suit but there was no bathing-suit-required activity offered the entire 5 weeks there), and when I called and emailed asking for the whereabouts of my swimsuit, they either would hang up on me or not understand me.

Sightseeing/Navigating/Guidance: The program was rather strict in the beginning, and stressed the importance of being with a counselor at all times for safety reasons. However, it became quite an inconvenience at times because there were only some 8 counselors and around 90 of us, so when someone wanted to go somewhere, it was often time-consuming and complicated to get there. The program was also stingy about who we could meet up with and be taken out by during the course of our stay. I must admit that I do not remember the details of their policy but I do recall that when my friend's parents from home were visiting and wanted to take me out, they had to sign some sort of agreement and bring their passport and drivers licenses before they could take me. Again, all for safety reasons, but still somewhat tedious. Because I stayed for the entirety of the longer 5-week program, I was given the luxury of the program loosening up, and began walking the city alone. They were 100% unaware that I was doing this - which speaks to the lack of security and safety that the program promises - but I am rather thankful that they were so irresponsible here because if not for their inattentiveness, I would not have enjoyed the program at all. This way, I was able to see Paris through my own eyes, and develop a passion and love for the city that I believe I would not have been able to acquire had the program remained so strict for the entirety of my stay.

The highlights: The three-weekers and five-weekers each were given a ticket to Disney land for their stay, and one of the three-weekers couldn't go so I was able to go TWICE. My goodness was this an exhilarating experience. I love Disney Paris so much that still, after some 7 months after returning, I still cannot shut up about it. Honestly, if you have the funds to go to Paris at any time in your life. GO TO DISNEY PARIS. It is amazing and magical in ways beyond all measures.

I also met an amazing group of friends from around the country that I continue to keep in touch with throughout the year, which is nice, but somewhat besides the point of the program. Honestly, you're going to meet people no matter where you go - friendly or not - so why not just choose a different program?

Default avatar
No, I don't recommend this program

The program is terrible. It offers 2 1 hour classes and the rest is largely unsupervised. Unless your child is incredibly self disciplined the opportunity for trouble is huge.

They mix boys and girls from 14 to 18 together and use 20 year old to supervise.

Response from Summer Study Programs

Summer Study prides itself on running outstanding, safe and well-supervised pre-college programs for high school students. We have been doing so for 25 years at multiple locations, quite successfully. I'd like to address your comments by phone (we are available 6 days a week, 631-424-1000) as well as in a typed response. Students enrolled in our programs may select a curriculum which includes taking either 2 or 3 enrichment classes per day...Some students prefer to spend more time in the classroom, learning as many subjects as possible than others. Additionally, we have an add/drop period of 3 days (just like in college) where students may switch out of one class and into another. Some students may select to take 2 classes with us and then arrive to campus to add an additional class, totaling 3. Students may also add a 4th enrichment class to their schedule if time allows. To say that students are unsupervised is inaccurate and false. Hired Staff Advisors (SAs), who dedicate their time to our programs 24 hours per day, 7 days per week for the length of the program, are 22 - 30 years old. These are not RAs who mainly are concerned with their students only when in and around the dorms...but rather our SAs are constantly involved in the lives of our students from morning to night (at breakfast, in the classrooms, at afternoon activities, at dinner, at night activities, on weekend trips and to check in at curfew every single night of the programs). I will agree with your comment that students attending Summer Study must be self disciplined so as to not seek out trouble while on our programs. Obviously, we are not able to watch every student, every minute of every day. However, at no time during their summer experience, is a student ever completely on his or her own. We have an office set up in the dorm that the students live which is open from 8am - 2am, all 7 days a week. Additionally, every student and staff member is given an emergency phone number to call in the event of an emergency. In closing, I apologize if your son/daughter did not have as enjoyable and experience with Summer Study as 99% of our students do. Perhaps he/she was not ready for a pre-college experience where students are able to learn the skills (such as time management, responsibility, independence) that are necessary to be successful in college. Again, I am happy to discuss your concerns by phone if you like.


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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Ana Strofer

Ana Strofer is from La Romana, Dominican Republic and is a senior in high school. She plans to study law after she graduates. She enjoys reading both in English and Spanish, rock music, films, and photography. She took a philosophy pre-college course in Brown University in summer 2011 and in 2012 she went to Paris for the summer along with the Summer Study in Paris program. There, she took french, film studies and photography courses.

Why did you decide to study abroad with Summer Study?

I went to Paris for the summer since my aunt lives there and my mother had an art exhibition in the Dominican embassy. That was 2 weeks before I started the Summer Study in Paris program. I mainly chose this program cause I have a cousin that did it a few years back and she liked it very much. I chose Paris because the Dominican legal code follows the French code, so it's very important to know French in order to be a lawyer in my country. I've known I wanted to be a lawyer since I was in 8th grade.

What made this experience unique and special?

This program offers a variety of interesting courses in English, such as film studies and photography. These were the 2 courses I took besides French since I really love films and photography. For instance, for my film studies class we got to go to a movie theatre that played "La Boheme", a silent movie from the 1920's. We even got to see it with live piano music. This was definitely one of the most memorable things from my trip!

How has this experience impacted your future?

The fact that I could go and study abroad, even if it were only for one summer, has definitely had an impact on my future, since it has given me the chance of meeting different cultures and different people and has allowed me to make great friends. This trip has given me the personality I have today because this kind of experience forces one to open up to unknown people and learn so much! Also this kind of experience allows you to be more cultured, and I'm certain it will really help when I apply for jobs or even for college.

Highlights: The highlight of my trip consisted of all the friends I made and all the places I went around Paris since it's such an amazing city surrounded by art and history.

Morning: Every morning students in this program had the opportunity to go on a variety of excursions around Paris. Some of them included: Musee d'Orsay, The Louvre, and The Eiffel Tower, among others. Students get to their destination usually by taking the metro. Sometimes when students wanted to go to a different place other than the ones offered, they could arrange to do so with a group of friends and go together (as long as they told the program instructors where they were going and as longs as they returned on time for class.

Afternoon: In the afternoons students had to attend their classes in La Cite Universitaire from 2:30pm-6:30pm. Some students had class later than others and others had classes that ended earlier. It would usually take about 20 mins to get to campus from the hotel by taking the tram.

Evening: At 7:00pm students had dinner in a variety of restaurants near the Adagio Hotel. These included Japanese, Italian, and Chinese restaurants. After dinner, students had the choice of either staying in the hotel or going on evening excursions or activities such as going to the Latin quarter for dinner or desert, going to concerts, and other activities.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Mike Sirowitz

Job Title
Director of Programs and Operations

What position do you hold at Summer Study? What has been your career path so far?

I have been co-owner and Director of Programs and Operations since 1993. In addition to handling most of the logistics for all our programs, I manage all IT for the organization and spend every summer with about 700 students and 50 staff at Penn State University.

I was a sleep-away camp counselor beginning when I was 16 and although I was a Business Management major (and Psychology minor) in college, I always wanted to work with kids. I hated my first job after college in which I was a Credit Analyst for a finance company and left to begin an MBA program at The University of Chicago. That, however, was derailed when after leading a group of 42 teens on a 7-week cross-country summer “teen tour”, I was offered a full-time job with the company. Combining my management education with my passion for working with kids, I had found my niche! I spent 7 years, including 7 summers on cross-country trips, with the teen tour company and 3 years as Director of Special Events for a marketing and promotions company before joining Summer Study Programs.

Did YOU study abroad?

No, I did not and have always regretted it. During college, I was very active in my Fraternity and the Campus Entertainment Committee so I never wanted to miss anything. I did however go to Europe on my own for 6 weeks during my 3 years away from the student travel/study businesses. While I wasn’t quite as adventuresome and free-spirited as I might have been in college, it was still an amazing experience. I strongly encourage every high school and college student I meet to have a study abroad experience if they have the opportunity.

What does the future hold for Summer Study - any exciting new programs to share?

We have been successful because not only do kids love our programs but so do their parents…a critical element in the case of programs for high school students. To that end, we have always felt very strongly about doing what we do best and not to become a “Jack of all trades…master of none” just to tap into the latest fad of summer opportunities. To that end, we will add a new program location only when we are confident that it can support our successful program model and that we have the right program director in place.

What is new this year is our Summer Study in Buenos Aires program which is a 4-week Spanish language immersion opportunity combining college credit and enrichment classes, culture, sightseeing, recreation and weekend trips. Modeled after the success of our Summer Study in Paris programs and directed by Sam McKenzie who after living and teaching in Buenos Aires for 3 years, has joined us full time, SSBA is sure to be another great Summer Study program.

What about the future of the industry? How do you think study abroad and international education will change over the next 10 years?

With faster planes, faster internet connections and telephone/web access in the palm of everyone’s hand, the world is getting smaller and smaller. Surprisingly, at the same time, there seems to be growing instability and a lack of understanding of differences among the world’s people. The best way to reverse this trend is not only having an experience but sharing the experience with a diverse group of students. Last summer, we are proud of the fact that we had students from 43 US States and 27 foreign countries. There are already hundreds, if not thousands, of study abroad opportunities and I think that number will continue to grow. Over the next 10 years, I think we will see many more “combination” programs of study/community service, study/travel and study/adventure as well as programs in more remote locations. While these may sound exciting and/or exotic, they may not always be good. Prospective students need to be very selective in choosing a program.

Which study abroad destination is most underrated? Conversely, which is most overrated?

Buenos Aires is, without a doubt, the most underrated and anywhere other than Buenos Aires (and Paris) is by far the most overrated. :-)