Pre University Summer Schools: here’s what you need to know

best university summer schools for 16 year olds

Pre university summer schools are a great option for Year 12 students. If you have a bright Year 11 student, they might also be able to apply, depending on the school.

When my daughter was a 17-year-old she submitted her UCAS application. As part of her preparation, she wanted to attend a pre-university summer school.  For her, it was a chance to try out student life, explore her subject options and have a new experience. She ended up attending two summer schools between Year 12 and Year 13. The experience helped her to decide on her chosen area of study and she received a full set of university offers, so we’d definitely say it’s worth doing.

Finding the best pre university summer schools isn’t easy. There are LOTS of options. Today I’m sharing some of our research. Maybe our hours of Googling can save you some time!

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What are Pre-University Summer Schools?

A pre-university summer school is a short course for students aged 16-18. They are designed to help young people experience university life and to be prepared for university study.

They’re also a great way to boost a university application. Attending summer school can help teens with their A-Levels, or demonstrates commitment to a subject. They can also be a great way to build connections with your ‘target’ university.

university summer school 2024

Free university summer schools

If you are from a state school and/or an under-represented community, then summer schools could cost nothing at all.

Many UK universities run or take part in ‘widening participation’ summer programmes that allow individual students to attend free pre university summer schools that focus on learning more about top universities, and how to submit applications.

Examples of free summer schools run by UK universities include the Sutton Trust summer schools at 14 different Russell Group universities and the Newcastle Partners Academic Summer School (PASS) programme. Oxford runs a programme called UNIQ designed to help encourage applications from students from modest or disadvantaged backgrounds.

You might also be offered the opportunity to attend a residential placement as part of a 1 or 2 year support programme through your school or sixth form. Schemes like Realising Opportunities and the Cambridge University HE+ programme offer kids support throughout Year 12 and Year 13 with extra lessons, support with applications and practice interviews. These programmes will often provide short, 3-day residential programmes as part of the scheme.

Many Oxford and Cambridge colleges also run their own summer school ‘immersion events’ that run for 2-3 days and focus on studying specific subjects at specific colleges. Check out individual college websites for further information – we’ve included a few examples below.

Alongside these schemes, I would always suggest that you check your local university (or email the admissions team) for schemes that might be subject or department specific.

Who qualifies for free summer school?

To qualify for free pre university summer schools, you will probably need to meet eligibility requirements. They vary slightly between institutions, but generally focus on recruiting bright students who are least likely to apply to top universities.

Students who complete these programmes will often be eligible to receive lower grade offers from universities, or guaranteed interviews. Around three quarters of students completing the Sutton Trust summer schools went on to find a place at a top 10 university. This means that competition for spaces can be fierce, with courses booking up quickly.

The more eligibility requirements you meet, the more likely you are to be offered a place. In 2019, every successful applicant to the Sutton Trust’s programmes met at least three of these requirements:

  • 5 GCSEs at grades 6-9, including 2 at 7-9
  • First generation in your family to go to university
  • Your home postcode is classed as deprived (check yours here)
  • Your school, college or sixth form has lower than average progression to HE
  • Has received free school meals at secondary school
  • Experienced homelessness, family estrangement or applied for asylum
  • Has a disability or is a member of a minority ethnic group
  • Currently being looked after, or in care (these students are prioritised)
  • Other extenuating circumstances

Having said that, it is ALWAYS worth applying – you never know when a place might come free. My teen only met the academic eligibility criteria above. She still scored a free place at an Oxford University summer school after being placed on a waitlist, and then being still available when someone else dropped out.

Paid pre university summer schools

If you don’t qualify for a free summer school, then you can congratulate yourself on already being in a strong position to apply to university. You can also still attend a university summer school in Year 12, and there are lots of options.

Paid summer schools include STEM weekends, international summer schools and pre-university residential courses for specific subjects. Costs will vary depending on the location and length of the course. Some weekend courses cost as little as £130, while at the top end. you could pay £6,000 for a two week residential at Oxford or Cambridge.

Generally, the fees you pay will cover tuition and accommodation. Check each course carefully. Some will include private rooms with en suites, meal plans, library and sports access, while others will require you to pay for some, or all meals. And of course teens will expect an allowance for the all-important snacks and souvenirs.

Tips for summer school applications

All of the summer schools in this post accept online applications.

Applications usually open in January and close in June. Do check, because some programmes close earlier. For example, the Durham Uni Supported Progression application process is open for 2024 summer schools, and applications close on 22nd January 2024. Providing you meet the academic and general eligibility requirements of a course, places are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

When you apply, you will be asked to provide some supporting information. This will include an official copy of your most recent school grades (like GCSE results). You’ll also be asked for an academic reference or letter of recommendation, and you might need to write a personal statement.

How to choose a summer school

When it comes to finding the right Year 12 summer school, some obvious questions to ask are:

  • Is this a course I’d like to study at university and/or will it help my A-Level studies?
  • Does this course help me meet university entrance requirements?
  • Is this a university I think I would like to apply to?
  • If there are term-time activities and events, am I free to attend?
  • Do I meet the eligibility and academic requirements for the course?
  • Am I happy with the accommodation and facilities on offer?
  • Does the course have enough downtime for me to not feel overwhelmed?
  • How much does it cost?

summer school accommodation

Below are some of the best options for students looking for pre-university summer schools for teens in Year 12. For each school, I’ve shared the courses available, along with details of accommodation, extra activities and the likely fees involved. This is by no means a complete list, but hopefully will provide a good starting point!


Best Year 12 Pre University Summer Schools in the UK

kings college london year 12

Medical/Dental Summer Schools

In the UK, the Medical Schools Council is running two summer schools for potential dentists and five schools for potential medical students. Funded by Health Education England, the schools will offer almost 400 students a chance to study at one of seven UK universities.

There will be residential courses at Leicester (70 places for Year 12 students), Imperial (70 places for Year 11 students), Exeter University (70 places for Year 11 students) and 70 additional places at a course run jointly for Year 12 students at Lancaster, Edge Hill and Liverpool. The dental schools are run by Plymouth and Kings College, London.

Full details of how to apply are available on the medical pre-university course website.

  • Applications for the UCL Year 12 Summer School open on February 10 – you’ll find the page here.
  • Applications for the Imperial College Year 11 Summer School are open now here.
  • You can also apply for the Imperial online summer school for medics here.  
visiting glasgow university
Glasgow University

Kings College London (various)

Types of course: Business management, law, media and culture, international relations, medical science, psychology

Entry requirements: Open to ‘mature, independent’ 16 and 17 year olds. To apply teens need to provide a personal statement and proof of their most recent grades.

Accommodation: Students at the pre-university summer school are placed in single rooms within a single-sex flat housing 6-8 students. There are on-site student guides and 24-hour security, with a 10pm curfew. Catering isn’t included.

Length: 11 days

Dates: 3-17 July or 14-17 July

Cost: £3675 (residential) or £2475 (non-residential)

Good to know: for parents on a budget, you should know that you are required to pay the full cost of the summer school when you accept a place. There’s also a winter online school as a home-based alternative.

Find out more: apply here


year 12 summer school 2022

Warwick University (various)

Types of course: Economics and Finance, Social Sciences or Science and Engineering.

Entry requirements: The pre-university summer school is open to all, offers are on a first-come, first-served basis. It’s recommended by 97% of participants and available if your student is currently in Year 11 or Year 12.

Accommodation: Students have single study bedrooms with WiFi and en-suite bathrooms. There are shared kitchens available for the school is fully-catered.

Length: 10 days

Dates: 18-23 July

Cost: £3790 (there is an early booking discount)

Good to know: As part of the summer school, students spend two days and one night in London (including a theatre trip) and there’s a visit to Oxford University and one of its colleges.

Find out more: apply here

Leeds (Food Science)

Type of course: For the past few years, the UK Department of Food and Agriculture has funded four summer schools for Year 12 students at UK universities looking at food science – previously, these have been held at Leeds, Harper Adams, Reading and Cardiff Met. This is to address a big shortage of skills in the UK food safety sector.

Entry requirement: You need to be in Y12 and have permission from a parent and your school to attend. Priority is given to students from under-represented and disadvantaged communities.

Accommodation: Overnight accommodation is included.

Length: 2 days

Dates: 28-29 June

Cost: £0

Find out more: This year, Leeds will be running the summer school from 28-29 June, and applications close at the end of April. You can apply to the summer school directly.


St Andrews University (various)

Types of course: The Summer Academic Experience Courses (SAEC) are designed to give an introduction to Scottish uni education, and include social science, humanities, Scottish history, management and economics, medicine, physical science, computer science, psychology and sustainable development.

Entry requirements: Applicants are expected to have GCSE Grade 7-9 in most or all subjects, and a positive academic reference from a teacher.

Accommodation: Students stay in one of two halls of residence – single rooms allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Staff are on duty 24 hours a day, and all meals are provided, including a daily packed lunch. Delegates get a student pass and free access to all university resources, like the gym and library.

Length: 3 weeks

Dates: 8 July – 29 July

Cost: £4800 all-inclusive

Good to know: The summer school fee covers all meals, tuition and accommodation plus excursions and 2 field trips. This is also one of the most packed itineraries, with students in “classes” from 9am to 5pm with a 90-minute lunch break.

Find out more: apply here

pre university summer schools

University of Bristol (veterinary or engineering)

Types of course: Got a budding scientist in the family? University of Bristol offers pre-university courses for Year 11 and 12 students focusing on engineering OR veterinary science.

Entry requirements: Applicants are expected to study maths at an advanced level, and have a strong interest in the subject, along with a consistent, positive academic record. For engineering, students must be studying both maths and physics.

Accommodation: You will stay in a single room in a University residence with shared bathrooms. Our secure residences have laundry facilities on-site and 24/7 duty teams, and linens and towels are provided. A meal plan is also included.

Length: 2 weeks

Dates: 24 July – 5 August

Cost: £2995

Good to know: Applications to vet school are seriously competitive and this course satisfies the “work experience” element of applying to Bristol’s vet school.

Find out more: apply here


Royal Veterinary College (RVC) Pre-university Summer School

Types of course: Veterinary (obvs): Applications are now open for this competitive summer school – be quick, the closing date is April 24th.  The course combines 5 study days and 5 ‘placement’ days allowing students hands-on experience on the RVC’s state of the art hospital facilities. The course counts towards the work experience requirements when applying to university.

Entry requirements: Must be 16+ at the time of the course, and have a strong interest in applying to RVC, and you’ll need to provide an academic reference.

Accommodation: Single, lockable rooms in shared houses.

Dates: 30 July – 11 August

Cost: £2,910 including accommodation and meals. Some scholarships are available.


Imperial College, London (Science and maths)

Types of course: Alongside regular Sutton Trust summer schools, Imperial offers a ‘work experience’ based summer school, where students can work alongside academic researchers in fields such as bio-engineering, earth science, materials, maths and physics. It’s a non-residential, fully-funded (free) programme running for five days.

Entry requirements: Applicants are prioritised if they meet ‘broadening participation’ criteria but other applicants may be considered if spaces are available. There are pretty strict academic requirements for all applicants, which are: 8+ GCSEs are grade 7-9. Minimum grade 7 in maths and sciences. Currently studying maths and 1-2 science subjects at A-Level. For maths students must be studying Maths and Further Maths.

Accommodation: Not provided

Length: 5 days (one week)

Dates: TBC

Cost: £0

Good to Know: Imperial also offers an amazing pre-university medical school for Year 11 Students, that is free of charge to students from certain parts of the UK.

Find out more: apply here (applications close March for Summer 2023)

free GCSE revision resources online

Nottingham Trent University (Creative and vocational)

Types of course: If you have a Year 11 or Year 12 student who isn’t interested in doing a core academic degree but wants something a bit more vocational, then NTU offers a range of “short courses” for 15-17 year olds over the summer covering subjects such as animation, car design, architecture, fashion, journalism and photography.

Entry requirements: Open to all

Accommodation: Not provided as standard but students can book a self-catered, single room with private bathroom at the city campus, which is next door to the university. Students who are under 16 must be accompanied by an adult/guardian.

Length: 5 days (10am-4pm, Mon-Fri)

Dates: Various, throughout August.

Cost: £300-600, secure a place with a £100 deposit

Good to know: Many of the courses will count towards a DofE residential.

Find out more: apply here

Bristol University (engineering)

Types of course: Alongside the vet summer school, Bristol has a residential pre-university course for budding engineers that takes place over two weeks in the summer. This course gives students the chance to study in the university’s laboratories and workshops, supported by expert staff, to research, design, build and test a variety of objects.

Entry requirements: You must be 16-18, and studying both maths and physics at A-Level with a ‘strong academic track record’.

Accommodation: On campus, details not available on the website at present!

Dates: 23 July – 5 August

Cost: £2,995

Good to know: If you complete this course, students are guaranteed an offer to the university to study one of their engineering programmes, providing you meet the broad entry criteria.

Find out more: Applications are now open on the Bristol website here.


Leeds University (maths)

Types of course: Leeds offers a short (3 day) introduction to maths course for students in Year 12 hoping to apply to study mathematics at university. The course has been run for 30+ years and is very popular.

Entry requirements: Open to Year 12 students currently studying maths.

Accommodation: Not included/offered – but if you aren’t local to Leeds, they may offer access via Zoom free of charge.

Length: 3 days

Dates: 27-29 June

Cost: £130

Good to know: Applications for this course open in January each year.

Find out more: apply here (applications closed, there is now a waitlist for 2023)

oxford university summer school
My daughter at the Lincoln College taster weekend

Lincoln College, Oxford  (History, Languages, Physics)

Types of course: There are three ‘taster day’ schools that run over three days each, covering history, literature, and physics and engineering.

Entry requirements: Available to students in Y12 with a demonstrated interest in the subject, with priority given to students meeting broadening participation criteria (but do apply regardless, as places are often offered outside this group)

Accommodation: In college rooms at Lincoln College, with on-site catering.

Length: 3 days, over a weekend

Cost: £0 (accommodation bursaries also available)

Good to know: This workshop is especially great because it includes practice interviews and coaching on Oxbridge applications.

Find out more: See the course details and application form here

Leeds Conservatoire (Performing arts)

Types of course: Leeds Conservatoire offers a one-week summer school for pre-university students in performance, theatre or production for students in Year 11 and Year 12. Each workshop also helps with audition prep and university or conservatoire applications.

Entry requirements: Open to all Y12 students

Accommodation: Not provided as standard but students can book a self-catered, single room with private bathroom at the city campus, which is next door to the university. Students who are under 16 must be accompanied by an adult/guardian.

Length: 5 days (10am-4pm, Mon-Fri)

Dates: 24 Jul – 28 Jul

Cost: £600 + £275 for optional accommodation

Good to know:  At the end of the course, students take part in a showcase for parents and friends. There are two summer workshops focusing on production or performance.

Find out more: apply here

acting school summer year 12

Immerse Education (various)

Types of course: Immerse Education is a private education provider that runs summer schools exclusively at Oxford, Cambridge and the University of London. Courses are available in a range of 20 different subjects. In 2023 the company has introduced ‘female leadership’ courses open to female students exclusively.

Entry requirements: Open to 13-18 year olds, and draws students from all over the world.

Accommodation: Students stay in university halls of residence, in single, en-suite rooms. All meals are included in the programme fee, and taken in the college dining halls.

Length: 2 weeks

Dates: 3-16 July, 17-30 July, 31 July-14 August

Cost: £5,995

Good to know: It’s VERY expensive but attracts students from 150 countries around the world. Each year there is an essay competition where potential students can win free or subsidised places on Immerse Education courses. The 2023 competition closes at the start of January but if you have a Y11 student, you can apply for the 2024 competition soon.

Find out more: apply here

Edge Hill (Medicine)

This year, Edge Hill has received funding for a new, 3 day residential pre-university summer school for medical students. Applications for this session are now open.


Sign up to find out when applications are open for 2023 Summer Schools at Goldsmiths.

Virtual Summer School

Lastly… if you want to stay virtual in 2022, the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Continuing Education has a whole range of pre-u courses, that will run from 4-15 July and 25 July – 5 August. You can sign up for details when applications open at the ICE website.

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