College-Bound? Try These Catholic Summer Programs

What better way for a high school student to spend a week or two this summer, than to enjoy a fun and spiritual program at a Catholic college!

A faithful Catholic education can prepare students not only for a career, but for life. Whether or not you plan to attend a Catholic college, a summer program at one of the faithful colleges recommended in The Newman Guide can be enriching and will give you a taste of the benefits of a Catholic education.

Summer programs are a great opportunity for high school students to strengthen their academic and extracurricular skills, grow in their spiritual lives, get a head-start on college visits, learn from distinguished professors, make lifelong friends and experience what faithful Catholic education is all about. Here are some options:

Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, Fla., is offering a 12-day Summer Shakespeare Camp for high school students and rising college freshmen. Attendees live on campus and achieve artistic growth through an immersive academic experience. The University also offers a three-day Youth Conference called “Fearless: The Lord is my Light and my Salvation—Whom Shall I Fear” for high school students from July 9-11 with great speakers, music, Adoration and Benediction. There is also a four-day High School Leadership Training Retreat that precedes the “Fearless” Youth Conference.

Belmont Abbey College’s Schola program in Belmont, N.C., strives to cultivate a true life of leisure over two distinct one-week sessions in July. This summer, Belmont Abbey will be offering the first week virtually and the second week in-person. According to the College, students are invited “to slow down, to spend a summer week cultivating the goodness of their souls by reading and discussing classic works of philosophy and literature with friends, having meaningful conversations about the fundamental questions of life, enjoying daily recreational and social activities, viewing films, contemplating beautiful works of art and spending time in prayer and worship with the monastic community of Belmont Abbey.” Videos on the Schola program webpage show some of the highlights of previous years.

The Benedictine College Youth Conferences (BCYC) Immersion program in Atchison, Kan., allows students to choose from various “tracks” including computer science, engineering, pre-med, nursing, great books, American politics, philosophy, graphic design, voice, art and more.  Outside of class, students participate in Bible studies, attend Mass and engage in a variety of social activities from dances to sports to scavenger hunts. Participants report that they come away from the week refreshed and inspired: “Just being around other great people that all shared the same values and ideas as me has given me so much courage to live a life for Christ back home where people don’t necessarily share my values.” New this year is “BCYC Leadership,” which will help students discover how Catholic leadership principles can transform the way they lead at school, in their parish and in their community. Students can choose to focus on athletic leadership, business leadership, pro-life leadership, leadership in the New Evangelization or principles of Catholic leadership. There’s also a BCYC Encounter program, led by current Benedictine students, which is a weekend conference for parish and diocesan groups that focuses on Benedictine spirituality. Finally, Benedictine is inviting rising high school juniors, seniors and graduated seniors to earn three hours of college credit while studying abroad on a “Journey with Dante,” a three-week trip in Italy.

The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., offers a wide variety of summer educational experiences with weeklong summer programs focused on architecture, performing arts, mathematics and theology, providing opportunities to rising juniors and seniors for an exciting educational experience in the nation’s Capital. Light the World! Summer Institute lets high school students witness faithful excellence in action in business, science, politics, sports and the arts while meeting professionals who live out their faith in everyday life. The Applied Math in Action! pre-college program prepares students to enter STEM fields by learning applied math, visiting places where math is used, and interacting with other young people with similar interests. The Experiences in Architecture program is an intense two-week, pre-college workshop that exposes students to both the academic and professional sides of the architectural arena, with the capital city as their classroom. Catholic University’s High School Drama Institute is a program for students who wish to study voice, movement and acting with experts in the field. The University also plans to expand its dual enrollment program for the two Summer 2021 sessions, with a wider array of classes available for rising high school seniors and homeschooled students. Additional details on these programs along with business, engineering and music summer programs will be forthcoming.

Christendom College in Front Royal, Va., is offering “The Best Week Ever,” a choice of five different one-week sessions during the summer of 2021. Intended for rising high school seniors, the program instills in students “a deep appreciation for the liberal arts, Catholic culture, true friendship, and the beauty of God’s creation evidenced in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.” Participants attend daily classes in literature, philosophy, history and theology; hike in the mountains; canoe on the Shenandoah River; sing Irish songs; learn to swing dance and forge new friendships. As one student said afterward, “When I first heard about it, I honestly thought the ‘Best Week Ever’ was just an advertisement, but I truly did have the best week of my life and I have made memories I will treasure forever. Not only did I learn so much during my short time at Christendom this summer, but I’ve met the most amazing people and made friends I am still keeping up with. In learning so much about Christendom College and meeting such dedicated Catholics, I grew much closer to Christ and left the program with a desire to continue growing my relationship with God.”

Franciscan University’s summer Steubenville Conferences are popular with Catholic high school students across the country. The three-day Catholic conferences bring teens into a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ. Conferences take place at multiple locations across the United States and Canada, including five conferences at Franciscan University’s campus in Steubenville, Ohio. The theme for the 2021 conferences is “Restored” (Psalm 80:3). Dynamic speakers this summer include Sr. Miriam James Heidland, SOLT, Fr. Mike Schmitz, Leah Darrow, Chika Anyanwu, Sarah Swafford and Fr. Agustino Torres, CFR. As we emerge from the pandemic, both in-person and livestream conference formats will be offered for those who can travel and for those who cannot. A resource guide for youth groups will be provided to those who need to join remotely. Interested students must apply to attend a conference through a parish, high school or youth ministry group.

High school students and recent graduates are invited to preview the academic community and life of Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts in Warner, N.H., through its Collegiate Summer Program, being held July 11-24 and August 1-14, 2021. Students are taught by Magdalen  College professors each day and are introduced to liberal education through classic texts from philosophy, literature, theology, and political thought. Outside of the classroom, program participants attend daily Mass, climb Mount Kearsarge, canoe on a river, relax around bonfires, swing dance, visit local landmarks and much more. This year, students can apply to receive one of 10 half-tuition scholarships (valued at $200) to Magdalen College’s summer programs.

Once again, Thomas Aquinas College is offering its Great Books summer program in two locations: its campus in Santa Paula, Calif., from July 11 to 24, and its newly opened second campus in Northfield, Mass., from July 25 to August 7. These two-week programs engage students in seminars on Plato, Sophocles, Euclid, Blaise Pascal and St. Thomas Aquinas, among others. In addition to daily recreational and liturgical activities, the program also includes day trips to nearby cities. A detailed day-to-day picture of what the Great Books program is like can be found on the college’s blog. This program is offered to rising seniors.

Thomas More College in Merrimack, N.H., offers two different summer options for high school-aged students. The Great Books program, which is a two-week session offered June 27-July 10 and July 18-31, will inculcate its participants in a “healthy balance of prayer, work, and play” as they read authors like St. Thomas More and William Shakespeare. This year the school is continuing its partnership with The Wooden Boat School to offer the Exploration & Adventure in New England program, which runs from August 14-21. Participants read stories about the sea, learn to sing sea shanties and master sailing on the coast of Maine.

The University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D., offers two summer programs for high school students. The Cor Christi Institute program runs for two sessions in July on the University’s campus. This program invites high school students of all grades to encounter Jesus and learn the foundational teachings and practices of the Catholic faith through serious study, good conversation and wholesome friendship. The Rome Study Pilgrimage will take place June 16-30 and is open to rising seniors of regional Catholic high schools. Students will be able to experience some of the splendors of Rome while also earning two college credits.

For students interested in traveling abroad, the University of Navarra offers Spanish Intensive Summer Courses at its language institute on campus, Instituto Lengua y Cultura Española, ILCE. ILCE is offered in-person, so students get to enjoy all the campus has to offer. ILCE will also offer an online Summer course, June 28-July 30, and three other on-campus courses between May and August. Students taking these courses can earn college credit. 

For those juniors and seniors with adventurous spirits and a love for the outdoors, Wyoming Catholic College’s PEAK program in Lander, Wyo., offers a unique experience. It runs for two weeks: you can attend either from June 20-July 3 or from July 5-18. Students are given the opportunity to study the Great Books under the instruction of WCC faculty and to immerse themselves in the sacraments. Students are also engaged in a variety of outdoor activities, tailored to the experience and fitness of each participant, including a backpacking trip, fly fishing, horseback riding, rock climbing and more.

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