What to consider when choosing a pre-college summer program

Are you planning to spend your next summer making art, going to summer school, or previewing college? Here are some important tips to consider when choosing the right pre-college summer program for you.

Student crafting a colorful piñata

Summer pre-college programs offer once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for high school students to gain practical college-level experience, make new friends outside of school, and preview campus life.

Pre-college art and design-focused programs go even further with immersive hands-on arts practice and a chance to explore a particular medium or area of interest. At California College of the Arts (CCA), Pre-College students make portfolio-ready work, live on campus in San Francisco, learn from our expert instructors, and earn college credits in just 4 weeks over the summer.

Are you planning what you’ll do next summer?

Here are some tips to help you choose the perfect pre-college program for you.

Identify your interests and goals

Fashion student walking down a runway, wearing a black ensemble and sunglasses, exuding a happy smile. Behind them are sewing mannequins that nod to the creative process and craftsmanship that goes into fashion.

What do you actually want to study? What’s a subject or artistic interest that inspires you? Is it animation, drawing, photography, comics, jewelry making, fashion, or film? These represent just a fraction of the 17 diverse studio courses offered at CCA, for example.

Although you might focus on one area of study, pre-college programs also offer exposure to a wide range of disciplines, art mediums, and styles allowing you the room to explore a variety of creative avenues.

“Before Pre-College at CCA, I didn’t know what I was going to do and wasn’t really exposed to the art world, but the program really helped me figure out what I wanted to pursue,” says Sebastian Ospina, who now studies Animation as a CCA undergraduate. “I learned so much not just from the classes, but from being surrounded by so many different artists for the first time ever. The environment was all around very inspiring”

Pre-College students create incredible artwork as they learn to express powerful ideas from climate change to social justice to personal identity for the first time. It is the ideal setting to figure it out as you go and discover your personal artistic voice.

A large painting on a white wall featuring a person gazing upward, hands raised within a centered blue square. This stands out against a dark purple background painted with haunting eyes

Consider a city you want to explore

Picture of the Golden Gate Bridge with a mountain view in the background and the ocean with a sailboat

Picture your ideal setting for an actual college experience. Do you want to study in a city? A small town? The suburbs? Big cities are a great choice if this is your first time away from home. They offer vibrant art communities, endless activities, and diverse neighborhoods.

CCA’s campus is set against the backdrop of the greater San Francisco Bay Area, a hub for cutting-edge technology, major music festivals, foodie paradise, world-class museums, outdoor activities, breathtaking ocean and mountain views, and a thriving creative economy. The city itself becomes an extended classroom filled with artistic exploration and inspiration. Summer break is the optimal time for a month of in-depth creative work in a bustling city. (Bonus: You can escape the heat in San Francisco as the summer weather isn’t too hot!)

“To this day, I still say it was the best month of my life. It was my first time away from home and I had so much fun exploring a new place with new friends,” says India Forrest Shepard, a Pre-College alum and now a CCA Illustration undergraduate. “San Francisco is such a colorful city filled with art museums, fun events, music shows, and beaches. The city is so dense with a great transportation system, so getting around was really easy.”

Ospina shares a similar experience. “The city is our campus which makes it a wide-spread experience. It’s like you're going to a new and exciting city to live in and also happen to be attending a summer program. I had a lot of fun exploring San Francisco.”

To this day, I still say it was the best month of my life.”
India Forrest Shepard
Illustration undergraduate

Learn how the program will prepare you for college applications and decisions

Picture of student painting

With personal essay questions, portfolio pieces, and pressure to figure out what you want to do in life, college applications can be stressful and confusing. With pre-college, students may develop a more robust portfolio, earn college credits, and get guidance from mentors throughout the college application process.

Pre-College at CCA helps students get an idea of potential career paths by connecting them with art and design industry professionals. Students build lasting relationships with the instructors who are highly accomplished artists, architects, designers, and writers committed to supporting the next generation of creative practitioners. With a holistic preview of an actual college life and studio practice, students can determine if an art and design college is right for them before committing to a four year college.

“I don't think I would have gotten into all of the art schools I did had it not been for the Pre-College program,” says Shepard. “The instructors provided me with a strong structure to develop all my portfolio pieces and the environment inspired me to create my best work. They also gave us guidance throughout the application processes. I feel like I had an advantage compared to students who didn’t attend a pre-college program.”

For those who don’t plan on attending an art and design school, the experience offers stories for personal essay questions and serves as a standout on resumes.

See what studio facilities and resources the college offers

Students working on the computer on Apple desktops

It’s important that you get a well-rounded and enriching educational experience. A pre-college program with a wide range of facilities and resources creates an immersive environment, encourages collaboration, interdisciplinary learning, and exploration of new ideas.

Just like an actual college student, CCA Pre-College students have access to all the various tools, facilities, and state-of-the-art studios to foster a comprehensive understanding of their creative interests. Building studio culture is an important part of the Pre-College experience at CCA. Studio access in the evenings allows you to have dedicated time for homework while learning and hanging out with peers.

In addition to the CCA community, there is also a strong network of artists and studios around the city to explore. The expansive range of facilities and resources encourage interdisciplinary knowledge and creates a dynamic space where students can really hone in their artistic voice. A playground for creativity, the CCA Pre-College program grants students with both the creative freedom and necessary tools to realize their artistic ideas.

Check to see if the program offers scholarships

Picture of three students painting on a large canvas board in the studio

Scholarships play a crucial role in fostering financial accessibility and inclusivity for students from varying backgrounds. By recognizing artistic excellence, scholarships attract talent and inspire students to actively pursue their passions within a nurturing community.

CCA provides a comprehensive range of Pre-College scholarship opportunities, from need-based and merit options to an annual full-tuition Marcella Cleese Scholarship. We also partner with organizations like the Anthony Quinn Foundation, Bay Area Creative Foundation, Creative Want Change, and Minds that Matter for additional student aid opportunities for CCA’s Pre-College applicants.

Imagine what it’s like to be a part of the community and culture

A strong sense of community inspires creativity and nurtures a collaborative space for artistic expression and a rich cultural environment fosters personal growth, self discovery and a sense of belonging. Envision a summer where you’ll make lifelong friends, live in the dorms together, eat delicious meals just downstairs, and learn about art all in a vibrant city filled with community and culture.

CCA’s instructors are not only educators but also thriving artists and designers in the real world so you will have exposure to a solid network in and outside of the college. San Francisco’s renowned community and culture draws in students internationally and across the country who are looking to immerse themselves in an inspiring, creative environment.

“I made lasting friendships from the program and we still keep in touch today.”

— Sebastian Ospina

Animation undergraduate

Make friends, make art, and do it at CCA.

Students throwing a colorful octopus piñata while laughing and having fun