Q. How many students apply to SSP? Is it very competitive? What are my chances?
A. In 2012 we received 648 applications for our 72 spots.
Admitted applicants generally earn top grades in the most advanced math and science courses available to them.
Even if that describes you, don't assume you will get in. Apply to SSP, but have an alternate plan.
But here is the main point: every year some students are surprised when they are admitted, and some are surprised when they are not.
As long as you meet the pre-requisites, it's impossible for you to predict how reviewers will view your application compared to the others they read from around the world.
Q. I'm a sophomore (in the 10th grade, over two years away from starting college) with perfect grades and test scores. I'm the top student in my grade, and I'd love to do this program. Should I apply this year?From our perspective, 1) every sophomore we admit is taking a spot from a junior who will never get another chance, and 2) every sophomore would be better prepared next year.
From your perspective, if you are not admitted, you may feel too discouraged to apply again next year, even though your preparation (and therefore chance of admission) will be considerably better.
A. We strongly encourage most sophomores to wait, and here's why. Very few sophomores are admitted (only a few each year). Think of it this way:
||SSP's Takahashi refractor at NM Tech
If you are a sophomore excelling in math & science courses normally taken by seniors, especially both calculus and physics, then you may want to consider applying as a sophomore.
Q. I am an exchange student studying in the US this academic year. Which application deadline do I use, US or international?
A. The international deadline applies to anyone who will need to apply for a visa to attend SSP, or who is attending high school outside of the US. So if your current visa expires before the end of SSP, use the earlier international deadline. Be sure to fill in your visa status and expiration date on the online form.
Q. Will SSP help me get ready for college?
A. Definitely. Even if you don't get in, the application process will be good practice.
If you do, the "college-like" environment at SSP will help you understand yourself better, and therefore what you should look for in a college.
More specificially, you will get a very visceral sense of whether majoring in science or engineering at a selective college is the path for you, or not.
If so, SSP will make you a better applicant, because it's strong evidence that you will succeed as a STEM major in college.
(By the way, many alumni write about SSP in their application essays.)
Q. Will SSP help me get into my first choice college?
A. Maybe, but very frankly "building your college application" is not a good reason to apply to SSP.
If the idea of spending your summer working very hard on an astronomical research project doesn't really excite you, then don't let someone else (a counselor or parent, perhaps) talk you into going just because it will look good on your college applications.
You will be much better off doing something this summer that truly interests you.
Q. How are the NM Tech and Westmont campuses different?
A. Primarily in location (obviously) and program dates (NM Tech starts and ends one week earlier).
The student experience is very similar, and descriptions on this website apply to both campuses. Details will vary according to the interests of the faculty.
Q. Are my chances better if I'm willing to go to either Westmont or NM Tech?
A. Yes, for the simple reason that some students may not be, and one campus will fill up first.
Check your school schedule and talk to your parent before deciding whether to specify one campus or not.
Q. I don't have any of the test scores listed on your application. May I still apply?
A. Yes, assuming you meet the pre-requisites. We don't require any particular test (nor do we use test scores to rank applicants).
We simply require that you give us your scores for any of these tests that you have taken.
But if you haven't taken any of them, our reviewers may have less confidence that your preparation is adequate for SSP. Try to think of other ways to give them that confidence.
Or, if time permits, ask your school to let you take those common college admissions tests earlier than planned (especially the SAT and TOEFL for students outside the US) so that you can include them with your SSP application.
Q. My new test scores will arrive after the deadline. May I send them at that time?
A. You may email new test scores to admissions [at] ssp.org up to two weeks after the deadline. After that, it is too late to include them.
Q. I don't have a current science teacher to complete your form. [or]
I'm taking math online and the teacher doesn't know me personally, may I ask my previous teacher? [or]
May I ask my CS or psychology teacher to complete the science teacher form?
A. Actually you may include evaluations from any two teachers, and we'll accept them as meeting the requirement.
But your goal here is not to meet the minimum and check off the box, or to ask the teachers who like you the best.
Your goal is to help our reviewers 1) understand your current preparation and interest in math and science, and 2) compare that to other applicants.
So a physics teacher is better than a history teacher, a current teacher is better than one from a prior year, and a teacher who knows you well is better than a teacher who does not.
If you do not submit a form from a current science and math teacher, the reviewers will wonder why not, so you should explain it in the Short Answer part.
Q. Do you use "rolling admissions"? If I send my application well before the deadline am I more likely to get in?
A. No and no. All applications are considered together.
Q. I am an exchange student studying in the US. Which deadline applies to me?
A. The earlier deadline allows international applicants more time to apply for and receive a visa to enter the US, which can take weeks. If you will not need to apply for a new visa (e.g. because you will not leave the US before SSP starts), then you may use the later deadline for US applicants.
Q. Can I send my application by email or fax? Otherwise it will be late.
A. We do not accept applications by fax under any circumstances, or by email from applicants. (Applicants are not supposed to see their confidential teacher evaluations.) However the deadline is not absolute. Applications arriving a day or two late will be reviewed. (One exception: an application may be emailed directly by the school, not the applicant, if the entire application is contained in a single PDF attachment.)
Q. I sent everything in, how can I confirm it was recieved and is complete?
A. First, we recommend using a courier or postal service that will confirm delivery.
Second, you can log in and scroll down to the bottom of the online form to see which applications parts have been logged for you.
After a piece of mail arrives, it can a week for us to log it, so wait before inquiring.
If a teacher evaluation or transcript is missing, we'll give you a chance to get it to us, even after the deadline.
Q. When are decisions announced?
A. We send decisions by email and mail as soon as we have them, 5-6 weeks after the deadline. Please be patient.
Q. Who decides whether I will get in?
A. Each application is read and carefully considered by an Admissions Committee of volunteer alumni and former faculty.
Q. If I end up on the Alternate list, what are my chances of getting in?
A. Everyone on our Alternate list is qualified to attend, and some will be offered admission. But you should have a backup plan for the summer.
Q. Will you provide transportation to and from the closest airport on arrival and departure day?
A. Yes, either Santa Barbara (SBA) or Albuquerque (ABQ). There is a public Airbus shuttle from LAX to Santa Barbara.
Complete travel instructions (and lots of other instructions) are sent to admitted students with their enrollment documents.
Q. Your website says SSP is "operated ... in cooperation with" Caltech and MIT. What does that mean?
A. Caltech was in the original consortium of California colleges that operated SSP for many years. Over five decades more of our alumni have attended Caltech and MIT than any other colleges. Both Caltech and MIT recommend SSP on their own websites, and usually send a representative to our College Roundtable. And, our California group always takes a field trip to Caltech.
Q. I would have to miss some of the activities, because of [a medical condition / religious observances / a family reunion / final exams / an award I'm receiving / etc.]. Should I apply?
A. Short answer: no. Late arrivals or early departures are not allowed, and required activities are scheduled every day of the program. Contact us for more information.
Q. Is there much free time during SSP? I need to spend a couple of hours a day [training / studying / practicing my instrument / etc.].
A. Short answer: no. During the program students stay very busy; there is "unscheduled time" but little "free time".
You can count on carving out no more than about half an hour a day for a purely personal activity. It is best to arrive with no other commitments to worry about for the duration.
Q. Does SSP have any religious affiliation? Can I attend services during the program?
A. SSP has no religious affiliation or content, and welcomes students of any religious background.
On request we will arrange transportation to a local religious service on Sunday mornings only.
On Fridays and Saturdays, required lectures and field trips are scheduled.