Stanford Pre-Collegiate International Institutes Online

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Stanford has determined that on-campus residential programs should be shifted to an online-only format. In place of our residential program this summer, we are pleased to offer an online alternative to the Stanford Pre-Collegiate International Institutes. 

Stanford Pre-Collegiate International Institutes Online offers two-week intensive courses to academically talented middle school and high school students in partnership with select international organizations. Through a single-subject course, participants will explore an advanced subject rarely found in traditional school settings.

Online Academic Enrichment

Not for credit or grade, our challenging courses provide in-depth and interactive exploration of advanced topics.

The program emphasizes building skills along with acquiring knowledge, and is designed to create environments that foster creativity and collaboration where students learn from each other as well as from their instructors.
Single-Subject Study
Students will participate in just one course for advanced study led by an instructor who is an expert in their field and passionate about teaching. Daily classroom instruction features advanced content more typically found in a college curriculum.
Real-Time Online Instruction
Courses meet for two hours each day (Monday–Friday, Pacific Daylight Time) for live classroom discussion with their instructor and peers. In addition to the live meeting times, students will engage in out-of-class learning assignments tailored to each course.
College-Level Workload
Similar to what they would experience in a college course, students can expect a heavy workload of assignments to work on outside of the live class meeting times. Coursework may include assigned readings, group work, pre-recorded online lectures, and more.
Active Student Engagement
Active participation is key to creating an online community of engaged learners, and students are expected to participate in class and to collaborate with their peers and instructors. Outside of the academic context, students will also find opportunities to engage and build community with their peers through a variety of student life seminars, workshops, and activities.

Engaging Student Life

Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies seeks to not only provide enriching academic experiences, but also to facilitate engaging learning communities that foster critical thinking, promote personal growth, and inspire lifelong learning outside of the classroom. Our online program will incorporate a robust student life component to complement the academic coursework of the program.
Hoover Tower on Stanford Campus

A Taste of College Life

Learn about college life in the United States and hear from Stanford community members about their college experiences.
In a common area, a participant uses a laptop during the program.

Build Connections Around the World

Meet participants from other countries while participating in exciting events like orientation and commencement.
Two people bike past the Main Quad.

Student Life Workshops

Participate in a series of personal development workshops and engage with a community of peers from around the world. Details about available workshops will be provided to organizers closer to the program start.

2020 Dates and Schedule

Participants have full daily schedules which incorporate the academic and social aspects of the program. Class time and student life activities are scheduled to accommodate each group’s time zone. Additional information about your unique schedule will be provided by the organizer as the program start gets closer.
Session Dates
Monday, August 3 – Friday, August 14, 2020
Daily Expectations
In general, participants can expect to have roughly 3-5 hours of academic work per weekday, in addition to the daily live class period. Outside of the scheduled class period, participants are able to set their own schedule for when they complete assignments, which could include assigned readings, pre-recorded lecture videos, or working on group projects.

Online Classroom Technology Requirements

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Participants will need to have daily access to a computer that is capable of running the latest versions of internet browsers, plug-ins, and software.
Internet Connection
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Participants will need to be connected to high-speed internet that will support interactive audio and video.
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Participants should have a webcam to support daily participation in class.
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If you are using a laptop with a built-in microphone, we recommend that you use headphones during live class sessions to avoid echo or feedback. If possible, we suggest that you use a USB-based headset with a microphone for clear audio when participating in class.
Suitable Learning Environment
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Do your best to choose a comfortable, distraction-free learning space for the live class meeting times. Keep in mind that the setting should be appropriate for interacting with instructors and fellow students on camera.

Summer 2020 Courses

Course offerings are designed to meet the interests of our students. Our instructors highlight new areas of research and findings to create an exciting learning opportunity for students. Prospective participants should apply through a collaborating international educational organization. Collaborating organizations will work with the International Programs team to select course offerings from the list below.

Bioscience Courses

Topics in Bioscience
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How does the brain allow us to think, sense, behave, and feel? In this course, we will begin by learning about the basic physical structures of the brain, such as neurons, channels, synapses, and neurotransmitters. With this knowledge as a foundation, we will move on to explore how they give rise to complex phenomena such as learning and memory, addiction, sensory processing, and mental illness. We will learn how the science of the brain has emerged through investigations and critical discussions of the most important experiments and observations of the past and recent history. Engaging lessons, comprising a mixture of lectures, discussion, and virtual activities, will introduce students to materials from several different angles. Students will consolidate their knowledge with activities and exercises.
Biomedical Engineering
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Using the body as a road map, we will explore the latest medical technologies. This is a course that investigates implantable devices and instrumentation used in medicine. We will begin with the brain, travel to the eyes, voice box, heart, lungs, stomach, artificial joints, and finish our journey with artificial limbs. Explore the extraordinary solutions of modern engineering to human disease!
Investigations in Bioscience: Neuroscience
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This class is designed to serve as a first dive into neuroscience. We will investigate neuron structure and function, and then look at how neurons connect to each other via synapses. We will expand the scale to consider the brain, the senses, and finally learning and memory. Class activities will include interactive neurophysiology simulations, optical illusions, and memory tests. Students will build neurons and synapses, and do research and present on neurophysiological disorders.
Investigations in Bioscience: Nanobiomaterials
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This 2-week introductory course on "Nanobiomaterials" is targeted towards exceptional high school students interested in bioengineering, nanotechnology, and materials science. The course will provide a historical perspective of the field and introduce five major types of Nanobiomaterials. We will discuss the unique properties of Nanobiomaterials and their potential to revolutionize industries ranging from manufacturing to medicine. Additionally, the course will discuss the specific applications of Nanobiomaterials in different areas of research including diagnostics, medicine, and biosensors. Potential future applications, opportunities for young scientists and engineers, and key challenges in the field will be summarized as well.

As part of the course, students will be invited to form groups, do their own research and write an original review article on any topic within the field of Nanobiomaterials.

Business Courses

Business & Entrepreneurship
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This course provides students with an intensive introduction to core business disciplines, addressing a wide range of topics including business spreadsheets, presentation software, interviewing, resume creation, financial statements, product pitching, product pricing, company naming, and more. Students will apply their newly acquired business knowledge to a range of academic assignments and creative projects similar to those seen in undergraduate and graduate-level business courses. Through a mix of written analyses, competitions, oral presentations, simulations, and group projects, students will gain the technical and interpersonal skills necessary to navigate the business world.

Computer Science Courses

Artificial Intelligence
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The goal of this course is to help students better understand what artificial intelligence is, and how intelligent systems learn to do given tasks. Throughout the course, students will be introduced to mathematical background of machine learning and will have opportunity to develop their own machine learning and deep learning programs. Finally, students will learn more about optimization algorithms and how they are used in artificial intelligence.
AI Robotics
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Welcome to the multidisciplinary field of Robotics! Students will explore the primary subsystems of robotic solutions starting with embedded programming (arduino and/or microbict) and basic electronics, sensors (encoders, potentiometers, accelerometers, limit switches), actuators (simple hobby level DC motors and hobby three wire servos), and simple mechanical systems using cardboard, paper clips, and household materials. We will explore AI starting with understanding the basics of neural nets by writing one from scratch using Google Sheets or Excel and build up from there to simple working systems. Time and interest allowing, the foundations of Computer vision will be incorporated via OpenCV and students own computer.
Introduction to Data Science: Visualization and Modeling
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Data science has revolutionized the way our world works and how we understand it. Technology enables us to ask more questions of more data, but how do we go about using these tools effectively and ethically?

This course will introduce students to computer algorithms and the diversity of models they can generate, each with pros and cons. Students will use datasets from the natural and social sciences to answer real-world questions, pursuing questions and data relevant to their own lives. They will apply different facets of machine learning through R programming exercises deeply integrated into the course. By the end of the course, students will have developed a technical skill set that allows them to investigate any given dataset with strong coding abilities and a scientific approach.
Introduction to Programming
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The course teaches students the basic principles of problem solving through computer programming, including identifying abstractions and developing simple algorithms to solve abstract problems. Students will decompose large problems into smaller problems, and systematically develop logical instructions to solve them. Students are introduced to basic computer hardware and programming concepts and learn to write simple programs using the Python or similar programming language. They also learn how to write programs that use graphics and simple animations.

Engineering Courses

Chemical Engineering
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Chemical engineers are multi-disciplinarians who apply principles of chemistry, physics, biology, and engineering to solve a range of practical real-life problems, from the large-scale production of pharmaceuticals to the discovery and development of novel pharmaceuticals. Some areas of Chemical Engineering, such as drug design will be investigated through activities, focusing on data analysis, followed by iteration and redesign.

The goals of this class are to foster reasoning and analytical skills in the context of biology and organic chemistry. Students will gather qualitative or quantitative data from experimental situations, understand and accurately represent data when needed, and use the data to evaluate predictions, support structure determination, and propose plans of action.
Architectural Design
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This course will introduce students to the inspiring field of architecture. We will practice a process of creative problem-solving which combines design, art, engineering, and science, as well as principles of sustainability and ethics. We will draw no boundaries around the scope of architecture, neither in its content nor its process. Students will be expected to move rapidly between different scales, media, and tools to complete a series of increasingly challenging projects.
Embedded Systems
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To many people, embedded systems are mysterious because the way they function is often hidden from our eyes. The reality is that embedded systems are all around us, from cars to cameras, cell phones to clothing. These devices often contain electronics and a hidden processor. The objective of this course is to demystify the world of embedded systems through theoretical and hands-on exercises that begin to examine the components that comprise these fascinating systems. Once you understand how a software running inside a microcontroller interfaces with sensor and actuator circuitry, you can use this knowledge to construct embedded electronic systems of your own. The software component of the course involves using the C programming language. Therefore, exposure to basic coding concepts and logic will be beneficial.
Material Science and Engineering
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Materials science and engineering (MSE) is one of the newer engineering fields, stemming primarily from a need to understand how small-scale structures influence bulk material behavior and a need to integrate solid-state physics and chemistry concepts practically to make consumer products. A jack-of-all trades discipline, materials engineers work on projects ranging from rockets and medical implants to computers and skyscrapers, simply because everything is made of stuff.

This course will culminate in a group project where students will select a common consumer product and suggest a redesign using the fundamentals of MSE and the materials selection process.
Product Design and Design Thinking
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We are entering an era where many new design-related careers are emerging that will require unique, interdisciplinary skills. This intensive, engaging summer course explores and prepares participants for these new opportunities, where a robust portfolio demonstrating creativity, sensitivity to materials, and a coherent vision is the key to a successful design career. Keeping this in mind, this course will explore how creativity is expressed in a wide range of related professions and how it interacts with necessary business fundamentals. Students will explore a range of techniques and tools including 3D modeling, data analysis, deep topical research and presentation. With an eye towards real-world conditions, they will be introduced to the iterative processes of design engineering and trained to interpret their product to a client audience. A variety of lectures, workshops, and projects will prepare students for a final project that integrates the many skills and approaches they will have mastered.

Mathematics Courses

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How can two people communicate secrets back and forth, even when a third party can eavesdrop on everything they say? Modern cryptography is an increasingly important field which helps to answer this question. It draws from a variety of mathematical and math-related fields, such as number theory, computational complexity, and the theory of algorithms. Topics may include some basic encryption-breaking techniques, the discrete logarithm problem, integer factorization and primality testing, probability and combinatorics, elliptic curves, complexity theory, and P versus NP. The course will introduce several modern techniques, such as Diffie-Hellman key exchange, ElGamal encryption, RSA, and probabilistic prime tests. While this is not a computer programming course, those interested in the subject may find this course an illuminating introduction to some theoretical aspects of the field.
Logic & Problem Solving
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Problem solving is both an art and science; it is a most intellectually entertaining activity. In this course, we will bring joy and rigor simultaneously to solve challenging math problems. The class will look at problems in a wide range of difficulty from diverse range of areas: logic, combinatorics, inequalities, probability, number theory, geometry, algorithms and puzzles. We will acquire a toolkit of useful techniques and problem-solving strategies and also develop a disciplined style of thinking that is both creative and logical. There will be ample opportunity to apply these tools and sharpen your thinking skills in solving intriguing problems and puzzles, discuss with your peers and present your solutions. Besides elementary algebra, the only prerequisite for this course is your strong craving for fun.

Physical and Earth Science

The Frontiers of Physics
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Frontiers of Physics will launch students into an exploration of the groundbreaking discoveries in physics in the early 20th century that gave rise to modern physics and the scientific world we know today. This rigorous course will be structured around three breakthroughs: Einstein's Special and General Theory of Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, and Particle Physics. Tracing Einstein, students will mathematically prove concepts such as time dilation and the mass energy equivalence and discuss paradoxes such as the twin paradox and the barn-pole paradox. Diving into Quantum Mechanics, they'll investigate the historical experiments that shed light on this strange theory, solve Schrodinger's equation to see how Quantum Mechanics predicts tunneling, and learn about the Bohr-Einstein debates and their philosophical implications. Students will demonstrate their knowledge through a variety of assignments, which may include a complete scientific article on relativity, an experiment to confirm the wave nature of light, and a general-audience article on a topic in modern physics.
Topics in Physics
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Physics seeks to discover and understand the how of nature. With its tools, we can reveal the order beneath apparent chaos and find beauty in the laws that determine the shape and motion of our world. In this course, we will survey foundational topics in physics, including the properties of mechanics, electromagnetism and relativity. We'll examine everyday phenomena through the light of our theoretical knowledge and experimental discoveries. This course's persistent emphasis on problem solving, laboratory investigation, and practical applications will ensure the broad theoretical knowledge students will acquire strengthens their physical intuition.

Social Science Courses

International Relations: The Ethics of War
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In the 1990s, many political writers and commentators hailed the end of the Cold War as the inauguration of a new era of international peace and stability. Yet war "in new and troubling ways" is as much a central part of our political experience as ever. If the public is going to have an informed and reflective voice in making political decisions about war, we must find ways of evaluating, judging, and intelligently arguing about it.

Does the decision to go to war conform to our deepest principles and commitments? What are those principles, anyway? When, if ever, is it morally "right" for a country to go to war? And what about how the war is being fought? Do moral obligations apply to the means of warfare, as well as the ends? What are the consequences of war on militaries, civilians, and states? How can we morally grapple with those consequences?

This class introduces students to what is known as "just war theory," or the philosophical tradition of reflecting on the morality of warfare, as well as Pacifist and Realist critics of this tradition. We will look at some selections of primary philosophical sources and apply these theories to a wide variety of concrete examples, both historical and contemporary. Readings for this course integrate many disciplines including film, fiction, political science, journalism, and philosophy.
Legal Studies: Become a Highly Effective Critical Thinker
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The top qualities companies seek in people they hire are critical thinking, problem solving, and communication prowess. This skill set differentiates one from most people in the labor market. Lawyers have to master these skills for their clients.

This course will teach you how to master them, too! You will discover how to think, research, write, and solve real life problems, as lawyers do. We will enjoy lively debates, fascinating guest speakers, group work, film discussions, negotiations, and even a courtroom mock trial presided by a distinguished judge.

Critical thinking, problem solving, and persuasion are portable skills: they are highly sought after, transferable and relevant in any professional and school setting. Therefore, while this class is of particular value for those who contemplate law school, everybody will benefit from it. This course is most beneficial for students who like to work collaboratively in an inclusive and supportive environment, and appreciate diverse view points.
Topics in Politics and Public Policy: Deliberative Democracy
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This course examines the theory and practice of democracy—in particular, deliberative democracy—and engages in a dialogue with critics. The course will discuss whether a democracy, which emphasizes people thinking and talking together on the basis of good information, can be made practical in the modern age. What kinds of distortions arise when people try to discuss politics or policy together? The course draws on ideas as well as criticisms from the jury literature, from the psychology of group processes, and from the most recent normative and empirical literature on deliberative forums. Case studies from the Deliberative Polling method and other deliberation methods, its applications, defenders, and critics, both normative and empirical, will provide cases studies for discussion.

Throughout the course, students will address how public participation is currently conducted around the world. As we have all seen in successful but more likely unsuccessful attempts to consult the public, this course will examine the various ways of consulting the public and how governments, media, and the public have responded and used these results. Students will gain in depth understanding of democratic theories, and in particular with deliberative democracy, through in-class debates, taking part in a modified version of Deliberative Polling, and engaging in dialogue with prominent democracy experts.
Social Psychology
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Humans are deeply social creatures, and as such we depend on each other for survival. A lot of what causes us joy or misery is rooted in other people's evaluation of us and our relationship with them. In this class, we will discuss basic concepts of social psychology. We will learn to understand cognitive biases, our need to categorize people, the implications of this need, what makes us gossip, or what makes us behave in an altruistic way.

During the course, the students will gain a deeper understanding of the complexity of social psychology and group dynamics. Methods of learning include lectures, class discussions, video clips, and student presentations. The class is taught in an interactive way. Throughout the course, students will learn how to pose a research question that contributes to social psychology and how to design an experiment testing theoretical hypotheses. The students will learn how to think critically about academic work.
Topics in Psychology
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This course introduces students to methodological and theoretical aspects of the field of psychology through in-depth study of some of psychology's most important topics. Students will learn significant works from the historical development of psychology as well as receive an introduction to areas and methods of current research. Possible topics include: social psychology, social and cognitive development, perception, memory, psychological disorders, psychological approaches to the study of behavior, the theories and contributions of major figures in the field, the methodology of psychology and its limitations, ways to apply psychological findings to everyday life, and others. This course will provide students with hands-on activities such as small research projects that enable them to familiarize themselves with the methodological tools used by social scientists.
Topics in Sociology: Mental Well-Being and Society
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In recent years, mental health has become a hot topic of conversation in the media, following reports of a "mental health crisis" among Millennials and Generation Z. In particular, there is recent concern about the well-being of high school and college students. But mental health, like other social phenomena, is not experienced in a vacuum. How does social context shape an individual's psychological experience? How might social scientists think about the idea of a mental health crisis?

This course will provide an introduction to the sociology of mental health and will give students the tools to think critically about narratives around well-being that they may hear in their own lives. Students will learn how the line between health and illness ("normal" and "crazy") is socially constructed, how social context influences subjective experience, and how people's responses to their own subjective experience or that of others can change (and have changed) over time. We will also discuss the social stigma that surrounds mental illness and delve into demographic patterns of mental health. Throughout the course, we will draw on contemporary issues and conversations around mental health in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, using our sociological lens to offer alternative explanations to those frequently presented in the media.

Students will learn through reading scientific articles and books, class discussions, group work, and an independent case study that will be presented to the class at the end of the term.

Writing and Applied Arts

Ethics: The Art of Persuasion
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Books, magazines, newspapers, TED talks, political speeches...a great deal of writing and speech is persuasive. Persuasion is not only a basic feature of daily life, but also a topic of formal study within the field of rhetoric, a discipline with origins in ancient Greek philosophy. There's a good reason that philosophy and rhetoric are linked: skillful speakers and writers can persuade others to do good or bad things.

This course combines a close study of rhetoric and ethics in order to make students both stronger analytical writers and better reasoners. We will explore and debate questions of ethics both ancient and modern while developing a powerful arsenal of rhetorical skills useful in persuading others. We will read and study political speeches by authors ranging from Cicero to Frederick Douglass to JFK, and we will also explore excellent persuasive essays, both from famous authors of the past and contemporary op-eds in newspapers. Students will finish the course with stronger rhetorical skills, but they will also have developed their capacity for ethical reasoning.
Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, and Poetry
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This intensive three-week course is an exploration into the craft of writing creatively. Students will read a variety of works including poems, short stories, memoirs, and personal essays by well-known authors, as well as essays on craft, to develop skills needed to form their own personalized writing process. Students will be able to recognize how each creative piece sets its own terms and lives by them. They will practice writing like a reader and reading like a writer. By the end of this course, students will have a portfolio of completed work along with feedback from their professor and peers. Most importantly, students will become part of a welcoming, engaging, and diverse writing community.
Writing Across Disciplines
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How can a computer scientist help archaeologists study Neolithic China? How can studying literature help neuroscientists understand the human brain? How can an ancient historian help us understand international politics today? Interdisciplinary research requires scholars to communicate knowledge across traditional academic boundaries. Such communication presents unique challenges: how does a scientist write for both an audience of computer scientists and archaeologists without sacrificing detail and complexity?

This course will introduce students to strategies for reading and writing interdisciplinary papers.

Through a variety of short readings, students will learn to work through jargon-laden texts and gain confidence in their ability to read academic papers. This course will also provide students the opportunity to co-author a short research paper on an interdisciplinary topic suited to their own interests. Workshops on each stage of the research writing process with give students tools to be effective interdisciplinary readers, writers, and project managers.


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Frequently Asked Questions

Who teaches the Stanford Pre-Collegiate International Institutes courses?

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Stanford Pre-Collegiate International Institutes instructors are primarily Stanford University affiliates selected for expertise in their fields as well as their ability and experience in teaching students in the International Institute age range. Our instructors are active researchers and design custom courses that provide a deep dive in their area of expertise and highlight new areas of research.

Do Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies program participants receive grades or credit?

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We do not provide course grades or credits for completing a Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies program. Our summer courses are for enrichment purposes only. After the conclusion of the program, participants are sent a written evaluation from their instructor and a certificate of completion.