SMSSP Student

Stanford Middle School Scholars Program

The Stanford Middle School Scholars Program prepares students for a rigorous high school education with an online two-week summer course and online weekly meetings during the academic year. The program serves low-income students currently in grades 6 or 7.

Stanford Middle School Scholars Program (SMSSP)

The Stanford Middle School Scholars Program (SMSSP) instructs students in the skills needed to succeed in an academically rigorous high school. Middle School Scholars build community with Stanford Online High School instructors and students from across the United States.

Scholars enroll in one of three two-week summer courses in July. From mid-August through March, scholars meet weekly in small cohorts led by Stanford Online High School instructors and staff, covering topics such as applying for independent (private) high schools, academic writing, time-management, math enrichment, and study skills.
Live Online Classes and Meetings
With small class sizes and meeting cohorts, Scholars engage in every aspect of the program through real-time discussions in which instructors and students see, hear, and interact with one another.
Instructors from Stanford Online High School (OHS) will teach the summer courses and facilitate weekly academic year meetings from August through March. These Stanford Online High School instructors specialize in teaching the 7th and 8th grade students who attend OHS.
Stanford Middle School Scholars Program is tuition-free. We aim to provide low-income middle school students with access to leading instructors, and the opportunity to build skills that prepare them to apply to and succeed in academically-rigorous high schools.
The program’s summer courses and academic year meetings will have 12-14 students, allowing for small group discussions and a high level of engagement with the instructor. Scholars will be assigned to a cohort for the academic year, based on their time zone, and meet weekly after school from August through March.

Summer 2022 Admissions

Summer Program: 9am-11am Pacific Time, weekdays, July 11 - 22, 2022
(Optional program events will occur outside of class time on these dates)

Academic year meetings: August 2022 - March 2023
Students will be assigned to a one-hour weekly meeting time based on their time zone
Application Deadline - EXTENDED
April 7, 2022
Admissions Notification
Mid-May 2022
When your admissions decision is ready, you will receive an email notification.

Summer Courses

Applicants to the Stanford Middle School Scholars Program will rank the following summer courses in order of their preference. Students will be admitted to and attend only one of the three courses. During the summer course, Scholars also engage in non-academic, community building activities outside of class time.

Reading, Writing, and the Human Condition

In this class we’ll read complex works of fiction (All Systems Red by Martha Wells) and nonfiction (James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time.) Both these works explore questions of justice, identity, and how to live in the world. We will focus on understanding the reading in depth, exploring historical context, looking for themes and discussing their implications. We will practice using individual quotations from the work to connect to larger, important ideas. We’ll start with where you are right now as a writer, and help you build on the skills you have, so by the end of the course you are writing complex and convincing paragraphs about ideas you care about in the works we read.

Media Literacy in the Post-Truth Era

It's common today for youth to get their news from TikTok, WhatsApp, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, or Twitter. Put more precisely, social media algorithms select news for them based on their contacts, likes, and previous online activity. This can produce a skewed and heavily stratified information landscape, a fact that has serious implications for democracy and the institutions that support it. In this course, students will develop skills to help them cut through the algorithms and find more balanced, truthful sources of information. Through the analysis of various forms of digital content, secondary readings, and in-class discussions, students will learn to recognize and distinguish between misinformation (unintentional mistakes), disinformation (fabricated or deliberately manipulated content designed to fuel conspiracy theories or rumors), and malinformation (information published solely for personal or corporate interest). Beyond this, they will develop strategies for finding more reliable information from a range of sources. As a final project, students will analyze how different sources have reported a given news item and help their audience to reach a reliable and verifiable understanding of it.

"Questioning Questions": Learning through research experiments in Physics

The world is big… and the universe is even larger! And physics is one of our fundamental tools to understand it all. In this class we'll introduce you to physics through the lens of experiments, as we aim to study how things work in order to make accurate predictions about the world around us. We'll practice systematic approaches to collecting data and analyzing patterns by conducting fun experiments and documenting our inferences through multiple lab reports. By the end of this course, you'll have grown skills in problem solving and data acquisition and be equipped to measure physics phenomena in your daily life.


This online program is open to low-income students currently in grades 6 or 7 who reside in and attend school in the United States. Students must be able to attend both the online summer course and the weekly online meetings during the academic year. Applicants should be interested in or planning to attend a college preparatory, academically rigorous high school.

Application Process

1. Start an Application

Create a Stanford Middle School Scholars Program (SMSSP) application account. The application account should be made with the student applicant's legal name, but a parent email address may be used to receive application communications.


The application is currently closed.


2. Review Application Checklist

In addition to the online application form, a complete application includes:

Academic Records
We require unofficial transcripts for each school or academic program you took graded courses at from Fall 2019 through Fall 2021. If you have multiple grade reports from one school, rather than one transcript from that school, please combine that into a single file for upload. Homeschooled applicants should submit a document similar to a transcript with their coursework from the years listed above. Homeschooled students should also submit transcripts from any graded courses they took with a school or program during this period.

Teacher Recommendations
We require one (1) online recommendation form to be included with your application. This recommendation should come from a history, social science, English/language arts, science, math, engineering, or computer science teacher. You may submit a second, optional, recommendation form from a counselor, principal, or mentor (which can include another teacher). Be sure to add the teacher(s) to your account early, as this step will email them the online form.  

No application fee is required.

3. Check Your Application Status

After completing your application, return to the Application Status and Materials Checklist page to make sure all of your application materials have been submitted. When your admissions decision is ready, you will receive an email notification that prompts you to log in to this page for the decision.

A Note About Email

Email is our primary mode of communication and each applicant will receive a confirmation email from us after their application is received and processed. If SMSSP has any questions about your application, or if there is something missing, an email will be sent asking that the applicant contact us to resolve the situation. Please be sure to check your email regularly and respond to us when needed.


We will work with students to ensure that they have the technology needed to participate in the program, but a reliable and consistent internet connection is required for effective participation.

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. Mobile devices are not recommended.
Internet Connection
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Students must have a reliable broadband internet connection that is robust enough to handle video conferencing with minimal difficulties. Our courses take place in an interactive environment which includes having all students on camera, chat, videos, and presentations. We highly recommend that students use a wired ethernet connection.
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Participants should have a webcam to support daily participation in class.
Headphones and Microphone
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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. Using a headset with a microphone will help ensure that you have clear audio when participating in class.
Suitable Learning Environment
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Do your best to choose a comfortable, quiet, 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.


Most Frequent Questions

What is low-income?

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Scholars will typically come from families who have gross household incomes below $90,000. We consider the size of the family supported by the household income and additional information provided by the family when determining an applicant's eligibility.

Can I apply if I live and/or attend school outside the United States?

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No. At this time, the Middle School Scholars Program can only serve students who live in and attend school in the United States.

Can I attend the summer program if I am unable to attend the academic year meetings?

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No. Middle School Scholars will need to attend both the summer and academic year components of the program.

What are the academic qualifications required for the program?

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We will consider applications from students who have clearly demonstrated a motivation to learn and grow academically. However, we also recognize that not all students are in a personal situation where they can excel to their fullest potential. We will accept applications from students who have a B- average or above, and/or are showing an upward trajectory in their grades.