Summer bridge programs

Program basics

  • Typically 2–4 weeks
  • Provide resources for students about to enter college
  • During the summer before their first postsecondary term students receive seminars or orientations on college life and resources, academic advising, early introduction to college-level subjects, and training in skills necessary for college

Strength of evidence

Evidence level: Strong (second-highest tier)


Strong (second-highest tier)

Ranked as having the second-highest level of evidence by the U.S. Department of Education What Works Clearinghouse

Target population

Students enrolled in post-secondary education

Program cost


Implementation locations

  • Nationwide

Dates active


Outcomes and impact

  • Increased degree attainment

Keys to successful implementation

  • Note: This content is under review.
  • Develop an engagement plan to build partnerships with participants’ family members, including providing advice on how to build academic support networks for their child during the summer before college and regular updates on student progress during the program.
  • Provide parents with informational resources on housing arrangements, food plans, and tuition payments and other fees, along with clear points of contact for questions.
  • Facilitate social network development through programming among past, present, and future participants, thus creating informal mentorship and other relationships that bolster the success of the program.
  • Offer non-academic programming around high risk activity such as drug use and respectful interaction with the opposite sex, using third-party vendors as needed.
  • Academic content within the program should mirror the first few weeks of college to familiarize students with the content, pacing, and potential coursework they will face when they begin college.
  • Recruit campus leaders with strong academic backgrounds to serve as coaches during the summer, along with a commitment for regular check-ins with their student cohorts throughout the school year.
  • Avoid using curves or other competitive grading systems during the not-for-academic-credit summer courses.

Similar programs