Rice University Precollege Program: Summer Program Spotlight

January 22, 2024

rice pre college programs

What subjects keep you up at night, have sent you down many a Google rabbit hole, or currently dominate your podcast playlist? If those subjects happen to be genome engineering, physiology, fintech, space exploration, political systems, psychology, the relationship between economics and business, or the legal system, you’re in luck. Well-known for its focus on undergraduate education, Rice University offers courses in the aforementioned subject areas that are very much in line with its values of responsibility, integrity, community, and excellence, empowering students to truly immerse themselves in their passions with the goal of building critical and creative thinkers who will put their newfound knowledge to work bettering our world. Whether you dream of exploring Mars or are curious about human genome editing, there’s a course option that will stimulate your intellectual curiosity. In today’s blog, we’ll dive into the Rice University Precollege Program’s curriculum structure, delivery, and overall benefits.

Note: This is a sponsored post written on behalf of Rice University’s Pre-College Program. We have independently (and enthusiastically) recommended their offerings to our clients for many years. Our site only partners with summer programs that bring significant value to students and the material in this blog is 100% the genuine opinion of College Transitions. 

Why should I take a class through the Rice University Precollege Program?

In high school, it’s rare to have a formal opportunity to explore a particular interest in depth. Often, students turn to books, documentaries, podcasts, and perhaps massive open online courses (MOOCs) to get a feel for a field. However, a structured opportunity like the one offered through Rice’s precollege program gives students a chance to explore a specific subject area in a more focused way—courses not only feature expertly developed materials but also mentorship and career/major exploration. Best of all, the courses are completely remote (more on that below).

In addition, Rice’s program delivers material in a variety of ways. For example, students can expect simulations, multimedia presentations, and engaging video lessons. Additionally, students have some say over their educational journey; depending on the course, they can choose their own topics for capstone projects and can submit those projects using text, video, photography, or PowerPoint. Most importantly, mentors are available throughout the course, giving students guidance and support from someone who is a  subject-matter expert in their field of interest.

Wondering how such a program might impact your college applications? Colleges like to see that you’re genuinely pursuing your passions in ways that are accessible to you. Enrolling in one of Rice’s precollege courses is an excellent way to demonstrate that curiosity and drive on your application.

What type of courses does the Rice University Precollege Program offer?

Currently, there are eight courses available across a variety of subject areas:


Genome Engineering: Changing the Future of Medicine explores the role that genetics play in diseases, allowing students to learn more about gene editing, ethics, and the role of genetic engineering in fields like data science and diagnostics.

Physiology: The Foundations of Medicine lets students delve into the interplay between the nervous, muscular, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems. Moreover, they’ll learn how our lives and overall health are impacted by changes in a particular system.

Related: How Long Does it Take to Become a Doctor?, How to Get Accepted into a BS/MD Program


Psychology In Our Everyday Lives teaches students about the purpose and goals of psychological science  alongside the importance of research and statistics. It also exposes students to fast-evolving subdisciplines like cognitive, health, and organizational psychology as well as hot-button topics like AI and social media.

Related: Best Colleges for Psychology, How to Become a Psychologist


Law: Shaping a Just and Equitable World enables students to dive into the ins and outs of the legal system and learn the role law plays in creating a just society, exploring topics like property ownership, workers’ rights, and educational rights.

Related: How to Become a Lawyer

Global Affairs

Global Affairs: Exploring Changing Political Systems explores the difference between democracies, semi-democracies, and authoritarian regimes. Furthermore, students learn about factors that lead to democratic decline and survival.

Related: Best Colleges for Political Science, Best Colleges for International Relations/Studies


In The Business of Economics, students learn about the impact that economics can have on business, investigating subjects like inflation, loanable funds, and the labor market. Moreover, they’ll examine energy supply and demand.

Related: Best Colleges for Economics


Entrepreneurship: From Ideas to Impact in Fintech lets students dive into the basics of financial services such as lending, credit, and investment advisory. In addition, it explores ecommerce, blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and how entrepreneurs create and implement new types of fintech.

Related: Business School Acceptance Rates for Undergraduate Programs, Best Colleges for Entrepreneurship


Space Exploration: The Road to Mars teaches students not only about the history of space travel and importance of Moon exploration but also about the future of space travel and impact of space on the human body.

Related: Best Colleges for Aerospace Engineering

What are the courses like?

All courses are completely remote and asynchronous, meaning you can engage in the material on your own schedule—perfect for busy high schoolers in any time zone. As such, there are no live Zoom classes to attend. Instead, courses are delivered through a set of engaging and dynamic video lessons and special assignments. For most courses, all you’ll need is a computer, smartphone, or tablet. That said, the physiology course suggests that you have a variety of easily obtainable household objects at the ready for certain lessons (straws, rubber bands, balloons, scrunchies, plastic bags, etc.).

The courses are designed and delivered by Rice faculty, and feature expert guests. For example, Physiology students have an opportunity to learn from practicing physicians, and Aerospace students benefit from interviews with space exploration leaders and astronauts. Moreover, the curriculum is designed for active learning; all courses conclude with a Capstone Project, which you will submit prior to the course’s conclusion.

Who teaches the Rice University Precollege Program courses?

Course delivery is two-pronged. The courses are fully designed and recorded by Rice professors, and facilitated by mentors who are experts in your course’s field of study. For example, Space Exploration: The Road to Mars is taught by Dr. David Alexander, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy who is also the director of the Rice Space Institute. Psychology in Our Everyday Lives is delivered by Dr. Danielle King, an assistant professor of Industrial and Organizational Psychology whose research focuses on employee resilience, resources, racial identity, and voice. Dr. Sabia Abidi, an assistant teaching professor in the Bioengineering Department who has published her research in multiple journals, leads Physiology: The Foundations of Medicine.

In addition, your mentor will support you through the material, be available to answer questions, and help you brainstorm and prepare for your capstone project. What can I do with my Capstone Project?

First, let’s delve into a sampling of the projects you can create through Rice’s courses.

In Genome Engineering: Changing the Future of Medicine, students identify a gene editing strategy for an inherited blood disorder and create a video presentation.

Rice Pre-College Programs (Continued)

In Entrepreneurship: From Ideas to Impact in Fintech, students design a business plan for an entrepreneurial fintech product or service, either developing a new venture from scratch or adding a new offering to an existing company.

In Law: Shaping a Just and Equitable World, students first identify several interconnected societal challenges and then create a proposal to address them.

Think of your capstone project as a way to practice important skills, such as synthesizing and presenting information, while allowing you to dive even more deeply into a topic of interest that you uncovered during the course. Additionally, your project could be a stepping stone for further study, whether through a class at school, like AP Research, or a local internship. You can also list the project on internship and college applications.

What type of time commitment should I expect?

It depends on the length of the course. You can select from courses that are either one week, two weeks, or four weeks long. While all courses require approximately 20-30 hours of instruction and activities, that time will be distributed evenly over the length of the course you select. For a one-week course, expect to commit approximately 20-30 hours of time over the course of the week. For a two-week course, you should expect to spend 15 hours per week, and a four-week course would require a 7-hour weekly commitment. The price and course material does not change based on course length, so consider your schedule as well as your personal learning style.

If a fast-paced, intensive experience is up your alley, you might opt for a one-week course. Alternatively, if you learn best when you have time to read and review information multiple times, you might choose the four-week option.

All required work must be completed by your course’s end date, but you’ll have access to the virtual lessons and materials for up to a month after the course ends.

How old do I have to be to take a course?

Students as young as 13 can take courses year-round. Although summer is the most popular time for most students to pursue academic enrichment opportunities, it is possible to dive into courses during the school year if that is a better fit for your schedule.

How many courses can I take at one time?

As many as you’d like, as long as you keep the recommended time commitment per course in mind. Hoping to take multiple courses? Consider selecting options that directly complement one another or introduce you to a tangential subject area. For example, aspiring political science students might opt to take Global Affairs: Exploring Changing Political Systems alongside Law: Shaping a Just and Equitable World for a holistic look at both international and domestic affairs. Hoping to be a pioneer in the digital space? You might be interested in taking Entrepreneurship: From Ideas to Impact in Fintech alongside The Business of Economics. Future medical students might gravitate toward Physiology: The Foundations of Medicine, which could be complemented by an understanding of various psychology subdisciplines  in Psychology in our Everyday Lives.

How do I apply to Rice University Precollege Program?

To apply, you’ll need to provide basic personal information as well as a brief personal statement that discusses why you wish to enroll in your course(s) of choice. The application deadline varies depending on the start date that you choose. However, applications are typically accepted until approximately a week before the course’s start date.

How much does the program cost?

Each course costs $1,495, and course length does not impact the price. In other words, a one-week course is the same price as a four-week course, giving you even more flexibility to choose what works best for your schedule.

Is there financial aid available?

Yes. Need-based scholarships are available for students with high potential who are unable to pay tuition.

Final Thoughts – Rice University Precollege Program

If you’re a self-motivated, self-disciplined student who is craving an immersive experience in a niche subject area, taking a course through Rice University Precollege Program would give you an essential foundation for future exploration. Most importantly, it will help you develop transferrable skills and showcase your intellectual passions on college applications.

Looking for additional summer program resources? You might consider checking out the following:

2024 Guide to Summer Programs for High School Students