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VSA Courses

PTY staff missed seeing students on campus during the Summer 2020 program year. We have already started making initial plans for Summer 2021 in the hope that we will all be back together on campus again soon!

Continue to visit this page and join our mailing list for the most up-to-date information involving our Summer 2021 experiences as well as program dates. If you are interested in academic programs this fall and spring, check out our online opportunities this fall.

Select one of the sessions below to view the courses for that date and age group:


Vanderbilt Summer Academy offers a challenging introduction to the academic rigors of college life. You will enjoy the excitement of in-depth, accelerated study of a fascinating subject within a community of your intellectual peers. Our courses are filled with wide-ranging, interdisciplinary topics such as nanotechnology, biomedical ethics and philosophy, history and medicine.

Regardless of where your interests take you, we have courses designed to provoke ongoing discussion and learning. Above all, VSA will uniquely challenge and foster your abilities in a supportive and engaging environment.

Please consider course choices carefully. As you review the course descriptions, rank-order as many of the courses as you like, knowing that you may not get placed in your first choice. While we do our best to place students in their first-choice courses, we often have to place students in second- or third-choice courses based on availability. Please note that ranking more than one course never hurts the possibility of receiving your top choice class, and ranking several courses increases the chances of being placed in a class. Rank only those courses that you are truly willing to take. If you get placed in lower ranked course, you will remain on the waiting list for higher ranked courses, but know, a spot may not open in a higher ranked course. Rank thoughtfully to ensure you will enjoy your VSA experience!


Vanderbilt Summer Academy instructors are drawn from the wealth of talented faculty and scholars here in the Vanderbilt University and Nashville communities and include many distinguished professors, scientists, and researchers. All instructors are carefully selected not only for achievements in their fields, but also for their commitment to excellence in classroom teaching. Our outstanding VSA instructors serve as academic role models, providing instruction and insights into their areas of study. In addition to the instructors, a teaching assistant (TA) with demonstrated experience in the content area or pedagogy supports each class. The TA serves as a resource to the instructor and to the class—sharing their perspective on the subject matter while helping to promote a learning environment that encourages academic risk-taking and relationship building.

Feedback and Assessment

In order for students to best experience the joy of learning within a group of true intellectual and social peers, VSA is a non-graded program and does not offer credit for course work. This design allows VSA students to take part in accelerated learning in an environment tailored to promote academic risk taking. We encourage you to push your intellectual limits without fear of failure. Instead of a grade, students receive a performance evaluation. This thoughtfully prepared constructive feedback from the instructor will help you accurately assess your achievements in the course work. More than a number or letter, this rubric is designed to help you understand your performance and abilities and to guide you in charting your future academic endeavors.

In addition, because Vanderbilt Summer Academy realizes that parents are important partners in the intellectual growth of their children, instructors make themselves available to parents for an optional end-of-session open house (Session I) or one-on-one conference (Sessions II and III), in person or over the phone, with your student’s instructor on the concluding day of the session. These conferences enable parents to spend time with a content expert to discuss student performance in the area of study and to inquire about options for further advanced work in a particular field.

Our Course Work

The Vanderbilt Summer Academy course curricula are designed to meet the intellectual needs of advanced students.

Vanderbilt Summer Academy courses are:

• Accelerated and unique, offering you the opportunity to explore areas of study not typically available elsewhere

• Fast paced and rigorous with an emphasis on critical and creative thinking

• Drawn from a broad range of disciplines in order to maximize the potential for interdisciplinary study

• Rooted in the rich academic and cultural environment of Vanderbilt University and the surrounding Nashville community

Vanderbilt Summer Academy offers the opportunity to explore exciting new areas of study—in and out of the classroom. Many courses offer visits to campus libraries, laboratories, archives, and studios, not to mention occasional field trips to off-campus resources that Nashville provides. The innovative curricula allow you to learn through hands-on activities, real-world scenarios, laboratory experiments, lively group discussions, and self-directed projects.

With six hours a day devoted to academic learning, VSA courses allow for a satisfying level of focus and depth. And while the course work can be exciting and intensive, outside of class, you will be able to fully enjoy the social and recreational activities Vanderbilt Summer Academy has to offer.

View Previous VSA Courses