Camp FAQs

Eligibility & Camp Costs


Pre-college students. Camps have a designated age range and some camps have an equity focus related to broadening representation in STEM. You’ll find the eligible grade levels and equity-focused designations listed on the Summer Camps webpage and each camp’s description page. The grades listed refer to the grade the student will be entering in the fall semester after the camps end.  Grade levels are selected purposefully for each camp. For multiple reasons, including equitable opportunity, we adhere to the identified grade levels and do not provide individual exceptions.

Yes, for Residential camps. These are camps marked with an "R" on the camp listing or noted as Residential. However, please be advised that transportation to and from campus is not included in the camp costs nor covered by the Trail Blazer scholarship.

International students can only participate in the Virtual camps if they agree to purchase their own supplies. The lab kit cannot be shipped internationally. The camp rate will be reduced slightly to accommodate these purchases and a supply list will be available a month prior to the start of the camp. Please check the camp description regarding virtual camp participation. Some of the virtual camps require real-time participation.

A visitor visa (B-2) can be used for attending summer camps. Any required visas or special documentation is the family's responsibility and camp acceptances are not sent until the end of April or early May which may or may not give enough processing time. For more visa-related information:

No. Camp eligibility is determined by what grade in school the camper will be entering in the fall after the camps end. 

Camps labeled as EAGER and IDEA are mission-focused to broaden participation in science and engineering (e.g. Black, Latina/o, Native Americans, women, transgender/non-binary, etc.). It is in our best interest as a University and as a nation to do what we can to increase equity and access in these fields of problem-solving and innovation. Addressing issues of equity, access, and inclusion is an important part of the mission of WYSE.

Because of this, we regularly host camps that focus on broadening access and participation in STEM. Camp sessions are designated as:

EAGER camps are mission-driven camp sessions led by Engineers Aiming for Gender Equity & Representation in STEM majors and careers. These camps focus on support and empowerment of traditionally excluded populations in STEM. The absence of their talents is a detriment to the STEM fields. EAGER camps provide a safe environment to build a community of peers and mentors who empower one another to be confident in their exploration of STEM.

IDEA camps are mission-driven camp sessions led by departments aiming to Increase Diversity, Equity, & Access in STEM majors and careers. These camps focus on support and empowerment of traditionally excluded populations in STEM including (but not limited to) the areas of gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and ability. The absence of their talents is a detriment to the STEM fields. IDEA camps provide a safe environment to build a community of peers and mentors who empower one another to be confident in their exploration of STEM.

  • Diversity includes all the ways in which people differ, encompassing the different characteristics that make one individual or group different from another. While diversity is often used in reference to race, ethnicity, and gender, we embrace a broader definition of diversity that also includes age, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, and physical appearance. Our definition also includes diversity of thought: ideas, perspectives, and values. We also recognize that individuals affiliate with multiple identities.
  • Equity is the fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all people, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. Improving equity involves increasing justice and fairness within the procedures and processes of institutions or systems, as well as in their distribution of resources. Tackling equity issues requires an understanding of the root causes of outcome disparities within our society.
  • Inclusion is the act of creating environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate. An inclusive and welcoming climate embraces differences and offers respect in words and actions for all people. It’s important to note that while an inclusive group is by definition diverse, a diverse group isn’t always inclusive. Increasingly, recognition of unconscious or ‘implicit bias’ helps organizations to be deliberate about addressing issues of inclusivity.

The EAGER and IDEA camps will have content specifically aimed at empowering historically excluded populations to navigate and negotiate systems that have traditionally been unwelcoming, as well as providing examples of success through faculty, students, and alumni who have experienced similar issues of systemic and individual bias. All are welcome to apply for these sessions

For Summer 2024:

Camp costs do NOT include transportation to and from campus, which is the family's responsibility.

In-person, RESIDENTIAL camps: $1,000 per camper unless otherwise indicated. This covers the cost of overnight accommodations in a campus residence hall, meals and snacks for the full week, camp staffing and materials, space rentals, extracurricular activities, insurance, and a camp T-shirt.

In-person, COMMUTER option: $600 per camper unless otherwise indicated. This covers all expenses listed for residential camps except for overnight accommodations.

In-person, DAY CAMPS: $550 per camper unless otherwise indicated. This covers expenses listed for residential camps except for housing and there are no evening extracurricular activities.

What It Takes VIRTUAL Camp: 

  • $300 per camper (if located in the United States). Special pricing is available for groups of 10 or more. Covers costs of staffing, project materials, camp T-shirt, and postage costs.
  • $200 per camper (if located outside the United States). Camper will need to purchase your own kit supplies (list provided) as we can't ship items outside the U.S. Cost covers staffing.

Some camps may have different pricing structures due to other funding sources. Visit the individual camp web pages for camp-specific information.

See Trail Blazer Camps Scholarship for information on financial assistance. 

Thanks to the generous funding of donors, WYSE offers partial (50%) and full Trail Blazer Scholarships for accepted summer camp applicants who meet one or more of the scholarship criteria.  

Applicants must meet the eligibility requirements for attendance at the WYSE Engineering Summer Camps in the same year that they are applying for the scholarship. The Trail Blazer Scholarship application is embedded in the overall camp application process, and it includes a brief essay written by the applicant and a statement of financial need completed by a parent or guardian.

See full details and criteria for the Trail Blazer Scholarship for WYSE Summer Camps. 

If your organization has a specific camper or group of campers for which you want to pay their camp costs, that can be done through our regular registration & payment process after a camper is accepted. The camper forwards the request for payment to the funder, which contains the link to the online payment form as well as information for paying by check.

If you need a copy of the University's W-9 for this, contact us.

If you would like to donate directly to the TrailBlazer camp scholarship fund or the WYSE Scholarship for accepted Grainger students fund, please contact WYSE directly.

No. We cannot offer any course credit for summer camps.

Application & Review Process


No. Students initially APPLY to summer camps. Those who are accepted and choose to claim their seat will then complete a registration form. 

Our summer camps do not employ rolling admissions. An applicant who applies at the beginning of the application time frame has as much chance of acceptance as an applicant who applies at the end (but before the deadline). Accepted students are selected through a competitive application process (all applicants for each program type are ranked against each other).

After summer camp schedules are announced in January of each year, the camp application process begins in February with the release of the application form. The application includes camper information (contact information, 2 years of self-reported grades, extracurriculars, etc.), their top 2 choices for camp sessions, and a personal statement of interest. The option to apply for a Trail Blazer Scholarship is embedded in the same application.

In addition, the applicant will provide contact information for a teacher, mentor, or counselor who will be asked to complete a brief educator recommendation form. This form will be emailed out to the educator listed AFTER the student submits the application. We cannot accept separately emailed letters of recommendation. The application will not be considered complete until after the teacher recommendation form has been submitted through the application system. For this reason, it is recommended that the applicant notify the teacher that they should expect an email from the University seeking the completion of the recommendation form. 

Application deadlines are generally towards the end of March each year and the specific date will be posted on the Summer Camps Listing with the application.

For Summer 2024, the priority deadline is March 24, 2024. To be considered in the first round of reviews, both the application and teacher recommendation need to be completed/submitted by March 24th.  Applications are considered for review once both the applicant portion and teacher recommendation are received. However, we still review applications completed after the priority deadline until seats are confirmed to be filled. 

The best way to stay up to date each year with camp announcements or deadlines is to subscribe to the Summer Program Notifications mailing list.

Minimum self-reported grades should include the current year's Fall semester courses and grades, as well as the full previous academic year. 

No, we cannot accept emailed or post-mailed educator letters of recommendation due to the number of applicants we receive and how recommendations are linked to applications. Additionally, the form asks specific (and short!) questions to more objectively compare responses among applicants. 

Yes. Students can apply for 2 camp sessions using a single application. Due to capacity constraints, two is the maximum number of camp sessions that an individual can attend. To do this, potential campers select their two camp choices in the first two questions of the application, and then indicate an interest in attending both camps, if accepted. The educator noted for the recommendation completes a single educator recommendation form (emailed out once the student submits the application). If interested in applying for summer camps and the Young Scholars Summer Research program, these applications will be submitted separately with separate educator recommendation forms.

No. There is no cost to apply. 

Applications are reviewed in March and April, and notification of acceptance, waiting list placement, or rejection will occur by the end of April or early May. 

Applicant names, gender, or race/ethnicity are removed before the review. Reviewers score the application based on the grades, essay responses, school and extra-curricular activities, and educator recommendations.

We often have more qualified applicants than we have seats available. In these cases, a randomized waiting list is generated. 

Summer Camp acceptance rates vary by camp, but in general, fall within 25-40% in the past two years.

However, while these are competitive programs, we do not want to discourage ANYONE from applying. There is no single component or application question that is weighed more heavily than others. Students are looked at as a full picture and these programs are an effort to broaden participation in STEM.

While we wish we could accept all students who apply, we do not have the capacity to increase the number of camps available or seats per program.

We understand many families want to schedule summer plans as soon as possible. Notifications of acceptance, wait list, or denial will not be sent out until the last week of April or early May due to the number of applicants we receive and the review process. We recommend not delaying acceptance with any other programs you may lose out on if this does not work for your time frame. 

Admitted campers are asked to formally accept their seat in the camp by completing the registration process (including medical information, waiver forms, and emergency contact information) and by providing a non-refundable deposit to indicate a commitment to attend. Deadlines to accept the offered seat in a camp must be followed, or the camper’s space will be passed on to the next person in line on the waiting list. 

Yes. All applicants are notified of either acceptance, waitlist status, or rejection once the application review process is completed in early May.

About the Summer Camp Experience


This is a question to be discussed as a family. Each student is different, and as a parent, you know your child best. Please check out American Camp Association: Gauging Your Child’s Readiness for more information to help guide your decision. 

In-Person camps (Residential, Commuter, and Day camps) take place at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Classes occur primarily on the north end of campus where the Grainger College of Engineering is located. Most projects and demonstrations will be conducted in campus buildings, though some camps include field trips to off-site locations with transportation provided. Evening activities take place on the campus and in the nearby community. 

Campers in Residential camps will stay in certified student housing within walking distance of classes. Each camper is assigned to suites with 2-3 other campers.  

While many of our campers are from Illinois, we are seeing more and more out-of-state campers every year! We have had campers from Georgia, New York, Texas, and California, as well as campers from as far away as China, Germany, India, and Korea!

Residential Camps: All travelers, whether in-state or out-of-state are responsible for getting to Champaign County. We will assist in picking campers up and dropping them off at the airport (Willard Airport – CMI) or the train/bus station (Illinois Terminal). All admitted campers will be asked to provide details during registration regarding their travel plans to guarantee and ensure safe camper arrival.

For camper pickup, flights must arrive and depart from Willard Airport (CMI) in Savoy. And you can find the transportation carriers that route through the Illinois Terminal on the Tenants’ webpage.  The Illinois Terminal is located at 45 E University Ave, Champaign, IL.

FAMILIES: Be sure to research the rules of the airline, train, or bus regarding the travel process for unaccompanied minors before buying a ticket.

Virtual: Being virtual makes this simpler for travel. All travelers, whether in-state or out-of-state will have their camp materials shipped to their U.S. home address. 

Note: A U.S. mailing address is required for the virtual camps.

Commuter camps are an alternative option for Residential camps. Commuter camps do not include provided campus housing and are an option for families who can provide the camper transportation to and from campus each day of camp. Commuter campers are still welcome and encouraged to participate in evening activities with the other (Residential) campers in their camp but that is not a requirement. 

Day camps take place during general daytime hours and do not include evening activities.  Day camps also do not offer any residential component. Transportation to and from camp each day is the responsibility of the camper's family for day camps.

Virtual sessions occur via Zoom meetings and through a course website where all class content can be accessed. Camp project supplies are mailed out to admitted campers for the hands-on components. Some aspects of camp might be “asynchronous” meaning there is not a designated time for the activity to occur. “Synchronous” sessions are scheduled Zoom events where online attendance occurs at a specified time. 

For the What It Takes Virtual Camp specifically:

Virtual camp activities will occur through these 3 processes:

  1. LIVE sessions using video conferencing or webinar tools (e.g. Zoom),
  2. “At Your Convenience” or AYC sessions, which will include videos, articles, and labs that will be accessed through a password-protected website.
  3. Community Chat (e.g. Discord, Slack) will be accessible for any-time communication between campers, counselors, and course instructors.

During the day, campers will be working on activities posted on a camp website and attending Zoom classes or office hours when they are in session. In the afternoon, opportunities to build community with other campers are offered, such as game nights, social hours, and meeting current college student mentors. These college students typically take the role of virtual camp counselors. Overall, campers learn about engineering activities and also widen the sphere of the lifelong friendships that develop during the week of camp. 

During the week of camp, campers should take pictures of the final products made after class and post them on the camp website or the WYSE social media pages. We love to see our campers finished creations!

There will also be special events, which campers can attend such as getting feedback on college application essays, learning about various engineering programs and organizations on campus, and other useful tips for the high school student exploring college and career options.

Campers spend the week of camp learning about various engineering and science disciplines. 

  • Visit research labs around campus and learn about active research that takes place on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus
  • Learn about possible future research opportunities within the Grainger College of Engineering by interacting with students, faculty, and researchers from various engineering departments on campus
  • Work in teams to complete hands-on engineering projects with other campers who share like-minded interests from around the US and the World

Each evening campers enjoy social and recreational activities such as indoor and outdoor games, movies, and more. Multiple engineering camps occur within the same week, and evening activities are coordinated in a way that allows campers to socialize and share across these camps. They then learn about other engineering activities and widen the sphere of the lifelong friendships that develop during the week of camp.

During the week of camp, counselors will be taking pictures and making posts about camp highlights a couple of times a week so that families can also enjoy the fun from afar. Campers are not allowed to use cell phones while they are in classes but can text and make calls outside of class.

Camp ends with check-out/move-out on Saturday, followed by closing ceremonies showcasing the week’s activities and celebrating the campers’ accomplishments. We hope you’ll plan travel to allow for campers and families to participate in this final event.

For in-person residential camps, food service is provided daily (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and an evening snack) by the residence hall. Food is served cafeteria-style with a wide variety of choices. Vegetarian and vegan options are always available, common allergens are clearly marked, and any food intolerance restrictions can be accommodated throughout the week of camp with prior notice.  The food service staff work hard to meet the various dietary needs that campers may sometimes require. Food service staff receive a list of dietary needs a week or two before camp so that menus can be planned accordingly. Accepted applicants indicate these dietary needs on the camp registration forms, not the application.

WYSE camps maintain a small staff-to-camper ratio (typically 1 staff member for every 10 campers). While we want to give campers the “college experience”, we aim to ensure that campers are in small groups and cared for at all times. Processes are in place to be sure that counselors and staff are present and easily accessible. All counselors and lead staff have been vetted through interviews and background checks. All staff are trained in how to minimize risks and create a safe environment for the campers. Also, during the weeks of camp, the counselors stay in close communication with campers and with each other through face-to-face interactions as well as a designated communication app that is used for group chats and notifications.