Frequently Asked Questions

General FAQs

Q: What is COSMOS?
A: The California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science (COSMOS) at UC Santa Cruz is a rigorous, four-week residential program for talented and motivated high school students. COSMOS students enroll in short courses that are designed to introduce students to subjects not traditionally offered in high school. Courses will be offered in Astronomy, Robotics, Computer Science, Animal Behavior, Ocean Science, and more.

Q: Who may attend COSMOS?
A: California students completing grades eight through twelve by the summer in which they wish to participate may apply to COSMOS. Prerequisites may be required to ensure success in the courses offered. Parents are encouraged to discuss with their child his or her maturity and readiness to participate in a month-long residential program on a public research university campus. Participants are selected in the spring on the basis of their academic performance, test scores, extracurricular math and science achievements, and recommendations. A limited number of students from outside the state are considered each year. However, these students must pay out-of-state tuition.

Q: When and where is it held?
A: COSMOS 2020 will be held at UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis, UC San Diego and UC Irvine from July 5th to August 1st. UC Irvine ends on July 31st.

Q: How much does it cost to attend COSMOS?
A: Tuition for 2020 is $4,128 for California residents. It covers housing and meals, educational materials and instruction, and all field trips. Students may apply for need-based financial assistance. Non-California residents pay the full tuition cost of $6,500 as required by legislation.

Q: What is a typical day at COSMOS like?
A: Each student’s COSMOS schedule is built around a cluster consisting of two science or math courses and a science communication course. On a typical day, COSMOS students attend special lectures, take courses, or participate in labs or field trips. Recreation and study groups are built into the evening and weekend schedules. Special activities and field trips are planned for the weekends.

Q: What do I do if I have more questions? 
A: Please contact the UCSC COSMOS office via e-mail at, or call us at (831) 459-1766.

FAQs for Parents

Q: What is the level of supervision provided?

A: Administrative, instructional, and residential staff all work together to provide supervision, even though the students are ultimately responsible for their conduct. When students are not in class, they are supervised by residential staff who live in the dorms with the students. The residential staff consists of one professional staff member (Coordinator for Residential Education – CRE) who oversees a staff of 16 undergraduate Resident Assistants (RAs) from UC Santa Cruz. Students will meet with their cluster RA on a daily basis.

Q: Will my child be safe? 
A: The COSMOS policies are put in place to keep the students safe at all times. Some of these policies include: - Students must be in the dorms by 10 p.m. - No traveling on campus alone. Students must use the buddy system. - If going off campus, students must be accompanied by a COSMOS staff member. - On field trips, students must check in with staff at designated locations and times.

Q: COSMOS seems really strict. Can I authorize my child to have more freedom?
A: Inevitably, there will be students who are given more freedom at home and feel that the rules at COSMOS are too strict. There will also be students who have stricter rules at home and are surprised by the amount of autonomy they are given. The COSMOS policies were designed to help ensure each student’s safety and to manage a large group of teenagers on the campus. There is one set of rules for all students, regardless of their age or "freedom" allowed at home. Older students, or students who are used to operating more independently should consider this before coming to COSMOS.

Q: What is the best way to communicate with my child? 
A: Students are kept very busy at COSMOS and often don't have a lot of time to devote to writing letters, email, or calling on the phone. Even if you don’t hear from them, trust that they love to hear from you. Please visit the Parent webpage for suggestions on keeping touch.

Q: What should I do if my child is homesick? 
A: Four weeks can be a long time to be away from home (for the student and the parents). Before coming to COSMOS, this should be discussed with your student. The first week is often the most difficult to get through. Our staff will work hard to make sure that students are connecting with one another and feeling like they belong. If you are concerned about your child’s homesickness, please contact the COSMOS office immediately. Our staff will work hard to help the student adjust to life at COSMOS. Nearly all students who initially experience homesickness ultimately enjoy their COSMOS experience.  While it can be extremely difficult, please do not respond to your child’s "rescue call" by coming to campus to talk to them.  If your student is begging to come home, please call a COSMOS staff member so we can discuss different options. While it may be best for the student to go home in the end, it is best to try other strategies first.

Parent Testimonials

We contacted various parents of previous COSMOS students and asked them if they had any advice or comments about the program that they wished to pass on to prospective students and parents. Below are a few of their responses.

  • "This was the first time our son was away from home for more than a week. It seemed like he had some homesickness beginning the second week, when he began calling home frequently. During our conversations, it seemed as though his homesickness was balanced by the fact that he really was enjoying the activities at COSMOS."

  • "Despite our mild fears when dropping our daughter off at UCSC, my husband and I were the only ones who had any adjusting to do. As we worried about how homesick she might become, she was merrily making new friends and enjoying her new role as a coed. She said that during the first week, when she woke up in the morning, she would start to get a little homesick, but once the activities of the day started she felt fine."

  • "We set up a free email account, and asked our son to send us an email at least once a week. We would send emails asking questions as well. Our son was good about checking his email 1-2 times a week during his free time and responding. The COSMOS Newsletter was really helpful in keeping parents informed as well. I'm sure it was a lot of work for the COSMOS staff."

  • "I did not visit on weekends, and personally wouldn't encourage it. The kids are there to learn, and to learn to be independent, and they are in great hands. This is a great time for them to learn to become their own person -- allow them to do it."

  • "Opening Day was wonderful -- the most organized school-related (or otherwise) event I've been to…The excitement and happiness was contagious. When I left, I really felt my child was in good, safe hands. When saying goodbye to one's child, I'd advise just a nice hug, kiss, goodbye and leave. No drawn out, overly sentimental stuff. This could only make them more homesick … Don't let your own sentimental feelings spoil their special time. It's not forever, only four weeks. It seems long at first, but when they get home, to them (and to you) it seems like it flew by."

  • "…I could tell that something extraordinary had occurred not just for our daughter, but for every person involved at COSMOS. The happiness and enthusiasm was still there as on the first day, but now there was a genuine closeness and affection that was very heartwarming…She was happy to see me, was happy but urgent to spend one last day with new, special friends. She wanted me to meet EVERYONE -- she was so proud of everything and everyone! … She held up really well all day, through numerous sentimental goodbyes, but cried in the car on the way home -- partly from exhaustion, mostly from leaving a special place, special people and a special time -- one I think she knew she'd never quite experience the likes of which again."

  • "Closing day was fine. By that time our son had mixed feelings – He was happy to be going home, but he was also sad to leave his new friends. He still keeps in touch with several of his COSMOS classmates via instant-messenger."

  • "I think COSMOS was a life-changing event for my daughter. She attended the summer before ninth grade and she started ninth grade full of confidence and poise, ready for anything… Her high school experience, academically and socially, so far has been the most positive of anyone’s in her immediate family."

  • "My daughter has become much more self-assured and comfortable with who she is. She knows more about what she wants in life, what is important to her, and is more confident in and accepting of herself. She is also more accepting of others. She has a better appreciation for her friends and a broader view of people and issues. An evening lecture on particle physics that she said "put everyone else to sleep" really excited her and cinched her interest in majoring in physics in college."

  • "According to my son, COSMOS was a test for me – the mom! Since he knows that he will be going away for college which is longer and more permanent, he decided that he wasn’t going to call or communicate with us as often while he was in Santa Cruz. Believe it or not, it worked! It really gave me a taste of what it’s going to be like in 2004, when he’s away at college."