PROMYS student

Since 1989, Boston University has hosted PROMYS (Program in Mathematics for Young Scientists) every summer. PROMYS is an innovative six-week program for high school students aspiring to enter math and science fields. The program aims not only to help students acquire skill in standard mathematics subjects (like calculus) but to facilitate the development of new problem-solving methods:

“Through their intensive efforts to solve an assortment of unusually challenging problems in Number Theory, participants will practice the art of mathematical discovery. The problem sets encourage students to design their own numerical experiments and to employ their own powers of analysis to discover mathematical patterns, formulate and test conjectures, and justify their ideas by devising their own mathematical proofs.” (PROMYS)

Thanks to some collaboration between the founders, alumni, and faculty at PROMYS Boston University, and the Clay Mathematics Institute at the University of Oxford, PROMYS Europe launched in 2015. After two successful pilot programs in years past, the European partner program is now able to offer substantial scholarships to students from around the world. A large percentage of PROMYS graduates go on to attend prestigious universities. Many who go on to graduate school receive competitive fellowships to help cover the costs of their research.

When does instruction begin?

PROMYS Boston University begins around the beginning of July, and PROMYS Europe starts around mid-July. Both programs run for six weeks.

What is the curriculum like?

Each day of instruction begins with Number Theory; the foundation of PROMYS’s curriculum. After that, students have several options. All students who attend, whether they are beginners or more advanced, will attend lectures, seminars, mini-courses, and group labs to explore what they are interested in. The purpose of this less-structured format is to cultivate creativity. Many PROMYS alumni go on to pursue doctorate degrees and become contributors to emerging math and science fields.

What is campus life like?

Students who attend the Boston University program are usually paired with roommates. First-year students often share a room with a returning student of the same gender. This helps first-year students navigate the program easier, and it also helps them make new friends.

Students who attend PROMYS Europe on the Oxford campus will usually have their own rooms with a shared bathroom.

How many students will attend?

Both PROMYS programs will accommodate between 70-100 students. The student body is largely from the US and the UK, but more international students have been admitted each year. Admission is very competitive, and only a small percentage of applicants get accepted on the first try. However, several students have made it on the second attempt.

Around what time is the application deadline?

The deadline for PROMYS applications is strict. Applications for the European program close in mid-March. The Boston University applications close between mid-March and the beginning of April.

What level of skill in the English language is required?

Both the BU and Europe programs give a version of this advice:

“All participants need to have good command of written and spoken English. Doing a lot of mathematics means talking a lot about mathematics.” (PROMYS Europe)

IELTS or TOEFL scores may not be necessary if a student has sufficient experience with English.

To complete the application (download from their website), you will need:

  • Recommendation from the student’s mathematics teacher.
  • High school transcript
  • Complete a challenging problem set—this is provided with the application itself, and the problems are new each year.
  • One or two short essays

After PROMYS alumni go to college, they have the opportunity to be counselors and guide other students. Taking advantage of this leadership opportunity has proven to be rewarding for many. PROMYS students have gone into all sorts of career fields: One alum holds 17 patents, and another has performed in Carnegie Hall with noted violinist Itzhak Perlman.