Frequently Asked Questions

“This community is what keeps PROMYS what it is, and it is this community that all participants of the program – students, counselors, and instructors – care most about.” Nir Elber, Student 2019 and 2020, Junior Counselor 2021

Applying to PROMYS

Do I need to answer all the problems on the application problem set?

Not necessarily. Our assessment of your mathematical readiness for PROMYS is holistic and takes into account multiple elements including your mathematical experience. The problem set forms the most significant portion of the application since your responses enable us to see how creatively, enthusiastically, and persistently you reason through and articulate the challenging problems you do attempt. 

Have any students attended PROMYS after applying and not being accepted the previous year?

Absolutely! Some of our most successful PROMYS participants were not accepted the first time they applied.

Who should I ask to write my letter of recommendation?

Your recommendation should be written by someone who can speak to your enthusiasm and aptitude for doing mathematics. For example, this person could be a current or previous math teacher or professor, a STEM club coach, math team leader, or mentor.

What is the minimum age for attendance? Are graduating high school seniors eligible?

Students must have finished at least 9th grade and be at least 14 years old by the first day of the program. Most students who attend PROMYS do so after their sophomore or junior year of high school. Students may attend the summer after completing 12th grade or a gap year, prior to matriculating at college or university.

Are international students accepted? Do you require TOEFL scores?

Although the overwhelming majority of participants are from the United States, we have welcomed students or counselors from nearly 50 countries over the years. Students who ordinarily reside in Europe may want to consider applying to PROMYS Europe, although you may not apply to both programs in the same year. PROMYS does not ask for TOEFL scores, but you need to be able to participate fully in lectures and math discussions which are conducted in English. Please visit International Students.

Has everyone at PROMYS been doing advanced mathematics or excelled in math competitions before they apply?

Absolutely not! Students share the desire and ability to think deeply about fundamental mathematical principles. The study of Number Theory lends itself particularly well to significant exploration and collaboration by students from a wide range of mathematical backgrounds, and PROMYS nurtures different skills and attributes than are typically drawn on and developed by mathematics competitions.

What is the acceptance rate at PROMYS?

While the acceptance rate at PROMYS varies from year to year, admission is competitive. Unfortunately, we turn away many qualified applicants every year and hope that they will apply again in a future summer if they are still eligible. Since we cannot accommodate all the talented young mathematicians at PROMYS, we encourage applicants to apply to other programs as well.

After admissions decisions are announced, can I get the answers to the application problem set?

PROMYS does not provide solutions to the problem sets, nor give individual feedback. We hope that applicants will continue to explore the rich mathematical strands found in the problems, and to pursue many pathways in the field of mathematics.

Learning at PROMYS

Who makes up the mathematical community at PROMYS?

Each summer, PROMYS participants include approximately 60 first-year students, 20 returning students, 25 counselors, plus faculty, research mentors, and visiting mathematicians. In addition, PROMYS for Teachers participants and their counselors attend the same Number Theory lectures as PROMYS students.

Who will be my counselor?

Counselors are undergraduates majoring in mathematics at top universities, some of whom are PROMYS alumni. Each counselor mentors about three to four students. 

Will I learn just Number Theory at PROMYS?

Number Theory, the study of the integers, is a field where students can easily get started on exploring surprising and very deep patterns – for example, Gauss was a teenager when he made breakthroughs in understanding the distribution of the primes. Although the morning lectures and daily problem sets are rooted in Number Theory, you will be exposed to a wide range of new mathematical knowledge. There are advanced seminars, mini-courses, lectures, research, and informal discussion on a huge range of math-related topics and areas. No matter your level of mathematical experience upon entering the program, you will leave PROMYS with a deeper level of understanding.

Who will help me with the problem sets should I need guidance?

Everyone! PROMYS is collaborative, not competitive. Informal instructional support from counselors and peers is constantly available – both small group and individual. Everyone engages with the mathematics in a productive and worthwhile manner.

Will I get graded at PROMYS and receive course credit?

At PROMYS, you will not be enrolled at Boston University. As such, no course credit is awarded and no grades are assigned. Your counselor will give you feedback – not grades – on your problem sets every day. Students are awarded certificates of completion at the end of the program.

Campus life at Boston University

What are the housing arrangements at PROMYS?

PROMYS students live in Warren Towers, a dormitory at Boston University assigned to pre-college summer programs. Each floor is designated by gender identity and supervised by BU Residential Life counselors. You and one other PROMYS student will be assigned to a double room according to your gender identity. PROMYS counselors are housed on the same floor as the students and near the students they mentor when possible.

Can I live off campus and commute to PROMYS?

No. Much of the PROMYS experience is living and breathing mathematics. This often takes place late at night in the common spaces and dorm rooms.

What should I bring to the program?

We will send you a list of things to bring to campus which includes mostly clothing, bedding, and school supplies. 

Can I get accommodations for my food allergy?

Yes, Boston University's Dining Services is accustomed to special dietary needs such as gluten-free and vegan. Vegetarian options are available at all meals. Unfortunately, Kosher food service is not available over the summer. Please contact the PROMYS office if you have concerns about food allergies.


How can I reassure my parents that I will be fine at PROMYS?

For some of you, this will be your first extended time away from home. You can request that a counselor meet you at the airport or station to accompany you to campus. All counselors and faculty pass background checks and undergo training provided by Boston University. PROMYS is a tight-knit community where students and counselors look out for each other. Your parents can call the PROMYS office if they have a concern.

Boston is a big city. What safety precautions are in place for students?

PROMYS and Boston University follow a number of safety protocols which will be covered during orientation. There is a curfew: all students must be in the dorms by 11 p.m. on school nights and midnight on weekends. Security personnel at the dorm restrict access to guests and enforce rules for residents. While the urban area around Boston University is generally safe, it is good to be alert and aware of your surroundings.

What else will I do at PROMYS besides math?

While most of your time will be taken up doing mathematics, people do other things for fun at PROMYS, too. "Mandatory fun" activities such as a game night or scavenger hunt are arranged weekly. Counselors organize regular basketball, volleyball, frisbee or soccer games. When possible, field trips to the MIT Museum, the beach, or counselor-led tours of Harvard and MIT are arranged. Some students like to take a break by running or walking along the Charles River or playing a game of cards or chess.

Miscellaneous Questions

Are scholarships available?

PROMYS offers need-based aid which can cover up to the full cost of participation including room and board. There is additional information on the Financial Aid & Scholarships page, including details on scholarships for students in India and China. 

Can I start PROMYS a few days late or leave early?

No. The Number Theory problem sets are specifically designed to require intensive work over the full six-week period. Missing any of these days would shortchange your mathematical discovery and hamper your social connections. It would also disrupt the program as a whole.

I have other obligations this summer that overlap with PROMYS (such as MOP, studying for the SATs, or a family wedding). Will I have time for these things?

Unfortunately, you will need to forgo other opportunities and commitments once you agree to attend PROMYS. Our program is designed to challenge students in ways that keeps them engaged for the entire six-week period. While weekends are less scheduled than weekdays, they remain full of mathematics and we expect all students to remain on campus and focused on PROMYS.

How many PROMYS alums become mathematicians and scientists?

Since 1989, over 1,800 high schoolers have participated in PROMYS. Of those, roughly 60% have majored in mathematics. In addition to alums who have earned their doctorates in STEM-related fields, our alumni body represents a wide range of career and avocational pursuits. Please visit Alumni Outcomes.