Frequently Asked Questions

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The PROMYS Community

How many people will be at PROMYS?

Over 100: about 60 first year students, about 20 returning students, about 20 counselors plus faculty, research mentors, and visiting mathematicians.

Are counselors always former PROMYS students?

Not always, but often. Many alums return to PROMYS, often multiple times.

Are the faculty alums too?

Most years there are alum faculty and non-alum faculty. 

Are any international students accepted?

Although the overwhelming majority of participants are from America, over the past 26 years, we’ve welcomed students and/or counselors from 48 countries. 

Do PROMYS alums stay in touch with each other after the program?

Yes, many become long-term friends or mentors. There are also reunions, online groups, and an alum site. We are in touch with all but about 30 of the 1,472 alumni who have attended PROMYS over the past 26 years. Alums visit the program, give or attend guest lectures, and constitute a network of kindred spirits at institutions and companies around the world.

How long has PROMYS been around?

Since 1989.

How many PROMYS alums become mathematicians and scientists?

Lots! 

The Math 

Will I learn "just" Number Theory? 

Absolutely not! Whatever your current level of math experience, you will be exposed to a wide range of new mathematical knowledge and a deeper level of understanding. There are seminars, courses, minicourses, lectures, research, and informal discussion on a huge range of math-related topics and areas. In 2011, for example, one of the 28 counselor minicourses was entitled, "Matrices, Endomorphisms, Eigenvalues, and Hobbits," a visiting guest lecturer from Google gave a talk on "Statistical Inference and Modeling the Unseen," and there were eight counselor seminars on topics in Representation Theory and eight more on Differential Topology and Geometry.

How many of the people at PROMYS are actively engaged in doing math over the summer?

Everyone (except the program administrator who's very busy doing other stuff).

Who's there to help me with my math?

Everyone. PROMYS is collaborative, not competitive. It's all of us striving together to discover and to more deeply understand. There's also constantly available informal instruction and support: both small group and individual. Everyone struggles with the math: that's what we're all at PROMYS for. That's what makes it so hard, so fun, so worthwhile.

When do I get the solutions to the problems on the problem sets?

When you discover them for yourself: on your own or collaborating with other students. Returning students and counselors and faculty will support and encourage you, but not by giving you the answers (hint: they don't even give hints). What PROMYS does is offer you the tools and structure to enable you to be a creative mathematician. 

Dorm Life at Boston University

Will I have a roommate?

Yes: another PROMYS student; probably of the same year (and definitely of the same gender)

I'm a girl; will my counselor be a female too? 

Yes, probably, and your rooms are likely to be close together in a single sex dorm area.

How's the food?

Edible.

I have a food allergy.

That’s not a question. But please contact Joe Cacciatore (at jcacciat@bu.edu) if you have concerns about food allergies and options available in Warren Towers cafeteria. We are accustomed to accommodating special dietary needs. 

Will I have access to computer labs on campus?

Yes.

Admissions Questions

Do I need to answer all the problems on the application problem set to have a chance of being accepted?

Our assessment of your mathematical readiness for PROMYS is holistic, is certainly not determined by a count of problems solved, and takes into account multiple elements including your level of mathematical experience. But the application problems form the most significant portion of the application since your responses enable us to see how you reason and articulate mathematically and how creatively, enthusiastically, and tenaciously you tackle challenging problems.  

Has everyone at PROMYS been doing really advanced math for years before they apply?

No. Some have and some haven't. What they all share is the desire and ability to think deeply about fundamental mathematical principles. The study of Number Theory lends itself particularly well to significant exploration by students from a wide range of mathematical backgrounds. 

Have any applicants been accepted one year after not being accepted the previous year?

Absolutely! This happens quite often. Some of our most successful PROMYS participants were not accepted the first time they applied to the program.

Does my letter of recommendation have to be from my current math teacher?

No. It can be from a previous math teacher, or from a math club coach or math team leader 

Is there a minimum age for attendance? Are graduating 12th graders eligible?

Boston University’s housing policy requires all students to be at least 14 by the first day of the program. Most PROMYS students are older. Yes, students may attend the summer after they graduate high school.

Should I send in my application early, while there are still lots of available spots, or should I work on the problems for a while longer?

Applications will be accepted through April 15. 

Do some applicants get answers from websites or adults who want them to go to PROMYS?

Unfortunately, they do. Such assistance is usually pretty transparent, and we will reject your application if we detect any unacknowledged assistance. PROMYS is for students who want to spend a summer struggling with problems far more challenging than those on the application. If you don't enjoy the application problems or cannot make progress on them, then this is not the right summer for you to attend PROMYS. It's not impossible to cheat successfully on your application, but if you have the talent to do that, why not use it more productively? 

Will you give me an early answer on admissions so I can arrange my visa to the U.S.? 

If you let us know you need time to arrange a visa, we'll try to give you a swift admissions decision. If you’re an international student, you’ll need a visitor’s visa, not a student visa (F-1), since you won’t be enrolled in any courses. 

Miscellaneous Questions

Are scholarships available?

PROMYS offers both merit scholarships and need-based financial aid. You can see details here. Funding may also be available from such sources as Mu Alpha Theta, the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, and the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation

Will I be safe at PROMYS?

PROMYS and Boston University do a number of things to help keep you safe at PROMYS. There is a curfew, so all students must be in the dorms by 11 p.m. on school nights and midnight on weekends. There are security personnel at the dorm to make sure that no one who isn't supposed to be in the dorm gets in, and that everyone in the dorms follows the rules (including no boys in the girls' area of the dorm and vice versa). You will be given contact numbers and informed of procedures. While the area around Boston University is generally safe, it is an urban area, and it is good to be alert and aware of your surroundings. Luckily, PROMYS is a tight-knit community, and students and counselors look out for each other. It is obviously of central importance that everyone in the PROMYS community both be safe and feel safe. 

What should I bring to the program?

The things on the "what should I bring?" list that we'll send you.

Will counselors who attend Harvard and MIT and other local universities give us tours of their colleges?

Probably.

Will counselors who attend Princeton, Stanford, or Oxford give us tours of their colleges? 

Not during PROMYS but very possibly later if you visit those schools. 

I’ll be coming to PROMYS by plane/train/bus; can someone meet me? 

Yes; you can request to have a counselor meet you at the airport/station/terminal.

Can I call home during PROMYS? Can my parents call me?

Of course. (Though your phone should obviously be off during lectures.) There's also email and snail mail. And your parents can call the program if they have a concern. We know that, for some of you, this will be your first extended time away from home. 

What if I get sick?

Students may use Boston University’s Student Health Services (for a $25 co-pay per student visit). 

Can I start PROMYS a few days late? 

No. PROMYS is an intensive and tightly-knit math community. We have a lot of math to discover and deep bonds to build: we need every day we have. So, you can't come late because you also want to attend MOP or the USA Physics Camp or even your brother's wedding. 

I have been assigned five chapters of Latin to do during the summer. Will this be a problem?

Not if you do it before or after PROMYS. Our program is only six weeks long, and it is designed to challenge you in ways many students will never have experienced before. You should not plan to devote much time to other studies during this period. 

Will I have time to study for my SATs during PROMYS?

No. You will have much more interesting and valuable things to keep you busy at PROMYS.

My family will be going to Cape Cod for a week during the summer. Can I join them for the weekend?

We are glad the rest of your family will also be having summer fun, but a commitment to PROMYS is for every day and night, from start to finish. While weekends are less scheduled than weekdays, they remain full of mathematics.

Can I participate in a music competition in July?

Choices are tough. Should you choose PROMYS, you would also be choosing not to participate in the music competition.

Why is PROMYS so inflexible? Don't you understand the pressures and commitments in my life? 

In high school, many PROMYS students are used to being able to do everything, with enough time to spare that they never need to worry about being overcommitted. PROMYS is different. It's designed to push people to their limits, even people who are going to grow up to be leading mathematicians. Much like research mathematics, it's impossible to “finish” your work at PROMYS: there is always greater depth and insight to be attained. Of course, nobody can focus for literally every waking hour, but other serious commitments will detract from the PROMYS experience, and we would rather work with students who are willing and able to take full advantage of it. Furthermore, PROMYS moves very quickly, so catching up from even a single day's absence is difficult. In an emergency (such as illness), of course we’ll support you in your frantic efforts to catch up, but we do not want you to plan on being absent.

What else will I do at PROMYS besides math? 

While most of your time will be taken up doing math, people do other things for fun at PROMYS too. Counselors usually organize weekly basketball games, frisbee games, and "mandatory fun." Some students like to take a break by running or walking along the Charles River or playing a game of cards or chess. And of course there's lots of friend-making, serious discussion, silly discussion, and the occasional dose of (totally well mannered) mayhem. But really, you'll mostly do math.

 

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