COSMOS is an intensive four-week Summer Residential Pre-College program for students who have demonstrated an aptitude for academic and professional careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects. Talented and motivated students completing grades 8-12 have the opportunity to be mentored by renowned faculty, researchers, and scientists in state-of-the-art facilities while exploring advanced STEM topics far beyond the courses usually offered in California high schools. Through challenging hands-on and lab-intensive curricula, COSMOS fosters its students' interests, skills, and awareness of educational and career options in STEM fields.

Students apply to one of the five University of California's COSMOS campuses — UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Los Angeles, UC San Diego, and UC Santa Cruz. While each campus employs the best practices in STEM education, each program's curriculum builds on the unique teaching and research expertise of its faculty and host campus. Each campus can only accommodate about 160-200 participants, so the selection is competitive. A typical COSMOS student has a GPA of 3.5 or above. In addition, students must have achieved academic excellence. Students are REQUIRED to live on campus for the duration of the program to receive the completed diploma and be considered COSMOS Alumni.

Admission decisions are based on the academic merits of the applications in light of the topic of interest. 

Financial assistance is available for application and program costs.  Requests for financial assistance are evaluated based on family income, family size, and available COSMOS resources for financial assistance.