Challenge to Excellence

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Summer Academic Camp for Middle and High School Students

Challenge to Excellence is one of the most respected and long-standing summer residential programs for academically-talented students in the Midwest. The program’s major goal is to provide students with opportunities to “stretch themselves” in classes that promote higher level thinking skills and creativity in a variety of academic subjects, such as math, art, psychology, journalism, biology and many others.

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Challenge to Excellence Camp I (7th - 8th grades) 

Challenge to Excellence Camp II (9th - 11th grades)

Information & Schedule

Visit SIU's Conference and Scheduling Services for Challenge to Excellence schedules


Challenge to Excellence camp was started in 1984 as a grant from the Illinois State Board of Education. Dr. D. John McIntyre and former SIU President Glenn Poshard began the program in response to the needs of academically talented middle school and high school students in our region. When the grant expired in 1986, the camp was so popular that we were able to keep it going through the support of student tuition/registration. Since then thousands of students throughout the Midwest have participated in the Challenge to Excellence program. Although many of our students come from Illinois, we regularly welcome “campers” from Kentucky, Missouri, and Indiana, and some as far away as Pennsylvania and California.

Challenge – as it is commonly known – has provided many memorable experiences and opportunities for our eligible campers. Over the years, we have offered courses in mathematic problem solving, genetics, biology, art, creative writing, architecture, journalism, photography, and many more areas. Perhaps the greatest appeal of Challenge to Excellence is the many friendships that are established that last a lifetime. Many Challenge alumni are still in touch with friends they met during camp.

Challenge to Excellence is a residential program held on the beautiful campus of Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Campers stay in the dorms, dine at the SIUC Student Center, take courses in SIUC classrooms, and enjoy campus facilities such as the SIUC Recreation Center. In short, they experience college life at an outstanding Midwestern university. Commuters are also welcome to attend Challenge.

Admission Criteria and the Academic Program

The academic program consists of several courses designed to challenge campers through a variety of activities. All camp experiences encourage students to use their creativity and problem-solving skills.

Evening Programs

Our staff believes that opportunities must also be provided for the students to interact with each other socially. Evening programs are structured, supervised activities that include:

What's Included?