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First Ascent: A Pre-College Summer Program at Mount St. Mary’s University

First Ascent logo

Experience what it’s like to be in college as you challenge yourself academically by exploring the heart of a Catholic liberal arts education. Deepen your spirituality and make new friends who share your love of Christ – all while enjoying the beauty of one of the oldest and most historical Catholic universities in the country.

June 23-28, 2024

Register for First Ascent

Open to high school students entering their sophomore, junior or senior year in Fall 2024. Waiting list available for current high school seniors.

Attendees of First Ascent will receive a renewable $2,000 scholarship to attend the Mount!*

*The award is contingent on residential status and cannot be combined with an athletic scholarship.

For more information about First Ascent at Mount St. Mary's University contact:
Phone: 301-447-5672

Countdown to First Ascent

  • student with book in philosophy class

    Course Descriptions

    Explore five academic areas taught by the Mount’s extraordinary faculty: literature, theology, history, art and philosophy.

    Learn About the Courses

  • students hiking near msmu campus

    Programs and Activities

    Participate in hands-on activities designed to ignite your curiosity and deepen your faith.

    Explore Programs and Activities

  • ic chapel toward altar

    Mass and Activities Schedule

    See an overview of Mass, including one celebrated by Archbishop Lori, Holy Hour and Confession, and academic sessions and activities.

    Read the Schedule

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    Housing and Meals

    Stay on campus for five nights in a Mount St. Mary’s university residence hall and enjoy delicious meals with friends.

    See Housing and Meals Info

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    Cost to Attend

    First Ascent is one of the best values you’ll find for a pre-college, Catholic summer program. Secure your seat for only $100, and pay the remaining balance by June 1.

    View Cost Details

  • outdoor class at peace plaza


    Register today! Registration closes June 1, 2024.

    Learn About Registration

msmu cupola on top of the terrace

Mount St. Mary's University holds an unparalleled position in American Catholic higher education. It is not only the oldest independent Catholic university in the country, it is also the only one from America's founding generation to remain faithfully committed to Christ and Our Lady.

Jeremy Tate Chief Executive Officer, Classic Learning Test

Course Descriptions

student with book in philosophy class Leap into dynamic academic sessions crafted to give you a head start on college excellence. Each morning, you’ll rotate through five academic areas taught by the Mount’s extraordinary faculty who are experts in literature, theology, history, art and philosophy. All First Ascent courses are non-credit bearing.

“God Is a Poet: A Catholic Perspective on Literature” - Sean Lewis, Ph.D.

In this session, Dr. Sean Lewis will consider two apparently very different texts: the Old English poem “The Dream of the Rood” (translated into Modern English) and a lecture given by J.R.R. Tolkien early on in his university career, “On Fairy Stories.” Even though they are separated by about 1,000 years, these two works illuminate a specifically Catholic Christian understanding of literature that comes out of a close reading of Genesis 1 and 2. Both the anonymous medieval poet and the Oxford professor point to a shocking claim: we write poetry because God is also a poet, and God has saved humanity *through poetry*.

“True Humility Is Greatness of Soul” - Luis Vera, Ph.D.

We often think of humility as “thinking less of oneself” or “playing down one’s worth.” But as Dr. Luis Vera will explain, this way of thinking does not actually help us to stop being proud, vain, or arrogant. Nor does it accurately represent the Bible or the best of Christian theology. Drawing on St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Thomas Aquinas, Dr. Vera will explain why the heart of humility is seeing ourselves in the way God sees us. And what God sees in us is far more than what we normally want to see. As a result, real humility does not resist but instead requires greatness of soul, i.e., an aspiration to do great things with one’s life. Humble people allow God’s help and God’s love to be the measure of their aspirations and the generosity with which they pursue them. Come explore with Dr. Vera what follows if we dare to see ourselves in this way!

“Sacred Spaces at the Mount: Finding the Holy (in unexpected places)” - Bryan Zygmont, Ph.D.

In this discussion, art historian Dr. Bryan Zygmont will chronicle the history of Catholic architecture—from its earliest classically inspired roots through the gothic period—and conduct a walking tour of some of the sacred spaces on the Mount St. Mary’s University campus. We will consider the ways in which Christian architecture both built upon earlier architectural precedents and then later created a new visual language in the glory of God. Some of the historical buildings we will examine include the Parthenon (c. 447 BCE), the Pantheon (125 CE), Old St. Peter’s (c. 320 CE), and cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. On the beautiful Mount campus, we will visit the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, Kane Chapel, Mary, Queen of Peace Chapel, and St. Bernard’s Chapel.

"What is Justice? Reading a Socratic Dialogue” - Joshua Hochschild, Ph.D.

What is the connection between ethics and politics? Is law-breaking ever justified? Is there a true standard of justice? Plato’s Crito explores these questions and more, as the character Socrates, condemned to death by the city of Athens, addresses his friend Crito’s disappointment and concern. Explore this text and bring your own questions, to get a taste of how classical philosophy helps us gain insight into politics, the soul, and what it means to live well. Students are expected to read this short dialogue before the discussion.

"Women of the Church" - Angela M. Mucci-Guido, Ph.D., & Barbara Marinak, Ph.D.

What comes to mind when you hear names such as- Mother Theresa, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and Mother Mary Lange? Come and explore these and other inspirational women of the church who have fulfilled their vocation in a unique, yet humble manner living out the tenets of Catholic Social Teaching. Discover how the heroic virtues of these women and the tenets of Catholic Social Teaching can be lived out in your own ordinary life.

Programs and Activities

students hiking near msmu campusHere, you won't just explore the Mount's rich academics; you'll forge friendships with peers who share your zest for knowledge, fun and meaningful conversations. Mount faculty will guide you through hands-on activities designed to ignite your curiosity and deepen your faith.

  • A hiking tour of the Mount’s sacred spaces - Explore the trails on Mary’s Mountain that have been loved and enjoyed by generations of religious leaders and Mountaineers.
  • Deep freeze! - Chill with Mount science majors, play with liquid nitrogen and learn about ice cream chemistry. Added bonus – you’ll eat what you make!
  • Creative projects in the Maker’s House - Join the Mount’s community of makers as you explore woodworking, crocheting, ceramics, painting, and more in our open studio lab.
  • Growing your faith - Attend daily Mass in our beautiful chapels and participate in Adoration, Bible studies, prayer groups, and more.
  • Creating an Economy of Francesco - Learn how business can be part of the solution to Pope Francis’s serious and urgent invitation to transform current economic thinking.
  • Tour and explore the region’s historic Catholic sites - National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes and National Shrine of Elizabeth Ann Seton
  • Fun, social activities - Get together with new friends for movie night, Bingo, music events, scavenger hunts, campus ministry activities, and more.

Mass and Activities Schedule

ic chapel toward altar
archbishop william lori

Mass Schedule

Archbishop of Baltimore William E. Lori, S’77 will celebrate a special Mass in IC Chapel on Friday, June 28 at 2 p.m.

Throughout the week, you’ll also have the opportunity to participate in Daily Mass and Holy Hour with confession. Services take place in the many chapels and sacred spaces on our historic campus.

Activities Schedule

Sunday, June 23

Arrive between 3 and 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 23. Check in to your residential housing, get settled in your room, and then join fellow participants for a welcome dinner in Patriot Hall at 6 p.m.

Monday, June 24 – Thursday, June 25

  • Breakfast
  • Morning session
  • Lunch
  • Afternoon session
  • Dinner
  • Evening activity

Friday June 28

Enjoy breakfast and a morning session, departing for home after lunch.

Housing and Meals

terrace cupola at msmu
  • Housing Overview - While at First Ascent, you’ll stay in the Terrace Complex near the heart of campus. Once the original university building, the Terrace is now three residence halls in one. Upper-class students typically reside here, along with first-year honor students. The Terrace also includes Kane Chapel, several study lounges, and a workout cardio room.
  • Rooms - Rooms will likely be double occupancy and you will be paired with a roommate on a random basis.
  • Floors - Floors will be separated by males and females and supervision will be provided by trained Resident Assistants (RAs). The RAs are undergraduate student staff members living in the residence halls and supervised by a senior academic administrator.
  • Meals - During your stay, all meals will be provided. You’ll enjoy most of them in Patriot Dining Hall where you’ll find fresh, MTO sandwiches and salads, homestyle meals and comfort foods, pasta favorites, and more.

Cost to Attend

peace plaza toward coad science building

Secure your seat at First Ascent for only $100. Pay the remaining balance of $600 by June 1. Your registration fee includes the following:

  • A 5-night stay in a Mount St. Mary’s University residence hall
  • Approximately 30 meals, mostly served in Patriot Dining Hall
  • Daily Mass and adoration services in our beautiful, historic chapels
  • Access to college-level courses and professors
  • All program materials and supplies
  • All excursion fees to local events and attractions

Open to high school students entering their sophomore, junior or senior year in Fall 2024. Waiting list available for current high school seniors.

Attendees of First Ascent will receive a renewable $2,000 scholarship to attend the Mount!*

*The award is contingent on residential status and cannot be combined with an athletic scholarship.


outdoor class at peace plaza

At Mount St. Mary's University, the exclusive First Ascent Summer Program awaits your arrival — a beacon for young scholars and seekers of spiritual growth. Register for First Ascent today!

Register for First Ascent

Important registration information

For more information about First Ascent at Mount St. Mary's University contact:
Phone: 301-447-5672

Request More Information