Why Choose STEP?

STEP gifted and talented students in classroom

Summer Transitional Enrichment Program (STEP) provides an opportunity for focused intellectual challenges and creative exploration for students completing grades 7 and 8. STEP offers an intense, residential two-week academic experience designed to develop higher-level thinking skills, build community, and nurture inner passions for learning. With an equally strong emphasis on academic rigor and social-emotional development, challenge and community are the central pillars of our programming. Students enroll in a demanding, interdisciplinary course that encourages critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills. Students choose their own challenge and then spend five hours each day digging deeply into the complexities of key questions and activities that experts in the chosen field tackle. A wide variety of engaging group activities and ample free time allow for students to explore new interests and make lasting friendships. STEP aims to equip students with the tools they need to succeed in high school and beyond.

Additionally, WCATY programs afford students access to UW–Madison campus resources and experts, and include opportunities for career exploration and preparation for college life.


This experience you’ve given me has improved my mind and many others so that we can change the future for the better.

STEP Participant

What to Expect?

As a STEP student, be ready to be challenged academically while learning to balance creative and critical thinking skills. During class time, you will dive headfirst into an exciting new topic and, with support from your educational assistant and teacher, you will work on applying the course content through collaboration and independent project-based learning. You will be encouraged to take control of your own learning.

By the end of the program, you will improve your understanding of yourself both personally and as a learner. You will cultivate new strengths and talents and you will develop areas in which you can foster further growth.

View the STEP Student Handbook


What I like most about WCATY is making friends, expanding my boundaries, and thinking outside the box.

STEP Participant

Residential Daily Schedule

Time Activity
7:30-8:30am Breakfast
8:30-9:00am Morning Meeting
9:00-11:30am Class: Morning Session
11:30am-12:30pm Lunch
12:30-3:00pm Class: Afternoon Session
3:00-5:00pm Recreational Activities
5:00-6:00pm Dinner.
6:00-8:30pm Recreational Activities
8:30-9:00pm Block Meetings. Commuter students to depart.
9:00-10:00pm Dorm time, preparation for bed
10:00pm Lights Out


What I value the most about WCATY is making friendships and memories that last a lifetime. I have made so many new friends at camp that have impacted my life for the better.

STEP Participant

Residential Life

Students reside in Bradley Residence Hall on the Lakeshore side of campus. Students live in groups of approximately 12-15 campers per Residential Assistant. Girls and boys live on separate floors in double rooms, and each floor has its own bathroom and shower facilities. If students wish to room together, each must submit a roommate request form.

Students will be eating all meals at the campus dining facility. The dining service staff does an excellent job of meeting the dietary needs of all students. However, this does require some planning on their end. It is requested that if there are dietary needs, the families contact the WCATY office a month in advance of the program date. If needed, WCATY will connect you with a dining services supervisor or dietitian.

Playing fields, courts, and general amenities give students a great range of recreational opportunities. To take advantage of these facilities, be sure to bring a swimsuit, baseball glove, tennis racket, frisbee, volleyball, running shoes, etc.

For Parents

Parents will have the opportunity to meet instructors, educational assistants, residential assistants, and WCATY staff on opening day of the program. Parents are also invited to attend the student exit interviews and closing ceremonies on the last day of the program.


STEP helped me learn how to be more independent, taught me to see from other people’s perspectives, and led me to think bigger.

STEP Participant

Safety and Security

It is the expectation that students remain on campus for the duration of the program. Students are supervised at all times by educational assistants, residential assistants, instructors, and WCATY staff. All health-related aspects of camp are handled through the University Health Services (UHS) at UW–Madison. WCATY staff and the UHS staff work closely to make sure students with medical needs are receiving appropriate care. There is a nurse on duty 24/7 and a doctor on call.

WCATY Instructors

Many WCATY instructors return to teach year after year and bring with them their passion for their chosen fields, as well as their passion for educating advanced learners. Backgrounds of our instructors vary widely—from seasoned classroom educators, to innovative professionals eager to share their knowledge with our students, to aspiring academics seeking to broaden their community outreach skills.