Why Choose STEP?

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.

The 2021 STEP program will be delivered fully online. This virtual program features popular classes from STEP, a WCATY program, along with exciting new courses — all designed for online learning! Students can expect intensive coursework and a final project based on a relevant topic of their choice. STEP runs from 9 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. on Monday–Friday for two weeks: July 19-30. Each day features synchronous course sessions, community building, peer engagement and opportunities to connect individually with instructors.

View the STEP Student Handbook (Coming Soon)


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

STEP Participant

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.