Summer Programs for High School Students
Gain Acceptance To Your Dream School
Finding the Right Summer Program
Summer is a time for relaxation, a break from the dreary drudgery of school, and a chance for students and parents alike to relax. Increasingly, however, students aren’t spending summers by the pool or hanging out with friends, but are instead engaging in pursuits meant to broaden their horizons, stimulate them intellectually, and help prepare them for college.
We’ll weigh some of the pros and cons of these programs, and what students can expect to get out of them. We’ll also point you towards programs which are prestigious and known for helping students, and provide guidance so you can avoid programs which do not offer nearly as much for the price they charge.
Are Summer Programs Worth It?
Whether or not a summer program is worth it depends entirely on what you hope to get out of it. Therefore, the more you know about what a summer program will provide concretely, the better you can judge whether or not it is a worthwhile investment of time and money.
Not all summer programs are created equal, and attending a summer program at a fancy school does not automatically increase a student’s chances of admission to that school. Summer programs are often run by third parties at a college campus, and merely use the name of the school to attach prestige to their program.
Some programs are highly competitive and prestigious, others are merely a way for a student to explore an academic subject. Here we’ll provide a list of pros and cons for these types of summer programs, so that you may concretely weigh the possible benefits and costs:
- Experience College Life: As many of these programs are residential, they provide students the chance to experience the freedom of living alone and dealing with roommates before actually attending college. These programs can act as a dry run, so students know what they are getting into.
- Expanded Horizons: Students come from across the country and around the world to participate in many of these programs, and students will interact with faculty and staff with broad world-views. They will be exposed to ideas and ways of thinking that they would otherwise never encounter.
- Opportunity to Pursue Passions: Most programs cater to specific interests, and these are some of the best programs for students who already know what they are interested in studying, as they will gain deep and practical experience with subjects high schools don’t cover.
- College Credit: Not every program offers the chance to earn college credit, and not every school accepts credit earned at summer programs. That said, these programs can give students a leg up when beginning college coursework, even if they don’t get credit from them.
- Cost: Many of these programs are quite expensive (though this isn’t true of all of them). Not every summer program is worth the cost. The ones we list below are reputable, but don’t trust a program just because it has a fancy name attached, as some are glorified summer camps.
- Admissions: Most of these programs will not boost admissions chances on their own. Instead, summer programs should tie into a broader story about the student. What they study and accomplish at a summer program is much more important than the name attached or location in most instances.
- Prestige: Many parents determine the prestige of a summer program based on the university it is associated with. As we have mentioned previously, this is a risky proposition, as many programs are not administered by universities directly, and are far easier to gain access to than the schools they are associated with.
- Use of Time: While these summer programs are a tempting option, they must be weighed against other opportunities for summer engagement. Attending a summer program at a college must be weighed against completing an internship, working, or pursuing passion projects.
While these programs will not directly help students get into colleges, they are still a good way for students to explore their interests, and discover where their passions lie. Students who want experience with research, to learn what college life is like, or who want a taste of freedom over the summer can all benefit from these programs. Below, we list summer programs by category which we believe are a good investment, and which will help students succeed.
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The coronavirus pandemic has impacted most aspects of daily life, and while some are hopeful things will return to normal, others are more pessimistic. Many of the programs which are normally held in-person have instead been relegated to virtual space, as there is fear of contagion in enclosed dorms with students from around the country.
Unlike last summer, however, these programs have had a significant amount of time to prepare and plan for how they will deal with the implications of the pandemic this summer. Therefore, while some programs have decided to stay virtual, they will have better and more solidified virtual offerings, with less scrambling and last minute changes.
It is up to you whether to send your children to in-person programs, or stick to virtual offerings. This situation is still developing, and it is hard to say where things will be by summer. A number of programs are taking this approach as well, and will only finalize their plans closer to the start date, sometime in the spring.
List of Summer Programs for High School Students
What: An intensive program hosted by Hampshire College designed to introduce high school students to mathematics. The goal of the problem is for students to do mathematics, rather than simply learn about them.
When: 6 weeks in summer. The program has not yet made choices about whether they will be in person for 2021.
Where: Hampshire College’s campus, in Amherst, Massachusetts. Housing is provided on campus.
Who: Current high school students.
Cost: $4,913. This covers tuition, meals, and housing. Financial aid is available, and is based on need. Students are responsible for their own transportation to the program.
Selectivity: The program is somewhat selective. Students must apply online. Once their application has been received, they must fill out a test and send it back in as the second half of their application.
What: A residential summer program for high school students with a love for and curiosity about mathematics. Students will learn about math, make conjectures, and work to solve them, while exploring advanced topics.
When: 5 weeks in summer. It has not been decided if the program will be in person for 2021.
Where: Bryn Mawr College’s campus, in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Housing and meals are provided as part of the tuition costs.
Who: Current high school students, with a strong interest in and talent for mathematics. Students outside the 14-17 age range will be asked for additional details.
Cost: $2,150. There is financial aid available for those with demonstrated need.
Selectivity: The program is very selective. Students must apply online by filling out a short form. Once this is complete, they will be sent a math assessment which they must complete in a four-hour block. There is then a longer form to fill out. A letter of recommendation is required.
What: An intensive research program for students from across the country. It provides hands-on research experience guided by faculty and graduate students, and a chance to live on campus and experience university life.
When: 7 weeks in the summer. (TBD if the program is occurring or virtual in 2021)
Where: Michigan State University’s campus in East Lansing, Michigan. Housing and meals are paid for by tuition costs.
Who: Approximately 24 current high school juniors attend each year.
Cost: $3,800, with financial aid available.
Selectivity: Very selective. Students must complete an application and two essays. They need to submit a transcript, and two letters of recommendation from teachers, at least one from a science teacher. Applications must be submitted by mail.
What: Academically talented rising seniors, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, are introduced to topics in the sciences, and take five courses for credit. Students also participate in lab tours, special events, and college counseling.
When: 6 weeks in the summer. MITES is cancelled for 2021.
Where: MIT’s campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Housing is provided on campus.
Who: Rising seniors from various backgrounds are encouraged to apply, so long as they are US citizens or permanent residents. Students are expected to have passion for science and technology.
Cost: Free. Tuition, housing, and meals are provided by the program. Students are required to cover transportation to the program.
Selectivity: Very selective. Students must complete an online application. All applications are considered, but students from disadvantaged backgrounds, minorities, first generation college students, and rural students are encouraged to apply. Essays, lists of activities, and letters of recommendation are required.
What: A program for gifted high school students, focusing on the creative side of mathematics. Students attend seminars, take classes, work on advanced problems, and conduct research.
When: 6 weeks every summer. It will be decided in spring 2021 if the program is in person or virtual for 2021.
Where: Boston University’s campus in Boston, Massachusetts. Housing is provided, as are meals.
Who: High school students who are 14 or older.
Cost: $5,150 for tuition, room, and housing. Financial aid is available, and prices are capped based on family income.
Selectivity: Selective. Students must complete a math problem set, and upload it and their transcript along with an online application. A recommendation letter from the student’s math teacher is required.
What: A program with two tracks: internship and practicum. On the internship track, students spend 40 hours each week conducting hands-on research while directed by a mentor. On the practicum track, students take a course in computational neurobiology, and conduct group research with other students.
When: 6 weeks in the summer, July 5-August 13 2021. The program plans on being in person in 2021.
Where: Boston University’s campus, in Boston, Massachusetts. Students may choose to live on campus or commute.
Who: Current juniors who will be seniors next year, with an interest in science.
Cost: $7,700, $4,700 of which is for program/tuition, $3,000 is for housing. Limited financial aid is available.
Selectivity: The program is selective, with around 16% of applicants being admitted. Students are required to complete an online application, including three essays. Students interested in the internship track must indicate which professors they are interested in working with. Two letters of recommendation are required, at least one of which must be from a math or science teacher. You must submit transcripts and standardized test scores.
What: 80 students complete on-campus theory work, out-of-class research, and fun activities in this 6 week program. Students’ work is guided by faculty, graduate students, and staff. Students complete an entire cycle of research during the program, from coming up with a hypothesis to synthesizing results.
When: 6 weeks in the summer, held either on-campus or virtually in 2021, with exact program dates to be determined.
Where: MIT’s campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Housing is provided on campus.
Who: Students with a year remaining before they graduate high school are eligible to apply. They should show promise in math and science, and should show leadership capabilities outside the classroom.
Cost: Free. Tuition, meals, and housing are provided.
Selectivity: Very selective. Students must complete an online application, answer essay questions detailing their goals related to science or technology, and submit a high school transcript. Students must submit two letters of recommendation from teachers, and may submit a third from a mentor they performed research with. Test scores are highly recommended.
What: A program designed to introduce students to higher order mathematical thinking, all students take a course on number theory. The program hopes to foster individual mathematical exploration.
When: 6 weeks in summer. It is uncertain whether the program will be in person or virtual in 2021.
Where: Ohio Dominican University’s campus, in Columbus, Ohio. Housing and meals are provided.
Who: Around 75 high school students between the ages of 15 and 18 from around the country.
Cost: $5,000. Financial aid is available, if the program is moved online, tuition will be reduced.
Selectivity: The program is selective, accepting around one third of applicants. Students must complete an online application, answer several essay questions, and complete several math problems.
What: A program where high school students interested in STEM subjects are inserted into existing research projects at UCSC. Students perform hands-on research, and are mentored by faculty, staff, and graduate students.
When: 10 weeks in the summer. 8 weeks are in person, 2 weeks are virtual. Dates have not been announced for 2021.
Where: UC Santa Cruz’s campus, in Santa Cruz, California. Housing is provided on campus, or students may live off campus and commute.
Who: Around 150 high school students are admitted each year. Students must be 14 years of age and current high school students. Some research projects require students to be 16 or older.
Cost: $600-$875 per week for housing. $4,000 program fee. There is limited financial aid available. Housing includes a meal plan.
Selectivity: The program is selective. Students must apply online, including a personal statement, responses to essay questions, and statements of interest on research topics. A transcript is required, as are two letters of recommendation from teachers, and one from a counselor. There is a $60 application fee.
What: A hands-on research program, where students participate in ongoing research at Stony Brook University. Students work under the guidance of faculty, participate in seminars and special presentations, and attend weekly research talks.
When: June 28-August 9, 2021. The program will be virtual in 2021.
Where: Stony Brook University’s campus in Stony Brook, New York. Housing is available on campus or students may choose to commute.
Who: Current juniors who are nominated by their schools are eligible. Students must be at least 16 and American citizens or permanent residents.
Cost: There is a $3,200 fee for housing, the program is free for commuters. A $1,000 stipend is provided at the end of the program.
Selectivity: The program is very selective, with around an 8% acceptance rate. Students must be nominated by their high school before they can apply, then must complete an online application. Students must include a transcript and two letters of recommendation from teachers. Students may indicate interest in a specific field or research group in their application.
What: High school students perform basic research on medical topics with faculty, staff, and graduate students at Stanford. The goal is to increase students’ interest in and understanding of medicine.
When: 8 weeks in the summer. It is not yet certain whether the program will be available in 2021.
Where: Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Housing is not provided; this is the responsibility of the student and their family.
Who: Students must be current juniors or seniors to apply, and must be 16 years of age by the program’s start date. Students must be American citizens or permanent residents. Students from the bay area in California are prioritized.
Cost: Free. The program also provides a stipend to participating students of at least $500.
Selectivity: Very selective. Students must complete an online application. Answering two essay questions is required, as is a letter of recommendation from a teacher, preferably a math or science teacher. There is a $40 application fee.
What: A program focused on pure mathematics, where students take courses, attend lectures, and work together to solve problems. The program focuses on introducing students to topics they don’t cover in high school math classes.
When: 3 weeks in summer. The program will be held online in 2021.
Where: Stanford University’s campus in Palo Alto, California.
Who: Students who are currently in 10th or 11th grade with a deep passion for mathematics.
Cost: $7,000, covering tuition, housing, meals, field trips, and transport to the San Francisco airport. Financial aid is available, and costs are reduced for virtual programs.
Selectivity: The program is very selective. Students must complete an online application, including essays and example problems. A recommendation letter from a math teacher, transcripts, and standardized test scores are required. SUMaC requires an entrance exam as part of their application.
What: The program provides a chance for underrepresented students to explore a rigorous curriculum, and earn college credit. The goal of the program is to deepen the students’ interest in STEM, while equipping them with the tools needed to explore the field.
When: 6 weeks, online, beginning July 3 2021. The program is entirely online for 2021.
Where: Carnegie Mellon University’s campus, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Who: Students who are current sophomores or juniors, at least 16, and American citizens or permanent residents are eligible for the program. The program is aimed at underrepresented groups, but others are allowed to apply.
Cost: Free. Tuition, housing, and meals are provided for, but students are responsible for their own supplies and transportation.
Selectivity: The program is very selective. Students must complete an online application, and send in their transcript and two letters of recommendation, one from a counselor and one from a teacher. They must respond to two essay prompts. Students are encouraged to submit standardized test scores, but are not required to. All students who meet the eligibility requirements are considered.
What: A program run and governed by its own alumni, the SSP puts students into teams of three to complete original research projects, guided by faculty mentors. The program is devoted to being a hands-on experience.
When: 39 days in June-July, it is undecided whether the program will be remote or in person for 2021.
Where: University campuses around the country.
Who: Current high school juniors and exceptional sophomores. Depending on the student’s research area of interest, prerequisite courses are required. They look for students who are well prepared and eager to participate, and try to admit the students who will benefit most from the program.
Cost: $6,950 in person, or $3,950 if online. Around half of applicants receive some form of financial aid, which can cover up to 100% of tuition expenses, and is based on need. Students apply for financial aid after they are admitted to the program. Up to $500 in financial aid is available to cover travel expenses.
Selectivity: The program is very selective. Students must complete an online form, including selecting which discipline they want to focus in. They must submit a high school transcript, and two letters of recommendation from a teacher, ideally from math and science teachers. Standardized test scores are required as well.
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What: A program for community minded young people to be connected with volunteering and development opportunities. All participants are placed in paid internships with local volunteering organizations, and take part in a National Summit in Washington DC.
When: 8 weeks in summer.
Where: Local volunteering partners, summit in Washington DC at the end of the program.
Who: Current juniors and seniors in high school who are eligible to work in the United States, and who are in good academic standing. Students may not be relatives of Bank of America employees.
Cost: Free, the internship opportunities are paid.
Selectivity: The program is very selective. Students may apply online, and are required to submit a letter of recommendation from a teacher or mentor.
What: A program designed to teach students how to approach problems from an economics standpoint. The course introduces economic theories and their applications to students through classes, assignments, and lectures.
When and Where: There are several program sites and date ranges, though all programs last a week and are held on a college campus.
Who: Students who are currently sophomores and juniors are eligible to apply.
Cost: $1,850. This covers tuition and housing, some financial aid is available.
Selectivity: The program is selective. Students must complete an application and respond to an essay question.
What: A program for aspiring high school entrepreneurs with the purpose of enabling them to launch their own startup. Students take courses, learn from industry leaders, and collaborate with each other to learn how to build a business.
When: June 28-July 30.
Where: Various college campuses across the country, including Northwestern and MIT previously. It is as of yet uncertain if the program will be virtual this year.
Who: Current high school students from around the world are eligible to apply.
Cost: $5,980. Admitted students with family incomes below $100,000 are eligible for financial aid.
Selectivity: The program is selective. They look for students who display initiative, impact, and collaboration. The application requires an online form, and a short video submission. They do ask for a transcript, but consider grades less important than what students accomplished outside of the classroom.
What: A program hosted a Wharton for students from around the world. Students are introduced to business concepts and hone leadership and communications skills. The program consists of classes, company visits, and team building exercises.
When: There are three sessions: May 30-June 19, June 20-July 10, and July 18-August 7.
Where: University of Pennsylvania’s campus, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Housing is provided on campus.
Who: Approximately 120 students are admitted each year. Students must be in grades 10 or 11 at the time of their application, and have demonstrated leadership experience.
Cost: $7,500. Financial aid is available. The cost covers tuition, housing, and meals.
Selectivity: Very selective. Students must complete an online application. Transcripts and a letter of recommendation are required, as are essay responses. Submitting standardized test scores is optional. There is a $100 application fee. An unweighted GPA of 3.5 is preferred. English proficiency tests are required for non-native speakers.
What: The program strives to introduce young women to the college environment and business experience. Students participate in workshops, network with current college students and faculty, and prepare a case study of a business.
When: 4 days in summer. Dates to be determined for 2021.
Where: Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. Students live on campus for the program.
Who: Current female 11th graders are eligible to apply.
Selectivity: The program is very selective. Students need to complete an online application, including essay responses, and submit their transcript and a resume. Students need a minimum GPA of 3.5 out of 4.0 to be accepted into the program.
What: A program for students 17 and up, 12 highly qualified juniors and seniors complete advanced research 1-on-1 with a faculty mentor. There are also bonding opportunities, weekly trips, and talks and discussions hosted by the program.
When: June 21 through August 4th, 2021. The program is currently on for 2021.
Where: Texas Tech’s campus in Lubbock, Texas. Housing is provided on-campus.
Who: Juniors and seniors who are 17 or older are allowed to apply. Age exceptions will not be granted, emails asking for exceptions will not be answered.
Cost: Free. Students will receive a $500 meal card for the program, and a $750 stipend upon completion of a successful project report. Students are responsible for travel to the program.
Selectivity: Very selective. The program requires an application, including an online form, essays, transcripts, standardized test scores (PSATs if the student has not yet taken the SAT), 3 letters of recommendation, and a list of their top 5 volunteer activities. Additional resumes are not considered.
What: 90 competitive and talented students are admitted to this program each year, where they attend seminars, learn from guest lecturers, and grow as a team. Students are eligible to earn a single college credit from the program.
When: 10 days in the Summer, July 17-28, 2021.
Where: Notre Dame University’s campus, South Bend, Indiana.
Who: Current juniors who plan on attending college are allowed to apply. Students must be at least 16 by the start date of the program.
Cost: There is a $50 application fee and a $150 enrollment fee. Fee waivers are provided in extenuating circumstances. Tuition, housing, and meals will be paid for by the university.
Selectivity: The program is very selective, and students are generally in the top 10% of their class, and have displayed significant leadership in their communities. The application requires an online form, a high school transcript, a counselor report, and a letter of recommendation from a teacher. Submitting standardized test scores is not required, but is encouraged.
What: A program for current juniors, TASP seeks to unite some of the brightest and most intellectually curious students in the country, and give them experience learning, growing, and asking questions. The program seeks to foster independence and investigative skills.
When: 6 weeks in the summer, the program is cancelled for 2021.
Where: Different college campuses around the country, with housing provided on campus.
Who: Current juniors are allowed to apply.
Cost: Free. The program also provides housing, assistance with transportation costs is also available.
Selectivity: Very, the program admits 5% of applicants. Students must complete an application, and answer a number of essay questions in order to be considered.
What: Talented students from 130 countries, and all 50 states, participate in an interdisciplinary program focused on collaborative learning and discovery. There are three sessions each summer, and students may choose one of the following four tracks: Innovations in Science & Technology; Literature, Philosophy, & Culture; Politics, Law, & Economics; and Solving Global Challenges.
When: 2 weeks in the summer. The program will be virtual in 2021. There are three sessions: June 21-July 3, July 5-17, and July 19-31.
Where: Yale’s campus in New Haven, Connecticut. The program is entirely virtual this year.
Who: Students must be at least 16, fluent in English, a sophomore or junior, and not have participated in the program before.
Cost: $3,500 for tuition. Need based financial aid is available to all students, with an application offered as part of the general application. International students are eligible for need-based aid. Cost is higher for non-online program years.
Selectivity: The program is very selective. Applications require an online form, an activities list, two short essays and two short responses, a school transcript, two recommenders (who need to complete the YYGS form rather than a separate letter), and a $75 application fee.
What: An intensive language study program, students take a pledge to speak nothing but their chosen language of study, either Arabic, French, Chinese, or Spanish, 24/7 for the duration of their stay.
When: 4 weeks in summer. To be determined if the program is in person or virtual in 2021.
Where: Middlebury College campus, Colchester, Vermont. Housing is provided on campus as part of the program.
Who: Students currently in grades 8-12 are allowed to apply.
Cost: $5,595-$8,245. There is limited financial aid available.
Selectivity: The program is slightly selective. Students must apply online, include a transcript, and answer a short essay question. A $395 deposit is required.
What: A program for students interested in journalism from low-income backgrounds. Students attend workshops and lectures from industry figures and faculty, and publish the Princeton Summer Journal collaboratively.
When: 10 days in the summer. The program is virtual for 2021. They are considering a return to an in person session, but have not solidified that yet.
Where: Princeton’s campus, Princeton, New Jersey. Housing is provided in years when the program is in person.
Who: Up to 40 students from around the country are accepted each year. Students must be current Juniors to apply, with an unweighted GPA of 3.5, with an interest in journalism and demonstrated financial need.
Cost: Free. The program provides for travel, lodging, and meals for the duration of the program.
Selectivity: The program is very selective. The application occurs over three rounds. The first requires an online application and three essay questions, and assesses students’ eligibility for the program. The second round requires verification of information submitted in the first round, including an official high school transcript. They also request a letter of recommendation from a teacher, a school report form a counselor, and clips from any high school publications you have participated in. The third round of the application consists of phone interviews.
What: A program devoted to teaching and practicing debates in varying styles, for both middle and high school students. There are numerous short programs included under the umbrella of this program.
When: Varying dates through the summer. All offerings are virtual in 2021. Programs range from 1-3 weeks in length.
Where: Stanford’s campus, Palo Alto, California.
Who: Students in grades 7-12 are allowed to apply. Some programs are more limited for which grades can apply.
Cost: $750-$4,500. Cost covers tuition, meals, and housing. Students are recommended to bring money for incidental expenses. Limited financial aid is available.
Selectivity: Varied. Some programs will accept any students who apply and make a deposit, others are more selective. Students must apply online.
What: Hosted by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, SJI brings together top performing high school students to learn about print and digital journalism through workshops and hands-on experiences.
When: 2 weeks in June, 2021
Where: Arizona State University’s campus, Tempe Phoenix, Arizona. Housing is provided by the program.
Who: High school students who are interested in Journalism, from around the state and country.
Cost: Free. Tuition, food, and housing are provided. Students must provide their own transportation to the institute, and are encouraged to bring money for incidentals.
Selectivity: The program is very selective. Students must apply online.