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Free Summer Programs for High School Students

Summer vacation represents three months of opportunity for students. After all, summer is a blank slate for students with no classes, clubs, or minimal required activities. Luckily, there are summer programs for high school students with every interest.

Keep on reading to learn more about free and affordable summer programs for high school students, as well as some other ways to spend your time!

Related: Top merit-based scholarships for high school students

Summer during COVID-19

Before we get into our summer suggestions, we know that this summer will be a little bit different. COVID-19 means that many students around the world will have limited opportunities (and some students may not be able to leave their homes extensively for the near future. This just means you have to be a bit more creative an embrace opportunities that may be available to you locally. This can include finding virtual volunteer opportunities or other similar workarounds.

For the student who wants to make a social impact

Chances are that the nonprofits or social impact organizations in your town or community are in need of volunteers. This is likely even true during these times as organizations are looking to do more and more online (so your internship or volunteering will be happening virtually). It is best if you look into organizations that are aligned with your interests. So if you are a history buff, maybe you can look into volunteering opportunities at your local historical society. Note that many opportunities may not be publicly available, so you may have to resort to cold calls or emails!

For the student looking to jump-start their career

Remember that it’s never too early to start gaining some work experience! The earlier you start filling up your resume, the better. You can consult our list of the top 15 internships for high schoolers as a start. Oftentimes, community organizations offer internships to local high schoolers. Sometimes, they are paid, and other times, they are unpaid, so be prepared to seek out a part-time job to work in addition to your program just in case. Whether you end up working in local politics, at a soup kitchen, or at a small business, these experiences will help you shape the future of your career.

For the student who loves coding and computer programming

Build something cool! Whether you want to build a website or the next awesome app, there are plenty of resources online to get you started. Best of all, many of these resources are free! Code Academy is one of the best resources, as it is project-based so you are learning, but building things along the way. Code Academy will allow you to try your hand at a variety of programming languages including HTML, CSS, Python, Java Script, Java, SQL, and Ruby. 

See also: Top coding bootcamp scholarships

For the student with a green thumb

Whether you live in a city, near the ocean, or in a rural place, there are plenty of ways to get involved and keep your community green. Sponsor a local cleanup at a beach or river, volunteer at a local organic farm (check out WWOOF for a farm year you), or work with a non-profit that supports environmental initiatives like the Sierra Club.

For the novelist 

Dedicate a few hours a day to write. Additionally, you should consider joining a writing workshop group (online or in-person) to help keep you accountable and on track. The month of November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), so you can keep the chapters coming!

Also see: Top writing & essay scholarships

For the student who truly does not know what they want to do

Get a job! It doesn’t have to be a fancy job–that is not the point. In fact, retail and food service-type jobs can teach you a lot about the world, having responsibility, and working with lots of different types of people. Plus, you get a paycheck at the end of the week! A summer job is one of the most underrated things a student can do (and also impressive in the eyes of admissions officers).

For the student who wants to earn college credit

This can be a great idea! Why not get a jump start on earning college credit (which can shave a semester or two off of your timeline, as well as a bunch of money). There are multiple options, including your local community college. Students should also check out MicroBachelors program through edX for affordable college classes. Modern States Education Alliance is another great source for free and affordable college-level classes.

You can also opt to spend the time self-studying for an AP exam or even beginning to prepare for your SAT or ACT.

Also seeWhy should I earn college credit in high school?

Don’t forget to relax and recharge

The school year is stressful enough as it is, so you will want to take advantage of some time to rest, relax, and recharge. Catch up on that book you have been meaning to read, spend time with family, or stay up late watching movies. Your summer can be productive and still allow time for some fun, so don’t forget to take care of yourself!

Related: Top summer scholarships