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    Free Summer Programs for High School Students

    By Will Geiger

    Will Geiger is the co-founder of Scholarships360 and has a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. He is a former Senior Assistant Director of Admissions at Kenyon College where he personally reviewed 10,000 admissions applications and essays. Will also managed the Kenyon College merit scholarship program and served on the financial aid appeals committee. He has also worked as an Associate Director of College Counseling at a high school in New Haven, Connecticut. Will earned his master’s in education from the University of Pennsylvania and received his undergraduate degree in history from Wake Forest University.

    Full Bio

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    and Kira Ranieri

    Kira is a content writer at Scholarships360. Kira earned a Bachelor of Media and Journalism with a concentration in Advertising and Public Relations from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

    Full Bio

    Learn about our editorial policies

    Updated: February 22nd, 2024
    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

    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. Many opportunities are both in person and/or virtual, giving you the option to be in the setting that makes you the most comfortable. 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. Or another very popular volunteer opportunity for any animal lovers is volunteering with your local animal shelter or humane 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.

    Related: Top STEM summer programs for high school students

    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! Another great way to get your work out there as a budding writer is to start your own blog! Having your own website filled with your work looks super impressive whether it’s job applications or college applications. 

    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).

    Author perspective



    I’ve always loved flowers and decorating, so when I was in high school I reached out to a local florist to see if they needed any help with setting up events and making arrangements. I ended working there part-time, and in doing so I got the opportunity to help set up some beautiful wedding arrangements, get paid for crafting, and sometimes I even got a free floral arrangement of my own to take home at the end of the day! High school is the perfect time to pursue a job that seems fun and interesting to you, so make sure to look into local businesses that resonate with you and reach out! 

    Kira Ranieri | Scholarships360 content writer, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    Also see: Top summer music programs for high school students

    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. 

    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 see: Why 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

    Key Takeaways

    Key Takeaways

    • There a plenty of opportunities for high school students depending on what they are interested in doing
    • Summer activities are a great way to build experience to put on your resume
    • Sometimes you have to cold call or email in order to find opportunities
    • Whether it’s an internship, a personal project, a part time job, or just taking time for yourself to hang out with friends and family, prioritize your interests and needs when deciding how to spend your summer.

     

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