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Top Pre-College Programs for High School Students

You’ve probably come across at least a few programs during your college search that invite students to come to campus for a week or two and experience college life. While those programs are great and can be very beneficial, some students want more. In this article, we’ll go through a list of programs for high schoolers that go beyond just the traditional summer programs you may be familiar with! 

Before we jump in…

Before we jump in, we just want to make a quick note about the programs we’ve listed below. We aimed to choose programs that have no cost and may even include a stipend for you during the program or after. However, because these programs are paid for through donors and scholarships, they are slightly more competitive than some other pre college programs you may come across. Okay, now let’s jump in!

Program list

US Senate Youth Program 

The US Senate Youth Program is a very prestigious program that invites two students from each state to participate in a week-long program in Washington, D.C. In order to participate in this program you’ll need to do some planning. All selected students  need to have held elected positions in their school, or community and have a strong academic record.

Cost: This program has no cost and winners are awarded a $10,000 scholarship for their future undergraduate studies
Dates: March 2nd-9th, 2024
Deadline to apply: The deadline for the 2024 dates has passed, but applications are usually do in the beginning of December

US Senate Page Program

The US Senate Page Program, which is different from the program mentioned above, is unlike any other program on this list! This program offers sessions that take place during the summer and during the fall or spring semesters. During this program students will still be full time students, as well as working pages in the US Senate. Students pay for room and board, but will also be paid a salary while they work as a page. This program is certainly worth looking into!

Cost: Students will need to pay monthly room and board. However, they also receive a salary while they work
Dates: Session dates vary based on the semester you choose
Deadline to apply: Deadlines vary by state, contact your senators office for more information

National Park Service 

The National Park Service is a great way to spend your summer, a semester, or even just a few weeks of your time. The National Park Service offers tons of programs for students as young as 15 years old. These can be a great way to build up your college application and gain valuable experience in a field that interests you. 

Cost: Varies, some positions are paid, some are not
Dates: Varies by program
Deadline to apply: Varies by program

Program in Mathematics for Young Scientists

This program is based at Boston University and invites students to  study mathematics for six weeks. Students must be at least 14 years of age and have completed ninth grade in order to be eligible to participate. The application includes a problem set that students must solve, as well as transcripts, a letter of recommendation, and a short answer form. 

Cost: $6,100 (For students whose families make less than $80,000 the program will be no cost)
Dates: June 30 – August 4, 2024
Deadline to apply: March 1, 2024

Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES)

MITES is a program hosted by MIT to help students get acquainted with the STEM field. Participants gain a solid foundation that they can take into college. MIT offers three programs for students that all offer different levels of commitment. Students who are local can participate in MITES Saturdays, while others can complete in person summer long programs, or the MITES hybrid semester program. If STEM is an area of interest to you, this program should definitely be something you look into!

Cost: All programs come at no cost to students
Dates: Vary depending on the program you choose
Deadline to apply: Varies depending on the program you choose


The Asian American Journalists Association partners with American University in Washington D.C. to host JCamp. JCamp is a seven-day multicultural journalism training program for high school students. This week-long program is designed to give students real training by veteran journalists. Students recieve a real life view of what a career in journalism might look like. The application process requires several essays and a video which will be reviewed by several people, so be sure to take your time when it comes to applying. 

Cost: No cost
Dates: August 3-9, 2024
Deadline to apply: March 1, 2024

Anson L. Clark Scholars Program

The Anson L. Clark Scholars Program is a seven week research program at Texas Tech University for high school juniors and seniors. Students can conduct research in a variety of areas, including, but not limited to, nutritional sciences, neurobiology, and computer sciences.

Cost: No cost, students receive a $750 stipend upon completion of a successful research program
Dates: June 16 – August 1, 2024
Deadline to apply: February 15, 2024

Hk Maker Lab

At the Hk Maker Lab students go through a five week program taught by the Columbia University engineering faculty. Students must submit an application and then be invited to interview in order to participate in the program. Students who complete the Hk Marker Lab will be eligible for a paid internship the following summer. 

Cost: No cost
Dates: July 8 – August 13, 2024
Deadline to apply: January 15, 2024 (Priority deadline), February 29, 2024 (Regular deadline)

Stanford Institutes of Medicine Summer Research Program (SIMR)

The Stanford Institutes of Medicine Summer Research Program is an eight week program for high school juniors and seniors to perform real research with Stanford faculty. During this time students will get a first-hand look at how medical research is performed and what a career in research might look like. Students must be a US citizen that is at least 16 years or older. Depending on the area of research, students will receive a stipend between $500 and $1500 at the end of the summer. 

Cost: No cost
Dates: June 10 – August 1, 2024
Deadline to apply: February 24, 2024

Telluride Association Summer Seminar (TASS)

The Telluride Association Summer Seminar is a free six week program that focuses on teaching students about critical thinking and democratic community. During this program students will attend college level seminars that include lecturing, as well as discussion based learning. Outside of class you will get to live with and enjoy your community of peers through planning activities and community service projects. This year’s seminar is being hosted at the University of Michigan.

Cost: No cost
Dates: June 23 – August 3, 2024
Deadline to apply: January 3, 2024

Next Steps

Next Steps

  • If any of these programs interest you, you should look into them immediately. Make sure you don’t miss any deadlines!
  • Many of these programs are very competitive and include multiple application components
  • Some of these programs take place during the year. This means you will need to find out if traveling for a long period of time is something you can accommodate
  • While nearly all of these programs have no fees, you’ll likely still need to pay for traveling expenses to and from the programs
Next Steps

Frequently asked questions about pre college programs for high school students

What summer programs look best for college?

What programs look best to a college depends on the college and the field you are interested in. If you are striving to be accepted in a prestigious engineering school, then attending a rigorous program where you gained research experience and got to attend engineering lectures will likely reflect well on you. Any initiative you can take to show your commitment to academics and that you’ve prepared for college should help you in the application process.

Why are pre college programs important?

Pre college programs can be a great way to build your college application and get better acquainted with the major you plan to pursue. There are a wide range of pre college programs out there, so make sure you do your research into them.

Are ivy league summer programs worth it?

If there is an ivy league school that is hosting a program you’re particularly interested in, then by all means, you should apply. However, you shouldn’t judge a program’s worth simply based on their level of prestige. While some ivy league schools do offer great programs, there are plenty of other great programs hosted by other colleges that stack up just as well! Take some time to read about the programs you’re applying to and read about other students’ experiences in that program if possible.