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Top Summer Programs for High School Students
For high schoolers, the summer months are a nice break from the grind of the school year. While this is a good time to rest and recharge, it’s also an excellent chance to bolster your resume and get a leg up in the college admissions process. From math camps to journalism programs to leadership seminars, there’s so many ways to spend your summer productively. In this guide, you’ll find a variety of summer programs for high school students.
Also see: 8 ways to rock the summer before your senior year
1. Canada/USA Mathcamp
This summer program offers gifted high school students the chance to “live and breathe” mathematics. Throughout the program, students explore undergraduate- and even graduate-level mathematical topics. They design their own curriculum by choosing their own classes, and learn from professional mathematicians in the process. Mathcampers also get the opportunity to go on field trips like hiking, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, trampolining and much more.
- Cost: $4,500 (financial aid is available, and the program is free for U.S. and Canadian families with household incomes under $65,000)
- Length: 5 weeks (usually July and August )
- Location: Different college campus each year
2. Program in Mathematics for Young Scientists (PROMYS)
For over three decades, PROMYS has been a place of mathematical exploration for talented high school students. Students in this program attend seminars on advanced mathematical topics ranging from hyperelliptic curves to number theory. They also get the chance to participate in research projects under the mentorship of professional mathematicians. The program is open to high schoolers who have completed 9th grade and are at least 14 years old.
- Cost: $5,500 (Financial aid is available, and the program is free for U.S. families with household incomes under $60,000)
- Length: 6 weeks (July and August)
- Location: Boston University
3. Ross Mathematics Program
The Ross Program revolves around one central mathematical concept – number theory. Participants spend the entire summer solving problem sets related to integers and their properties. This process provides a great foundation for students interested in conducting mathematical research in the future. Participants range in age from 15 to 18, but younger or older students are sometimes accepted.
- Cost: $6,000 (Financial aid available)
- Length: 6 weeks (Check website for specific dates)
- Location: Two campuses (Columbus, Ohio & Terre Haute, Indiana)
4. Stanford University Math Camp (SUMaC)
SUMaC is another great opportunity for students seeking mathematical enrichment. Students choose between two courses – (1) algebraic topology and (2) abstract algebra & number theory. Both topics are major areas of modern mathematical research. In both courses, students engage in daily problem sets, work with Stanford graduate students, and attend virtual guest lectures from mathematicians. Rising high school juniors and seniors are eligible to apply.
- Cost: $3,250 (Financial aid available)
- Length: 3 weeks (Check website for specific dates)
- Location: Currently online
Science and research programs
1. Jackson Laboratory Summer Student Program
For students interested in genetics and genomics research, the Jackson Laboratory Program is an excellent opportunity. With the support of an experienced scientific mentor, participants develop an independent research project and report their findings at the end of the summer. The program is open to both undergraduates and high schoolers who are 18 and have completed grade 12 at the time of participation (current seniors can apply).
- Cost: Free with a $6,000 stipend included
- Length: 10 weeks (June to August)
- Location: Two campuses (Bar Harbor, Maine & Farmington, Connecticut)
2. Minority Introduction to Science and Engineering (MITES)
Offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MITES is an academic enrichment program for students interested in science and engineering careers. Participants, many of whom come from underrepresented communities, take a total of five classes throughout the program. Courses are offered in math, life sciences, physics, humanities, and electives such as architecture and computer science. Only rising high school seniors are eligible to apply.
- Cost: Free
- Length: 6 weeks (check website for specific dates)
- Location: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
3. Anson L. Clark Scholars Program
This research program at Texas Tech University gives students the chance to conduct hands-on research projects alongside distinguished faculty members. Research opportunities are available in nearly every discipline, from anthropology to biochemistry to political science. When they’re not engaged in research, students participate in weekly seminars and field trips. The program is open to high school juniors and seniors who are 17 years or older.
- Cost: Free with a $750 stipend included
- Length: 7 weeks (June to early August)
- Location: Texas Tech University
4. Stanford Institutes of Medicine Summer Research Program (SIMR)
Through SIMR, high school juniors and seniors get to perform biomedical research alongside Stanford faculty. Research opportunities are available in eight areas – immunology, neurobiology, cancer biology, bioengineering, stem cell medicine, cardiovascular biology, bioinformatics, and genetics and genomics. Housing is not provided, so applicants from the Bay Area are favored.
- Cost: Free with a $500 – $1,500 stipend included
- Length: 8 weeks (June to August)
- Location: Stanford University
5. Simons Summer Research Program
Hosted by Stony Brook University in New York, this program gives students the chance to perform hands-on research in science, math, or engineering. Participants work with faculty members, learn laboratory techniques and tools, and get a glimpse of life at a research university. Students must apply during their junior year and participate during the summer before their senior year.
- Cost: $3,200 housing fee (no cost for commuters); a $1,000 stipend is awarded at the end of the program
- Length: 7 weeks (check website for specific dates)
- Location: Stony Brook University
6. Girls Who Code Summer Program
Girls Who Code teaches female and non-binary high school students the computer science skills they need to prepare for a career in tech. Participants learn to code through hands-on projects ranging from websites to apps to video games. They also get the chance to learn about tech careers by connecting with female engineers and entrepreneurs in the industry.
- Cost: Free with stipends available for living expenses and transportation
- Length: Available as 2-week intensive and 6-week self-paced program
- Location: Currently virtual
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Looking to sharpen your journalism skills? Apply to JCamp, where participants receive hands-on training from veteran journalists in areas such as writing, photography, and broadcasting. Participants also produce multiplatform news packages for the program’s news site, JCamp Live. Originally created in response to the industry’s diversity crisis, JCamp puts an emphasis on bringing together culturally diverse students.
- Cost: Free
- Length: 6 days (check website for specific dates)
- Location: Georgia Public Broadcasting, Atlanta, GA
2. Princeton Summer Journalism Program (PSJP)
Designed for high school juniors from low-income backgrounds, PSJP is an immersive 10-day journalism experience. Participants perform real-world reporting, produce a short documentary, and design their own newspaper (which is published in the Princeton Summer Journal). Students also visit major news outlets in NYC and attend workshops led by professional journalists.
- Cost: Free
- Length: 10 days (late July to August)
- Location: Princeton University
Related: Top journalism scholarships
Business and leadership programs
This entrepreneurship program supports students through the process of launching an actual startup company. Participants work with a team of like-minded young entrepreneurs as they explore business opportunities, perform market research, and bring their ideas to life. LaunchX is open to all current high school students.
- Cost: $9,250 for in-person or $5,980 for online (financial aid is available)
- Length: 4 weeks (check website for specific dates)
- Location: offered online, at the University of Michigan, and in the Research Triangle
2. Young Women’s Institute
This program introduces young women to business career opportunities through workshops taught by Kelly School of Business faculty. Areas of study include international business, entrepreneurship, finance, and more. The program is open to female students finishing their junior year of high school (rising seniors).
- Cost: Free
- Length: 1 week
- Location: Indiana University
3. University of Notre Dame Leadership Seminars
This summer program is for high schoolers who have demonstrated impressive leadership within their communities. Over the course of the program, students tackle complex global issues like war, race, and the environment. Along the way, they develop valuable critical thinking, research, and presentation skills. Only high school juniors are eligible to apply.
- Cost: $60 application fee + $150 enrollment fee
- Length: 10 days (mid-July )
- Location: University of Notre Dame
4. Economics for Leaders (EFL)
The purpose of EFL is to give students the economic reasoning skills needed to be effective leaders. Participants attend economic lectures covering topics like opportunity cost, labor markets, and property rights. They also participate in a variety of leadership workshops and exercises. This is a great program for students interested in a career in government and public policy.
- Cost: $2,000 (financial aid available)
- Length: 1 week (check website for specific dates)
- Location: Various colleges throughout the U.S.
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There are many other ways to have a productive summer than participating in one of these programs. Alternative options include getting a summer job, finding an internship, or volunteering in your community. Check out the following resources for more ideas on how to spend your summer: