11 Best Summer Programs for College-Bound High School Students

Sunday, January 21, 2024
11 Best Summer Programs For College Bound Students

If you’re a college-bound high school student, chances are that you’re constantly looking for ways to advance your knowledge and experience. Since summer typically offers more free time for students, a summer program can be an effective way to continue growing. 

When many students and parents think about summer programs, they might think first of special programs, often held at college or university campuses, which can get pricey. However, you’d be surprised to learn that not all summer programs are expensive. Though they may be selective, certain programs offer a summer experience for high school students free of charge or at the cost of an affordable stipend. 

Remember, though, that you should seek a summer program that somehow enhances your learning. You don’t need just to add any summer program to your college application; rather, choose a summer program that will augment your education in a field of study that interests you most or will help you learn more about your intended career.

That said, you can find plenty of summer programs by searching online, all offering different specializations. Here are 11 of those options, in no particular order. Many (not all) are free or offer some sort of financial aid for eligible students.


1. Research Science Institute (RSI)

Located at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, this summer science and engineering program is cost-free to students and offers on-campus course work in scientific theory with off-campus science and technology research. The seven-week program allows students to first immerse themselves in a week of intensive STEM classes taught by accomplished professors, then a week of research in which they conduct individual projects under the supervision of experienced researchers and scientists. Students prepare written and oral presentations during the final week to present their research findings.


2. Summer Academy for Math and Science (SAMS)

This summer program is located at the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This program works to spotlight high school sophomores and juniors interested eager to become STEM scholars. It provides students an excellent opportunity to broaden their knowledge in STEM fields, develop necessary skills for success in STEM, and meet fellow committed students. The 2024  full curriculum is a 3-part program that will last from July 3 through December 2024, though the summer program lasts 6 weeks.From July 3 to August 6, students will complete two online seminars complete with online instruction, mentoring, and college preparation information. From August 8 to August 14, students will attend a 5-day conference that culminates in the SAMS Symposium where students present their project. Then, from August through December, students will continue to engage with CMU online and find out more about STEM opportunities. When it comes to cost, for students who participate in just the 6-week summer program, the cost requires just a $100 deposit and the cost of books, supplies, transportation, and recreational expenses.


3. Yale Young Global Scholars

Now is your chance if you have ever dreamed of going to Yale. YYGS is an academic enrichment program that admits outstanding high school students from over 130 countries and all 50 U.S. states to participate in an interdisciplinary, two-week session at Yale. For summer 2024, Yale offers three sessions, from June 21 to July 31. This will stand out as one of the more expensive options at $6500.00. 


4. Notre Dame Leadership Seminars

The University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Indiana offers this 10-day program on the Notre Dame campus. It is open to academically talented students who demonstrate exceptional leadership in their communities. Notre Dame accepts about 90 students to Leadership Seminars each year, so it is quite a selective program. However, students can receive one college credit upon completing the program, and the University pays for tuition, housing, and meals for those who are admitted. Now, although the University pays for most of the program, students must pay a $50 application fee, $150 enrollment fee, and cost of travel to and from Notre Dame.


5. Telluride Association Summer Program (TASP)

This excellent program is one you will not want to miss. The 6-week program is for high school juniors only and is designed to bring young people together from around the world who share a passion for learning. Students will be challenged through discussions with renowned faculty and fellow students. Students who apply should be seeking an intellectually stimulating and challenging experience for the purpose of learning, as they will not receive college credit. What’s more, this program is completely free to erase barriers to entry. The program will even pay for travel expenses for students who need the cost covered.


6. National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y)

The NSLI-Y programs provide intensive language immersion in a variety of locations around the world, offering Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Persian (Tajiki), Russian, and Turkish. With a duration between 6 to 7-weeks, this program is a U.S. government initiative, hosted by the U.S. Department of State, to foster international cooperation by ensuring that Americans have the necessary linguistic skills and cultural knowledge to communicate effectively on a global scale. Students can learn one of eight less frequently taught languages in immersion programs around the world. Students live with host families and participate in cultural activities. It is free for students who are accepted, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.


7. Bank of America Student Leaders Program

This wonderful program takes place at a nonprofit organization’s location in your area and in Washington, D.C. for a one-week summit. It is an 8-week program which seeks to train community-minded high school juniors and seniors in the leadership skills they need to be successful in the workforce. Bank of America chooses 300 students to undergo paid summer internships with local nonprofits like the Boys and Girls Club of America and Habitat for Humanity, as well as attend a national leadership summit in Washington, D.C. It is free and even  includes an equally engaging paid internship.


8. Young Women’s Institute

Located in Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, this selective one-week program is open to women who are finishing their junior year of high school and are rising seniors with a minimum of a 3.5 GPA on a 4.0 scale. The program seeks to introduce young women to the college experience and possible business career opportunities. The cost to selected students is free, but students must cover their transportation and personal expenses.


9. Princeton Summer Journalism Program (PSJP)

This 10-day residential journalism and college prep institute is located at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey. It is meant for high achieving high school juniors from low-income backgrounds. Up to 40 students from across the United States are chosen each year to explore world affairs and current events through lectures and workshops led by Princeton professors, professional journalists, and alumni on campus. The program culminates in the publication of the student-produced Princeton Summer Journal. After the program, students will be matched with a personal college advisor to help them with the college application process during their senior year. This program is free for students who are chosen.


10. Student Conservation Association National Crews

This eye-opening program takes place in national parks and on public lands across the United States. It is a 2 to 5-week program allows students aged 15 to 19 the opportunity to work on trail maintenance and parks restoration projects in crews of 6 to 8 students while living in tents, cooking their own food, learning outdoor skills and gaining important knowledge about the environment and ecology. This particular program costs $500.


11. Iowa Young Writers’ Studio

If you are an aspiring writer, what better way to spend your summer than doing just that? Located at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa, this 2-week residential program accepts 144 students who each choose a single Core Course of study among Poetry, Fiction, and Creative Writing to pursue while at the University of Iowa. Students immerse themselves in the creative process, meeting fellow writing-enthusiasts along the way in the writing mecca of Iowa City. Be mindful of the cost for this one as it does cost $2450, with a $50 deposit. Fortunately, financial aid is available on the basis of need.

These are just some of the top programs available to high school students at relatively low costs.  If you did not spot a program that interests you, you can find plenty of other summer program opportunities by searching online. You’ll find a program for virtually any and every interest! Feel free to research some more of our summer programs and internships on these lists at NSHSS.