You’re still in high school, but it can be great to have some college experiences now! There are tons of exceptional summer programs for high school students at college campuses around the country (and online) that can help you get a leg up on the college planning process. Every college structures their summer programs a little differently. In general, you can expect to live on campus (or commute) for one or multiple weeks while you attend college-level classes taught by professors and participate in other enrichment activities.
Summer programs for high school students are opportunities to explore your intended field in-depth, get a feel for college life, and prepare to make the transition to the academic expectations of collegiate programs. (Psst. They’re also a great way to enhance your college resume.) Ready to get started? Check out these top 20 summer programs for high school students interested in all types of fields.
Please note: The programs listed here are subject to change, so be sure to check the college program website for the most up-to-date information.
20 Summer College Programs For Teenagers
1. Wonderworks Pre-College Summer Programs
If you love all things arts and humanities and you’re looking for a local program in Texas, then Wonderworks could be a good fit for you. Wonderworks Pre-College Summer Programs is a joint endeavor by Rice University and the University of Houston. During any given year, there are a number of programs to choose from. In 2023, Wonderworks offered programs in architecture, art history, fiction/creative writing, filmmaking, and government studies.
The programs are designed to be fun, yet challenging and intellectually stimulating. But that’s not the only reason why Wonderworks is so popular among Texas high schoolers. The program admits students on a need-blind basis. That means if you are academically well-qualified, it doesn’t matter if your parents can’t pay the tuition; you can receive a full tuition waiver.
Wonderworks is more flexible than some summer programs for high school students regarding the age/grade range of its participants. Enrollment is open to those who are entering 10th, 11th, or 12th grade, as well as students who have recently graduated. The program is relatively selective, requiring a 3.0 GPA plus demonstrated high achievement in test scores and relevant core subjects.
2. Carl B. & Florence E. King Foundation High School Summer Program in Biomedical Sciences
This biomedical sciences summer program is another one geared toward Texas high schoolers. It’s a unique program that enables selected students to work in the biomedical research laboratories of MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Students will work on a research project alongside MD Anderson faculty. Students can expect a full-time schedule, most of which consists of hands-on lab work. There are also faculty-presented seminars and other enrichment activities.
This 10-week biomedical sciences summer program is quite selective. There are spots available for only up to seven students. Eligibility is limited to current Texas students who are rising seniors. However, unlike many other highly selective summer programs for high school students, this program is available free of charge. In fact, students who participate in the full 10 weeks will receive a stipend of $6,000 to cover housing, transportation, and meals.
3. Harvard Summer School
As one of the most prestigious universities in the U.S., Harvard offers two main summer programs that can be fairly competitive. The Harvard Pre-College Program is a two-week program that takes place on campus. During any given summer, there are generally multiple two-week sessions to choose from. It consists of classes taught at the college level. However, the classes are audited; no college credit is available. Get a feel for college life and the Harvard campus, and choose from nearly 30 courses in STEAM and humanities subjects.
If you’d rather earn college credit for your efforts, consider applying for the Secondary School Program. This is a more intensive, seven-week program. Typically, only one session is available per summer. You can choose from more than 200 courses across a broad range of fields. For the Secondary School Program, you could decide to live on campus, commute to campus, or take classes online from the comfort of your own home.
4. Rice University Precollege Program
Rice University is known for its academic rigor, which you can experience firsthand in their summer program. The Rice University Precollege Program is designed for students ages 13+. It’s only available in a self-paced, online format, but you’ll get feedback on your work from Rice mentors. At the end of your course (choose from courses ranging from the future of medicine to global finance), you’ll complete a capstone project and receive a certificate of completion.
5. Career Edge NYU Summer High School Program
If you’re excited at the thought of spending a summer in New York City, then Career Edge could be the right program for you! It combines coursework with college readiness activities and career path exploration. You’ll also take field trips around NYC to visit organizations relevant to your chosen coursework, so you can get a sense of what your intended career path might look like. Choose from courses ranging from fashion design to criminal justice to book publishing.
6. Georgetown University Pre-College Online Program
Georgetown is the oldest Catholic and Jesuit higher education institution in the U.S. Its Pre-College Online Program is available to students ages 13+. Unlike most pre-college programs, Georgetown actually offers its online pre-college courses throughout the year. (Access to mentors is also provided.) If you don’t see a course that interests you this summer, check back later.
7. Louisiana State University High School Programs
If you’re passionate about all things STEM, you’ll love perusing LSU’s exciting calendar of summer programs. They do offer some arts-related programs, but their menu predominantly consists of summer camps for students interested in fields such as architecture, sound engineering, microbiology and biology, computing, and robotics. Program lengths vary.
8. The University of Texas at Austin Camps
Want to visit a college that offers an incredible array of choices? Check out the University of Texas at Austin’s summer camps. Its various colleges offer diverse options to choose from, including everything from fine arts to engineering to medical science to business to natural sciences and so much more.
9. Brown University Pre-College Programs
Since it’s an Ivy, it’s no surprise that Brown offers academic rigor. Immerse yourself in campus life as you complete summer courses that range from one to six weeks in length. The courses can change from one year to the next, but here’s a quick snapshot of what you might expect:
- Planetary Health: Global Environmental Change and Emerging Infectious Disease
- Origins of the Universe: From the Big Bang to Black Holes
- From Mayberry to Netflix: Topics in Television Studies, Race, Gender, and Class
- Writing from the Heart: Empathy, Care, & Ethnography
- Smartphone & Computational Physics
- Fluid Mechanics Through Hovercraft Physics
10. Summer Pre-College Program at Skidmore College
Skidmore is a prestigious liberal arts school situated on a cozy campus in the heart of Saratoga Springs, NY. It welcomes high-achieving, mature high schoolers to choose from summer courses in fields ranging from economics and natural science to sociology and anthropology. Its format is subject to change from year to year. However, as of 2023, the Summer Pre-College Program was available online or for students commuting to campus (no housing available on campus).
11. The Anson L. Clark Scholars Program at Texas Tech University
Each year, Texas Tech welcomes 12 highly qualified rising juniors and seniors to its intensive, seven-week summer research program. If accepted, you would complete a research project in collaboration with faculty members in a discipline of your choosing. The available disciplines can vary from year to year, but may include microbiology, physics, history, biochemistry, and computer engineering. What’s more, students selected for the program do not pay any program fees, and on-campus room and board are covered.
12. Carnegie Mellon University Pre-College Programs
Apply for a six-week summer session at Carnegie Mellon and earn college credit. You can choose from around 30 courses in disciplines such as science, social science, humanities, engineering, and technology. Most of the courses are taught by Carnegie Mellon professors. This program is not available online.
13. Cornell Precollege Studies
If you’re going to be a sophomore, junior, or senior, you might want to check out Cornell’s summer program. You could choose an on-campus or online program and earn college credit while experiencing the academic challenges of coursework taught by Ivy League professors. (On-campus program is summer-only; online program is year-round.) Classes vary widely from American Sign Language to animal science to history and law—and everything in between.
14. Fordham Summer Pre-College Program
Located in bustling NYC, the Fordham Summer Pre-College Program is a commuter-only program (no on-campus housing) that allows you to earn college credit. In fact, you’ll share classrooms with current Fordham undergrads while learning from accomplished professors. Noncredit courses and programs are also available. Some programs may be available online during any given year.
15. Boston University Summer Term
Boston University’s Summer Term attracts students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries. There are multiple summer programs for high school students to choose from here, such as the six-week High School Honors program. It’s intended for rising juniors and seniors who want to earn college credit, and it’s available online, residential (on-campus housing), or commuter (local, no on-campus housing).
Or, you could apply to the RISE Internship/Practicum program. It’s another six-week program for rising seniors who would like to conduct university-level STEM research in a lab.
16. Duke University Pre-College Programs
The Duke Pre-College Programs deliver experiential learning opportunities to sixth through 11th grade students. You’ll learn from Duke professors, as well as guest researchers and speakers. Choose from courses in engineering, science, mathematics, and humanities.
17. MIT Summer Programs
No list of summer programs for high school students would be complete without a look at what’s available from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). There are a number of different programs to choose from. Although they are subject to change, here’s a look at what you might expect:
- MITES Summer – A six-week residential program for rising juniors who are interested in science, engineering, and entrepreneurship. (No program fees)
- Research Science Institute (RSI) – A six-week summer program for rising juniors who enjoy advanced theory and research in science, mathematics, and engineering. (No program fees)
- Women’s Technology Program (WTP) – A four-week summer program for female rising seniors interested in engineering. This program aims to uplift students from historically underrepresented groups in the engineering field. (No program fees)
18. Brandeis University Precollege Programs
The Brandeis Precollege experience is intended for students who will be in grades nine through 12. Brandeis offers courses, discussion sessions, and various activities. Choose from either the residential or online program. You won’t earn college credit, but you will receive a certificate of completion and bragging points for your college application.
19. Johns Hopkins University Pre-College Summer Programs
During any given summer, Johns Hopkins typically offers multiple summer sessions to choose from, usually two weeks long. You can attend online or on-campus. (If you’re local, you can skip on-campus housing and commute.) As you might expect from Johns Hopkins, there are plenty of course offerings available in medical science, ranging from anatomy basics to pandemics to surgery to psychopathology.
20. University of Notre Dame Summer Programs
Notre Dame offers a bunch of summer programs for high school students. Some are available online, while others are residential. Here’s a look:
- Summer Scholars – Live on campus and enjoy all that the Notre Dame community has to offer while you take college-level courses.
- Summer Scholars Online – Explore college courses online, but without the on-campus aspect. All courses are taught by Notre Dame faculty.
- Leadership Seminars – These 10-day residential sessions cover a variety of topics, including international relations, the environment, and finance.
What summer programs look best for college?
There is no “right” or “wrong” summer program for high schoolers. College admissions representatives generally appreciate any effort that applicants make to further their education (including experiential learning) during summer vacations. It’s best to look for a summer program that aligns with your intended major, career goals, and/or personal interests. You’ll get more out of the program if you’re genuinely engaged in the curriculum and activities.
Is it hard to get into Ivy League summer programs?
It can be. Each Ivy has their own average acceptance rate. You shouldn’t let that dissuade you from applying, however. Do ensure that you meet the eligibility requirements, which generally involve age and expected high school graduation date. Be sure to follow all of the instructions carefully and take your time with the essay, if it’s required.
Can you earn college credit with a summer program?
Yes, it’s indeed possible to earn college credit while completing summer programs for high school students. Be aware that not all credits may transfer to the school or program that you ultimately attend as a college student. However, earning college credits during a summer program can potentially give you a leg up on the college graduation requirements.
Should you do a summer program at the school you want to attend?
It’s not a strict requirement, of course, but completing a summer program at the school you want to attend may benefit you in a couple of ways. First, showing interest in the school may help boost your admission chances, although it won’t guarantee admission. Second, a summer program allows you to experience life on that particular campus firsthand, which can help you determine if that school is really the right choice for you.
Need help preparing for college?
In addition to checking out summer programs for high school students, you can increase your chances of successful college planning with help from the expert team at KD College Prep. We offer a full menu of college counseling and test prep programs so you can reach for the stars! Contact us today to get started working with our friendly team!