Selective High School Summer Programs

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The temperature is cooling down and leaves are changing colors. School is well underway and the calendar is marching toward Thanksgiving holiday festivities. Why is summer planning suddenly up for discussion now???

There is a practical answer to this question: selective summer programs for high school students may have surprisingly early deadlines in the late fall or early winter, so it is important to do your research now. Become familiar with the opportunities available, create a plan, and be ready to submit your application by the program deadline.

Where to start? Yes, there are many options. The summer after junior year is a great time to step up and out because, with two months free, you can get a job, volunteer, work as an intern, study abroad, take a pre-college course on campus, volunteer, or design your own independent study. A productive summer means that you can pursue your interests at a deeper level, learn something new, explore a career, or just get better at an activity that you really love.

Georgetown Summer Academies
Subject matter intensives through 1-week, 2-week, or 3-week Academies. The 2019 3-week block includes Economic and Foreign Policy, Business, Entrepreneurship, Social Justice and Public Policy and the Medical Academy, where students learn about the first year of medical school from GT Medical School faculty and med students.

Carnegie Mellon Courses
Math & Science, Computational Biology, Architecture, Art, Drama, Design, Music, Gaming -and a 6-week course: Writing & Culture with CMU’s English Department.

Another question: Will participating in a summer campus program get me into my dream university? Well, summer programs do not guarantee college admission, but they do reinforce the story in your application – the one that reveals your interests and accomplishments. The benefits are twofold: you learn by challenging yourself, and colleges see that you seek growth through personal and intellectual challenges.  

Program applications will vary and may require grades, PSAT scores, teacher recommendations, student essays, and an application fee. Be careful to follow all instructions and note the application requirements and deadlines! Get your applications in early. In addition, be sure to investigate the length of the summer experience: some programs may run for eight weeks, while others might only run for one week. Keep an organized calendar so that you do not overlap your responsibilities and cause a timing conflict for yourself over the summer.

On-campus summer programs are offered all over the country and vary widely in competitiveness, duration and dates, specialty, rigor, size, cost, and living accommodations (residential or day student) -- among other details. The search for the right one may take focus and time, given the variety of campus programs. However, it is well worth the effort, because your research will reveal the right summer destination for you.

Journalism at Northwestern
Summer program for high school journalists

Business at Wharton
Intensive summer program for future business leaders.


I have included a few programs that may spark your interest. You can personalize your search by investigating specific universities and interests – for example, google "MIT programs for high school students" or "Brown pre-college summer programs." If you have a specialty, say animal science, google "summer programs for high school students in animal science," and you might just find the opportunity for you at Cornell, UMass Amherst, or UC Davis.  

If you want to jump straight into a professional environment, perhaps an internship or a research opportunity would be right for you. This is where you will need to sharpen your networking skills. Often, students find a work/intern position by talking to parents or friends’ parents. Think about what you might do and who you know. Identify adults in your life with whom you can discuss your idea. Connecting to people and speaking aloud about your goals will help you get there. If you are interested in an organization, search the website for opportunities for high school students. Hospitals have volunteer positions; the NIH, NIST, and DOD all offer summer internships to high school students; and many other organizations host high school students each summer. Your high school counselor may also be an important resource of information. Getting started may be the hardest part, so if you are feeling confused or befuddled about next summer, make an appointment with your counselor and simply start talking about your ideas.

Boston University Science
Hands-on research through the Research Internship in Science and Engineering program—6- week in depth exploration of university laboratory research offered in a variety of fields.

Yale Young Global Scholars
Summer global leaning community offering interdisciplinary 2-week sessions in subjects such as applied science and engineering, biomedical science, and global challenges.

Summer Courses at Brown
The Summer@Brown offers an extensive course list in 1, 2,3, or 4 week sessions.