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Pre-College Summer Camps

Here are the most Prestigious Summer Programs for 2024

For many high schoolers, summer vacations don’t do much to improve a student’s chances of getting into a top school.  

Luckily, summer programs allow talented young students to explore their fields of interest, get a taste of college life, and make new friends while enriching their minds and improving their application profile. Lasting anywhere from a week to a month (or longer), the majority of these programs still leave time for those traditional summer vacation activities, too. 

Here are 30 of the Most Prestigious

Summer Programs for High Schoolers 

Dates: June 23 – August 3

Location: Cornell University, University of Maryland, and University of Michigan

Application Deadline: January 3 

Cost: Free 

The Telluride Association Summer Seminar is a six-week program that allows rising high school juniors and seniors with diverse backgrounds from around the world to study how power and privilege shape social structures through courses in humanities and social sciences. Attendees are intellectually curious and motivated learners who commonly go on to attend some of the country’s finest colleges and universities. 

TASS is completely free, including the cost of tuition, books, room and board, and even travel if necessary—eliminating any financial barriers that may prevent the brightest minds from attending. 

Dates: June 23 – August 3 

Location: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Application Deadline: N/A

Cost: Free

The Research Science Institute gathers 100 of the world’s most outstanding high school students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for a free, five-week program where they can experience the research cycle in its entirety. Combining on-campus coursework in scientific theory with off-campus work in science and technology research, RSI students produce individual projects guided by experienced scientists and researchers, culminating in written and oral presentations of their projects.

Dates: Late June – Early August

Location: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Application Deadline: February 15 

Cost: Free

MITES is a residential program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) aimed at students interested in pursuing a degree—and subsequently a career—in the STEM fields. Program participants are academically talented and come from diverse, underrepresented, or underserved backgrounds. 

Throughout this six-week residential program, high school juniors develop the skills necessary for success in STEM fields while learning about the value and reward of acquiring advanced technical degrees. 

Dates: June 30 – August 10

Location: Boston University 

Application Deadline: March 1

Cost: $6,100

Founded in 1989, PROMYS is a six-week residential program enrolling approximately 80 carefully chosen, mathematically gifted high school students who are at least 14 years old and have completed ninth grade. 

Attendees of PROMYS are not treated as students; rather, PROMYS participants are thought of as mathematicians. Throughout the program, these young mathematicians explore the field supported by their peers, counselors, research mathematicians, and research scientists.

PROMYS does have a higher price tag, however, the program is free for domestic students whose families make under $80,000 per year. Financial aid is also provided based on demonstrated need. 

Dates: Residential: June 30 – August 9 or Commuter: July 1 – August 9

Location: Boston University 

Application Deadline: February 14

Cost: Tuition: $5,350 plus Room and board: $3,120 – $3,426

RISE is a six-week summer program at Boston University (BU) for the nation’s best and brightest scientifically minded high school juniors. Participants in the RISE program are afforded two tracks: internship and practicum. 

Students opting for the internship track will gain hands-on experience with research projects and work under the mentorship of distinguished faculty, post-doctoral fellows, and graduate students with opportunities in fields such as astronomy, biology, biomedical engineering, chemistry, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, mechanical engineering, medical laboratory research, neuroscience, physics, psychology, and public health.  

Dates: Varies 

Location: New Mexico State University, University of Colorado-Boulder, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Purdue University,  and Indiana University 

Application Deadline: February 16 

Cost: Up to $8,800 (the program fee is scaled to what a student can afford) 

The SSP is a 60+-year-old program designed to help future scientists, doctors, engineers, and entrepreneurs realize their full potential. By providing the role models, intellectually-equivalent peers, challenges, and inspiration that SSP participants often find lacking in their schools, the program immerses talented rising seniors from across the globe in experimental science. 

Throughout the intensive 39-day program, students conduct a research project from beginning to end, take field trips, listen to guest speakers, and, most importantly, partake in a life-changing experience. 

The SSP practices need-blind admissions—an applicant’s ability to pay for the program isn’t factored into admission decisions. The cost of the program is scaled based on family income, with students from more affluent families paying more and those from lower-income families paying less, if anything at all.

Dates: Varies

Location: Varies 

Application Deadline: Varies 

Cost: Generally free 

Boys State was founded in 1935 by two Illinois Legionnaires and the first Girls State was held three years later in 1938—these two summer programs teach high school juniors about the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of U.S. citizens, along with the structure of city, county, and state governments. 

This intensive one-week program divides students into parties, elects officials, and works to carry out basic functions such as writing, proposing, and passing bills. Other Boys/Girls State activities include legislative sessions, court proceedings, law enforcement presentations, assemblies, bands, choruses, and recreational programs.

Dates: Boys Nation: July 19 – 26 and Girls Nation: July 20 – 27 

Location: Washington D.C. 

Application Deadline: N/A

Cost: N/A 

Since 1946, Boys Nation has convened each summer to form a Senate in Washington, D.C., made up of representatives from the 49 Boys States (every U.S. state is represented except Hawaii). The first Girls Nation gathered the following year in 1947. 

Each state sends two students (who have completed their junior year and have at least one semester of high school remaining) to act as Senators representing their state. Throughout the week-long program, students gain first-hand experience of the inner workings of government, listen to lectures, participate in forums, and visit notable D.C. sites. The highlight of the program for many Boys/Girls Nation senators is the opportunity to meet with elected officials from their home states.

Dates: Session1: June 17 – July 5 or Session 2: July 8 – 26 

Location: Stanford University 

Application Deadline: February 1 

Cost:  Online: $3,550 or Residential: $8,250

SUMaC is offered as both a residential program at Stanford University and online. The program is for high-achieving high school juniors and seniors seeking to be challenged in mathematics and with a desire to learn about the latest in mathematical research and the application of mathematics across scientific fields.

Throughout the program, participants learn about advanced mathematics through lectures, guided research, and group problem-solving. SUMaC also provides students with a sample of a college-level workload—delivering rigorous coursework along with challenging assignments to complete outside of meeting times.

Dates: June 10 – August 1 

Location: Stanford University 

Application Deadline: February 24 

Cost: Free

Students are invited to perform basic research on a medically focused project through the eight-week-long SIMR. The program aims to help students gain a deeper understanding of how scientific research is conducted, introduce them to careers in the biological sciences and medicine, and increase diversity in the field. 

There are eight areas of research available for students to participate in: immunology, neurobiology, cancer biology, bioengineering, stem cell and regenerative medicine, cardiovascular biology, bioinformatics, and genetics and genomics. 

The program is open to all domestic high school juniors and seniors, however, priority is given to Bay Area students. Students from groups underrepresented in biomedical research are encouraged to apply. Not only is SIMR free, but students receive a stipend for their participation.

Dates: June 4 – July 26

Location: Stanford University

Application Deadline: March 15

Cost: Free

This selective five-week program—only about 24 students are selected—is open to high school juniors in Northern California from low-income and first-generation families. The program aims to help students develop academically and empower them to begin their college and medical careers. Throughout the program, participants engage in lectures, take part in professional development workshops, attend networking events, and conduct research projects while being mentored by Stanford faculty and health professionals.

Not only is the Stanford Medical Youth Science Program free, but participants receive a $1,250 clinical research stipend.

Dates: June 10 – August 10 

Location: University of California-Santa Cruz (UCSC)

Application Deadline: March 31 

Cost: $4,000

The SIP at the University of California-Santa Cruz (UCSC) gives high-achieving and driven students the rare chance to work and learn at a premier research institution. Projects are available in fields such as science, engineering, social sciences, humanities, and art.  

For more than a decade, this nine-week program has allowed students to spend their summer working on authentic open-ended science research projects while being mentored by UCSC faculty, graduate students, and post-doctoral researchers. The program is open to high schoolers in grades 9 through 12 and presents a fantastic opportunity for students interested in pursuing a career in a STEM field to see scientific research “in action.”

Dates: Varies

Location: Varies 

Application Deadline: Rolling 

Cost: $2,300 

This week-long program occurring at colleges and universities across the country (as well as virtually) gives future leaders hands-on experience using economics in the decision-making process. EFL seeks to make budding leaders more effective by showing them how to use economic analysis when considering public policy choices while also creating a deeper understanding of leadership and building leadership skills.

EFL is open to high school sophomores and juniors and is competitive—just 25 to 40 students are accepted at each site. 

Dates: June 22 – August 3 

Location: Carnegie Mellon University 

Application Deadline: March 1

Cost: Free

SAMS is a six-week residential program at Carnegie Mellon University for current high school juniors age 16 or older interested in pursuing an undergraduate STEM degree. Participants in SAMS develop a deeper knowledge and a better understanding of a variety of STEM fields through classroom instruction, hands-on learning, and consistent engagement with faculty and staff mentors. 

Dates: June 30 – August 10 

Location: Hampshire College 

Application Deadline: N/A

Cost: $5,882  

Entering its 52nd year, HCSSiM is a residential six-week advanced mathematics program held at Hampshire College in which talented students from around the world spend a large portion of their days engaged in mathematics—not just the results of math problems. 

HCSSiM’s mission is to prepare and motivate high school students to pursue degrees, and ultimately careers, in mathematics. HCSSiM offers participants unparalleled access to faculty in classrooms, at mealtimes, and in the dorms. HCSSiM attracts a diverse group of students—typically the number of girls and non-binary students equals the number of boys. 

The cost of the program is $5,882, although the program is free for domestic students from families with household incomes less than $68,000.

Dates: August 3 – 9 

Location: Austin, Texas 

Application Deadline: March 2 

Cost: Free

Founded in 2001 to address the lack of diversity in the media, JCamp brings high school freshmen, sophomores, and juniors from a wide variety of cultural, racial, religious, and political backgrounds (to name a few) together for six days of intense journalism training. 

Participating in sessions and workshops led by journalists employed by top media companies, students get hands-on training in broadcasting, print journalism, photojournalism, and online media—and produce media packages for the program’s news site. 

JCamp is free if selected to attend; the program covers the cost of everything from airfare to housing to meals.

Dates: June 30 – August 3

Location: Bryn Mawr College

Application Deadline: April 30 

Cost: $5,300

Serious mathematics infused with levity, MathILy is a marvelous five-week residential program at Bryn Mawr College. Led by mathematicians possessing PhDs and supported by graduate and undergraduate students, MathILy participants learn to improve their problem-solving ability, hone their critical thinking skills, meet other incredibly talented young mathematicians, and work on lots of advanced math problems. 

When not tackling topics such as combinatorial optimization, generating functions, information theory, knot theory, and Markov chain modeling, students will participate in program-wide discussions about college choices and career possibilities inside and outside of mathematics. 

Only about 30 students are selected to participate in MathILy annually.

Dates: June 16 – August 3

Location: Michigan State University 

Application Deadline: March 1 

Cost: $4,000

Since 1988, HSHSP has given students entering their senior year of high school the opportunity to gain first-hand research experience in a university environment. Drawing talented and driven students from across the United States and its territories to Michigan State University, this seven-week residential program allows students to make connections with like-minded students from diverse backgrounds, build friendships, and increase their knowledge of science and mathematics while fostering a passion for the field.

Dates: June 16 – August 1

Location: Texas Tech University

Application Deadline: February 15

Cost: Free

The distinguishing characteristic of the Anson L. Clark Scholars Program is that it’s open to students in a wide range of fields—from biology to computer science to history. This extremely competitive program attracts applicants from across the globe to Texas Tech University and acceptance to the program is a feather in the cap of any college-bound student.

Participants are afforded the unique opportunity to gain hands-on research experience in their field while working one-on-one with faculty over the program’s seven intense weeks. Many Clark Scholars use the experience to shape their future college and career goals. The Clark Scholar Program is free for chosen applicants—the only cost students are responsible for is their transportation to and from the program. In fact, a stipend is awarded upon the student’s completion of a research project report.

This program is open to rising and graduating high school juniors; only 12 students are chosen each summer.

Dates: Session 1: June 8 – 22 or Session 2: June 29 – July 13

Location: University of Notre Dame 

Application Deadline: February 20 

Cost: $4,725

During an intense two weeks, rising juniors and seniors enrolled in the Summer Scholars program are given a taste of life on a college campus. Participating in one of 31 fields of study ranging from accounting to world politics and power, Summer Scholars get a preview of college academics while earning one college credit for completing the program. 

Of course, there is much more to college than just the classroom—summer scholars are encouraged to work together on coursework outside of class and ample time is provided to sample the social side of college life.

Dates: July 8 – August 13 

Location: Columbia University 

Application Deadline: February 2

Cost: Free 

This free four-week summer program at the Columbia University School of Engineering allows students to tackle a hands-on design project under the guidance of the university’s renowned faculty and present it to the community. The program is for New York City high school juniors and seniors from economically or educationally disadvantaged backgrounds. 

Dates: July 1 – August 16 

Location: Tufts University 

Application Deadline: N/A

Cost: Free

This six-week program for academically talented students teaches research techniques, experimental protocols, making predictions, and testing hypotheses. Participants will leave the program with a completed research project that they can enter in local and national science competitions. 

The program is open to students age 16 and older and is free, however, participants must arrange their own transportation to and from the Tufts campus in Medford, Massachusetts, and housing is unavailable to out-of-state students. 

Dates: June 23 – July 19

Location: Pomona College

Application Deadline: February 26

Cost: Free 

PAYS helps prepare talented local high schoolers—rising sophomores through rising seniors—for admission to some of the country’s best colleges and universities. Over 90 students (roughly 30 sophomores, 30 juniors, and 30 seniors) are selected annually to participate in the four-week residential program, where they engage in a variety of activities, including classwork, cultural events, workshops, projects, and field trips. 

PAYS is free and aimed at students traditionally underrepresented in higher education, such as students who are the first in their family to attend college, from low-income families, and from racial/ethnic groups like African American, Latino, Native American, and Pacific Islander. 

Dates: June 17 – July 19

Location: University of Southern California (USC) 

Application Deadline: March 22 

Cost: Free

Just 26 students from the communities surrounding the USC University Park and Health Science Campuses are selected to participate in this prestigious summer program. The program exposes participants to college-level work while helping them develop a better understanding of the role that media communications and journalism play in fashioning civic-minded thought leaders and innovators. 

Program participants also build valuable skills like writing, critical thought, public speech and debate, multimedia production, interviewing, and ethnography while exploring career paths in media and journalism.

Dates: June 3 – August 2 

Location: Broad Institute 

Application Deadline: January 10 

Cost: Free

This six-week program is perfect for rising Massachusetts high school seniors with an interest in science. Participants are paired with scientists to conduct original cutting-edge research projects in fields like cancer biology, psychiatric disease, chemical biology, computational biology, and infectious disease. 

In addition to performing research, participants will present their findings at a scientific poster session, attend a college fair, meet like-minded students, and have fun! Not only is the Broad Summer Scholars Program free, but participants receive a $3,600 stipend at its conclusion.

Dates: Otterbein University: June 9 – July 19 or Rose-Hulman: June 16 – July 26

Location: Otterbein University and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

Application Deadline: March 15

Cost: $7,000

The Ross Mathematics program traces its roots to the launch of the Sputnik satellite in the 1950s and the surge of interest it spurred in science education. Today, this six-week residential program encourages students to explore mathematics—such as careers where math plays a vital role, like research, science, and finance—and discover how it’s used for critical thinking and informed citizenship.

Admission to the Ross Mathematics Program is competitive. Only about 60 students are accepted at each location and in 2023 just ≈15% of applicants were accepted.

Dates: July 1 – August 9

Location: Stony Brook University

Application Deadline: February 7

Cost: Free

Established four decades ago as an outreach program for local students, today the Simons Summer Research Program attracts high-achieving students from across the country. The program is aimed at rising juniors and provides them with the opportunity to gain hands-on research experience in science, math, or engineering.

Participants are matched with faculty mentors, join a research team, and are responsible for the project. They’ll also attend workshops, listen to lectures, take tours, and attend special events. The program concludes with participants producing a written research abstract and research poster.

Not only is this program free, but students are awarded a stipend for their participation in the program.

Dates: June 1 – August 10

Location: Bar Harbor, Maine, and Farmington, Connecticut

Application Deadline: January 29

Cost: Free + $6,500 Stipend for participating!

High school and college students from across the nation compete for a spot in this competitive summer program—just 40 students are selected. Participants immerse themselves in genetics and genomics research while gaining a deeper understanding of laboratory work, building communication skills, and experiencing personal growth.

Participants develop an independent research project, implement their plan, analyze the data, and report the results. The program concludes with students presenting their findings to their parents, peers, and researchers.

Dates: July 26 – August 5

Location: Princeton University and online

Application Deadline: February 15

Cost: Free

This free program for aspiring journalists is open to high school juniors. This hybrid program begins with online workshops and lectures and concludes with a 10-day residential institute at Princeton—giving participants a taste of college life at a world-renowned university. The program culminates with the publication of a newspaper, The Princeton Summer Journal.

In addition to journalism-focused activities, students will also prepare for college—learning about the college application process, crafting essays, discovering how to find best-fit schools, gaining an understanding of how applications are evaluated, and meeting with college admissions representatives.

Dates: Session 1: June 16 – 29 or Session 2: July 14 – 27

Location: University of Iowa

Application Deadline: February 4

Cost: $2,500

The Iowa Young Writers’ Studio is a two-week summer residential program that gives promising high school writers the chance to study and live at the home of one of the country’s oldest and most renowned writing programs. Students can select from one of five core courses, each with a seminar and workshop component to them. **The five core courses are: Poetry, Fiction, Creative Writing, TV Writing/Writer’s Room, Playwriting **

Participants in the program will meet other aspiring young writers, get to share their writing, receive constructive criticism, and ultimately hone their craft.

As you can see, there are prestigious summer programs for high schoolers across the country in a wide array of fields and subjects. Make sure you thoroughly research the options available to you and look into the details of each program you are considering. Also, remember that while it’s fantastic to participate in one of these highly selective and impressive programs, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get in. There are plenty of enriching ways you can spend your summer that can still look just as impressive on a college application.


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