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15 Most Competitive Summer Programs for High School Students

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

15 Most Competitive Summer Programs for High School Students

One way to improve your college applications is to take part in summer programs that are hard to get into. These programs allow you to research things you’re interested in, learn new skills, and make connections that will help you in school. Today, we’ll look at 15 of the most competitive summer programs for high school students to get into. This will help you decide how to spend your time and energy. Get ready to find great opportunities that could change your life.

How We Chose the 15 Most Competitive Programs

We started by gathering the 100 most popular summer programs for high school students in the US. Then, we looked at how hard it was to get into each program. We also acknowledge that just because a program is hard to get into doesn’t mean it’s the best. However, we thought that the acceptance rate was the most important thing to look at when comparing programs. We also considered the number of participants moving on to national and international academic competitions.

1. Spark’s Summer Internship Programs (Spark SIP)

  • Location: Subject to the specific internship program
  • Cost: None
  • Program Dates: June to August 2024 (8 to 10 weeks)
  • Application Deadline: Unspecified (To be announced around March to April 2024)
  • Eligibility: Grades 9 through 12 
  • Acceptance Rate: less than 5%

SPARK SIP is a great STEM internship program for high school students in the USA, especially in the Seattle area. It helps connect students with experts in science, engineering, and business, as well as professors and community leaders. This helps students grow as people and in their careers.

After a careful selection process, the best applicants are chosen for interviews with possible internship hosts. Internships can be different, and they usually last from 20 to 40 hours per week. Students may also get paid up to $500. Past projects have included things like creating a tool to find tick-borne infections and breast cancer, developing software, and making content for social media. These hands-on experiences are very valuable for high school students.

students walk at the college yard holding notebooks and smiling

2. Texas Tech University’s Anson L. Clark Scholars Program

  • Location: Texas Tech University​​, Texas
  • Cost: Free
  • Program Dates: June 16 to August 1, 2024​​​​
  • Application Deadline: February 15, 2024​​​​
  • Eligibility: High school juniors and seniors at least 17 years old by the start of the program
  • Acceptance Rate: less than 3%

The Anson L. Clark Scholars Program at Texas Tech University is a prestigious seven-week summer research initiative designed for highly qualified high school juniors and seniors interested in gaining practical research experience across a broad range of academic disciplines. You will have the opportunity to work closely with experienced faculty members in areas such as biology, computer science, engineering, and the humanities, among others. 

This immersive environment fosters academic growth and allows you to collaborate with peers and faculty, enhancing your understanding and skills in your chosen field of study. It’s a non-credit, residential program that welcomes both domestic and international students, offering financial aid options to participants and culminating in a final project that showcases your summer research efforts​​​​​​.

3. MIT’s Research Science Institute (RSI)

  • Location: Research Science Institute at MIT
  • Cost: Free
  • Program Dates: June 23, 2024 – August 3, 2024
  • Application Deadline: December 13, 2023 (Already closed for 2024 program)
  • Eligibility: Junior high school students
  • Acceptance Rate: less than 5%

At MIT, RSI hosts a great summer program for high school students who are interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Around 100 smart high school students from all over the world are chosen to take part in a free program that mixes hard classes with hands-on research. This program teaches students about science in the classroom and lets them do their own research in a lab.

RSI students start with a week of hard STEM classes taught by famous professors. Then, for five weeks, students work on their own research projects with the help of scientists and researchers. In the last week of the program, students write and give presentations about their research results. Outside of the lab, RSI students also learn about Boston’s culture and science by going on field trips and enjoying the beautiful nature of New England.

4. Telluride Association’s Summer Seminar

  • Location: Various US college campuses
  • Cost: Free
  • Program Dates: June 23 – August 3​​, 2024
  • Application Deadline: January 3, 2024
  • Eligibility: High school sophomores and juniors
  • Acceptance Rate: 3-5%

TASS is a special summer program for high school students. It lasts for six weeks and focuses on helping students think creatively, solve problems, work together as a community, and learn new things. 

As part of TASS, students will listen to lectures, group discussions, do activities to build teamwork, and work on projects with their classmates. Students will also spend about three hours a day taking college-like classes. They will also plan community service projects and use a set amount of money to pay for them.

5. High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP)

  • Location: NIH Main Campus, Bethesda, Maryland
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Program Date: July 2 – August 1, 2024
  • Application Deadline: January 12, 2024
  • Eligibility: Rising 12th graders
  • Acceptance Rate: less than 10%

HiSTEP is a summer program for high school students. The five-week program runs from July 2 to August 1, 2024, at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. HiSTEP introduces students to various scientific disciplines and career paths in biomedical research and healthcare. The program also focuses on developing professional skills. To be eligible, students must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents, attend an eligible school, have a minimum GPA of 3.0, and live within 40 miles of the NIH campus. Participants receive a stipend and transportation benefits.

students looking out into the university

6. Stanford Institutes of Medicine Summer Research Program (SIMR)

  • Location: Stanford University, California
  • Cost: Free, with a stipend provided
  • Program Dates: June 10 to August 1, 2024​​​​
  • Application Deadline: February 24, 2024​​​​
  • Eligibility: High school juniors or seniors
  • Acceptance Rate: 3-6%

SIMR is a summer research program for high school students. It offers an immersive experience in biomedical research for eight weeks at Stanford University. Students work on various medical projects alongside top faculty and researchers, gaining hands-on experience and attending introductory lectures. 

The program prioritizes inclusivity and diversity, welcoming applicants from underrepresented groups and providing free participation plus a stipend. It concludes with a poster session, fostering a sense of achievement. SIMR not only teaches valuable research skills but also inspires students to pursue STEM education and careers, contributing to future leaders in science and medicine.

7. Boston University’s Research in Science & Engineering (RISE)

  • Location: Boston University
  • Cost: $5,570 – $8,558
  • Program Date: June 30 – August 9, 2024
  • Application Deadline: February 14, 2024
  • Eligibility: Junior high school students
  • Acceptance Rate: 7%

The Research Internship Program in Science and Engineering (RISE) at Boston University is an exceptional opportunity for high school students entering their senior year to delve into the world of scientific research. Scheduled from June 30 to August 9, 2024, the program invites you to spend six weeks conducting university laboratory research under the mentorship of distinguished faculty, post-doctoral fellows, and graduate students. RISE provides two distinct tracks: the Internship and the Practicum.

In the Internship track, you will engage in hands-on research projects across a wide range of fields, including astronomy, biology, biomedical engineering, chemistry, computer science, and more. This track involves 40 hours per week of research, offering an intensive experience that aims to develop your technical and analytical skills. The Practicum track, on the other hand, is perfect if you have a keen interest in computational neurobiology. It includes intensive lectures and four hours of daily group research, focusing on computational modeling of neural systems. Both tracks culminate in a Poster Symposium, where you will present your research findings.

Two young students communicate on the street, near the university

8. MITES Summer at MIT

  • Location: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Cost: Free
  • Program Dates: From late June through early August​​
  • Application Deadline: February 1, 2024
  • Eligibility: High school juniors
  • Acceptance Rate: 4%

The MITES Summer Program at MIT offers students nationwide a chance to explore real-world STEM applications and expand their academic horizons. With rigorous courses, hands-on activities, and college life experience at MIT, you’ll deepen your knowledge in math, science, and humanities. Living on campus, you’ll form lasting connections with peers, receive college admissions counseling, and prepare for future success. This free program promotes equity and access in STEM fields, igniting your passion for STEM and paving the way for a bright future.

9. Bank of America Student Leaders

  • Location: Washington, D.C. 
  • Cost: Free
  • Program Dates: July 22 – 27, 2024​​​​ 
  • Application Deadline: January 17, 2024​​​​​​
  • Eligibility: High school juniors and seniors 
  • Acceptance Rate: 3-4%

The Bank of America Student Leaders Program aims to empower students to create positive change in their communities through a summer internship and a national leadership summit. Applying to this program offers a distinctive summer opportunity.

During the eight-week paid internship, you’ll acquire practical skills in addressing community needs and develop a deeper understanding of the non-profit sector. Additionally, participating in the leadership summit will allow you to interact with peers from around the country, explore collaborations between government, business, and non-profits, and refine your leadership abilities through workshops and discussions.

10. Women’s Technology Program

  • Location: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Cost: $0 – $6,000 depending on students’ family incomes
  • Program Date: June 29 – July 26, 2024
  • Application Deadline: January 15, 2024
  • Eligibility: Junior high school students
  • Acceptance Rate: 3%

The MIT Women’s Technology Program (WTP) offers a unique educational experience for high school students, particularly focusing on Mechanical Engineering for the summer of 2024. This four-week residential program at MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering is designed to introduce high school students to fundamental concepts and principles of mechanical engineering during the summer following their 11th-grade year. 

The program is free to apply and attend for students with family incomes less than $120,000, with a sliding scale of fees based on family income for those above this threshold. For summer 2024, the program will only offer the Mechanical Engineering track, as the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science track is on hiatus.

students walk and chat on a college campus

11. Summer Academy for Math and Science (SAMS)

  • Location: Carnegie Mellon University
  • Cost: Free
  • Program Dates: June 22 – August 3​​, 2024
  • Application Deadline: March 1, 2024
  • Eligibility: High school juniors age 16 or older
  • Acceptance Rate: less than 7%

SAMS Scholars engage in challenging courses taught by renowned educators who are dedicated to helping students succeed. The program enhances students’ understanding of STEM subjects and involves hands-on projects where they collaborate closely with exceptional teachers and experienced mentors. Beyond academics, students can form friendships with peers from across the nation.

Throughout the program, students will participate in seminars focusing on quantitative and computational skills in math, science, and STEM-related projects led by STEM faculty or graduate students. They will also attend writing workshops tailored to preparing for college applications. Workshops, networking sessions with alumni and current students, meetings with university leaders, and completion of STEM projects are also part of the program. 

12. HOPP Summer Student Program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

  • Location: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • Cost: Free
  • Program Dates: 8-week program; specific dates not provided
  • Application Deadline: Unspecified
  • Eligibility: Not specified​​.
  • Acceptance Rate: 5% 

The Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program (HOPP) at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) stands out among summer research programs for high school students, tailored for those interested in oncology and pathogenesis. It offers hands-on research experiences in one of the world’s leading cancer research and treatment centers. Participants conduct independent research projects with mentorship from MSKCC’s scientists. 

The program immerses students in cancer biology complexities, providing theoretical insights and practical approaches to cancer understanding and treatment. Over eight weeks, students learn lab techniques, gain research experience, and attend training sessions and tours to broaden their clinical oncology understanding. The program concludes with students presenting their research findings at a poster session, enhancing their scientific communication skills and contributing to the scientific community.

13. Simons Summer Research Program 

  • Location: Stony Brook University
  • Cost: None
  • Program Dates: July 1, 2024 – August 9, 2024
  • Application Deadline: February 7, 2024 (Already closed)
  • Eligibility: 11th graders
  • Acceptance Rate: 8%

The Simons Summer Research Program, established in 1984 at Stony Brook University, provides an exceptional chance for highly capable high school students nationwide to explore the realm of research. Selected by their high schools, participants are matched with faculty mentors at Stony Brook and engage in meaningful projects in science, math, or engineering. Throughout the program, they gain practical research skills, learn laboratory techniques, and actively contribute to research teams while immersing themselves in the academic atmosphere of a top research institution.

Plus, students attend weekly faculty presentations, workshops, tours, and events, enhancing their comprehension of the research domain. The program concludes with a poster symposium where students showcase their work through research abstracts and posters, and receive a stipend for their contributions.

University students on their way to class

14. Stanford University Mathematics Camp (SUMaC)

  • Location: Stanford University, California
  • Cost: Not specified; financial aid available
  • Program Dates: Session One (Online) – June 17 – July 5, 2024; Session One (Residential) – June 23 – July 19, 2024; Session Two (Online) – July 8 – 26, 2024
  • Application Deadline: February 1, 2024
  • Eligibility: Rising high school juniors and seniors worldwide​​​​​​​​​​​​
  • Acceptance Rate: Unspecified

The Stanford University Mathematics Camp (SUMaC) invites high school juniors and seniors from around the globe for an intensive study in advanced mathematics. At SUMaC, you can participate in either online or residential sessions, engaging in lectures, guided research, and group problem-solving. 

You’ll explore current mathematical research, its historical development, and applications across various scientific disciplines. If you’re passionate about math and eager to delve into complex mathematical theories alongside equally motivated peers, this program provides an unparalleled opportunity​​.

15. JAX Summer Student Program at the Jackson Laboratory

  • Location: Bar Harbor, Maine, and Farmington, Connecticut
  • Cost: Free
  • Program Dates: June 1 – August 10, 2024
  • Application Deadline: January 29, 2024
  • Eligibility: 12th grade to undergraduate students​​
  • Acceptance Rate: Unspecified

The JAX Summer Student Program at The Jackson Laboratory offers you a comprehensive 10-week experience in genetics and genomics research, including a one-week orientation, eight weeks of lab work, and a final week of wrap-up activities

You receive a $6,500 stipend, round-trip travel, room and board, and are expected to focus solely on the program without engaging in other jobs or internships. This program is an excellent opportunity for you to immerse yourself in scientific research and contribute to the cutting-edge fields of genetics and genomics​.

Group of students walking in the campus.

Final Thoughts

As we wrap up our exploration of the 15 most competitive summer programs for high school students, remember that these opportunities are just the beginning of your journey toward your dream college. Each program offers unique benefits and experiences that can help you grow personally and academically. Whether you’re passionate about STEM, the arts, or social justice, there’s a summer program out there for you.

At AdmissionSight, we understand the importance of making the most of your high school years and positioning yourself as a strong candidate for college admissions. With our expertise in college consulting, we can help you navigate the competitive landscape of summer programs, identify the ones that align with your interests and goals, and craft a compelling application that highlights your strengths and achievements.

So, as you consider your options for the summer ahead, know that you’re not alone. We’re here to support you every step of the way, from choosing the right programs to preparing for the application process. Your future is bright, and with the right guidance, you can achieve your goals and reach new heights in your academic journey.

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