15 Summer Programs for High School Students in Illinois

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

student in front of university building looking at camera

15 Summer Programs for High School Students in Illinois

Summer programs for high school students in Illinois are an opportunity to enhance their academic skills and get a glimpse of college life. These programs, ranging from STEM to the arts, provide valuable learning experiences and help students stand out in their college applications. This guide introduces you to 15 summer programs for Illinois high school students, covering various interests and fields.

15 Summer Programs for High School Students in Illinois

Summer programs offer high school students in Illinois a unique opportunity to explore their interests, enhance their skills, and get a taste of college life. Whether exploring academic subjects, engaging in creative arts, or participating in sports, these programs provide enriching experiences outside the traditional classroom setting.

Here are some of the top 15 summer programs available for high school students in the state, designed to challenge, inspire, and prepare them for future success.

Three caucasian students talking to each other.

1. Illinois Institute of Technology’s Chemistry Summer Scholars

  • Location: Mies Campus
  • Cost: Residential: $5,500; Commuter: $3,500
  • Program Dates: July 8–August 2
  • Application Deadline: March 31st, 2024
  • Eligibility: Rising 10th through 12th graders and community college students passionate about learning and interested in hands-on chemistry research. To participate in the residential experience, students must be at least 15–17 years old. Must have a Chemistry grade of C or above.

As one of the best summer programs for high school students in Illinois, the Summer Scholar Program (SSP) at Illinois Tech’s Chemistry Department offers high school and community college students a chance to explore chemistry research. This four-week program spans various fields like environmental chemistry, biochemistry, and materials chemistry, focusing on practical applications in energy, health, and sustainability.

Participants will work directly in research labs under faculty supervision, collaborating on projects addressing real-world energy sustainability challenges, drug discovery, and more. The program, which takes place at the Mies Campus, provides residential and commuter options, with evening sessions for residential students to enhance their learning. Beyond gaining hands-on research experience, students can earn three college credits and deepen their understanding of chemistry’s role in solving contemporary issues.

2. UIUC Engineering High School Summer STEM Research Programs

  • Location: University of Illinois campus
  • Cost: No cost (excluding transportation to and from campus)
  • Program Dates: June 11-13, 2024 (Online Orientation); June 17, 2024 (In-person Orientation & Program Move-in/Check-in); June 20, 2024 (In-person Research Begins); August 2, 2024 (In-person Final Symposium)
  • Application Deadline: March 24, 2024
  • Eligibility: Rising 10th – 12th graders from Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Applicants must enter the specified grade in the fall semester after the program ends and live in one of the noted states. International applicants are not accepted. Applicants do not need to apply with a team or teacher from their school; there are no specific school/course prerequisites.

The 2024 Young Scholars Summer STEM Research Program offers high school students from select Midwest states a six-week research opportunity at a top university. Aimed at high school students from Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin, this summer program focuses on practical experience across various STEM fields like immunology, neuroscience, and engineering.

As part of an initiative to increase diversity and access in STEMM, it supports students from underrepresented backgrounds, providing them with hands-on research opportunities and seminars to enhance college readiness and professional skills. Participants will work in specialized areas based on their interests, with options including energy systems, bioengineering, and various engineering disciplines.

The program encourages peer and mentor relationships, boosting confidence in STEMM exploration. It culminates in a research symposium where students present their work, dedicating 30-35 hours weekly to research and development on campus.

3. Lake Forest College Writing and Thinking Workshop

  • Location: Lake Forest College
  • Cost: $325
  • Program Dates: February 5, 12, 19, and 26, 2024
  • Eligibility: You will be asked to tell us about your writing experience and goals and to provide a brief writing sample (up to 500 words)

The Writing by the Lake program is tailored for writers looking to improve their skills and explore different writing styles. Experienced authors lead the program, and it includes detailed seminars on creative writing. These sessions aim to enhance writing techniques and encourage interaction among writers, creating a community of learners.

A key feature of the program is personalized feedback through a “Next Steps” conference, where participants discuss their progress and future directions with an instructor. This setup ensures that every writer, regardless of experience level, receives tailored advice to help them grow. Overall, Writing by the Lake offers a comprehensive learning experience, focusing on both skill development and personal growth in writing.

Female student using a laptop while laying down on the grass.

4. Emagination Tech Summer Camp at Lake Forest College

  • Location: Naperville, IL
  • Cost: Overnight Camp: $3670; Day Camp: $1960; Early Drop Off (7:30 AM Includes Breakfast): +$225; Early Drop Off (8:00 AM): +$75; Late Pick Up (6:15 PM Includes Dinner): +$250; Late Pick Up (7:30 PM Includes Dinner & Evening Activities): +$375
  • Program Dates: Session 1: Jun 16 – Jun 28; Session 2: Jun 30 – Jul 12
  • Eligibility: Ages 8-17 for both Overnight and Day Camp sessions

The STEM Camp at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, offers students a unique blend of technology learning and fun summer activities. Set in a beautiful campus environment, the camp combines rigorous academic sessions with ample recreation and social interaction opportunities. Campers can select from various tech courses, each designed to cater to their interests and skill levels, with access to modern equipment like personal computers, 3D printers, and robotics kits. The emphasis on small class sizes ensures personalized attention, enhancing each camper’s learning experience.

The camp experience is designed to be comprehensive, offering both overnight and day camp options to accommodate different needs. Overnight campers stay in comfortable, air-conditioned dorms and enjoy three meals a day, while day campers have lunch included with the option to add breakfast or dinner. Activities outside of class time include group games, sports, and creative play, encouraging campers to explore their interests and build friendships.

5. Bradley University Summer Forensics Institute

  • Location: Bradley University
  • Cost: $1,000 (In-Person), $525 (Virtual)
  • Program Dates: July 6-13, 2024 (In-Person), July 15-20, 2024 (Virtual)
  • Eligibility: The eligibility details are not specified directly in the provided text.

The Bradley SFI 360 Experience at Bradley University stands out for its tailored approach to student development in forensics, with a history of consistent national championship wins since the 1980s. This program emphasizes personal growth, offering customized training beyond traditional forensics skills to focus on individual strengths and aspirations. Students can engage in one of three specialized tracks: Writing, Performance, or Research, each designed to enhance specific skills.

The Writing track improves speech and creative writing abilities, the Performance track focuses on acting and character development, and the Research track teaches effective strategies for gathering and presenting information. Available in both in-person and virtual formats, the program combines interactive lectures, personalized coaching, and skill-focused sessions, preparing students for success in forensics and related career paths.

6. School of the Art Institute of Chicago Early College Summer Residency Program

  • Location: Chicago
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Program Dates: June 17–28, July 1–12, July 15–26, July 1–26, July 29–August 2
  • Eligibility: Students must have completed their sophomore year of high school by the time of the program

The Early College Program Summer Institute (ECPSI), one of the top summer programs for high school students in Illinois, offers an engaging educational experience for young artists between 15 to 18 years old. Held at a leading art and design school, this program provides a unique approach where students start with their creative ideas and choose the best media to bring them to life. They can attend sessions lasting from one to four weeks over the summer, earning college credits to help with future college applications. The program focuses on practical, studio-based learning from morning until late afternoon, allowing students to experience what it’s like to be a professional artist, designer, or writer.

ECPSI is led by a team of experienced instructors who also teach in the undergraduate program, offering students a high-quality educational experience. The curriculum promotes experimentation and creative risk-taking within a supportive and constructive critique framework.

Female art students painting in a room.

7. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 4-H Illini Summer Academies

  • Location: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Program Dates: June 23-27, 2024
  • Application Deadline: Friday, November 3
  • Eligibility: Applicants must be available for a 1.5-hour monthly planning meeting from November 2023 until June 2024 and complete assigned tasks independently or in small groups. Applicants must be able to attend the 2024 ISA event in late June 2024.

The Illini Summer Academies is a unique summer program at the University of Illinois that helps high school students explore their potential and connect with other leaders. It offers educational sessions that preview post-high school opportunities, aiming to inspire students and expand their horizons.

Additionally, students can join the ISA Design Team, where they’ll gain practical skills in organizing events, working in teams, and communicating effectively. This aspect of the program provides valuable experience in leadership and project management in a supportive setting, making it more than just an academic experience but also a chance to apply skills in real-world scenarios.

8. University of Chicago Research in the Biological Sciences

  • Location: University of Chicago
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Program Dates: June 15-July 13, 2024
  • Application Deadline: January 18, 2024
  • Eligibility: Current 10th or 11th-grade students who have completed one year of high school biology by the program’s start. The course requires students to have a demonstrated passion for science, with top grades in high school biology, math, and chemistry in honors or advanced-level courses, if available at the student’s school.

The University of Chicago’s Research in the Biological Sciences (RIBS) program is a hands-on, four-week course aimed at high school students with a strong background in biology, chemistry, and math. It’s designed to give them a comprehensive look into biological research, offering practical experience in various scientific techniques used in modern laboratories. Students learn through doing, starting with basic lab skills and advancing to complex procedures in genetics, cell biology, and more. They work on their projects in the latter half of the program, applying what they’ve learned to explore specific scientific questions.

RIBS also focuses on improving students’ communication skills, an essential part of scientific research. Participants engage in activities like writing assignments, maintaining lab notebooks, and presenting their research findings. This immersive experience is rounded off with seminars from research faculty and a final presentation where students share the outcomes of their projects. Living on campus, they get a taste of college life and the everyday workings of a research environment. Completing the program equips students with the knowledge, skills, and confidence needed to work in any research lab, paving the way for their future careers in science.

9. Illinois Wesleyan University Chamber Music Festival and Camp

  • Location: Bloomington, IL
  • Cost: $950 for Tuition; $930 for Room and Board; Optional meals for local students are $205 for lunches and $220 for dinners
  • Program Dates: July 7-26, 2024
  • Application Deadline: Unspecified
  • Eligibility: The program is designed for young musicians who wish to participate in chamber music groups, including high school and college students.

The Illinois Chamber Music Festival 2024 is a valuable opportunity for young musicians to enhance their skills in chamber music. This three-week program has daily coaching sessions, rehearsals, and performances, enabling participants to learn from experienced musicians. Special sessions for cellists add diversity to the training, offering a chance to explore various ensemble settings.

The festival also includes free public concerts and masterclasses, allowing students to perform for and interact with the wider community. This setup not only improves musical abilities but also helps in building connections within the music world. Overall, the festival is designed to provide a comprehensive and enriching musical experience, encouraging personal and professional growth for young artists.

Two students practising on their musical instruments in a room.

10. UChicago Medicine’s ResearcHStart

  • Location: Chicago and Urbana-Champaign areas
  • Cost: $3,000 (stipend amount provided to participants)
  • Program Dates: Second full week of June through the first week of August
  • Application Deadline: January 22, 2024
  • Eligibility: High school junior or senior at time of application, at least 16 years of age at the start of the program, strong interest in a career in scientific research or medicine, ability to commit to 8 full weeks of programming, 40 hours/week.

One of the top summer programs for high school students in Illinois, ResearcHStart offers a unique opportunity for high school students in the Chicago and Urbana-Champaign areas to dive into the world of cancer research. This program pairs students with leading cancer researchers to work in labs, exploring fields like cancer immunology and bioengineering.

Students also participate in workshops for career development, listen to lectures from cancer experts, and receive mentorship from a supportive community of faculty and peers. The goal is clear: to spark interest in cancer research careers and deepen understanding of the subject. By the program’s end, students gain firsthand research experience and learn about the latest in cancer science.

Admission to ResearcHStart is competitive, catering to juniors and seniors with a keen interest in science and medicine who can commit to an eight-week, full-time schedule. The program emphasizes hands-on learning, critical thinking, and professional growth, setting a strong foundation for future careers in biomedical fields. Through this immersive experience, students showcase their research findings at a symposium, highlighting the program’s impact on their skills and knowledge.

11. UChicago Medicine’s SHE (Summer Healthcare Experience) in Oncology

  • Location: Virtual
  • Cost: $500 taxable stipend
  • Program Dates: Second half of July
  • Application Deadline: March 4, 2024
  • Eligibility: Rising high school sophomore, junior, or senior or rising college freshman at the start of the program, strong interest in a career in scientific research or medicine, able to commit to the full two-week program (weekdays only, 4 hours/day), participation encouraged from those who identify as female and underrepresented in biomedicine.

The Summer Healthcare Experience (SHE) in Oncology is a unique virtual program targeting high school students passionate about science and medicine, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds. Funded by the American Cancer Society and delivered in collaboration with the eCLOSE Institute, the program empowers young women and minorities to pursue careers in the biomedical field, specifically cancer research and care. Over two weeks, students engage in genetics research and patient case studies, attend lectures, and participate in discussions and workshops. This experience broadens their knowledge and connects them with a network of professionals and mentors.

By joining SHE in Oncology, students gain practical research experience using home lab kits, develop career skills through workshops, and build valuable connections with peers and mentors from top universities like the University of Chicago, University of Kentucky, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Texas at Austin. Open to rising high school sophomores to seniors and college freshmen. The program encourages applications from those interested in science or medicine and a commitment to the full two-week schedule.

Side view of a woman typing in her laptop.

12. UChicago’s Neubauer Phoenix STEM Summer Scholars

  • Location: University of Chicago
  • Cost: Automatically waived for any applicant who selects any Enrichment Program as their first choice
  • Program Dates: July 21-26, 2024
  • Application Deadline: March 5, 2024
  • Eligibility: Current 11th-grade students, who are at least 15 years old and enrolled in a U.S. high school, are invited to apply

The Neubauer Phoenix STEM Summer Program at the University of Chicago offers an exceptional chance for high school juniors interested in STEM to explore the university’s rich tradition of innovation and research. This program highlights the importance of diverse viewpoints in sparking discoveries and solving complex problems. Blending online learning with an immersive week on campus gives students a real taste of college life and STEM studies. They’ll participate in various activities, from virtual math lessons to hands-on classes and tours of top research facilities, including visits to notable labs and engineering centers.

Students will learn directly from leading scholars and explore various STEM fields, opening up new academic and career paths. The program is designed to teach hard skills and encourage creative thinking and collaboration among a diverse group of peers. By the end of the program, participants will have gained valuable insights into the STEM landscape, experienced life at a leading university, and connected with like-minded students from different backgrounds.

13. Saper Law Immersion Program

  • Location: River North
  • Cost: $750
  • Program Dates: August 5th – August 9th
  • Application Deadline: June 30
  • Eligibility: Both high school and college students are eligible to apply.

The Saper Law Immersion Program offers high school and college students a unique opportunity to explore the legal profession. The program includes negotiation and writing exercises, mock trials, and virtual tours to give students a real-world understanding of the law.

It focuses on digital technology and social media law, reflecting the firm’s expertise. Classes are small, with no more than 20 students, to ensure personalized attention from experienced attorneys and guest speakers from various legal backgrounds. This immersive week at Saper Law Offices in River North is designed to demystify the legal field and provide practical skills, preparing participants for future careers in law.

14. UChicago’s Exploring Solutions to Global Problems: Climate, Energy & Sustainability

  • Location: Chicago
  • Cost: Covered
  • Program Dates: July 28-Aug 2, 2024
  • Application Deadline: March 5, 2024
  • Eligibility: Current 11th-grade students are at least 15 years old and enrolled in a U.S. high school.

The Young Innovators Climate & Energy Program (YICES), one of the best summer programs for high school students in Illinois, is a unique initiative to prepare high school students for careers in climate and energy policy. This week-long residential program, created in partnership with Invenergy and the Polsky Foundation, offers students a comprehensive look into the challenges and solutions related to climate change and energy sustainability. Through classes, hands-on projects, and discussions led by University of Chicago faculty and energy industry professionals, participants will learn about the latest in climate policy and renewable energy technologies. They will also explore Chicago, gaining insights into academic and career opportunities in a dynamic urban setting.

The program is designed to inspire and equip students with the knowledge they need to contribute to solving global energy challenges. It promotes critical thinking, collaboration, and the importance of diverse perspectives in addressing environmental issues. Selected students can connect with peers nationwide, expanding their understanding and network. Offered free of charge, with financial assistance available for travel, YICES is an accessible way for motivated students to engage deeply with the field of climate and energy, setting the stage for future study and career opportunities in these crucial areas.

A woman checking out her list while on a wind turbine farm.

15. UChicago’s Voltage Scholars Program

  • Location: The University of Chicago campus
  • Cost: No cost to selected participants
  • Program Dates: June 9-11, 2024
  • Application Deadline: March 5, 2024
  • Eligibility: Current 10th-grade students, who are at least 14 years old and enrolled in a U.S. high school, are invited to apply.

The Voltage Scholars program at The University of Chicago is an enriching opportunity for high school students passionate about economics. It introduces them to the university’s leading approach to economics, aiming to solve global challenges like poverty and climate change through diverse and revolutionary ideas. The program emphasizes the need for economic diversity, which currently lacks representation among women and minority groups. This initiative encourages students from various backgrounds to bring new perspectives to economics, enhancing the field’s contribution to society.

During a three-day immersive experience, students will learn directly from university lectures, engage with a diverse group of peers, and gain insights into college admissions and career paths in economics. The program, offered at no cost to participants, includes campus housing and the potential for travel assistance. It’s designed to broaden students’ understanding of economics and build a community of future leaders with the knowledge and networks to address complex economic issues.

Benefits of Participating in Summer Programs

Participating in summer programs significantly impacts Illinois high school students’ development, offering a comprehensive platform for academic exploration, hands-on experience, and personal growth. These programs transcend traditional summer activities, providing deep engagement with subjects of interest, fostering essential life skills, and preparing students for the complexities of college and career paths.

Deep Engagement with Academic Interests

Illinois hosts diverse summer programs tailored to high school students’ varied interests. These programs allow students to explore disciplines such as science, mathematics, arts, and humanities beyond the surface level.

Students deepen their understanding of subjects they’re passionate about by learning from field experts, engaging in specialized workshops, and undertaking challenging projects. This focused academic exploration strengthens their knowledge base, which is crucial for success in higher education and future careers.

Practical Experience in Real-world Contexts

Distinct from the typical classroom environment, summer programs offer practical experiences that bring learning to life. Students can engage directly in their fields of interest—conducting scientific research, creating art under professional guidance, or participating in simulated business projects.

This real-world application of classroom theories enhances technical skills, boosts confidence, and provides insight into potential career paths.

Enhanced Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Abilities

Challenging intellectual activities are a cornerstone of these programs, designed to stretch students’ abilities and encourage innovative thinking. Students develop critical thinking skills through debates, problem-solving exercises, and project-based learning.

They learn to approach problems from various perspectives, crafting creative solutions. Such skills are invaluable, fostering an analytical mindset essential for academic achievement and professional success.

Group of students talking in a room.

Introduction to College Life

Experiencing college life firsthand can demystify higher education for high school students. Many summer programs in Illinois are hosted on college campuses, offering a glimpse into dorm living, campus culture, and academic expectations. This exposure eases the transition to college, promoting independence and self-management skills vital for navigating future academic challenges.

Strengthening College Applications

Active participation in summer programs illustrates a student’s dedication to learning and personal development. It signals a willingness to engage deeply with academic interests and pursue opportunities beyond the high school curriculum. Highlighting these experiences in college applications can distinguish students from their peers, showcasing their proactive approach to education and personal growth.

Broadening Perspectives

Summer programs encourage students to interact with peers from diverse backgrounds, broadening their perspectives and fostering a sense of global citizenship. Collaborating on projects, sharing ideas, and engaging in cultural exchange enrich the learning experience, cultivating empathy and understanding across different communities.

Cultivating Lifelong Skills

Beyond academic enrichment, these programs emphasize developing soft skills such as communication, teamwork, and leadership. Participating in group projects, leading initiatives, and navigating challenges in unfamiliar settings build these essential skills, preparing students for success in both personal and professional aspects.

How to Choose the Right Summer Program

Choosing the right summer program for high school students in Illinois is an important decision that can significantly impact a student’s educational and career path. With a wide range of options available, from academic enrichment to skill development and recreational activities, finding a program that aligns with a student’s interests, goals, and aspirations requires careful thought and research.

Here, we’ll provide an in-depth look at the key factors students and their guardians should consider to make an informed choice, ensuring a rewarding and enriching summer experience.

Understanding the Spectrum of Summer Programs

Illinois offers diverse summer programs for high school students designed to cater to various interests and academic disciplines. These include university-led academic enrichment programs, arts and music camps, science and technology workshops, sports camps, and internships or volunteer opportunities. Each program provides unique benefits, such as college credit, practical experience, or the development of specific skills.

Aligning Interests and Goals

The first step in choosing the right summer program is identifying the student’s interests and long-term goals. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programs, for example, offer hands-on learning experiences for students passionate about these fields.

Similarly, programs focusing on music, theater, visual arts, or creative writing can offer skill development and a platform for self-expression for those interested in the arts.

Academic and Career Aspirations

Summer programs can also help students enhance their academic knowledge and explore potential career paths. University-led programs often expose students to college-level coursework and fields of study, providing insights into college life and future academic choices.

For students with specific career goals, targeted programs, such as internships in desired industries or workshops led by professionals, can offer valuable insights and networking opportunities.

Group of students smiling at the camera.

Practical Considerations

Practical aspects such as the program’s length, location, and cost are also important. Program durations vary, and choosing one that fits the student’s and family’s schedule is crucial. Location is another factor, especially for residential programs or those outside Illinois, as it involves travel and accommodation costs. Understanding the full cost of the program is essential for budgeting, as some programs offer scholarships or financial aid.

Research and Due Diligence

Thorough research is key to choosing the right summer program. Informational sessions, open houses, or virtual tours can provide a deeper understanding of what to expect. Reviewing program curriculums, faculty qualifications, and participant testimonials can indicate the quality and impact of the program. Speaking with past participants or program coordinators can also provide firsthand insights.

Making an Informed Decision

After evaluating the options, the decision should be collaborative between the student and their guardians, considering the benefits and limitations of the chosen program. It’s also wise to have backup options if the first choice is unavailable. Selecting the right summer program for high school students in Illinois involves balancing the student’s interests and goals with practical considerations.

Through careful research and consideration of various options, students can find a program that enriches their summer and contributes to their personal and academic development. This process is a valuable investment in the student’s future, opening doors to new interests, friendships, and career paths.


Summer programs offer a fantastic way for high school students in Illinois to explore their academic interests, develop new skills, and get a head start on their college journey. Whether you’re drawn to the sciences, arts, or humanities, there’s a program out there that can enrich your learning experience and help you grow personally and academically.

By finding a program that aligns with your interests and goals, you can make the most of your summer break and take an important step toward your future success.


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