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20 Best Free Summer Programs for High School Students

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

social life of students

20 Best Free Summer Programs for High School Students

Are you a high school student searching for free summer programs? Finding educational opportunities that won’t cost a dime can be a game-changer.

To make the most out of your break, it’s crucial to identify programs that match your interests and career goals. We’ll guide you through a variety of no-cost summer programs and help you find the best fit. Read on, and let’s ensure you have a productive and enriching summer.

1. National Youth Science Camp (NYSCamp)

  • Focus: Science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM)
  • Location: Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia
  • Program Dates: June 29 to July 20, 2024​​​​​​
  • Application Deadline: February 29, 2024​​​​​​
  • Eligibility: Must be high school graduates between July 1, 2023, and June 30, 2025, with a strong academic background in STEAM, leadership skills, and a willingness to explore new topics
  • Perks: Free housing, meals, transportation, and supplies for selected participants

NYSCamp is a prestigious program that nurtures and challenges future leaders in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. With a focus on academic excellence and outdoor adventure, the program aims to inspire passion and cultivate skills in STEAM fields among high school graduates nationwide.

Elementary School Science Classroom

Through world-class lectures, directed studies, and outdoor activities like hiking and kayaking, you’ll immerse yourself in STEAM subjects like never before. This hands-on approach not only enhances your knowledge but also fosters crucial teamwork and leadership skills essential for your future success in the competitive world of STEAM.

2. Smithsonian Young Ambassadors Program (YAP)

  • Focus: Arts, sciences, and humanities, emphasizing Latino perspectives and leadership within these fields
  • Location: Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. (training seminar); cultural institutions across the United States and Puerto Rico (internship)
  • Program Dates: June 23 to June 29, 2024 (training seminar); July 8 to August 2, 2024 (internship)
  • Application Deadline: April 8, 2024​​
  • Eligibility: High school seniors with a minimum weighted cumulative GPA of 3.25 on a 4.0 scale planning to enroll in college the fall following their participation​​
  • Perks: $2,000 stipend upon completion of the five-week program​

YAP fosters Latino leadership in the arts, sciences, and humanities. Aimed at graduating high school seniors, the program seeks to promote community-conscious leadership by leveraging the resources of the esteemed Smithsonian Institution.

Why join? You’ll gain valuable insights into Latino contributions to various fields. The program is a comprehensive experience that combines workshops, internships, and community engagement. This immersive opportunity instills a sense of responsibility towards your community and heritage. Take advantage of this free summer program for high school students to shape a brighter future for yourself and make a meaningful impact on the world around you.

3. Mathcamp

  • Focus: Advanced mathematics
  • Location: University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, Washington
  • Program Dates: June 30 to August 4, 2024​​
  • Application Deadline: March 6, 2024​​
  • Eligibility: Students aged 13 through 18 who have completed Precalculus​​
  • Perks: Need-based financial aid and travel grants for US and Canadian families with household incomes under $100,000​​

Mathcamp is an intensive five-week summer program tailored for mathematically gifted students. It offers an enriching exploration of mathematical topics beyond the standard high school curriculum. By providing a platform for students to delve into advanced mathematical concepts, the program offers challenging and stimulating educational experiences in the field of mathematics.

Through engaging in problem-solving, collaborative projects, and discussions, you’ll expand your mathematical knowledge and develop problem-solving skills. Moreover, participating in Mathcamp will equip you with a strong network of friends and mentors. This free summer program for high school students will fuel your love for math and propel you to new heights.

4. Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS)

  • Focus: Innovations in Science & Technology (IST), Literature, Philosophy, & Culture (LPC), Politics, Law, & Economics (PLE), and Solving Global Challenges (SGC)​​​​
  • Location: Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
  • Program Dates: June 23 to July, 2024 (Session I); July 7 to July 19, 2024 (Session II); July 21 to August 2, 2024 (Session III)
  • Application Deadline: January 10, 2024​​
  • Eligibility: Must be aged 16 to 18 by July 21, 2024, fluent in English, and a high school sophomore or junior at the time of application​​
  • Perks: Need-based financial aid to deserving students from all countries

YYGS fosters interdisciplinary academic enrichment among high school students worldwide. By offering sessions across various subject areas, the program provides a platform for students to explore diverse fields of study and develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Young students of language school on color background

The program offers you the opportunity to delve into rigorous academic curriculum and gain insights into global challenges. By becoming part of a diverse and inclusive community of students from over 150 countries, you’ll not only expand your knowledge but also foster cultural exchange and personal growth. Don’t miss out on this free summer program for high school students—it’s a chance to broaden your horizons and shape your path towards academic and personal success.

5. Research Science Institute (RSI)

  • Focus: Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)
  • Location: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, Massachusetts​​
  • Program Dates: June 23 to August 3, 2024​​
  • Application Deadline: December 13, 2023​​
  • Eligibility: High school juniors and international students with equivalent educational standing
  • Perks: Free travel, room and board, and research supplies for selected participants​​

RSI at MIT provides an immersive six-week summer research experience. It aims to engage you in hands-on research projects and expose you to cutting-edge scientific advancements. Through working alongside esteemed faculty members and industry professionals at MIT’s top-notch research facilities, you’ll gain invaluable insights and skills in your chosen STEM field.

Additionally, participating in RSI offers you the opportunity to interact with Nobel laureates and industry leaders through guest lectures, broadening your perspective and inspiring your future academic and professional pursuits. This free summer program for high school students is a stepping stone towards a successful career in STEM.

6. Bank of America Student Leaders Program

  • Focus: Leadership development and community service
  • Location: Washington, D.C. (summit); various non-profits across the United States (internship)
  • Program Dates: July 22 to 27, 2024​​​​ (summit); eight-week internship typically begins shortly after the end of the school year
  • Application Deadline: January 17, 2024​​​​​​
  • Eligibility: High school juniors and seniors legally authorized to work in the U.S. without sponsorship through the end of September 2024
  • Perks: Paid eight-week internship; free travel, hotel accommodations, and meals​​​​

By offering a summer internship and a national leadership summit, the Bank of America Student Leaders Program aims to empower students to make a positive impact in their communities. You should definitely consider applying to the program for a unique summer experience.

You’ll gain practical experience in addressing community needs and deepen your understanding of the non-profit sector through an eight-week paid internship. Plus, participating in the leadership summit will provide you with the opportunity to engage with peers from across the country, learn about collaboration between government, business, and non-profits, and hone your leadership skills through workshops and discussions.

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

  • Focus: Biomedical research
  • Location: Stanford University, California
  • Program Dates: June 10 to August 1, 2024​​​​
  • Application Deadline: February 24, 2024​​​​
  • Eligibility: High school juniors or seniors, 16 years old or older by the start of the program
  • Perks: Minimum of $500 stipend for all participants; need-based stipend of $2500 and above

SIMR provides students with the opportunity to engage in hands-on research projects alongside Stanford faculty and researchers, aiming to inspire their pursuit of careers in biological sciences and medicine. Through direct involvement in research projects and academic enrichment activities, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the impact of biomedical research on society.

Health care researchers working in life science laboratory

Moreover, by immersing yourself in Stanford’s vibrant scientific community and receiving mentorship from experts in the field, you’ll have the opportunity to network with like-minded peers and professionals. This free summer program for high school students is a chance to explore your passion for science and pave the way for a rewarding career in STEM.

8. Pomona College Academy for Youth Success (PAYS)

  • Focus: Math, critical inquiry courses, research projects
  • Location: Pomona College, Claremont, California
  • Program Dates: June 23 to July 19, 2024
  • Application Deadline: March 4, 2024​​
  • Eligibility: 9th graders attending high school in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties; high-achieving students from historically underrepresented backgrounds​​
  • Perks: Free housing, food, and transportation for field trips

PAYS supports high school students from underserved communities in their journey towards admission to selective colleges and universities. At PAYS, you’ll benefit from rigorous academic preparation and immerse yourself in a supportive community dedicated to your success.

From faculty-led courses to research projects, PAYS offers you guidance and mentorship from experienced educators to expand your knowledge and skills. This invaluable experience will boost your confidence in navigating the college application process. And the best thing about this high school summer program? It’s totally free.

9. Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program (SIP)

  • Focus: Game design, design processes, UX design basics​​
  • Location: Virtual
  • Program Dates: July 1 2024 to August 9, 2024
  • Application Deadline: March 22, 2024​​
  • Eligibility: 9th to 11th graders​​​​ who identify as girls or non-binary
  • Perks: $300 needs-based grant​​

SIP provides young women and non-binary students with an in-depth introduction to computer science and technology. Through live virtual classes and hands-on projects, the program focuses on game design and covers essential computer science concepts, design processes, and user experience basics.

By participating in SIP, you’ll have the opportunity to learn from professionals in leading tech companies. You’ll also engage in art, storytelling, and robotics. This immersive experience will inspire you to pursue a career in technology. This free summer program for high school students is a chance to explore your passion for technology and join a diverse sisterhood of coders committed to making a difference.

10. Princeton Summer Journalism Program (PSJP)

  • Focus: Journalism and college preparation
  • Location: Virtual (online classes); Princeton University, New Jersey​​ (residency)
  • Program Dates: Mid-July 2024 (online classes); July 26 to August 5, 2024 (residency)
  • Application Deadline: February 27, 2024​​
  • Eligibility: High school juniors interested in journalism; students from limited-income backgrounds​​
  • Perks: Free transportation, housing, meals, and equipment for assignments​​

PSJP provides comprehensive college preparation and journalism education to high school juniors from limited-income backgrounds. At PSJP, students engage in online workshops with renowned journalists, tackle weekly assignments, and prepare components of their college applications before experiencing campus life at Princeton University.

You should definitely consider applying to the PSJP for a transformative experience. Engaging in workshops, visiting major news organizations, and producing digital content will not only enhance your journalistic abilities but also prepare you for the college application process. This immersive experience will provide you with the tools and resources necessary to succeed in college and beyond.

students on a campus

11. AI4ALL at Boston University

  • Focus: Data science and machine learning
  • Location: Boston University, Massachusetts
  • Program Dates: July 15 to August 2, 2024
  • Application Deadline: May 1, 2024
  • Eligibility: Female or female-identifying high school sophomores or juniors in the Boston area
  • Perks: Free application fee and tuition, except for a $100 registration fee for accepted applicants

Boston University’s AI4ALL aims to address the underrepresentation of young women in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The program includes activities such as team projects, industry field trips, and presentations by guest speakers. By fostering an inclusive environment and providing hands-on experience, the program seeks to inspire and empower young women to pursue AI-related fields.

Through this program, you will gain valuable insights into the principles and applications of AI and develop essential teamwork, problem-solving, and presentation skills. You’ll meet industry professionals and peers who share your passion for AI. By immersing yourself in this free summer program for high school students, you can position yourself for future success in the dynamic field of AI.

12. MITES Summer Program

  • Focus: High-level math, science, and humanities, including electives as machine learning, architecture, and genomics​​
  • Location: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Program Dates: From late June through early August​​
  • Application Deadline: February 1, 2024
  • Eligibility: High school juniors
  • Perks: Free related costs, except transportation to and from MIT​​​​

The MITES Summer Program at MIT provides students from across the country with an immersive environment to explore real-world STEM applications and push their academic boundaries. Through rigorous courses and hands-on activities, you’ll deepen your knowledge in math, science, and humanities while gaining invaluable insights into college life at MIT.

Living on campus, you’ll build lasting connections with peers and receive college admissions counseling, setting you up for future success. Plus, by participating in this free summer program for high school students, you’ll contribute to advancing equity and access in STEM fields. This opportunity will surely ignite your passion for STEM and prepare you for a bright future ahead.

13. DSI Summer Lab

  • Focus: Data science
  • Location: University of Chicago​​, Illinois
  • Program Dates: June 10 to August 2​​, 2024
  • Application Deadline: January 16​​, 2024
  • Eligibility: High school students and undergraduate students (except seniors) from the Chicago area
  • Perks: $4,800 stipend

The DSI Summer Lab at the University of Chicago aims to immerse students in hands-on research, refining their skills and understanding of data science methodologies. Through collaboration with mentors and peers, you’ll gain practical experience in tackling complex problems and refining your research and teamwork skills.

Moreover, as a participant in this free summer program for high school students, you’ll receive professional development training and contribute to meaningful projects with real-world impacts, setting you up for success in your academic and professional endeavors. This is a chance to explore the dynamic field of data science and make a difference with your research.

14. Annenberg Youth Academy for Media and Civic Engagement

  • Focus: Media communications and journalism
  • Location: University of Southern California (USC), California
  • Program Dates: June 17 to July 19, 2024
  • Application Deadline: March 22, 2024
  • Eligibility: High school students residing and attending school in Los Angeles
  • Perks: Free breakfast and lunch, educational field trips, college advising, and college essay preparation​​

students listening and talking to male teacher

The Annenberg Youth Academy for Media and Civic Engagement at USC is an intensive program that exposes students to college-level courses and practical experiences in media communications and journalism, equipping them with essential knowledge and skills for their future endeavors.

You’ll gain practical insights into potential careers in media through interactions with scholars and industry professionals. Moreover, with engaging field trips and mentorships provided, you’ll experience a well-rounded educational journey that prepares you for college life and future success in communication and journalism.

15. Princeton University Laboratory Learning Program

  • Focus: Science and engineering
  • Location: Princeton University, New Jersey
  • Program Dates: Five weeks during the summer
  • Application Deadline: March 15, 2024​​
  • Eligibility: High school students at least 16 years old by June 15, 2024
  • Perks: Free tuition, but participants need to make their own arrangements for housing, transport, food, and other incidental costs

The Princeton University Laboratory Learning Program is a highly selective summer internship tailored for ambitious high school students passionate about STEM fields. It offers hands-on experience working alongside faculty and researchers in Princeton laboratories on cutting-edge research projects.

Through this free summer program for high school students, you’ll develop essential skills like communication, organization, and critical thinking while contributing to ongoing research in various fields of science and engineering, including advanced propulsion for spacecraft. This experience will not only strengthen your college applications but also prepare you for future success in engineering and natural sciences.

16. Inspiring Girls Expeditions

  • Focus: Field science, art, and backcountry travel
  • Location: Various locations across the US, Canada, and Europe
  • Program Dates: 12 days during the summer
  • Application Deadline: January 31, 2024 (US expeditions); February 7, 2024 (Canadian expeditions); February 16, 2024 (European expeditions)
  • Eligibility: High school girls aged 16 to 18, particularly marginalized youths
  • Perks: Free tuition, food, and gear

By blending field science, art, and backcountry travel, the Inspiring Girls Expeditions program aims to empower young women through immersive experiences in nature.

Through this program, you’ll gain valuable knowledge in STEM fields and develop leadership skills, self-confidence, and a deeper connection to the environment. You’ll emerge from the expeditions empowered to pursue your passions and make meaningful contributions to your communities and beyond. Plus, as a free summer program for high school students, it’s an opportunity you can’t afford to miss to expand your horizons and shape your future.

17. Seattle Children’s Research Training Program

  • Focus: Biochemistry, immunology, public health
  • Location: Seattle Children’s Research Institute​​, Seattle, Washington
  • Program Dates: July 8 to August 2, 2024​​
  • Application Deadline: March 10, 2024​​
  • Eligibility: Rising junior, rising senior, and graduating seniors who haven’t yet applied to college; students from historically underrepresented backgrounds prioritized
  • Perks: Stipend

The Seattle Children’s Research Training Program offers high school students with a hands-on opportunity to explore biochemistry, immunology, global and public health, and infectious diseases. Through immersive labs and workshops, participants gain both theoretical knowledge and practical skills, including experiences like microscopy and gene editing.

Students working on chemicals in a laboratory.

Moreover, the program will deepen your understanding of scientific concepts and provide valuable laboratory skills. This free summer program for high school students is a remarkable chance to expand your knowledge, network with professionals, and kickstart your journey in the biomedical and health sciences.

18. Anson L. Clark Scholars Program

  • Focus: Academic research
  • Location: Texas Tech University​​, Texas
  • 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
  • Perks: $500 meal card and room and board; $750 stipend​​ upon completion of project report

At the Anson L. Clark Scholars Program, you’ll work closely with faculty mentors, engaging in hands-on research projects and gaining insights into scientific inquiry and innovation. Through this program, you’ll broaden your academic horizons and gain exposure to diverse ideas and methodologies.

Plus, as a free summer program for high school students, it’s a chance to enhance your college applications and set yourself apart as a dedicated and accomplished scholar ready to tackle future academic and professional challenges.

19. Summer Academy for Math and Science

  • Focus: Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)
  • Location: Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Program Dates: June 22 to August 3, 2024
  • Application Deadline: March 1, 2024
  • Eligibility: High school juniors at least 16 years old by the program start date
  • Perks: All program-related costs covered, except for transportation to and from the venue

By focusing on STEM disciplines, SAMS at Carnegie Mellon University aims to prepare students for success in college-level coursework and future careers in STEM fields. Apply to SAMS for a transformative experience that will broaden your understanding of STEM disciplines and equip you with essential skills for future academic and professional pursuits.

Through rigorous coursework, hands-on projects, and personalized support, you’ll gain confidence in your abilities and explore potential career paths in STEM. This free summer program for high school students offers a valuable opportunity to engage with Carnegie Mellon’s faculty and resources, setting you on the path to success in higher education and beyond.

20. Women’s Technology Program (WTP)

  • Focus: Engineering
  • Location: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Program Dates: June 29 to July 26, 2024
  • Application Deadline: January 15​​, 2024
  • Eligibility: Rising senior high school students
  • Perks: Free housing and food; financial assistance available for students with family incomes below $120,000

WTP at MIT addresses the gender gap in engineering by providing a platform for young women to explore mechanical engineering. This four-week residential program offers hands-on classes, labs, and team-based projects to introduce you to the world of engineering, aiming to ignite their passion for the field.

Also, WTP offers a supportive community where you can connect with peers who share your interests and aspirations. The program is a transformative experience that will deepen your understanding of mechanical engineering and boost your confidence in your ability to pursue a future in engineering.

Two women smiling on a camera

What are the benefits of participating in summer programs for high school students?

Engaging in summer programs for high school students offers several benefits:

  • It provides an opportunity for intellectual growth and skill development outside the traditional classroom setting. These programs often offer specialized courses or workshops that delve into subjects not covered during the regular academic year, allowing students to explore new interests or deepen their understanding of existing ones.
  • It fosters personal growth by promoting independence, resilience, and adaptability. Students are often immersed in new environments and social settings, which encourages them to step out of their comfort zones and develop valuable life skills such as communication, teamwork, and time management.
  • It enhances college readiness and competitiveness in the admissions process. Many colleges and universities value applicants who have demonstrated a commitment to academic enrichment and extracurricular activities, including participation in free summer programs for high school students.
  • It provides opportunities for mentorship, networking, and building relationships with peers who share similar interests. These create a supportive community that can extend beyond the duration of the program.

What should I consider when choosing a summer program?

When selecting a summer program, several factors should be taken into consideration to ensure it aligns with your goals and interests:

  • Consider the program’s focus and curriculum. Determine if it offers courses or activities that resonate with your academic or career aspirations. It’s essential to choose a program that provides opportunities for growth and exploration in areas you are passionate about or wish to explore further.
  • Consider the program’s format and structure. This includes its duration, location, and whether it is residential or non-residential. Evaluate whether the program’s schedule and logistics are compatible with your other commitments and preferences.
  • Assess the program’s reputation, accreditation, and credentials. This is to ensure its credibility and quality. Research the program’s instructors, mentors, and guest speakers to gauge their expertise and the level of support they can provide.
  • Consider the program’s cost and financial aid options. This is important if you are interested in free summer programs for high school students. Explore opportunities for scholarships, grants, or sponsorships to offset any expenses associated with participation.
  • Lastly, seek feedback from past participants or read reviews online. This will help you gain insights into their experiences and determine if the program aligns with your expectations and goals.

What summer programs look best for my college application?

Summer programs that align with your academic interests, career goals, and personal development objectives tend to look best on college applications. Here are some types of summer programs that can enhance your college application:

  • Academic Enrichment Programs: Look for programs that offer college-level coursework in subjects you’re passionate about. These programs demonstrate your academic readiness and commitment to your field of interest.
  • Research Opportunities: Participating in research programs allows you to gain hands-on experience and develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. It also shows your dedication to advancing knowledge in your chosen field.
  • Internships: Securing internships in industries relevant to your intended major or career path provides practical experience and insight into your future profession. Internships also demonstrate your initiative and readiness for the professional world.

a group private high school student looking happy while looking at the camera

  • Leadership Development Programs: Programs that focus on leadership skills, such as team-building, communication, and decision-making, showcase your ability to take on responsibilities and lead others effectively.
  • Community Service or Volunteer Programs: Engaging in meaningful community service projects demonstrates your commitment to making a positive impact and contributing to society. It also reflects your values and character.
  • Entrepreneurship Programs: If you’re interested in entrepreneurship or innovation, consider programs that teach business skills, startup development, and networking opportunities with industry professionals.
  • Cultural Exchange or Language Immersion Programs: Participating in programs that allow you to immerse yourself in different cultures or languages demonstrates your adaptability, global awareness, and appreciation for diversity.

Conclusion

Free summer programs for high school students offer invaluable opportunities for academic enrichment, personal growth, and exploration. Whether you’re interested in STEM, humanities, arts, or leadership, there are diverse programs available to suit your interests and goals.

By participating in these programs, you not only enhance your academic skills but also develop essential life skills, expand your horizons, and build lasting connections with peers and mentors. So, seize the opportunity to embark on a transformative journey that will shape your future success and leave a lasting impact on your life.

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