The Most Prestigious Summer Programs for High Schoolers


Kate Sliunkova

AdmitYogi, Stanford MBA & MA in Education



11 min read

The Most Prestigious Summer Programs for High Schoolers

Summer vacation is a time when many high school students may take advantage of opportunities to get ahead in their college admission process. While some students use the break to relax and recharge, others enroll in prestigious summer programs that can help them get a leg up on the competition. Choosing the right summer program can be a daunting task for any high school student. But with a little research, it is possible to find the perfect match. In this article, we will discuss the benefits of joining a summer program and find out what are the best options available to choose from.

6 Reasons for Taking a Summer Program

The Summer Programs are often very competitive and require high grades and test scores from applicants. But for those who are accepted, these programs can be a great way to get a taste of college life and prepare for academic rigor. There are many reasons why these programs are so popular among high-achieving students as they are a great source to:

  • Provide an opportunity to gain valuable experience and skills in a particular field or subject.
  • Foster valuable social skills which will no doubt come in handy when students reach adulthood.
  • Allow time for traditional summer activities to eliminate the boredom of vacations.
  • Help the students to get a head start on their college admissions process.
  • Offer access to exclusive networks of people who can provide invaluable advice and support.
  • Offer scholarships to participants, which can help offset the cost of tuition. As you consider summer program opportunities, here are the top trending summer programs to consider. Let us explore them one by one:

Summer Programs

1. Telluride Association Summer Seminar (TASS)

The Telluride Association Summer Seminar, or TASS, is a six-week summer summer program for aspiring entrepreneurial leaders. It allows high school juniors to grow their sense of academic vitality and interpersonal awareness. TASS attendees are driven learners who often go on to attend some of the country's top colleges and universities. Some of the most notable traits are that it's free (that means they pay for your tuition, books, room and board, and travel expenses—eliminating any financial barriers for bright minds to attend). You can learn more about the TASS here.

2. Research Science Institute (RSI)

The Research Science Institute (RSI) is for individuals looking to pursue a career in science. It brings together 80 of the world's most promising high school students to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for 5 weeks, where they can participate in a comprehensive research program and experience everything MIT has to offer. Off-campus, they'll be guided by experienced scientists and researchers as they conduct individual projects. At the end of the five-week program, they'll present their work in writing and speech. For more information about RSI, we recommend consulting their website.

3. Program in Mathematics for Young Students (PROMYS)

PROMYS is a six-week program that accepts mathematically-gifted high school kids and teaches them the fundamentals of math. PROMYS doesn't treat you like a student, so its participants are thought of as mathematicians. It hosts experts in various fields to provide instruction in the field of mathematics, including researchers, counselors, and research scientists. Are you looking to learn more? You can find all the information you need here.

4. The Summer Science Program (SSP)

SSP is a program that's been around for 60 years now. It was designed to give future scientists, doctors, engineers, and entrepreneurs an educational opportunity to reach their full potential in today's science-driven world. The program provides participants with the role models, intellectual peers, and inspiration they can often lack in their schools. Its 39-day international science research program immerses talented rising seniors from around the globe while they listen to guest speakers, visit field trips, go on life-changing trips of discovery (literally), and do meaningful research projects. Learn more here.

5. Boys/Girls State

Designed to show high school juniors what being a U.S. citizen is like, Boys/Girls State is an intensive program that lasts for one week. Students divide into parties and work together to research potential legislation; during these sessions, students also learn about the structures of city, state, and national governments. Boys/Girls State includes law enforcement presentations, legislative sessions, assemblies, bands, choruses, and recreational programs—all teaching their participants about the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of U.S. citizens. Since Boys/Girls State programs are operated at the statewide level, you will need to consult your own state’s website to find the information most relevant to you.

6. Boys/Girls Nation

Boys/Girls Nation is an event where high schoolers come together to form a national assembly in Washington, D.C., consisting of two representatives apiece from 49 states (all the U.S. states minus Hawaii). The assemblies are separated between the male and female participants. Every selected participant attends for one week and spends time there at lectures, forums, and noteworthy sites. The highlight of the event is when they can meet up with their states’ elected officials. To find out more about Girls and Boys Nation, check out their website here.

7. Research in Science & Engineering (RISE)

RISE is a six-week program for gifted high school juniors where you'll spend your summer in Boston University's acclaimed science program. You'll get a comprehensive understanding of the STEM fields, and you may even emerge with a newfound passion for STEM. BU offers two different tracks: the internship track and the practicum track. The internship track consists of research projects, as well as working with distinguished faculty and postdoctoral fellows. This is the best option for students who are looking to get hands-on experience with experiments and work closely with talented researchers. The practicum track is focused on bioinformatics under the guidance of a BU instructor. Students who prefer more structure will enjoy this course of study. See if RISE is the right fit for you.

8. Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES)

The MITES educational program helps minority youth to explore, understand, and experience engineering and science in an authentic way. The program is taught by undergraduate scientists and engineers, many of whom are recruited from among these same at-risk communities. MITES is a program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology geared towards science and engineering students. This six-week program helps students develop skills crucial to succeed in their field while learning about the benefits of advanced degrees. MITES participants are academically gifted, with many coming from underrepresented or underserved communities. It's free—all you need to cover is transportation to and from MIT. Find more program information.

9. Stanford University Mathematics Camp (SUMaC)

SUMaC is a four-week residential program at Stanford University for high-achieving students that have a passion for mathematics to learn about the latest in research and in applying mathematics to scientific fields. Throughout the four weeks, participants will learn about advanced math through lectures, guided research and group problem-solving. SUMaC culminates in a project where participants present their projects to their peers, gaining valuable experience in communicating mathematics to a group. Read more about SUMaC.

10. Science Internship Program (SIP)

The SIP (Summer Internship Program) at the University of California-Santa Cruz allows high-achievers to work and learn at a premier research institution. Running for twelve years, the program lasts 10 weeks. Students are thrust into existing research projects while being mentored by UCSC faculty, graduate students, and post-doctoral researchers. Ideal for rising juniors, the program allows students interested in STEM fields to see scientific research in action. See if SIP is a good match for you.

11. Economics for Leaders (EFL)

EFL is a week-long program that takes place at colleges and universities across the country. It teaches future leaders the ins and outs of how to use economics in the decision-making process through hands-on experience. EFL also fosters a greater understanding of what it means to be a leader while simultaneously building leadership skills. The program is extremely popular, with two applicants for every available space. Get started here.

12. Summer Academy for Math and Science (SAMS)

Carnegie Mellon University's six-week residential summer program, SAMS, is open to minoritized students who are planning on majoring in STEM fields. With two academic tracks, students can explore their interests and develop essential skills needed for a successful career. Plus, they can learn from the university's renowned faculty! This program is competitive, with around 110 spots open to nearly 1600 applicants, but that shouldn’t stop you from applying. Learn more about SAMS.

13. The Hampshire College Summer Studies in Mathematics (HCSSiM)

For 47 years, HCSSiM has been a residential six-week advanced mathematics program held at Hampshire College. It attracts participants from around the world and is renowned for its talented students and innovative curriculum. This year, they've launched their Math Talent Search to encourage more high school students to pursue degrees and careers in mathematics. The participation includes unparalleled access to faculty in classrooms, over meals, and in dorm rooms. Read more about HCSSiM here.

14. JCamp

JCamp was founded to address the lack of diversity in the media. It brings high school freshmen, sophomores, and juniors from a wide variety of backgrounds together for six days of intense journalism training. Students will participate in sessions and workshops led by journalists employed by top media companies and produce quality content. Students who are selected to attend JCamp can get their airfare, housing, meals as well as other necessities covered by the program. Underrepresented students, including Hispanic, Black, and Asian-Americans, are encouraged to apply here.

15. MathILy

MathILy is a five-week residential math program at Bryn Mawr College. Led by Ph.D. grads, and with support from graduate and undergraduate students, participants like you will learn to improve their problem-solving abilities, hone critical thinking skills, meet other talented students, and work on advanced math concepts like combinatorial optimization. Beyond getting to tackle topics like generating functions, information theory, knot theory, or Markov chain modeling, you’ll have the chance to attend career and college-related events. Read more about MathILy.

16. High School Honors Science, Mathematics, Engineering, Program (HSHSP)

The HSHSP is a rigorous two-year AP program that prepares high school students to pursue post-secondary education at four-year institutions while meeting the requirements of the ABET Engineering Accreditation Commission. Since 1988, the HSHSP has allowed talented and driven high school seniors to gain first-hand research experience in a university environment. Students from across the country and territories come to Michigan State University for this 7-week residential program. They'll get the chance to be in college and meet new friends who have similar interests. They'll also take summer courses in STEM subjects which will help them prepare for college. Discover HSHSP here.

17. Clark Scholar Program

Out of all areas of academia, the Clark Scholar program is open to students from diverse disciplines. These participants come from across the world to Texas Tech University for seven intense weeks to work with faculty one on one and get hands-on experience in their field. Students choose this program because it provides them with the opportunity to shape their future college and career goals. The Clark Scholar program is free for chosen applicants who are only responsible for their transportation costs. This is an extremely selective program; only 12 students are chosen each summer. Apply here!

18. Notre Dame Summer Scholars

Notre Dame Summer Scholars is a program for high school students who are academically talented and want to explore different fields. The Summer Scholars Program is a two-week-long academic experience for rising juniors and seniors. Each program offers students the chance to try one of 22 different fields of study, from acting to world politics and power, plus the opportunity to earn one college credit for completing the program. And of course, it doesn't stop there—students are encouraged to work together on coursework outside of class and there's plenty of time to explore what life is like on a college campus. Interested in the Notre Dame Summer Scholars Program? Check it out here!

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