14 Summer Programs in D.C. for High Schoolers

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Summer is possibly every student’s favorite season, when the weather is warmer and students have more unstructured time to do activities they love. While most high-achieving students plan to spend their summers working part-time jobs, volunteering, or interning, we want to make parents aware that summer programs are another enriching option with a host of benefits.


In fact, there are numerous summer programs designed specifically for high school students that can give your teenager the opportunity to learn and grow in ways that a traditional part-time job or volunteer position cannot. Oftentimes, these programs help high school students develop their interests and learn more about the different college and career paths available to them.


Plus, participating in a summer program can make a student’s application stronger by senior year; by demonstrating interest in a specific subject through specialized programming, students can enhance the theme of their application and show that they went the extra mile to develop their passion. We’ve rounded up 14 summer programs in Washington, D.C to help parents figure out which program might suit their student’s unique interests and goals.

Why Summer Programs Benefit High Schoolers


Summer programs for high school students are about more than just having fun (although there’s plenty of that too!). One of the main benefits of summer programs is that they allow students to specialize in an area of interest. Summer programs often give students an inside look into an industry that they wouldn’t be able to get in a traditional class setting, through guest lectures or field trips, which expand students’ awareness of opportunities in that field.


Not only do students get firsthand insight into careers, many summer programs give students a feel for what it’s like to live on a college campus because they are run by colleges and universities. These programs often inform students of hard-to-find resources, such as specialized learning communities or even scholarships. Some summer programs even offer college credit to participating students, which they can give them an advantage in the college admissions process.


College admissions officers consider students’ extracurricular activities as part of the admissions process and when considering eligibility for honors programs or awarding merit scholarships. They want to see that students pursued their interests outside of the classroom and took advantage of the resources available to them. Summer programs can show just that, and these experiences can be valuable material for a memorable admission essay.


That said, other types of summer activities, such as volunteering, interning, or part time work, can also be valuable material for an admissions essay. Rest assured, your teen doesn’t have to choose between these activities and a summer program: many summer programs are short, sometimes even as short as a day, so students can balance these other obligations while still pursuing their interests. By diversifying their activities, students will be able to craft essays that draw upon a wealth of extracurricular experiences when it comes time to apply.


One of our top recommendations for helping students get into their dream school is to connect with students who were successfully admitted to that school, and summer programs can facilitate that process for high school students. This is perhaps the greatest advantage of attending a summer program at a college: the chance to connect with current students and faculty. By attending any of these college-based programs, high school students can meet current students and get the inside scoop about campus life and the college community.

14 Summer Programs in D.C. for High Schoolers


Note: These program costs are all approximate. There may be differences in cost based on whether a student stays on-campus or decides to commute, is a D.C. resident or not, or if there are scholarships available.


1. Blueprint Signature Summer Programs

Affiliate College: Howard University


Blueprint Signature Summer programs give students the opportunity to study some of the most popular college courses at schools across the country. Students participate for 1-2 weeks, and can choose from courses in Business, Engineering, Forensic Science, Law, Medicine, and Psychology. Applications are open until the programs are filled!


  • Grades: 9th, 10th, & 11th
  • Cost: $2,899


2. Community of Scholars Program at AU’s School of International Service

Affiliate College: American University


This three-week credit course gives high school students a taste for both types of learning environments: a traditional college classroom for two weeks, and one week of online learning. They’ll be introduced to the field of global affairs and participate in exciting discussions, and even get to simulate a mock National Security Council debate.


  • Grades: 10th, & 11th
  • Cost: $4,950
  • Deadline: May 1, 2019
  • Application prompts: Why do you wish to participate in Community of Scholars?


3. Discover the World of Communication

Affiliate College: American University


In this hands-on, workshop-driven course, students will learn to build a digital portfolio, write a script, shoot and edit a film, craft news stories, and master speaking with confidence to persuade, inform, educate, and entertain. Students get an inside look at local studios for national news outlets, tour sports coverage from the press box during a basketball, and visit the many educational attractions DC has to offer.


  • Grades: 9th, 10th & 11th
  • Cost: $3,400


4. AU First Time Non-Degree and Visiting Student

Affiliate College: American University


High school students with a B or higher GPA may enroll as non-degree students in summer session courses at the 100- or 200-level. With this option, high-achieving students take a college class alongside other undergraduate students and get the full experience of what college is like.


  • Grades: 11th Only
  • Cost: $1,587


5. Busch School’s Summer Business Institute

Affiliate College: Catholic University of America


The Catholic University of America combines faith-based instruction to introduce students to the discipline of business leadership and entrepreneurship. Students get to experience college first-hand as they learn about business principles and dive into competitions and applications related to their interests.


  • Grades: 10th & 11th Only
  • Cost: $350
  • Application prompts:
    • An entrepreneur is someone who starts up a business by creating a new product or service that someone else wants to buy. Being an entrepreneur also means being innovative and creative. Describe a time when you have put entrepreneurial thinking into action to solve a problem. What did you learn?
    • How do you see business as a force for good?


6. Light the World! Live Your Faith

Affiliate College: Catholic University of America


For students who want examples of how to navigate their Catholic faith within the modern academic and professional environment, this one-week program guides students to understand how faith and culture intertwine. Students will live on-campus and tour local attractions to speak with leaders in a variety of fields about how faith plays a part in their careers and hear from current undergrads about how faith informs their academic and professional goals.


  • Grades: 10th, & 11th only
  • Cost: $300
  • Application prompt: How do you foresee your faith interacting with your dream career?


7. Experiences in Architecture

Affiliate College: Catholic University of America


This intense three-week architecture program introduces students to the careers and opportunities that exist in architecture and other design-related fields. Students will not only learn about the concepts of architecture, but also experience architecture firsthand through tours of important sites throughout Washington D.C.


  1. Grades: 9th, 10th & 11th Only

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8. High School Drama Institute

Affiliate College: Catholic University of America


Twenty-four high school students will get to participate in this intensive three-week institute. Students will develop acting skills focusing on voice, movement, and gesture, strengthen their dancing and singing skills, and learn what it takes to prepare for college auditions. They can choose from one of three majors: Drama, Musical Theatre, or Opera.


  • Grades: 9th, 10th & 11th
  • Cost: $3,500


9. Engineering New Frontiers

Affiliate College: Catholic University of America


This week-long residential summer camp gives students the opportunity to work closely with engineering faculty members to explore the variety of engineering disciplines. Students will learn firsthand about the daily lives of engineering majors and professional engineers through classes, demonstrations, and hands-on projects. Living on campus, students also get a taste of the best that D.C has to offer, including museum tours and sporting events.


  • Grades: 10th & 11th


10. Applied Math in Action!

Affiliate Colleges: Catholic University of America


Does your student love math, but wants to do something other than engineering? This one-week program at Catholic University of America exposes students to several types of applied math, including cryptology and cybersecurity, math modeling, game theory, number theory, and graph theory and social networks. They will also participate in code-breaking activities and tour mathematical monuments like the National Security Agency (NSA) National Cryptologic Museum.


  • Grades: 9th, 10th, & 11th
  • Cost: $990
  • Deadline: May 1, 2019


11. Discover Your Future

Affiliate College: Gallaudet University


This program focuses on helping deaf and hard-of-hearing students to begin developing a transition plan from high school to college. Students will identify their personal strengths using psychology assessments and participate in many field trips and confidence-building activities. They’ll also get to explore different careers and refine their professional goals.


  • Grades: 9th, 10th, & 11th
  • Cost: $750
  • Additional requirements: Deaf and hard of hearing students


12. Immerse into ASL

Affiliate College: Gallaudet University


This program is designed for students who are either beginning or intermediate signers and want to become more fluent. Participants will work with advanced ASL peers and counselors who are similarly deaf or hard-of-hearing, learn about Deaf culture and history, and explore the nation’s capital.


  • Grades: 9th, 10th, & 11th
  • Cost: $750
  • Additional requirements: Deaf and hard of hearing students


13. Bison Brainiacs

Affiliate College: Gallaudet University


This selective STEM program allows students to learn about chemistry, marine biology, and technology under the guidance of Gallaudet’s esteemed science faculty. Students will perform hands-on science experiments, explore the Anacosita River, experiment with food, and visit the world-renowned museums and take a trip to Six Flags.


  • Grades: 9th, 10th, & 11th
  • Cost: $0
  • Additional requirements: Deaf and hard of hearing students


14. Center of Excellence High School Summer Enrichment Science Academy

Affiliate College: Howard University


Perfect for high-achieving students interested in pharmacy or a related health profession, this selective six-week program will give students the opportunity to attend a full day of academic preparation in the life sciences. They also have the benefit of spending two days a week in clinical settings, and have structured workshops, labs, and cultural excursions on the weekends.


  • Grades: 10th & 11th Only
  • Application prompt: A typed 250 word essay demonstrating an interest in pharmacy or other health professions and describing how attending this summer enrichment science academy will be beneficial to you in your future career path in the health professions.
  • Deadlines: March 9, 2019
  • Additional requirements:
    • Letters of recommendation from a science teacher, math teacher, and school principal
    • A cumulative 3.0 GPA or higher
    • Pass English, Biology, Chemistry, and Math classes with C or higher


Wrapping it Up


As you can see, there are plenty of opportunities for students to learn more about different industries and experience college firsthand. Whatever your teen’s interests may be, there is a program for them at one of DC’s great colleges.


If your student missed a deadline or isn’t currently eligible for one of these programs, there are plenty of other activities that students can participate in over the summer to stay engaged. These include getting involved in community organizations, volunteer service, and working. You can find some ideas for activities in our post Summer Activities to Strengthen your College Applications.


For more guidance about extracurriculars, college applications, and how to choose activities that best suit your teen, download our free guide for 9th graders and our free guide for 10th graders. Our guides go in-depth about subjects ranging from academicschoosing coursesstandardized testsextracurricular activitiesand much more!


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Short Bio
Gianna Cifredo is a graduate of the University of Central Florida, where she majored in Philosophy. She has six years of higher education and test prep experience, and now works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She currently lives in Orlando, Florida and is a proud cat mom.

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