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15 Summer Programs in Illinois for High Schoolers

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Does your child have plans for the summer yet? If not, this might be the perfect time for them to explore academic interests, gain valuable work experience, or volunteer for a cause close to their heart. In particular, summer programs can be excellent opportunities for high schoolers to grow and learn while out of school.


In this post, we bring you some programs in Illinois to keep an eye on. The offerings are diverse, ranging from specific academic exploration to extracurricular training in areas like music, theater, and more. Keep reading to find out where your student could be this summer!


But Wait — Why Summer Programs?


If your child has specific academic or extracurricular interests that they wish to explore, it may be especially beneficial to enroll them in specific summer camps targeting these areas of interest. Most programs are run by local universities and last only two or three weeks, allowing students to delve deeply into their passion while reserving time for internships, work experience, or volunteering.


The most important part, however, is that these programs are often taught by real professors and staffed by current students. This gives your child a valuable opportunity to make connections with people at the very college or university they want to attend! Speaking with students who were successfully admitted to that school can help your child better understand what the admissions office looks for and how they can better tailor their application when the time comes. It also allows prospective applicants to experience the campus culture, resources, and overall atmosphere first-hand.


For those who are unsure of their college lists,  attending an academic program is still beneficial. Taking the step to pursue your interests shows both initiative and a genuine passion for learning, which every college will look for and prioritize come admissions season. The summer program your child attends may even become an experience worth detailing on an application essay, or perhaps an insightful addition to the activities list or resume. In either case, admissions officers look for a student who has taken the initiative to pursue their intellectual interests, and enrolling in a summer program that explores something specific is a great way to showcase that.


Furthermore, your child will be able to experience college at its finest! While the value of summer camps are first and foremost the learning, they also help participants understand what living at a specific college for the next four years might feel like. Meeting professors and current students will also help your child decide whether the campus vibe feels right to them. This can help narrow down the college list and may assist your student in deciding where early applications will go.


15 Summer Programs in Illinois


*Please note that the following program costs are all approximate — there may be differences in cost based on state residency, scholarships, and a host of other program-specific factors.


1. Lake Forest College Writing and Thinking Workshop


If your student loves creative writing or want to get better at it, consider this three-week program run by Bard College! With a sister program in Massachusetts, both camps are fully residential and involve daily workshop-format classes, evening residential programming, and off-campus trips. Note that the application requires a letter of support from a teacher and a 500-700 word personal story in prose.


Grades: 9th, 10th, and 11th

Cost: $2,975 at Bard College, $2,020 at Lake Forest College

Deadline: Rolling — apply early!


2. Bradley University Summer Forensics Institute


This two-week program is taught by members of the Bradley University Speech Team and aims to assist students involved in the following speech events: Program Oral Interpretation, Oratory, Humorous Interp, Special Occasion Speaking, Dramatic Interp, Original Comedy, Informative, Declamation, Extemp, Prose, Impromptu, Poetry, Duo Humorous, and Duo Dramatic. Participants may either commute or live on campus.


Grades: 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th

Cost: $1,195 for residents, $1,045 for commuters

Deadline: June 21, 2019  


3. Illinois Wesleyan University Chamber Music Festival and Camp


If your student is a classical musician who wants to play chamber music, then this might be the camp for them! Participants are coached daily and play in rehearsals, master classes, and 15 concerts over the course of two weeks. They also enjoy diverse electives in music theory and history, body mapping and performance anxiety techniques, handbell choir, conducting, international dance, and tennis. Note that first-time participants must audition or send a five-minute solo recording.


Grades: 9th, 10th, and 11th

Cost: $1,710 for residents, $900-$1,105 for commuters

Deadline: April 10, 2019

4. Emagination Tech Summer Camp at Lake Forest College


These two-week camps are offered in five states and allow students to study topics like 3D modeling and printing, Scratch and MIT App Inventor, cybersecurity and cryptography, and more! There are also elective offerings in Photoshop, coding languages, and game design. Additionally, the program is available over three sessions, making it easy to fit into your student’s summer schedule.


Ages: 8-17

Cost: $1,495-$2,945

Deadline: None specified — apply early!


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


Aspiring artists can earn college credit this summer by studying in SAIC’s two- or four-week residency programs. Perks include preparing a portfolio for college admissions, exploring the city of Chicago itself, and access to a museum featuring the third-largest collection of art in the world. Four sessions are available, allowing students to pick the one that fits best into their schedule. Merit scholarships can also help offset the hefty costs.


Grades: 10th & 11th

Cost: ~$4681 for two weeks, ~$9162 for four weeks

Deadline: Rolling — apply early, especially if interested in financial aid.


6. Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville Summer Academic Camps


So maybe Peoria and Chicago are too far up north…why not just stay in the cornfields? SIUE offers programs in the arts, sciences, engineering, and even entrepreneurship! Dates, details, and fees vary widely, so be sure to check out the offerings here.


7. Western Illinois University Summer Music Institute


Weeklong day camps and residential programs are available for musicians who’d prefer to avoid the classical genre. If your child wants to be involved with steel band, jazz choir, or marching band, perhaps this is the camp for them! (But, there’s also a string chamber music camp and a live streaming course, if they’d rather do that.) Note that specific camps may require audition materials.


Grades: Varies by camp, but most are open to 9th, 10th, and 11th

Cost: Varies by camp, ranging from $50 to $550

Deadline: Most are unspecified — check specific camps and apply early.

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8. Chicago Youth Shakespeare Summer Shakes Intensive


It’s too late now for 2019, but if your student loves acting and Shakespeare, be sure to check out this program for next year! This six-week delves deep into advanced acting techniques and culminates in a week of viewing Chicago’s best Shakespeare performances. Best of all, admissions are need-blind and based solely on audition results; need-based scholarships are available to support those requiring financial assistance.


Grades: 9th, 10th, and 11th

Cost: $1,800

Deadline: March 11, 2019


9. Saper Law Immersion Program


This week-long program offered by a downtown Chicago law firm offers aspiring attorneys a chance to explore the legal world. The curriculum includes negotiation and writing exercises, visits to firms and courthouses, and mock legal proceedings to sharpen up those argument skills. And, since the program runs in both late June and early August, students can pick the week that works best for them.


Grades: 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th

Cost: $500

Deadline: April 30, 2019


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


Study everything from beekeeping to game design in these week-long programs at UIUC! No commuting is allowed — the full residential experience is a must, and scholarships are available to assist students in need. Program costs and details vary widely, so be sure to check them out here.


Grades: 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th
Cost: $250-$440, depending on the specific program

Deadline: May 1, 2019


11. UIUC Engineering High School Summer STEM Research Programs


Hello, $2,000 stipend! In this six-week research program, students work full-time in a UIUC laboratory and present in a poster session in late July. Opportunities in the Illinois Cancer Center have been filled now, but if you’re into physics or engineering, there’s plenty of room left. Note that a teacher recommendation and a 500-word statement of purpose essay are required.


Grades: 10th & 11th

Cost: $0

Deadline: April 1, 2019

12. University of Chicago Research in the Biological Sciences


An excellent (though staggeringly expensive) program, this month-long research-intensive program is perfect for students who love micro and molecular biology. Participants spend most days in the lab, experiencing the researcher’s life at its finest. Students will present their personal projects at the program’s close, and return offers are available for the especially outstanding. For those wary of the sticker price, need-based scholarships of up to $8,000 are available. Note that transcripts, a letter of recommendation, and a writing sample are required to complete the application.


Grades: 10th & 11th
Cost: $11,620
Deadline: April 1, 2019

13. University of Chicago Pathways


Interested in how the world’s leading scholars approach problems in their fields? Consider enrolling in one of UChicago’s three-week Pathways programs, featuring nine topic areas ranging from molecular engineering to human rights. Taught by faculty members and staffed by UChicago students, these programs are valuable for both learning and making connections at one of the top schools in the nation. Note that transcripts, a letter of recommendation, and a writing sample are required to complete the application.


Grades: 9th, 10th, and 11th

Cost: $6,620

Deadline: Rolling — apply early!


14. LaunchX at Northwestern University


Applications are closed for this summer, but if your student is an aspiring entrepreneur, this is the program to do next year. Participants launch their very own startup over the course of a month, learning from industry experts and working with peers to solve real business challenges. Note that an activities list, transcripts, short answer questions, and a video introduction are required to complete the application.


Grades: 9th, 10th, and 11th

Cost: $7,495

Deadline: February 25, 2019


15. Northwestern College Preparation Program: Courses for Credit


Here’s your chance to try out real Northwestern undergraduate courses! Taught by the university’s faculty, students can choose from three- to eight-week courses in 81 different subjects. Plus, since these are real college courses, participants can earn credit for their hard work. Note that a personal statement, an activities list, transcripts, and a recommendation letter are required to complete the application.


Grades: 10th & 11th

Cost: $6,820 – $8,269, depending on course specifics

Deadline: May 1, 2019


Wrapping It Up


With a little bit of research, your child is sure to turn up even more summer camps focusing on whatever academic or extracurricular interests they’d like to pursue. Such opportunities are excellent learning experiences and allow for valuable college-specific insights! Furthermore, as most programs are fairly short, it’s quite easy to balance a week-long camp with a summer internship or job.

Don’t be too concerned, though, if the deadlines for this year have passed. Just remember to apply next year, and suggest that your student pick something else to do this summer. Volunteering, getting a job, or doing an internship are all great ways to engage while out of school. As long as your child finds something meaningful to do, those precious summer months won’t have been wasted. If you need more ideas, you can also check out our post, Summer Activities to Strengthen Your College Applications.


Check out some of our other posts about local summer programs:

15 Summer Programs at The University of Chicago for High Schoolers

15 Summer Programs at Northwestern University for High Schoolers

15 Summer Programs at The University of Illinois for High Schoolers


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Lauralyn Lin
Blog Writer

Short Bio
Lauralyn is a junior at Wellesley College studying political science and psychology. She's been with CollegeVine for two years now as a test prep consultant, marketing intern, and livestream host, and spends the rest of her time on ballroom dance and books.