Affordable Academic Summer Programs for High School Students

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Once upon a time, summer meant vacation. Now that you’re in high school, however, colleges will expect you to do something a little more productive and meaningful with your summer break, even if you are still an underclassman.

 

One way to have both a fun and productive summer is by participating in a summer program. Many summer programs are academic in nature, allowing you to delve into topics that especially interest you and engage with accomplished faculty in the field. Additionally, you may be able to learn valuable skills through experiences that can only be gained outside of a traditional classroom. Attending such programs will show colleges that you are intellectually curious—so much so that you are willing to spend your summers exploring your academic interests.

 

That said, attending summer programs can often become quite expensive. However, you shouldn’t become discouraged right away if your choice program is out of your family’s budget. A number of institutions offer scholarships or financial aid that cover some or all of your tuition. In fact, qualified students can attend some of the most prestigious and competitive programs for free! If you’re looking to secure financial aid, be sure to start your search early and stay ahead of any deadlines to maximize your chances of receiving it, as programs offering scholarships and assistance often have earlier deadlines than those without.

 

At CollegeVine, we provide guidance to high school students to help them learn which summer programs make the most sense for a student’s interests, goals, and budget. Learn about how our Early Advising Program can help you make the most of your summers and expand your extracurricular profile.

Affordable Academic Summer Programs for High School Students

Looking for a great way to spend your summer? Here are some programs which offer financial assistance to qualified students:

 

1. Carnegie Mellon University Summer Summer Opportunities for Access & Inclusion

Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, offers a selection of prestigious summer programs for students ages 16-18. The programs include the Summer Academy for Mathematics and Science (limited to rising high school seniors), the credit-conferring Advanced Placement / Early Action program, the National High School Game Academy, as well as programs in Architecture, Art, Design, Drama, and Music.

 

Admission for these opportunities is very competitive, and there are no tuition, housing, or dining fees for students admitted through the Access & Inclusion program. Click here for more information and to apply. Keep in mind that the application deadline is February 15th.

 

2. Mathcamp

Mathcamp is a 5-week summer program for mathematically talented high school students ages 13-18. Attendees explore advanced topics in mathematics, building necessary problem-solving skills along the way. Depending on your family’s income, you may receive a full or partial need-based scholarship. Click here for more information on scholarships.

 

Prospective students must take a qualifying quiz and submit recommendations and an essay as part of their application. The application deadline is March 15 but applications for the Mathcamp waitlist can remain open up to the end of April.

 

3. Telluride Association Summer Program

The Telluride Association Summer Program (TASP) is a free, six-week seminar-based academic program for high school juniors. The program seeks students from all educational backgrounds who demonstrate intellectual curiosity and a strong motivation to learn. Applicants should be driven to take their studies to the next level–engaging with topics at a depth rarely encountered in high school or even college, as this is a challenging program with exceptional rewards.

 

High school sophomores may attend the Telluride Association Sophomore Seminar (TASS). This seminar focuses on one of four topics related to Black and ethnic studies. Like TASP, the program is completely free, even offering subsidies to offset the cost of travel as well as the costs associated with studying rather than working.

 

Applications for this program are typically due in January, but it is among the most prestigious summer programs available to high school students, so it’s worth preparing for the deadline well ahead of time to ensure the quality and timeliness of your materials. Click here to learn more about these programs.

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4. University of Chicago Young Scholars Program

The University of Chicago Young Scholars Summer Program offers mathematically talented students an opportunity to learn various math-related concepts over the course of a 4-week day camp. Each summer has a different theme, and students in each grade cohort (7th-8th, 9th-10th, and 11th-12th) are offered different courses instructed by university faculty and high school teachers, as well as graduate and undergraduate students.

 

The program is partially grant-funded and costs are based on family income, though students may also apply for additional aid to cover the remaining costs. The application deadline is March 20th. Learn more about the program through the Young Scholars Summer Program website.

 

5. Pre-college summer programs

Many colleges, including all of the Ivies, offer pre-college summer programs for high school students. These programs are intended to give younger students a taste of college life, from the rigors of college courses to the independence and responsibility of living away from home on a college campus. Participation in a summer program at a given college neither ensures admission nor requires attendance at that school. Most pre-college programs don’t offer college credit for the courses you take, although some, such as PennSummer through the University of Pennsylvania and Berkeley Pre-Collegiate Program at the University of California at Berkeley, do offer this option.

 

Many of these programs tend to be expensive, but some offer financial aid or reduced fees for qualifying applicants, such as state residents for example. Be sure to research these options thoroughly–this information is often available on the college or program website.

 

6. Governor’s Scholars programs

The most famous Governor’s Scholars program is in Kentucky, with some other states offering similar opportunities. High school students living in Kentucky may apply to the program, which pairs a liberal arts curriculum with a co-curricular and residential life experience. It is free of cost for selected students.

 

To be eligible, students must be in 11th grade at the time of selection and intend to return to a Kentucky school district for the next school term, be a current resident of Kentucky, and have taken the ACT, PSAT, or SAT in 9th, 10th, or 11th grades. Students must first be selected by their school districts to apply. Check with your guidance counselor to learn about the selection process and important dates, and visit the website for more information.

Tips for Seeking out Funding

If you are interested in a summer program but aren’t sure if you will be able to afford the cost of attendance, it never hurts to ask if scholarships are available. Check the program’s website for details first, and then reach out to the office via phone or email to ask directly.

 

It’s also a good idea to pay attention to deadlines. Financial aid and scholarship deadlines may be earlier than the program application and registration deadlines, and you need to be on top of all important dates to maximize your chances of securing funding.

 

Finally, seek out help with your application from your guidance counselor, teacher, or another mentor early on. Some programs may require recommendation letters, and you should ask your teachers and guidance counselor as early as possible to give them adequate time to write your letter in order to meet your deadlines.

Other Summer Opportunities

Participating in a summer program isn’t the only effective way to use your summer. In fact, there are plenty of other options. Consider searching for a part-time job or internship. Jobs can help you earn money, and offer an opportunity to show colleges that you are responsible and hard working. Internships, while often unpaid, will also impress colleges by demonstrating a clear interest in a possible career path early on, as well as your initiative to learn more about a field that interests you. Check out Should I Get a Job or Do an Internship and The Ins and Outs of Pre-College Internships for advice on how to go about securing jobs and internships.

 

Volunteering in your community can be another great way to spend your summer. Look for opportunities to get involved with a project or local organization whose work interests you. Doing so can demonstrate good citizenship and show colleges more about your interests outside of the classroom. Check out Can I Volunteer if I’m Under Age 18? and Do I Need Community Service for My College Applications? for tips on finding places that accept young volunteers and how to get started.

 

Lastly, consider undertaking a personal project. Perhaps you want to start your own blog or undertake research. Maybe you even want to start your own business. Summer is a great time to do it. Depending on the project, time commitment and costs can vary significantly, so be sure to develop a clear project plan, researching the steps you need to take and materials you should have on hand before you get started.

 

For more information about how to spend your summer, check out our posts below:

5 Things You Can Do This Summer Instead of an Internship

What Do I Do if My Summer Plans Fall Through?

Effective Summer Activities

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She dreams of having a dog.