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25 California Summer Programs for High Schoolers in 2024

What’s Covered:


Summer programs provide a host of benefits to high school students, allowing them to explore and gain firsthand experience with fields of interest, network with like-minded peers, and build new skills. If you’re looking for summer programs in California, the list below features options in fields ranging from medicine to the arts—some programs are even free! 


25 Summer Programs for High School Students in California 


1. TIP: The Intern Project


Dates: June – August

Location: Varies 

Application Deadline: March 15

Cost: Free 


The Intern Project works to partner high school students across LA County with companies in the arts, media, engineering, business, government, sports, and healthcare fields. Priority is given to students identified as high-need, and students must be high-achieving in school. Students are eligible in their sophomore, junior, and senior years of high school. This program helps students learn valuable job skills, begin building a resume, and earn college credit over the course of eight weeks. Not only is this program free, but students earn a stipend for participating. 


2. Stanford Medical Youth Science Program (SMYSP)


Dates: June 24 – 26

Location: Stanford University 

Application Deadline: March 15 

Cost: Free  


This five-week, in-person program admits around 24 low-income, first-generation students from Northern California. Participants receive a $1,200 clinical research stipend, spending approximately 30 hours per week in the program, Monday through Friday. Students participate in Stanford faculty lectures covering health science, public health, and medicine; engage with a group research project to improve health and health access in all communities; attend professional development workshops; and develop lasting relationships with their peers. 


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


Dates: June 10 – August 1

Location: Stanford University

Application Deadline: February 24

Cost: Free


Participants in this eight-week summer program gain an abundance of firsthand lab experience researching a medically oriented project. The program is open to high school juniors and seniors and aims to both increase their interest in the biological sciences and medicine and help them gain a deeper understanding of how scientific research is conducted. Students will receive a stipend between $500 to more than $2,500 for their participation in the program.


4. Pediatrics Internship Program at Stanford (PIPS)


Dates: June 17 – July 26

Location: Stanford University

Application Deadline: N/A

Cost: Free


This six-week program is focused on introducing high school students to careers in science, medicine, and research. The program provides rising juniors and seniors from northern California with hands-on experience conducting research projects and an in-depth look at how scientific research is performed. This program is free and students with financial need are eligible to receive a stipend up to $3,000 for their participation.


5. Stanford University Mathematics Camp (SUMaC) 



  • Session 1 (online): June 17 – July 5 
  • Session 2 (online): July 8 – 26 
  • Residential Session: June 23 – July 19

Location: Online and Stanford University 

Application Deadline: February 5 

Cost: $3,500 – $8,250 


SUMaC is a chance for mathematically gifted students from around the world to explore math beyond what is typically taught in the classroom. Students should expect a heavy workload and a variety of engaging assignments outside of class time. Both the online and residential options have equal levels of rigor, with the online sessions providing virtual social opportunities with peers, guest speakers, and teaching assistants. The residential program serves 40 participants, while the online programs will serve 64. There is financial aid available for students who may need it. 


6. SAGE Camp at SLAC


Dates: June 23 – 29

Location:  SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University 

Application Deadline: March 15

Cost: Free


SAGE, or Science Accelerating Girls’ Engagement in STEM, is a free, one-week residential camp for public school students from all backgrounds. Students can make professional connections, learn about scientific discoveries and engineering processes, and explore STEM careers in the future. The program aims to increase the participation of women in STEM and foster creativity and innovation for continued scientific and technological leadership. 


7. Pomona College Academy for Youth Success (PAYS)


Dates: June 23 – July 19

Location: Pomona College  

Application Deadline: February 26 

Cost: Free   


Pomona College’s PAYS program provides over 90 students from local high schools with preparation for admission into some of the country’s most selective colleges and universities. Admission is open to rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors from groups traditionally underrepresented on college campuses, like first-generation students and low-income students. Participants live in a dorm on Pomona’s campus while taking math and critical inquiry courses taught by Pomona professors. Senior students can work on a research project with a Pomona faculty member—this research has the potential to be published in academic journals. 


8. California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science (COSMOS) 


Dates: July 7 – August 3

Location: UC Los Angeles, UC Irvine,  UC Davis, UC San Diego, and UC Santa Cruz

Application Deadline: February 9

Cost: $5,007   


COSMOS allows students in grades 8-12 the opportunity to explore STEM topics; work with renowned faculty at campuses including UC Los Angeles, UC Irvine, UC Davis, UC San Diego, and UC Santa Cruz; and conduct research in state-of-the-art facilities. This is an intensive, four-week summer residential program aimed at academically gifted and talented students—the typical COSMOS participant has a GPA of 3.5 or above. Students participate in “clusters” addressing various advanced topics in STEM fields, with like-minded peers. 


9. California State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA)


Dates: July 6 – August 2

Location: California Institute of the Arts

Application Deadline: February 29

Cost: $4,600 – $7,000   


Founded by the California state legislature in 1987, CSSSA provides support for future artists and creates a pipeline of talent for the state’s entertainment industry. Through this intensive, four-week residential program, students are provided the opportunity to explore a variety of fields, including music, theater, visual arts, dance, writing, and animation. There is financial aid available should students need it. 


10. Engineering Possibilities in College (EPIC)



  • Session 1: July 7 – 12
  • Session 2: July 14 – 19
  • Session 3: July 21 – 26

Location: Cal Poly

Application Deadline: March 31

Cost: $1,975  


A residential program at California Polytechnic State University, EPIC provides rising 9th through 12th graders the chance to experience college life while exploring engineering fields and meeting like-minded peers. Participants take a daily engineering class, engage in an engineering group project, and sit for a series of talks on topics ranging from trouble-shooting college admissions to the different types of engineering programs. There is also a wide variety of social activities hosted on campus.  


11. UCLA Writing Project Summer Camp



  • Online: July 8 – 19
  • In-person: June 20 – July 3

Location: Online and UCLA 

Application Deadline: N/A

Cost: $650


This program for rising 9th through 12th graders helps participants develop writing skills and find their personal voice while having them engage with relevant social issues. The workshop focuses on a range of writing genres including poetry, narrative essays, and argumentative writing. Students will work in a close-knit community of other young wordsmiths to sharpen their skills and build a network of similarly interested peers.


12. UCLA Summer College Immersion Program (SCIP)


Dates: June 24 – August 2

Location: UCLA

Application Deadline: May 1

Cost: $8,521 – $10,831


Participants in this six-week program for exceptional high school students—the program is open to sophomores and juniors with a minimum 3.6 GPA—gain firsthand experience with college life. Participants study alongside undergraduates, attend classes, sit in lectures, and attend workshops.


Ultimately, students will gain a real-world understanding of university life, earn college credit, and be better prepared for the challenge of college.


13. Annenberg Youth Academy for Media and Civic Engagement (AYA) 


Dates: June 17- July 19 

Location: USC 

Application Deadline: N/A

Cost: Free 


AYA is a free, four-week summer intensive academy that accepts 26 high school students from the surrounding community. Students will strengthen their skills in writing, critical thought, public speech and debate, multimedia production, interviewing, and ethnography. They get an understanding of USC Annenberg’s undergrad programs and possible careers, as well as the opportunity to meet the school’s innovative scholars advancing issues of race, gender, and ethnicity in communication and journalism. They will complete college-level coursework and have access to college advising and essay prep from the USC Annenberg Admissions Team. 





  • Session 1: June 24 – 28
  • Session 2: August 5 – 9  

Location: Children’s Hospital Los Angeles 

Application Deadline: January 12 

Cost: Free 


Camp CHLA provides freshmen, sophomores, and juniors from Los Angeles County the chance to explore careers in healthcare and meet similarly interested peers. Over the camp’s five days, students will have the opportunity to learn, observe, and participate in a variety of daily activities at Los Angeles Children’s Hospital, meet medical professionals, and gain first-hand experience in the field of healthcare.  


15. Eve and Gene Black Summer Medical Career Program


Dates: Varies 

Location: Varies 

Application Deadline: February 16 

Cost: Free 


Started in 1969, the Eve and Gene Black Summer Medical Career Program was designed to encourage high school students to choose careers in medicine—the program is often described as a medical mentorship. Open to students from Los Angeles and its surrounding counties, participants attend daily sessions, presentations, and interactive lessons hosted by professionals in the medical field, including: 


  • Surgeons
  • Nurses
  • Pharmacists
  • Dietitians
  • Ophthalmologists
  • Radiologists
  • Therapists (physical, speech, occupational, or cognitive)   


16. CCA Pre-College Program



  • In-person: July 8 – August 2 
  • Online: June 2 – July 26 

Location: Varies 

Application Deadline: February 19 

Cost: ~$3,995 – ~$6,971


California College of the Arts’ pre-college program is designed to allow high school students, at all artistic levels, to explore the arts. In-person students have access to all studios available on campus, including in fields such as animation, architecture, fashion design, film, interior design, photography, and sculpture. Participants have the opportunity to earn three college credits for their work during the program, as well as optional evening and weekend activities for residential students.  


17. UC Santa Barbara Summer Research Academies


Dates: June 27 – July 26 

Location: UCSB 

Application Deadline: April 1 

Cost: $2,575 – $8,224 


UCSB’s summer research academies are open to current high school students in 9th, 10th, or 11th grade, with a minimum weighted GPA of 3.6. Scholarships are available to students who may need them. Students will earn four college credits by taking a research course that will teach fundamental concepts in whichever track they choose. They will learn how to compose a formal research report and gain key communication skills to present their findings. There are 12 tracks to choose from, with an offering for any student interests. 


18. University of the Pacific Summer Camps



  • Session 1: June 2 – 13
  • Session 2: June 18 – 28 

Location: University of the Pacific

Application Deadline: N/A

Cost: $3,500  


The University of the Pacific’s Summer High School Institute is a two-week residential summer program designed to immerse students in the college lifestyle through experiences in the school’s labs, studios, fields, and makerspaces. The offered courses span five categories: Performing and Visual Arts, Health and Science, Engineering and Technology, Business and Society, and Athletics. Students live in dormitories, eat in dining halls, and learn in the school’s state-of-the-art library. They also have access to a variety of extracurricular social activities to meet and form bonds with their peers. 


19. Girls Who Code Summer Programs


Dates: N/A 

Location: Online

Application Deadline: N/A

Cost: N/A


Both Girls Who Code summer programs—two-week summer immersion and six-week self-paced—are available to high school students who identify as girls or non-binary, with or without computer science experience. 


The virtual Summer Immersion Program (SIP) is a live, two-week introductory course for 9th through 11th graders focused on game design, and offers an inside look into the tech industry through company partners. The Self-Paced program is a six-week course for students in 9th through 12th grades in which students can earn beginner-level badges in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript programming languages, as well as an intermediate badge in Python. 


20. AstroCamp 


Dates: Varies 

Location: AstroCamp 

Application Deadline: N/A

Cost: $2,275 – $3,850 


At AstroCamp, students between the ages of 12 and 17 live in a residential program where they are able to choose from over 40 science, creative arts, and mountain adventure activities. While the camp has a focus on STEM, they also offer social events, like a carnival, renaissance festival, and talent show on the 100-acre facility. 


21. Meta Summer Academy


Dates: June 17 – July 26

Location: Meta

Application Deadline: March 1 

Cost: Free


Meta Summer Academy externs learn about the day-to-day operations of one of the world’s most prominent social media companies up close and personal. Over the course of the six-week program, students will build work experience and bolster the skills needed for a successful career in tech. This opportunity is open to high school students who live in East Palo Alto, Belle Haven, North Fair Oaks, and Redwood City. A minimum 2.0 GPA is required to participate in the program. 


22. embARC


Dates: July 1 – 26

Location: UC Berkeley

Application Deadline: April 15

Cost: $4,938


This summer program for rising juniors and seniors from the UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design immerses participants in the fields of architecture, urban design, and sustainable city planning. Students will engage in college-level coursework, tackle challenging design assignments, take field trips around the Bay Area, and complete a design/build project. At the completion of the program, students will earn college credit and have built a portfolio for use on their college applications.


23. B-BAY



  • Session 1: July 6 – 20
  • Session 2: July 20 – August 3

Location: UC Berkeley

Application Deadline: March 15

Cost: $6,050 – $7,050


This prestigious two-week program focused on entrepreneurship attracts students from across the globe to UC Berkeley’s campus. Participants immerse themselves in life at the renowned institution—taking classes, sitting for lectures, conducting research, and working on projects while exploring a variety of business subjects and building skills. Participants also work with admissions advisors to develop a better understanding of the college admissions process and get a head start crafting personal statements and college essays.


24. Camp SEA Lab 



  • Session 1: July 1 – 5
  • Session 2: July 8 – 12
  • Session 3: July 15 – 19

Location: Seaward

Application Deadline: N/A

Cost: $1,350


Students ages 13 to 16 with an interest in oceanography, coastal and marine ecology, and life at sea will want to check out this summer program. Taking place on the Seaward, a classic 82-foot schooner, participants sail along the California Coast developing their skills, knowledge, confidence, and leadership. Activities during this five-day adventure at sea include whale watching, plankton study, navigation, squid dissection, and vessel handling.


25. Summer of Art 


Dates: July 5 -31

Location: Otis College of Art and Design

Application Deadline: N/A

Cost: N/A


Young artists ages 14.5 and older will want to explore this summer art program. Ideal for experienced young artists, participants will deepen their skills, explore pathways, and connect with creative peers while experiencing a slice of college life. The program culminates with an art exhibition, giving students a chance to share their work with friends, family, and the public.


How Impressive Are Summer Programs in College Admissions? 


Colleges look for students who explore their interests outside the classroom. Extracurricular activities are an important way to demonstrate your passions. 


Extracurricular activities are broken down into four tiers, with Tier 1 representing those that are the most impressive and unique and Tier 4 representing those that are the most common. In general, you should aim to have at least a few Tier 1 and 2 activities mixed in with Tier 3 and 4 activities.


Summer programs fall into different tiers depending on factors like selectivity, theme, and more. While they usually fall into Tier 3 or 4, a particularly prestigious and selective program could be considered Tier 1 or 2.


Curious how a summer program or extracurricular activity will impact your chances of admission? CollegeVine’s free chancing engine will help you learn your real odds of getting into 1500+ schools across the country, plus give you tips for improving your profile.

Short Bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.