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15 Summer Programs for High School Students in California

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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. Another advantage of summer programs is that they look great on college applications‚ÄĒthey demonstrate a love of learning and show a student‚Äôs desire to immerse themselves in interesting subjects.¬†


Keep reading to learn about some of the best summer programs for high school students in California. 


15 Summer Programs for High School Students in California


1. Berridge West 


Dates: July 9-22

Location: Westmont College 

Application deadline: Rolling admissions 

Cost: $5,875 (but a range of scholarships are available)


Set on the beautiful Santa Barbara campus of Westmont College, Berridge West provides young people with the opportunity to nurture their artistic skills, prepare for college, and take a step toward a creative career. Berridge West is a small residential program (just 40-50 students attend), which allows participants to build deep personal connections with their instructors and grow as artists as they explore theater, film, studio art, and music. 


2. USC Bovard Scholars


Dates: July 10-30

Location: University of Southern California (USC) 

Application deadline: January 14

Cost: No cost 


The Bovard Scholars is one of the most recognizable summer programs for high school students in California and provides an immersive, three-week, college-like residency experience. Bovard Scholars are exposed to a rigorous curriculum, meet other academically driven peers, and challenge themselves while supported by an individual coach and an impressive 3:1 scholar to program staff ratio. Selection to the USC Bovard Scholars is competitive‚ÄĒeligible students must:¬†


  • Be a junior in high school (11th grader)¬†
  • Hold a 4.0 weighted GPA or above
  • Be enrolled in Algebra II, Trigonometry, or above
  • Demonstrate financial need
  • Have taken Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate courses, if offered
  • Actively enrolled in a high school within the U.S. or a U.S. territory


3. Pomona College Academy for Youth Success (PAYS)


Dates: June 20-July 23 

Location: Pomona College  

Application deadline: February 26

Cost: Free


PAYS is a well-thought-of summer program at Pomona College that provides over 90 students from local high schools with preparation for admissions into some of the country’s most selective colleges and universities. PAYS is open to rising sophomores through seniors from groups traditionally underrepresented on college campuses, such as:


  • First-generation students¬†
  • Students from low-income families
  • Students from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups


Over the four weeks of the PAYS residential program, participants will take thought-provoking classes and workshops, undertake projects, and participate in cultural events. 


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


Dates: July 6-31

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

Application deadline: February 19

Cost: In-state: $1,917 / Out-of-state: $4,300


An intensive four-week summer residential program, COSMOS is aimed at students with an aptitude in STEM and an interest in pursuing a career in one of the STEM fields. Open to academically talented and driven students‚ÄĒthe typical COSMOS student has a GPA of 3.5 or above‚ÄĒin grades 8 through 12, participants get the opportunity to deeply explore STEM topics; work with renowned faculty, researchers, and scientists; and conduct research in state-of-the-art facilities.¬†


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


Dates: July 12-August 6   

Location: California Institute of the Arts 

Application deadline: February 26

Cost: In state: $2,350 / Out-of-state $6,850


This summer program for high school students in California is a unique public-private partnership that was 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. This intensive four-week program provides the opportunity to explore a variety of creative fields, offering pre-professional training in music, theater, film, visual arts, dance, writing, and animation.


6. Engineering Possibilities in College (EPIC)


Dates:  June 19-24, June 26-July 1, July 10-15, and July 17-22  

Location: Cal Poly 

Application deadline: NA

Cost: TBD


EPIC provides rising 9th graders through 12th graders the chance to have a residential college experience while exploring engineering fields and meeting like-minded peers. EPIC participants take a daily engineering class, sit for a series of talks on everything from college admissions to the different types of engineering programs, and engage in a variety of social activities.   


7. UCLA Summer Writing Program 


Dates: July 6-July 27 

Location: Online   

Application deadline: May 1

Cost: $915


This three-week online program is open to students in 9th through 12th grade and is designed to help students transition from high-school-level to college-level writing. Also covered in the program is the college application process, particularly how to approach writing a college essay. For more than two decades, this program has helped ambitious high school students take their writing to the next level. 


8. High School Summer Institute in Law


Dates: July 26-30 

Location: Online 

Application deadline: NA

Cost: $1,100


This week-long program designed and led by the UC Irvine School of Law faculty is designed to equip high schoolers who‚Äôve completed their sophomore year with the knowledge, understanding, and skills they‚Äôll need as they continue on their educational path and explore the possibility of a career in law. Over the course of the week, students will gain experience with public speaking, writing, analytical reasoning, persuasion techniques, and negotiation skills‚ÄĒimproving their college readiness and making them stronger candidates for admission.¬†


9. The Intern Project 


Dates: Summer break  

Location: Throughout Los Angeles  

Application deadline: March 

Cost: They’ll pay you! 


The Intern Project is a distinctive program that pairs high school juniors and seniors in Los Angeles with paid internships. Internships are available in a variety of fields, including:


  • Arts
  • Media and Entertainment
  • Engineering and Technology
  • Business
  • Government, Non-Profit, and Philanthropy
  • Healthcare and Medical Technology


This is a competitive program and selected students have demonstrated a high level of academic achievement and consistent attendance. In addition to internships, participants also take part in a variety of programming aimed at preparing them for work. 


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


Dates: TBD

Location: Online/University of Southern California (USC)    

Application deadline: NA

Cost: Free


AYA is a free, three-week immersive experience for 28 talented high school students from the area surrounding USC. Through the program, participants are exposed to college-level coursework, sample USC Annenberg’s undergraduate programs, and explore possible careers in media and journalism. Over the course of the three weeks, students will build valuable college skills such as:


  • Writing
  • Critical thinking¬†
  • Public speaking¬†
  • Debate
  • Multimedia production
  • Interviewing
  • Ethnography¬†¬†


Discover your chances at hundreds of schools

Our free chancing engine takes into account your history, background, test scores, and extracurricular activities to show you your real chances of admission‚ÄĒand how to improve them.

11. Stanford University Mathematics Camp (SUMaC)


Dates: TBD  

Location: Stanford University 

Application deadline: TBD 

Cost: $3,250


In the summer, SUMaC welcomes some of the most mathematically talented rising juniors and seniors to engage deeply in the exploration of mathematics and develop their skills as mathematicians. SUMaC is extremely selective‚ÄĒadmission is based on a variety of factors, including teacher recommendations, performance on standardized tests and in math competitions, and performance on the SUMaC admission exam.


SUMaC believes that finances should not present an obstacle to talented young mathematicians; financial aid is available and the need for financial aid is not considered when making admission decisions. 




Dates: TBD 

Location: Los Angeles Children’s Hospital  

Application deadline: TBD

Cost: Free


Camp CHLA provides freshmen, sophomores, and juniors 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.  


13. Eve and Gene Black Summer Medical Career Program


Dates: TBD

Location: Online  

Application deadline: TBD

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‚ÄĒthe 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)¬†¬†


14. College Study Skills


Dates: TBD

Location: Online  

Application deadline: TBD

Cost: $545


Spend two weeks this summer taking UC Davis’s College Study Skills program and build skills that will last a lifetime. Open to students in 10th through 12th grade, this intensive, interactive course led by UC Davis instructors helps cement important skills like time management, critical thinking, and communication to improve your college readiness and help you stand out in crowded applicant pools. 


15. UC Santa Cruz Summer Session 


Dates: June 20-July 22

Location: UC Santa Cruz  

Application deadline: June 1

Cost: $3,300-$3,500


Earn five college credits in five weeks at UC Santa Cruz‚Äôs Summer Session. In an immersive college experience, participants are treated as if they were a college student‚ÄĒliving in a residence hall, eating in the dining hall, studying in the library, and participating in extracurricular activities‚ÄĒwhile under the supervision of a peer mentor and resident hall assistant. A wide variety of courses are available and every student looking to participate in a summer program in California should be able to find an offering that interests them.


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, such as TASP, 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.