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14 Mental Health Career Programs for High Schoolers in 2024

What’s Covered:


Mental healthcare is a growing field, and there are many different options for interested students. Whether you know you’re interested in a career in mental health, or are merely considering it, participating in a program during high school can help you make decisions about what to study in college, as well as helping to build your resume. 


Because of the specificity of the subject, there aren’t as many mental health career programs as there are other career programs. The programs listed here may be geographically limited or expensive, so consider using them as a jumping off point or inspiration in what to look for in your own community. Remember that there are many different ways to get involved, and this list is just a few examples. Read on for fourteen programs perfect for students interested in psychology, medicine, advocacy, or research. 


14 Mental Health Career Programs for High School Students


1. Teen Mental Health First Aid


In six 45 minute sessions, tMHFA aims to teach youth ages 15-18 how to recognize mental health and substance abuse struggles in their peers and loved ones. Sessions focus on how to begin conversations about mental health, common signs and symptoms, and ways to reach out to adults for help. With hundreds of classes being taught nationwide at any given time, it’s easy to find an in-person or online option near you to join. 


2. Become a Teen Talk Advisor


On the Teen Talk app, struggling teens can ask questions that trained advisors respond to, as well as reading past responses. After going through a forty-hour training with the organization, you can become an advisor that responds to questions, helping fellow teens handle everything from everyday worries to crisis situations. 


3. Mental Health America Young Leaders Programs


Mental Health America is a nonprofit dedicated to investigating and improving mental health in the United States, primarily through research, education, and public policy. For teens looking to get involved, they offer a 6 month Young Leaders Council, a prestigious program that helps young people get involved, find mentors, and make connections. Or you might be interested in their Youth Policy Accelerator, which brings together ten civic-minded youth in a two-month intensive virtual program that focuses on bringing youth voices to the national political stage. 


4. Inspiring Careers in Mental Health


Dates: June 3rd – June 7th and June 10th to June 14th, 2024

Location: Virtual

Application deadline: February 5th, 2024

Cost: Free


Hosted by the University of Texas Southwest Department of Psychiatry, this 2 week virtual internship for rising 10th, 11th, and 12th graders aims to introduce students to the wide range of career options in the mental health field. Interactive sessions led by professionals in the field and readings about career options will provide participants with detailed information on the field of mental healthcare. Applicants should prepare a personal essay and request a letter of recommendation from a guidance counselor or homeschool administrator. 


5. Youth Mental Health Academy


Dates: June 2024 to July 2025

Location: Virtual and in-person sessions at the Mental Health Academy

Application deadline: March 15th, 2024

Cost: Free, includes a $2,000 stipend and potential for paid internship


Started by the Child Mind Institute, the Youth Mental Health Academy is a 14-month program that spans two summers and an academic year. Open to California residents who are members of structurally disadvantaged communities, this program sets students up with a paid internship and a mentor working or studying in the mental health field, as well as providing opportunities for project-based learning, a capstone project, and access to workshops relating to mental health topics. Students interested in this program should make sure that they fit the Youth Mental Health Academy’s definition of a structurally disadvantaged community member. 


6. Psychology Camp


Dates: June 23rd-June 28th, 2024

Location: Messiah University, PA

Application deadline: Not yet listed

Cost: $599 for commuting campers and $699 for residential


For Pennsylvania high school students entering 10th, 11th, or 12th grade, Psychology Camp is a great way to learn about various aspects of psychology from Messiah University professors. With residential and commuter options for students near and far, Psychology camp at Messiah University offers multiple options for high schoolers to learn about biopsychology, clinical psychology, and abnormal psychology. 


7. Camp Psych


Dates: Not yet released

Location: Gettysburg College

Application deadline: Accepted until camp is full

Cost: Not yet released; scholarships are available


Hosted by Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Camp Psych is another summer opportunity to get a look at psychological science in the world. Students will learn from professors, do their own research, and prepare to study psychology at the college level. Participants will live at the college and spend every day, 9 am to 4 pm, learning about psychology. Evenings are reserved for free time and fun activities with fellow campers and RAs. 


8. Summer at Brown


Dates: June to August 2024

Location: Brown University 

Application deadline: May 10th, 2024

Cost: $3,000-$6,000, some scholarships available


Among Brown’s robust catalog of over 300 pre-college programs are multiple psychology classes. For students looking forward to a career in psychology, a preeminent university like Brown is an excellent place to begin. A comprehensive application is required, and the 1-6 week courses are on the expensive side, so you should be sure of your interest before applying to spend the summer at Brown. 


9. Wake Forest High School Psychology Institute


Dates: June 9th to June 14th and June 16th to 24th, 2024

Location: Wake Forest University, NC

Application deadline: Rolling admissions

Cost: $3,000


From observational research to dissecting sheep brains, Wake Forest University offers an in-depth, hands-on glimpse into psychological study in their summer institute. For one week, students will live on the Wake Forest campus and explore topics like emotion, addiction, and the magic of neuroscience. 


Students interested in these topics but unable to participate over the summer should look into Wake Forest’s Online Immersion Program, where dozens of online courses are available year-round for high school students interested in exploring college level classes and topics that may not be available in high school. Costs are also lower than the summer institute, peaking at $1295.


10. Introduction to Psychology at Cornell University


Dates: June 24th to August 2nd 2024

Location: Online

Application deadline: May 5th, 2024

Cost: $1,750


Students interested in learning from Cornell professors, and alongside Cornell students, should consider applying to Cornell’s Intro to Psychology course, where they will learn about the building blocks that make up psychological science. A great introduction to the study of human thought and behavior, rising juniors and seniors should consider filling out an application for this 6 week course. 


11. Georgetown’s Summer College Course on General Psychology


Dates: June 3rd to July 26th (online) or July 8th to August 9th, 2024 (in person)

Location: Online or at Georgetown University

Application deadline: May 5th, 2024

Cost: $6,159


For students interested in studying at one of the top colleges in DC, Georgetown’s Summer College Courses are a great way to sample high-level college courses. Available both online and in-person, the 6 week General Psychology course will give interested students a chance to explore topics relating to the field with Georgetown professors. Interested students should apply ASAP – the $50 application fee is waived for those applying before January 31st. 


12. University of Chicago Summer Sessions


Dates: Various

Location: University of Chicago or remote

Application deadline: Rolling, no specific deadline

Cost: $4,635 to $6,350


Out of dozens of offerings for summer courses both online and in person, seven of UChicago’s 2024 offerings focus on psychology and neuroscience. Focusing on everything from the science of communication to the fundamentals of brain development, this diverse course catalog gives students multiple ways to enter the study of psychology. These classes are pricey, so students may want to look into scholarships and financial aid as they apply to these programs. 


13. Health Sciences and Human Performance at Ithaca College


Dates: July 14th to August 2nd, 2024

Location: Ithaca College

Application deadline: May 15th, 2024

Cost: $3,900 to $5,480


At Ithaca College in upstate New York, learn what conditions help people perform their best. In this class, students will learn about biopsychosocial factors and how they influence human behavior. The college offers a residential and commuter option for applicants. 


14. Social Sciences and Psychology Summer Courses at Columbia


Dates: Summer, fall, and spring options

Location: Online and in-person options

Application deadline: Various, depending on term

Cost: Varying, from $2,810 to $12,449


Whether you live in New York City and want to commute, or live across the country and want to try a one week summer class, Columbia has options for you. Offered throughout the year, Columbia’s pre-college classes allow high school students to sample Ivy League level courses and assess their interest in various subjects. If Columbia’s academics appeal to you and you’re interested in exploring psychology, this is a great program for you. 


If You Didn’t Find Something On This List


If you don’t see a program that you’re interested in here, consider checking out summer classes at local universities, researching community mental health organizations or initiatives near you, or even starting a club or group at your school. Classes or volunteer experience are great ways to learn about careers in the field, while advocacy work can help you gain awareness of current issues. 


If your schedule is too packed for a multi-week course, consider reading up on careers in psychology, or interviewing someone you know to learn more about the field. School counselors can be great resources! If you’re an avid reader, consider looking at memoirs or nonfiction about mental health careers and the field in general. 


How Will a Mental Health Career Program Impact My College Admissions Process?


In addition to benefiting your peers or surrounding community, participating in one of these programs indicates to colleges that you already have a clear sense of your academic and professional interests, and are taking initiative to pursue them. Schools value students who are both altruistic and motivated, and getting involved with one or more of these programs would demonstrate that you have those qualities.

In more concrete terms, extracurricular activities are divided into four tiers, with tier 1 representing the most exceptional and rare extracurriculars and tier 4 representing the most common activities admissions committees see. The higher the tier an extracurricular activity is, the more impactful it is on admissions odds. The programs listed here vary in terms of rigor and selectivity, but prestigious, national programs in particular can certainly fall into tiers 1 or 2. If you’re applying to highly-selective schools, we recommend having at least a few tier 1 and 2 activities to set yourself apart from other applicants.

Wondering how being a part of one of these programs impacts your chances? CollegeVine’s free admissions calculator can let you know! This tool uses factors like grades and test scores—along with other variables, like extracurricular programs—to calculate your odds at hundreds of colleges. It can also provide valuable insight into areas where you can improve your profile.

Short Bio
After graduating from Wesleyan University, Francesca Jette is pursuing a Master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at George Washington University. She has been helping high school seniors with college essays for three years now.