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Most Prestigious Summer Programs for High School Students

For many high schoolers, summer vacation leads to thoughts of sleeping in, lazy days on the couch catching up on Netflix, and hanging out with friends. However, while these activities sound appealing, they do little to improve a student’s chance of getting into a top school or enrich a high-achieving student’s mind. Luckily, summer programs allow talented young students to explore fields of interest, get a taste of college life, and make new friends. Lasting anywhere from a week to a month (or longer), the majority of these programs still leave time for those traditional summer vacation activities, too.


Still not sure a summer program is for you? Check out our article 7 Reasons Why You Should Participate in a Summer Program.


Telluride Association Summer Program (TASP)


The Telluride Association Summer Program (TASP) is a six-week program that allows high school juniors with diverse backgrounds from around the world to grow their sense of intellectual vitality, interpersonal awareness, and community responsibility. Attendees are intellectually curious and motivated learners who commonly go on to attend some of the country’s finest colleges and universities. The most notable characteristics of TASP is that it’s completely free, including the cost of tuition, books, room and board, and even travel if necessary—eliminating any financial barriers that may prevent the brightest minds from attending.


Learn more about TASP and other affordable summer programs in our blog Affordable Academic Summer Programs for High School Students.


Research Science Institute (RSI)


The Research Science Institute (RSI) gathers 80 of the world’s most outstanding high school students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in a free, five-week program where they can experience the research cycle in its entirety. Combining on-campus course work in scientific theory with off-campus work in science and technology research, RSI students produce individual projects guided by experienced scientists and researches, culminating in written and oral presentations of their projects.


Interested in learning more about research and RSI? Check out our article How to Get a Research Assistant Position in High School.


Program in Mathematics for Young Student (PROMYS)


Founded in 1989, PROMYS is a six-week program enrolling approximately 80 carefully chosen, mathematically gifted high school students between ages 15 and 19 at Boston University. Attendees of PROMYS are not treated as students; rather, participants in PROMYS are thought of as mathematicians. Throughout the program, these young mathematicians explore the field of mathematics supported by their peers, counselors, research mathematicians, and research scientists.


Learn more about PROMYS with our article A Guide to PROMYS.


The Summer Science Program (SSP)


The SSP is a 60-year-old program designed to help the future’s scientists, doctors, engineers, and entrepreneurs realize their full potential. Providing participants with the role models, intellectually equivalent peers, challenge, and inspiration these students often find lacking in their schools, SSP immerses talented rising seniors from across the globe in experimental science. Throughout the intensive 39-day program, students will conduct a research project from beginning to end, take field trips, listen to guest speakers, and, most importantly, partake in a life-changing experience.


Boys/Girls State


Founded in 1935—the first Girls State was held three years later in 1938—by two Illinois Legionnaires, Boys/Girls State teaches high school juniors about the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of U.S. citizens, along with the structure of city, country, and state governments. This intensive one-week program divides students into parties, elects officials, and works to carry out basic functions such as writing, proposing, and passing bills. Other Boys/Girls State activities include legislative sessions, court proceedings, law enforcement presentations, assemblies, bands, choruses, and recreational programs.


Boys/Girls Nation


Beginning in 1946, Boys Nation has convened each summer to form a Senate in Washington, D.C., made up of representatives from the 49 Boys States (every U.S. state is represented with the exception of Hawaii). The first Girls Nation gathered the following year in 1947. Each state sends two students—who have completed their junior year and have at least one semester of high school remaining—to act as Senators representing their state. Over the course of the week-long program, students gain first-hand experience of the inner workings of government, listen to lectures, participate in forums, and visit notable D.C. sites. The highlight of the program for many Boys/Girls Nation senators is the opportunity to meet with elected officials from their home states.


Read more about Boys/Girls Nation in our article Girls and Boys Nation-An Extension of Boys and Girls State.


Research in Science & Engineering (RISE)


RISE is a six-week summer program for the nation’s best and brightest scientifically minded high school juniors conducted at Boston University (BU). Participants in the RISE program are afforded two tracks—internship and practicum. Students opting for the internship track will gain hands-on experience with research projects and work under the mentorship of distinguished faculty, post-doctoral fellows, and graduate students. The practicum track is focused on computational biology under the guidance of a BU instructor and is ideal for students who prefer more structured study


Discover more great summer programs at Boston University in our blog 10 Summer Programs at Boston University for High Schoolers.


Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES)


MITES is a residential program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) aimed at students interested in pursuing a degree—and subsequently a career—in science or engineering. Participants in the program are academically talented with many coming from underrepresented or underserved communities. Throughout this six-week program, students develop the skills necessary for success in science and engineering while learning about the value and reward of acquiring advanced technical degrees. MITES is free—the only expense students need to cover is their transportation to and from MIT.


Discover six other super summer programs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in our blog 7 Summer Programs at MIT for High Schoolers.


Stanford University Mathematics Camp (SUMaC)


SUMaC is a residential program at Stanford University for high-achieving students seeking to be challenged in mathematics and with a desire to learn about the latest in mathematical research and the application of mathematics across scientific fields. Throughout the camp’s four weeks, participants will learn about advanced mathematics through lectures, guided research, and group problem solving. SUMaC culminates in a research project where participants present their projects to their peers—gaining valuable experience in the communication of mathematics to a group.


Find more great summer math programs in our article How to Spend Your Summer As a Prospective Math Major (And Why Math is a Great Career Path).


Science Internship Program (SIP)


The SIP at University of California-Santa Cruz gives approximately 150 high-achieving and driven students the rare chance to work and learn at a premier research institution. Now in its twelfth year, this 10-week internship thrusts students into existing research projects while being mentored by UCSC faculty, graduate students, and post-doctoral researchers. Ideal for rising juniors, this program is a fantastic opportunity for students interested in pursuing a STEM field to see scientific research “in action.”  


Economics for Leaders (EFL)


This week-long program occurring at colleges and universities across the country gives future leaders hands-on experience using economics in the decision-making process. EFL seeks to make budding leaders more effective by showing them how to use economic analysis when considering public policy choices while also creating a deeper understanding of leadership and building leadership skills. This program is extremely competitive, with two applicants for every available space.


Summer Academy for Math and Science (SAMS)


SAMS is a six-week residential program at Carnegie Mellon University for minoritized rising seniors and juniors with an interest in pursuing an undergraduate degree in a STEM field. Participants in SAMS can opt for one of two academic tracks both taught by the university’s renowned faculty—science and engineering or computer science. No matter which track a student chooses, they will gain deeper knowledge and a better understanding of a variety of STEM fields through instruction and hands-on learning.  


The Hampshire College Summer Studies in Mathematics (HCSSiM)


Entering its 47th year, HCSSiM is a residential six-week advanced mathematics program held at Hampshire College. Attracting participants from around the world, these talented students spend a large portion of their days engaged in mathematics—not just the results of math problems. With a mission to prepare and motivate high school students to pursue degrees, and ultimately careers, in mathematics, HCSSiM offers unparalleled faculty access to participants in classrooms, at mealtimes, and in the dorms.




Founded in 2001 to address the lack of diversity in the media, JCamp brings high school freshman, sophomores, and juniors from a wide variety of cultural, racial, religious, and political (to name a few) backgrounds together for six days of intense journalism training. Participating in sessions and workshops led by journalists employed by top media companies, students get hands-on training in broadcasting, newspaper, magazine, photojournalism, and online media—and produce media packages for the program’s news site. JCamp is free if selected; the program covers the cost of everything from airfare to housing to meals.


Planning on pursuing a career in journalism? Learn about some of the extracurricular activities that can put you on the path to a job in the media in our article Extracurricular Ideas for the Aspiring Journalist




Serious mathematics infused with levity, or MathILy, is a marvelous five-week residential mathematics program at Bryn Mawr College. Led by mathematicians possessing PhDs and supported by graduate and undergraduate students, participants in MathILy learn to improve their problem-solving ability, hone their critical thinking skills, meet other incredibly talented other young mathematicians, and work on lots of advanced math problems. When not tackling topics such as combinatorial optimization, generating functions, information theory, knot theory, and Markov chain modeling, students will participate in program-wide discussions about college choices and career possibilities inside and outside of the mathematics.


High School Honors Science, Mathematics, Engineering, Program (HSHSP)


Since 1988, the HSHSP has given rising high school seniors the opportunity to gain first-hand research experience in a university environment. Drawing talented and driven students from across the United States and its territories to Michigan State University, this seven-week residential program allows students to make connections with like-minded students from diverse backgrounds, build friendships, and increase their knowledge of science and mathematics while fostering a passion for the field.


Clark Scholar Program


The distinguishing characteristic of the Clark Scholar Program is that it is open to students in almost all areas of academia—from mathematics to music and everything in between. Coming from across the globe to Texas Tech University, participants are afforded the unique opportunity to gain hands-on research experience in their field while working one on one with faculty over the program’s seven intense weeks. Many of these students use their experience as Clark Scholars to shape their future college and career goals. The Clark Scholar Program is free for chosen applicants—the only cost students are responsible for is their transportation to and from the program. This program is extremely selective; only 12 students are chosen each summer.


Think you have what it takes to be one of the next 12 Clark Scholars? Check out this article from Forbes, Texas Tech Dean Gives Insider Advice How To Get Accepted To The Competitive Clark Scholars Program.


Notre Dame Summer Scholars


Over the course of an intense two weeks, rising juniors and seniors enrolled in the Summer Scholars program are given a taste of life on a college campus. Participating in one of 22 fields of study ranging from acting to world politics and power, Summer Scholars get a preview of college academics while earning one college credit for completing the program. Of course, there is much more to college than just the classroom—summer scholars are encouraged to work together on coursework outside of class and ample time is provided to sample the social side of college life.


Learn more about the Notre Dame Summer Scholars Program and other great summer programs in Indiana in our blog 25 Summer Programs for High Schoolers in Indiana.


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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.