Summer Activities for High Schoolers in New York City
When you’re gearing up to apply to college, summers no longer mean just relaxing with friends at the beach. Instead, admissions committees want to see that you’re working on something meaningful. There are plenty of options: internships, paying jobs, academic programs, community service, or something else entirely. If you’re still totally stuck on ideas, check out Effective Summer Activities and 5 Things You Can Do This Summer Instead of an Internship before you read on.
If you live in New York City or are planning on spending the summer there, you’re lucky — the city is bursting with opportunities for high school students. Read on for just a few of the meaningful ways you can spend your summer in New York.
New York Academic Summer Programs
New York is home to a number of competitive colleges, and many of them offer pre-college programs for high school students. Here are just a few:
- Columbia University offers several different immersion programs that will give you a taste of college life in the scenic Morningside Heights. Some programs allow you to earn college credit, and some, like their Summer Global Immersion, even let you travel all the way to Barcelona!
- Rising juniors and seniors can experience college life in the East Village by participating in NYU Precollege, where students can take classes for credit in more than 30 subjects from archaeology to journalism.
- Students interested in pursuing art as a major or area of study should check out the Pratt Institute’s Summer Program, where they’ll be able to choose from major classes such as fine arts/painting and drawing, digital arts, graphic design, illustration (traditional or digital), fashion design, photography (analog or digital), architecture, cultural studies, or creative writing. Students also build a portfolio and receive four college credits.
- Art students may also enjoy Parsons Pre-College Academy at the New School. There are several options available to students, starting as early as the third grade. Rising juniors and seniors might be particularly interested in the Portfolio Development Course, which helps them prepare their artwork for college admissions.
- At the School of the New York Times, students can participate in the NYC Summer Academy, the Symposium, or the College Success Course. Respectively, they offer immersive courses on several disciplines, noteworthy conversations with field experts, and advice on preparing for college from speakers. It’s not just for future journalists, either; the programs cover a variety of disciplines and careers.
- Baruch Leadership Academy offers five pre-professional programs: Global Finance & Economics, Financial Engineering & Applied Mathematics, Pre-Med, Entrepreneurship, and Sophomore Enrichment. Whichever path you choose, you’ll receive an enriching academic experience combined with advice on college planning and preparation.
- The six-week intensive Summer STEM Program at the Albert Nerken School of Engineering at the Cooper Union gives students hands-on experience with engineering design and problem-solving. Students work on projects in a STEM discipline, attend workshops to help them hone their oral presentation and technical writing skills, and receive career counseling and college admissions advice.
- For those interested in the performing arts, Juilliard hosts two youth summer programs: Summer Dance Intensive, where students participate in classical ballet and modern dance, and the Summer Percussion Seminar, where students gain experience with the two- and four-mallet keyboard, snare drum, timpani, and orchestral accessories.
These are just a few of the summer programs New York has to offer. Other colleges offer programs on their campuses, so be sure to look online or ask your guidance counselor if you are interested in a school not on this list.
Jobs and Internships
Hoping to learn some career skills or land a paying job? Here are some opportunities to move your professional career forward:
- In the Summer Youth Employment Program, young people aged 14-24 can work in paying, entry-level jobs in various fields including arts and recreation, educational services, financial services, marketing/public relations, media/entertainment, real estate/property, and retail. Students can also participate in workshops on job readiness, career exploration, financial literacy, and continuing education and social growth. The program lasts six weeks.
- High school and college students can participate in paid summer internships with leading corporations, non-profit organizations, and government agencies in New York through Ladders for Leaders. Participants also receive help with résumé/cover letter writing and interviewing skills.
- Are you a future doctor? The Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program (HOPP) Summer Student Program at Memorial Sloan Kettering allows you to conduct concrete, independent research under the guidance of a HOPP principal investigator. You’ll also participate in extracurricular events, tours, training, and luncheons outside the lab.
- Graduating high school seniors with a passion for technology should check out Google’s Computer Science Summer Institute (CSSI), a three-week introduction to computer science. The program is also available on other Google campuses, so don’t despair if you don’t live in New York!
- High-achieving, inner-city students are paired with legal employers through the Thurgood Marshall Summer Law Internship Program. Job assignments vary, but typically include assisting paralegals, filing, record keeping, assisting library and back-office personnel, data entry, and document and exhibit organization. Participants also receive pre-employment training as part of the program.
- NASA offers hands-on opportunities to students from high school through the graduate level. During the internship program, students participate in scientific or engineering research, development, and operational activities.
- ExpandED Options is a summer program that will train you on how to teach and work with kids. Interns will be placed in camps around the city and work approximately 6 to 8 weeks, depending on the city. This one will pay you!
- History buffs will be interested in the New York Historical Society Student Historian High School Internship Program. The internship and youth development program gives students vocational and academic training, public speaking and leadership skills, and an increased understanding of American art and history.
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art offers summer internships to rising juniors and seniors. Interns observe, assist, and are mentored by a staff member in one of the museum’s departments. They will also hear curators, educators, designers, conservators, and other staff talk about their professional paths and roles and participate in workshops that help them learn more about the different fields.
These are some of the most prominent opportunities in the city, but there will also likely be jobs and internships at organizations nearby. Be sure to ask local businesses if they’re looking for paid help over the summer as well.
Volunteer and Community Service Opportunities
Volunteering to help your community can be a meaningful way to spend your summer and also build your job skills. Here are a few ideas:
- Central Park’s Visitor Experience Apprentice Program gives high schoolers the chance to volunteer in the North Meadow Recreation Center, in the Park’s four Visitor Centers, and with the Discovery Guides. Students will also learn about the history and management of the park and hone their interpersonal skills by interacting with attendees.
- Young people ages 14-21 may have the opportunity to influence change by joining an NYC Youth Leadership Council, in which they will participate in youth-adult partnerships within city agencies, schools, and community-based organizations.
- Interested in learning about urban agriculture and the environment? The Brooklyn Botanical Garden Apprentice Program may be for you. Note that the apprenticeship program also requires a weekly commitment during the academic year.
Check out Do I Need Community Service for My College Applications? for more ideas. Also be sure to look at idealist.org and New York Cares youth opportunities as well as local organizations near you, since many need help and will welcome volunteers.
There are many rewarding opportunities for high school students in New York over the summer. No matter what route you choose, you’re sure to have a busy and fulfilling experience.
If none of the above ideas appeal to you, there are plenty of other choices available. If you want to spend the summer participating in an academic experience, but can’t or don’t want to commit to a program, keep in mind that many colleges offer continuing ed or non-matriculated summer classes. If you’re more interested in getting career experience or volunteer experience, check online to see what national or local programs are just around the corner.
For more ideas on ways to spend your summers in high school, read the following posts:
If you have a specific idea of the career path you want to follow, check out our posts on summer activities that will help you prepare for individual jobs or majors:
Looking for help navigating the road to college as a high school student? Check out the CollegeVine Mentorship Program.
Our mentors drive significant personal and professional development for freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. Combining mentorship with engaging content, insider strategies, and personalized analyses, our program provides students with the tools to succeed. As students learn from successful older peers, they develop confidence, autonomy, and critical thinking skills. The ultimate goal is for college admissions to just be the next step in series of successes driven by the student.
Want more tips on improving your academic profile?
We'll send valuable information to help you strengthen your profile and get ready for college admissions.