Not all summer programs are created equal.
Many summer programs are, essentially, camps. Selectivity is low and tuition is high, so they make big profits but provide little in the way of prestige. This is not to say that these summer programs are inherently bad. Plenty of students attend these pre-college "camps" and have edifying experiences. You might discover a new academic interest or form a connection with a college professor. However, merely attending such a program won't add much to your application.
So, what does an application-boosting summer program look like?
First, it's low-cost. Free or low-cost summer programs are typically highly selective and require rigorous application processes. They're attended by a small, select group of students. They often revolve around one-on-one interactions with professors. Attending one of these highly selective, low-cost programs gives admissions officers concrete evidence of your academic accomplishments.
Second, an application-boosting summer program is high-interest. High-interest means that the program connects directly to one of your pre-existing interests. Think of a summer program as an opportunity to develop and/or deepen your expertise in a specific subject. Rather than take a collection of interesting but unconnected courses at a pre-college "camp", choose a more focused summer experience. If you love creative writing, enroll in a summer writing workshop. If you're the president of the robotics club, pursue summer robotics research.
The following summer programs deliver low-cost, high-interest experiences that will make your application stand out. Most of them are free; some even pay a stipend. Whether you're a humanities buff or a future heart surgeon, this list is chock-full of opportunities for you.
Clark Scholars are given the opportunity to conduct hands-on research with faculty in any scholarly area offered at Texas Tech. In addition to their intensive individual research projects, scholars work together in weekly seminars, discussion groups, and field trips. Clark Scholars can specialize in virtually any subject area ranging from the natural sciences and mathematics to humanities, social sciences, and fine arts.
Dates: June 18 – August 1, 2018
Location: Texas Tech University (Lubbock, TX)
Fees: Free, including room and board. Participants receive a $750 tax-free stipend.
Eligibility: Must be a high school junior or senior who is at least 17 years of age by the start of the program with a graduation date of 2018 or 2019. International students are eligible and welcome to apply.
Application Requirements: Applicants must submit a completed application form, essays, letters of recommendation, references, high school transcripts, and standardized test scores.
Selectivity: Approximately 5%
Application Deadline: February 9, 2018
The Bovard Scholars Program is designed to provide all-encompassing academic and college prep support to high-achieving rising juniors with financial need. Scholars spend three weeks on USC’s campus, immersed in a curriculum that combines personalized career exploration, expert admission and financial aid support, comprehensive test preparation, and leadership development. After the program, each Bovard Scholar is matched with a coach, who will guide and support the student through the entire admissions process.
Dates: July 15 - August 4, 2018
Location: University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA)
Fees: No cost to students or families. USC will pay for transportation to and from campus for students coming from outside of Southern California.
Eligibility: High school juniors with demonstrated financial need. Must hold a 4.0 GPA or above, be enrolled in Algebra II/Trigonometry or above, and have taken AP/IB classes, if offered.
Application Requirements: Applicants must submit several essays and short answers related to their interests, goals, and experience with the college application process. The admissions committee reviews all applications holistically; no single answer will automatically include or exclude a student from consideration.
Selectivity: 50 students will be selected from a pool of several hundred applicants.
Application Deadline: February 16, 2018
SAMS is a 6-week pre-college opportunity for rising high school seniors with a strong interest in computer science, engineering, and/or the natural sciences. At SAMS, students participate in seminars and hands-on projects led by Carnegie Mellon faculty. Potential topics of focus include robotics, biotechnology, entertainment technology, and more. In addition to STEM classes, SAMS attendees take standardized test prep and personal/career development courses.
Dates: June 30 - August 10, 2018
Location: Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA)
Fees: Tuition, room and board are free. Students must pay for transportation to and from the program as well as books and supplies (approximately $300).
Eligibility: High school juniors at least 16 years of age from underrepresented racial, educational, or socioeconomic backgrounds. Must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
Application Requirements: Applicants must "possess a strong academic record and a passion for science, technology, engineering, and math" demonstrated through extracurricular activities, essays, and letters of recommendation.
Selectivity: Approximately 15%
Application Deadline: March 1, 2018
Students selected to attend the Neubauer Family Adelante Summer Scholars Program will participate one of two courses: “Collegiate Writing: Awakening into Consciousness” or “Contagion: Infectious Agents & Diseases.” These seminar-style courses provide special insight into college-level academics. Adelante Summer Scholars also benefit from college admissions guidance and academic support.
Dates: June 16 - July 5, 2018
Location: University of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
Fees: All program expenses are covered.
Eligibility: Current high school juniors with “a commitment to the Hispanic/Latino communities.”
Application Requirements: Applicants must be top must submit an online application form, an essay, a transcript, and recommendation letters.
Selectivity: Approximately 30 students will be selected.
Application Deadline: March 2, 2018
Participants in the NIH Summer Internship spend their summer working side-by-side with some of the world’s leading scientists. Students select the scientist and discipline of their choice, including behavioral science, social sciences, biology, chemistry, physics, mathematical modeling, computational biology, and biostatistics. In addition to their internships, students participate in a wide range of summer activities including lectures, career/professional development workshops, and Summer Poster Day.
Dates: Varies (minimum of 8 weeks, typically beginning in May or June)
Location: Washington D.C.
Fees: Free. Interns receive a stipend of $1,830 per month.
Eligibility: U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are 16 years of age or older by June 15, 2018. Students must be enrolled at least half time in high school or college at the time of application.
Application Requirements: Applicants must submit a resume/CV, list of coursework and grades (no transcripts required), and a cover letter describing their research interests and goals. The applications should also include contact information for two references. Be sure to watch the instructional video before starting the application process.
Selectivity: Individual scientists within the NIH choose their own summer interns for this highly selective program. The earlier you apply, the better your odds of being selected by a scientist.
Applications Deadline: Applications are accepted on rolling basis through March 2018.
The Young Women's Institute is an opportunity to learn more about the business world, meet professors from a wide array of business-related departments, explore potential career paths, and participate in a hands-on case project with your peers. The four-day program is brief but meaningful and full of opportunities to connected with like-minded students and potential mentors. Multiple sessions are offered each summer.
Dates: Four 4-day sessions offered throughout June (check website for dates).
Location: Indiana University (Bloomington, IN)
Fees: Tuition, room, and board are free. Students must cover the cost of transportation and any personal expenses.
Eligibility: Women in their junior year of high school are eligible to apply. Applicants must be U.S. residents and have a GPA of 3.5 or above.
Application Requirements: Applicants must submit 3 short essays (minimum 300 words). The essay prompts ask students to describe their extracurricular involvement, their desire to attend YWI, and the biggest challenge they see facing women in today's business world. Transcripts and a completed application from are also required.
Selectivity: Approximately 25 students are selected to attend each session (~100 accepted students total).
Application Deadline: March 30, 2018
The Telluride Academic Summer Program (TASP) is a highly selective summer program designed for the most intellectually curious, motivated students. The program centers around a discussion-based academic seminar, which meets each weekday for three hours. 2018 seminar topics include political art, the philosophy of truth, the history of the body, and graphic novels. During the program, students produce college-level writing assignments, participate in a public speaking program, and attend guest lectures. The 2019 topics will be announced later this year.
Dates: June - August 2019. Exact 2019 dates TBA.
Location: Cornell University (Ithaca, NY), University of Maryland (College Park, MD) and University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI)
Fees: None. Tuition, room and board are free. Funding for transportation is also available.
Eligibility: All high school juniors are eligible to apply. TASP is open to international students and does not place a limit on the number of international students accepted per year.
Application Requirements: The TASP application process is highly rigorous. Applicants must write three 1500 word essays and three 250 word short answers. The essays and short answers are evaluated based on “the strength of ideas presented” and “ability to think analytically and critically about complex issues.” A small group of finalists will then be selected for the interview round, which takes place in March and requires a transcript, a teacher/counselor recommendation, and a paper written for class.
Selectivity: Approximately 5%
Application Deadline: Anticipated: January 16, 2019
The Research Science Institute (RSI) is a science and engineering program designed for students with a strong interest in scientific research. At RSI, students take part in the entire research process, from developing their own research plans to presenting their findings. Students work under the guidance of experienced scientists, who serve as mentors throughout the program. RSI is an opportunity to pursue individual research projects to the highest level on one of the most resource-rich campuses in the world: MIT.
Dates: June - August, 2019. Exact 2019 dates TBA.
Location: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA)
Fees: None. Tuition, room and board are free.
Eligibility: Applicants must be rising seniors at time of application. International students are eligible to apply.
Application Requirements: Applicants must submit detailed, considered responses to five personal statement questions. Students are expected to describe their research focus as well as elaborate on personal goals, accomplishments, and extracurricular activities. References, standardized test scores, and school records are also required.
Selectivity: Approximately 5%
Application Deadline: Anticipated: January 12, 2019
Looking for more personalized summer program advice?
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