Best 2019 Pre-College Summer Programs for High Schoolers


It’s the beginning of the new year, which means one thing for high schoolers: it’s time to start applying to summer programs. While there are many summer opportunities for freshman, sophomores, juniors, and even seniors, it's best to keep in mind which summer programs are worth your time.

Summer programs come in all forms--some are for students who want to prepare for a standardized test, such as the SAT or the ACT, and others are for students who want to get college credit, like taking advanced classes at a local community college or nearby university.

What has become more popular in recent times is the “pre-college” summer programs. These programs are selective and held at prestigious universities or national institutions. They often only accept the best of the best high school students, so anyone who participates will surely impress college admissions officers.

I’ve gathered a list of these selective “pre-college” summer programs. Notice that most of the applications are due in the next few weeks, and the applications can be pretty extensive, requiring essay responses and letters of recommendation. So, if you are on the fence, now is the time to review your options and start applying!

Texas Summer Programs

MD Anderson - High School Program in Biomedical Sciences

Summary from website: “This six-week exploratory program is for college-bound students that have recently graduated from a Texas high school. Participants experience various laboratory techniques, learn about the research process, and explore the fields of Clinical Laboratory Science, Cytogenetic Technology, Cytotechnology, Diagnostic Imaging, Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Histotechnology, Medical Dosimetry, Molecular Genetic Technology and Radiation Therapy.”

DEADLINE: 1/17/2019

University of Texas at Austin - NASCENT Fellows Program

Summary from website: “The NASCENT Fellows program is an engineering summer research program designed for students in 10–12th grade. Each summer, local high school students are selected to join graduate and undergraduate students for seven weeks of laboratory research as Fellows. These “layered research teams” will attack problems in nanomanufacturing and make significant contributions to ongoing projects. Each high school student will give a final presentation of their results at the end of the summer.”

DEADLINE: 1/18/2019

Texas Tech - Clark Scholars Program

Summary from website: “The Clark Scholar Program is an intensive seven week summer research program for highly qualified high school juniors and seniors.”

DEADLINE: 2/22/2019

NASA & University of Texas at Austin - Summer Intern Program

Summary from website: “NASA, Texas Space Grant Consortium, and The University of Texas at Austin Center for Space Research Summer Intern Program is a nationally competitive STEM program for high school students. The program provides selected students with exposure to Earth and space research. Interns will learn how to interpret NASA satellite data while working with scientists and engineers in their chosen area of work.”

DEADLINE: 3/1/2019

USA (National) Summer Programs

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) - SAMS Program

Summary from website: “The Summer Academy for Math and Science (SAMS) is a six-week residential summer program at Carnegie Mellon University for minoritized student groups interested in pursuing STEM-related undergraduate majors. The program offers two distinct cohorts for rising seniors and a smaller cohort for rising juniors. Admitted students engage in a rigorous curriculum taught by our world renowned faculty and staff who are deeply committed to student success. Selected students have an opportunity to choose from two different academic tracks; Science and Engineering, and Computer Science. Both tracks allow students to develop deeper understanding in areas such as mathematics, physics and computer programming via traditional classroom instruction and hands-on projects.”

DEADLINE: Rolling basis started 1/3/2019

MIT - RSI Program

Summary on website: “Each summer, 80 of the world's most accomplished high school students gather at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for the Research Science Institute (RSI). RSI is the first cost-free to students, summer science & engineering program to combine on-campus course work in scientific theory with off-campus work in science and technology research.”

DEADLINE: 1/15/2019

Stony Brook University - Simons Summer Research Program

Summary from website: “Established in 1984 as an outreach program for local high school students, the Simons Summer Research program now attracts applicants from all across the country to the Stony Brook campus: Simons Fellows are matched with Stony Brook faculty mentors, join a research group or team, and assume responsibility for a project. The Simons Fellows conclude their apprenticeship by producing a written research abstract and a research poster.”

DEADLINE: 1/23/2019

MIT - MITES Program

Summary from website: “This six-week program provides students with the opportunity to live on MIT's campus while they are taking five courses (physics, calculus, life science, humanities and a STEM elective), each with homework assignments and exams. During the program, students will also participate in social events and build a community with their peers.”

DEADLINE: 2/1/2019

University of Pennsylvania - Wharton’s Leadership in Business World

Summary from website: “Sponsored by Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Leadership in the Business World (LBW) is an intensive summer program for a select group of rising high school seniors who want an introduction to a top-notch undergraduate business education and the opportunity to hone their leadership, teamwork, and communication skills. Since 1999, LBW has brought students from six continents and nearly every state to the Wharton School.”

DEADLINE: 2/1/2019

Yale University - Young Global Scholars

Summary from website: “Yale Young Global Scholars emphasizes an open, exploratory, and collaborative approach to learning. Our program is designed to allow students to experience learning in a variety of different university contexts, from large lectures to small seminars, and even the spontaneous learning that happens in dining halls and around campus.”

DEADLINE: 2/6/2019

Boston University - RISE Program

Summary from website: “Students who are passionate about the sciences and currently in their junior year of high school are invited to apply for the Research in Science & Engineering (RISE) program. Spend six weeks at BU conducting university laboratory research with some of the nation's brightest scientific minds, and advance your knowledge and skills in the sciences.”

DEADLINE: 2/14/2019

Stanford University - Stanford Institutes of Summer Medical Research Program

Summary from website: “The Stanford Institutes of Medicine Summer Research Program (SIMR) is an eight-week program in which high school students from diverse backgrounds are invited to perform basic research with Stanford faculty, postdoctoral fellows, students and researchers on a medically-oriented project. The goals of the program include increasing interest in biological sciences and medicine in high school students, helping students to understand how scientific research is performed, and increasing diversity of students and researchers in the sciences.”

DEADLINE: 2/23/2019

National Institute of Health (US. Dept. Health and Human Services) - Biomedical Research HS Summer Program

Summary from website: “High School SIP provides an opportunity to spend a summer working at the NIH side-by-side with some of the leading scientists in the world, in an environment devoted exclusively to biomedical research.”

DEADLINE: 3/1/2019

Boston University - PROMYS Program

Summary from website: “PROMYS is a six-week summer program at Boston University designed to encourage strongly motivated high school students to explore in depth the creative world of mathematics in a supportive community of peers, counselors, research mathematicians, and visiting scientists. Professor Glenn Stevens, the Director of PROMYS, founded the program in 1989 together with other members of the current faculty.”

DEADLINE: 4/1/2019

Final thoughts

This list is not comprehensive, so you may want to see what else is out there based on your own interests. (I know that we skew more towards STEM and business.) One thing to keep in mind as you search for programs is that the best ones should cost nothing or very little. Prestigious pre-college summer programs should offer scholarships, stipends, and/or fellowships that pay for the cost of tuition and rooming. You most likely, however, will have to pay for travel.

If you are paying thousands of dollars for tuition, then you are just taking classes at a university (most likely) and college admissions officers won’t give that experience quite the same weight as they would other, more selective programs. (Note: There are some programs on my list that do cost a lot of money still, so there will be exceptions. Just do your research before committing.)

Planning on applying to pre-college summer programs? Get help with your application materials. Our professionals can help you brainstorm, draft, and edit application essays, prepare resumes, and overall manage your application process.

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