The Best Summer Programs for High School Students: Science

The Best Summer Programs for High School Students: Science

There are tons of interesting and fun summer programs out there! However, the ones we most often suggest are those that help you explore your academic interests. As part of your college application, they help demonstrate your intellectual curiosity and commitment to an area of study (typically, the one you might pursue in college).

The following programs are some of our favorites for students interested in science/science research.

Garcia Program, Stony Brook University

This is an intensive seven-week program for gifted high school students which combines formal instruction with independent research and allows students to design original research projects with guidance from Garcia Center faculty, students, and staff. Students can continue during the academic year in the Mentor Program, which allows them to plan a research schedule with a faculty mentor throughout the year. Pre-arranged transportation and class schedules are coordinated with local school boards to enable students from a large geographical area to enroll in the program. Almost three hundred high school students have participated in this program since its inception.

Research Science Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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. Participants experience the entire research cycle from start to finish. They read the most current literature in their field, draft and execute a detailed research plan, and deliver conference-style oral and written reports on their findings. RSI scholars first participate in a week of intensive STEM classes with accomplished professors. The heart of RSI is the five-week research internship where students conduct individual projects under the tutelage of mentors who are experienced scientists and researchers. During the final week of RSI, students prepare written and oral presentations on their research projects.

COSMOS, University of California (Multiple Campuses)

COSMOS is an intensive four-week summer residential program for students who have demonstrated an aptitude for academic and professional careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects. Talented and motivated students completing grades 8-12 have the opportunity to work with renowned faculty, researchers and scientists in state-of-the-art facilities, while exploring advanced STEM topics far beyond the courses usually offered in California high schools. Through challenging curricula that are both hands-on and lab intensive, COSMOS fosters its students’ interests, skills, and awareness of educational and career options in STEM fields.

Simons Summer Research Program, Stony Brook University

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. In addition to learning valuable techniques and experiencing life at a major research university, Simons Fellows attend weekly faculty research talks and participate in special workshops, tours and events. At the closing poster symposium, students are presented with a $1,000 stipend award. Learn more here.

The Summer Science Program

SSP is not a “camp.” It is a unique immersion experience with a strong culture that has evolved over more than half a century. It is talented young people discovering their limits, then overcoming them through collaboration. It is the shock of not being the smartest person in the room, followed by the joy of realizing that’s not a problem, it’s an opportunity. In high school, teenagers learn about science. At SSP, they do science. That’s different! (And why we refer to them as “participants,” not “students.”) SSP is research, not coursework. Participants collaborate in teams of three. Everyone learns from – and teaches – everyone else.

Non-“Program” Ideas We Love

Khan Academy Modules

Free Online Classes from Top Colleges & Universities

Lab Internship/Shadow

  • Cold email! Ask your HS science teachers to help you connect with college labs!

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