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Summer Programs for High School Students in California

Introduction – California Summer Programs for High School Students

This page of the directory includes information about California summer and camps programs. There are many programs that are available throughout the state. This includes summer opportunities in both Northern and Southern California.The state of California summer programs for high school students California summer program locations include places such as Los Angeles, Berkeley, the Bay Area, Davis, San Luis Obispo, Irvine and many more. This page includes general information about summer programs and this is followed by a variety of specific summer program options for high school students in the state of California.

Finding Summer Programs of Interest in California

University of Calfornia Berkeley summer pre-college programsMany of the summer programs for high school students in California are educationally-oriented. This provides tudents with the opportunity to continue their learning after the traditional academic year has ended.

Through summer opportunities, students have a chance to explore a topic that is not typically offered in a traditional school setting. Alternatively, students can continue to develop knowledge in an area that they enjoyed learning about at their high school.

There are many factors that may play a role in finding and choosing summer programs for high school students in California. For example, students can consider factors such as location, cost, housing options, subject area of focus, and dates. These items can be used to determine which programs would be good matches.

To learn more about factors that can be considered when choosing a summer program, please visit our blog article entitled ‘factors to consider when choosing a summer program.’

The UC System, the CSU System, Private Colleges, and Organizations

Fresno State University high school summer programsAccording to the World Atlas, California ranks in the top ten states with the most colleges. There is the University of California system, the California State University system, community colleges, and many reputable private colleges.

Many of these colleges offer summer programs for high school students. This increases the options that are available for students from both in and out of the state. There are also a number of organizations, such as museums, that coordinate programs. This serves to further enhance the options for students. 

California Summer Program Topics for Students

Summer theatre program for high school students in California

One of the benefits of participating in a structured summer program involves learning about a topic of interest. Due to the variety of different summer programs for high school students in California, there is a range of subject areas available. For example, some high school students may want to enhance their skills in music, others may want to explore business, while others may want gain to insight into the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields.

California summer science program for high school studentsCalifornia summer programs vary in structure and subject area. There are programs that focus on one topic and enable students to learn about this area at an in-depth level.

There are other programs that allow high school students to take introductory level college courses during the summer. For example, the University of California Santa Barbara has a program that provides qualified high school students with the opportunity to take two different courses on the campus during the summer.

California Pre-College Summer Programs

University of California Davis summer pre-college program for high school studentsIn general, pre-college programs are designed to prepare students for the college environment. These programs are intended to help students gain an understanding of the educational opportunities and/or the experiences of life on a college campus. Many of these programs are offered by colleges and universities. However, there are also pre-college summer programs that are coordinated and run by organizations.

California State University summer programsDuring pre-college summer programs, high school students can have a chance to engage in academic activities, learn about a college, work with professors, meet new peers with similar interests, and consider potential college majors.

Pre-college residential programs typically give students a chance to stay in campus housing, use college dining facilities, and preview life beyond academics. Commuter programs enable students to experience a college campus and to learn in an academically-oriented setting, while being able to return home when the daily educational activities have concluded.

Researching and Finding Summer Programs in California

USC summer college courses for high school studentsThe structure of the activities, nature of the daily schedule, and the opportunities provided depend upon a specific summer program. As a result, students are encouraged to research different programs to find opportunities that would line up with goals and expectations. High school students can begin learning about specific summer programs by examining options on this page.

California Summer Program Spotlights

UCLA Summer Science and ArtProgram for High School Students

UCLA Sci|Art Nanolab Summer Program

University of California Santa Barbara Summer Program for High School Students

UC Santa Barbara Pre-College
Summer Program

UC Riverside summer program for high school students

UC Riverside Summer Academy for Advanced High School Students

California Summer Programs Directory

California College of the Arts Summer Pre-College Art Program for High School Studenets

California College of the Art Pre-College Summer Program – Bay Area, California
The California College of the Arts (CCA) Pre-College Program is a summer opportunity designed for high school learners. It takes place on CCA’s Bay Area campuses. The program is intended for juniors and seniors and recent graduates. The pre-college program enables students to experience life on a college campus, develop as an artist, gain confidence, and meet peers with a similar interest. Participants can embrace their interest in art and design and work on pieces that can be used in a portfolio. There are many different studio options available, including animation, ceramics, film, fashion design, photography, painting, and many more.
Participants: High school students and recent graduates.

Perception Science Program
UC Berkeley

Perception Science Program at the University of California, Berkeley – Berkeley, California
This program provides the opportunity for high school learners to engage in state of the art research in vision science. Students participate in every phase of the research process in this immersive experience and work with members of the UC Berkeley Whitney lab to develop and test new research ideas. Students also learn about computer coding and statistical analysis, which are significant aspects of science research. Overall, participating students learn about experimental design, neuroscience topics, statistical analysis, and scientific presentations during this unique summer opportunity.

UC Davis


University of California, Davis Summer Pre-College Program – Davis, California.
UC Davis provides high school students with a residency-based pre-college summer program. Students have the opportunity to gain experience on a college campus, learn about topics of interest, preview college life, work with staff members, and meet motivated peers at a leading research university.  Past program topics have included coastal and marine science, aquaponics, and equine science.
Participants: High school students.

UCLA Summer Science and ArtProgram for High School Students

UCLA SCI | Art Nanolab Summer Program – Los Angeles, California
This program provides a unique opportunity for high school students to explore topics from an interdisciplinary perspective. Students have the opportunity to learn from faculty members and other experts in the fields art, design, and science. This institute enables students to learn about and exhibit creativity and analytical thinking as they gain insight into the connections between the arts and the sciences.

During the program, students have the chance to become familiar with the resources at UCLA, visit labs, collaborate with peers, interact with instructors, and participate in hands-on activities. Students also take part in high-level discussions about interesting interdisciplinary topics. Through these learning exercises, students enhance their knowledge and understanding of cross-curricular science and art concepts. Students also have the opportunity to engage in project-based learning based upon the wide reaching topics that they learning about in the program.

This summer program is designed to be residential. As a result, students have the chance to stay on the university campus during the program and to get a feel for living and learning in a college setting.

Participants: High school 11th and 12th graders.


UCLA Theatre Performing Arts Pre-College Summer Institutes – Los Angeles, California
The Department of Theatre at UCLA provides high school learners with the chance to enhance their acting, singing and dancing skills through well-developed sessions that are taught by the faculty members and industry experts. The summer program enables students to gain the experience that can help them prepare to participate in a university’s performing arts program. The program can help students to explore and consider career pathways in the performing arts.
Participants: High school students.

Cal Poly

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo EPIC Summer Engineering Camp – San Luis Obispo, California
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo offers a summer program known as EPIC (Engineering Possibilities in College). This camp is designed to help students learn about variety of engineering areas. Participants have the chance to participate in practical labs, gain hands-on experiences, learn from college professors and leading experts, learn about life on a college campus, and meet new friends. In addition, participating students have the opportunity to develop their own projects in high-interest areas through an experiential learning approach.
Participants: High school students and middle school students

UC Riverside summer program for high school students

University of California, Riverside Summer Academy – Riverside, California
The UC Riverside Summer Academy Program gives students the opportunity to take college-level classes, learn from university professors, and gain experience on a college campus. The program enables students to extend their learning beyond the academic year, gain insight into a subject at an in-depth level, explore potential college majors, and consider career options.
Participants: High school juniors and seniors

University of California Santa Cruz summer program for high school students

University of California, Santa Cruz Summer University  – Riverside, California
Summer University for high school students at UC Santa Cruz provides a pre-college academic and living experience. This program enables eligible students to take college-level courses during the summer and includes residential option on the campus.

Through this program, high school students can take classes in areas of interest along with current college students. There is a wide variety of classes that are offered including options in the sciences, social sciences, mathematics, world language and more. The wide range of subject areas allows high school students to delve deeply into topics of interest and to develop a sense of the academics standards in a college environment.

Current students at the university serve as mentors in order to assist students as they learn about academics and life in a college setting. In addition, high school participants have the option of living on campus during this summer program. This provides an opportunity to gain insight into what it is like to live on a college campus. During the program, students also have access to many of the resources that are available at the university.

Participants: High school students who have finished 10th or 11th grade with an eligible academic performance.

Sacramento State career academy summer program for high school students

Sacramento State Summer Career Academies  – Sacramento, California
This summer program at Sacramento State offers high school students a unique opportunity to explore, discover, and learn about career options in a variety of areas. There are a number of different career pathways within this program and students can choose an academy based upon their interests and aspirations. The options include fashion, education, business, STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math) as well as others.

Through the program, high school students can engage in a range of activities, which include experiential learning about careers. Students can also speak with and learn from professors, meet other participants from different schools, share and listen to ideas through discussions, and visit places to observe professionals in action.

This is a commuter summer program, which is designed to provide enriching educational experiences during the day and then have students return to home after the daily schedule has concluded. There are some scholarship opportunities for this program.

Participants: High school students who are entering their freshman through senior year as well as those who have just completed their senior year.

University of California San Diego summer program for high school students

University of California, San Diego Academic Connections Summer Program – San Diego, California
UCSD provides a summer program for high school students called Academic Connections. Through this program, qualified high school students have the opportunity to take an intensive class in a subject of interest during a three week period. There are a variety of courses that students can choose from and these are most often taught by advanced graduate students at the university. The courses are designed to include different types of learning experiences such as discussions, interesting lectures, and hands-on activities.

While this summer program can help students get a preview of the educational expectations in a college setting, it also provides them a chance to learn about life on a campus beyond academics. As a result, students can stay in a university dormitory, get to know the facilities on the campus, and participate in extracurricular activities.

Participants: High school students who meet the academic eligibility requirements.


Economics Summer Program at Chapman University – Orange, California
The Economic Science Institute and Thomas W. Smith Foundation offer an economics summer workshop for rising junior and senior learners at Chapman University. Students who have not had a previous economics course have the opportunity to become interested in the foundations and principles of economics. Participants who have had prior experience with economics can enhance their interest in this field by examining new topics and analyzing new information. The program is designed to be a week-long experience during summer.
Participants: Junior and senior students


COSMOS Summer STEM Program – Campus Sites around California
COSMOS is a summer residency program for learners who have shown promise in academic areas related to STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math) and who would like to pursue a career field in this area. The program provides participants with the chance to gain experience on a college campus, meet motivated peers, participate in hands-on activities, and learn from leading faculty members and science experts. The summer program involves intensive hands-on and laboratory activities to help students develop skills and enhance their knowledge in STEM areas.
Participants: Students completing grades 8 – 12.

embARC Summer Design Academy

embARC Summer Design Academy at the University of California Berkeley – Berkeley, California
The UC Berkeley College of of Environmental Design offers a summer program called embARC. This program enables high school students to learn about high-interest areas such as architecture, urban design, and sustainable city planning. Participating students engage in workshops, discussions, hands-activities, and a community project. The program involves an architecture & urban design studio, a community build project, environmental design discussions, and a digital design workshop. The program’s interdisciplinary approach allows students view significant areas of study with a unique perspective.
Participants: Students who have completed 10th or 11th grade in high school.

San José State

San José State Summer Music Program – San José, California
The summer music program at San José State is known as Summer in the City. It is a pre-college program that provides students with a chance to enhance their music skills and be surrounded by others who have an interest in music. Participating students have the opportunity to learn from faculty members and musicians. They also gain experience participating in an ensemble, a chamber ensemble, and music courses of interest. The program culminates with student engaging in performances. The program is divided into a high school session and junior high session.
Participants: High school and junior high school students.


USC Summer Pre-College Courses – Los Angeles, California
The University of Southern California (USC) offers summer opportunities for high school students. The university has a four week summer course option in which students can choose classes from a wide variety of subject areas. There is also a two week option that enables students to explore the area of architecture or health.

Participating students have the opportunity to learn from professors, work with peers from different places, enhance their knowledge in a subject area, and engage in active learning exercises. High school students can also learn about the university’s campus, preview college life, and explore possible majors. There is an application for this program.

Participants: High school students completing their freshman year by the start of the summer.