Low-Cost or Free Summer Programs for High School Students

Low-Cost or Free Summer Programs for High School Students

Are there Low-Cost or Free Summer Programs for High School Students?

Introduction to Summer Program Options

College campus for a summer program for high school studentsAround the country, there are a variety of summer programs that are available for high school students. Most summer programs have some type of monetary cost for participants. This is particularly true of residential pre-college summer programs, which not only provide educational opportunities for students, but also include room and board. As a result, a structured summer educational program often includes some type of tuition cost and residential programs typically have a cost for both housing and food.

Tree lined path leading to a summer program for studentsIf a student would like to attend a particular summer program, but it is cost prohibitive, it is recommended that the student and/or parent contact an official program representative to inquire about potential options. Some summer program directors and representatives will try to work with students and families to see if the program can be made accessible. In addition, some programs have a limited number of scholarships available and/or financial aid that may be helpful. However, sometimes there is not a workable way to lower the cost of a program of interest.

In addition to contacting a program representative, students may want to consider all of their options to help make the summer productive. For example, students may want to try to find a program nearby them that will not have a residential cost, such as at a local college. A student may decide to examine beneficial alternatives to summer programs, such as finding a part-time job, engaging in career shadowing, prepping for the SAT or ACT, volunteering to do community service, and / or honing skills for an extracurricular activity. It can also be helpful for students to speak with a school counselor or a teacher about ideas and opportunities that can be valuable for the summer.


Information about Summer Programs that are Low-Cost or Free

Students talking outside during a summer pre-college programThere are some summer programs that are considered to be low-cost or that are free. These programs are often sponsored by an organization or there is funding available through a college. It often takes research to be able to find this type of program. Some of these programs are designed for students based upon demographics and/or location.

This article contains examples of low cost or free summer programs, but this is not meant to constitute a comprehensive list. It is also important to note that the cost of a summer program is subject to change. As a result, the cost to attend the summer opportunities included in this article could change depending on the funding status of a program.


Examples of Relatively Low-Cost Summer Programs

  • Penn State – Business Opportunities Summer Program

    Penn State Summer Program for High School StudentsThis high school summer program is designed for students with an interest in majoring in business and potentially pursing a career in the business field. Participating students take mini-courses pertaining to business. These courses enable students to interact with professors at the university, get a feel for college academic expectations, learn about areas in the business field, and gain experience on a college campus.

    This program is residential, which allows students to get a preview of life in a college setting. Participants also can learn about different types of business majors at the university. For those students admitted to the program, there is a relatively low cost to attend. There are also some scholarships available for those students with a financial need.

  • Girls Who Code Summer Program

    High school students working on a computer at summer coding programThis program is designed to help female students learn about a variety of aspects pertaining to computer science. The program is approximately a month and a half in length and it is intended for rising high school juniors and seniors.

    The program provides female students with the chance to engage in experiential learning with a broad variety of technology topics. For example, participants can learn about game design, coding for apps, and robotics. In addition, students gain insight into career paths in the fields of computer science, technology, and engineering. The program has a variety of locations. It is free for accepted students to attend.

  • University of Wisconsin Summer Engineering Program

    University of Wisconsin summer program for high school studentsThis program enables students, with an interest in engineering, to learn more about the field. Students have a chance to enhance their knowledge in the areas of math, science and technology, and to learn about how this academic curriculum directly connects to engineering.

    Students also have the opportunity to engage in hands-on activities, go on field trips, connect with faculty members, and gain knowledge from experts in engineering. The program is approximately a month and a half in length, it is residential, and it is free for accepted applicants. The program is designed for rising high school 11th and 12th graders. It is also designed to attract female students as well as students from backgrounds that have been underrepresented in the engineering field.

  • Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville Healthcare Diversity Summer Program

    Southern Illinois University pre-college summer program for high school studentsThis program is designed to promote healthcare professions for students from minority backgrounds. Through the summer camp, students have the opportunity to learn about majors and jobs in areas like pharmacy, dentistry, and nursing.

    Admitted students also  have a chance to learn from university instructors, gain insight into multiple healthcare fields, and enhance their knowledge and skills. This program is residential and it is free for accepted students. It is intended for high school students entering the 10th, 11th, and 12th grades.

  • Santa Clara University Summer Engineering Seminar Program

    Santa Clara University summer courses for high school studentsThis program is designed for students who are interested in potentially pursuing college majors in engineering and science. Participating students have a chance to learn from instructors, participate in workshops, and develop skills through project-based activities.

    Students also have the opportunity to meet professors and learn about different areas within engineering. This summer program is residential and it is free for accepted students. The program is intended for students who have completed 10th or 11th grade. The program is also meant to support students who have not been exposed to engineering as well as those who have a financial need. Based on the program’s information, female students and students from backgrounds that have been underrepresented in engineering are encouraged to apply.

    The University of Santa Clara also offers a summer program, known as Young Scholars, that enables motivated high school students, who are freshmen through juniors, to take classes at the university for a seventy-five percent reduction from the traditional cost.

  • Research Science Institute Summer Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    Summer research program for high school students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology MIT The Research Science Institute enables motivated and talented students to take classes, work with professors, and engage in research. At the beginning of the program, participants take intensive courses in the STEM areas (science, technology, engineering, and math). Students then build on their knowledge and engage in research with mentorship from leading researchers. Students participate in the different phases of the research process, which culminates with a presentation of their work. The program is free for accepted participants. The program is designed for students in the 11th grade (those having one year left until graduation).

  • Texas A & M Geosciences Summer Program

    Texas A & M summer program for high school studentsThis program, known as GeoX, is run by the College of Geosciences at the university. It provides high school students with the opportunity to learn about a variety of topics in the area of geo/earth science. Students have the chance to engage in unique hands-on activities, learn from instructors at the university, collaborate with peers, and develop a better understanding of the geosciences field.

    The program is designed to enable students to explore high-interest topics, such the physical science of the ocean as well as on the planet of Mars. Through the program, students are able to enhance their knowledge of college majors and occupations in areas relating to the geosciences. In addition, high school students also have a chance to learn about Texas A & M University as well as about the college admission process. This program is free and admission is selective.

  • Stephen F. Austin State University Pre-Med Summer Camp

    Stephen F. Austin summer program for high school studentsStephen F. Austin has a medical summer program for Texas students who are currently 11th graders in high school. The program is designed to help students to learn about academic pathways that can lead to careers in the field of medicine. The program is intended to be for students who are aspiring doctors, dentists, veterinarians, and optometrists.

    Students have a chance to learn from and interact with practitioners in varying medical areas. Participants also have the opportunity to hear from current medical students who are in graduate school. They also learn about taking steps to prepare for the process of applying to graduate schools in the field of medicine.  This program is free for accepted students who live in Texas and preference is given to those students who demonstrate a financial need.

  • Virginia Summer BLAST Program

    UVA summer programs for high school studentsThe BLAST program is designed to help students learn about the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math). It takes places on campuses around the state of Virginia, which include Virginia Tech, UVA, and Old Dominion.

    Through the program, participants have the opportunity to learn from professors and staff members, work together with peers from different locations, and gain experience on a college campus. During the program, students have a chance to participate in  a variety of experiential-based exercises to become more familiar with STEM.

    There is no cost to this program and there is an application process. The program is designed for rising high school freshmen and sophomores from the state of Virginia.

  • Duquesne University Summer Program

    This program, known as the Summer Institute, is designed to provide high school students with a preview of college. Through the program, students have the opportunity to take classes on the campus and learn about life in a college settings.

    Through the program, high school students have a chance to learn from professors, get a feel for college-level coursework, and enhance their understanding of subject area of interest.

    Participating students also have the opportunity to stay on the campus in university-run housing. This enables them to get a feel for living in a college environment. In addition, students have the opportunity to explore the university campus, utilize the college’s resources and facilities, and participate in co-curricular activities.

    This program has been designed for high school 11th and 12th grade students. There is not a cost for qualified students to participate in the program.

  • Manhattan College Summer Engineering Program

    Manhattan offers a summer program that is designed to help students learn about engineering. Through the program, students become more familiar with different facets of engineering. In particular, students gain insight into the varying disciplines within the engineering field (e.g. civil, mechanical, electrical).

    During the program, student can participate in a variety of activities to enhance their knowledge of the engineering field. For example, students have the opportunity to take part in experiential lab exercises, participate in discussions, and learn from instructors and professionals. These learning activities can help high school students to consider if they have an interest in pursuing a major and / or career in engineering and the sciences.

    In addition to engineering, this program is also designed to help students with the college admission process. As a part of the program, students learn about techniques that can be utilized to prep for and take the SAT. There is also information shared about the college admission process that can be useful for college-bound students.

    This program is designed for minority and female students who are rising 11th and 12th graders in New York City. The program does not have a cost. There is an application to complete.

Other Examples of Low-Cost or Free Summer Programs for High School Students

University of Texas at Austin Summer Business Programs for High School Students – Sponsored by the McCombs School of Business. The programs are intended for rising 11th and 12th grades and typically run for six days in length.

University of North Texas Engineering and Computer Science Summer Programs. There are several different programs offered. There are opportunities for students in grades 7 – 12. The typical length is approximately four days. The University of North Texas is in Denton, Texas.

University of Tennessee Summer Business Program. This program is sponsored by the College of Business at the university. It is designed for high school students who are going into their senior year and who represent one of the following: an under-represented background, the first in the family to be college-bound, or qualify for free and reduced lunch. There is no cost for the program. There is a small fee to reserve a space when registering.

Texas A & M University Summer Math Camp. This intensive summer program is for students with a strong interest in mathematics. The program enables students to examine mathematics at an in-depth level and engage in mathematical problem-solving activities. This program is intended for high school students (ages 14-18) and there is not a cost to attend.

University of Wisconsin Summer Engineering Programs in Madison. The program is designed for rising high school 11th and 12th grades and it is typically six weeks in length. The residential program is sponsored by the College of Engineering and the Diversity Affairs Office

Concluding Notes

Overall, there are a variety of  summer program opportunities for high school students. A large number of these programs have some type of cost associated with participation. However, there are some summer programs that are considered to be low-cost or free. These programs may by sponsored by a college or the college may have received funding from an outside source. It often takes some research to find low-cost summer programs of interest.

If a student finds a program of interest that is cost prohibitive, it can sometimes be helpful to speak with an official program representatives to explain the situation and inquire about options. Students can also check to see if local colleges offer commuter-based programs, which tend to be less expensive than those with a housing cost. Students can also check at their school, often with a school counselor, to seek recommendations for summer opportunities.

It is also important to note that there are many different activities that high school students can engage in during the summer. As a result, if a student cannot find a structured summer program that aligns with their goals, interests, and finances, they may opt to pursue other productive alternatives during the summer months.

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Mike Uretsky

Mike has worked in the field of education as a teacher, school counselor, program coordinator, and consultant. As an educator, he has helped high school students find summer programs, pre-college programs, and colleges that align with their interests and goals. He has an interest in assisting students with the transition from high school to college. Mike is the manager of Student Education Programs, an online directory, that is designed to connect high school students with valuable summer pre-college opportunities.

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Donna Andrews

Donna has worked in the field of education in a variety of positions. She has been a high school teacher, college academic skills coordinator, and university professor. She has helped students achieve success in summer STEM programs and sports programs. She has also coordinator and taught in pre-college programs for high school students.

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