Competitive (And Free) Summer Programs For High School Students

By Brandie Erickson February 26, 2024 College Application Press Summer Plans

Even though summer is months away, high school students should already start thinking about summer plans. Do they want to attend a competitive summer program? Work on an intensive volunteer project? Job shadow or get a job to gain work experience?

No matter what students decide to do, the summer break can be an excellent time to explore interests, enhance skills or gain experiences that could shape their academic and professional futures. By attending competitive summer programs, students can jump start their hands-on experiences and growth as a student.

Benefits Of Attending A Competitive Summer Program

Students might think the main benefit of attending a competitive summer program is the boost they get on their resume. Colleges will see that they attended an intensive program and automatically think they are top students who deserve a place at their school. While that isn’t entirely true, there are other benefits to attending a program.

  1. Academic Enrichment – Students are often exposed to classes like physics, chemistry, economics and English but rarely have access to specialized coursework beyond their high school curriculum. This allows students to dive deep into a new subject area they haven’t had a chance to fully explore yet. Some programs will focus on forensic science, drug discovery or renewable energy—topics that might also influence a student’s choice of a major or career path.
  2. Exposure To College Life – Many of these competitive summer programs are hosted on a college campus, meaning students will travel away from their friends and family, potentially for the first time. Through these extended programs, students will get a taste of what college life will be like, which might also influence what type of college campus they see themselves at in the coming years.
  3. Skill Development – Students spend all school year sitting in a classroom and learning, but summer programs allow students to hone skills like leadership, research or analytic thinking in real-world situations. These experiences can help a student stand out from their peers when applying to colleges.
  4. Networking Opportunities – For potentially the first time, students might interact with people they haven’t grown up with. Networking with like-minded peers and experienced mentors could open the doors for future internships, collaborative projects or mentorship.
  5. Personal Growth – Being away from home will give students a sense of independence as they learn to adapt to new environments and manage time effectively. These skills can be highlighted later when students are writing their college admission essays.

You can see the full list of Competitive (And Free) Summer Programs For High School Students in our Forbes article here.