Exploring Summer Programs For Middle School Students

By Brandie Erickson March 5, 2024 College Application Press

Many might think that only the activities you do in high school will affect what college you get accepted to or what career path you choose. However, for some, the years before high school can also have a significant influence. Middle schoolers’ involvement in clubs, volunteer activities, and summer programs can shape their interests, set them on paths to future endeavors, and provide a competitive edge when applying to colleges. In addition, participating in summer programs offers an excellent opportunity for students to explore diverse interests not covered in their regular curriculum.

Different Types of Summer Programs

As parents begin to research, they should consider what type of summer camp might be best for their middle school student. Here are some of the popular types of summer programs students can consider.

STEM Camps

These camps will help students build their interest in the STEM field. Featuring hands-on activities, experiments, and practical applications, they stimulate curiosity and innovation, making them an ideal starting point for those considering careers in healthcare, technology, and engineering.

Creative Arts Workshops

Programs focusing on visual arts, performing arts and creative writing can help students develop and express their artistic talents as they learn to creatively express themselves. Some programs end with students producing a play or publishing a book or short story.

Language Immersion Programs

Students can get a taste of global cultures through language immersion, promoting cultural understanding and linguistic proficiency.

Coding and Robotics Camps

With the technology field rapidly expanding each year, more students will likely be drawn to coding and robotics. These types of programs prepare students for the digital age.

What To Look For In A Summer Program

Each summer program will have a different focus, cost and duration, so parents should decide what fits their child’s needs best. By talking to their middle schooler and considering what works best for the family, parents can find a summer program that is a good fit for everyone.

Interests and Passions

Students don’t have to pursue a particular academic subject in camp if that is not where their interests lie. By considering the student’s interests, the summer can be maximized and help them explore new interests.

The goal of a summer program is for a student to explore potential interests or passions. Parents might want to look for programs that have a variety of program activities, giving students access to diverse topics and allowing them to stay engaged and discover hidden talents.

Program Duration and Structure

Summer programs will vary greatly in length—some programs might be virtual programs that require students to log in at certain times, whereas others might be sleepaway camps that last for a week or more. Both types of camps have their pros and cons. Before committing to a camp, consider the flexibility of the camp—some camps might have a better balance between free time and structured activities.

In-person or Virtual

How much time and other commitments a student has might dictate which program is best for them. Some virtual programs require a few hours of commitment daily or are asynchronous. Even though the programs are virtual, many still allow students to do hands-on learning and interact with their peers. On the other hand, in-person camps might be an ideal fit if the student prefers in-person learning and interaction between the instructor and peers.

Program Size

The size of the program and staff-to-participant ratio can significantly impact the overall experience. Consideration of personal preferences, such as a desire for a close-knit community or a larger camp environment, is essential.

Communication and Reviews

Since most middle schoolers are 13 years or younger, some parents might hesitate to send their young child away. Before committing to a particular program, check to see what the communication of the camp is and how parents can be informed of their child’s well-being. Some programs offer a communication platform to help parents stay in touch.

Parents should also read reviews and testimonials from other participants who have attended the program. That can give the best insights into the overall experience, including the program’s strengths and weaknesses.

Cost and Financial Considerations

The cost of summer programs for middle schoolers can vary widely, from a couple hundred dollars to thousands. Before committing, ensure no additional fees might add to the cost. Some programs will also offer scholarships or financial assistance if there is a need.

Educational Summer Programs For Middle School Students

Rising Researchers

Location: Virtual, live

Dates: 3 summer sessions are available: May 21- June 20, June 18- July 25, June 26- July 27

Cost: $3,500, early registration discounts are available

Age requirements: minimum age is rising 8th grade

Deadline: Rolling

Overview: In this program, which is a sister company of Moon Prep, students can choose from multiple research topics, including Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning algorithms, and social determinants of health in cardiovascular disease. In a small class cohort, they will work with an experienced research mentor to guide them through the scientific method and write a research paper. At the end of the program, students will present their research in a poster symposium.

Intermediate Marine Science Camp Program

Location: Seal Harbor, Maine

Dates: June 23 – July 5 and August 4-16, 2024

Cost: $3,200

Age requirements: Typically ages 12-15

Deadline: Rolling

Overview: During the two-week course, students will learn more about natural history and how it relates to oceanography. They will also be exposed to basic marine concepts and laboratory procedures. Throughout the program, they will get hands-on experiences as they explore island geology, compare salt marshes and bogs, create a saltwater tank and study the diversity and zonation of tidal pools.

Traveling Players

Location: Leesburg, VA

Dates: Various, typically 3 weeks

Cost: $3,700 – $5,700

Age requirements: Varies, but typically between 6-8 grades

Deadline: Last audition/interview dates are end of January

Overview: Traveling Players is one of the top performing arts and theatre programs. For the sleepaway camps, students must first audition or interview first. There are multiple options available, including Mythology Ensemble, Thespian Ensemble, Improv Intensive, Shakespeare Ensemble and Technical Theatre. Students interested in theater are sure to find something that fits their interests through these camps!

Middle School Programs – School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC)

Location: In-person (Chicago, IL) and virtual

Dates: Varies

Cost: $600

Age requirements: 10-13 years old

Deadline: Rolling

Overview: There are a variety of classes available, including Draw Studio, Animation Studio, Painting Studio, Fashion Studio and Comics and Graphic Novels. During the course, students are encouraged to express themselves through out-of-the-box thinking and creativity in their in-class projects.

Oregon State University – Stem Academy

Location: Corvallis, OR (Oregon State University)

Dates: Dates vary

Cost: $90-300

Age requirements: Rising 6-8th graders

Deadline: Registration opens in late February

Overview: The topics for summer 2024 have yet to be finalized, but in 2023, students could choose from a variety of subjects, including Wild About Wildlife Camp, Making with Microcontrollers, Engineering Camps, ActivityBots Camp and Flying Robots Camp. Some programs take students on field trips and give students hands-on learning opportunities.

Junior Scientist Training Program at Scripps Research

Location: La Jolla, California

Dates: TBD

Cost: $300

Age requirements: Rising 6-8th graders

Deadline: Rolling

Overview: As students design and work on a research project, they will gain practical experience. They will also go on laboratory tours and partake in STEM activities. At the end of the week, students will present their findings to their peers. Students will also receive a certificate of completion from Scripps Research.

Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY)

Location: Varies, virtual and in-person options

Dates: Varies

Cost: $6,000+

Age requirements: 2-12 grade

Deadline: Rolling

Overview: CTY offers a host of different classes, including Astrophysics, Cryptology, Game Theory and Economics and many more. Students also can choose from a variety of locations all over the country to give them a chance to learn with their peers.

Northwestern University Center for Talent Development (CTD)

Location: Evanston, IL and online

Dates: Varies

Cost: Varies

Age requirements: Varies, but available for students in grades 6-8

Deadline: Rolling

Overview: Northwestern University CTD offers a plethora of different in-person and online programs. Students can develop their leadership skills through hands-on learning opportunities through the Summer Leadership Intensive at Northwestern or summer online programs that allow for academic acceleration. Students might also get high school credit for classes taken.

Emory University: Middle School Summer Debate Workshops

Location: Atlanta, GA (Emory University)

Dates: July 8-12, July 15-19

Cost: N/A

Age requirements: Rising 6th-8th grade

Deadline: Rolling

Overview: This in-person debate camp allows students to learn foundational debate skills. The students will learn how to respond to arguments, compare evidence, public speaking and research literacy skills. Students who have experience debating at Atlanta Urban Debate League (AUDL) middle school tournaments can join the advanced skills camps.

Georgia Tech: The Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing Expanded Learning Programs

Location: Atlanta, GA (Georgia Tech) and online

Dates: Varies

Cost: $225-450

Age requirements: K-12

Deadline: students are accepted on a rolling basis

Overview: The program aims to help students learn valuable skills like coding at a young age. Students will experiment to learn to be more creative as they create their STEAM project. Online options are also available for students who cannot travel to the on-site location.

MSM Steam Academy (Morehouse School of Medicine)

Location: Atlanta, GA (Morehouse University)

Dates: June 3-28

Cost: $800

Age requirements: Rising 5-8th graders

Deadline: Rolling

Overview: This four-week program is full of enriching opportunities that incorporate engineering/technology, exploratory studies and health in its curriculum. Additionally, students will learn how to create health science mobile applications.

Summer Discovery

Location: Georgetown University or UCLA

Dates: Varies, courses are typically 2-3 weeks in length

Cost: Varies

Age requirements: Rising 6-8th graders

Deadline: Rolling

Overview: Summer Discovery offers pre-college summer academic experiences for students. With more than 50 courses available, students are sure to find something they are interested in. Some options include “Speak Out, The Art of Persuasion,” “Fantasy Football, By The Numbers,” “The Science Behind Crime Solving” and more. Not all courses are available at both campuses, so check before registering.

This article was originally published on Forbes.