Top 16 STEM Summer Programs

Farah Weheba
Farah Weheba

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Summer is quickly approaching, and you’re in the planning stages. As a STEM major hopeful, how should you design your summer for maximal learning and college admission impact? For instance, should you take classes at a local community college? On the other hand, volunteer at a hospital? Or shoul you apply to STEM summer programs for high school students? Which ones are still accepting applications anyway? We’ve got you covered.

You may feel nervous about applying to colleges as a prospective STEM major. In fact, you may want to maximize your summer extracurricular impact to gain the best experience possible… while also standing out in the college admissions process. Empowerly is here to help!

This summer, engage anything that can help you build your story with a focus. Therefore, your summer research plans should align with a focused extracurricular story about a specific passion or talent that you seek to present to college admissions readers. 

For instance, if you are interested in neuroscience, then you should participate in a relevant summer activity. For example, a summer research program, neuroscience courses at a community college, or preparation for a Brain Bee competition.

This article is specifically tailored to students building a story in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). STEM encompasses hard sciences like physics, chemistry, geology. It also cross-disciplinary fields and majors like biomedical engineering and chemical engineering, computer science, statistics, applied math… to name a few.

Below are some of the top STEM summer programs for high school students in the US. That is to say, these pack the biggest admissions punches for STEM-focused applicants, intending to declare a STEM major. Most of the programs on the list are free to attend if selected, but programs that come with a cost are denoted with: ($). 


Top 16 STEM Summer Programs

  1.   RSI Research Science Institute Read Empowerly’s post about RSI
  2.   PROMYS Program for Mathematics for Young Scientists at Boston University
  3.   SSP The Summer Science Program New Mexico Tech, U Boulder, Purdue, Indiana
  4.   Governor’s School (multi-state)
  5.   RISE The Research in Science and Engineering Program (RISE): Boston University 
  6.   MITES Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES) at MIT
  7.   SuMaC Stanford University Mathematics Camp Read post about SUMaC
  8.   SIP Science Internship Program UCSC. priority given to SF Bay Area students. ($) 
  9.   SAMS Summer Academy for Math and Science at Carnegie Mellon, PA. ($)
  10.   HCSSIM Hampshire College Summer Studies in Math Massachusetts ($)
  11.   MAthILy Math With Levity Bryn Mawr College Pennsylvania 
  12.   HSHSP High School Honors Science, Math, Engineering Program Michigan ($)
  13.   Clark Scholars Program at Texas Tech
  14.   Notre Dame Summer Scholars Indiana 
  15.   SSRP Simons Summer Research Program
  16.   SIMR Stanford Institutes of Medicine Summer Research Program priority Bay Area students 

Other free STEM summer programs carry moderate college admissions value. Beyond the paid programs listed above, other high-dollar summer programs in STEM are widely available, but those tend to have less admissions value. 

Applications are still being accepted to…

1) SIMR The Stanford Institutes of Medicine Summer Research Program 

Application Deadline: Feb 22, 2020

During this 8-week summer internship program, high school juniors and seniors perform basic research with Stanford faculty, postdoctoral fellows, students and researchers on a medically-oriented project. As a result, high school students will gain valuable experience in biological sciences and medicine and understand how scientific research is performed. 

Selection Criteria:

  • Must be U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a green card
  • Selection process heavily favors local Bay Area students 

After that, the program consists of hands-on research under the direct guidance of a one-on-one mentor. Furthermore, applicants can choose from eight areas of research (institutes):

  1. Immunology
  2. Neurobiology
  3. Cancer Biology
  4. Bioengineering
  5. Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine
  6. Cardiovascular Biology
  7. Bioinformatics
  8. Genetics and Genomics

After students are accepted, they are then assigned to a specific institute based on their choices. Most important, there is no cost to attend beyond a $40 application fee. Additionally, all admits receive a $500 spending stipend, potentially more depending on evidenced need. 

2) PROMYS Program for Mathematics for Young Scientists 

Application Deadline: March 15, 2020 11:59pm EST

The PROMYS program allows 80 students per summer to creatively engage math at Boston University for 6 weeks. The program engages aspiring mathematicians in number theory, problem sets, analysis of math patterns. Not only that, students test conjectures, and defend theories, by designing mathematical proofs to develop scientific creativity. As a result, expect to attend lectures by faculty in math topics and applications thereof on developing technologies. 

Select participants are asked to return the next year for the advanced PROMYS/Clay Mathematics Institute program. Similarly, this sequel summer offers advanced seminars and research projects in topics like Algebra, Geometry, Statistical Inference, and Symmetry. So, Euclidean fans rejoice; easy as Pi and the unit circle! 

3) HSHSP High School Honors Science/Mathematics/Engineering Program 

Application Deadline: March 1, 2020

HSHSP is a seven-week, intensive residential summer research program designed for a motivated group of 24 students to work on a research project under the mentorship of a university researcher.

Tuition: $3,800 (covers room, board, and some instructional costs)

Selection Criteria:

  • Incoming senior (at least 16 years old)
  • Only US citizens and permanent residents
  • Scholastic ability, maturity, evidence of interest in science, engineering, or mathematics and completion of specified high school courses in science and mathematics
  • Student must be in the upper 20 percent of high school classes, and have taken at least 3 years of college preparatory mathematics and 2, or more years of science
  • Submit Two 400-600 word essays. See tips for writing good summer program essays here
  • Letters of recommendation from at least two high school teachers 

Students will be required to give a presentation in their high school science class or another appropriate forum, about their research project and program experience upon returning home. Preparation of their project for a local or national science fair also will be encouraged.

4) SUMaC Stanford University Mathematics Camp 

Application Deadline: March 11, 2020

SUMaC offers intensive study in advanced mathematics for talented rising high school juniors and seniors. Plus, SUMaC accepts from around the world, so international students can apply!

SUMaC offers two courses called Program I and Program II, with unique topics for each course. Students are enrolled in just one program during the summer, and the two programs allow students to potentially return for a second summer.

  1. Program I: Abstract Algebra & Number Theory
  2. Program II: Algebraic Topology

Read about an Empowerly employee’s experience at SUMaC here

5) SSP The Summer Science Program

Application Deadline: February 28, 2020 

This program is ideal for those who want to conduct research in Astrophysics or Biochemistry

The 39-day program operates under the idea that today’s high school students will be inventors of the future- scientists and engineers, doctors and entrepreneurs. Moreover, SSP aims to nurture the potential of such students via providing mentors, challenging work, like-minded peers, and developing confidence. 

The program engages hands-on experimental science working in teams of 3 to complete research projects, collecting and analyzing data, with room for field trips and lectures, too. 

2020 Planned Dates

  • Astrophysics at New Mexico Tech – June 14-July 22, 2020
  • Astrophysics at CU Boulder – June 21-July 29, 2020
  • Biochemistry at Purdue Univ. – June 14-July 22, 2020
  • Biochemistry at Indiana Univ. – June 21-July 29, 2020
5) SIP Science Internship Program (priority given to SF Bay Area students) 

Application Deadline: March 20, 2020  5:00pm PST 

SIP is a 10-week (2 weeks online, 8 weeks in-person) research internship program for high school students. The UCSC campus and UCSC faculty, graduate students, and post-doctoral researchers host the program. Attending students jump into ongoing research at UCSC.

Students must be at least 14 years of age on the program start date of June 8, 2020 and be current high school students to apply.  Additionally, SIP interns are usually rising seniors in the summer between junior and senior year. 

Unlike most of the other summer programs on the list, this program is not free to attend, but financial aid for qualifying students is available. Without aid, however, the program costs $4,000 to attend; plus, the additional cost of optional dormitory housing. 

Interested students should demonstrate a high level of interest in a specific research topic subject, eagerness to learn new concepts, and demonstrate analytical thinking. 

6) SAMS Summer Academy for Math and Science at CMU

Application Deadline: March 15, 2020  

The Summer Academy for Math and Science (SAMS) provides opportunities for students from underrepresented communities to explore STEM fields and earn college credit. This program does have varying associated costs.  

The program allows students to develop deeper understanding in areas such as mathematics, biology, physics and computer programming via traditional classroom instruction, hands-on projects and engagement activities to foster collaboration. The program aims to strengthen student commitment to entering STEM career fields, improve diverse representation in those fields,  and introduce lifelong mentors. 

7) Mathly Math With Levity at Bryn Mawr College 

Application Deadline: April 28, 2020 

Mathly provides five weeks of inquiry-based learning June 28 – August 1, 2020. Students apply to qualify for either program MathILy, or MathILy-Er, depending on their demonstrated academic level. The two programs admit students with different degrees of mathematical experience. In other words, MathILy-Er prepares students for MathILy and other selective summer math programs. 

Class is in session 7 hours per day, 6 days per week, and is led by an Instructor who is a mathematician with a Ph.D. Initially, the first two weeks of class cover foundational topics like combinatorics, graph theory, affine geometry, and theoretical linear algebra, probability, and more detail here. The third week, however, is termed Week of Chaos, where suggestions for exploration guide the curriculum. The final two weeks cover the most advanced branch topics. 

8) HSHSP High School Honors Science, Math, Engineering Program Michigan

Application Deadline: March 1, 2020 

This program is for high school juniors interested in working independently on detailed, focused, investigative research. This summer program has been going strong since 1958 at Michigan State University. 

The cost of the program is $3,800 including room and board, with some need-based scholarships available. 

Applying to summer programs is similar to applying to colleges. Similarly, you should apply for reach, target, and safety programs. Keep in mind that the programs listed above are reach programs for every student, so you should also apply for some target or safety summer programs to hedge your bets.

For tips about engaging self-directed summer research activities instead of summer program attendance, see this article.  

Many of our students have been successfully admitted to most of these STEM summer programs. Chat with one of our enrollment team members to find out how!

Questions? Let us know!