High school students on break for the summer may want to use this time to expand their knowledge and skills outside of a traditional classroom setting. Summer programs offer a chance to get hands-on experience in a specific topic of interest. They also provide opportunities for networking, academic enrichment, and personal growth – all of which can help when it comes time to apply to university.
But many summer programs come with a hefty price tag that not all students can afford. Thankfully, there are also plenty of opportunities offered free of charge, including free online programs for high school students. If you know where to look.
To help you with your search, here’s our list of the top 10 FREE summer programs for high school students 2023.
MIT Women’s Technology Program
The Women’s Technology Program (WTP) hosted at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is an immersive four-week summer academic experience specifically designed to introduce high school students to the world of engineering. Students gain access to hands-on classes, engaging labs, and collaborative team projects. The rigorous learning environment for students in the WTP is designed for the summer after 11th grade.
According to MIT, WTP is for students who are excited about learning, have demonstrated their ability to excel at math and science in their high school classes, and who have very little or no prior experience in engineering. The program also caters to those who might not otherwise have access to such experiences.
WTP is an in-person program. It’s free to apply and free to attend if you are accepted. Applicants must be in the 11th grade and live in the U.S. year round.
Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES)
Another free summer program for high school students 2023 is MITES – a six-week, on-campus experience that immerses students in high-level math and science education. MITES also offers a wide range of electives in cutting-edge fields like Machine Learning and Genomics. The goal is to give students access to various STEM learning opportunities.
The MITES Summer program also provides valuable insights into college life and the application process. Students of this summer program discover firsthand what it’s like to be a student at MIT – they even live on campus. This exposure helps students understand the expectations and demands of higher education, while also offering guidance on the college application process.
MITES is also free to apply and to attend, thanks to the generous individuals, foundations,and corporations that donate to MIT. Applicants must be in the 11th grade and be U.S. residents.
Telluride Association Summer Seminar
The Telluride Association Summer Seminar (TASS) is a six-week summer program offered at a handful of universities across the country and designed for high school sophomores and juniors. TASS has a social justice focus, offering seminars that explore the impact of power and privilege on social structures, while fostering critical thinking and democratic community values. This transformative experience, provided by Telluride Association, is fully funded, covering all program costs for participating students.
Participants engage in a diverse range of courses that span history, politics, literature, art, and other disciplines. The program encourages deep exploration and analysis of ideas, nurturing a love for learning and fostering intellectual growth.
Current high school sophomores and juniors are eligible to apply for the program. TASS is also one of the free summer programs for high school students that welcomes applications from international students.
Clark Scholars Program
The Anson L. Clark Scholar Program is a seven-week summer research initiative specifically designed for exceptionally talented high school juniors and seniors. Held at Texas Tech University, this program offers a unique opportunity for students to immerse themselves in hands-on practical research experiences under the guidance of experienced faculty members.
Participants work closely with top faculty members who also serve as mentors. Students can expect to gain invaluable practical research experience, and build their scientific knowledge, critical thinking skills, and problem-solving abilities.
A range of research areas are available, and applicants indicate which one they would like to join in their application. Some of the options include cell and molecular biology, computer science, and electrical engineering.
There are no program or registration fees and meals, housing, and extra activities are covered by the program. Applicants must be at least 17 years of age by the program start date. International students can also apply
Bank of America (BoA) Student Leaders
Here’s an opportunity to get paid for your summer experience. BoA Student Leaders is a paid internship summer initiative offered to junior and senior level high school students.
Through an eight-week internship at a local nonprofit organization, students gain firsthand knowledge of community needs while acquiring valuable civic, social, and business leadership skills. The program also includes an enriching Student Leaders Summit held in Washington, D.C., where students learn how to address critical community challenges.
Applicants must be current juniors or seniors in high school and legally authorized to work in the United States. Applicants must also be in good standing at school, and permanently reside in one of the eligible locations.
National Institutes of Health Summer Internship Program
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) gives students the opportunity to work side-by-side with leading scientists in a dynamic biomedical research lab. Witha focus on multiple fields including behavioral and social sciences, biology, chemistry, and physics, these summer internships offer a life (and possibly career) changing opportunity to be involved in scientific discoveries.
Internships span eight weeks, during which students get to participate in an array of summer activities such as a Summer Lectures Series featuring distinguished NIH investigators, career/professional development workshops, and wellness activities. This is an in-person program that takes place in Bethesda, Maryland and a few other limited locations near NIH labs across the country.
Applicants must be 17 years of age or older and U.S. citizens or permanent residents, and are enrolled at least half-time in an accredited college (including community college) or university as an undergraduate, graduate, or professional school student at the time of application or are recent high school grads who have been accepted into an accredited college or university program starting in the fall.
This is also one of the free summer programs for high school students that pays a stipend in addition to program costs.
Princeton Summer Journalism Summer Program
The Princeton Summer Journalism Program actually runs year-round, and is one of the free online programs for high school students. This is a college prep initiative specifically for high school juniors with an interest in journalism. Participants gain access to journalism courses and activities and learn essential skills necessary for a career in journalism.
In addition to journalism courses, students will take classes in the humanities, arts, culture, social events, history, and more while learning skills that lead to them ultimately publishing their own newspaper, The Princeton Summer Journal. This is a hybrid program, with online seminars, classes, and lectures followed by a residential program at Princeton University.
The program is open to high school students in their junior year, and is completely free to students. All costs – airfare, housing, meals, and more – are covered by the program.
MathCamp Online Summer Program
Also in the category of free online programs for high school students is the MathCamp Online Summer Program. This 5-week program teaches students advanced concepts in pure and applied mathematics. You’ll join lectures and discussion sessions, complete assigned projects, and attend workshops led by leading mathematicians.
MathCamp is open to middle-school and high-school students aged 13-18. It is free for American and Canadian students whose families have an income of less than $65,000 per year.
MIT LL Beaver Works
Let’s head back to MIT for the final listing of our free summer programs for high school students 2023. The Beaver Works Summer Institute (BWSI) is ad STEM program designed for high school seniors with an interest in engineering. It’s a free, four-week program that has in-person and virtual offerings. Students engage in project-based, workshop-style courses aimed at developing their STEM skills and nurturing a passion for engineering.
Applicants must be in high school headed into their senior year and live in the U.S. year round. There are times when a middle school summer program is available for younger students, so be sure to check the website.
Apply to a Free Summer Program for High School Students
These are just some of the free online summer programs for high school students and free in-person programs for high school students out there. Application cycles for each are different, so be sure to watch the websites of the ones that interest you carefully. Remember to check the eligibility requirements, application deadlines, and any additional details for each program as well.