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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 should you apply to STEM summer programs for high school students? Which ones are still accepting applications anyway? We’ve got you covered with a roundup of the top 16 STEM summer programs for high school students.
Actions speak louder!
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. If you’re trying to find some perfect kind of exciting intellectual activity to keep you busy, Empowerly is here to help!
This summer, engage in 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. While STEM programs for high schoolers might not be on your radar, it’s important to use this time wisely. For example, you could pursue 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). In particular, STEM encompasses hard sciences like physics, chemistry, and geology. It also cross-disciplinary fields and majors like biomedical engineering and chemical engineering, computer science, statistics, and applied math… to name a few.
In the meantime, 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. To clarify, most of the programs on the list are free to attend if selected; whereas the STEM programs for high school students that come with a cost are denoted with: ($).
Top 16 Best STEM Summer Programs
- RSI Research Science Institute… Read Empowerly’s post about RSI.
- PROMYS Program for Mathematics for Young Scientists at Boston University
- SSP The Summer Science Program New Mexico Tech, U Boulder, Purdue, Indiana
- Governor’s School (multi-state)
- RISE The Research in Science and Engineering Program (RISE): Boston University
- MITES Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES) at MIT
- SuMaC Stanford University Mathematics Camp … Read a post about SUMaC.
- SIP Science Internship Program UCSC – priority is given to SF Bay Area students. ($)
- SAMS Summer Academy for Math and Science at Carnegie Mellon, PA. ($)
- HCSSIM Hampshire College Summer Studies in Math Massachusetts ($)
- MAthILy Math With Levity Bryn Mawr College Pennsylvania
- HSHSP High School Honors Science, Math, Engineering Program Michigan ($)
- Clark Scholars Program at Texas Tech
- Notre Dame Summer Scholars Indiana
- SSRP Simons Summer Research Program
- SIMR Stanford Institutes of Medicine Summer Research Program – priority Bay Area students.
In the event that none of these work out for you, there are other free STEM summer programs that 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.) Ultimately, continuing to engage in your interests during the vacation might look different than you initially anticipated, but that’s okay!
As a matter of fact, applications are still being accepted to the following STEM programs for high school students…
Application Deadline: Late February
During this eight-week summer internship program, high school juniors and seniors perform basic research with Stanford University 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.
- Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a green card
- The 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):
- Cancer Biology
- Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine
- Cardiovascular Biology
- Genetics and Genomics
After students are accepted, they are then assigned to a specific institute based on their choices. Most importantly, there is no cost to attend beyond a $40 application fee. Additionally, all admitted students receive a $500 spending stipend, potentially more depending on evidenced need.
Application Deadline: mid-March
The PROMYS program allows eighty students per summer to creatively engage in math at Boston University for six weeks. This STEM summer program engages aspiring mathematicians in number theory, problem sets, and 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 on 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!
Application Deadline: Early March
HSHSP is a seven-week, intensive residential summer research program designed for a motivated group of twenty-four students to work on a research project under the mentorship of a university researcher.
Tuition: $3,800 (covers room, board, and some instructional costs)
- 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
- Students must be in the upper 20 percent of high school classes and have taken at least three years of college preparatory mathematics and two 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. As a result, students gain experience communicating their scientific results.
4) SUMaC Stanford University Mathematics Camp
Application Deadline: mid-March
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 STEM summer 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. This program is known for fostering a welcoming, enthusiastic environment among the student attendees.
- Program I: Abstract Algebra & Number Theory
- Program II: Algebraic Topology
Read about an Empowerly employee’s experience at SUMaC here.
5) SSP The Summer Science Program
Application Deadline: Late February
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, the Summer Science Program (aka SSP) aims to nurture the potential of such students by providing mentors, challenging work, like-minded peers, and developing confidence.
The program engages hands-on experimental science working in teams of three to complete research projects, and collecting and analyzing data, with room for field trips and lectures, too.
2020 Planned Camps
- Astrophysics at New Mexico Tech
- Astrophysics at CU Boulder
- Biochemistry at Purdue Univ.
- Biochemistry at Indiana Univ.
Check the sites each year for the most updated campus details.
5) SIP Science Internship Program (priority given to SF Bay Area students)
Application Deadline: Late March
SIP is a ten-week (two weeks online, eight 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 in June and be current high school students to apply. Additionally, SIP interns are usually rising seniors in the summer between junior and senior years.
Unlike most of the other summer programs on the list, this program is not free to attend. Nonetheless, 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: mid-March
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 a deeper understanding of 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: Late April
Mathly provides five weeks of inquiry-based learning from June to August. 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 seven hours per day, six 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, theoretical linear algebra, probability, and more. 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.
Application Deadline: Early March
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.
How to Land the Best STEM Summer Camps
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. Compiling a plan for your applications is the first step to securing great STEM summer programs in high school.
For tips about engaging in self-directed summer research activities instead of program attendance, see this article.There are plenty of options available for students outside of traditionally-structured STEM summer programs, but they may require more work to set up at first. Your best bet to planning a productive summer is to start searching early, no matter what route you plan to pursue.
On the other hand, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Many of our students have been successfully admitted to most of these STEM summer programs. Empowerly supports our students with the entire college admission strategy, from selecting schools to building an impressive, well-rounded student portfolio with the Empowerly Score®. Chat with one of our enrollment team members to find out how it works!
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