Exciting summer programs for High School students

By Rajkamal Rao  

Image Courtesy: Rao Advisors

There are outstanding summer programs to keep your teenager engaged and active, while giving them an opportunity to make friends, learn, and have fun. Summer programs are also about exploration, so it is fine to have your child enroll in a program that you may consider to be outside of her interests or career goals. 
Colleges look for four components in a student's overall profile. Your chosen summer program must fulfill one or more of these components.
  1. Commitment to an activity resulting in improving skills. If you are committed to an activity and keep doing it, you are naturally going to get better at it.

  2. Team dynamics. When you are in an activity that promotes team dynamics, you learn to share, give, and take. 

  3. Leadership. If you are good in #1 and #2 above, you could be promoted to a leadership role within your EC activity.

  4. Service to community. The impact of your EC activity is important. Are you dedicating part of your week to helping others who are less fortunate than you are?

We recommend summer activities that will best help students describe in their college essays the way they grew. contributed, and learned.

  • 11th-12th grade summer: Leadership programs; volunteering in field of major; research; internship, or job.

  • 10th-11th grade summer: Research; volunteering; SAT/ACT/PSAT prep; explore summer learning.

  • 9th-10th grade summer: Volunteering; explore summer learning.

  • 8th-9th grade summer: Volunteering; explore summer learning.

Summer academic programs fall into two basic buckets, STEM and Liberal Arts. Non-academic programs range from providing service at a local nursing home to volunteering for an international organization such as the Red Cross. Work or internship options are also attractive ways to keep children engaged. For a review of why extracurricular activities are important, please read our post here.

Below are a few good summer programs. Applying early is critical.

Liberal Arts & Humanities

For high school students who are interested in pursuing a political science, government, or international relations career, there are numerous opportunities. Many start off in high school clubs that culminate in inter-school competitions at the regional, state, or even national level. Other opportunities are available through essay competitions or internships.

  1. Model UN

  2. School or external debate team

  3. Toastmasters Youth Leadership Program (after-school)

  4. University of Texas at Austin’s National Institute in Forensics (UTNIF) 

    Political Science, Government & Leadership

  5. Junior State of America

  6. YMCA Youth and Government (Texas)

  7. Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Summer Institute (BFTF) - Purdue University

  8. Internships with local congressmen or senators

  9. American Legion for Boys

  10. Key Club

  11. Texas Blue Bonnet Girls State

  12. Young Men's Service League

  13. Governor's School of Texas - Lamar University (Free, but must be nominated by counselor)

  14. Young Women's Institute - Indiana University

  15. Bank of America Student Leaders

  16. Business Summer Institute at Bauer (University of Houston) - Free

  17. TASS CBS (Critical Black Studies) Applications close the first week of January!

  18. TASS-AOS (Anti-Oppressive Studies) Applications close the first week of January!

  19. Wharton Global Youth Program (University of Pennsylvania)

    International Relations & Foreign Languages

  20. Yale Young Global Scholars ($$$$$ Pricey!)

  21. Economics for Leaders - FTE

  22. American Foreign Service Association

  23. US Institute of Peace

  24. CIEE High School Study Abroad

  25. Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) outbound programs

  26. Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Abroad (YES Abroad)

  27. National Security Language Initiative for Youth

  28. Foreign language immersion abroad (summer)

    Creative pursuits (Writing, Fine Arts)

  29. Iowa Young Writers' Studio

  30. WashU Summer Writers Institute

  31. Philip Exeter Academy ($$$$$ Pricey!)

  32. Choate Boarding School ($$$$$ Pricey!)

  33. California State Summer School for the Arts (Mid-Feb deadline)

The best ones are those that are sponsored by the government, or by organizations representing the government. It is never a good idea to pay exorbitantly for such experiences, so be wary of internships or summer sessions at elite top schools such as Stanford, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, Tufts, Columbia, and Brown.


There are numerous STEM programs that may interest your child. Many require students to have demonstrated STEM skills in school through coursework and club activities. Some are open to all students.

Computer Science
  1. Google Kickstart Coding Competitions (Retired, but archived information still available )
  2. Cisco STEM programs

  3. Girls who code

  4. Black girls code 

  5. Open-source coding projects to help communities - Call for Code (IBM)

  6. TechOlympics Hackathon - in mid-February

  7. Congressional App Challenge 

  8. Boss Rush Video Game Development Challenge - Jan to Feb

  9. Cyberstart (Cybersecurity training)

  10. Army GEMS for 7th - 9th graders. Older students can try for mentoring opportunities. 

  11. Computer Science Scholars Program at CMU

  12. Build a Better Book at UC Boulder (paid internship)

  13. UT Dallas 8-week Deep-dive AI Workshop

  14. UT Dallas 1-week Coding Camps and Advanced Coding Camps 

  15. AI Virtual Camp

  16. AI Camp at Stanford

  17. Persolv AI bootcamp (fee-based program conducted by Stanford graduates)

    General Science, Engineering, and Research

  18. SkillsUSA Career and Technology Education (School club)
  19. Boston University RISE program

  20. High School Aerospace Scholars - NASA

  21. Summer Science Program

  22. Research Science Institute at MIT

  23. MITES program at MIT 

  24. BWSI program at MIT

  25. Pre-College Program in Computational Biology at CMU
  26. US Naval Academy Summer programs

  27. USAF Summer Seminar

  28. STEM Enhancement in Earth Science (SEES) - UT Austin

  29. Boston Leadership Institute Biology Research

  30. Summer High School Internship Program (SHIP) at the Fred Hutch Cancer Center Seattle (rising 12th graders) - Paid internship for underrepresented minorities but anyone can apply

  31. Applied Physics Aspire program at Johns Hopkins

  32. Internships in Biomedical Research at the National Institutes of Health

  33. Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI), Cornell University - Computational Biology and Plant Science Research

  34. Engineering Innovation at Johns Hopkins

  35. Science Internship Program at UC Santa Cruz

  36. Aspiring Scholars Directed Research Program (ASDRP) - Fremont, Calif

  37. Program in Math for Young Scientists - Boston University

  38. Ross Math Program at Ohio State

  39. The Anson L. Clark Scholar Program at Texas Tech (Rising Seniors only)

  40. Telluride Association Summer Program (TASP)

  41. National Space Club And Foundation Scholars Program - Greenbelt, Maryland

  42. High School Summer Program at MD Anderson

  43. Thomas Jefferson University Summer Science (for Health Science students)

  44. Fox Chase Cancer Center
  45. California State Summer School for Mathematics & Science (COSMOS)

  46. UCLA Nanoscience Lab Summer Institute

  47. UCSD Research Experience for High School Students

  48. Life Sciences Summer Internship (LSSI) at La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology (UCSD)

  49. The University of Texas at Austin High School Research Academy

  50. The University of Pittsburgh Hillman Cancer Center Academy

  51. The Aspiring Scientists Summer Internship Program - George Mason Univ

  52. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Summer Student Program

  53. Coriell Summer Experience for Students

  54. Advanced Genetics lab at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst

  55. Research opportunities at Auburn University

  56. Research opportunities at Southern Methodist University

Volunteering and Community Service

No matter what your passion for community service is, there's always an organization that is eager to have you volunteer.

It helps if you can tailor your interests to the current trend in college admissions. Since the 2020 George Floyd protests, there has been a national awakening, especially on college campuses, about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Some states have banned official consideration of DEI programs for hiring and college recruitment, but volunteering to help uplift disadvantaged communities will always be looked at in good light.

Black, Latino, Native American, Refugees, LGBTQ are good examples of communities that can benefit from your volunteering. Causes could include Rights & Criminal Justice, Education, Health, Immigration, Voting, Youth, Urban Poverty, Enterprise Zones, Financial Literacy, and the Economy.


  1. Volunteer Abroad (including India)
  2. Feeding America
  3. North Texas Food Bank

  4. The Salvation Army

  5. Make-A-Wish foundation

  6. Habitat for Humanity - must be at least 16 years old

  7. Best Buddies - helping people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

  8. Dallas Area: The Stewpot. Safe haven for homeless and at-risk individuals

  9. Houston Area: Home Run Hitters International (Camp M.I. for disabled children)

  10. Hispanic organizations Unidosus or the AAMA. These organizations are excellent for students who are pursuing advanced Spanish and want to improve their language skills.

  11. The Peace Warrior - you can earn Presidential Volunteer Service Awards (PVSA)


  12. Cardboard project to help bridge the digital divide with underprivileged communities (Dallas).

  13. Itstemkids (FREE preschool STEM program to help disadvantaged African American and LatinX children in Grand Prairie)

  14. SAT Tutoring at Schoolhouse.world (affiliate of the Khan Academy)

  15. Destination Imagination

  16. United to learn (helping students at Dallas ISD)

  17. Coding your future - Teach Python and Java skills to underprivileged middle and high schoolers

  18. Dallas Area: Rays of Light (special needs children)

  19. Houston area: iBug Today, technology assistance for the blind.
  20. Closing the Divide - an organization started in 2021 by three high school students to help close the digital divide in underprivileged communities. 

    Public Health
  21. American Red Cross

  22. National Breast Cancer Foundation

  23. Bone Marrow Registry

  24. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

  25. Amedisys Hospice

        Independent 501(c)(3) organizations

Many students pursue a passion for which no established organization exists. One client enjoyed painting on shoes and reselling them, using the profits from the sale to donate to an established charity. Another used her expertise in quilting to sell products on Etsy and contributing all of her profits to a charitable organization. Another used his passion for tennis to get other friends to join him and conduct tennis coaching camps, donating the proceeds to improve public tennis courts in the community. For such activities to be legal because money is involved, you are better off creating your own tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization named for a section of the I.R.S. code that regulates charities.

There are plenty of destination organizations that would be grateful for charitable contributions. Here's a partial list where the end beneficiaries are citizens of India.

  1. North South Foundation - to provide needy scholarships to Indian students.

  2. SOS Children's Villages of India - to provide childhood development.

  3. Sankara Eye Foundation

  4. Pratham - focusing on holistic childhood development.

  5. Oxfam India - focusing on ending racial and class discrimination.

  6. Child rights and you - focusing on ending exploitation of children.

  7. Smile Foundation - to promote education among the underprivileged.

  8. Care India - focusing on reducing poverty and injustice.

  9. Akshaya Patra - providing midday meals to school going children.

  10. Akshara Foundation - to provide quality education.


If none of the above options appeals to you, here's an expanded list of causes to help you find an organization in your area. Often, local charities are the best places to find meaningful and fulfilling opportunities.

  • Advocacy & Human Rights
  • Animals
  • Arts & Culture
  • Children & Youth
  • Computers & Technology
  • Crisis Support
  • Disaster Relief
  • Education & Literacy
  • Emergency & Safety
  • Environment
  • Health & Medicine
  • Homeless & Housing
  • Hunger
  • Immigrants & Refugees
  • Justice & Legal
  • LGBTQ+
  • People with Disabilities
  • Politics
  • Race & Ethnicity
  • Seniors
  • Veterans & Military Families
  • Women

A Note About Rao Advisors Premium Services
Our promise is to empower you with high-quality, ethical and free advice via this website.  But parents and students often ask us if they can engage with us for individual counseling sessions.

Individual counseling is part of the Premium Offering of Rao Advisors and involves a fee.  Please  contact us for more information.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.