Best STEM Summer Programs for High School Students

February 9, 2024
3 min read


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 11/15/23

Are you looking for the perfect STEM summer program? Well, look no further! This article will explore why STEM matters and cover what you need to know about some of the best STEM summer programs for high school students. 

Pre-college summer programs are always a stellar addition to a college application. These programs are designed to help you explore your interest areas in-depth, offering a fun summer experience with like-minded individuals. With these programs, high school students can experience a taste of college-level classes during the summer.

If you’ve been searching for STEM summer programs, read on to learn more about some of your options!

Why STEM Matters for High School Students 

STEM education provides students with the skills and experiences they need to excel in a continually changing world. STEM-related courses help develop or hone these necessary skills: 

  • Creativity 
  • Problem solving 
  • Leadership 
  • Critical thinking
  • Analytical skills 
  • Inquiry skills
  • Communication and teamwork
According to the U.S. Department of Education: “If we want a nation where our future leaders, neighbors, and workers can understand and solve some of the complex challenges of today and tomorrow, and to meet the demands of the dynamic and evolving workforce, building students' skills, content knowledge, and literacy in STEM fields is essential.” 

Learning more about STEM and gaining or building on these skills can help you become a more well-rounded thinker, scientist, mathematician, engineer, or anything else you want to become. 

Along with high school courses, middle school STEM programs can provide a strong foundation for student's future academic and career pursuits in these fields. Overall, STEM programs for young people have the potential to set them on a path to success and make them valuable candidates for college admissions.

Best STEM Summer Programs for High School Students

With so many summer programs for high school students available each year, how do you pick which one is best for you? Besides considering location, program length, and cost, the program's overarching learning outcomes and content are most important. 

These are just some of the best STEM summer programs for high school students available. 

MIT Research Science Institute (RSI)

RSI participants attend college-level classes and gain hands-on research experience. The program is open to high school juniors and encompasses "advanced theory and research in mathematics, science, and engineering." 

  • Program Length: Six weeks
  • Tuition Cost: Free for those selected
  • Number of Students: Approximately 70 

MIT, as one of the leading STEM colleges, also has many other prestigious STEM summer programs for high school students, including: 

  • Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES)
  • Women’s Technology Program (WTP)
  • Beaver Works Summer Institute (BWSI)
  • Launch X

Boston University: Research in Science and Engineering (RISE) 

RISE is another one of the best STEM summer programs for high school students. High school juniors will conduct university laboratory research to advance their STEM knowledge and skills. There are two tracks to the program: Internship or Practicum.

Learning outcomes of the program include "a better understanding of the scientific process, research ethics, how to read a research paper, how to present independent research, and how to network in the science and engineering fields."

  • Program Length: Six weeks 
  • Tuition Cost: $5,570
  • Number of Students: Approximately 100
Students in engineering lab

Stanford University Mathematics Camp (SUMaC)

SUMac is an online program open to high school sophomores and juniors. This program is all about advanced mathematics: participants will learn through lectures, guided research, and group problem-solving. 

The online program allows students to “explore current lines of mathematical research, the historical development of important areas of mathematics, and applications across scientific disciplines.”

  • Program Length: Three weeks 
  • Tuition Cost: $3,550
  • Number of Students: Approximately 16 students per class 

The Summer Science Program (SSP)

The Summer Science Program, an independent nonprofit, currently offers six programs for students, offered on-site at various campuses. Participants will complete an actual research project within their designated team.

  • Astrophysics (three programs): Students complete research in near-earth asteroid orbit determination at New Mexico Tech, the University of Colorado, or the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. 
  • Biochemistry (two programs): Students complete research in fungal crop pathogens at Purdue University or Indiana University. 
  • Genomics (one program): Students complete research on the evolution of antibiotic resistance at Purdue University. 

SSP emphasizes that these programs are not for learning about science but for doing science.

  • Program Length: 39 days 
  • Program Fee: $8,400 (maximum), but most students will pay a discounted fee or nothing, depending on household income. 
  • Number of Students: 36 participants in each program, so 216 students

Program in Mathematics for Young Scientists (PROMYS) 

PROMYS was founded in 1989 and today is held on campus at Boston University. This program is for any highly motivated high school student who has completed their first year. PROMYS participants begin each day with a Number Theory lecture but also learn from the following activities: 

  • Advanced seminars 
  • Guest lectures 
  • Research projects 
  • Exploration labs 
  • Counselor minicourses 

PROMYS strongly encourages underrepresented groups in STEM to apply. This can include students who are female, Black, Latino/a, or belong to another underrepresented group. 

Program Length: Six weeks 

Tuition Cost: $6,000

Number of Students: Approximately 80 

math equations on chalkboard

Michigan State High School Honors Math, Science, and Engineering Program (HSHSP)

Founded in 1958, HSHSP is the oldest program of its kind in the country. The program's goal is for its participants to "live and breathe" research in a higher education environment. Participants learn about the research process and the "right kind of social context for such knowledge and expertise to flourish." 

The program's primary goal is not to produce award-winning research projects (although that does happen) but to provide enrichment opportunities to students to learn about STEM and even make some great friends along the way. 

  • Program Length: Seven weeks 
  • Program Fee: $4,000
  • Number of Students: Approximately 26 

Stanford Institutes of Medicine Summer Research Program (SIMR) 

SIMR is an internship program for high school juniors and seniors. Participants conduct hands-on research as part of the program, and selected students have eight research areas to choose from: 

  • Immunology 
  • Neurobiology 
  • Cancer Biology 
  • Bioengineering
  • Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine
  • Cardiovascular Biology 
  • Bioinformatics 
  • Genetics and Genomics

Participants conduct research under one-on-one guidance at a top-class lab at Stanford University. 

  • Program Length: Eight Weeks 
  • Tuition Cost: Free if selected 
  • Number of Students: Approximately 50 

Final Thoughts 

Just like volunteering, internships, and independent projects, STEM summer programs for high school students are excellent extracurriculars to consider if you're looking for a fun and inspiring activity to do this summer. These programs provide you with the tools to explore STEM and become a well-rounded, critical thinker. 

As a bonus, any of these summer programs would make stellar additions to your college application. Whether you’re shooting for a seat at an Ivy League school or want to give your college profile some differentiation, a STEM summer program may be the right option for you!

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