19 Best High School Summer Programs in California, 2024

Sunset in Santa Monica
Updated:
March 4, 2024
7 min read
Contents

”Rohan

Reviewed by:

Rohan Jotwani

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 3/4/24

Interested in joining a summer program in California? We’ve got you covered! We’ll list the top options for high school students in the Golden State.

Embarking on an enriching and transformative summer experience can set the stage for academic and personal growth. We've curated a list of the best summer programs for high school students in California.

From innovative STEM workshops to captivating arts intensives, this guide is your gateway to a summer filled with learning, exploration, and unforgettable moments. Let’s get started!

19 Best Summer Programs for High School Students in California 

Here’s our list of summer opportunities for high school students in California:

1. Pomona College Academy for Youth Success (PAYS) at Pomona College

Location: Claremont, CA

Program Length: Four weeks

Cost: Free

Eligibility: Grade 9 students

Start Date: June 23, 2024

Application Deadline: February 26, 2024

PAYS is a dynamic summer program that helps over 90 high school students prepare for admission to selective colleges and universities. Designed for rising sophomores to seniors from underrepresented groups, PAYS offers a mix of courses, cultural events, workshops, projects, and field trips, fostering academic growth and college readiness. 

The program extends beyond summer, providing ongoing support throughout the academic year. PAYS is a transformative experience for those who are the first in their family to attend college and/or come from low-income families.

2. AstroCamp 

Location: Idyllwild, CA

Program Length: Two weeks

Cost: $2,400

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: June 15, 2024

Application Deadline: May 1, 2024

AstroCamp offers students more than 40 science, creative arts, and mountain adventures. While there is a focus on space and science, students can also participate in various social activities, like carnivals, renaissance festivals, and talent shows. 

This summer program is facilitated by skilled instructors who are ready to help students develop their skills and gain valuable leadership skills. Beyond expanding your knowledge, AstroCamp helps students forge lasting camp friendships that endure well beyond the program's conclusion.

3. Stanford Medical Youth Science Program (SYMP) at Stanford School of Medicine 

Stanford Medical School

Location: Stanford, Northern CA

Program Length: Five weeks

Cost: Free, $1,250 research stipend

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: June 24, 2024

Application Deadline:  March 15, 2024

SYMP is a science and medicine enrichment program for low-income, first-generation high school juniors who live in Northern California. At Stanford’s main campus, students will attend faculty lectures, networking events, and professional development workshops. 

Students gain valuable insights while working with current students, faculty members, and healthcare professionals about preparing for college and working in the medical field. This program is very selective; only 24 students are accepted each year.

4. Camp Science, Education, and Adventure (SEA) Lab By Marine Science Educators

Location: Aptos, CA

Program Length: Four weeks

Cost: $1,350

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: June 16, 2024

Application Deadline: March 29, 2024

Camp SEA Lab is an immersive summer experience that is focused on fostering scientific understanding and coastal stewardship. Students engage in hands-on studies covering plankton, marine mammals, oceanography sampling, marine debris, and conservation, among others. 

Camp SEA Lab not only provides insights into the history and traditions of seafaring life but guarantees significant growth in your knowledge, teamwork, leadership, and various other valuable skills. Regardless of your prior ocean knowledge, all are welcome to join. 

5. Berkeley Pre-College Scholars Program at the University of California, Berkeley 

Location: Berkeley, CA

Program Length: Four weeks

Cost: $15,800

Eligibility: Grade 10-11 students

Start Date: June 16, 2024

Application Deadline: March 11, 2024

Are you thinking about applying to one of the University of California schools?

Participating in UC Berkeley’s Pre-College Scholars program can be a great way to immerse yourself in the university's academic environment, gain valuable insights into college life, and cultivate the skills and knowledge needed for a successful transition to higher education.

Students have the opportunity to earn college credits and explore potential programs of interest while participating in extracurricular activities, attending workshop series, and engaging in local excursions.

6. Engineering Possibilities in College (EPIC) at California Polytechnic State University

Location: San Luis Obispo, CA

Program Length: Two weeks

Cost: $1,975

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: July 5, 2024

Application Deadline: March 31, 2024

EPIC is one of the residential engineering summer programs for high school students in California who want to experience college life while exploring engineering fields. 

You have the opportunity to network with like-minded peers while discussing various topics in engineering. In addition to engineering, you can also participate in various social activities available on campus.

7. Annenberg Youth Academy for Media and Civic Engagement by The University of Southern California

University of Southern California

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Program Length: Four weeks

Cost: Free

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: June 17, 2024

Application Deadline: March 31, 2024

The Annenberg Youth Academy for Media and Civic Engagement opens its doors to 26 talented high school students from Los Angeles. Over four weeks, the program immerses participants in courses equivalent to a first-year college-level media course, fostering a robust conceptual understanding and practical skills in media communications and journalism. 

This summer program allows students to develop their writing and debate skills, critical thinking, public speaking, multimedia production, and interviewing. You can look forward to meeting the school’s innovative scholars who have dedicated themselves to advancing issues of gender and race within communication and journalism.

8. Summer Research Academies at the University of California, Santa Barbara

Location: Santa Barbara, CA

Program Length: Four weeks

Cost: TBD

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: June 27, 2024

Application Deadline: April 1, 2024

UC Santa Barbara's Summer Research Academies invite motivated high school students to embark on a dynamic summer experience. The program is centered around project-based research in diverse fields, including STEM, humanities, and social sciences. 

As a participant, you will take a four-unit university course and work under the guidance of an active researcher in your chosen field. Throughout the program, you will navigate the research process and later present your findings in a seminar. 

This program gives high school students the opportunity to get a sense of what life will be like in university, develop their academic and professional skills, and network with peers in a challenging environment. 

9. Pacific Summer Jazz Colony by the University of the Pacific

Location: San Francisco, CA

Program Length: One week

Cost: $1,700

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: July 15, 2024

Application Deadline: June 1, 2024

The Pacific Summer Jazz Colony offers an intensive jazz program catered to talented high school students. Hosted by Pacific's esteemed Jazz Studies faculty, along with guest artists and master teachers, the program features a diverse curriculum.

Students engage in combo rehearsals, master classes, and specialized courses in jazz theory and advanced improvisation. The week is enriched with seminars on various related topics, providing a well-rounded educational experience. 

Beyond structured learning, students will also interact with artists, participate in jam sessions, and showcase their talents through public concerts. This immersive experience provides a unique platform for honing skills, fostering collaboration, and connecting with like-minded jazz enthusiasts on a global scale.

10. Meta Summer Academy

Location: Menlo Park, CA

Program Length: Six week

Cost: No Cost 

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: June 17, 2024

Application Deadline: March 1, 2024

The Meta Summer Academy presents high school students with a unique opportunity to delve into the day-to-day operations of a leading social media network. Focused on coding and career exploration, participants not only gain insights into the tech industry but also work on real projects at Meta alongside career mentors.

This hands-on experience is designed to equip students with valuable skills that will give them a competitive edge in their college applications and future careers. 

11. Stanford University Mathematics Camp (SUMaC) at Stanford University 

Location: Palo Alto, CA

Program Length: Four weeks

Cost: $8,250

Eligibility: Grade 10-11 students

Start Date: June 23, 2024

Application Deadline: February 1, 2024

The SUMac program takes students on a deep dive into advanced mathematics. Through lectures, group problem-solving, and guided research, participants explore current mathematical research, historical developments, and applications in science.

The program covers topics like abstract algebra, number theory, and algebraic topology that go beyond typical classroom learning. SUMaC not only concentrates on math but also highlights its applications in various sciences. 

To help students prepare for college, the program offers an intensive workload that will require students to complete assignments both outside of the classroom. If you’re interested in learning more about math’s real-world application or want to have the chance to meet like-minded math enthusiasts, this may be a great option for you.

12. Sally Ride Science Academy at the University of California San Diego

University of California San Diego

Location: San Diego, CA

Program Length: Four weeks

Cost: $175 to $450

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: July 8, 2024

Application Deadline: February 15, 2024

The Sally Ride Science Academy caters to high school students keen on exploring science, technology, engineering, arts, and math through interactive workshops. These hands-on sessions provide an immersive experience that allows participants to step into the shoes of computer programmers, space explorers, marine biologists, and more. 

The program is led by experienced instructors who foster an environment that inspires students and prepares them for their journey into college.

13. California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science (COSMOS) at UC San Diego 

Location: San Diego, CA

Program Length: Four weeks

Cost: $42 application fee + $5,008

Eligibility: Grade 8-12 students

Start Date: July 7, 2024

Application Deadline: February 9, 2024

The COSMOS program is a highly impactful summer program for motivated students with a keen interest in math and science. This program involves intensive, hands-on coursework and research projects in physics, biology, chemistry, and engineering. 

This STEM summer program aims to encourage continued interest in the field by providing students with unparalleled opportunities to collaborate with outstanding university faculty and researchers. 

While COSMOS is offered through UC San Diego, students also have the opportunity to participate in this program across several of the University of California campuses, including Davis, Irvine, and Santa Cruz. Each campus offers its own unique topics and residential experiences. 

14. Student Research Internship (SURI) at Scripps Research Translational Institute

Location: La Jolla, CA

Program Length: 10 weeks

Cost: Free

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: June 3, 2024

Application Deadline: March 30, 2024

The SURI Program welcomes 40 motivated high school students nationwide for a transformative 10-week research and college preparation experience. Focused on major fields such as health and medical sciences, statistics, and computer science, the program provides an immersive learning opportunity. 

By the end, participants gain substantial knowledge essential for advancing in the academic realm, particularly for those aspiring to become medical researchers.

15. Camp CHLA at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Program Length: One week

Cost: Free

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: June 24, 2024

Application Deadline: January 12, 2024

Camp CHLA offers high school students an immersive on-site healthcare career exploration experience. It provides an opportunity to explore, learn, and actively participate in the impactful work conducted by hospital professionals every day. 

Engaging activities include hands-on training in CPR, first aid, body ergonomics, and other health promotion and disease prevention skills. Participants gain insights into the personal career journeys of medical practitioners and the various roles within the hospital. 

Additionally, the camp fosters connections with like-minded high schoolers pursuing healthcare careers, offering firsthand and up-close exposure to the captivating world of healthcare within the hospital environment.

16. California State Summer School for the Arts

Location: Sacramento, CA

Program Length: Four weeks

Cost: $4,600 (CA residents) or $7,000 (out-of-state students)

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: July 6, 2024

Application Deadline: February 29, 2024

The California State Summer School for the Arts caters to creative high school students seeking rigorous training in the visual and performing arts, animation, film, and creative writing. 

It promises an exhilarating learning experience within a supportive environment and is ideal for those aspiring to excel in the entertainment industry. Admission is highly competitive and requires applicants to showcase their talent and creativity. 

By completing the CSSSA program, participants can earn three elective credits to  California State University. This summer camp is your gateway to honing artistic skills and making strides in the dynamic world of creative arts.

17. Berkeley Business Academy for Youth (B-BAY) at UC Berkeley 

UC Berkeley

Location: Berkeley, CA

Program Length: Two weeks

Cost: CA Resident $6,050, Out of State Students $7,050

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: July 7, 2024

Application Deadline: March 15, 2024

B-BAY is a summer business program designed for high-school students. It provides participants with a unique opportunity to delve into the world of business innovation at UC Berkeley. 

Guided by Berkeley Haas professors and corporate speakers, participants engage in a dynamic curriculum complemented by independent research, computer lab assignments, and collaborative team projects. 

The program emphasizes building confidence through teamwork, enhances communication skills, explores various business subjects, and equips students with the knowledge to write and present a comprehensive business plan. 

Students will also have a chance to tour the UC Berkeley campus, engage in social activities like scavenger hunts and karaoke nights, and gain valuable insights about the admissions process.

18. Idyllwild Arts Summer Teen Programs

Location: Idyllwild, CA

Program Length: One or four weeks 

Cost: $500–$1,499

Eligibility: Grade 6-12 students

Start Date: June 30, 2024

Application Deadline: March 2024

Idyllwild Arts Summer Teen Programs offer a diverse range of engaging experiences for high school students, including specialized programs in subjects such as mathematics, creative writing, computer programming, ceramic work, songwriting, and filmmaking. 

Each program ensures a hands-on, immersive learning experience in a supportive and creative environment, fostering collaboration among like-minded students.

19. USC Summer Programs at the University of Southern California

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Program Length: Four weeks

Cost: $10,480

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: June 16, 2024

Application Deadline: March 29, 2024

If you have plans to study at the University of Southern California, attending one of these four-week programs may be just what you need to get your foot in the door. The UC Summer Programs offers a variety of summer courses spanning subjects from architecture to business and health. 

Participants gain valuable academic and extracurricular experience while also earning college credits. These programs are led by the university’s experienced faculty, ensuring a rich academic experience through a blend of lectures, hands-on workshops, labs, and engaging guest speakers accompanying each course.

FAQs

Still have questions about these summer programs for high school students in California? Take a look at our answers to these commonly asked questions to learn more.

1. What Extracurricular and Social Activities Are Included?

High school summer programs often include various activities such as workshops, carnivals, team-building exercises, field trips, and social events. These extracurricular events add to your academic pursuits by fostering a well-rounded experience.

2. What Are the Eligibility Criteria?

Eligibility criteria may vary among institutions, with factors such as specific high school grades or age groups being considered. Some programs might also have particular academic or extracurricular prerequisites. 

It's essential to review the specific requirements outlined by each institution to ensure you meet the criteria for the program you are interested in.

3. How Much Does It Cost to Attend Summer Programs for High School Students in California?

The cost of attending summer programs for high school students in California can vary widely depending on factors such as the program's duration, location, and specific offerings. On average, prices may range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. 

Some programs may offer financial aid, scholarships, or sliding scale fees to make them more accessible. It's essential to check with each program individually to get accurate and up-to-date information on their costs and any available financial assistance options.

4. Can I Attend a Summer Program Virtually?

Yes, many summer programs for high school students offer virtual options, allowing participants to attend remotely from the comfort of their own homes. Virtual programs provide flexibility and accessibility for students who may be unable to travel or prefer the convenience of online learning. 

These virtual experiences often include interactive sessions, workshops, lectures, and collaborative projects conducted through online platforms. Before enrolling, it's advisable to check with the specific program to confirm if virtual attendance is an option and to understand the details of the online format.

Final Thoughts

Each of these summer programs for high school students in California provides students with unique opportunities for learning and growth. From rigorous academic courses to hands-on workshops and immersive cultural experiences, these programs cater to students’ diverse interests and aspirations. 

Students who participate in these summer programs are able to explore their passions, build essential skills, and make lasting connections with like-minded peers. While gaining a preview of college life, they are able to cultivate the knowledge and experiences that will empower them to navigate future academic and career endeavors.

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