Top Online Research Opportunities for High School Students

Best online research opportunities for high school students
May 10, 2024
4 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/10/24

Read on to learn about the best online research opportunities for high school students and how to strengthen your college profile!

Enrolling in an online research program can help set you up for college success, particularly if you're interested in undergraduate research. 

This guide will teach you what you need to know about the benefits of virtual research, what to look for in research opportunities, and a list of the best online research opportunities for high school students!

Top 20 Online Research Opportunities for High School Students in 2024

These are some of the best online research opportunities for high school students: 

1. The Lumiere Research Scholar Program

Academic requirement: ​​Unweighted GPA of 3.3 or higher

Cost: N/A

Duration: 12 weeks

College credit: No

This research program was founded by Harvard and Oxford scholars, allowing students to work one-on-one with Ph.D. mentors to create an "independently-developed research project."

2. Horizon Academic (HARP)

Academic requirement: ​Unweighted GPA of 3.67 or higher

Cost: N/A

Duration: Three months

College credit: No

HARP is a trimester-long research opportunity. Students work with a professor as they develop a college-level research project. Most students complete a 20+ page research paper by the program's end.

3. Pioneer Academics

Academic requirement: ​Demonstrated academic excellence

Cost: $6,850

Duration: Three to four months

College credit: Yes

Many top colleges hold Pioneer Academics in high regard: “it’s the only online credit-bearing research program” offering STEM, social sciences, and humanities disciplines. Students work one-on-one with U.S. university professors, and the program is open to students worldwide. 

4. Polygence

Academic requirement: Not required

Cost: Starts at $2,795

Duration: Four to six months

College credit: No

Polygence offers one-on-one mentorship with a research expert in the field and flexible scheduling. Students in the program can earn college credit from the University of California, write a research paper, and pursue “passion projects” such as starting a podcast, writing a novel, publishing a paper, and more.

5. Cambridge Future Scholar Programme

Academic requirement: Demonstrated academic excellence

Cost: $3,900

Duration: 13 weeks

College credit: No

This online research opportunity is taught by professors from Oxford, Cambridge, MIT, Stanford, and select Ivies. Students can choose from 34 STEM, Business, Social Sciences, and Humanities courses. Outcomes include a research paper and recommendation letter from an Oxbridge or Ivy League faculty member.

6. CrowdMath

Academic requirement: N/A

Cost: Free

Duration: One year

College credit: No

CrowdMath is an open project run by MIT Primes and the Art of Problem Solving. The purpose is for students to “experience research mathematics and discover ideas that did not exist before.” Students can comment on the message board to try and solve complex problems.

7. Indigo Research

Academic requirement: N/A

Cost: Starting at $3,800

Duration: 13 to 48 weeks depending on program

College credit: No

Their High School Research Program pairs students 1:1 with professors and mentors from top universities in the US and UK to develop their own research project. Indigo is known for having some of the strictest education requirements for mentors (including professors from Ivy League universities), as well as the most flexible research program, allowing students to tailor personalized mentorship sessions according to their schedule.

8. Summer Academy for High School Students

Academic requirement: N/A

Cost: $1,200 for early registration, or $1,500

Duration: One month

College credit: Yes

This program offers hands-on experience in architecture, interior design, and landscape design for students. Virtual activities include exploring buildings, taking tours, and using design tools from home. Students get access to design software, a sketchbook, and a 3D printing pen to build portfolios for college applications.

9. Leadership Institute

Academic requirement: N/A

Cost: $5,313

Duration: One month

College credit: No

The Leadership Institute at Brown University empowers high school students who care about social justice to make a difference. Students join a supportive community to discuss important issues and find solutions. They learn skills like listening, problem-solving, and teamwork. By the end, they create a plan to bring positive change to their communities.

10. BETA Camp Summer

Academic requirement: N/A

Cost: $3,000

Duration: One month

College credit: No

BETA Camp is an online program for teens with big business ideas. With expert guidance and a supportive community, they learn how to turn their startup ideas into reality. They'll develop skills like researching, marketing, and pitching to investors.

11. Clinical Neuroscience Immersion Experience 

Academic requirement: N/A

Cost: No cost

Duration: Two weeks

College credit: No

This Stanford summer program in Behavioral and Psychological Sciences teaches students about cutting-edge research in neuroscience, psychiatry, and psychology. Students work together on a final project, which they present to Stanford professors, peers, and families at the end.

12. Summer College – Research Immersion Program

Academic requirement: N/A

Cost: $1,985, plus $65 application fee

Duration: Six weeks

College credit: No

Syracuse University’s Summer College: Research Immersion Program (SCRIP) is a six-week program for high school students. During this time, they work closely with faculty on research projects and present their findings.

13. Summer Writing Online

Academic requirement: N/A

Cost: $2,200

Duration: Three weeks

College credit: Yes

The University of Iowa has a renowned creative writing program that offers a three-week intensive course for high school writers. Students learn from Iowa's respected faculty, get workshop feedback, and hear from famous authors. It's a great opportunity for young writers seeking guidance and support for their creative projects this summer.

14. Summer Session for Pre-College Students

Academic requirement: N/A

Cost: $4,850 for one course credit 

Duration: One month

College credit: Yes

High school students can join Yale summer classes with Yale undergrads, a cool chance to dive deep into a subject they love or try something new. They'll get the real feel of studying at a top-notch university, earn college credit, and meet Yale's awesome faculty.

15. Secondary School Program 

Academic requirement: N/A

Cost: $3,700 per four credit course, plus $75 application fee

Duration: Seven weeks

College credit: Yes

This program offers more than 200 courses. It's a great chance to explore college-level research on a topic you like, taught by famous professors.

16. Pre-College Summer Programs

Academic requirement: N/A

Cost: $1,950 (one credit), $562 (non-credit)

Duration: Two to 10 weeks

College credit: Depends on the program

Johns Hopkins University offers many online programs for high schoolers. These courses let you learn at your own pace and include live teaching. They have different time options so that you can fit them around your summer plans.

17. International Summer School for Young Physicists (ISSYP)

Academic requirement: N/A

Cost: $250

Duration: Two weeks

College credit: No

ISSYP has been teaching future physicists for 20 years. This two-week online program is for high schoolers who've taken physics and want to study it in college. Through interactive sessions with peers and experts, they'll learn about modern physics topics like quantum mechanics and black holes. It's perfect for juniors or seniors interested in physics research.

18. Summer Program

Academic requirement: N/A

Cost: $1,075-$1,375 per course

Duration: Three weeks

College credit: No

AwesomeMath has an online summer program for high schoolers who are good at math and want to ace competitions like AMC, AIME, or IMO. The program has Algebra, Combinatorics, Geometry, and Number Theory courses at four skill levels, spread over three summer sessions.

19. Economics for Leaders (EFL)

Academic requirement: N/A

Cost: $800 plus $35 application processing fee

Duration: One week

College credit: No

This summer program teaches high schoolers how to use economics in decision-making and become leaders in public policy. Taught by economics professors and leadership experts, the classes are hands-on and include group projects. It's perfect for students who want to research economics and public policy.

20. Medical Research Program

Academic requirement: N/A

Cost: $1,495 - $1,795

Duration: One to four weeks

College credit: No

Georgetown University has a special online program for high schoolers who want to do medical research in college. Students learn about clinical research, evidence-based medicine, and ethics. They'll create their study and turn it into a scientific paper. This mentorship program is great for anyone interested in medical school or clinical research.

These are some of our top picks, but it doesn’t stop here! Taking initiative to find research opportunities will look excellent on your college application, so you should keep looking until you find the right one for you.

In-Person vs Online Research Opportunities: When to Choose

Deciding between in-person and online research opportunities depends on various factors. In-person research can offer hands-on experience and direct interaction with mentors and equipment. It's ideal for those who prefer a traditional learning environment and thrive in face-to-face interactions. 

On the other hand, online research provides flexibility and accessibility, allowing students to participate from anywhere with an internet connection. This option suits individuals with busy schedules or those who prefer working independently. 

Benefits of Virtual Research Opportunities for High School Students 

In general, research exposure is important for high school students. According to the American Psychological Association, research for high school students can help provide early career exposure, develop necessary life and career skills, and build and expand a professional network. 

However, virtual research opportunities for high school students in particular have added benefits: 

  • Generally lower costs compared to in-person programs 
  • No need to navigate transportation, accommodations, or any other travel logistics 
  • Flexibility (depending on the program) 
  • A mix of guided and independent work 

Overall, virtual research opportunities for high school students mean they can get valuable research experience with fewer barriers, such as high costs, time, and distance.

What to Look For in an Online Research Opportunity 

There are three main factors you should consider when looking for the best online research opportunities for high school students: 

  • Who offers the program: Check your source (an organization, school, etc.) and learn more about them. Are they reputable? Will partnering with them give you the tools you need to succeed? 
  • The program’s value: Consider what your role would be in the program and what skills you'd learn. Does the program offer enough guidance for your success? Does the program offer mixed learning through webinars and workshops? Is the research you'd be doing relevant to your passions? 
  • The time commitment/flexibility: Will the program's schedule fit with your own? Do you have to attend live meetings/lectures, or are they pre-recorded? Can you speak one-on-one in real-time with a research expert? Consider time commitments and flexibility to see if a program works for your busy schedule. 

To summarize, look for programs with a reputation for excellence, offer guidance and the opportunity to hone or build new skills, and work for you when added to your schedule.

Final Thoughts

Virtual research opportunities for high school students can help you explore your interest areas, gain the necessary skills you'll need for undergraduate research, and build your professional network. Before applying, consider the program's source, value, and time commitment. 

Remember, the best online research opportunity for any high school student is one that you’re passionate about participating in. Whether you're interested in STEM, business, pre-med, or humanities, there’s a research opportunity waiting for you.

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