Are you looking for a summer program where you can learn, experience life on a college campus, maybe even earn credit, and get a good value for your money? We’ve compiled a list of the best college summer programs for high school students below. In the past few years, colleges and universities across the country are offering more and more summer programs for interested high school students to get their feet wet in the world of college life and academics. Hundreds of summer programs have become popular ways for high school students to get a jump on college classes, connect with highly engaged peers, or try out a college before committing to a four-year degree. Summer programs typically focus on specific areas of study and involve on-campus options for both residential students and commuter students.

Students can choose between math and science, theater arts, journalism, business, global studies, and so much more. If you have a specific interest, chances are, there’s a program tailored specifically to that interest. Some programs offer college credit, and others are purely experiential, but all offer the opportunity for high school students to connect, learn, and grow.

We’ve compiled some of the best college summer programs for high school students in this article. We chose only to include colleges with specific programs for high school students, not those who just offer their courses for credit to high school students–although many of the colleges here offer that option as well, which is noted. We ranked colleges according to their ranking on U.S. News and World Report’s College Rankings, variety of courses offered, affordability and financial aid offerings. Programs that offer free options were given special consideration. For methodology details, see the end of the article.

Below are the 15 Best Value College Summer Programs for High School Students 2017.

University of Virginia, 15 Best College Summer Programs for High School Students

15. University of Virginia

Points: 41
Program fees: Virginia Residents: $5,398 / Non-Virginia Residents: $11,278 (includes tuition for six credit hours)
College ranking: #2 U.S. News and World Report
Scholarships and financial aid available: Yes
Courses available: Students choose between four core courses and then may choose an additional course from the 1000-2000 level courses available in the summer session.
Program Description: The University of Virginia offers the U AdVance Summer College Experience for Talented High School Students. The program is a four-week residential program for high-achieving high school juniors and seniors. The goal of the experience is to explore college life at the University of Virginia (UVA). Participants take two undergraduate courses and receive college credit. They select one core course from four choices, and then select one course that will be taken with all UVA summer students. The program also provides a series of academic prep workshops as well as multiple residential and social activities, including team-building exercises and sightseeing excursions. Participants earn six transferable credit hours from UVA. Classes are small and led by UVA faculty. Program costs include dormitory residence during the program as well as a dining plan. For residents of Virginia, this program is more affordable than for non-residents, who could find similar programs at universities in their home states.

Carnegie Mellon, 15 Best College Summer Programs for High School Students

14. Carnegie Mellon University

Points: 43
Program fees: Residential from $8000 to $9,000 / Commuter from $5,000
College ranking: #24 in U.S. News and World Report
Scholarships and financial aid available: Yes
Courses available: choose from six options or an early admission program with multiple undergrad course choices
Program Description: Discover Carnegie Mellon consists of several pre-college programs that give students an idea of what college life is like both in the classroom and out. Open to rising high school juniors or seniors, the program allows students to participate in a choice of six courses as well as extracurricular activities and exploration. Courses include: Architecture, Art, Design, Drama, Music, National High School Game Academy. High-achieving students can opt for the Advanced Placement/Early Admission program, which allows them to enroll in regular college courses and receive credit upon completion. Carnegie Mellon’s programs focus on art and design, and are quite costly, but are very well respected.

Vanderbilt University, 15 Best Value College Summer Programs for High School Students

13. Vanderbilt University 

Points: 43
Program fees: Residential $3,575 | College credit
College ranking: #15 in U.S. News and World Report
Scholarships and financial aid available: Yes
Courses available: choose from six options or an early admission program with multiple undergrad course choices
Program Description: Vanderbilt offers a Summer Academy for gifted high school students. The programs encourage advanced learners to work like scholars in a fast-paced, challenging, and collaborative situation. They spend six hours a day devoted to one particular course, and courses run from one to three weeks. (One week programs are for younger students.) Fostering critical thinking is of utmost importance at Vanderbilt, and the majority of courses are taught by professors and Ph.D. students.

Yale University, 15 Best College Summer Programs for High School Students

12. Yale University

Points: 46
Program fees: Residential $5,800 /Commuter – on request
College ranking: #3 U.S. News and World Report
Scholarships and financial aid available: Yes
Courses available: choose from six major areas of interest
Program Description: Yale offers a selective leadership-development program that focuses on bringing together high school students from around the world. The program, The Yale Young Global Scholars Program, is a two-week on campus intensive, during which students do the following:

  • hone their abilities to think critically and flexibly;
  • engage productively with a diverse group of peers;
  • explore new and exciting ideas;
  • meet distinguished scholars and practitioners;
  • develop key communications skills.

Students build close connections with one another, as well as leaving the program with new leadership skills and strategies to take home with them and implement in their own communities. The program offers six intensive, interdisciplinary tracks, including Politics, Law, and Economics; International Affairs and Security; Sustainable Development & Social Entrepreneurship; Applied Science & Engineering; Biological & Biomedical Science; and Frontiers of Math & Science. Each of the sessions helps students “understand contemporary global issues, strategize responses, and innovate solutions while learning from renowned practitioners and Yale faculty members in a range of fields.” Daily schedule includes lectures from Yale faculty, discussion seminars, and small groups. Each student must complete a writing, research, and presentation project that they work on with a team. This is not a for-credit program, but instead the focus is on student leadership development, including academic and interpersonal skills.

Cornell University, 15 Best Value College Summer Programs for High School Students

11. Cornell University

Points: 46
Program fees: from $4,100 to $12,435
College ranking: #15 in U.S. News and World Report
Scholarships and financial aid available: Yes
Courses available: 36 special program courses, additional courses for credit
Program Description: Summer College offers the best of a specialized program designed for high school students but with the option of earning college credit. Academically motivated high school students work closely with internationally recognized faculty. The program includes opportunities to explore majors and career options as well as enjoy excursions throughout the Finger Lakes region. The summer program offers multiple courses in each of the following program areas: Architecture, Art, Design and Fashion; Business, Hospitality, and Leadership; College Success and English for Speakers of Other Languages; Debate and Literature; Engineering and Robotics; Government, History, and International Relations; Psychology, Research, and Science; Social Change and Sustainability; Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science. In addition, eligible students may enroll directly in the summer session courses or online courses offered at Cornell.

Emory University, 15 Best College Summer Programs for High School Students

10. Emory University

Points: 49
Program fees: Range from $2,789 non-credit commuter to $7,789 four-credit residential student
College ranking: #20 U.S. News and World Report
Scholarships and financial aid available: Yes
Courses available: over 40 options
Program Description: Emory offers two programs, the Pre-College Program and the Emory Summer College. Pre-College Program is a non-credit program, which offers high school students the opportunity to get a glimpse of academic and residential life on Emory’s campus. The program has two-week and three-week noncredit institutes during which students live together in a residence hall on campus or commute from home. The Summer College offers six-week courses for advanced high school juniors and seniors to earn college credit by attending courses alongside other undergraduates. Students attending the Summer College do not have the option of living on campus.

Johns Hopkins University, 15 Best College Summer Programs for High School Students

9. Johns Hopkins University

Points: 51
Program fees: Residential Summer University Program $3,500-$10,475 for two-seven credits / Discover Hopkins Program: Residential $3,500 / Commuter $875 per credit
College ranking: #10 U.S. News and World Report in National Universities
Scholarships and financial aid available: Yes
Courses available: over 100 options
Program Description: Johns Hopkins University offers two programs. The Discover Hopkins Program offers intensive theme-based courses designed to expose students to different topics. This is the on-campus program for high school students to get a better understanding of college life and enjoy the benefits of living on campus and participating in college courses with peers. The Summer University Program is for qualified pre-college students who are eligible to take regular college-level courses for college credit. They will be attending classes with other undergraduate students. Johns Hopkins University is located on 140 acres in Charles Village, a residential neighborhood with a village center, restaurants and shops. Each summer over 400 high school students attend on campus programs, and there are over 2,000 students total on campus from 37 states and 17 countries. Johns Hopkins is ranked #1 among U.S. universities in the amount of federal research and development funding it receives. Additionally, the Engineering Innovation summer program is also for high-school students with a superior aptitude in math and science and an interest in engineering. Students can earn college credit for this program.

Northwestern University, 15 Best College Summer Programs for High School Students

8. Northwestern University

Points: 52
Program fees: $5,102 for one course
College ranking: #12 U.S. News and World Report
Scholarships and financial aid available: Yes
Courses available: undergraduate courses for credit, or three intensive experiences
Program Description: The College Preparation Program at Northwestern University has a variety of short intensive programs as well as longer summer term courses in which high school students can enroll for college credit. Courses range from three-week intensives to four to eight weeks. Some of the programs are the College Bridge Program for debate, speech journalism, film and video production, and theater arts. The Medill-Northwestern Journalism Institute is dedicated to junior and senior high school students who want to improve their writing and reporting skills. The Center for Talent Development offers programs for gifted students from pre-K through grade 12. Additional offerings can be found on their website, and a full range of courses is available for enrollment.

Harvard University, 15 Best College Summer Programs for High School Students

7. Harvard University

Points: 54
Program fees: Pre-college Program $4,500 / Secondary School Program from $3,250-$7,600 + Housing $5,550 (includes 4 or 8 credit option)
College ranking: #2 in U.S. News and World Report
Scholarships and financial aid available: Yes
Courses available: Over 100 options in the Pre-College program, over 200 in the Secondary School Program
Program Description: Harvard has two options for high school students. One is a two-week non-credit experience called the Pre-College Program, while the other is a seven-week Secondary School program that allows students to earn credit for classes taken. Pre-College Program  is structured for curious high school students to get the full campus experience of living in the dorm and attending courses. Includes structured days and planned activities schedule. During your two weeks at Harvard, you attend class for three hours a day and participate in college readiness workshops or team-building events. In the evenings, you eat in the dining hall, finish homework in your room, and attend social activities. Secondary School Program is a seven-week session where students can attend college classes alongside current students. Students choose from over 200 courses and can either earn four or eight credits. Participants may study online, commute or live on campus, but they are responsible for structuring their own schedule and may choose whether or not to participate in planned extracurricular activities.

Stanford University, 15 Best College Summer Programs for High School Students

6. Stanford University

Points: 55
Program fees: Residential $6,500
College ranking: #5 in U.S. News and World Report
Scholarships and financial aid available: Yes
Courses available: 46 options
Program Description: Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes focus on providing intensive academic experiences for high school students in environments that promote creativity and collaboration with other other students and instructors. Students choose one specific course, and applications are reviewed for that course. About 1200 students attend each summer, but class sizes are kept at about 16. Subject areas include arts and humanities, business, computer science, engineering, legal studies, mathematics, social science, physical and biological science, and writing. Graduate students assist instructors in the classroom and serve as mentors and residential counselors, which means high school students maintain close connections with program staff at all times.

Brown University, 15 Best College Summer Programs for High School Students

5. Brown University

Points: 56
Program fees: from $2,024 to $6,068 | College credit courses up to $11,000
College ranking: #14 in U.S. News and World Report
Scholarships and financial aid available: Yes
Courses available: nearly 200 options
Program Description: The Summer@Brown program offers a wide range of non-credit courses on campus. They represent the wide range of courses available under the liberal arts curriculum at Brown. Also included in this program is a full program of events and activities designed with high school students in mind–Brown opens up its undergraduate summer session to qualified rising or newly graduated high school seniors. These courses are regular seven-week college courses for credit. For motivated students comfortable with online courses, Brown offers rigorous, active learning experiences in an online format for students around the world. Subjects include Medicine, Neuroscience, Anatomy, DNA Science, Writing, Entrepreneurship, Engineering and Leadership. In addition, Brown has several global programs and location-based courses, as well as a Leadership Institute, which combines the development of socially responsible leadership with study on health, global development, social entrepreneurship, conflict resolution, and environmental justice. The Brown Environmental Leadership Lab (BELL) utilizes field research, discussions, site visits, and debates to help students create socially responsible environmental approaches they can implement in their own communities. There are many unique opportunities at Brown.

15 Best College Summer Programs for High School Students, MIT

4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Points 65
Program fees: range from cost-free/full-scholarship programs to more than $6,000
College ranking: #7 in U.S. News and World Report
Scholarships and financial aid available: Yes
Courses available: Rather than offering on-campus college credit for undergraduate coursework, MIT offers specific program intensives in different subject areas.
Program Description: The summer programs at MIT are not primarily centered on discovering MIT or learning more about college life. These are subject-specific programs, often highly competitive, and focused on intense learning. Here are the major programs offered. Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES):  a six-week residential academic program for future scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs. Priority is given to those from minority backgrounds and underrepresented populations. Available to 80 high school juniors and seniors. Cost: free to accepted students. Research Science Institute (RSI)a six-week rigorous program devoted to advanced theory and research in mathematics, science, and engineering. About 70 high school juniors are accepted to attend college-level classes and participate in hands-on research. Cost: free to accepted students.  Women’s Technology Program (WTP): a four-week academic and residential experience for female high schoolers to study engineering through classes, labs, and team-based projects. For 60 rising seniors. MIT Launcha four-week entrepreneurship program for high school students, teaching the entrepreneurial skills and mindset through starting real companies. Need-based scholarships are available. Summer Science Program (SSP) This program is not on campus, but is co-sponsored by MIT. Curriculum centers around research in Astrophysics or Biochemistry. The programs are six weeks long and offered at locations in Colorado, New Mexico, and Indiana.

Columbia University, 15 Best College Summer Programs for High School Students

3. Columbia University

Points: 65
Program fees: range from cost-free/full-scholarship programs to more than $6,000
College ranking: #5 in U.S. News and World Report
Scholarships and financial aid available: Yes
Courses available: 60 options
Program Description: Three-week Summer Immersion students choose from 60 possible courses in 12 subject areas. Each option provides in-depth examination of a particular subject. Courses are taught by members of the Columbia University community. Students come from 70 countries worldwide and over 45 states. A majority of the students do reside on campus, but about 40% commute from nearby areas. A full schedule of extracurricular activities is included in the programming. From dance parties to movie and karaoke nights, to field games and cultural celebrations, students will connect with new friends and experience new opportunities. Midday breaks include college preparedness programs, special lectures, community outreach and awareness projects, and special interest clubs. Residential students are supervised by residential advisors who are available 24/7 to assist with any needs. Students must keep to a curfew and follow behavioral guidelines, and they receive detailed instruction regarding campus and city safety. College Credit Options: High achieving juniors and seniors in high school may enroll in college-level courses during the summer term and will receive college credit upon successful completion.

15 Best College Summer Programs for High School Students, University of Michigan

2. University of Michigan–Ann Arbor

Points: 67
Program fees: from no-fee to $4,500
College ranking: #27 in U.S. News and World Report
Scholarships and financial aid available: Yes
Courses available: 27 separate programs available as well as the Summer Discovery program
Program Description: The University of Michigan offers many summer academic opportunities for youth (we found 27 different programs for the 2017 season). Although not ranked as high as some of the other schools on this list, U-M’s variety of programs is exceptional, and they are very affordable, with many being free or offering large scholarships for high-achieving students. These courses are unique because they are offered through the various schools, colleges, and units within U-M. Each program has different guidelines and tuition options, but there are some excellent selections for a variety of interests. Multiple web pages showcase these intensive programs. Choose from engineering, computer programming, nano-technology, research camps, Great Lakes exploration, girls code camp, architecture and urban planning, and living art workshops.

University of Chicago, 15 Best College Summer Programs for High School Students

University of Chicago

Points:6
Program fees: from free programs to $4,364
College ranking: #3 U.S. News and World Report
Scholarships and financial aid available: Yes
Courses available: undergraduate courses for credit, or three intensive experiences
Program Description: The University of Chicago offers multiple opportunities to participate in summer learning through either for-credit courses or intensive learning opportunities. These programs are very unique to University of Chicago and are much more affordable than many other programs. Pre-college programs available include UChicago Immersion, Stones and Bones, and Research in the Biological Sciences, all of which are open only to high school students. These are three- or four-week courses that are taught at the college level. They offer experiential and University of Chicago seminar-style learning, focused on small class sizes and engaging discussion. Students will gain an in-depth perspective into the University of Chicago interdisciplinary style of teaching that includes critical thinking, reading, writing, and discussion skills. Programs in Chicago take advantage of the city’s multiple opportunities for learning. Additional programs are available in centers in Beijing, Bengaluru, and Hong Kong.

High school students may also enroll in Summer Quarter Undergraduate Courses offered each summer by the University of Chicago College in over 20 subject areas. Chicago Public Schools students apply for these courses as a Summer Bridge or as a Summer Session student.

The University of Chicago campus is set in a beautiful location in south Chicago. A short bus ride takes students to the city center or other Chicago neighborhoods. Students enjoy biking along the lakefront, or exploring the many nearby museums and cultural events in the area.

Ranking Methodology

Fees:
>1k-2k – 10 pts.
<2k-3k – 9pts.
<3k-4k – 8 pts.
<4k-5k – 7 pts.
<5k-6k – 6 pts.
<6k-7k – 5 pts.
<7k-8k – 4 pts.
<8k-9k – 3 pts.
<9k-10k- 2 pts.
<10k – 1 pt.

Ranking with US News and World Report:
1-10 – 20 pts.
11-20 – 15 pts.
21 -30 – 10 pts.

Scholarships:
Yes: 10 pts.
No: 0 pts.

Courses available:
<10 – 20 pts.
1-10 – 10pts.

Free program offerings: 20 pts.

In the case of a tie in points, the school ranked higher with US News received the higher ranking.

CVO Staff
April 2017

This concludes our ranking of the 15 Best Value College Summer Programs for High School Students 2017.