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10 Animation Summer Programs for High School Students

If you’re a high schooler keen on exploring animation as a career, or just exploring the subject in general, then enrolling in an animation program might be worth considering during the summer.


Animation is the creation of moving graphics, so it combines art and creativity with technical skills. It also involves the use of various digital design tools to create animated visuals or videos of varying lengths that can have wide-ranging applications across industries. So, an animator can work in fields like filmmaking, marketing and advertising, gaming, TV production, software development, and more. This makes animation a compelling career path worth considering!


Several public and private universities and independent organizations offer animation programs—camps, pre-college programs, or intensives—to high school students. Opting for these programs can help you develop technical skills like storyboarding, drawing and composition, software proficiency, and designing, as well as soft skills like attention to detail, good teamwork, and organization.


Here’s our curated list of 10 animation summer programs for high school students!


Location: In-person program at Pratt Institute Brooklyn Campus, Brooklyn, NY

Cost: $4,613 (tuition fee). Check the complete cost breakdown here to learn about housing, meals, and other fees. You can also opt for a commuter program. Financial aid is available.

Eligibility: High school students of ages 16–18 can apply.

Application deadline: May 1, 2024

Program dates: July 8, 2024–August 2, 2024


Pratt Institute is a private university primarily known for art, design, and liberal arts. Its PreCollege Summer program is a rigorous 4-week opportunity for high schoolers to explore the majors available at Pratt. You can mention 3 preferred courses in your application, and you will be enrolled in two classes out of the 18 available courses. One of which is Digital Arts: 2D Animation, which can help you explore hand-crafted and digital approaches to animation. It will also cover drawing frame by frame on paper and creating digitally composited layers of movement to develop a full-fledged animated project with sound and color. Also, you will get to work on traditional character animation and explore experimental animation techniques. Each course offers two college credits that are typically accepted by most colleges. Guided museum tours, portfolio development sessions, and studio sessions are also part of the program. The pre-college experience ends with a final exhibition, where students get to share their work with peers, family, and the Pratt community.


Location: University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Winston-Salem, NC

Cost: $2,405 (two-week session) and $4,810 (4-week session). The cost includes housing and application fees.

Eligibility: All rising and current high school students can apply.

Application deadline: May 10, 2024

Program dates: 

  • Session 1 (Introductory): June 23, 2024–July 6, 2024

  • Session 2 (Introductory and Advanced): July 7–20, 2024

  • You can combine sessions 1 and 2 for a 4-week session running from June 23, 2024–July 20, 2024


The Animation Summer Intensive, offered by the UNCSA School of Filmmaking, is a 2- to 4-week program designed to help high schoolers explore fundamentals and advanced concepts of animation. If you choose the introductory program, meant for first-time program participants, you will get to explore first-hand key elements of animation like visual storytelling, directing, storyboarding, animation production, cinematography, editing, and sound design. You will also get to participate in workshops on screenwriting, character design, and acting. The program also offers a chance to work on hand-drawn and 3D computer animation under the guidance of a professional animator. No prior experience is required for this introductory session. On the other hand, the advanced program builds on what you have learned in the introductory program and delves deeper into the elements of animation. The introductory program is common for both two-week sessions, but the advanced program is only offered during the second session. You can sign up for both sessions in sequence to spend a total of 4 weeks learning about animation.


Location: Virtual

Cost: $5,959. Financial aid is available.

Eligibility: All high school students can apply.

Application deadline: June 15, 2024

Program dates: June 24, 2024–August 2, 2024


UCLA’s Film and Television Summer Institute offers its Traditional Animation track designed to teach students how to write, storyboard, and draw to make their own animation film. This 6-week online program will offer opportunities to interact with guest speakers, who would be Hollywood professionals. Through such interactions, you will learn about the history of animation, contemporary industry practices, and real-life experiences and what it’s like to work in Hollywood today. Under the supervision of UCLA faculty, you will learn the animation process from storyboard to post-production. You will also get to learn traditional hand-drawn animation using a Wacom tablet/mouse and work with Pencil2D and Adobe Premiere to work on your animated project. You will be expected to create an animated short film with sound and present it at the end of the program. Upon successfully completing the program, you will receive a letter grade.


Location: California State Summer School for the Arts, Sacramento, CA

Cost: $4,600 (for California residents) and $7,000 (for out-of-state and international students). The cost includes housing.  Financial aid is available.

Eligibility: Students in grades 8 to 12 are eligible to apply.

Application deadline: February 29, 2024

Program dates: July 6, 2024–August 2, 2024


The California State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA) is a month-long training program in the fields of visual and performing arts, creative writing, animation, and film. The Animation Program offers high school students a chance to explore their interests, from fine art to digital animation, and learn experimental and traditional animation techniques under the guidance of professionals. 


The program is structured with three components: core classes, interaction with guests (animators), and field trips. So, from Monday to Saturday, you will attend workshops and classes on animation, storyboarding, drawing, digital animation, and other related subjects. You will also attend screenings of animated films and additional workshops on subjects such as stop-motion. Overall, you will be expected to work on 5 projects involving traditional, cutout, and digital animation techniques. You will also get to study the history and work of animators, participate in figure drawing classes, and learn from professional animators. Check out the list of past guests here! Field visits to animation studios and/or local museums are also part of the program.


Location: University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, Los Angeles, CA

Cost: $2,244 per course unit (students can choose up to 8 units) + $2,100–$2,600 (housing costs)

Eligibility: Anyone who is at least 16 years old can apply.

Application deadline: TBA, but applications typically open in December.

Program dates: June 24, 2024–August 2, 2024


The USC SCA Summer Program follows the structure of a rigorous pre-college program, offering participants a chance to take production, editing, animation, screenwriting, interactive media, and film and television business courses. Each course is worth a certain number of units and students can choose up to 8 units. The program also involves classroom studies, homework assignments, and participation in activities and events, just like a regular pre-college program does. Those interested in animation can choose the Animation Fundamentals course, which covers concepts of motion and timing involved in bringing traditional 2D animation to life. The course classes will be taught by USC SCA faculty members, who are also industry professionals. During the program, you will get to explore innovative animated work, especially used in commercials, art installations, and music videos. You will also work on a series of short assignments that will culminate in a short project. The course aims to equip students with tools and techniques to create their hand-drawn animations.


Location: Virtual and on-campus (School of Visual Arts, New York, NY) options

Cost: Tuition fees are $3,250 (in-person) and $2,700 (online). Financial aid is available. For in-person, residential format, the housing fee is $1,950 and meal plan costs $600.

Eligibility: All high school students can apply.

Application deadline: TBA, but applications typically open in December.

Program dates: July 8–26, 2024


The School of Visual Arts is a private art school in New York City. Its summer Pre-College Program offers high school students a chance to earn 3 college credits. So, you can choose one course from a variety of in-person or online courses, each worth 3 credits. Each course would have 20 students in total. To explore the field of animation, you can choose from in-person courses like Animation, Computer Art: Computer Animation, and Real-Time Animated Film Production or online courses like Animation and Computer Art: Computer Animation. These courses cover the fundamentals of animation, traditional animation, as well as digital animation and 3D animation with the help of the application Autodesk Maya. You may work on creating a short animation and stills of your developed character with editing and sound. Summer classes are typically scheduled from Monday to Friday, 9 am to 4 pm. The last Friday of the program is dedicated to the final student exhibition and screening attended by students and their families and friends. Check out the program brochure here before applying.


Location: The Cooper Union campus, Manhattan, NY

Cost: $4,000

Eligibility: All high school students can apply.

Application deadline: TBA

Program dates: July 8, 2024–August 1, 2024


The Cooper Union is a private, higher-learning institution. Its Summer Art Intensive gives high school students a chance to experience the art college environment by choosing from courses like drawing, animation, digital photography, graphic design, and studio practice. You can opt for the Animation & Drawing course to hone the basic skills required for animation. You will also participate in discussions, technical demos, and individual and group workshops to explore the field further. You will be expected to work on several short animations and one long animation with the help of software like Photoshop and Premiere Pro. You will explore art-making and its real-world application through lectures, demonstrations, exercises, and critiques. The Summer Art Intensive also involves special focus workshops each week, social events, and field trips to museums, galleries, and artists’ studios. Each class is limited to just 16 students.


Location: Virtual and in-person (Los Angeles, CA and Harvard University, Cambridge, MA)

Cost: $2,625 (online) and $4,100 (in-person)

Eligibility: High school students aged 14–17 can apply.

Application deadline: None. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Program dates: June 24, 2024 – July 19, 2024 (online) | June 30, 2024–July 20, 2024 (Los Angeles, CA) | July 14, 2024–August 3, 2024 (Harvard University)


New York Film Academy is a private film and acting school. It currently offers camps and workshops to teens interested in exploring filmmaking and related fields. Its 3D Animation Summer Camp covers fundamentals of animation, including movement, timing, weight, and character development using Maya software. Here, you work with basic modeling, rendering, and motion exercises to create your own animated short. You will also learn how to develop ideas through acting, directing, storyboarding, and screenwriting. Explore all the concepts you can expect to study at camp here. You can keep an eye out for the housing costs as per the location here if you opt for the 3-week camp. You can check out the NYFA brochure for camp details before applying.


Location: Columbia University, New York, NY

Cost: $4,095. Financial aid is available.

Eligibility: Students between the ages of 14–18 who have completed at least one year of high school can apply.

Application deadline: Rolling basis. The program will continue to accept applications if space is available.

Program dates: You can choose between two summer sessions: June 17–25, 2024 and June 29, 2024–July 7, 2024


The National Student Leadership Conference offers school students pre-college experiences. Its Digital Arts & Design Program enables students to work closely with professionals in the field and explore career options. While applying, you can choose from three tracks: Photography, Animation, or Graphic Design. The Animation track covers the core concepts of animation production through workshops on character design, drawing motions, timing, syncing, and cleanup. You will also get to design your animations using both a computer and a drawing tablet and get to practice computer-based hands-on techniques. Also part of the program could be trips to Pratt Institute, Nickelodeon, The Mill Studio Tour, and MoMA. The program also offers professional guidance, providing you with relevant knowledge in portfolio and resume building, marketing your work, and freelancing.


Before applying, check out our detailed take on NSLC here to see if the program is right for you. 


Location: Susan Miller Dorsey High School, Los Angeles, CA

Cost: None

Eligibility: High school students in Los Angeles can apply.

Application deadline: None

Program dates: July 1–27, 2024


CalArts Community Arts Partnership (CAP) is a co-curricular program of the California Institute of the Arts that offers free after-school and school-based arts programs for students who are 4–18 years old. Its Summer Arts program, CAPSA, offers free creative labs (animation, film, visual art, and music labs) to high school students in Los Angeles County. The Summer Animation Lab covers foundational skills needed to create animated films. You will get to explore a wide variety of mediums to find your artistic voice. Check out what previous CAPSA participants worked on here. Existing drawing or animation skills are not a prerequisite for this program. The program ends with a one-day student showcase.


Bonus!

Location: University of Connecticut Campus, Storrs, CT

Cost: Starts at $2,050 for 1 course. Check the detailed cost information here.

Eligibility: Current high school freshmen, sophomores, or juniors can apply.

Application deadline: June 11, 2024. However, applications may be accepted beyond the deadline based on seat availability.

Program dates: Multiple one-week sessions from June to July. Students can choose from 1 to 5 one-week sessions.


UConn Pre-College Summer offers high school students the opportunity to take credit and non-credit college-level courses in various subjects. You can choose up to 5 courses from the wide variety of options available here. Two courses on the list, Animation Studio and Digital Animation & Motion Graphics, are best suited for those interested in animation. The Animation Studio course covers the fundamentals of animation, storyboard and character development, worldbuilding, and the know-how to create animations with limited materials and technology. Whereas, the Digital Animation & Motion Graphics course focuses on commercial motion graphics, animation production, and film process and the use of Adobe software. Both are one-week courses that involve some hands-on animation work. You can consider enrolling in one or both as they do not overlap. Check out the complete course details for each option before registering on the UConn website.


A few other summer programs you can consider:



One other option—Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you’re looking for a different way to boost your college applications, you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students that I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.


Also check out the Lumiere Research Inclusion Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented, low-income students. Last year, we had 150 students on full need-based financial aid!


Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a PhD student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper. 

Image Source: Pratt Institute seal

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