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10 Free Computer Science Summer Programs for High School Students

If you’re an ambitious high school student either looking for an introduction to CS or to dive deeper into the subject, then this list is for you! We’ve put together 10 fully paid, competitive CS programs for high school students ranging from summer to year-long research programs. Opting for dedicated programs such as these is a great way to learn more about a subject, gain hands-on experience, and show demonstrated interest in your college application. 

Here are 10 free CS programs you should consider applying to:

Location: Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA)

Application deadline: March 1, 2024

Program dates: June 22, 2024, to July 20, 2024

Program selectivity: High

Eligibility: Rising high school juniors. You must be a sophomore when submitting your application

Rising high school juniors can apply for CS Scholars, a four-week summer residential program at Carnegie Mellon University. Here, students study college-level coursework and also attend sessions that focus on reading them for college admissions (personal statement writing, applying for financial aid, preparing your portfolio, etc). Course material includes learning to code using Python, and using this framework to explore data structures, algorithmic components, and problem-solving techniques. Carnegie Mellon may invite outstanding CS Scholars to attend their AI Scholars program for high school seniors, which is also fully funded. 

Location: Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA)

Application deadline: March 1, 2024

Program dates: June 22, 2024, to July 20, 2024

Program selectivity: High

Eligibility: Rising high school seniors. You must be a high school junior when you submit your application

AI Scholars is a four-week residential summer program for rising high school seniors that, like the CS Scholars program, includes college-level coursework and college admission prep. Course material here focuses on AI as a social good, and students can attend guest lectures by industry leaders, go on field trips, and participate in workshops and group projects. Students complete a capstone project and present it at the end of the program. 

Location: Virtual, with occasional travel to the MIT campus (Cambridge, MA)

Application deadline: November 30, 2024

Program dates: February 1, 2025, to January 15, 2025

Program selectivity: High

Eligibility: All high school students living within the Greater Boston area

MIT PRIMES is a year-long research program where advanced high school students work on either individual or group research projects in mathematics, computer science, or biology and are mentored by MIT graduate or postdoctoral students. The program is highly competitive and, to apply, students must solve a set of questions based on their chosen research interest. You can see previous years’ problem sets here. The program is split into four phases: advanced reading, active research, independent study, and write-up. Students must be able to commit a minimum of 10 hours per week to independent study and research.

Location: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA)

Application deadline: January 15, 2025 (tentative)

Program dates: June 2025 - July 2025

Program selectivity: High

Eligibility: Young girls who are rising high school seniors can apply for the program

MIT’s Women Technology Program (WTP) introduces high-achieving high school girls to engineering through a four-week, hands-on summer residential program where they learn about the discipline through classes taught by female graduate students, lab work, and team-building exercises. Interested students can attend either the mechanical engineering track or the electrical engineering and computer science track.  

Note: MIT will not have a 2024 cohort for the electrical engineering and computer science track, which will return in 2025

Location: Texas Tech University (Lubbock, TX)

Application deadline: February 15, 2024

Program dates: June 16, 2024, to August 1, 2024

Program selectivity: High

Eligibility: Applicants must be at least 17 years old by the program’s start date (they can be either rising high school seniors or have recently graduated high school)

The Clark Scholars Program is a highly selective and prestigious seven-week summer residential program that accepts only 12 students per cohort. Additionally, Texas Tech pays students a $750 stipend at the end of the program. Successful candidates can choose a research area of interest and benefit from one-on-one mentorship by Texas Tech faculty. Students can choose either the Computer Science or Electrical and Computer Engineering track. Previous Clark scholars’ research projects include Sonnet Xu’s “An Interactive 3D Visualization Tool for Dynamic Synaptic Networks” and Anqi Hu’s “Optimal GPU Frequency Selection: Using Workload-Unique Power and Performance Predictions.” You can see a list of research projects here.

Location: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA)

Application deadline: March 31, 2024

Program dates: July 8, 2024, to August 4, 2024

Program selectivity: High

Eligibility: Rising high school seniors

The Beaver Works Summer Institute is a four-week summer program for ambitious high school seniors to improve their STEM skills and knowledge through dedicated courses. Some courses include online and in-person components. For computer science, students can choose between

  1. Serious Game Development with AI Use machine learning and game-like modeling to implement socially relevant policy interventions

  2. Embedded Security and Hardware Hacking Learn about programming in Python and C, assembly language, and cryptography. Students will also design a secure system for an internet-based home door lock 

  3. Cyber Security in Software Intensive Systems Learn about the different elements involved in cyber security, including intelligence, network defense, digital forensics, malware analysis, and offensive security

Location: New York University (New York, NY)

Application deadline: April 14, 2024

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

Program selectivity: High

Eligibility: Rising high school students in grades 9,10, 11, and 12 who are New York City residents

CS4CS is a four-week summer program for NYC high school students to discover computer science and cybersecurity. During the program, students learn about fundamental cybersecurity concepts like white-hat hacking, cryptography, stenography, digital forensics, privacy, and data usage. You will also learn about technologies used to detect and prevent cyber threats, how to trace threats to their source, learn to code, and how ciphers are used in network security, among other topics. 

Location: University of Texas at Austin (Austin, TX)

Application deadline: January 7, 2024

Program dates: June 9-15, 2024, and July 7-13, 2024

Program selectivity: High

Eligibility: Rising high school students in grades 10, 11, and 12 

The Academy for All with UT Computer Science is a week-long residential program that teaches students the fundamentals of computer science. UT faculty conducts the program. Students also attend sessions dedicated to exploring careers in tech, meetings with industry leaders, and college application prep. The Academy for All has two cohorts that run in June and July respectively:

  1. Standard Edition: learn to code using C++ and use the Arduino microcontroller to develop an LED light show

  2. Machine Learning Edition: learn to code using Python and code and train a machine learning model

UT-Austin also offers need-based scholarships of up to $500 to cover students’ cost of transport to and from the university campus.

Location: University of Washington (Seattle, WA)

Application deadline: April 3, 2024

Program dates: July 8, 2024, to August 4, 2024

Program selectivity: High

Eligibility: All high school students

CIC is a four-week program offered by the University of Washington to introduce high school students, especially those who come from underrepresented communities to the fundamentals of computer science and engineering. The program is taught by the university’s undergraduate and graduate students. The coursework includes coding and problem-solving and also includes classes on ethics in tech.

All students receive a $1,500 stipend at the end of the program, and financially deserving students get a $250 gift card for meals.

Location: University of California San Diego (San Diego, CA)

Application deadline: May 10, 2024 (based on the 2023 deadline)

Program dates: June 17, 2024, to August 9, 2024 (tentative dates)

Program selectivity: High

Eligibility: High school students in grades 10,11, or 12 living in Southern California. Applicants must be at least 16 years old by June 15 

REHS is a student outreach program offered by UC San Diego Supercomputer Center to introduce more high school students to computer science and its impact on research across different disciplines. Students interested in the program can choose between non-research and research projects. Non-research projects include internships within the Supercomputer Center and learning through hands-on experience, while research projects involve working one-on-one with a mentor, usually faculty members, and assisting them with their research projects. 

Note: Students who opt for a research project must pay a $1,500 registration fee.

Bonus — the Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you are interested in doing university-level research in CS, then you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, over 4000 students applied 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.

Kieran Lobo is a freelance writer from India, who currently teaches English in Spain.

Image Source: CMU logo

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