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10 Free Summer Programs for High School Students in Houston

If you’re a high school student located in Houston and looking for free programs to build your skills over the summer, we’ve got you covered! Participating in a summer program will provide you with an opportunity to explore beyond the traditional classroom setting, cultivate new skills, and network with peers and mentors. These programs allow you to explore potential career paths and set you apart from your peers, boosting your resume for college applications. 

Many renowned universities and research centers offer free or fully-funded summer programs, especially for talented high school students, as the high costs can be a deterrent for a lot of students. Such experiences will give you a competitive edge and help you make informed decisions about your academic path and career aspirations. Most of these programs are highly prestigious, and participating in them is viewed by colleges as a testament to a student's dedication, intellectual curiosity, and potential for success.

Here’s our curated list of the top 10 free summer programs tailored for high school students in Houston.

Subject Areas: Engineering research, scientific writing, communication. 

Location: Rice University, Houston, TX

Cost: Free

Dates: 3 weeks; Session 1: June 10 - June 27, 2024 | Session 2: July 8 - July 25, 2024 

Application Deadline: Applications typically close in April.

Eligibility: Sophomores and juniors who are residents of the Houston area. 

Note: The program runs from Monday to Thursday between 9 AM and 3 PM. 

The Precise Advanced Technologies and Health Systems for Underserved Populations (PATHS-UP) Young Scholars Digital Health Summer Program is a free 3-week summer program that introduces students to digital circuitry, computer science, physics, and engineering research at Rice University. In addition to learning their practical applications in the healthcare field, you will build a network of peers through this program and learn about various potential college pathways. As a part of this program, you will study programming and digital design and their relationship to healthcare through practical simulations and working with instruments such as pulse oximeters, accelerometers, GPS devices, speakers, and microphones.

No prior programming experience is required for you to apply. However, this is a highly selective program that only selects 12 students, and the application requires the involvement of a school representative. You can learn more about the program and the application form on the website.

Subject Areas: Medical research, cancer biology.

Location: MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX.

Cost: Free

Dates: 8-10 weeks between June and August.

Application Deadline: Applications typically close in January. 

Eligibility: High school seniors who are 18 years or older, in good academic standing, or graduating are eligible to apply.

The DACCPM (Division of Anesthesiology, Critical Care & Pain Medicine) Summer Research Program is a highly selective 10-week summer program. As a trainee, you will get practical experience developing laboratory and clinical research skills, conducting medical literature reviews, techniques to handle data, and more. Other academic and professional development programming opportunities are also available on topics such as applying to graduate school and the different career tracks the faculty have pursued.

You will work with a faculty member on an assigned research project, which you will present at a poster symposium at the end of the program. The abstract of your research will be included in the 2024 CATALYST Summer Program abstract book. You can apply by filling out this form and providing transcripts, a resume, recommendations, and a personal statement.

Subject Areas: Engineering, physics, sustainability

Location: Rice University, Houston, TX

Cost: Free 

Dates: July 8 - July 12, 2024

Application Deadline: June 7, 2024

Eligibility: High school girls entering 10th or 11th grade. Boys and non-binary students in 10th or 11th grade (current 2023-2024 school year) are welcome to apply to participate in this program.

Rice STEM Academy is a free week-long enrichment summer program aimed at helping high school girls understand scientific principles and processes. It is conducted in collaboration with Design Connect Create at Rice University. As part of this program, you will explore different engineering challenges focused on sustainability with state-of-the-art labs, Rice University faculty, and graduate student discussions. 

Alongside studying these theoretical principles, you will make connections to the real world to understand their impact on your daily life. The program will allow you to work with engineering landing capsules, learn about circuits using Microbits, explore motion concepts with the help of TI Nspire Rovers, and discuss other physics concepts, their connection to engineering, and the challenges of making more sustainable designs. 

Subject Areas: Biomedical sciences

Location: MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX

Cost/Stipend: No cost; $6,800 for the 10-week program ($6,120 if participating for nine weeks).

Dates: June 3 - August 9, 2024 

Application Deadline: Applications typically close in January.

Eligibility: High school seniors who are Texas residents and are at least 18 years old by the time the program starts (June 3, 2024).

The Carl B. & Florence E. King Foundation High School Summer Program is a highly selective and prestigious 10-week summer program for students interested in biomedical sciences. The MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas offers students interested in an allied health career the rare opportunity to immerse themselves in a research project in one of the biomedical disciplines under the guidance of a full-time member of the MD Anderson faculty. As a participant, you will learn the principles and processes involved in research investigation and gain firsthand experience in the various career opportunities at the MD Anderson Cancer Centre. 

The program admits only ten students each year and will give you an insight into the career of a biomedical researcher and increase your awareness for your college term. You can find more information on their website

Subject Areas: Leadership, human rights, global policy, renewable energy, international security, economics, environment.

Location: Asia Society Texas Center, Houston, TX

Cost: Free

Application Deadline: May 31, 2024 (Applications for the 2024 Young Leaders Institute are accepted on a rolling basis, with students encouraged to apply early to secure placement).

Eligibility: High school students from the Greater Houston area are encouraged to apply for the Young Leaders Institute. Students must be high school students in Fall 2024.

The Young Leaders Institute (YLI) is a week-long summer program for high school students that promotes global competence, elevates leadership skills, and connects students from diverse backgrounds and experiences. You may apply to one, two, or all three sessions of the Young Leaders Institute simply by checking the sessions you are interested in on the application form.

During the Institute, you will work in teams throughout the week researching, debating, and presenting solutions for the world's challenges. With mentorship and guidance from Asia Society Texas staff, you will be provided opportunities to develop more in-depth knowledge about global issues; hone communication, collaboration, and presentation skills for the future; and engage respectfully and thoughtfully with experts, staff, and peers to transform your understanding of leadership.

Subject Areas: Earth science, aeronautics, technology, space science.

Location: Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX and Online Experience

Cost/Stipend: No cost; Unpaid. (Upon successful completion of the online portion of the course, students will be awarded a 0.5 Science elective credit).

Dates: This is a year-long program. November-February (Online course) | Late July: 4-Day Onsite Residential Experience. For other important dates, check here. 

Application Deadline: Applications typically close in October. (Applications for the 2024 session are closed and will re-open in August 2024 for the 2025 session).

Eligibility: Applicants must be high school juniors who are U.S. citizens residing in Texas.

Texas High School Aerospace Scholars is an authentic STEM learning experience for Texas high school juniors to engage with NASA’s missions and become the next generation of explorers. HAS is a year-long commitment for Texas high school juniors which starts in the fall with a four-month online learning experience related to space exploration, Earth science, technology, and aeronautics. Highest achieving students receive an invitation to a five-day gamified virtual summer experience (Moonshot) mentored by NASA scientists and engineers.

Online activities during the school year include interactive lessons on NASA activities related to space exploration, Earth science, technology, mathematics, and aeronautics. You’ll get to participate in design challenges, including 3D drawings, science and math quizzes, discussion posts, and technology writings. You’ll get to chat virtually with NASA engineers and scientists. If selected for the five-day gamified summer experience, you’ll get to participate in team projects and briefings directed by NASA engineers and scientists, hands-on design challenges, and engineering activities to plan a mission to the Moon and Mars.

Subject Areas: College preparation, arts, technology, leadership development, and community service.

Location: University of Houston-Downtown, Houston, TX

Cost: Free 

Dates: The program starts in early June and finishes at the end of July (6 weeks).

Application Deadline: Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and decisions are made based on program criteria and capacity.

Eligibility: The Upward Bound program is accepting applications from 9th-11th graders from their affiliated high schools Austin High School, Kashmere High School, Madison High School, West Bury High School, Wheatley High School, Worthing High School, and Yates High School.

The Upward Bound Summer Academy at the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is an extremely rewarding pre-college experience for high school students. It is an intensive, six-week, non-residential program, which all members of the Upward Bound community are expected to attend. The Summer Academy offers a variety of classes and activities designed to benefit high school students in preparation for college.

Some common classes and activities include academic classes, test preparation classes, college readiness workshops, college tours, and extracurricular activities. The Summer Academy provides high school students with an opportunity to enhance their academic abilities, acquire valuable skills, gain exposure to college-level coursework, and explore their passions. By participating in challenging classes and engaging in enriching activities, students are better prepared for the academic rigor, independence, and personal growth required in college.

Subject Areas: Science, research, professional development.

Location: Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX. 

Cost/Stipend: No cost; Stipends might be provided.

Dates: June 10 - August 5, 2024

Application Deadline: Applications typically close in April.

Eligibility: All applicants must be 18 or older by June 1, 2024. Some projects may be available for 16 and 17-year-old students.

The SMS Summer Research Program is an 8-week long summer program that allows a select number of students who have previously participated in Saturday Morning Science (or are part of the affiliate programs with Texas Southern University, Prairie View A&M, or other predominantly minority-serving institutions) to work in the lab or on a research project with a Baylor College of Medicine researcher.

If selected, you will work directly on a project for 40 hours per week for the duration of the 8 weeks. In addition to this, you will attend weekly ‘Lunch and Learn’ sessions where you will learn about various aspects of research and professional development. You also will be required to participate in the research meetings and any other special seminars specific to the research group you are joining. As a participant of the Summer Research Program, you will be hired as a BCM employee under the title of Summer Project Intern. As a Summer Project Intern, you will also receive a stipend. At the culmination of the summer, you will be invited to present your research to the SMS Summer Research Symposium and to the other in-person summer interns.

Subject Areas: Leadership training and career counseling

Location: University of Houston-Downtown, Houston, TX

Cost: Free

Dates: July 8 - August 8, 2024 

Application Deadline: July 1, 2024

Eligibility: High School seniors graduating in May or June 2024 can apply.

The Get Ready Gators Summer Bridge program is a five-week intensive academic program for graduating high school seniors. Summer Bridge is designed to aid freshmen with strengthening their academic skills, social integration, and transitioning from high school to university life. 

Through this program, you begin your academic journey at UHD by enrolling in college-level courses. Additionally, you’ll be able to benefit from the programming in between courses that include intrusive academic support in and outside of the classroom, student success services, career counseling, and leadership training. Moreover, the program will provide you with an opportunity to become acclimated to the collegiate experience.

Subject Areas: Coding, technology, AI, and data science. 

Location: Houston, TX. Virtual camp options are also available. 

Cost: Free 

Dates: Session 1: June 3 - June 14, 2024 | Session 2: June 17 - June 28, 2024  | Session 3: July 8 - July 19, 2024 | Session 4: July 22 - August 2, 2024 | Session 5: August 5 - August 16, 2024

Application Deadline: May 13, 2024

Eligibility: Girls and gender-expansive teens between the ages of 13-18 years with an interest in the field of technology. No prior coding experience is required. 

Kode with Klossy offers free 2-week-long coding-intensive camps designed for students of traditionally underrepresented genders in the STEM fields. The curriculum covers the fundamentals of coding and encourages participants to explore the field as a career path. During the program, you will work in one of four courses — web development, mobile apps, artificial intelligence, and data science. 

You will engage in hands-on activities, like creating your own mobile app and training machine learning models. The camp is an excellent opportunity to hear from women in technology who join as speakers and to network among like-minded individuals. You can fill out the application form to join the waitlist!

One other option - Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you would like to participate in a rigorous research program open to high schoolers, you should 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, 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.

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: Rice University seal



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