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11 Free Summer STEM Programs for High Schoolers

Incorporating STEM programs into your university applications distinguishes you as a dedicated and self-motivated individual. By committing to this extra effort today, you’re not just broadening your understanding but also honing invaluable skills that set the stage for success! However, some of these programs can be costly, and inaccessible to underrepresented segments of the population. Hence, we’ve curated a list of 11 prestigious and free STEM programs in the summer of 2024 for ambitious high school students across the U.S.


Each year, the Research Science Institute (RSI) welcomes 100 exceptionally talented high school students to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). What sets RSI apart is its distinction as the pioneering, fully-funded summer science and engineering program that seamlessly integrates on-campus theoretical coursework with off-campus immersion in science and technology research. The program kicks off with a week of intensive STEM classes led by accomplished professors. However, the quintessence of RSI lies in its five-week research internship phase. 


Here, students individually pursue projects under the guidance of seasoned scientists and researchers, experiencing the entire research cycle firsthand. As RSI draws to a close, students dedicate the final week to meticulously preparing their written and oral presentations, encapsulating their immersive research journey and project outcomes. We’ve detailed how you can build a strong application to get into RSI here.


Cost: Fully funded, stipend provided, $40 application fee with a need-based refund.

Location: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA)

Application deadline: Closed for 2024. To be announced for 2025.

Program dates: 6 weeks, specific dates to be announced for 2025

Selectivity: Extremely High (<5%)

Eligibility: High School Juniors only (U.S. and International)


2. Veritas AI - AI Fellowship

Veritas AI focuses on providing high school students who are passionate about the field of AI a suitable environment to explore their interests. The programs include collaborative learning, project development, and 1-on-1 mentorship. These programs are designed and run by Harvard graduate students and alumni and you can expect a great, fulfilling educational experience. Students are expected to have a basic understanding of Python or are recommended to complete the AI scholars program before pursuing the fellowship. 


The AI Fellowship program will have students pursue their own independent AI research project. Students work on their own individual research projects over a period of 12-15 weeks and can opt to combine AI with any other field of interest. In the past, students have worked on research papers in the field of AI & medicine, AI & finance, AI & environmental science, AI & education, and more! You can find examples of previous projects here


Although Veritas AI programs are paid, they offer generous need-based financial aid which you can opt for!


Location: Virtual

Cost

  • $1,790 for the 10-week AI Scholars program

  • $4,900 for the 12-15 week AI Fellowship 

  • $4,700 for both

  • Need-based financial aid is available. You can apply here

Application deadline: On a rolling basis. Applications for fall cohort have closed September 3, 2023. 

Program dates: Various according to the cohort

Program selectivity: Moderately selective

Eligibility: Ambitious high school students located anywhere in the world. AI Fellowship applicants should either have completed the AI Scholars program or exhibit past experience with AI concepts or Python.

Application Requirements: Online application form, answers to a few questions pertaining to the students background & coding experience, math courses, and areas of interest.


In 6 weeks, SAMS Scholars undergo a robust curriculum led by dedicated faculty, fostering a comprehensive grasp of STEM. The program combines traditional classroom learning, hands-on projects, and close interaction with esteemed faculty and skilled mentors. Beyond academics, students forge valuable connections with peers nationwide. SAMS unfolds in two parts. 


Part one, a pre-residential virtual segment, focuses on essential skill-building before the in-person program. Part two comprises a six-week in-person pre-college program, immersing scholars in full-day courses and meetings, culminating in a symposium at the program’s end. This fully funded, merit-based initiative bears no cost for scholars. Commitment to full participation throughout the program’s duration is expected. More about this program can be found in our blog here


Note: Scholars selected for SAMS cannot engage in conflicting programs, whether virtual or in-person, ensuring dedicated focus and involvement in this enriching opportunity.

Cost: Fully funded

Location: Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA)

Application deadline: March 1, 2024

Program dates: 6 weeks, June 22, 2024 - August 3, 2024

Selectivity: High (<10%)

Eligibility: Sophomores or juniors from high school and underrepresented communities.


This 10-week summer program caters to rising sophomores and juniors in New York City passionate about STEM. It offers immersive hands-on experiences across diverse STEM fields, such as Bio and Molecular Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Robotics, AI, Computer Science, and Machine Learning


In addition to these practical opportunities, the program delves into crucial subjects like college-level research, expository writing, scientific methods, professional development, and ethics. The first 6 weeks of the program will be remote workshops after school, and the next 4 weeks will be in-person at NYU from 9 am to 4 pm. We’ve covered more about this program in this article


Cost/Stipend: Fully funded scholarship, but participants are responsible for their meals and transportation in the program.

Location: New York University (New York, NY)

Application deadline: March 1, 2024

Program Dates: 10 weeks, June 3, 2024 — August 9, 2024

Selectivity: High (cohort size: roughly 80)

Eligibility: High school students living in New York City in grades 10 and 11 at the time of application.


SIMR offers an 8-week summer internship targeting high school juniors and seniors. This hands-on program involves research guided by individual mentors within Stanford University’s esteemed Institutes of Medicine and select departments. Applicants can specialize in one of eight research areas; namely, Immunology, Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, Neurobiology, Cancer Biology, Cardiovascular Biology, Bioengineering, Bioinformatics, and Genetics and Genomics. 


Upon acceptance, students are placed in a specific institute aligned with their preferences. Detailed information about each institute and its research is available through department website links. SIMR also presents an alternative option: the bioengineering bootcamp. This immersive experience focuses on hands-on learning in bioengineering, excluding the lab research component. Learn more about this program in our deep dive here.


Cost/Stipend: $40 application fee with a need-based refund, stipend of $500 provided ($1500 for need-based students).

Location: Stanford University campus (Stanford, CA)

Application deadline: February 24, 2024

Program dates: 8 weeks, June 10, 2024 - August 1, 2024

Selectivity: Extremely High (<3%)

Eligibility: High School Juniors and Seniors. At least 16 years old when the program begins. Living in the U.S. and U.S. citizens or permanent residents with a green card.


The Anson L. Clark Scholar Program at Texas Tech University offers a distinctive opportunity for 12 highly qualified high school juniors and seniors to engage in an intensive 7-week summer research experience in the subject of their choice. Scholars immerse themselves in research projects, closely collaborating with experienced faculty members to gain valuable hands-on experience. Upon successful completion of their research project report, scholars receive a $750 stipend. Further insights into the program’s usefulness can be found in our blog here.


Cost/Stipend: No cost, the program provides a $750 stipend. On-campus meals, room and board, and weekend activities/programming are covered. Travel to and from the program location, personal expenses, and medical expenses are not covered.

Location: Texas Tech University (Lubbock, TX)

Application Deadline: February 15, 2024

Program Dates: 7 weeks, June 16, 2024 -August 1, 2024

Selectivity: Extremely High (<3%)

Eligibility: At least 17 years of age by the program start date, and should graduate in 2023 or 2024 (U.S. and International)


Girls Who Code aims to bridge the gender gap in technology. Their summer program provides hands-on projects and networking opportunities with women in tech. Options include a 2-week immersion program or a 6-week self-paced experience. The 2-week immersion program aims to introduce beginner to intermediate CS concepts, delve into the iterative design process, cover the basics of UX design, and provide an introduction to the tech industry. 


The 6-week Self-Paced Program offers high school students a chance to explore HTML, CSS, and JavaScript for web development, or delve into more intermediate applications of Python, focusing on cybersecurity or the new data science courses! While open to all backgrounds, half the participants are from underrepresented groups, including Black, LatinX, and individuals from low-income households who identify as girls, women, or non-binary. We’ve covered all you need to know about this program in our blog here. 


Cost/Stipend: No cost, $300 need-based grant provided (for eligible students in the U.S.)

Location: Virtual

Application Deadline: Applications open by mid-January 2024. Early acceptance is due by mid-February 2024. General application deadline in late March 2024.

Program Dates: 2 weeks, typically, in July but may vary depending on the program.

Selectivity: Open enrollment

Eligibility: All female and non-binary high school students are eligible.


For nearly 60 years, NIDA has been a primary source of scientific knowledge about addiction and a hub for training researchers in drug abuse studies. The Recruitment & Training Program for Under-represented Populations offers valuable training opportunities focusing on the scientific fundamentals of drug abuse. 


This program encompasses a range of disciplines, including Biochemistry, Bioinformatics & Genomics, Cellular Biology, Epidemiology, Genetics & Genomics, Medical Sciences, Molecular Biology, Neuroscience, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Psychology & Behavioral Sciences. Limited positions are accessible each summer, with selection being highly competitive.


Cost/Stipend: No cost, stipend provided

Location: Johns Hopkins Bayview Campus (Baltimore, MD)

Application Deadline: February 1, 2024

Program Dates: 8–10 weeks. Typically, in July but may vary depending on the program.

Selectivity: Very High (cohort size: 15-20)

Eligibility: 

  • At least 17 years old and high school or college students.

  • U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Permanent residents must be enrolled in a school in the U.S. to be eligible.

YSP offers Massachusetts high school juniors (soon-to-be seniors) a hands-on research experience within Northeastern University’s Science, Engineering, and Health Sciences departments. This free 6-week program provides lab research opportunities and exposure to diverse faculty projects, exploring areas like agent-based modeling, model compression algorithms, battery chemistry, and cancer therapies


YSP serves as a platform for future scientists and engineers to delve into real-world research before college. Students work directly with professors, engaging in seminars covering various engineering disciplines and career counseling sessions. Check out our blog here for more details on this program.


Cost/Stipend: No cost, stipend provided

Location: Northeastern University (Boston, MA)

Application Dates: Applications will open in January of 2024. 

Program Dates: 6 weeks, June —August

Selectivity: High (cohort size: 20-25)

Eligibility: 

  • High school juniors who are based in Massachusetts are eligible.

  • Strong academic credentials and a well-rounded balance of extra-curricular activities.

CS4CS introduces high school students to the basics of cybersecurity and computer science. Students engage with diverse topics including “white-hat” hacking, cryptography, steganography, digital forensics, privacy, and data usage — relevant in today’s growing cyber industry. The coursework involves learning software tools to detect cyber threats, exploring cipher usage in network protection, and developing coding skills. 


Additionally, participants delve into behavioral science, understanding and mitigating threats like phishing scams and identity theft. CS4CS uniquely incorporates Irondale, a theater-led program boosting communication and public speaking skills through improv sessions, enriching the learning experience. Learn more about this program in our review here.


Cost/Stipend: Full scholarship provided

Location: New York University (Manhattan, NY)

Application Deadline: April 14, 2024

Program Dates: 3 weeks, July 15 — August 9, 2024

Selectivity: High (<10%)

Eligibility: NYC residents that are entering 9th, 10th, 11th, or 12th grade in September 2024. 


The Summer Student Program immerses students in genetics and genomics research, focusing on laboratory exploration, knowledge sharing, and professional development. Each year, around 40 undergraduates and high school students from across the U.S. join this comprehensive 10-week program. 


Participants engage in ongoing research, guided by experienced mentors. They craft independent projects, execute plans, analyze data, and deliver comprehensive presentations showcasing their findings to researchers, peers, and parents by summer’s end. We’ve covered more on this program in our blog here


Cost/Stipend: No cost, stipend of $6,500, room, board, and travel included.

Location: The Jackson Laboratory (Bar Harbor, ME)

Application Deadline: January 29, 2024

Program Dates: 10 weeks from June — August

Selectivity: High (cohort size: 40)

Eligibility: At the time of participation in the program, must have completed grade 12, be at least 18 years old, and be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.



One other option — the Lumiere Research Scholar Program.

Consider exploring the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, an exclusive online initiative at the university level that I co-founded alongside researchers from Harvard and Oxford. This program is tailored for individuals passionate about conducting advanced research across major high school subjects including STEM. Last year, we received over 4000 applications for just 500 spots, making it a highly competitive opportunity. To explore and apply, check out the application form here.


Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a Ph.D. 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: NIDA logo


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