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10 Great Physics Programs for High School Students

Participating in pre-college programs can be a great way to delve deeper into a subject of your choice (in this case, physics), and gain an understanding of how college-level academics work before joining as a freshman!


Additionally, you can also mention your pre-college experience as part of your college admissions essay, and demonstrate your motivation to explore a subject outside of the classroom. You can also go on to use your pre-college experience in physics to support independent research or participation in Olympiads or other competitions.


In this article, we have curated a list of 10 of the best physics programs in the United States for ambitious high school students.


The programs cover pre-college courses, internships, as well as research experiences at varying costs and selectivity.


Here are 10 physics programs open to high school students in 2024:


RSI is one of MIT’s most prestigious summer research programs, offering an exclusive opportunity to 100 high school juniors to immerse themselves in STEM research. This program commences with an intensive week of classes guided by MIT professors. The core of the program is a 5-week research internship, where students undertake individual projects under mentorship. This culminates in students having the opportunity to publish and present their findings as conference-style oral and written reports. RSI allows students to meet with esteemed science and technology leaders, including Nobel laureates like Dr. Dudley Herschbach and the chancellor of MIT, Dr. Cynthia Barnhart. Learn more about applying to the RSI program in our guide here.


Note: High school seniors are not eligible to apply.

Cost: None.

Location: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) campus, Cambridge, MA.

Program Dates: 6 weeks during the summer. Dates to be announced.

Application Deadline: December 13, 2023.

Eligibility:

  • Current high school juniors (third year of high school).

  • Strong academic record and demonstrated potential in mathematics and science.

  • Recommended PSAT Math Score: ≥ 740, Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Score: ≥ 700.

Selectivity: High.



PPPL spans approximately 8 to 10 weeks, providing students with the unique experience of collaborating on projects alongside esteemed research and engineering team members. The specific dates of the internship are coordinated to accommodate the participants’ school schedules. It is strongly recommended that applicants have a background in physics, chemistry, advanced math, engineering, computer languages, and coding!


Cost: None. Being an internship commuter program, housing is not provided. Reimbursement for mileage to/from the lab is also not provided.

Location: Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, Plainsboro, New Jersey.

Program Dates: Yet to be announced for 2024.

Application Deadlines: Yet to be announced for 2024.

Eligibility:

  • Must be at least 16 years old.

  • Must be graduating high school seniors when the internship begins.

  • Must have U.S. citizenship or permanent resident alien status.

For Academic Year Internships, students must:

  • Intern during regular business hours only.

  • Arrange a schedule with their school for sufficient release time.

  • Obtain an email confirmation of academic credits from your school administrator or Guidance Counselor to science-education@pppl.gov.

Selectivity: Moderate.



SPINWIP is a 3-week virtual summer outreach program designed to ignite high-school girls’ passion for physics. The program offers insights into cutting-edge physics research, including quantum physics and astrophysics, while also teaching coding in Python. No prior knowledge of physics or coding is required. Participants will attend online lectures, collaborate in small groups, and benefit from college planning and career development workshops. Mentorship opportunities with Stanford students and professors are available. We’ve detailed more astrophysics opportunities in our listicle here.

Cost: None.

Location: Virtual. Lectures will be held via video chat.

Program Dates: Yet to be announced for 2024.

Application Deadlines: Yet to be announced for 2024.

Eligibility:

  • Preference will be given to first-generation students, students from underrepresented backgrounds in physics, and 11th-graders!

  • Must be female or gender minority students in 9th to 11th grade at the time of applying.

  • Applicants from all around the world are welcome to apply.

Selectivity: High


The Anson L. Clark Scholar Program at Texas Tech University provides a rare opportunity for 12 highly qualified high school juniors and seniors to engage in an intensive 7-week summer research experience. Scholars deep dive into a research project working closely with experienced, and faculty members, gaining valuable hands-on experience. Upon completing a successful research project report, Scholars will receive a $750 stipend. We’ve covered more about why this program is useful here.

Cost: On-campus meals, on-campus 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, Texas.

Program Dates: Yet to be announced for 2024.

Application Deadlines: Yet to be announced for 2024.

Eligibility:

  • Must strictly be at least 17 years of age by the program start date.

Selectivity: High



SEAP is an immersive 8-week summer program that places academically talented high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors in Department of Navy (DoN) laboratories. It offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity for students to engage in STEM research under the tutelage of leading scientists and engineers across the country. With approximately 300 placements across over 38 laboratories nationwide, SEAP is highly competitive. Selection is based on academic achievements, personal statements, recommendations, and alignment with career and research interests. New participants will receive a stipend of $4000, and returning participants will receive $4500. Learn more about SEAP in our guide here.

Cost: The internship has no registration costs. However, housing, meals, transportation, and medical expenses are not covered. You can expect to have to travel to and from your lab, depending on your placement.

Location: Nationwide placement in any 1 of 38 laboratories in the U.S.

Program Dates: This will vary based on the location of the laboratory.

Application Deadlines: November 1st, 2023.

Eligibility:

  • Must have completed Grade 9, but can inquire for exceptions at specific labs.

  • Must be currently enrolled in high school and college-level classes may also be taken for college credit.

  • Graduating high school seniors are eligible to apply.

  • Must be at least 16 years old by the internship start date to participate.

  • Must be a U.S. citizen, but dual citizenship holders can inquire for exceptions at specific labs.

Selectivity: High



Carnegie Mellon’s SAMS program is structured in two parts —  Part 1 is a virtual jumpstart before the in-person program. It focuses on quantitative and computational skill-building relevant to the core STEM subject selected. Part 2 is a 6-week in-person pre-college program, where students will have full-day on-campus commitments attending courses, and meetings, and concluding with a symposium. With both of its components, SAMS enhances STEM understanding through a combination of classes, hands-on projects, and expert guidance from mentors!


Notable faculty you will interact with include Professor Shawn Blanton from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, and Dr. Carrie Doonan, the Director of Undergraduate Laboratories and Teaching Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. You can read more about the SAMS program and why it’s worth participating in here.


Note: If selected for SAMS, participants will not be allowed to partake in any other programs (virtual or in-person) if dates conflict.

Cost: None. This is a fully funded merit-based program. Participants must fulfill the criteria for demonstrated financial need.

Location: Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh.

Program Dates: June 22 — August 3, 2024.

Application Deadlines: March 1, 2024.

Eligibility:

  • Must be at least 16 years old by the program start date.

  • Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

  • Must be a junior in high school at the time of application submission.

  • Students from underrepresented backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply!

Selectivity: High



Founded by researchers hailing from Harvard and Oxford, Lumiere Research Scholar Programs provide high school students with programs of varying lengths. Students can choose from 12-week to 12-month research opportunities to delve into astrophysics and engineering research. Each student collaborates one-on-one with a top Ph.D. mentor to create university-level research papers. The programs are conducted entirely online, offering flexibility in research depth based on individual preferences.


Cost: $2800 USD- Individual Research Program (12 weeks ), $5400 USD Premium Research & Publication Program (16–20 weeks), $8900 USD Research Fellowship (6–12 months). All programs come with need-based financial aid.

Location: Virtual.

Program Dates: Four cohorts run throughout the year, namely the spring, summer, winter, and fall cohorts.

Application Deadlines: Applications are open throughout the year for the four cohorts — they are due in February, May, September, and December. Currently, applications for the Summer Cohort close on March 12, 2023. Apply here!

Eligibility: High school students.

Selectivity: High



NASA’s OSTEM provides high school students with paid internship opportunities at locations all around America. Internship roles can vary from helping out the space operations and data team at one of NASA’s offices to working alongside the engineering cost team for aeronautics departments. High school students can check whether the NASA research facilities near them have open positions. These internships provide hands-on experience in subjects related to physics, such as engineering and information sciences.


Costs: None

Location: Nationwide in the U.S.

Program Dates: Summer 2024. Specific dates will depend on the research facility.

Application Deadlines: Will vary based on the research facility.

Eligibility:

  • Must be a U.S. Citizen

  • Meet a minimum 3.0 GPA requirement.

Selectivity: Moderate


This summer program introduces students to the fundamentals of modern physics, particularly through an in-depth understanding of cosmic rays. Through lectures, guest speakers, and hands-on laboratory experiments, students will delve into subjects like special relativity, quantum mechanics, particle physics, and cosmology. They’ll directly observe cosmic rays with a cloud chamber and conduct measurements with an electronic muon counter. Additionally, applications to nuclear energy and climate modeling will be explored, equipping students with their subject preferences when applying to universities.


Cost: $6,695 including program tuition, course materials, housing, meals, and social activities. Need-based aid is available in the form of program discounts and scholarships.

Location: Northeastern University, Massachusetts, Boston.

Program Dates: July 21 — August 2, 2024

Application Deadlines: January 15 (priority), February 28 (regular)

Eligibility:

  • High school students.

  • Should understand linear momentum and its conservation, the conservation of energy in collisions, and the basics of trigonometry, but calculus is not required.

Selectivity: Low



Diving into contemporary physics, UPenn’s Experimental Physics Research Academy is a summer program that immerses students in mechanics, electromagnetism, quantum dynamics, and astrophysics. Beyond rote equations, students develop a profound grasp of causality and, in turn, cultivate a deeper appreciation for physics. This understanding is nurtured through a dynamic blend of lectures, hands-on activities, engaging projects, and insightful discussions with their instructors.


Cost: $5,500 program fees including use of academic facilities, on-campus housing, on-campus meals, extracurricular trips, and student supervision. Not including the $75 application fee, travel to/from campus, airport transfers, gym access, class materials, medical expenses, and laundry.

Location: University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Program Dates: July 6 — July 27, 2024

Application Deadlines: February 15, 2024

Eligibility:

  • High school students.

  • Minimum 3.3 high school GPA.

  • TOEFL scores required are 100 (iBT), 250 (CBT), or 600 (PBT), an IELTS score of 7, and a Duolingo English Test (DET) score of 120.

A strong applicant must have writing that shows both technical skill and intellectual depth, good recommendations, and a variety of extracurricular interests.

Selectivity: Moderate.



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: MIT logo

2 Comments


Carol Lawrence
Carol Lawrence
Dec 09, 2023

good

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Carol Lawrence
Carol Lawrence
Nov 14, 2023

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