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11 Online Pre-College Programs Every High Schooler Must Check Out

Pre-college programs serve as a bridge between high school and college, providing much needed exposure to college-level academics and networking opportunities. Exploring specific academic interests can help students narrow down their career interests, help them gain essential skills, and maybe even earn college credit. These programs often offer insight into the college admissions process as a whole, and some even offer courses that help you craft impressive application essays!

Online pre-college programs are perfect for you if your priorities are learning from the comfort of your home and around your otherwise busy summer schedule. Additionally, you end up saving on travel, boarding, and meal costs. Although nothing can substitute the physical feeling of being on campus, these programs are disability inclusive and can be just as rigorous and immersive. 

We’ve compiled a list of 10 online pre-college programs that will boost your academic profile in preparation for college below.

Lumiere was founded by researchers at Harvard and Oxford, with a deep understanding of what rigorous academic life entails. The Research Scholar Programs ensure that hundreds of ambitious high school students get hands-on experience in conducting cutting edge research in their subject of choice. 

The entirely virtual program pairs each student with a Ph.D. level mentor 1-on-1 to focus on their output of a university-level research paper. Depending on your preferred level of commitment, you can choose between their 12-week Individual Research Program, the 16-week Premium Research & Publication Program, or a 6 to 12 month Research Fellowship.

Lumiere also started the Lumiere Research Inclusion Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented low-income students. You can read more about that here.

Cost: $2,800 for the Individual Research Program, $5,400 for the Premium Research & Publication Program, and $8,900 for the Lumiere Research Fellowship

Eligibility: High school students

Location: Virtual

Application Deadline: Applications open throughout the year. The spring cohort deadline is January 14, 2024

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

The Veritas AI program is a virtual research program founded and run by Harvard graduates that teaches high school students about artificial intelligence and machine learning, helping them produce a project that can be a part of your portfolio and college admission docket. 

The AI Scholars program runs for a total of 25 hours over either 10 weeks during spring, fall, and winter or 2 intensive weeks during Summer, with students working on a group project with 3-5 peers. The AI Fellowship spans 12-15 weeks and focuses on helping you create an individualized project with 1-on-1 mentorship and come up with a novel AI model in a field of your interest. 

Cost: $1,790 for the 10-week AI Scholars program, $4,900 for the 12 to 15-week AI Fellowship, and $5,900 for both. Need-based financial aid is available.

Eligibility: High school students from anywhere around the world. AI Fellowship applicants should have completed the AI Scholars program or have past experience with AI concepts or Python. Advanced middle schoolers with coding knowledge are also accepted.

Location: Virtual

Application Deadline: The Spring cohort application deadline is February 25, 2024.

Program Dates: Tentatively February 5, 2024, for the Spring cohort, although that might be delayed since the application deadline was extended. 

Horizon offers trimester-long research programs for high school students across subject areas such as data science, machine learning, political theory, biology, chemistry, neuroscience, psychology, and more! It is one of the very few research programs for high school students that offers a choice between quantitative and qualitative research! 

Once you select a particular subject track and type of research you’ll be paired with a professor or Ph.D. scholar (from a top university) who will mentor you throughout your research journey. You’ll work to create a 20-page, university-level research paper that you can send to prestigious journals for publication as a high school student. 

This program is a solid opportunity for you to pursue a research program in highly specialized fields, under the guidance of a top scholar. The program also provides a letter of recommendation for each student, as well as detailed project feedback that you can use to work on future projects and on college applications. Apply here!

Location: Virtual 

Application Date: May 21, 2024 for the summer cohort, and September 25, 2024 for the fall cohort 

Program Dates: 

  • Summer seminar - June 24, 2024 - September 2, 2024

  • Fall seminar - October 23, 2024 - February 19, 2025

  • Lab dates are flexible, but you must apply 4 weeks in advance.

Eligibility: High school students with good academic standing (>3.67/4.0 GPA) can apply. Most accepted students are 10th/11th graders! Only a couple of tracks require formal prerequisites, more details of which can be found here.

Summer@Brown Online is the virtual counterpart of the university’s largest summer program for high school students, where applicants can choose from more than 100 non-credit courses and between various program durations administered entirely online. Your two to six-week-long learning sessions can be asynchronous, mostly asynchronous, or entirely blended, according to your convenience, helping you broaden your scope of learning by engaging with mentors and peers removed from the pressures of a formal grading system. 

The 2024 course catalog will be made available on Brown's official website on January 17, 2024.

Cost: $3,094 to $5,998 for the online program. 

Eligibility: Students completing grades 9 to 12, typically 14 to 18 years of age by June 16, 2024Location: Virtual, through Canvas, Brown University’s learning management system.

Application Deadline: May 10, 2024, 11:59 pm ET

Program Dates: June 17 to July 26, 2024.

A lot more intense than the average pre-college program, Harvard’s seven-week Secondary School Program offers a minimum of 4-credit hours and a maximum of 8, which serve as graded college courses. According to their official website, 89 percent of past attendees have cited the program as being integral to their decision-making process regarding what to study in college. 

SSP Online helpfully organizes courses into Career Pathways, also giving you the option to drop a course along the way. As a part of the program, you get to access Harvard’s vast online library, and interact with peers from all parts of the world through a variety of social and college prep activities and events.

Cost: $3,700 for 4 credits, and $7,400 for 8 credits, with a non-refundable $75 application fee. Financial aid available for US citizens and permanent residents.

Eligibility: High school students graduating in 2024, 202, or 2026, who are at least 16 years old by June 22, 2024, and will not turn 19 years old before July 31, 2024.

Location: Virtual

Application Deadline: February 14, 2024. The early application deadline is on January 10, 2024. Late applications will be accepted until April 10, 2024, but will not qualify for financial aid.

Program Dates: June 24 to August 10, 2024.

A year-long highly selective summer intensive that immerses you in a liberal arts approach to the field of journalism, Princeton’s Summer Journalism Program is designed to prepare participants for their four-year college experience as a journalism student. With a three-round application process, 2024’s program is set to be Princeton’s first multi-week, hybrid course, which culminates in a 10-day residential on campus where participants get to experience Princeton life to the fullest. Its most attractive feature is that students get to report, write, and design their own newspaper, The Princeton Summer Journal, which is published on the last day.

Although not entirely online, the program’s unique offerings, such as real-time engagement with news coverage in the Princeton area, interaction with renowned industry professionals, and seminars on every facet of the college admissions project make it a valuable addition to this list!

Cost: All costs covered.

Eligibility: Students must be in 11th grade, have a minimum GPA of 3.5 on a scale of 4, and have a combined family income that either doesn’t exceed $60,000, or qualifies them to receive free or reduced-price lunch at their high school, or qualifies them to receive an SAT or ACT fee waiver.

Location: Hybrid, culminating in a ten-day residential program at Princeton University, New Haven, usually at the end of July.

Application Deadline: February 15, 2024

Program Dates: Year-long; dates for the residential portion to be announced.

If you want to get all the perks of pre-college programs from the comfort of your home, you don’t need to look further than Georgetown University’s online course on Medical Research: Clinical Trials Resulting in Medical Discoveries. Over its two or four-week duration depending on your preference, you will enjoy the flexible schedule and pace of twenty to thirty hours of instruction and coursework with guidance and support from capable mentors. The course culminates with a special Capstone Project, which involves a video presentation studying the components of the scientific method for clinical trials with the use of research papers of your choosing. 

Cost: Up to $1,795. Scholarships available.

Eligibility: Open to all high school students.

Location: Virtual

Application deadline: December 31 for the January 7 program, and January 14, 2024, for the 2-week January program.

Program dates: 

4-week program - January 7 to February 4, 2024.

2-week program - January 21 to February 4, 2024.

Columbia University’s Online Summer program promises an Ivy League experience from the comfort of your home, offering synchronous live classroom instruction for their 40-course catalog over 1 to 2-week-long sessions. Each online classroom is also equipped with a designated course facilitator to help with course technology, giving instructors the time to solely focus on their course material and students. Upon completion, participants are given an official Certification of Participation along with their course evaluations.

As part of the program, you will engage in student life workshops, individual and group projects, and attend seminars on the college admissions process. Students enrolled in the 2-week program can also choose to take part in the Columbia Writers Workshop, which is dedicated to helping you perfect powerful college application essays.

Cost: $3,960 for a course in the 2-week program, with every additional course costing $3,850. $2,810 for the 1-week program. There is a non-refundable deposit of $1,000 to secure a place in the program. (based on last year’s figures)

Eligibility: Rising high school juniors and seniors, as well as incoming college freshmen.

Location: Virtual with faculty interaction via CourseWorks

Application Deadline: March 4, 2024. The early registration deadline is February 1, 2024.

Program Dates: July 1 to July 12, 2024, and July 15 to July 26, 2024.

Yale Summer Online courses allow you to discuss your course topics with your peers live on a weekly basis. A blend of synchronous and asynchronous activity ensures that you have the individual time to engage with your course material while keeping up with the pace set by university faculty. You can choose from hundreds of courses offered both in the day and evening across two summer sessions, the details of which will be updated on their official website by March. To view the 2023 course catalog, check out this link. Offered to high school students from around the world, these courses are open to existing Yale students as well, allowing everyone to earn some Yale College credit.

Cost: $4,850 per course with a $85 technology fee (based on last year’s figures)

Eligibility: Rising high school seniors and college freshmen

Location: Virtual

Application Deadline: May 3rd and June 7th, depending on your session.

Program Dates: May 27 to June 28, 2024, and July 1 to August , 2024, depending on your session.

The Johns Hopkins Internship in Brain Sciences Program offers a five-week long research program for high school students interested in neurological sciences. Its focus on cultivating a diverse and inclusive environment means that the program is free of cost, even providing an hourly stipend to enrolled students. 

Once part of the program, you will have access to the guidance and mentorship of leading neuroscientists at the university and take part in educational presentations, learning basic lab techniques and experiments, mentorship training, and professional development training, among other scientific activities. You shall receive a $500 scholarship upon successful completion of the program as well!

Cost: Free. $500 scholarship awarded.

Eligibility: U.S. high school juniors and seniors from underrepresented populations

Location: Online or at the Johns Hopkins University Campus in Baltimore.

Application deadline: March 1, 2024.

Program dates: June 2024, to August 2024.

GirlsWhoCode is known for its aim to bring more women and non-binary individuals to the forefront of STEM-based research. Its Summer Immersion Program contributes to this aim by helping high school students from Latinx, Hispanic, and other underrepresented communities engage with women in tech spaces and being part of a diverse and supportive alumni network.

Students can choose between the 2-week immersion program or a 6-week self-paced experience, learning in a format that works best for them. No prior computer science experience is required, and you will learn to code through engagement in real-world projects in storytelling, arts, robotics, video games, websites, and apps.

Cost: Free

Eligibility: High school girls and non-binary students everywhere.

Location: Virtual

Application Deadline: To be announced. You can fill out their 2024 interest form here.

Program Dates: To be announced. Last year’s program commenced in July.

If you're looking for a real-world internship that can help boost your resume while applying to college, we recommend Ladder Internships!

Ladder Internships is a selective program equipping students with virtual internship experiences at startups and nonprofits around the world! 

The startups range across a variety of industries, and each student can select which field they would most love to deep dive into. This is also a great opportunity for students to explore areas they think they might be interested in, and better understand professional career opportunities in those areas. The startups are based all across the world, with the majority being in the United States, Asia and then Europe and the UK. 

The fields include technology, machine learning and AI, finance, environmental science and sustainability, business and marketing, healthcare and medicine, media and journalism, and more.

You can explore all the options here on their application form. As part of their internship, each student will work on a real-world project that is of genuine need to the startup they are working with, and present their work at the end of their internship. In addition to working closely with their manager from the startup, each intern will also work with a Ladder Coach throughout their internship - the Ladder Coach serves as a second mentor and a sounding board, guiding you through the internship and helping you navigate the startup environment. 

Cost: $1490 (Financial Aid Available)

Location:  Remote! You can work from anywhere in the world.

Application deadline: April 16 and May 14

Program dates: 8 weeks, June to August

Eligibility: Students who can work for 10-20 hours/week, for 8-12 weeks. Open to high school students, undergraduates, and gap year 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: Veritas AI logo



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