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10 Software Engineering Programs for High School Students

Decisions made during high school can set the trajectory for a student’s future academics and career. At this pivotal juncture, taking part in a STEM program or internship comes with several benefits such as skill enhancement, networking opportunities, exposure to real-world problems, and more. Early exposure to software engineering in particular can leave a positive impact by setting a strong foundation in the field and giving you a head start on the practical application of your skills.

Moreover, taking part in a software engineering program proves your dedication to the field and sometimes leaves you with a specific project or portfolio. This would give your college applications a definite boost, since admissions officers are looking for students who have the drive to pursue a subject at an advanced level outside of the classroom! Since this subject tends to overlap with multiple other fields of research, we have narrowed it down to the top 10 programs for high schoolers interested in software engineering.


Application deadline: April 22, 2024

Eligibility: High school students currently in grades 9-12. Students should also have a basic understanding of one programming language and a cumulative GPA of at least 3.8.

Program dates: 8 weeks  

Location: Bellevue, WA

Stipend: A stipend is provided (amount not specified)

The Spark Summer Internship Program (SPARK SIP) is an initiative that provides high school students with internship opportunities in STEM fields. As a participant, the program will connect you with a mentor from a specific field. The 2024 roster includes a project in the field of software engineering, wherein you will address the technical challenges of indoor and outdoor wayfinding in a real-time navigation platform. You will work in a group setting but will have individual deliverables as well.

The work involved could include frontend web development, infrastructure management, native mobile development on Android and iOS, and more. However, do keep in mind that the application process includes a test in code development and coupled with the high eligibility requirements, makes this program quite difficult to get into. The acceptance rate for the Spark SIP is less than 5%. You can go through our deep dive on the program to better understand if this is a good fit for you.

Application deadline: Multiple deadlines through the year (Fall deadline on August 27, 2023)

Eligibility: All high school students  

Program dates: 8-week programs with multiple cohorts through the year

Location: Virtual

Fee: $1,990

Financial assistance: Full financial aid is available   

Ladder Internships is a program that connects high school students with online internships at well-established start-ups. Once matched with a company, you will work on a real-world project under the guidance of a manager at the start-up while also being mentored by a Ladder Coach. While internships are available in several different fields, software engineering is one of them. Previous students have worked on projects like building a machine learning model to predict customer churn for an e-commerce website.

All in all, you can expect to spend 10-15 hours per week on this internship and end it with a letter of completion from the company. Since this is a virtual program, it’s best suited to those who don’t have the time or means of travel to attend in-person internships. You’ll find a more detailed description here.

Application deadline: Early to mid-February  

Eligibility: High school juniors and seniors who have a minimum GPA of 3.0

Program dates: 8 weeks from June to August

Location: Varies from lab to lab

Stipend: Unpaid (students must cover transportation and housing costs)

Organized by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, this internship gives high school students the opportunity to work on their own research in a professional lab. While applying, you must choose from six laboratories that focus on different topics. Both the engineering lab and the information technology lab cover research areas that overlap with software engineering. During the internship, you will work on a specific research topic and get practical, hands-on experience in the field. An additional benefit is that you will work alongside professional NIST scientists and engineers, giving you an opportunity to make valuable connections.   

Application deadline: March 1

Eligibility:  Current high school sophomores and juniors who are at least 16 years old and have a minimum GPA of 3.0. International students may apply as well!

Program dates: June 22, 2024 – August 3, 2024

Location: Carnegie Mellon University

Fee: $12,105 for the residential track, $8,998 for the commuter track

Financial assistance: Scholarships are available to student in financial need who opt for the residential track

While this program is largely about the video game industry, software development is a crucial component in its curriculum. In the first two weeks, you will receive in-depth instruction in various subjects like software, music composition, audio fx, and more. In weeks 3-6, you will be assigned to teams and work on developing two different games. Each group will consist of two programmers, two visual artists, and one composer/audio designer — while you can’t make this choice yourself, you can definitely work to prove your skills in the field of programming. For students interested in software engineering, being a programmer would offer the most valuable experience.  

Application deadline: April 5

Eligibility: High school students who are at least 15 years old and have a minimum 3.0 GPA. International students can apply!

Program dates: July 7, 2024 – July 27, 2024

Location: University of Pennsylvania

Fee: $8585

Financial assistance: Available for students with demonstrated financial need 

Hosted by one of the nation's top engineering schools, ESA@Penn provides participants with the opportunity to explore various engineering disciplines through hands-on projects, laboratory experiments, and engaging lectures. The program has seven course options and you can choose either the computer science or complex networks track as they both involve elements of programming and software engineering. You can expect plenty of lab work in this program as well as a research project to be submitted by the end.

This is an introductory program that will set your foundation in the field, best suited for novices. However, ESAP is a highly competitive program with around 600-700 applications received for about 230 spots, making the acceptance rate fall somewhere around 32%. This does make it a prestigious accomplishment to have on your profile but also makes it quite difficult to get into.  

Application deadline: April 10, 2024

Eligibility: Girls, gender non-conforming, and trans students who are between the ages of 13-18

Program dates: Session 1 from June 3, 2024 – June 14, 2024, Session 2 from June 17, 2024 – June 28, 2024, Session 3 from July 8, 2024 – July 19, 2024, Session 4 from July 22, 2024 – August 2, 2024, Session 5 from August 5, 2024 – August 16, 2024

Location: Virtual and in-person tracks available, with in-person camps taking place in several locations like Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, LA, NYC, Seattle, and more

Fee: Free

Kode With Klossy, founded by model and entrepreneur Karlie Kloss, is a two-week summer camp experience aimed at empowering young women and non-binary individuals in high school to explore the world of coding and technology. The curriculum offers four category choices — web development, mobile app, machine learning, and data science. From these, the first two are ideal options for students interested in software engineering as they will cover topics like front-end development, UI and UX enhancement, and programming languages like JavaScript and HTML. You will also work with softwares like Xcode and Apple’s SwiftUI framework. Nevertheless, you can go through the description of each category to see which areas are best suited to your interests.

Application deadline: End of February

Eligibility: Rising high school seniors

Program dates: 4-6 weeks in between June and August, interns work Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm

Location: University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory, Durham, NH

Stipend: Interns get an hourly pay

The University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL) offers this internship to high school seniors interested in technology. As an intern, you will work in groups and develop a solution to your assigned project, under the guidance of IOL engineers. The internship involves hands-on work with both software and hardware, as well as a final presentation at the end of the program. You would also get the opportunity to visit technical companies like Verizon or Dell and speak to their engineers in person.

During previous iterations, students were tasked with rebuilding a Java-based test tool, creating CnC validation tests for a test tool, and working with license tracking software and graphical user interface. This program is a great way for you to add a tech project onto your profile, which could boost future college applications.  

Application deadline: End of March  

Eligibility: Girls and non-binary students from high school. International students are allowed as well.

Program dates: 2 weeks for the Summer Immersion Program and 6 weeks for the Self-Paced Program. Both take place in between July and August

Location: Virtual

Stipend: The SIP offers a $300 grant while the SPP offers other incentives

Girls Who Code is a non-profit organization that offers two summer programs for high school students — the Summer Immersion Program and the Self-Paced Program (the former has a fixed schedule while the latter is an asynchronous program). The first focuses on game design while the second has three tracks to choose from: data science and AI, cybersecurity, or web development. Through the program, you will attend lessons, collaborate with your peers, and work on projects and assignments. If you need more information, head to our deep dive article for a better understanding.

Application deadline:  The deadline is usually in April or May

Eligibility:  Rising seniors and graduating seniors from high school who are at least 16 years of age

Program dates: May 27, 2024 – June 28, 2024

Location: Yale University

Fee: $5070

This is a great way for students to get a taste of undergraduate academics and college life and for students pursuing software engineering, the program offers a course on Introduction to Computing and Programming.

This course covers core computer science principles and programming skills. Students learn about abstraction, algorithms, data structures, and using languages such as C, Python, CSS, and HTML. They apply their knowledge to real-world scenarios in areas like biology, cryptography, finance, forensics, and more. Apart from the prestige of attending a program at Yale University, you will have the added benefit of earning a college credit for this course!

Application deadline: Mid-February

Location: Texas Tech University

Eligibility: Juniors and seniors who are at least 17 years of age

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

Stipend: $750

The Clark Scholars Program, renowned for its academic rigor and prestige, offers a unique opportunity for only 12 exceptionally accomplished students to engage in advanced, university-level research. There are seven different research areas in which you can apply, with one of them being computer science — a suitable choice if you are looking to do research in software engineering. Previous scholars from this field have worked on projects including “An Interactive 3D Visualization Tool for Dynamic Synaptic Networks”, “Optimal GPU Frequency Selection: Using Workload-Unique Power and Performance Predictions”, “Distributing Storage in a Decentralized IoT Network”.

With an acceptance rate of less than 3%, this highly selective program stands as one of the most prestigious research opportunities in the nation. Participation not only grants you invaluable hands-on experience but can also enhance college applications. You can learn more about the program's benefits here.

If you’re looking to build a project/research paper in the field of AI & ML, consider applying to Veritas AI! 

Veritas AI is founded by Harvard graduate students. Through the programs, you get a chance to work 1-1 with mentors from universities like Harvard, Stanford, MIT, and more to create unique, personalized projects. In the past year, we had over 1000 students learn AI & ML with us. You can apply here!

One more option - Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you’d like to participate in a rigorous research program open to high schoolers, you may want to consider the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded by 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. Last year, we had 150 students on full need-based financial aid!

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: SPARK SIP logo


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