As spring break approaches, high school students often find themselves with a valuable window of time. It’s never too early to prepare for college applications or to simply enhance your resume with an academic program. In this article, we've curated a list of 10 spring break programs open to high school students
These programs have been chosen based on a few variables — the prestige of the program or the organizing institution, the financial requirements, and the competitiveness. The program’s components and academic takeaways have also been taken into consideration. That said, we have tried including a variety of programs with different offerings so every student can find their fit.
How do I choose a spring break program?
Cost: Evaluate your financial constraints, considering not only tuition but also travel and material expenses. There are several free options on this list but otherwise, virtual programs generally provide a budget-friendly alternative.
Location: Decide whether proximity to home is preferable or if you're open to traveling. Local programs save on costs as well as time, while virtual options give you higher flexibility and are a better option if you have a particularly busy schedule. However, the physical element of an in-person program is a unique experience that you should take into account.
Outcome: Define your goal — whether it's completing a project, gaining hands-on experience, or earning college credit — and then find a program that matches it. It might be beneficial to look for experiences unavailable at your high school. At the end of the spring break, what do you want to have learned?
Once you’ve figured this out, dive into our list of top ten spring break programs:
Application deadline: November 13, 2023
Eligibility: Current freshmen, sophomores and juniors
Program dates: February 3, 2023 – May 11, 2023
As the name suggests, this commuter program at NYU Tisch is aimed at students who are pursuing the arts. Dance, music, acting, photography, filmmaking, writing, and game designing tracks are available for you to choose from, all of which are taught by NYU faculty. The workshops take place weekly, on every Saturday. You can expect a fair bit of collaborative and hands-on work. Do keep in mind that apart from submitting an application and going for an interview, you might be contacted for an audition for some of the performance-based workshops.
If these subjects do not fall within your interests then consider NYU Precollege which has a spring session.
Application deadline: December 1, 2023 (for Spring 2024)
Eligibility: Juniors and seniors who have a record of high academic scores and extracurricular activities
Program dates: The spring session is from mid-Jan to mid-May
Location: University of Pennsylvania
Fee: $4,222 per course unit
Financial assistance: City of Philadelphia public or charter high school students can enroll in one course for free
Applicable to both spring and fall semesters, you should opt for this UPenn program if you want to sit in on actual college lessons alongside undergraduate students. You can choose from a number of different fields like anthropology, economics, math, linguistics, and psychology, and even earn academic credit for your work. Classes will run 2-5 times a week and, like a regular college lesson, you will be expected to complete assignments and attend exams. While UPenn’s high rank and the program’s selectivity can make it a good addition to your profile, the high cost is a drawback.
Application deadline: November 23, 2023
Eligibility: Students from Pittsburgh
Program dates: 3-hour weekly sessions over a period of 10 weeks during the spring (January to April)
Location: Carnegie Mellon University
Project Ignite is a student-run outreach organization at Carnegie Mellon University. This initiative gives high school students the chance to work, in groups, on a hands-on project under the guidance of an advisor from the CMU student body. Topics are generally interdisciplinary with previous projects including an automated composting bin, a 3D digital cell simulation, and a working hologram projector. Since you can also propose your own topic, this program is particularly valuable for students who have a ready idea for an academic project but don’t have the means to see it through.
Application deadline: August 27, 2023
Eligibility: High school students aged 13-17
Program dates: Challenges occur twice a year. Once in the fall (September to December) and once in the spring (January to May)
The Junior Academy is essentially a community that brings together students with mentors. Students are then invited to take part in the Academy’s challenge where they must work on a project that solves a real-world issue and focuses on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The challenges last for ten weeks, preceded by a boot camp that teaches you about research, design thinking, and data analysis. You will work in international teams of up to 6 people and be mentored by a STEM professional. Judges will score the projects and the winner will receive a prize as well as be featured in the Global STEM Alliance Summit.
While this program stands out as a competition, it offers a substantial educational experience and provides international exposure. Coming from a notable organization like The New York Academy of Sciences also makes it a prestigious choice to have on your roster.
Application deadline: March 5, 2024 (Spring term)
Eligibility: Juniors (winter and spring terms) and seniors (fall, winter and spring terms). Participating schools need to be within 50 miles of the university and students also need to have exhausted opportunities to take subjects within their high school in order to take courses at Dartmouth.
Program dates: The spring session begins on March 26, 2024, and goes on till the end of the term
Location: Dartmouth College
Fee: Free (Costs will only be incurred for books and other materials)
As a renowned Ivy League university, studying at Dartmouth is bound to give your resume a leg up. Through this free program, you will attend Dartmouth courses and earn college credit like the other undergraduate students. You can choose from the extensive range of fields available at the university, like astronomy, chemistry, languages, philosophy, mathematics, and so on. If you are looking to get a head start on the university experience and are not particular about which subject to explore, then this option should be on your radar. That said, the eligibility criteria make this quite a competitive program and additionally, you need to involve a school counselor to send in your application.
Application deadline: Not specified
Eligibility: High school students who are over the age of 14 (no more than 6 students from a single school and the overall cohort size is limited to 30 students)
Program dates: April 18, 2023 – April 20, 2023, 9.30 am to 2.00 pm each day (dates for 2024 should be on similar lines)
Location: Whitehead Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts
As a renowned non-profit institution that is affiliated with MIT, the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research is a reputable name to have on your profile. The program itself explores a contemporary topic in biomedical research in depth and while it may be a lecture series, the schedule also involves hands-on activities and laboratory modules. Previous topics have looked at cancer research, neurological disorders, and genetic engineering. Students are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis but it fills up pretty quickly so it would be best to keep an eye on the registrations. This is an ideal option for students specifically interested in biomedical research who are also looking for a shorter time commitment.
Application deadline: Applications open on November 6, 2023 for the 2024 spring cohort
Eligibility: High school students who are at least 15 years old
Program dates: Cohort A from March 25, 2024 – March 29, 2024, Cohort B from April 1, 2024 – April 5, 2024, Cohort C from April 8, 2024 – April 12, 2024. Students must attend every day from 9 am to 3.30 pm
Location: MISA Office, Oakland, California
If you’d like to spend your spring break getting an immersive experience in healthcare, consider MISA. A moderately prestigious program (programs affiliated with a healthcare institution or university are generally considered more prestigious), MISA gives you hands-on clinical training through workshops on suturing, EKG, patient vitals, phlebotomy, and more. You will also network with a variety of health professionals and get the opportunity to receive nationally recognized certifications in CPR, First Aid, and more. However, the program does get hundreds of applications for a few limited spots so it’s fairly selective.
We have covered the program in detail here!
Application deadline: March 15, 2024
Eligibility: All high school students
Program dates: Most spring studios run from early May to early June, with one or two sessions per week
Location: Virtual and in-person (at the University of Michigan) options are available
Fee: Ranges from $245 to $295, depending on the studio
Financial assistance: Limited full and partial awards are available, based on merit and need
Organized by the university’s Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, this pre-college program offers spring studios and summer studios for you to enhance your creative skills and start building a portfolio. The highlight of this program is that you will get to work from your very own studio! You can choose from topics like watercolor painting, drawing fundamentals, 3D exploration, relief printmaking, and more. You will receive personalized training from the Stamps faculty. There will be additional lectures and demonstrations to enhance your learning but the focus is primarily on studio time where you will apply the concepts you learn.
Application deadline: TBD
Eligibility: Rising juniors and seniors and graduated seniors (exceptional rising sophomores may be considered). Make sure to go through the academic prerequisites as well as computer and lab requirements.
Program dates: Spring dates TBD, you can expect to spend 7-10 hours per week
Fee: $3,575 for the tuition and approximately $300 for a lab kit
Financial assistance: Very limited scholarships available
This credit-bearing program is perfect for students interested in biomedical engineering who cannot travel for in-person programs. Despite being an online course, BMEI offers a hands-on experience where you will learn to model biological systems and complete an independent biosensor design project — from the hypothesis to analyzing data to presenting an online poster. The curriculum includes asynchronous lectures, real-time study sessions, daily assignments, and virtual meetings with your instructor. John Hopkins’ biomedical engineering program has been consistently ranked as number 1 which means that the prestige and learning that comes from this program will be worth the high cost.
Application deadline: December 1, 2023, for the spring term in 2024
Eligibility: High school seniors with a minimum GPA of 2.5. Students within 50 miles of the university can opt for in-person courses
Program dates: Dates vary from session to session
Location: On campus (at Minneapolis College of Art and Design) and online options are available
Through this offering, students interested in visual and liberal arts get the opportunity to take on university classes and earn college credit. As a participant, you can take one 3-credit course per semester for up to two semesters (fall and spring). The available course options include drawing, design history, writing, anatomy, graphic design, and more. Do keep in mind that the program is relatively selective and the application process requires letters of recommendation and a portfolio of artwork.
If you don’t have financial constraints, you can also consider the Fashion Institute of Technology’s pre-college programs.
The list isn’t over yet. Here’s a bonus program!
Application deadline: January 15, 2024
Eligibility: Rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors (international students can apply as well)
Program dates: Vary from course to course
Location: On-campus at Tufts University or online
Fee: For-credit courses are charged at $990 per credit while non-credit courses can range from $100-$1,300 per course, depending on the field of study
Like most other pre-college programs, this one allows you to get an early taste of undergraduate-level study at a highly ranked university. A wide range of courses is available for you to choose from, including a variety of subjects like data analysis, economics, marketing, and more. You can take up to 10 credits in a single term or explore non-credit courses and shorter workshops. Depending on your choice, residential or commuter options may be available.
While universities like Cornell and Columbia also offer online pre-college programs with spring sessions, we have focused on Tufts University since it has both, on-campus and virtual options. Considering the high financial requirements of such programs, the experience of an in-person version offers a higher return.
One other option – Lumiere Research Scholar Program
If you are interested in spending your spring break doing research as a high school student, then you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students that I 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.
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: NYU Tisch