Winter break is a pretty solid time for high school students to prepare for upcoming college applications, especially if you’re in your senior year. If you’re looking for programs that run during the winter, this list is for you!
Why do a winter program as a high school student?
1. Shorter duration
Most summer programs span across 2-3 months, and if you’re looking for shorter, crisper programs, winter is a good time to participate! Winter programs usually span across a few weeks, and are a great option for students who wish to gain a deep dive into a particular subject before applying to more advanced programs during the summer. With the help of winter programs, you can work on your skills and knowledge in a particular field, refine your resume, and apply for even more prestigious summer programs, all in the span of a single year.
2. More cost-effective
Winter programs, being shorter than summer programs in most cases, also cost less, or offer virtual components that are a lot less pricey than in-person programs. This list, for example, includes a couple of virtual winter programs that you can consider from a financial standpoint.
If you’re a high school senior, and wish to include a research/work-based program in your resume before your applications for college start with the start of the new year, winter programs are probably the best way to do so. Summer programs, while more intensive and rigorous in nature (mostly!), can’t be included in your resume or essay unless you're applying in the last few application cycles, which you may or may not prefer.
How do I choose a winter program?
Some winter programs charge you on a per unit or per credit basis, while others have different costs for day scholars and residential scholars - as a few examples. It is important to look through the costs of each winter program carefully, and have a conversation with your guardian or parent, and figure out which program is feasible for you. Also note that some programs may offer financial assistance by cutting down on your participation fees.
2. Credits/no credits offered
If you wish to gain college credit during the winter, make sure you apply for programs that mention clearly their credit policy. Before applying, scout through the program website, and compare different programs, the number of credits they offer, and how intensive your workload is.
If you’re traveling for most part of your winter break, you may want to consider a fully virtual winter program instead of one that requires you to live on-campus with your fellow program attendees, or conduct on-field research. However, if you wish to experience college life before applying for your undergraduate degree for a few weeks, a winter program may be a solid option. Additionally, your schedule for the summer break also influences whether or not a winter program may be good for you. If your summer schedule requires you to travel/visit multiple places, a winter program followed by a virtual summer program is a good strategy to follow.
4. Program components
Are you looking for a more research-based winter program or one that is structured based on a work-learn model (like an internship)? Listing down your goals and potential takeaways from your ideal winter program and comparing it with program offerings is generally recommended. You can also collect reviews from your peers or seniors, or reach out to the program organizers and clarify any doubts you may have about the program and what you stand to gain from it.
Note that most of these programs offer college credit, which is a great factor to consider while scouting for programs.
The winter programs we’ve shortlisted below are spread across a diverse range of subjects, so that you have plenty of STEM and non-STEM options to choose from.
Application deadline: Space is limited and students are accepted on a rolling basis
Eligibility: Students who are at least 15 years of age, in grades 10-12, and have a minimum GPA of 3.0
Program dates: January 14, 2023 – March 4, 2023
Location: University of California San Diego, CA
The UC San Diego Academic Connections Research Scholars program gives students the opportunity to engage in high-level academics in specific subjects. The Bioengineering track is a three-tiered program consisting of an introductory level, a research level, and an internship level. The internship level takes place during the winter but generally requires courses from the previous tiers as a prerequisite. During the program, you will work on an independent project from proposal to lab experimentation to presentation. You will even earn 3 pre-college credits at the end of the program.
Application deadline: October 30, 2023
Eligibility: Students from the Philadelphia- Tri-State area who are at least 16 years of age
Program dates: January 9, 2023 – March 20, 2023
Location: Fox Chase Cancer Center, PA
Fox Chase Cancer Center offers high school students the opportunity to engage in high-level biomedical research alongside professional scientists. The central topic is ‘mapping nutrient targets during development’ and the program will include lectures, lab work and an independent project. The sessions run every Saturday and culminate in a presentation day where you can present your findings. Do keep in mind that each cohort has only 16 spots and the application process requires two recommendations and includes an interview stage.
Application deadline: Four cohorts throughout the year, applications due in February, May, September, and December. Apply here.
Eligibility: All high school students
Program dates: There are four cohorts throughout the year in spring, summer, fall, and winter
Fee: 1. Individual Research Program - $2600 2. Premium Research and Publication Program - $4800 3. Lumiere Research Fellowship - $8400
Lumiere has been founded by researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Hundreds of ambitious high school students do research in a number of fields through the Lumiere Research Scholar Programs. Each student is paired with a top PhD and works with their mentor 1-1 to produce a university-level research paper.
The programs are fully virtual and vary in duration based on the student’s end goal with respect to how much of a deep dive they would prefer. The research opportunities range from STEM fields like data science, chemistry and medicine, to fields from the humanities like economics, sociology and law.
Also check out the Lumiere Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented, low-income students.
Application deadline: December 20, 2023
Eligibility: Rising juniors and seniors
Program dates: January 2, 2023 – January 26, 2023
Location: University of Maryland, Baltimore County, MD
Fee: Ranges from $439 - $6,426 depending on the number of credits and whether you are a Maryland resident or not
High school students can apply to this program as visiting students and earn college credit while still in school. The program has in-person, online and hybrid tracks with a variety of courses in biology, economics, history, media studies, languages and more. However, do consider that enrolment in this program requires permission from your school as well as academic standing comparable to a first-year college student.
Similarly, you can also consider Tufts University in Massachusetts, which hosts winter sessions within its pre-college program.
Application deadline: Applications accepted on a rolling basis
Eligibility: Open to juniors and seniors who are at least 15 years of age
Program dates: January 3, 2023 – January 20, 2023
Fee: $1,680 per credit
Financial assistance: Partial scholarships are available
Ideal for those who might not be able to travel far during the winter break, this program lets you get an Ivy League experience from home itself. Cornell’s online pre-college component is a year-long program that includes a winter component. You can earn up to 8 credits and you will leave the program with a Cornell transcript. The courses include synchronous and asynchronous options, affording even more flexibility.
Application deadline: Not specified
Eligibility: Juniors and seniors who are at least 16 years of age
Program dates: January 9, 2023 – March 16, 2023
Fee: $2,285 for one class
SCAD's joint enrollment is another program that provides you with the opportunity to earn college credit while still in high school. The completely virtual program will take place via online lectures, Zoom hangouts with classmates, and other digital resources. You can take up to two courses per quarter, each of which will be of university-level difficulty. This is more suited to students looking to explore creative subjects like writing, design, fashion and art. Although, the school does also offer courses in subjects like economics, business, and mathematics.
Application deadline: Program runs in cohorts throughout the year – applications for the Winter Cohort close on November 27, 2022.
Eligibility: Applicants must be ambitious high schoolers and can be anywhere in the world. For the AI Scholars program, no previous experience is required – applicants need to show a keen interest in AI. For the AI Fellowship program, applicants will either need to complete the AI Scholars program or have had past experience with AI concepts or Python.
Program dates: Rolling. Applications for the summer are between February and May.
Fee: $1,490 for the AI Scholars program (The 10-week bootcamp), $4,200 for the AI Fellowship (the 12–15-week, 1-1 mentorship) and $4,700 for both.
Financial assistance: Need-based financial aid is available.
Veritas AI has a range of AI programs for ambitious high school students, starting from close-group, collaborative learning to customized project pathways with 1:1 mentorship. The programs have been designed and run by Harvard graduate students & alumni.
In the AI Scholars program, students work with PhDs from top institutions to learn the fundamentals of Python and key concepts in Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. Students build a strong foundation to code and create AI models independently.
In the AI Fellowship, students create a novel AI project independently with the support of a mentor over 12-15 weeks. Examples of past projects can be found here.
Application deadline: Open all year round
Eligibility: Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors only who have taken at least one honors science or honors English class
Program dates: Rolling dates
Energy Mad is a non-profit organization that offers this opportunity for students to do research in the renewable energy sector. As a participant, you will study a specific company, technology or market and study it. Under the guidance of a mentor, you will gather information through research and networking and then analyze it to produce a publishable report. For the winter break period, you can opt for the program’s quarter-time internship (1-9 months, 8 hours per week).
Application deadline: Rolling applications
Eligibility: Juniors and seniors
Program dates: Rolling dates
Location: Virginia Tech, VA
Fee: Not specified
As part of this research mentorship program at Virginia Tech, you will work on a small, independent project in biomedical research from start to finish. Under the guidance of a mentor from the institute, you will complete the project and present it at the end of the program. You can choose from a number of labs that cover a wide range of topics, from the neuroscience of human motivation to the mechanisms underlying synaptic targeting and differentiation.
Application deadline: Applications accepted on a rolling basis
Eligibility: All girls and gender-expansive youth attending high school
Program dates: 3 weeks during fall, winter and spring
Location: Girls Garage, CA
Girls Garage's Construction + Community Program enrolls 12 students per season to learn about construction skills (architecture, design, engineering) within the context of a community. During the program, you will gain skills in carpentry, welding, and design while working on a real-world project that will benefit the community. Apart from this, the program also aims at fostering positive collaborative skills and will encourage you to think about equity and inclusion.
And because you’ve read this far, here are a couple of bonus programs!
Ladder Internship is a selective program for high school students to work with startups, and runs during the winter!
Ladder Startups work in fields including healthcare and medicine, technology, machine learning and A.I., finance, environmental science and sustainability, business and marketing, 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 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 students through the internship and helping them navigate the startup environment.
Note that as a Ladder Intern, you will engage in a coaching+work-based model - a component that sets it apart from most internships in this list. The virtual internship is usually 8 weeks long.
Cost: $1490 (Financial Aid Available)
Location: Remote! You can work from anywhere in the world.
Application Deadline: November 26, 2023
Program Dates: 8 weeks, the winter cohort commences on December 18, 2023
Selection Rate: Selective
Eligibility: Students who can work 10-20 hours/week for 8-12 weeks. Open to high school students, undergraduates, and gap year students!
Application deadline: January 31, 2023
Eligibility: All high school students who have completed the NYS Regents Living Environment or equivalent Biology class
Program dates: Tuesdays and Thursdays from February 2, 2023 – March 28, 2023
Financial assistance: Full scholarship available
Cornell University’s Burke Neurological Institute offers this introductory course that studies the mammalian nervous system. Setting a foundation of the subject, the curriculum will cover how the brain controls movement, the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, how the nervous system is organized and repaired, and more. It is a twice-weekly, virtual program that will also prepare you for college-level academics and provide an opportunity to network with professionals from the institute.
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: Seal of UC San Diego