If you are considering a career in engineering, exploring the discipline in high school is a fantastic way to test your interest and figure out which branch of engineering you are most suited for. Since engineering majors have a competitive application process, having experience on your resume is a great way to signal to colleges about your level of passion, motivation and competence as an applicant!
What to look for in an engineering program?
Stream Specialization: Look for programs that offer specializations within the engineering field, such as mechanical, electrical, civil, chemical, aerospace, etc.
Research Opportunities: Look for programs that offer research opportunities, internships, or co-op programs, which provide students with hands-on experience and exposure to real-world engineering challenges.
Curriculum: Are you looking for a hands-on project or a more introductory course to a particular subject? Take a good look at the curriculum of the program that you wish to apply for, including the concepts, types of sessions, assignments, projects, etc.
Career Support: Look for programs that offer career support services, such as resume building, interview preparation, and job search assistance.
Cost: While most of these programs are fully-funded and provide a stipend, others may not. If you are opting for accommodation near the location of the program, you may have to factor in that cost as well, keeping your parent/guardian in the loop.
In person vs. remote: A lot of programs may require you to commute to the location. If you live in the vicinity of the location, you should factor in the time you may take to commute, your meals, as well as costs of commuting. Virtual programs, on the other hand, offer more flexibility.
Faculty/ networking opportunities: Apart from mentorship and guidance, does your program offer valuable networking opportunities with faculty, researchers, and experts in the field? This can be through end-of-program symposiums, paper workshops, or meetings with scholars spread throughout the duration of the program.
There are a lot of options out there and so we've compiled a list of 15 of the best engineering programs that you should consider before applying to college. We’ve selected programs based on the overall depth and breadth of research, as well as programs from both public and private organizations. Apart from being enriching and prestigious, most of these programs are fully-funded and offer stipends!
General Engineering Programs
The YSP offered by Northeastern University emphasizes hands-on research opportunities for bright high school students.
As a participant, you can expect to work with experienced Northeastern faculty at the research laboratories within Northeastern University’s Colleges of Engineering, Science, and Health Sciences, with subject tracks including bioengineering.
Along with lab exploration, you will also be given career counseling, as well as a chance to explore your dream engineering career. The program also offers a chance to explore college life, including field trips.
Eligibility: Rising high school seniors based in Massachusetts or Maine. If you're based in Maine, you can apply for the YSP@Rouz Institute in Portland.
Location: Northeastern University Campus, Maine students attend the program at Rouz Institute in Portland.
Application Deadline: March 15, 2023
Program Dates: June 26 – August 3, 2023
2. MITES Summer
Another extremely prestigious offering by MIT, MITES Summer is a 6-week, residential program focused on increasing diversity in STEM. It is highly competitive and selects about 80 bright students amongst hundreds of applications to have an academically enriching experience in STEM.
As a MITES Summer participant, you can expect to take five rigorous courses covering math, science (there will be select modules from a wide range of topics from Machine Learning to Architecture to Genomics), and humanities.
You’ll also participate in lab tours and social events, and benefit from college admissions counseling towards the end of the program. You also have the chance to experience campus life at MIT, and network with like-minded peers!
Note: Along with classes and discussion sessions spread throughout the program, you will also have a midterm and final submissions/exams! Plus, you can also apply for MITES Saturdays!
Eligibility: High school juniors from minority backgrounds and other underrepresented segments of the population are encouraged to apply. The applicant must be a U.S. citizen.
Location: MIT Campus
Application Deadline: Applications for the 2023 cohort are closed. Deadlines are to be announced for 2024. Please keep checking here.
Program Dates: late June through early August (based on the previous year’s schedule)
If you've been looking for cutting-edge, highly competitive summer programs, the Anson L. Clark's Scholars Program in Texas is one you must have heard of. Once selected for this 6-week program, you will join a small cohort of 12 high-achieving students to conduct research in the field of engineering, and receive mentorship and guidance from some of the top scholars in the country.
This program recreates an intensive college application experience, taking into account the applicant’s test scores, grades, and activity list. To give you an idea of just how competitive the pool is, selected students usually have SAT scores in the 99th percentile!
Along with the 1:1 research opportunities, you also attend discussions, seminars, and field visits as part of your curriculum.
Note: The acceptance rate for the program is less than 3%.
Cost: Fully-funded, stipend of $750 provided
Eligibility: Applicants must be at least 17 years of age by the program start date, and should graduate in 2023 or 2024 (U.S. and International)
Location: Texas Tech University (Lubbock, TX)
Application Deadline: February 13, 2023 (tentative)
Program Dates: June 18 - August 3, 2023 (tentative)
A research-based summer program for high school juniors around the world for engineering and other STEM subjects, the RSI, or Research Science Institute should be on your list. Apart from being highly competitive, with an acceptance rate of <5%, most participants can expect an acceptance to MIT.
RSI invites 80 of the brightest students from different countries to participate in a 6-week, fully-funded research program, where you conduct independent research in engineering, and other STEM subjects, and engage in college-level course work.
To make the most of this program, you are expected to keep yourself abreast of the latest literature in the field of your interest, design a research plan from scratch, and work on oral and written presentations of your findings, all under the guidance of the brightest scholars in the world.
Note: All RSI participants can expect an acceptance from MIT for their undergraduate program!
Cost: Free of cost, stipend provided
Eligibility: All high school juniors can apply
Location: MIT Campus
Application Deadline: January 15, 2023, for US citizens, and March 15 for International Students
Program Dates: June 26 to August 6, 2023 (tentative)
5. Lumiere Research Scholar Program, STEM Track
Lumiere was founded by researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Hundreds of ambitious high school students do research in the field of engineering through the Lumiere Research Scholar Programs. Each student is paired with a top Ph.D. and works with their mentor 1-1 to produce a university-level research paper.
The programs are entirely 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
Civil & Environmental Engineering, to Chemical & Biology Engineering.
Also, check out the Lumiere Research Inclusion Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented, low-income students.
Eligibility: High school students
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!
Four cohorts run throughout the year, namely the spring, summer, winter, and fall cohorts.
USC Viterbi's SHINE students have the chance to join a research team for seven weeks. As part of the program, you pick your top three engineering tracks that you would like to pursue in the program, and SHINE will pair you up with a mentor (professor) that's the best fit for you.
You are expected to put in about 20 hours of work each week and shall work in experimental lab work or computational research while pursuing lab projects of cutting-edge technology.
Additionally, the community of SHINE is incredibly strong, as social and intellectual networking, college prep tips, and extensive experience in science communication will be provided.
Note: The program has a selectivity rate of about 26%. You can take a look at the complete application flyer here.
Cost: $5,750, scholarships available
Eligibility: Open to all freshmen, sophomores, and juniors with a GPA of 3.4 or more on a 4.0 scale.
Location: USC Viterbi Campus, Los Angeles, CA
Application Deadline: February 24, 2023
Program Dates: June 12–July 28, 2023
Rising 10th through 12th graders can get hands-on experience in engineering at the University of Arizona. As part of the program, you are expected to work with professors, graduate students, and undergraduate students on design projects and hands-on activities, meet mentors and learn about engineering degrees, research, and careers.
Additionally, you also have the chance to explore the UA campus, facilities, and community. This program is a solid opportunity for anyone looking to learn about pursuing engineering majors in college.
Cost: Not defined for the Summer 2023 program yet, financial aid is available.
Eligibility: Open to all 10th-12th graders passionate about engineering
Location: University of Arizona campus
Application Deadline: The Summer 2023 program is in its planning stage, keep an eye out for application deadlines and dates here!
As the oldest, continuously running program of its kind, HSHSP has developed into a highly selective research program offering research apprenticeships in all areas of science, engineering, and mathematics.
Each participant indicates a preference for their research area, then works with faculty advisors, undergraduate, and graduate students to identify the research methodology and begin the procedure.
Students are able to fully immerse themselves in the intensive research process for seven weeks, often producing award-winning research projects under the mentorship of the university’s faculty and graduate students.
Note: HSHSP alumni have received recognition for their research work in the form of awards in competitions and publications. Some have also gone on to college at Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Cal Tech, Brown, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, Cornell, Dartmouth, and Michigan State University, to name a few.
Eligibility: Rising seniors that are in the top 20% of their class
Location: Michigan State University
Application Deadline: March 1st, 2023
Program Dates: June 25 – August 12, 2023
9. UMD's Engineering Science and Technology to Energize and Expand Young Mind (ESTEEM) / Summer Engineering Research Quest
As an ESTEEM/SER Quest participant, you are expected to engage in an intensive 4-week research-focused program. At the University of Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering, you will develop a research proposal on a topic of your choice, complete a literature review, and conduct a research project in engineering.
Additionally, you will also -
Learn about engineering research and engineering concepts
Learn about the college application process, financial aid processes, and test-taking strategies
Meet undergraduate and graduate students through engineering-focused programs and activities
Eligibility: Open to all high school juniors
Location: University of Maryland campus
Application Deadline: TBD
Program Dates: TBD for the 2023 cohort
Aerospace Engineering Programs
A highly prestigious, highly competitive program for high school students, the SEES is hosted by UT Austin in collaboration with NASA. This is a national-level internship program in aerospace engineering, where you can work beside NASA subject matter experts.
The program is focused on Earth and space research and relies on interns to assist with analyzing and visualizing data - key aspects of moving a project faster and foundational knowledge for aerospace engineering. All project teams will present their research during the Virtual SEES Science Symposium.
There is a virtual, learning component to the program and then an onsite experience on campus at the University of Texas, Austin. You are also expected to present your research at the program's concluding symposium.
Note: Here are a few things the SEES team looks for in an intern - your academic records, a written application that includes answers to essay questions, an introduction video, a letter of recommendation form, a transcript, and a demonstration of interest in STEM.
Eligibility: High school juniors who hold U.S. citizenship can apply
Location: Hybrid (On-site experience at the University of Austin, Texas campus)
Application Deadline: February 20, 2023
Program Dates: May 1 - July 26, 2023
11. MIT Lincoln Laboratory Radar Introduction for Student Engineers (MIT LLRISE)
If you're a budding engineer specifically interested in radar systems, then MIT’s LLRISE program may be a great fit for you. The program runs throughout July each year and gives rising high school seniors the chance to learn and build small radar systems, such as a Doppler and range radar.
Highly talented scientists and engineers will be working alongside the attendees and assisting them. The program is completely free of cost and highly prestigious, making it a very competitive program to get into.
Eligibility: Rising high school seniors based in the US
Location: The workshop will be held at two locations: the MIT campus in Cambridge, MA, and Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, MA.
Application Deadline: March 10, 2023
Program Dates: July 9 – July 22, 2023
If you're an upper-level high school student interested in aerospace engineering, the ARFL program is an enriching opportunity for your pre-college summer.
Once selected, you will have the opportunity to receive guidance from full-time AFRL scientists and engineers while touring AFRL laboratories and working on cutting-edge research and technology. You can expect to work on areas such as aerospace / mechanical design for morphing aircraft technology, complex electromagnetic structures, and metalens design and modeling (to name a few).
These opportunities are also open to undergraduate and graduate-level students so be sure to filter for specific opportunities open to high school students. A few research areas open to high schoolers are Clean-up of PFAS contamination, Data Structures for Advanced Satellite Navigation Signals, and Experimental Navigation Satellite Signals Simulation and Testing, to name a few.
Cost: Fully-funded, stipend provided
Eligibility: High schoolers with a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, who are US citizens and have a valid driver's license. You must also be eligible to work 40 hours a week for summer internship positions.
Location: Kirtland/AMOS, Eglin/Hurlbert air force bases
Application Deadline: This may vary based on the AFRL sites and/or projects to which you are applying.
Program Dates: Varies from project to project, but you can expect it to be during the summer months for 9 weeks.
Mechanical Engineering Programs
One of the most prestigious apprenticeship programs in the field of engineering, the SEAP program is offered by more than 20 naval laboratories across the country.
SEAP is a competitive program with around 300 placements in which many participants go on to careers within the DoN. As an apprentice, you are expected to work closely with research personnel, who act as mentors, and experience science and engineering practice that is not available in your school environment.
For 8 weeks, you will gain firsthand scientific and engineering experience, all while earning a stipend, as well as gaining unique and positive experiences to help with their understanding of a STEM career.
Cost: None, first-year interns receive a stipend of $4,000, returning interns receive a stipend of $4,500
Eligibility: All high school students with US citizenship can apply
Location: Depends on the lab you are assigned to
Application Deadline: November 1, 2023
Program Dates: Varies from lab to lab, you should expect your apprenticeship to be in the summer months.
ARISE at NYU is a free seven-week summer program for 10th and 11th graders residing in New York City. During their seven weeks, students will work under the guidance of NYU’s top research faculty, gaining authentic research opportunities in various STEM disciplines, such as mechanical engineering.
ARISE participants will train in college-level research, professional development, presentation and colloquium, and make substantial contributions to their laboratories.
This is a great interdisciplinary STEM program; while it has specific subject areas involving mechanical engineering (such as robotics), you can also easily explore topics in chemical engineering, computer science, etc. as these pair very well with mechanical engineering.
Note: ARISE is a seven-week summer program
Eligibility: Sophomores and Juniors based in NYC
Location: NYU campus
Application Deadline: March 5, 2023
Program Dates: June 28 – August 11, 2023
The Milwaukee School of Engineering’s (MSOE) Women in Engineering summer program offers female students entering 10th through 12th grades the chance to explore multiple engineering disciplines, including mechanical engineering.
Led by MSOE faculty and MSOE female engineering students, students participate in various hands-on engineering projects. The program hopes to teach its students how to apply their skills and knowledge to the real world, while also promoting female opportunities in a male-dominated field.
As a participant, you will also engage in activities such as interactive comedy shows, bowling, tours of Milwaukee, and a game night.
Note: You could also check out the Women’s Technology Program (WTP), a 4-week summer academic and residential experience where 20 female high school students explore engineering through hands-on classes that are taught by female MIT graduate students, labs, and team-based projects.
Eligibility: Female-identifying students from grades 10-12
Location: Milwaukee School of Engineering's campus
Program Dates: July 9-14, 2023
If you are looking to start your own research journey with 1-1 mentorship from a top PhD scholar, check out the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students that I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. 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 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: Research Science Institute logo