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8 Free Animation Programs for High School Students

Animation is the creation of moving graphics—it combines art and creativity with technical skills. Animators can work in diverse fields such as filmmaking, advertising, gaming, TV production, and software development, making it an exciting career path. 

For high school students interested in animation and related fields, participating in a pre-college program can be pretty beneficial. These programs provide hands-on experience, exposure to industry-standard tools, and valuable networking opportunities. They also help develop technical skills like storyboarding, drawing, software proficiency, and design, as well as soft skills such as teamwork, attention to detail, and organization. Participation in such programs can enhance your resume, support future research experiences, and strengthen your  college Statement of Purpose (SOP). Engaging in these activities demonstrates a commitment to the field and can make students stand out in the competitive college admissions process

Here are 8 free animation programs that are open to high school students. 

In just four weeks, you can develop your cinematic directing and editing skills to produce a short film. This residential program, offered through the Kanbar Institute of Film and Television, provides hands-on instruction with professional digital cameras and editing workstations, allowing your ideas to come alive on screen. The curriculum mirrors the undergraduate degree program, combining intensive professional training with a comprehensive understanding of cinematic visual storytelling techniques and theories. You will learn to develop and produce short visual stories using digital video cameras and edit them with Adobe Premiere. No prior film or video experience is required. 

The Tisch Summer High School Program is tuition-based (full scholarships available) and culminates in four to six college credits (units). The workshop runs Monday to Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and includes academic classes, professional training, and production/post-production time. Students may also need to complete creative assignments, such as writing or editing, in the evenings and on weekends, often collaborating with peers on assigned projects. NYU Tisch also offers an online filmmakers workshop for high school students!

Location: NYU Tisch School of the Arts campus

Cost: $10,711. Full scholarships available.

Program Dates: July 7 - August 3, 2024

Eligibility: High school juniors (rising seniors) only

Application Deadline: March of every year. Check the calendar for 2025 dates!

Pratt Institute, known for art, design, and liberal arts, offers a rigorous residential four-week PreCollege Summer program for high school students to explore its majors. You can choose three preferred courses in your application and will be enrolled in two out of the 18 available courses. One option, Digital Arts: 2D Animation, teaches both hand-crafted and digital animation techniques, including frame-by-frame drawing and digital compositing, culminating in a complete animated project with sound and color. You will also explore traditional character animation and experimental techniques. Each course provides two college credits, typically transferable to other institutions. The program includes guided museum tours, portfolio development sessions, and studio work, ending with a final exhibition where students showcase their projects to peers, family, and the Pratt community.

Location: Pratt Institute Brooklyn campus

Cost: $4,613. Full need-based scholarships available.

Program Dates: July 8 – August 2, 2024

Eligibility: At least 16 years old and no older than 18 years old

Application Deadline: May of each year

The California State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA) is a month-long training program in visual and performing arts, creative writing, animation, and film. The Animation Program allows high school students to explore both fine art and digital animation, learning experimental and traditional techniques from professionals. The program includes core classes, guest interactions, and field trips. From Monday to Saturday, you will attend workshops on animation, storyboarding, drawing, and digital animation. You will also watch animated film screenings and participate in additional workshops, such as stop-motion. Students work on five projects involving traditional, cutout, and digital animation techniques. The curriculum also covers the history of animation and includes figure drawing classes and sessions with professional animators. Field trips to animation studios and local museums are part of the experience.

Location: California State Summer School for the Arts campus

Cost: $4,600 (for California residents) and $7,000 (for out-of-state and international students). Full need-based scholarships available.

Program Dates: July 6 – August 2, 2024

Eligibility: High school students currently enrolled in grades 8 through 12 are eligible to apply

Application Deadline: February of each year 

ArtWorks offers paid internships for high school students to gain experience in various art sectors. Internships are available in visual art, dance and theater, music production, creative writing, animation, film, and architecture. Interns work with professional artists and Arts for Learning staff at either the Lewis Arts Studio or the Koubek Center in Miami, Florida. The six-week summer internship, running from June to July, involves creating art and learning essential career skills, with hours from Monday to Friday, 9:00 AM to 3:30 PM. ArtWorks also offers internships during the fall and spring for visual arts.

Location: In-person. To be confirmed. Check here for updates!

Stipend: No cost! Interns will be paid $12.00/hour. Interns will receive payment for up to 180 hours of work during the six-week program. 

Program Dates: June 17 – July 26, 2024 

Eligibility: For current 9th – 12th graders only; must be at least 14 years old to apply. Must be a Florida resident and meet I9 work eligibility requirements. Non-residents may receive community service credit hours.

Application Deadline: April of each year

The Animation Studio course explores traditional and digital animation techniques like frame-by-frame and stop-motion. Starting with sketches and storyboards, students work on projects focusing on motion studies, character and environment development, storytelling, and cinematic techniques such as composition, set making, and props. The course culminates in a final project tailored to individual goals and interests. The experience is enriched with artist presentations, visits to the Art Institute of Chicago, and group discussions. This program includes dynamic demos, group work, critiques, and activities, balancing independent exploration with faculty guidance. Students who have completed their sophomore year can also enroll for college credit. 

Location: School of the Art Institute of Chicago campus

Cost: $600. Full need-based scholarships available.

Program Dates: July 14 - July 25, 2024

Eligibility: High school students aged 14 to 18 years. Basic drawing and computer experience required.

Application Deadline: Rolling applications. Register here to attend!

This program, offered by the Carnegie Mellon School of Art, lets students explore creative ideas using traditional and cutting-edge tools in a college-level studio environment. It develops both conceptual and technical skills, preparing participants for various art-related studies and careers. Students experience the Carnegie Mellon School of Art through courses, critiques, workshops, portfolio development, and interactions with faculty and peers. Classes run Monday through Thursday, with elective workshops on Friday, focusing on technical skills and conceptual thinking. The program includes individual instruction, work sessions, critiques, and lectures, with open studios available nightly for additional work.

The faculty comprises accomplished artists experienced in teaching teenagers and college students. Small class sizes ensure personalized attention and feedback, supported by undergraduate teaching assistants who provide insight into the college artist experience. Courses for Session One (Weeks 1-3) include Drawing, Sculpture, Animation, and Concept Studio. Session Two (Weeks 4-6) for six-week students includes Painting, Digital Photography, Printmaking, and Concept Studio.

Location: Resident or commuter options available. Carnegie Mellon University campus

Cost: Ranges from $5,773 to $11,392, depending on residential or commuter options. Full scholarships covering tuition, housing, and dining are available to students demonstrating financial need.

Program Dates: June 22 - August 3, 2024. Three-week option also available, ending July 13, 2024.

Eligibility: Be at least 16 years old by the program start date. Be a current sophomore or junior in high school at the time of application submission. 

Application Deadline: March of each year

Create your own animated film and meet Hollywood's top professionals at the UCLA Animation Workshop. The Traditional Animation track teaches students to write, storyboard, and draw their own films. Offered online, the program includes synchronous course meetings, practical exercises, and guest speakers. Students will use a Wacom tablet or mouse, Pencil2D, and Adobe Premiere to learn traditional hand-drawn animation methods and complete their projects.

Supervised by UCLA faculty, students will work through exercises covering the entire animation process from storyboard to post-production. The course also covers the history of animation and contemporary industry practices, with industry guests sharing their experiences and answering questions. Each student will create an animated short film with sound, screened at the program's conclusion for friends and family. In the exclusive Summer Institute Animation Symposium, students also get to meet and listen to Hollywood professionals like Meg LeFauve (writer, Inside Out), Jared Bush (writer/director, Zootopia, Moana), and Raymond Persi (writer/director/animator, The Simpsons), as well as executives and artists from Marvel Animation, Sony Pictures Animation, Illumination, Warner Animation, Adult Swim, and more.

Location: Virtual

Cost: $5,959. Qualified students attending grades 9th – 11th in Spring 2024 in the state of California may be eligible for Summer Scholars Support, a need- and merit-based full / partial scholarship.

Program Dates: June 24 – August 2, 2024

Eligibility: 9th-12th grade in Spring 2024

Application Deadline: June 15, 2024

The Warner Bros. Discovery Reach Honorship Program offers scholarships and paid internships for students interested in pursuing careers in the entertainment industry. Participants interested in animation can choose the Production and Studio Operations tracks, gaining hands-on experience and mentorship from Warner Bros. professionals. Selected students explore technical and creative roles like content development, post-production, sound editing, and gaming, gaining insights into the industry and developing essential skills. The program combines academic support and professional development to prepare students for college and careers. Focused on fostering diversity and inclusion, the program supports underrepresented students by providing the resources and mentorship needed for success. Learn more about the experiences of past participants here.

Location: Warner Bros. Discovery Studios, Burbank, CA

Cost/Stipend: A $5,000 scholarship towards college that will be paid directly to the college/university in equal ($1,250) annual installments while the recipient is enrolled in school.

Program Dates: Recruitment for the Reach Honorship Program is temporarily paused for 2024. Check 2025 dates here!

Eligibility: Applicants must be:

  • Be graduating high school seniors in Burbank or Los Angeles County

  • Have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 upon graduation

  • Plan to attend an accredited college or university

Application Deadline: To be announced

One other option - Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you’re interested in pursuing independent research in design, you could also consider applying to one of the Lumiere Research Scholar Programs, selective online high school programs for students 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.

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 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.



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