High school students and their parents often come to us requesting guidance on how best to spend the summer break. Our advice varies based on the student; it’s a personal decision that needs to be considered within the context of the child’s interests, preferences, and schedule, as well as family plans. Our primary goal is to help students identify their genuine interests and find opportunities to explore those areas. At the same time, we want to help students pursue experiences that will help them stand out in the college admissions process.

We’ve previously written about a variety of ways for high school students to make the most of your summer, but this blog post will focus on academic programs. Keep your eyes open for future blog posts on summer programs in other areas, including research, service, adventure, and travel.

Summer 2020 was different than any other. Programs were cancelled or quickly shifted to virtual platforms, and many students found themselves unsure of how to proceed with the evolving situation of the pandemic.

Summer 2021 will be different yet again. Everyone is more prepared for remote options, including the students, parents, professors, and institutions. Academic programs for high school students are more likely to be offered virtually this summer, but there are some programs planning to offer an in-person option. This could be because the vaccination roll-out for the adolescent groups seem to be moving slower than for those 18 and older, and therefore parents might be less likely to send their teens to a residential program.

Virtual Programs

The vast majority of summer academic programs are being offered remotely this summer. This offers the enormous benefit of opening up the option to so many more students. Virtual programs are more affordable, because of the elimination of travel, and students can have more flexibility combining a summer academic program with work or family responsibilities. An additional advantage is that remote programming allows a more diverse population of students to access to these opportunities.

Georgetown University, for example, is offering one-, two-, or three-week Academies this summer, all as a virtual learning experience. Students will work in a collaborative environment focusing on a single academic area, with choices such as Foreign Policy, Medical, Business, or Social Justice.

Harvard Pre-College Program announced that it will not be hosting a residential program for high school students this summer, and that they had received very positive feedback from those who attended the 2020 virtual programs. The two-week online program offers students the chance to study a subject taught by Harvard faculty, while also participating in extracurriculars with their peers.

At least two of Northwestern University’s summer programs have been announced as virtual for Summer 2021, including College Prep and the Medill Cherubs Journalism Program. The journalism program was run virtually last summer, enrolling 103 high school journalists from the United States and abroad. This year’s program will be modeled similarly, with about 20 hours a week of synchronous learning over four weeks. The residential program, last held in 2019, cost $6,200, while the current virtual program is $2,600.

Many other universities have moved their summer academic programs to a virtual platform this summer, including Barnard College, Emory University, and Yale University.

In-Person Programs

Some programs are planning to offer their participants an in-person, residential experience. Most STEM, lab-based science programs are making plans for in-person learning because of the importance of a hands-on approach in this field. For example, Bucknell University’s Chemistry Camp and Engineering Camp plan to run residential programs this summer, in hopes of giving students the opportunity to work with cutting-edge laboratory equipment and experiments. In Summer 2020, both of these programs were cancelled due to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bentley University cancelled the Wall Street 101 program in 2020 and felt that a virtual platform would not be effective given the program’s dependence on on-site visits, guest speakers, and group work. The University plans to hold Wall Street 101 in person this summer, offering simulated trading exercises, lectures on financial analysis, and engagement with Wall Street professionals.

Finally, Abbey Road is an organization that offers educational summer programs for high school students around the world. It is not affiliated with a specific university, but does host some programs on US campuses and organizes visits to colleges such as NYU, Princeton, and Columbia. As of January 2021, Abbey Road expects to run the summer programs as usual and is hopeful that the vaccination roll-outs even make it possible for international travel. The organization has extended its refund policy to March 1, 2021 and will be following the CDC Guidelines for Summer Programs.

Hybrid Programs Offering a Choice of In-Person or Remote Learning

Another option being offered among academic programs is the choice of in-person or remote learning. Brown University’s Summer@Brown offers participants the chance to take courses reflective of the Open Curriculum and participate in workshops, activities, and events with peers. The program is taking place throughout the summer both on campus in Providence, RI or online through Canvas, Brown’s Learning Management System.

Cornell Precollege Studies plans to offer both online and on-campus courses during Summer 2021. Courses will be held in either three- or six-week sessions, and all options provide the opportunity to study with Cornell faculty and work alongside undergraduates. The course offerings are extensive, including American Sign Language, Fiber Science and Apparel Design, Engineering, and Writing.

Summery Discovery is another popular option for many high school students due to its diverse options and various locations. This summer, courses will be offered both in-person and online, including Sports Business, Decoding the Criminal Mind, and Digital Marketing & Social Media. Residential programs will take place on campuses around the country, including University of Michigan, UCLA, and UT Austin.

Academic summer programs are one of many rewarding options for high school students. Be sure to follow us for future postings about other categories of summer programs, such as research programs and service-learning opportunities, later this month.

We are happy to guide you in the search for a summer experience that will help you develop your potential and position you for success! Sign up for a free consultation and see our events schedule for virtual presentations geared toward high school students.