Best Summer Programs for High School Students in California 

college admissions college board courses high school summer jobs Jun 13, 2024
Best Summer Programs for High School Students in California 


Here’s our list of summer opportunities for high school students in California:

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1. AstroCamp 

Location: Idyllwild, CA

Program Length: Two weeks

Cost: $2,400

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: June 15, 2024

Application Deadline: May 1, 2024

AstroCamp offers students more than 40 science, creative arts, and mountain adventures. While there is a focus on space and science, students can also participate in various social activities, like carnivals, renaissance festivals, and talent shows. 

This summer program is facilitated by skilled instructors who are ready to help students develop their skills and gain valuable leadership skills. Beyond expanding your knowledge, AstroCamp helps students forge lasting camp friendships that endure well beyond the program's conclusion.

2. Camp Science, Education, and Adventure (SEA) Lab By Marine Science Educators

Location: Aptos, CA

Program Length: Four weeks

Cost: $1,350

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: June 16, 2024

Application Deadline: March 29, 2024

Camp SEA Lab is an immersive summer experience that is focused on fostering scientific understanding and coastal stewardship. Students engage in hands-on studies covering plankton, marine mammals, oceanography sampling, marine debris, and conservation. 

Camp SEA Lab provides insights into the history and traditions of seafaring life and guarantees significant growth in your knowledge, teamwork, leadership, and other valuable skills. Regardless of your prior ocean knowledge, all are welcome to join. 

3. Stern Civics Immersion Program

Location: Stanford, CA

Program Length: 3 weeks

Cost: $5,295

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: July 1, 2024

Application Deadline: May 15, 2024

The Stern Civics Immersion Program with Junior State of America is a great opportunity for students interested in civics and politics. This program takes place on campus at Stanford University and encourages high school students to engage with pressing issues in today’s world and political climate. 

Courses include: 

  • Campaigns & Elections: The Politics of Change in America
  • Global Poverty, Inequality, & Justice
  • Global Conflict
  • Democracy & Social Media
  • Argumentation & Use of Evidence


4. Oxbow Summer Art Institute

Location: Napa, CA

Program Length: 6 weeks

Cost: $16,000

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: June 23, 2024

Application Deadline: Rolling

The Oxbow Summer Art Institute is an immersive visual arts residency program that allows young artists to create in well-equipped studios in various media alongside like-minded peers. Students will partner with working artists to create work for their portfolios and assemble a capstone final project by the end of the course.

5. Pathways to Stem Cell Science: Intro to Stem Cell Systems

Location: Torrance, CA

Program Length: 1 week

Cost: $1,000

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: June 10, 2024

Application Deadline: Rolling

For students who are interested in stem cell research, doing a program with Pathways to Stem Cell Science is a great idea! Beginners can take Intro to Stem Cell Systems, but several other programs are also available, including Molecular Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine and Disease Modeling. 

No prior lab experience is required for these programs; only an enthusiasm for cell and molecular biology! However, students must pass high school Math, English, and Biology with a C or above to be eligible. 

Choose to take one of these programs. You can look forward to hands-on lab experiments and college-level lectures taught by professional scientists in a biotech research facility. You’ll also receive a certificate of completion at the end!

6. Berkeley Pre-College Scholars Program at the University of California, Berkeley 

Location: Berkeley, CA

Program Length: Four weeks

Cost: $15,800

Eligibility: Grade 10-11 students

Start Date: June 16, 2024

Application Deadline: March 11, 2024

Are you thinking about applying to one of the University of California schools?

Participating in UC Berkeley’s Pre-College Scholars program can be a great way to immerse yourself in the university's academic environment, gain valuable insights into college life, and cultivate the skills and knowledge needed to successfully transition to higher education.

Students have the opportunity to earn college credits and explore potential programs of interest while participating in extracurricular activities, attending workshop series, and engaging in local excursions.

7. Engineering Possibilities in College (EPIC) at California Polytechnic State University

Location: San Luis Obispo, CA

Program Length: Two weeks

Cost: $1,975

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: July 5, 2024

Application Deadline: March 31, 2024

EPIC is one of the residential engineering summer programs for high school students in California who want to experience college life while exploring engineering fields. 

You have the opportunity to network with like-minded peers while discussing various topics in engineering. In addition to engineering, you can also participate in various social activities available on campus.

8. Summer Research Academies at the University of California, Santa Barbara

Location: Santa Barbara, CA

Program Length: Four weeks

Cost: TBD

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: June 27, 2024

Application Deadline: April 1, 2024

UC Santa Barbara's Summer Research Academies invite motivated high school students to embark on a dynamic summer experience. The program is centered around project-based research in diverse fields, including STEM, humanities, and social sciences. 

As a participant, you will take a four-unit university course and work under the guidance of an active researcher in your chosen field. Throughout the program, you will navigate the research process and present your findings in a seminar later. 

This program gives high school students the opportunity to get a sense of what life will be like in university, develop their academic and professional skills, and network with peers in a challenging environment. 

9. Pacific Summer Jazz Colony by the University of the Pacific

Location: San Francisco, CA

Program Length: One week

Cost: $1,700

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: July 15, 2024

Application Deadline: June 1, 2024

The Pacific Summer Jazz Colony offers an intensive jazz program catered to talented high school students. Hosted by Pacific's esteemed Jazz Studies faculty, along with guest artists and master teachers, the program features a diverse curriculum.

Students engage in combo rehearsals, master classes, and specialized courses in jazz theory and advanced improvisation. The week is enriched with seminars on various related topics, providing a well-rounded educational experience. 

Beyond structured learning, students will also interact with artists, participate in jam sessions, and showcase their talents through public concerts. This immersive experience provides a unique platform for honing skills, fostering collaboration, and connecting with like-minded jazz enthusiasts on a global scale.

10. California College of the Arts Pre-College Summer Program

Location: San Francisco, CA

Program Length: Four weeks

Cost: $6,975 (residential), $4,595 (commuter)

Eligibility: Grade 10-12 students

Start Date: July 8, 2024

Application Deadline: June 10, 2024

If you have an interest in attending art and design school, then the Pre-College summer program at CCA might be for you! This program will allow you to earn three college credits while developing your artistic and creative skills and putting together portfolio-ready work.

You’ll learn from highly accomplished artists and dedicated industry professionals and connect with like-minded young creatives. You can participate in various Pre-College studios, including animation, fashion design, film, game arts, industrial design, photography, painting, and more!

11. Stanford University Mathematics Camp (SUMaC) at Stanford University 

Location: Palo Alto, CA

Program Length: Four weeks

Cost: $8,250

Eligibility: Grade 10-11 students

Start Date: June 23, 2024

Application Deadline: February 1, 2024

The SUMac program takes students on a deep dive into advanced mathematics. Through lectures, group problem-solving, and guided research, participants explore current mathematical research, historical developments, and applications in science.

The program covers topics like abstract algebra, number theory, and algebraic topology that go beyond typical classroom learning. SUMaC concentrates on math and highlights its applications in various sciences. 

To help students prepare for college, the program offers an intensive workload that will require students to complete assignments outside the classroom. If you’re interested in learning more about math’s real-world application or want to have the chance to meet like-minded math enthusiasts, this may be a great option for you.

12. Sally Ride Science Academy at the University of California San Diego

Location: San Diego, CA

Program Length: Four weeks

Cost: $175 to $450

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: July 8, 2024

Application Deadline: February 15, 2024

The Sally Ride Science Academy caters to high school students keen on exploring science, technology, engineering, arts, and math through interactive workshops. These hands-on sessions provide an immersive experience that allows participants to step into the shoes of computer programmers, space explorers, marine biologists, and more. 

The program is led by experienced instructors who foster an environment that inspires students and prepares them for their journey into college.

13. California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science (COSMOS) at UC San Diego 

Location: San Diego, CA

Program Length: Four weeks

Cost: $42 application fee + $5,008

Eligibility: Grade 8-12 students

Start Date: July 7, 2024

Application Deadline: February 9, 2024

The COSMOS program is a highly impactful summer program for motivated students with a keen interest in math and science. This program involves intensive, hands-on coursework and research projects in physics, biology, chemistry, and engineering. 

This STEM summer program encourages continued interest in the field by providing students with unparalleled opportunities to collaborate with outstanding university faculty and researchers. 

While COSMOS is offered through UC San Diego, students also have the opportunity to participate in this program across several of the University of California campuses, including Davis, Irvine, and Santa Cruz. Each campus offers its own unique topics and residential experiences. 

14. Inspirit AI Scholars

Location: Online (instructors based in CA)

Program Length: 10 sessions over two weeks (25 hours)

Cost: $1,200

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: June 3, 2024

Application Deadline: May 15, 2024

Inspirit’s AI Scholars Program helps to expose high school students to AI concepts and programming skills. Taught by Stanford and MIT graduates, this program allows students to work on a socially impactful AI project alongside a mentor in a field of personal interest to them. 

Students are also able to explore career opportunities in AI and take college prep workshops to prepare for their futures. No prior AI or coding experience is required, so don’t worry if you’re interested but have no experience!

15. Summer Conservatory Program at AMDA High School Conservatory

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Program Length: Two weeks

Cost: $6,043 (with housing), $4,543 (without housing)

Eligibility: Grade 8-12 students aged 14-19

Start Date: Varies

Application Deadline: N/A

If you’re interested in performing arts, then you might be interested in the High School Summer Conservatory Program at AMDA in Los Angeles! You’ll be able to choose between six disciplines: 

  • Acting for Stage & Screen
  • Musical Theater
  • Dance Theater
  • Pop Star: Recording Artist
  • Screenwriting
  • Performing Arts & Content Creation

In your chosen discipline, you’ll work alongside experts in the field to get audition training, performance opportunities, and the chance to connect with like-minded high school students. You can also earn 1.5 college credits through your participation in this program.

16. California State Summer School for the Arts

Location: Sacramento, CA

Program Length: Four weeks

Cost: $4,600 (CA residents) or $7,000 (out-of-state students)

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: July 6, 2024

Application Deadline: February 29, 2024

The California State Summer School for the Arts caters to creative high school students seeking rigorous training in the visual and performing arts, animation, film, and creative writing. 

It promises an exhilarating learning experience within a supportive environment and is ideal for those aspiring to excel in the entertainment industry. Admission is highly competitive and requires applicants to showcase their talent and creativity. 

By completing the CSA program, participants can earn three elective credits at  California State University. This summer camp is your gateway to honing artistic skills and making strides in the dynamic world of creative arts.

17. Berkeley Business Academy for Youth (B-BAY) at UC Berkeley 

Location: Berkeley, CA

Program Length: Two weeks

Cost: CA Resident $6,050, Out of State Students $7,050

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: July 7, 2024

Application Deadline: March 15, 2024

B-BAY is a summer business program designed for high-school students. It provides participants with a unique opportunity to delve into the world of business innovation at UC Berkeley. 

Guided by Berkeley Haas professors and corporate speakers, participants engage in a dynamic curriculum complemented by independent research, computer lab assignments, and collaborative team projects. 

The program emphasizes building confidence through teamwork, enhances communication skills, explores various business subjects, and equips students with the knowledge to write and present a comprehensive business plan. 

Students will also have a chance to tour the UC Berkeley campus, engage in social activities like scavenger hunts and karaoke nights, and gain valuable insights about the admissions process.

18. Idyllwild Arts Summer Teen Programs

Location: Idyllwild, CA

Program Length: One or four weeks 

Cost: $500–$1,499

Eligibility: Grade 6-12 students

Start Date: June 30, 2024

Application Deadline: March 2024

Idyllwild Arts Summer Teen Programs offer a diverse range of engaging experiences for high school students, including specialized programs in subjects such as mathematics, creative writing, computer programming, ceramic work, songwriting, and filmmaking. 

Each program ensures a hands-on, immersive learning experience in a supportive and creative environment, fostering collaboration among like-minded students.

19. USC Summer Programs at the University of Southern California

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Program Length: Four weeks

Cost: $10,480

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: June 16, 2024

Application Deadline: March 29, 2024

If you have plans to study at the University of Southern California, attending one of these four-week programs may be just what you need to get your foot in the door. The UC Summer Programs offers a variety of summer courses spanning subjects from architecture to business and health. 

Participants gain valuable academic and extracurricular experience while also earning college credits. These programs are led by the university’s experienced faculty, ensuring a rich academic experience through a blend of lectures, hands-on workshops, labs, and engaging guest speakers accompanying each course.

Free California Summer Programs

If you’d love to participate in a summer program but aren’t sure if you can afford it, don’t worry! There are tons of amazing free summer programs in California that provide incredible opportunities! 

Here are 6 more summer programs that are completely free of charge. 

20. Camp CHLA at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Program Length: One week

Cost: Free

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: June 24, 2024

Application Deadline: January 12, 2024

Camp CHLA offers high school students an immersive on-site healthcare career exploration experience. It provides an opportunity to explore, learn, and actively participate in the impactful work hospital professionals conduct daily. 

Engaging activities include hands-on training in CPR, first aid, body ergonomics, and other health promotion and disease prevention skills. Participants gain insights into the personal career journeys of medical practitioners and the various roles within the hospital. 

Additionally, the camp fosters connections with like-minded high schoolers pursuing healthcare careers, offering firsthand and up-close exposure to the captivating world of healthcare within the hospital environment.

21. Student Research Internship (SURI) at Scripps Research Translational Institute

Location: La Jolla, CA

Program Length: 10 weeks

Cost: Free

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: June 3, 2024

Application Deadline: March 30, 2024

The SURI Program welcomes 40 motivated high school students nationwide for a transformative 10-week research and college preparation experience. Focused on major fields such as health and medical sciences, statistics, and computer science, the program provides an immersive learning opportunity. 

By the end, participants gain substantial knowledge essential for advancing in the academic realm, particularly for those aspiring to become medical researchers.

22. Pomona College Academy for Youth Success (PAYS) at Pomona College

Location: Claremont, CA

Program Length: Four weeks

Cost: Free

Eligibility: Grade 9 students

Start Date: June 23, 2024

Application Deadline: February 26, 2024

PAYS is a dynamic summer program that helps over 90 high school students prepare for admission to selective colleges and universities. Designed for rising sophomores to seniors from underrepresented groups, PAYS offers a mix of courses, cultural events, workshops, projects, and field trips, fostering academic growth and college readiness. 

The program extends beyond summer, providing ongoing support throughout the academic year. PAYS is a transformative experience for those who are the first in their family to attend college and/or come from low-income families.

23. Stanford Medical Youth Science Program (SYMP) at Stanford School of Medicine 

Location: Stanford, Northern CA

Program Length: Five weeks

Cost: Free, $1,250 research stipend

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: June 24, 2024

Application Deadline:  March 15, 2024

SYMP is a science and medicine enrichment program for low-income, first-generation high school juniors who live in Northern California. Students will attend faculty lectures, networking events, and professional development workshops at Stanford's main campus. 

Students gain valuable insights while working with current students, faculty members, and healthcare professionals about preparing for college and working in the medical field. This program is very selective; only 24 students are accepted each year.

24. Annenberg Youth Academy for Media and Civic Engagement by The University of Southern California

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Program Length: Four weeks

Cost: Free

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: June 17, 2024

Application Deadline: March 31, 2024

The Annenberg Youth Academy for Media and Civic Engagement opens its doors to 26 talented high school students from Los Angeles. Over four weeks, the program immerses participants in courses equivalent to a first-year college-level media course, fostering a robust conceptual understanding and practical skills in media communications and journalism. 

This summer program allows students to develop their writing and debate skills, critical thinking, public speaking, multimedia production, and interviewing. You can look forward to meeting the school’s innovative scholars who have dedicated themselves to advancing issues of gender and race within communication and journalism.

25. Meta Summer Academy

Location: Menlo Park, CA

Program Length: Six week

Cost: No Cost 

Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students

Start Date: June 17, 2024

Application Deadline: March 1, 2024

The Meta Summer Academy presents high school students with a unique opportunity to delve into the day-to-day operations of a leading social media network. Focused on coding and career exploration, participants not only gain insights into the tech industry but also work on real projects at Meta alongside career mentors.

This hands-on experience is designed to equip students with valuable skills that will give them a competitive edge in their college applications and future careers. 


Still, have questions about these summer programs for high school students in California? Take a look at our answers to these commonly asked questions to learn more.

1. What Extracurricular and Social Activities Are Included?

High school summer programs often include various activities such as workshops, carnivals, team-building exercises, field trips, and social events. These extracurricular events add to your academic pursuits by fostering a well-rounded experience.

2. What Are the Eligibility Criteria?

Eligibility criteria may vary among institutions, with factors such as specific high school grades or age groups being considered. Some programs might also have particular academic or extracurricular prerequisites. 

It's essential to review the specific requirements outlined by each institution to ensure you meet the criteria for the program you are interested in.

3. How Much Does It Cost to Attend Summer Programs for High School Students in California?

The cost of attending summer programs for high school students in California can vary widely depending on factors such as the program's duration, location, and specific offerings. On average, prices may range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. 

Some programs may offer financial aid, scholarships, or sliding scale fees to make them more accessible. It's essential to check with each program individually for accurate and up-to-date information on their costs and any available financial assistance options.

4. Can I Attend a Summer Program Virtually?

Yes, many summer programs for high school students offer virtual options, allowing participants to attend remotely from the comfort of their own homes. Virtual programs provide flexibility and accessibility for students who may be unable to travel or prefer the convenience of online learning. 

These virtual experiences often include interactive sessions, workshops, lectures, and collaborative projects conducted through online platforms. Before enrolling, it's advisable to check with the specific program to confirm if virtual attendance is an option and to understand the details of the online format.


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