If you’re a high school student with no plans for the summer, consider enrolling in a summer enrichment program.

At first thought, spending your summer preparing for college after an intense year of schoolwork might not sound enticing, but there are valuable benefits to these programs. 

Summer enrichment programs allow students to get a better feel of what college is going to be like and ease the college transition. Many offer the opportunity to network, see what it’s like to live in a dorm room, build relationships with other incoming students and sometimes gain college credit. Programs that offer college credit can lighten your workload during the school year, help you graduate on time and save money on school tuition in the long run.

Many summer programs for high school students can be pricey, especially the ones that offer credit for classes, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t affordable options and even free options. These are just a handful of the summer enrichment programs available to high school students.  

Free Programs

1. Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science Program

MITES, as this program is often called, is a six-week residential academic enrichment program for rising high school seniors, especially minority students or students from underserved communities. The program is for students with a good academic record who are interested in exploring studies and careers specifically in science and engineering. Located at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, this course is rigorous and can help students with a leg up in terms of academic readiness.

Cost: Free. The program is funded by donors and covers room and board, food and all courses.

2. Engineering Summer Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

The engineering program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was designed specifically for incoming high school juniors and seniors, young women and minority students who are interested in technology fields like math, physics, chemistry, engineering and technical communications. It’s a six-week program during which students will live on campus and do college-level courses, industry-site visits, field trips, guest lectures, workshops and faculty mentoring. The course load is challenging but extremely rewarding, and there is a strong chance students who complete the program will be accepted into the university.

Cost: Free. This program is fully funded and students only need to pay for transportation.

3. Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program

Girls Who Code is a national nonprofit organization that strives to get young women more interested in technology careers and studies. It offers a summer immersion program that allows students to learn computer science projects and network with women who are leaders in the tech industry. It’s a seven-week program open to young women who will be sophomores and juniors in high school. Students will learn to code and learn more about what type of jobs are available. Programs are available in cities throughout the United States, including New York City, San Francisco and Austin, Texas, as well as many others.

Cost: Free. It even offers transportation stipends.

4. Colorado State University Summer Programs

Colorado State University offers two different summer programs for minorities. One is called the Black Issues Forum, and its purpose is to help students work on their written and oral communication skills, as well as enhance their leadership abilities. Students will interact with professors and current students and discuss important issues that African American communities face on all levels. If students take the course “Blacks in Higher Education,” they will receive one college credit.

The other program is the Native Education Forum, a six-day program for rising high school juniors and seniors. Students get college classroom experience, research critical Native American/indigenous community issues, earn one academic credit and work closely with professionals to learn more about college applications. Both programs are for rising high school sophomores and juniors.

Cost: Free. Students only need to pay for textbooks, supplies, transportation and recreation.

5. Carnegie Mellon University: Summer Academy for Math and Science

This program, often called SAMS, was specifically created for incoming high school juniors and seniors who are interested in math, engineering or science. It’s a six-week program at Carnegie Mellon University with courses that get students comfortable in a college environment while they live on campus. You can choose between noncredit and credit courses. The program was created with minority students and students from low socioeconomic families in mind.

Cost: Free. Students do not need to pay tuition, but they are expected to pay for textbooks, supplies, transportation and recreational activities, but courses, room and board and food are covered.

Paid Programs

6. Academic Enrichment by Westcoast Connection

Westcoast Connection is a company that offers precollege enrichment programs to high school students that include courses as well as day trips. There are programs on various domestic campuses, as well as in foreign countries like Spain, Italy and Canada. Once the courses are completed, students will get either a certificate of completion or college credit, depending on which program they select. There are also language programs that include courses to improve language skills as well as hands-on experience in local communities like Costa Rica and Spain. These are open to high school students in any grade.

Cost: There are several different programs available and pricing depends on the option you choose. For an eight-day program in Boston, the price is $2,399. The most expensive is a 21-day program in Florence for $8,399.

7. Emory University Pre-college Program

Located in Atlanta, Emory is a liberal arts college that allows rising high school juniors and seniors to live on campus in a residence hall while participating in excursions, activities and taking classes with professors. Students can enroll in two-week or three-week noncredit courses. There are also six-week courses where students can earn college credit. The program is small, which is an advantage for students who are able to get individual attention from professors.

Cost: Prices vary depending on which program students choose to enroll in and whether they will be commuting or living on campus. Tuition ranges from $2,891 up to $7,825.

8. Academic Connections at the University of California San Diego

This is a three-week program that allows students to prepare for college through college-level academic classes. Students must be in high school and have a 3.3 or above GPA to apply. Students can choose one of about 25 three-week courses that are offered. They’ll go to class five hours a day, usually taught by graduate students or doctoral students. Students will also live on campus in residence halls and participate in activities like sports, arts and crafts, music, dances and more.

Cost: Tuition for 2018 is $6,300 with a $200 application fee.

9. American Collegiate Adventures

American Collegiate Adventures offers a variety of summer programs held in the United States or abroad. If you choose to stay domestic, programs are available in Wisconsin, Boston and Los Angeles. If you want to go abroad, you can choose Florence or Barcelona. The programs vary slightly depending on where you go, and they can be anywhere from one to five weeks. There are courses, workshops, college counseling, community service and more. Going abroad, while more costly, offers college credit. Students who are completing 9th, 10th, 11th or 12th grade by the summer of 2018 are qualified to apply.

Cost: The price varies depending on which program you choose. For example, two weeks in Boston or Los Angeles can be $4,495. Four weeks in Florence can be about $7,995.

10. Carnegie Mellon University Summer Programs for Access and Inclusion

Aside from the SAMS program, Carnegie Mellon offers several other programs one for students interested in the arts (dance, music, art, design, architecture), the Game Academy (art, music, design and programming in the video game development process) and Artificial Intelligence. These programs were created with minorities and underrepresented students in mind, specifically those who will be high school juniors and seniors. Programs vary based on which one you choose, but all teach students at a college level through fun and interactive courses and house the participating students on campus.

Cost: It depends on the program. Some programs are free, others are eligible for fee waivers and others require certain fees.

11. Julian Krinsky Camps and Programs at Villanova University

This program offers different sessions depending on what you’re interested in, and are open to students who will be in 9th through 12th grade. There are courses in everything from fashion design to premed biology. Each session is seven days long and students can live on campus during that time, taking morning and afternoon classes and participating in different activities. Workload depends on the course, but all of them prepare high school students for college life.

Cost: Tuition is $1,995. Financial aid is available.

12. Summer at Columbia College of Chicago

Columbia College of Chicago offers this program to rising high school juniors and seniors who are interested in the fields of art and communications. Students will take college-level courses that can be transferred as elective credits to Columbia College of Chicago and to some other colleges and universities. There are courses in filmmaking, journalism, podcasting, gaming, hip-hop movement and culture and more. Students live on campus over the course of three weeks where they will also be able to take part in different activities, get to know other students and work closely with professors. It’s a great opportunity for any high school student, but especially those who plan on attending Columbia College of Chicago for college.

Cost: For students who want to live on campus, tuition is $4,300, which includes housing and 10 meals per week, as well as three college credits. For students commuting and not living on campus, tuition is $3,200. Financial aid is available.

13. Cornell Summer College

This summer program has two options a three- or six-week course for students who will be high school sophomores, juniors and seniors. Students will gain three to six college credits depending on the program they choose, work closely with Cornell professors, attend college fairs, learn more about the application process and experience college life by living on campus with a roommate. There are a few programs to choose from, including design, biological research, macroeconomics, business, fashion and songwriting.

Cost: Prices vary depending on the program you choose. For two weeks (which does not include college credit), tuition is $4,250, three weeks is $6,310, five weeks is $10,560 and six weeks is $12,825. Tuition includes any college credits received (you get more the longer the program is), as well as food, housing and various workshops. Financial aid is available.

14. Syracuse University Summer College

Summer College in Syracuse, New York, offers a variety of different programs that can be anywhere from two to six weeks long for high school students in any grade. There are different program options available, from forensic science to acting to graphic design, and each of the programs are different. For example, the forensics program is six weeks long, with college-level courses and hands-on activities like being part of an actual forensic crime scene. This program can give students six college credits. Photography, on the other hand, is a two-week program offering classes taught by professors and hands-on experience but no college credit.

Cost: Tuition varies depending on the program you choose and whether or not you want to live on campus. For the six-week program, it’s $9,455 for students who live on campus and $6,839 for students who commute. For the two-week program, it’s $3,090 for students living on campus and $2,191 for commuters. There are scholarships available for need-based students.

15. Harvard’s Precollege Program and Secondary School Program

Harvard University offers two different summer programs for high school students ages 15-18 the Precollege Program and the Secondary School Program. The Pre-College Program is a two-week program with a choice of over 100 courses. Although you won’t get college credit, you will learn at a college level, live on campus and do many precollege activities.

The Secondary School Program is a seven-week program that Harvard calls a “test-drive of college.” You’ll take college-level courses where you’ll receive college credits you can transfer to your school of choice. You’ll also take trips to other colleges and can set your own schedule. Students can choose to live on campus, commute or do the program online.

Cost: It depends on the program. For the Pre-College Program, tuition is $4,500. For the Secondary School Program, it’s $12,500 to live on campus, and between $3,300 and $6,600 for commuters or those taking the course online. Limited financial aid is available.

16. Texas Tech University Summer Camps

The summer camps at Texas Tech are offered to students who will be in Kindergarten through 12th grade. There are programs at the camps where older students take academic courses and prepare for college. The programs are geared toward minority students. There are several different options to choose from: Science: It’s a Girl Thing, Minecrafter Camp (which focuses on coding), Generation Tech and Raider Life (which prepares underrepresented students for college life). Session work varies depending on what you’re doing, but most include the opportunity to live on campus while taking courses. They’re usually about a week long.

Cost: It depends slightly on which program you choose. The Science: It’s a Girl Thing session is $585, and most of the other sessions are within a few hundred dollars of that. Financial aid and scholarships are available.

17. High School Journalism Institute at Indiana University

If you’re looking for a career in journalism, this program is a great option for high school students in any grade. Students participate in five-day workshops on all things journalism, learning how to examine the media and develop the skills necessary for college courses. Although credit is not offered, the program is an effective way to introduce yourself to college-level academics. The workshops give students hands-on experience and offer instruction on how to do school projects and write for school publications.

Cost: Workshops are $425 for a five-day session. That includes tuition, housing and a $50 meal card, as well as most supplies. If students want to commute, it’s $285 (no meal card).

18. Tufts Summer Study for High School Students

There are several programs available for students at Tufts Summer Study, including writing, law, health science and biomedics. These six-week courses help high school students entering junior or senior year with college essay writing, and there is a College Prep 101 Workshop to teach students skills they’ll need throughout college. Students live on campus. As for courses, they can choose from 40 different options. Students earn credit toward Tufts, so it’s ideal for anyone planning to go that college.

Cost: The tuition fee is $10,000. Financial aid is available.

19. Calvin Entrada Scholars Program

The Entrada Scholars Program at Calvin College is for racial ethnic minority students who will be high school juniors and seniors and offers college-level academics, college credit and dorm life experience. Students can choose to enroll in either a three- or four-credit course in areas like English, history, biology or psychology. Students also participate in group activities, spend a day at the amusement park Michigan Adventures, perform in Entrada Talent Night and can use the fitness facilities for things like rock climbing and swimming. This program is open to US racial and ethnic minority students in their junior or senior year of high school.

Cost: All students accepted into the program will receive a grant that is valued at more than $4,200. It covers tuition, room and board, books, supplies and activities. Students have to pay $500 to confirm their admission. When students successfully complete the program and if they go to Calvin College after high school, they will receive a $4,000 Entrada Scholarship per year for up to four years.

20. Smith College Precollege Summer Program

The Smith College Precollege Summer program is for young women who are incoming juniors and seniors in high school. It offers them the chance to strengthen their college applications and experience college courses and activities through college-level courses and hands-on activities. There are several different programs to choose from, including Science and Engineering, Young Women’s Writing Workshop, Discovering Women’s History, Field Studies for Sustainable Futures and College Skills. Students will live on campus and potentially have a roommate. Depending on the program you choose, it can be a week or a month long.

Cost: It depends on the program, but it’s typically between $3,000 and $5,800.

Summer enrichment programs are wide-ranging in terms of interests, target students and financial obligations — there is something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for college credit, to get more comfortable with campus living or to meet people at your college before fall, these programs can be rewarding and fun ways to achieve those goals. To get started, talk to your high school counselor about options or do a quick google search to find out what’s available.