Summer enrichment programs have been impacted by the response to COVID-19. Check the websites or contact the admissions offices of enrichment programs where you’re considering applying to confirm the program’s protocol and understand the in-person and remote offerings.

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 help lighten your workload during the school year, help you graduate on time and save money on school tuition in the long run. 

Below, you’ll find some of the summer enrichment programs available to high school students.

1. Colorado State University’s Native Education Forum in Fort Collins, CO

The Native Education Forum is a six-day program for rising high school juniors and seniors who are interested in Native American and Indigenous issues. Students enrolled in the program will 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. Participating students are also eligible to receive a Partnership Award Scholarship if accepted to Colorado State University. 

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

2. Academic Enrichment by Westcoast® Connection

Westcoast Connection offers pre-college 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. The range is wide, including a 5-day online option for $349 and a 28-day program in Florence for $8,699. 

3. Emory University Pre-college Program 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 who are leading experts in their fields. Students can enroll in two-week or three-week noncredit courses. There are also two 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 program and course load, ranging from $3,085 to $6,782. 

4. Global Environmental Leadership and Sustainability (GELS) Programs at the University of California San Diego 

GELS is a one to two-week program that allows high achieving students to prepare for college by taking college-level academic classes, working in labs and gaining field experience. Students must be in high school and have a 3.3 GPA or above to apply to one of three options — Hawaii, Arizona and Washington, DC. The programming varies by location, but all involve working closely with graduate students and a final presentation. 

Cost: Tuition  ranges from $3,000 to $4,800 depending on location and there’s a $100 application fee. 

5. Summer at Columbia College of Chicago 

Columbia College of Chicago offers this three-week program to 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: Program tuition is $2,205. Housing is an extra expense. 

6. Cornell Summer College in Ithaca, NY

This summer program offers several options — you can choose two-week, three-week, five-week or six-week courses. 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. 

7. Syracuse University Summer College in Syracuse, NY

Summer College 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 amount of credits you receive. A non-credit course is $2,500 and a four-credit course is $3,680. Living on campus would be an additional expense. 

8. Harvard’s Pre-college Program and Secondary School Program in Cambridge, MA

Harvard University offers two different summer programs for high school students ages 15-18 — the Pre-college Program and the Secondary School Program. The Pre-college Program runs two weeks and offers 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 pre-college 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: For the Pre-college Program, tuition is $3,200. For the Secondary School Program, it’s between $3,340 and $6,680 for commuters or those taking the course online. Housing fees are additional for both programs and there’s also a non-refundable $75 application fee. 

9. High School Journalism Institute at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN

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). 

10. Smith College Pre-college Summer Program in Northampton, MA

The Smith College Pre-college 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 $3,300 and $6,380.

Summer enrichment programs are wide-ranging and 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. To get started, talk to your high school counselor about options or do a quick online search to find out what’s available.

This article was updated in 2021. Confirm offerings and pricing with program websites and admissions offices.