Best Summer Programs in the Bay Area – 2024

April 15, 2024

bay area summer programs, stanford, berkeley

Famed for its craggy coastline and the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Area is composed of nine diverse counties surrounding San Francisco Bay. Well-known cities include bustling Oakland and San Francisco, Gilroy, famous for its garlic production, Napa, the iconic wine destination, and Palo Alto, the birthplace of Silicon Valley. Of course, the Bay Area is known for its tech companies (Google, Facebook, and Apple are headquartered here) and top-notch healthcare system. Californians are an active bunch and there are countless trail systems and public parks to explore, as well as Half Moon Bay, a legendary big-wave surfing spot, and Muir Woods National Monument, home to scores of old-growth redwoods. And due to the marine layer, the temperature rarely rises above seventy degrees in the summer. Convinced that California is for you? Below, we’ve pulled together the top Bay Area summer programs for high school students.

1) Stanford Summer Programs

  • Location: Palo Alto, CA
  • Residential?: Cardiothoracic Surgical Skills: virtual; Institutes of Medicine: on-campus (students must procure own housing)
  • Program Length: Cardiothoracic Surgical Skills: 2 weeks; Institutes of Medicine: 8 weeks
  • Cost: Cardiothoracic Surgical Skills: $4,500; Institutes of Medicine: No cost, and there is a minimum stipend of $500.
  • Eligibility: High school students aged 16+
  • Application Deadline: Cardiothoracic Surgical Skills: March; Institutes of Medicine: February

It should come as no surprise that Stanford’s list of Bay Area summer programs is extensive, and includes on-campus as well as virtual and low-cost options. In particular, they offer highly regarded research and medicine-related offerings. Highlights include the Cardiothoracic Surgical Skills Summer Internship and the Stanford Institutes of Medicine Summer Research Program, among many others.

For starters, the Cardiothoracic Surgical Skills Summer Internship provides an introductory education in cardiothoracic surgery anatomy and physiology, coronary bypass surgery, and heart transplantation, among other topics. Additionally, students have the opportunity to develop surgical skills such as knot-tying, dissection, and suturing. This is an intensive, remote course that provides both academic and hands-on experience. In the morning, students will participate in classes; in the afternoon, they will take part in skills training exercises. As such, students must submit a resume, transcripts, test scores, two letters of recommendation, and an essay.

Secondly, students at the full-time Stanford Institutes of Medicine Summer Research Program conduct research alongside Stanford faculty members. They also receive one-on-one mentorship. Additionally, students are assigned to one of eight institutes (based on preference). These include immunology, neurobiology, cancer biology, bioengineering, stem cell and regenerative medicine, cardiovascular biology, bioinformatics, or genetics and genomics. Moreover, students participate in lab safety and career seminars, and at the culmination of the program, they present their research at a poster session.

Bay Area Summer Programs – Continued

2) UC Berkeley Summer Programs

  • Location: Berkeley, CA
  • Residential?: Business Academy for Youth: Yes; embARC: residential options available.
  • Program Length: Business Academy for Youth: 2 weeks; embARC: 4 weeks.
  • Cost: Business Academy for Youth: $7,050 (out-of-state), $6,050 (in-state); embARC: $4,938 (housing is an additional $5,200, which includes three meals per day).
  • Eligibility: Business Academy for Youth: Rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors; embARC: rising juniors and seniors.
  • Application Deadline: Business Academy for Youth: March; embARC: May

In addition to residential, commuter, and virtual Pre-College Scholars, where students take undergraduate courses and immerse themselves in campus life, Berkeley offers a number of specialty Bay Area summer programs. Most notably, the Business Academy for Youth offers an intensive introduction to the world of business. Through a mixture of academic instruction and team projects, students develop their confidence, communication, and presentation skills. Taught by Haas professors, students explore entrepreneurship, marketing, accounting, and organizational management, among other topics. Finally, at the culmination of the program, students present a business plan.

There is also embARC, held at the College of Environmental Design. During this full-time, immersive experience, students dive into architecture, urban design, and material usage. Civic responsibility and sustainability are heavily emphasized. Additionally, there are field trips, gallery showcases, and a collaborative, community-focused design project. All the while, students spend time in the studio and receive personalized feedback on their work.  Moreover, students attending these UC Berkeley summer programs earn college credit and the chance to build a college-ready design portfolio.

3) Medical Immersion Summer Academy

  • Location: Oakland, CA
  • Residential?: No
  • Program Length: 5 days
  • Cost: $1,400
  • Eligibility: High school students aged 15+
  • Application Deadline: March

Founded by an emergency medicine clinician, these Bay Area summer programs partner with local hospitals and clinics. Consequently, high school students receive a tremendous level of hands-on clinical experience. Workshops include suturing, EKG, splinting, patient vitals, and many more. Moreover, students receive certifications in CPR, first aid, Stop the Bleed, Teen Mental Health First Aid, and Bloodborne Pathogens. They attend the program for six hours a day, and the cost includes all certifications, equipment, and lunch.

Finally, clinicians mentor students and provide invaluable networking opportunities. For those interested in a healthcare career, MISA is an excellent way to receive foundational experiential knowledge.

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4) UCSF Summer Student Research Program

  • Location: Oakland, CA
  • Residential?: No
  • Program Length: 9 weeks
  • Cost: None. Stipends are provided which range from $3-4,300.
  • Eligibility: Rising juniors and seniors who are 16+.
  • Application Deadline: February

At this unique summer research program, students are not given special high school-level projects but integrated into active biomedical research teams at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. First, students are matched with a mentor—based on both preference and availability—in one of three categories. These categories include laboratory-based research, clinical research, or community health research. In addition, students engage in workshops, simulations, networking opportunities, and social activities.

Capping off the program is a formal research symposium, where students present their projects. Throughout the course of the experience, they’ll develop the skills they need to pursue STEM or healthcare-related careers.

To apply to these Bay Area summer programs, students must have completed at least one year in math and biology. They also need to submit a resume, an essay, transcripts, and two recommendations. Furthermore, they must have a background that is considered underrepresented in the sciences, which includes students belonging to particular racial/ethnic groups, students with disabilities, and first-generation students.

5) Santa Clara Summer Engineering Seminars

  • Location: Santa Clara, CA
  • Residential?: Yes
  • Program Length: 5 days
  • Cost: None (funded by sponsors as well as the Santa Clara School of Engineering)
  • Eligibility: Beginner Seminar: rising juniors and seniors; Advanced Seminar: alumni of the Beginning Seminar
  • Application Deadline: March

Designed for students who wish to pursue engineering, the Summer Engineering Seminars (SES) provide both academic and hands-on learning. Workshops are offered in a number of engineering disciplines, including bioengineering, environmental engineering, and mechanical engineering. Students also complete a variety of projects and engage in social programming. The goal of SES is to excite students about the array of STEM career possibilities.

These Bay Area summer programs are uniquely structured in that there are both beginner and advanced sessions. The beginner sessions are open to rising juniors and seniors. However, the advanced sessions are only open to rising seniors who have completed the beginner session. Such a structure allows returning students to delve more deeply into topics of interest.

Finally, the program is extremely competitive. As such, STEM-related academic performance is heavily valued in the admission process. Interested students need to submit a general application as well as an essay.

Final Thoughts – Bay Area Summer Programs

Access to top universities, companies, and hospitals, unparalleled natural beauty, and that laidback California lifestyle…what more could you ask for? Whether you’re hoping to develop cardiothoracic surgery skills at Stanford, create a business plan at the UC Berkeley summer programs, or explore engineering at Santa Clara, there’s no better place to build your resume than at one of the many Bay Area summer opportunities.