Best Online Summer Programs for High School Students – 2024

December 29, 2023

top online summer programs

For almost two years, COVID-19 dramatically altered the everyday lives of American teens as well as young people all over the globe. One particularly salient change was the rise of virtual learning, both in traditional academic settings as well as summer programs. Although most in-person programs have now resumed normal activity, the rise—and acceptability—of virtual programs has given students even more options. Since we encourage all college-bound teens, particularly those eyeing highly selective institutions, to spend their summers as productively as possible, consider what is doable for you within your individual circumstances. If traveling to an in-person summer program feels out of reach due to personal circumstances or family finances, there are options. To assist, we’ve rounded up a list of our top ten online summer programs and courses for high school students.

Who should attend online summer programs?

Prior to the pandemic, online summer programs for high school students were often considered to be less rigorous than in-person options. However, this is no longer the case. There are now a number of highly respected online offerings, and demand for these programs has led to a marked increase in the number of courses that are available. As a result, teens who may be unable to travel to a different state for the summer or who are unable to participate in a residential experience now have more access to a wider range of opportunities.

Even if you’re planning on attending an in-person program this summer, researching online summer programs is an excellent idea. Should an extenuating circumstance prevent you from traveling to your program of choice, you’ll have a solid backup plan at the ready. Preferably, this backup plan will be a) local or b) online. For example, if you were planning on attending a residential pre-med summer program in another city/state, work on lining up a local opportunity such as volunteering at a nearby hospital or taking a pre-med-related course online. Many elite universities now allow high school students the opportunity to take summer courses online in a wide variety of academic disciplines. Another positive is that most of these online summer programs for high school students accept applications through May or even into June on a rolling basis.

1) Brown Pre-College Summer Programs

Tuition: Summer@Brown Online: 2-week course – $3,094, 3-week course – $4,282; 4-week course – $5,108; 6-week course – $5,998; Brown Leadership Institute: $5,314; Pre-Baccalaureate Program: 1 course – $5,113; 2 courses – $10,074

Eligibility: Summer@Brown Online & Brown Leadership Institute: Ages 14-18, students completing grades 9-12; Pre-Baccalaureate Program: Rising or recently graduated high school seniors

Application Deadline: 5/20, but decisions are made on a rolling basis starting 1/17, typically within 15 days of receiving a complete application.

Summary of courses offered:

Brown offers several virtual summer programs for high school students. Firstly, Summer@Brown Online offers over 80 courses on a wide range of topics including those in the humanities such as Writing from the Heart: Empathy, Care, & Ethnography as well as engineering courses such as Nanotechnology: Mystery Science or Small Materials Doing Big Things?. Students can choose from an asynchronous, mostly asynchronous, or blended format. Additionally, the Brown Leadership Institute is offered in a four-week online format. Finally, the seven-week, highly selective Pre-Baccalaureate Program allows high schoolers to take one or two Brown courses online alongside current undergraduates.

2) Cornell University Summer Session Online

Tuition: $1,750 per credit (most courses are between 3-8 credits)

Eligibility: Rising 11th-12th grade students

Application Deadline: Not yet available, but the application will open in late January

Summary of courses offered:

Cornell offers over 100 three- and six-week online classes to high school students in the summer. These include Architecture and the Arts, Business and Hospitality, Health and Humanities, International Relations, Science and Technology, Social Change, Veterinary Medicine, and more. Moreover, any credits you earn are typically transferrable to other universities.

3) Rice University Summer Sessions

Tuition: $1,000 per credit hour

Eligibility: Rising 11th, 12th graders

Application Deadline: between April 29-June 24, depending on the block

Summary of courses offered:

Rice offers six summer “blocks” that begin between May and July and last from 6 to 10 weeks. There are about ten courses available to high school students. For example, you could have the chance to learn from esteemed Rice faculty in areas like Introduction to Sociology, Sport Marketing, Physics, and Mechanics.

Online Summer Programs for High School Students (Continued)

4) Tufts Pre-College Programs

Tuition: $1,049 per credit, or between $2,000-7,500 for non-credit options

Eligibility: Entering 10th-12th graders, except for the Summer Research Experience, which is open to rising 11th and 12th graders only

Application Deadline: Rolling through early May

Summary of courses offered:

Tufts offers a number of online courses with a nice variety across academic disciplines. For example, popular past options have included Healthy Eating from Science to Plate, Philosophy & Film, and Bioinformatics through Sequencing. In addition, they offer several online programs for high school students that include Graphic Design Bootcamp, Leadership for Social Change, and the Summer Research Experience. These programs range from 1-6 weeks.

5) Boston University – High School Honors Online

Tuition: $6,360 (for 8 credits)

Eligibility: Rising 11th and 12th graders

Application Deadline: May 24

Summary of courses offered:

BU is offering over 20 online courses for this upcoming summer. Accordingly, high schoolers have access to courses from the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Fine Arts, the College of Communication, the Questrom School of Business, and the School of Hospitality Administration — everything from Chinese to Combinatoric Structures to Politics and Philosophy. Moreover, they choose two courses to take during a 6-week period. Many classes do have a synchronous element, so students should be mindful of time zones.

6) Brandeis University Summer Courses

Tuition: $3,490 for 4-credit-hour course; 1,850 for 2-credit-hour course

Eligibility: Rising 12th grade students and recent high school graduates

Application Deadline: Open enrollment, beginning in April. The deadline for the first session is typically in late May while the deadline for the second session is in late June.

Summary of courses offered:

Brandeis offers five-week and ten-week sessions. Some classes are asynchronous, but many are synchronous. Additionally, classes are small—typically 10-20 students. They’re also traditional college courses, meaning that you’ll be in the course with undergraduate-level students.

7) Purdue University Summer College for High School Students

Tuition: $347.85-$1,108.30 per credit hour depending on in-state, out-of-state, or international status

Eligibility: Age 16 and above

Application Deadline: Rolling (decisions are released beginning in mid-January)

Summary of courses offered:

Offering 35+ courses online, you won’t find a better selection at any school of Purdue’s quality. There are multiple courses available in myriad areas, including courses like Principles of Logic, Modern Weapons and International Relations, Intro to Fiction, and Applied Domestic Animal Anatomy. Also, students can take up to seven credits worth of classes, and classes run for 4-12 weeks depending on the module selected.

Online Summer Programs for High School Students (Continued)

8) UC San Diego – FUTURES Programs

Tuition: $350 per course; $1,050 per sequence

Eligibility: 9th-12th graders

Application Deadline: Open enrollment on a rolling basis

Summary of courses offered:

For students interested in computer science, building information modeling, business management, or life sciences research, UC San Diego’s program is an affordable way to learn valuable skills on a remote basis. For example, courses are offered in areas like Front End Web Development, iOS Programming, AutoCAD, Android Programming, and Digital Circuit Design. Moreover, courses are organized into sequences of three that must be taken in order.

9) University of Washington Summer Quarter Online

Tuition: Approximately $2,000-8,000 per course, depending on residency status and number of credits

Eligibility: Rising 9th through 12th

Application Deadline: Rolling through June or July, depending on the session selected

Summary of courses offered:

Many online high school summer courses are available through UW, including in areas like Architecture & Urban Planning; Arts & Sciences; Engineering; and Ocean & Fishery Science, among others. Moreover, their new course offerings include Appreciation of Architecture, Introduction to Japanese Cinema & Media, and Introduction to Probability & Statistics. The UW recommends that high schoolers register for 100-level courses, although it may be possible to register for more advanced courses. Popular courses include those in astronomy, dance, theater, chemistry, psychology, and environmental studies. Finally, each course lasts for 4.5 weeks.

10) Oregon State University

Tuition: $350 per credit

Eligibility: All high school students

Application Deadline: Rolling, typically about 5-6 weeks before the start of the term selected

Summary of courses offered:

If you are looking for an established university that has a massive number of courses online, look no further than OSU. A leader in online education, Oregon has courses in over thirty academic areas, including Animal Sciences, Computer Science, English, Horticulture, Queer Studies, and Theatre Arts. Moreover, all courses are regular OSU classes, meaning that students will learn alongside current undergraduates. There are multiple terms available, which range from 1-11 weeks.

Final Thoughts — Online Summer Programs for High School Students

Online summer courses and programs for high school students are only expected to grow in the coming years. If you don’t have the ability to attend an in-person summer program, look no further than the top online summer programs for high school students. These options allow students to remain at home while developing their knowledge and skills in specific areas, earning college credit, and strengthening their college applications.

Looking for more summer program options? Check out the following links: