The Best Animation Summer Programs for High School Students

The animation industry is booming, with many of the most popular, highest-earning box office hits being animated films. On top of that, the steady growth that the animation industry has been experiencing in recent years does not appear to be slowing down any time soon — rather, major media companies and streaming services are continuing to produce tons of animated shows and movies. 

As a result, if you have ever considered pursuing a career in the animation industry, there is no better time to go for it than right now. 

One thing to consider if you are interested in this career path is what level of education you are willing to attain in order to become a professional animator. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average level of education required for entry-level jobs in the animation field is a bachelor’s degree.

In other words, to be a competitive candidate for animation careers, it is wise to earn a degree in animation before you start looking for jobs.

If you are a high school student, you may be wondering what you can do to prepare yourself for studying animation in a collegiate setting. An excellent way to get acquainted with the art of animation, learn what jobs in the field look like, and prepare yourself for college is to attend a summer program in which you can learn the fundamentals of animation. 

Thankfully, many art schools, private education companies, and universities offer such programs — the difficulty is simply choosing a great one. 

On the bright side, we are here to help. Here, we have compiled a list of 10 amazing animation summer programs for high school students in the United States. Read on to learn more about what each of these great programs has to offer.

Cooper Union Summer Art Intensive (New York, NY)

Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
Public domain photo by Jim.Henderson via Wikimedia Commons

A private arts school located in the East Village of Manhattan, Cooper Union offers an excellent Summer Art Intensive animation program that is open to rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors. 

The Cooper Union Summer Art Intensive is a four-week program that runs from July through the first week of August. 

Under the guidance of Cooper Union faculty and current undergraduate students, students in the program study not only animation, but also traditional art skills, such as drawing.  

In addition to attending weekly workshops, students in the program also participate in social events, attend presentations given by visiting artists, and go on field trips to art studios, galleries, and museums. 

The Summer Art Intensive culminates with an exhibition, during which students have the opportunity to showcase the work they have created during the program to friends, family, and their peers.  

NYFA 3D Animation Summer Camp (Cambridge, MA)

Established in 1992, the New York Film Academy is a school for the visual and performing arts that takes a learning-by-doing approach to education. NYFA has 10 locations in cities across the United States and overseas, from New York to Paris, Florence, Moscow, Beijing, and more. 

The school runs various educational programs from the pre-collegiate to graduate level. One of these is the 3D Animation Summer Camp, offered on the campus of Harvard University. 

This four-week summer program is intended for high school-aged students who have little to no experience with 3D animation and wish to gain a foundational understanding of the field of 3D animation. 

During the camp, students have the opportunity to write, direct, animate, and edit their own, original computer-animated short films under the guidance of NYFA faculty.

Carnegie Mellon University Pre-College Art Program (Pittsburgh, PA)

Carnegie Mellon University is an internationally-acclaimed private research university that has been ranked #13 among all colleges in the United States in terms of best art program offerings, according to Niche

CMU offers a variety of pre-collegiate summer programs for high school students, one of which is the Pre-College Art Program, open to students who are at least 16 years old and entering their sophomore or junior year of high school.

In this program, students are challenged to develop both traditional art skills and modern, digital animation skills through a series of workshops, critique sessions, and courses, working to create a robust portfolio showcasing their learning. 

Courses are offered at CMU’s College of Fine Arts, also making use of facilities at the School of Art.

Students attend classes Monday through Thursday, spending their Fridays in elective workshops. 

NextGen Bootcamp in Animation Program Name (New York, NY)

NextGen Bootcamp is an education company offering primarily computer-science-focused educational programs that aim to help middle and high school students get a headstart learning tech-based skills that will serve them in their future careers. 

One of NextGen’s many amazing programs for high schoolers is the Bootcamp in Animation with After Effects, an intensive nine-day virtual program. 

The Bootcamp in Animation is open to all students, regardless of the degree of prior experience with animation or Adobe After Effects. 

In addition to learning the fundamentals of how to use the After Effects software, students in the program are trained in more sophisticated animation skills, like motion tracking and 3D layer animation.

The cost of attending the NextGen Bootcamp in Animation with After Effects is $1,499.

CalArts CAPSA Creative Lab in Animation (Los Angeles, CA)

California Institute of the Arts
Bobak Ha’Eri, 2012-1104-CalArts01, CC BY 3.0

According to Animation Careers Review, the California Institute of the Arts is the #1 school for studying animation in the United States.

It comes as little surprise that such a prestigious art school offers one of the best animation summer programs for high school students as well. 

Offered through partnership with Dorsey High School, CalArts’ Community Arts Partnership Summer Arts, or CAPSA, is a four-week creative lab program open to students who are currently enrolled in school in Los Angeles Country. 

CAPSA welcomes all students who are interested in learning more about animation, regardless of degree of prior knowledge of the craft. On top of that, the program is free of charge, with all materials and lunches also included.

Students learn the basics of animation, such as designing characters, drawing, using computer programs, and more. The program culminated with a day-long community festival.

Gnomon High School Summer Camp (Hollywood, CA)

Founded in 1997, Gnomon School of Visual Effects, Games and Animation is a highly-ranked art school with a focus on the digital arts. 

Each year, as a part of the Gnomon High School Summer Camp, the school hosts a week-long intensive program in 3D character animation.

Open to all high school students between the ages of 14 and 18, the 3D character animation course offers students the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of computer animation as they create, design, and animate their own characters.

In addition to developing their animated characters, students also learn other skills that are crucial to the field of 3D animation, such as keyframing, planning scenes, and conceptualizing coherent storylines. 

The High School Summer Camp also involves daily forum discussions led by visiting artists who are successful professionals in the animation industry. 

UConn Pre-College Summer Animation Studio (Storrs, CT)

According to US News and World Report, the University of Connecticut is the #26 best public university in the country, also ranking fourth in its state. The prestigious university offers numerous top-tier pre-collegiate programs, one of which is the Pre-College Summer Animation Studio.

A one-week residential program, the Summer Animation Studio is an immersive experience in which students learn what goes into the animation process, from storywriting to character creation and more. The program is open to students with any level of prior experience with animation.

Students in the program are encouraged to integrate various different animation techniques and styles within a single production, providing them with an explorative and deep understanding of the craft. The Summer Animation Studio also covers how to create animated works using limited resources, such as productions made entirely with smartphone applications.

Elite Animation Academy Summer Camp (Orlando, FL)

Founded by Disney animators, Elite Animation Academy has more than 50 years of experience with teaching children and teens the art of animation. 

Running from 10AM to 3PM Monday through Friday, Elite Animation Academy Summer Camps are offered for 10 weeks throughout the summer. 

The program’s curriculum varies each week, but it always consists of four distinct areas of the animation field. 

Some of the topics taught at Elite Animation Academy’s summer camps include 2D animation, 3D animation, anime/manga, traditional animation, and character design. The unique structure of Elite’s summer camps allows students to learn a variety of different animation skills, offering an in-depth introduction to the craft.

The cost of attending Elite Animation Academy’s summer camp program is $475 per week, with an additional $25 fee for supplies. 

CSSSA Animation Program (Sacramento, CA)

The California State Summer School for the Arts is an intensive, one-month educational program for students who are interested in careers in the visual and performing arts. One of the many different programs offered by CSSSA is the Animation Program.

The CSSSA Animation Program is open to students in eighth through twelfth grade, as well as graduating seniors. Consisting of a mixture of classes, field trips, and visits from guest artists, the program offers students the opportunity to experience a wide variety of aspects of the animation industry. 

Courses cover everything from traditional art skills to computer animation, animation history, experimental techniques, and more, all under the mentorship of real professionals in the animation industry. Throughout the program, students create a total of five original animated projects. 

FMC Fundamentals of Cinema 4D Course (Boston, MA)

A digital media training organization that was established in 1994, Future Media Concepts has numerous online and in-person courses relating to animation. 

FMC’s course on the fundamentals of cinema 4D is open to people of all ages, offering ing high school students who take part in the course the opportunity to interact with not just fellow high schoolers but also adults and professionals in the field. 

Open to beginners — provided that they have basic knowledge of how to use a computer — this three-day program’s curriculum covers how to use Adobe After Effects, lighting and rendering scenes, and all other aspects of the cinema 4D process. 

In addition to teaching students computer animation, the program also aims to provide a deep understanding of the underlying technologies that make animated productions work.

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