The Best Summer Programs in Florida for High School Students

It’s happened to every high school student at some point or another.

The spring term was much more hectic than expected, the stress was rising alongside the temperature outside, and one found themselves counting down the clock for that final bell of the term to ring. 

And the bell rings, one feels a rush of freedom, but as suddenly as the summer arrives, it passes us by. 

Each summer feels like such an invaluable opportunity for freedom and adventure, but it can be difficult to actually achieve our goals for the summer of our dreams before it’s gone. 

But there are ways to both fill one’s summer with one-of-a-kind experiences while getting a taste of the exciting adventures in store for us at a future college or career.

Summer programs are a wonderful opportunity to gain early, hands-on experience in one’s field of choice while beginning to develop one’s network of connections with people in one’s area of interest. 

Not only that, but such summer programs are a fantastic way to build one’s resume, and in particular, they’ll help high school students stand out to college admissions officials.

As such, this article will break down 10 of the best summer programs across the state of Florida for those wanting to both build their knowledge and resume, and have lovely summer experiences. 

In no particular order, these are our picks for the 10 best summer programs throughout Florida for high school students. 

University of Florida Humanities and the Sunshine State (Gainesville, FL)

University of Florida
Ebyabe, Gville UF Sledd Hall02, CC BY-SA 3.0

This two-week summer program is hosted by the University of Florida, and made the top ten list thanks to its wide-reaching appeal for any student interested in studying the humanities. 

Many high school students are unsure of what precisely they will study in college if they decide to go, but many students already know that they are more included in the humanities or arts than STEM. 

This program might be the perfect fit for them. 

This program introduces students to a wide array of college-level humanities research techniques, including oral history, archaeological excavation, ethical critique, textual interpretation, and more. 

Then, students apply this humanities research towards bettering our understanding of Florida’s environmental crises and the relationship Floridians have with their state’s environment. 

As such, it is an ideal experience for those students who feel drawn toward a discipline in the humanities to dip their toes into a research project that utilizes the kind of college-level humanities research skills one finds in both undergraduate and graduate programs.

Student Science Training Program (Gainesville, FL)

If the Humanities and the Sunshine state at the University of Florida is the perfect opportunity for those students interested in humanities research, then the Student Science Training Program is the University of Florida’s STEM equivalent. 

For six weeks, students 16 years or older who are considering science, medicine, math, computer science, or engineering careers will participate in scientific research alongside a University of Florida science professor. 

Many undergraduates and graduate students struggle to find an opportunity to research alongside their professors in a lab setting, and as such, this opportunity is truly unique. 

But the University of Florida makes it no secret that they are seeking the best and the brightest the state has to offer. 

For the weeks of the program, students will work alongside some of Florida’s most brilliant young scientists, research in a lab for 30 hours each week, and participate not only in a UF undergraduate class, but an honors class at that. 

For a future scientist or anyone interested in a STEM career, this opportunity is sure to help them stand out from the competition.

Florida State University Young Scholars Program (Tallahassee, FL)

Florida State University
SeminoleNation, Florida State University Psychology Courtyard, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Young Scholars Program at Florida State University is another excellent choice for students hoping to enter a STEM field. 

Comprised of math, science, and programming courses offered by Florida State University, students will have a chance to experience what each of these academic disciplines looks like in a college setting. 

Rather than having to specialize in one STEM field, students can explore many via the Young Scholars Program. 

A unique aspect of this program is the chance for high school students to conduct their own independent research projects under the sponsorship of an FSU professor. 

Faculty and programs across 15 different STEM disciplines sponsor two to three students each. Then, the sponsored student gets to work one-on-one with the sponsoring professor’s research and/or with the sponsoring department or entity. 

Besides faculty, institutions such as the Center for Ocean Atmospheric Prediction Studies (COAPS) and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (Mag Lab) sponsor students—to give an example of the kind of prestigious institutes involved in the Young Scholar Program. 

And, importantly, this six-week residential program also allows students to participate in various extracurriculars, such as field trips and themed dances.

Upward Bound Program (Multiple Locations)

Upward Bound Programs exist all over the nation, as they are sponsored by the federal department of education. 

These programs are designed for those students who receive the federal TRIO designation—students who are disadvantaged from college access by virtue of their income, first-generation status, disability status, or otherwise.

Upward Bound summer programs tend to exist in most prominent universities in the state of Florida, and are ideal for TRIO students who want to get a leg up in their preparation for college. 

Upward Bound summer programs often have a residential component at a particular university, including ACT/SAT prep classes, college preparation counseling, the chance to take university classes or dual enroll, and speakers discussing cultural issues.  

In the state of Florida, notable universities with Upward Bound summer programs include Florida International University, Florida Atlantic University, and the University of Central Florida.  

University of Miami Summer Scholars Program (Coral Gables, FL)

In the Summer Scholars program, High School students across various disciplines have the opportunity to earn up to 6 college credits within a three-week residential program. 

University of Miami courses offered through the Summer Scholars program are diverse. Students choose an academic specialization—akin to a major for the 3-week program—and then take classes within that specialization. 

These 3-week majors range from architecture, engineering, and technology to business, law, and global studies. 

But on top of this, students can also choose to take one of three 2-week non-credit institutes. The three institutes offered by the Summer Scholars program are the business academy, the hurricane academy, and the Spanish immersion academy. 

But if one hasn’t found their ideal fit in the above examples, one can even take online courses through the Summer Scholars Program—many of which are for credit. 

iD Tech Camps (Multiple Locations)

iD Tech is one of the world’s leading K-12 technology educational programs, with 5 separate locations across the state of Florida.  

To look at one of the more extensive iD Tech programs in the state of Florida at the University of South Florida, students will have the opportunity to gain hands-on software and technology experience with leading professionals. 

At the University of South Florida, iD Tech officials include employees at Disney, Bethesda Softworks, Airbnb, and Volvo. 

Guided by camp leaders recruited from universities like Stanford, Caltech, and NYU, students won’t only gain firsthand experience creating and working with technology via a game-oriented pedagogy, but they’ll walk away with a starter pack of technology hardware and software. 

Students will be given tools from Adobe, Epic Games, Autodesk, VEX, Roblox, and more. Then, they’ll leave the institute with an official diploma administered by iD Tech. 

University of South Florida: Pre-College Creative Writing (Tampa, FL)

University of South Florida
James E. Scholz, USF Library, CC BY-SA 4.0

Many students dream of the chance to participate in the one-of-a-kind atmosphere of a college creative writing workshop, but for a variety of reasons, the prospect of attaining an innovative writing major/minor isn’t the right path for them.

Therefore, this next program represents a truly unique opportunity to begin to develop one’s creative writing craft and connect with other writers without having to commit to a creative writing degree. 

The University of South Florida offers a truly rare pre-college Creative Writing summer program, which brings young writers together for 2-3 weeks to take classes led by published authors, MFA students, and university professors. 

Led by professor and award-winning author Julia Koets, students will work individually and collaboratively to write poetry, short stories, nonfiction, and essays. Then, students will get the rare chance to receive feedback from published authors. 

Few high school writers will have the chance to hone their craft in this way. This program is sure to benefit one’s writing for years to come. 

New York Film Academy (Miami, FL)

But if one’s ambitions lie more on the screen than on the page, then the New York Film Academy has you covered with a truly one-of-a-kind film and acting academy in South Beach, Miami. 

Students can enroll in the New York Film Academy’s acting intensive program or their filmmaking intensive program. For filmmaking students, they will gain access to state-of-the-art equipment with which to shoot and edit their projects. 

On the other hand, actors will work with filmmakers to shoot scenes on location under the supervision of acting coaches. 

Students get to keep the products of their summer intensive, whether that be a short film, scenes, scripts, or otherwise.

For actors and filmmakers alike, students have the chance to create what may be the first item in their professional portfolio. 

The chance to add items to one’s acting/filmmaking portfolio utilizing equipment that costs thousands of dollars, and to create this work under the supervision of filmmaking experts, represents a unique chance to get a leg-up early on in the competitive world of filmmaking. 

University of South Florida: Pre-College Classes (Tampa, FL)

The University of South Florida doesn’t only offer Creative Writing pre-college classes, however, but 5 different academic specializations through their pre-college program. 

And all of these programs have just as much to offer as the University of South Florida’s pre-college creative writing program. 

Their course in digital media allows students hands-on experience producing film and visual content.

Their full-court program is an introduction to various legal careers, with a mock trial serving as the program’s capstone. In the mock trial, students get the chance to take on the role of lawyers, judges, criminologists, and more.

And they have competitive programs in STEM and the medical professions entitled “The Next Physician and Health Care Professional” and “The Next Scientist and Engineer.” 

University of Florida Summer Media Institute (Gainsville, FL)

The University of Florida is home to the largest and most comprehensive journalism department in the nation, and high school students have the opportunity to work within this prestigious atmosphere via the UF’s Summer Media Institute. 

Students can select one of eight coursework programs, each having to do with a different aspect of journalism and mass communications. 

Specializations range from anchoring and on-air performance to photojournalism. 

Instructors for the Summer Media Institute include CNN journalists, sports commentators who covered the FIFA world cup, communications directors for companies as large as Mcdonald’s, and award-winning non-fiction authors. 

Even those not interested in a career in journalism or communications will learn how to communicate effectively with the best in the business. 

For those for whom journalism is their passion, it will be rare for a high schooler to be in the same room as many seasoned professionals outside the UF Summer Media Institute.