The Best Summer Programs in Massachusetts for High School Students

New England is ideal for spending a summer engrossed in academic pursuits. With a temperate climate and proximity to some of the most elite learning institutions in the country, there are ample reputable programs to which students of all interests may apply.

Are you interested in becoming a musician? An engineer? A writer? A researcher? 

There’s an exceptional program for you in Massachusetts, where high school students are guided by dedicated, knowledgeable experts in their respective fields. 

Many alumni of Massachusetts’ best summer programs proceed to earn degrees at the best schools worldwide and obtain positions at Fortune 500 companies and top academic institutions.

We have compiled a list of the top ten summer programs in Massachusetts for high school students, selected from various popular rankings lists and summer program databases. 

Many options are in or close to Boston, one of the most exciting cultural hubs in the United States, while others take place in enclosed or aquatic settings. 

With both residential and commuter options, tuition-based and free programs, there is an accessible and enthralling opportunity for ambitious and intelligent high school students. 

Let’s explore which of the ten best summer programs in Massachusetts is best suited for your collegiate and career aspirations. Here are 10 of the best summer programs for high school students in Massachusetts.

UMass Amherst CityLab (Amherst, MA)

UMass Amherst
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

High school students participating in the Building & Construction Technology CityLab can expect hands-on experience using nascent tools – like drones, infrared cameras, 3D printers, and industrial sewing machines – to conduct engineering lab experiments and engage in community service. 

The two-week pre-college program is geared toward students interested in pursuing a career in architecture, sustainability, or other STEM subjects. 

The immersion culminates in a design/building competition that brings together industry experts and community partners. 

Both residential and commuter options are available, with tuition costing $3,438 for the former and $2,463 for the latter students. 

Only rising high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors are eligible for participation. 

The best news? Students can earn two college credits in only two weeks!

MIT Introduction to Technology, Engineering, and Science Summer (Cambridge, MA)

High school juniors from minority backgrounds are encouraged to apply for this free STEM-focused program that follows a project-based learning model and offers additional college admissions guidance and career preparation workshops. 

The summer program lasts six weeks and engages students in the following five courses: math, physics, humanities, life sciences, and a project-based elective. 

Previous elective options have included offerings in machine learning, genomics, and other high-interest, emerging fields. 

Students live on campus and develop close relationships with their instructors, who frequently write letters of recommendation for MITES graduates when they begin applying to colleges.

MITES students enroll at prestigious Ivy League institutions and other top-rated engineering schools like Georgia Tech, UC Berkeley, and Stanford. MIT boasts a robust alumni network at companies like NASA, Boeing, Apple, and TikTok.

Boston University Academy of Media Production (Boston, MA)

Boston University
Public domain photo by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons

Lights, camera, action! Rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors are eligible to apply for a 3.5-week workshop that merges writing and visual story-telling instruction. 

Aspiring filmmakers may gain first-time experience using tools to create podcasts, films, and other media projects.

One aspect of AMP that students love most is the freedom they have to pursue creative projects. 

In fact, participants are encouraged to use their final creations as portfolio artifacts when applying to film school or to seek career opportunities in the media realm. 

Additionally, the 1:30 staff-to-student ratio ensures that each student will receive sufficient one-on-one attention.

AMP is a residential program, and several letters of recommendation are required as part of the application process. 

While the program is tuition-based, AMP has several scholarships available for families at a significant socioeconomic disadvantage.

SEA Oceanography in Woods Hole (Falmouth, MA)

There are summer programs, and then there are summer expeditions. The SEA Oceanography in Woods Hole program takes place on the shores of Cape Cod aboard a seaworthy vessel operated by trained, PhD-level educators. 

The pre-college experience, in particular, is a three-week engagement for rising juniors, seniors, and high school graduates who are passionate about beginning a career in marine biology or environmental sustainability.

In addition to participating in college-level seminars and conducting research at sea, students hone their scientific communication, writing, data visualization, and leadership skills. 

Regarding research projects, a recent cohort donned snorkels to investigate how local and international groups collaborate to conserve vital ecosystems in the Caribbean reef.

There’s also the fun fact that participants live on a boat for weeks! The added residential component involves cooking, cleaning, and bonding with fellow crewmates and passengers. 

Field trips expose student sailors to exceptional facilities like the Woodwell Climate Research Center, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Marine Biological Lab.

NIH High School Summer Internship Program (Framingham, MA)

The National Institute of Health is an eminent medical and behavioral research organization in the United States, providing more than $30 billion in grant funding to various college and community organizations seeking to improve health outcomes for all populations. 

While most NIH HS-SIP programs take place in Bethesda, Maryland, a unique opportunity awaits burgeoning student researchers in Framingham, MA.

The Framingham Heart Study of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute serves as the context for student participants to develop foundational skills in collecting and analyzing data. 

The longitudinal Framingham Heart Study (FHS) was launched in 1948 and aims to identify the common characteristics contributing to cardiovascular disease. 

With thousands of study participants, there is plenty of data to review!

Unsurprisingly, this summer high school program is quite competitive, accepting approximately 1,000 out of over 6,300 applicants annually. 

Accepted students are positioned next to some of the greatest scientific minds in the world.

Smith Precollege: Women, Gender & Representation (Northampton, MA)

Smith College
MonsieurNapoléon, Smith College Campus view, CC BY-SA 4.0

Smith offers a unique two-week program for young women, female-identifying, or non-gender-conforming students entering any grade of high school. 

The intersection of societal forces like race and labor is intensely discussed, with the facilitation of educators who seek to inspire stronger critical thinking skills in program participants.

What kind of classes are open for enrollment? There are three courses in the morning and three in the afternoon, all of which combine topics in literature, social studies, and the sciences. 

In “Rebellious Women in History,” high school participants conduct archival research on historical female figures who have led mobilization efforts, cultural interventions, and social justice initiatives.

Other courses cover a variety of interests. In “Play Like a Girl: Gender in Sport,” students absorb information from podcasts, texts, and other media forms to critique American athletics through a feminist lens. 

Those interested in reproductive rights have a course to suit their curiosities, in which they study landmark Supreme Court cases like Roe v. Wade.

Bard College at Simon’s Rock Young Writer’s Workshop (Great Barrington, MA)

84 students participate in a three-week workshop at Bard College at Simon’s Rock each year. 

The experience engages students in small groups dedicated to providing peer reviews of various forms of writing. Students can expect to draft short stories, poetry, scripts, and even nonfiction.

The Young Writer’s Workshop aims to foster confidence in one’s authoritative voice, strengthen critical thinking skills, and encourage openness to diverse perspectives. 

All staff members are certified teachers passionate about giving targeted, constructive criticism. A 3:1 student-to-faculty ratio ensures that professors have sufficient time to compose recommendations for student writing.

The ideal student for this opportunity is excited about taking risks with their writing, experimenting with different genres and styles, and applying feedback. 

While participants don’t receive formal grades or college credit, they do have a culminating project in the form of a lengthy reflection

It is common for students to use their writing samples as portfolio items when applying for creative writing programs at colleges across the country.

MIT Research Science Institute (RSI) (Cambridge, MA)

Great minds have echoed the sentiment that if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re probably in the wrong room. 

The RSI at MIT brings together 80 of the brightest high school juniors in the world in a tuition-free, residential STEM summer program. The RSI is one room you want to be in!

The first part of the RSI immersion is a five-week research internship where students pursue passion projects alongside scientist mentors. In the last week, each participant can give a written and oral presentation on their research findings.

Admission is based on SAT and ACT scores (or PSAT scores), in addition to high school transcripts, letters of recommendation, and science-focused extracurricular involvement. 

Admissions staff encourage applicants to have scored a minimum of 740 on the SAT Math section and a 700 or higher on the Evidence-based Reading and Writing component. 

If submitting the ACT, the minimum requirement is generally a 33 and 34 for math and verbal scores, respectively.

Berklee College of Music Aspire (Boston, MA)

Top musical artists like Meghan Trainor and Charlie Puth attended the Berklee Aspire program before making it big – perhaps you’ll be the next superstar! 

Of course, you’ll need to put in significant work in this month-long residential program designed for high school students 15 years and older.

No musical subject is left uncovered in this span. 

Participants will engage in everything from songwriting and producing to music therapy exposure and immersion in the music industry. 

No need to hold back if tuition expenses are a factor – applicants can seek a scholarship if they are applying.

In addition to practicing their voice or principal instrument, students enjoy out-of-class experiences like open mic nights, visiting artist performances, and even a Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park! 

The last week is celebratory in nature, with concerts and student showcases happening at all hours of the day. Students can earn up to three college credits if they maintain a B or higher in performance theory, musicianship, and private tutelage.

PROMYS Program in Mathematics for Young Scientists at Boston University (Boston, MA)

We PROMYS this program is one of the best summer math immersions in the country! For six weeks, students are treated as legitimate mathematicians. 

Participants work individually and in groups on highly challenging and complex problems requiring deep knowledge of calculus, statistics, and number theory.

Nearly half of PROMYS alums earn doctorates in mathematics at institutions around the globe, like Princeton, MIT, and the University of Chicago. 

Others proceed to start their own businesses or become investment bankers. 

One alumn has even written and produced The Simpsons television episodes for nearly two decades! It is not uncommon for alumni to return as staff.

Applicants must be 14-18 to participate in the program, which only accepts around 80 participants each summer. 

In addition to submitting an official transcript, letter of recommendation, and short-answer essay responses, applicants must provide solutions to challenging mathematical problem sets.