The Best Summer Programs in New Jersey for High School Students

When it comes to enthralling high school summer programs, New Jersey has it covered! 

Students don’t necessarily have to reside in the Garden State to apply to some of these hands-on program offerings in fields like journalism, musical theater, STEM, and marine science. Some of the programs are even free for attendees!

In addition to focusing on a specific niche, the majority of New Jersey’s top high school summer programs also feature a college preparatory component, emphasizing the importance of soft skills like time management, long-range planning, teamwork, and conflict resolution. 

The programs included in this list also tend to feature a culminating project or competition. 

Student participants across New Jersey put on a full-length theatrical production, design a sophisticated business plan, organize a marine science-focused summer camp for youth, and use cutting-edge technology to bring an original idea for a video game to life. 

When we say these programs are hands-on, we mean it!

We have compiled a list of the ten best summer programs for high school students in New Jersey. 

We searched offerings advertised by the state’s best public and private colleges, as well as programs highly recommended by alumni and recent student participants. Continue reading to find a summer program that aligns best with your passions and career plans.

Here are 10 of the best summer programs in New Jersey!

The Princeton Summer Journalism Program (Princeton, NJ)

Princeton University Nassau Hall
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

Each year, 40 budding journalists are admitted to one of the best journalism summer programs for high school students in the United States. 

Did we mention that this ten-day residential experience is tuition-free? High school seniors live on campus and are paired with a caring college advisor dedicated to helping them navigate the college admissions process. 

If attending one of the best journalism programs at an Ivy League institution isn’t thrilling enough, students will also get to visit significant news hubs like The New York Times and Bloomberg. 

In only ten days, participants will cover a professional sports match, film and produce a mini-documentary, conduct a journalistic investigation, and collaboratively design an original newspaper – The Princeton Summer Journal.

Since the PSJP’s inception, more than 500 participants have enrolled at the nation’s most elite colleges and universities. 

Admitted students can expect to complete summer “pre-work” assignments in preparation for this dynamic immersion.

Changemakers Entrepreneurship Pre-College Program (Union, NJ)

As you might assume from its name, the Changemakers Entrepreneurship program seeks to inspire future leaders, investors, and entrepreneurs who will configure, implement, and fund future innovations in the American business realm. 

The key here is social entrepreneurship – this program is particularly interested in motivating students to contribute significantly to their communities via business ideas and endeavors.

In a span of 2.5 weeks, each student will work independently and in teams to build an original business from the ground up. 

Other topics covered in the curriculum include time management, financial technology, and social media marketing. 

Participants will get hands-on experience using tools like the Bloomberg Terminal and other professional software platforms. 

Participants will earn their Six Sigma white belt, a significant certification to earn as a high school student! 

The Six Sigma structure enables project team members to be cognizant of their responsibilities before a project begins. 

The White Belt is the first-level certification that permits holders in assisting with change management inside an organization.

Stevens Institute of Technology Cybersecurity Pre-College Summer Program (Hoboken, NJ)

Stevens Institute of Technology
Antony-22, Stevens Hall Stevens Tech, CC BY-SA 4.0

The cybersecurity program at Stevens Institute of Technology is just one of several attractive offerings advertised by the school. 

In addition to gaining experience with the newest cutting-edge technologies in cybersecurity, students also get to explore the value of a cybersecurity major before beginning their college studies. 

Faculty are present to offer mentorship along the way, and the experience includes a field trip to New York City!

Stevens IT offers two one-week cybersecurity programs at the beginner or advanced levels. In the beginner series, students will undoubtedly be captivated by lessons introducing them to data breaches, hacking, and cybercrime – all problems plaguing modern industries. 

By the end of the week, they will have a foundational knowledge of cybersecurity and system security principles.

Rising juniors or seniors can build upon the fundamentals of cybersecurity in the advanced series, which will further their understanding of how hackers are able to exploit loopholes, blindspots, and other weaknesses in different databases. 

To do this, students will have to become hackers themselves! 

Rowan University STEAM Academy (Glassboro, NJ)

Consistently rated as one of the best pre-college summer programs in the United States, Rowan’s three-week STEAM Academy enrolls 7th through 12th graders with a passion for STEM as well as the arts and humanities. 

One of the best parts of the program? Students can earn three college credits before they even begin applying to college!

There are three options for admitted students: Voyagers (for 7th through 9th graders), Navigation (for 10th through 12th graders), and Pathways (for juniors and seniors). 

We’ll focus on the latter two programs since they are reserved exclusively for high school students. 

In Navigation, participants live on campus and enroll in a STEAM-centered college class of their choosing, embark upon exciting field trips, and participate in leadership training, team-building sessions, standardized test preparation, and resume-building. 

Pathways is the most rigorous selection, challenging students to complete a college-level course and STEAM-focused research internship.

Rider University High School Musical Theatre Intensive (Princeton, NJ)

Rider University
David Keddie, North Hall at Rider University, CC BY-SA 4.0

Break a leg this summer with Rider University’s credit-bearing musical theater intensive! The two-year camp is open to all high school students who love the stage and set. 

Each year, the admitted cohort puts together an entire production, devoting attention to casting characters, designing the stage elements, choreographing song and dance numbers, and rehearsing lines. 

The High School Musical Theatre Intensive tends to select famous plays with beloved characters and songs. 2022 audiences enjoyed Pippin, while prior ones have witnessed Rent, Sweeney Todd, and Godspell

Students benefit from expert voice, dance, and auditioning training, enabling them to successfully land Broadway auditions and spots in some of the best college acting programs in the United States.

Interestingly, applicants do not need to submit an audition to gain acceptance into the program; however, they are asked to send a video of themselves singing 32 bars of a musical theater song. 

Enrollment is capped at 30, and there are early bird discounts for tuition and fees.

NJCU GEAR UP College Bound Program (Jersey City, NJ)

For some, the transition from high school to college can be overwhelming. GEAR UP is all about helping students achieve their tremendous potential! 

The program is organized by New Jersey City University and brings together a dedicated team of counselors, educators, and trusted adult mentors to engage students in community service, leadership development, and college preparation.

The GEAR UP program is open to select schools in the Jersey City Public School System, and the ideal student has a GPA of at least 2.5 and a strong or growing interest in attending college after high school. 

Students from 9th through 12th grade may participate in this U.S. Department of Education-funded initiative, which takes place over six weeks in the summertime.

What exactly can students expect to learn? In addition to academic support, they take classes in critical transitional skills like conflict resolution, academic planning, standardized test preparation, and time management. 

Parents can participate in workshops designed to help them support their young adult children in the transition to college, an aspect unique to this New Jersey high school summer program. 

Fairleigh Dickinson Summer Pre-College (Teaneck, NJ)

No other program on this list offers students the chance to earn not three, not six, but 12 college credits in one summer

Additionally recognized as a top 50 best-value pre-college summer program, Fairleigh Dickinson’s Summer Pre-College Program (PCP) is almost entirely online. Is this too good to be true?

Students engage in coursework Monday through Thursday, with a few on-campus opportunities advertised. 

Generally 2.5 weeks in length, a Fairleigh Dickinson PCP experience includes courses in global tourism management, financial markets and trading, and the power of social justice. This sampling barely covers the diversity of subjects offered.

In one course entitled “Introduction to Criminal Justice and the American Legal System,” students will develop a mock legal defense and analyze complex cases from a prosecutorial standpoint. 

Alternatively, “Drug Discovery: The Exciting Future of Pharmacology 21st Century Treatment Protocol) positions students as experts poised to manage the global spread of infectious diseases.

Rutgers Summer Business Camp (Piscataway, NJ)

After a brief online hiatus, the Rutgers Summer Business Camp is back in face-to-face mode! That said, all participants are required to be fully vaccinated to enroll. 

Tuition of $1,800 covers a week-long immersion in business topics like accounting, supply chain logistics, and digital marketing.

Students are hardly confined to a classroom – the program regularly transports them to thriving business exemplars like Investor’s Bank and Johnson & Johnson while challenging them to compete in a business plan contest. 

In the classroom, participants develop elevator pitches, manage mock accounts, and create editorial calendars for their mock businesses. 

Most evenings are dedicated to developing a business plan, and students can expect to dine with faculty mentors and business leaders ready to help them think outside the box. 

What reputable business leaders will be present at this summer’s iteration? You’ll have to enroll to find out!

Game Design Academy at Rider University (Lawrence Township, NJ)

Rider University has such an impressive array of summer programs for high school students that we couldn’t just spill the details on the Musical Theatre Intensive – the Game Design Academy seems to have an equally strong pull on enthusiastic tech-savvy students!

In just one week, students will create a totally original 2D video game that can be played in real life. Venture into the sparkling new Game Production Lab, where top-notch hardware and software tools await eager emerging video game designers. 

In addition to their many hands-on experiences, students will learn about the myriad possibilities for careers related to video game design and experience a preview of college residential life. 

Only 36 high school students are accepted to this competitive program, which costs just under $1,000 to attend.

The Center for Aquatic Sciences at Adventure Aquarium CAUSE (Camden, NJ)

Prepare to get wet and wild (within reason) at CAUSE: Community and Urban Science Enrichment. 

Camden city high school students are eligible to participate in the internship option of this aquatic adventure – the selection is based on a demonstrated passion for marine biology, oceanography, and ecology rather than academic excellence.

Just how hands-on is this intern program? 

High school participants will literally hold live aquatic creatures in their hands as they teach others all about the animals’ unique traits and talents. 

Don’t worry – you won’t get pushed into the shark tank without the proper training!

Ready for some impressive statistics

100% of CAUSE interns who have completed the program graduate from high school, 99% have enrolled in college, and 78% major in a science- or education-focused bachelor’s degree. 

Students frequently remark that their favorite component of the five-week internship is the chance to design a summer science camp curriculum for up to 200 Camden school children.

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