The Best Summer Programs in New York for High School Students

We guarantee you will be surprised by the diversity of New York’s summer program options for high school students. 

In addition to typical offerings in STEM, writing, and general college preparation, there are unique opportunities to develop leadership skills, participate in ecological research, and peek into the bustling New York City fashion scene.

Naturally, some of New York’s best summer programs for high school students are located in the cultural hub of Manhattan; however, there are plenty of opportunities outside of the city. 

Some programs are more selective than others, requiring a portfolio or minimum GPA, while others are first-come, first-served. 

One element that all of the New York summer programs on our list share is the support of professional mentors. 

In most of the initiatives described below, students are matched with an invested college professor, lab researcher, or business executive with ample knowledge to impart. 

We have compiled this list of 10 amazing summer programs in New York based on recent accolades, popular rankings lists, and affiliations with top colleges and universities (like Columbia, NYU, and Cornell). 

Continue reading to find a high school summer program with the potential to ignite your future college or career path! Here are a handful of the best summer programs in New York for high school students.

Skidmore Summer Pre-College (Saratoga Springs, NY)

Skidmore College
Peter Flass at English Wikipedia, Skidmore College Jonsson Tower, CC BY 3.0

The five-week Skidmore Summer Pre-College program aims to prepare high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors for the rigor of a college course load

Course offerings change each year, and participants are encouraged to enroll in classes where they exhibit strong passion and/or curiosity. 

Recent offerings have included explorations into human genetics, Earth systems science, and a writing seminar in which students investigate the influence of argument and persuasion in their everyday lives. 

Engaging courses are led by experts in their given field, like associate professor Kyle Nichols, a geomorphologist who has conducted research from the Panamanian rain forests to the Australian Great Barrier Reef.

Participants remark upon the close-knit community as one of their favorite aspects of the Skidmore Summer Pre-College program. 

In addition to strengthening their critical thinking skills, students develop the confidence to participate in and lead higher-level academic discussions.

NYU High School Summer Art Intensive (New York City, NY)

One of the best available art summer programs for high school students in the country, NYU’s Summer Art Intensive enrolls 54 creative students into three close-knit groups who rotate among various studio courses. 

The goal of the intensive is to support students in creating original works that may be used in their portfolios for various college applications. 

In addition to delving deeper into their passions, students can expect to gain experience with new technologies, like laser cutters, 3D printers, and various textiles. 

Core classes occur twice weekly in digital art, sculpture, and painting and drawing, while students have two free periods to explore the Big Apple. 

At night, participants grow closer through visiting iconic NYC art institutions, museums, and galleries. They even get the opportunity to watch a Broadway show!

Tuition, program fees, housing, and meals total $6,850 for the experience, and scholarships are available. 

Student housing grants stunning views of Washington Square Park from NYU residence halls in the heart of the city. 

Adelphi University Summer Pre-College Program (Garden City, NY)

Rising high school juniors and seniors are eligible to participate in Adelphi’s three-week credit-bearing Summer Pre-College Program. 

In addition to immersing students in an area where they display strong inquisitiveness, Adelphi seeks to support students in honing various soft skills – like time management and digital literacy – which are central to a successful college transition.

Adelphi offers ten courses each year, all supervised by knowledgeable professors who are invested in participant progress. 

In the Teaching and Teacher Education course, students reflect on their own educational journeys as they examine the historical and cultural underpinnings of the American education system, develop lesson plans for the grade level of their preference, and critique popular films about teaching and education.

Participants can expect to have a lot of fun in this program – social activities include kickball games, campfire s’mores, glow-in-the-dark scavenger hunts, and dance parties. 

Adelphi also grants access to its on-site gym, pool, and indoor track.

Stony Brook University Simons Summer Research Program (Stony Brook, NY)

Stony Brook University
Kenneth C. Zirkel, Stony Brook University Student Activities Center, CC BY-SA 4.0

Students who exude a love for learning and desire to engage in hands-on STEM research will want to learn more about this unique opportunity to conduct research alongside brilliant faculty mentors. 

In the laboratories at Stony Brook University, students will gain experience using various tools and techniques they have yet to encounter within a high school science curriculum.

Each program participant is carefully matched with a mentor, assigned to a research cohort, and delegated specific responsibilities like collecting, analyzing, and visualizing data. 

The intensive culminates in an independent project where students produce a written abstract and supplementary poster outlining their research’s key details and findings.

To participate, students must be entering their senior year of high school and demonstrate significant aptitude and passion for hands-on scientific research. One of the lengthier programs on this list at nearly seven weeks, Simons rewards completers with a stipend dedicated to the pursuit of future research endeavors.

Mercy College Leadership Academy (Dobbs Ferry, NY)

Mercy College
Gnareternal, MainHall, CC BY-SA 4.0

Mercy College packs ample experiential learning and leadership opportunities into one fun-filled week over the summer! 

Rising high school seniors will benefit from the guidance and support of global leaders from various industries and even travel to current Fortune 500 companies to see exemplary leadership.

Student fans of the show “Shark Tank” can invest their business acumen into Mercy’s version of the competition of sorts, where people with original ideas attempt to pitch their products and services to a discerning panel of judges (aka “sharks”). 

In this case, Mercy’s judges are more concerned with providing constructive feedback than making a fortune off budding entrepreneurs.

What’s a typical day like in the leadership program?

Not typical! 

On Monday, students may explore how to create a personal brand during the day while bonding with peers at a karaoke party at night. 

Tuesday might challenge them to complete team-building challenges during a recreational hike, while a Wednesday field trip transports them to MTV, ESPN, or Google company headquarters.

Banson NYC (New York City, NY)

It’s time to strike a pose – or, at least, to design the stunning, avant-garde outfit on the model striking the pose! Banson NYC is a renowned fashion camp exclusively created for aspiring fashion designers in high school. 

No other experience is comparable in providing participants with an immersive dip into the New York City fashion industry pool. 

How does fashion camp work? Students participate in meticulously organized 1- to 5-day itineraries that expose students to the realms of merchandising, retail planning, sales management, and fashion design. 

Participants may create an attractive window display in the morning while designing their own outfits in the afternoon.

In addition to the in-person fashion camp, students can also apply to participate in Banson’s two virtual offerings

In the Virtual Fashion Styling Camp, students define the elements of their own personal style while exploring how trends are dictated worldwide. 

The Virtual Fashion Design Camp challenges participants to create an intricate mood board representative of an original style concept. Spaces are available on a first-come, first-served basis!

Rome Laboratory Air Force Research Lab Scholars Program (Rome, NY)

High school students who have participated in their school’s JROTC program and are strongly considering a military career may benefit from participation in the Air Force Research Laboratory Scholars Program, which offers in-person camps of various lengths on topics like LEGO robotics, drone operation, and quantum innovation.

In collaboration with Air Force engineers and scientists, program participants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA to be considered for admission and be able to work 40 hours per week in this internship role. 

Successful program completion may result in the participant earning a valuable top-secret security clearance!

Students also have the chance to learn in state-of-the-art facilities, like the Innovare Advancement Center, a STEM hub focused on innovating various solutions in artificial intelligence, machine learning, cybersecurity, and pilotless aerial systems.

Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Field Ecology (Paul Smiths, NY)

Paul Smith’s College’s two-week ADK Field Ecology program affords budding high school environmental researchers the opportunity to earn up to four college credits while investigating the ecology of diverse species in the Adirondack wilderness. 

Each day in the program brings new awareness and understanding as students gain expertise in water quality sampling, radio-tracking, and electrofishing. 

Each student will produce an independent project as part of their coursework in subjects like botany, wetland ecology, and small mammal studies. 

Students literally walk through the woods to understand how forests are structured and how different species collaborate to produce a diverse forest floor. 

Students take soil samples to examine how acid rain can strip it of its nutrients, learning how to identify “soil sickness” based on its smell alone!

In the small mammal exploration segment, the class may set ethical traps to catch small mammals before learning how to tag, weigh, handle, and ultimately release animals in a safe fashion. 

After such a stimulating experience, it may be challenging to return to a traditional brick-and-mortar classroom!

Columbia University BRAINYAC (New York City, NY)

BRAINYAC is an acronym for the Zuckerman Institute’s Brain Research Apprenticeships in New York at Columbia (University). 

Taking place at one of the top universities in the nation (and the world), BRAINYAC links ambitious high school scientists with working neuroscientists to hone their research skills. 

Students and mentors each rank their choices of partners before commencing the program based on a description of upcoming labs and admissions interviews.

This special program is open to sophomore and junior students nominated by select schools or community partners in Upper Manhattan and the Bronx. 

A seven-week-long experience, BRAINYAC engages students from 10 AM to 5 PM during the work week. Each participant will work on a specific project as part of a larger mentor-led research endeavor, typically honing two-to-three critical skills.

Most projects involve the use of a microscope for examining an uncharted region of the brain, observing viral activity in live vertebrates, or tracking stem cell generation, to name a few examples. 

Students are also paid based on their participation in the groundbreaking research!