The Best Summer Programs in North Carolina for High School Students

Students with a passion for topics such as engineering, medicine, agricultural science, medicine, or business will be excited to attend one or more of the many summer camps and programs offered by universities and institutions across the state of North Carolina. 

Attendance and participation in summer camps or courses will help students stand out from their peers when it comes time to apply for competitive college programs.

Many of these programs also allow students to begin earning college credit while still in high school, providing a head start on their college careers and helping to offset the cost of secondary education. 

Those that do not offer college credit still allow students to explore potential career paths while making friends with peers interested in similar subjects and experiences.

Although the temptation to leave concerns about academics and careers to the regular school year will be strong for many students in high school, those who choose to participate in summer programs or camps will find the time well-spent. 

With so many options available to students, the task of choosing only one or two programs to attend can be daunting for many. 

With this in mind, we have compiled the following list of 10 of the best summer programs available to high school students in North Carolina.

North Carolina State University Young Investigators’ Summer Program in Nuclear Engineering

NC State College of Engineering
Cgb628, College of Engineering Building II, North Carolina State University (2013), CC BY-SA 3.0

The Young Investigators’ Summer Program in Nuclear Engineering, offered by North Carolina State University’s Department of Nuclear Engineering, is open to students entering the 11th and 12th grades as well as seniors who have just graduated. 

The program’s purpose is to educate students about nuclear energy’s roles in society and everyday life.

The residential program lasts three weeks, and tuition costs $1,800. The price of tuition covers room, board, and industrial field trips.

The program will introduce students to topics such as nuclear energy, nuclear materials, radiation detection, and nuclear waste management. 

Students will learn about these topics through lectures, lab work, field trips, and group exercises.

Applications to the program must be submitted by the 30th of April, and admission decisions will be released beginning on the 1st of May.

Horticultural Science Summer Institute

Provided by North Carolina State University Extension, the Horticultural Science Summer Institute is open to high school students interested in horticultural or agricultural science. 

Students will learn about vegetable breeding, sustainable production, propagating ornamental shrubs, and other related topics through the week-long residential camp.

Students will learn about these topics through activities and field trips to local farms, markets, and greenhouses. Activities include grafting heirloom tomatoes, climbing trees, and discovering new genes.

In addition to learning about horticulture, students in the camp will learn about college life and develop leadership skills.

The cost of the program is $650, and students will live in dorms on the campus of North Carolina State University. 

Students will be asked about their GPAs, interests, and experiences in 4-H clubs or similar activities as part of the application process.

Wake Forest University Business Institute

Wake Forest University
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

Wake Forest University offers aspiring young entrepreneurs and business leaders the chance to begin learning fundamental skills while still in high school through its Business Institute, part of its Summer Immersion Programs. 

The institute will cover topics such as finance, marketing, and operations, and students will learn through hands-on experiences in which they work with professors from the university, collaborate on team projects, visit local businesses, and network with business leaders.

The program culminates in the presentation of a team project which has students pitch their ideas and showcase the knowledge they have developed over the course of the camp.

Raleigh Residential Camps

The College of Engineering at North Carolina State University offers students interested in engineering the opportunity to learn about the field while living on campus through its week-long residential camps

The camps are open to students entering their junior or senior years of high school.

The program immerses students in an engineering field of their choice, and students will choose the workshop they wish to participate in as they complete the program application. 

Available workshops explore fields such as electrical, biological, chemical, and aerospace engineering and computer and materials science.

Students will be required to provide information about their high school courses and GPAs and must also answer two short answer essay questions as part of the application process.

Teen Writers Workshop

The Teen Writers Workshop, also offered by North Carolina State University, provides students the opportunity to hone their creative writing skills through a two-week program held on weekday afternoons. 

The 2023 workshop will run from July 24 to August 4 and is available to students who are just entering the 9th grade all the way up to students who have just graduated high school.

The program offers fiction, dramatic writing, poetry, creative nonfiction, and genre fiction courses. 

Applicants are instructed to list their top-three courses, and the program will ensure students are placed into at least one of their preferred courses.

At the end of the program, students will celebrate their time at the camp by reading their works and participating in the program’s reception. 

Additionally, students’ writings will be published as an anthology, and each student will receive a copy.

University of North Carolina Summer School

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Jack a lanier, UNC Chapel Hill – Old Well with flowers, CC BY-SA 4.0

Students interested in attending the University of North Carolina who wish to get a head start on their college education will be interested in taking summer courses at the university while still in high school. 

The program is open to honor-roll students who have completed their junior years of high school.

High school students in the summer school program have a wide range of courses available to them, and these courses will count toward a student’s college GPA and be recorded on their transcripts.

UNC offers two summer sessions, and high school students may take up to four credit hours per session. 

Students will need to submit a transcript, personal statement, letter of recommendation, and attest that they will be living with a parent or guardian unless they are entering their senior year and are over 16 years old.

Engineering Innovation Pre-College Career Accelerator 

Offered by Summer Discovery at the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, the Engineering Innovation Pre-College Career Accelerator provides students in grades 9 through 12 the opportunity to study engineering while experiencing a taste of college life. 

The program lasts nine days, and students can choose a commuter or residential option.

Students will learn about product design and creation through collaborative work, guest lectures from those in the industry, and field trips to notable engineering landmarks. 

Along with learning the fundamentals of engineering, students will participate in three panels and learn the paths to success in engineering from current undergraduates, post-baccalaureate students, and engineering professionals.

North Carolina Zoo Veterinary Science Camp

The North Carolina Zoo offers students who love working with animals an exciting opportunity with its Veterinary Science Camps

The zoo offers single-day camps for students from the 7th grade all the way up to first-year college students.

Campers entering grades 7 through 9 will apply to the Zoo’s Junior Camps, and students entering the 10th grade on up will apply to the Zoo’s Senior Camps. 

Areas of focus in different sessions of the camps include mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, and fish.

Students will learn about veterinary practices like giving examinations, suturing wounds, and performing CPR. The program will also introduce students to some of the methods used to provide care for wild animals.

Tuition for both Junior and Senior Camps is $350 for North Carolina Zoo Society Members and $395 for nonmembers.

Blue Ridge Mountains Backpacking & Whitewater Canoeing

High school students with a passion for the outdoors will jump at the chance to spend 9 to 14 days in nature through Outward Bound’s Blue Ridge Mountains & Whitewater Canoeing expeditions. 

The program is open to students 14 to 18 years old, and expeditions run from June 7 to July 5.

Students will develop skills in backcountry navigation, whitewater canoeing, teamwork, communication, and conflict resolution through a hiking expedition in Pisgah National Forest and a canoe trip along one of North Carolina’s many beautiful rivers.

The 14-day version of the expedition, offered only to students aged 14 to 16, also incorporates a service learning component to demonstrate the value of giving back to one’s community and provide opportunities to develop leadership skills.

Marine Biology Immersion Camp 

Sea Turtle Camp offers students interested in sea turtles and environment conservation an exciting opportunity to spend nine days working with and learning about sea turtles on the coast of North Carolina through its Marine Biology Immersion Camp

The program is open to students entering the 9th grade, those who have just graduated high school, and all in between.

Students will work with interns from the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center as they patrol beaches for nesting mothers, explore marine and coastal ecosystems, learn to identify species in local salt marshes, and collect marine species samples aboard a research vessel.