Free Summer Programs for High School Students

Valorie Delp
Group of high schoolers ready for a summer program

Free summer programs for high school students abound if you know where to look! There are a variety of experiences designed to boost and help teens on their way to college.

Resources for Finding Teen Programs

The trick to finding free summer programs for high school students is to focus on the interests of your teen. There are free programs for volunteers, the academically gifted, and teens who want to study a specific subject. Whether you want your teen to stay close to home, or go far away, there is a program! It might be as simple as looking locally or you might need to search to find the perfect opportunity.

Consider the following resources to get you started on your search.

General Opportunities

  • Volunteer Match: Volunteer Match is a searchable database of volunteer opportunities. You can search for your location coupled with the word "teen" (or any interest area you have), for a list of programs and opportunities in your area.
  • Summer Opportunities for Teens: The book, Summer Opportunities for Teens is a good buy if you are looking for programs for more than one teen in your household. This book lists some of the most competitive opportunities out there.
  • Teen Ink: Teen Ink is a writer's haven for teenagers. The site lists some of the coolest opportunities. The drawback is that there is no way to easily search for free programs in a specific area. With that said, if you have a teen who is interested in something specific like arts or writing, the site is worth looking into and sorting out opportunities.

Scientific Progams

The scientific community at large loves to give teens opportunities to explore careers in scientific and mathematical fields. Here are a couple of opportunities you can look into:

  • MIT MIT's MITES program takes high school juniors and seniors for a program in lectures, tutoring and internships.
  • Earthwatch gives students a two-week opportunity to go to a field station for scientific study and observation. If you don't have money to travel to your desired destination, check out Travelocity's Travel for Good Program

Don't forget, engineering companies in your area may have internships available. Contact the company directly to learn about programs for high school students.

The Governor's Honor Program

Many states have a free governor's honor program. Check with your state's education department to find out about opportunities.

Starting Your Search

Start Looking Locally

Does your teen think he/she might want to be a vet? Perhaps your teen would rather learn about conserving nature. Either way, the first place to start your search is locally. Ask a local vet's office or your town's parks and recreation department if your teen can volunteer. While that might not be considered an official program, it is time spent doing something that your teen is interested in.

Volunteer Programs

Many volunteer programs are free for volunteers but it's a good idea to check before signing up. Generally speaking, what isn't free is low cost.

Volunteer opportunities exist all around the world, everything from wildlife conservation in the everglades to working in politics. One big advantage to volunteering is that volunteer positions that are pertinent to future jobs are completely relevant on a resume. Volunteering as a high school student can sometimes give your teen a jump in the job market.

Academic Research

A few universities have summer research programs for qualified teens. Beware that these programs are generally very competitive. However, if your teen has good grades and skill, this type of program could be the experience of a lifetime.


Like volunteering, and academic research, internships look great on a resume or college application. However, like other programs, keep in mind that internships are generally very competitive. That doesn't mean that your teen shouldn't go through the application process, after all, it's like a job interview and getting early practice for one is never a bad thing.

Consider Your Teen's Interest

Free summer programs for teens are not difficult to find, but take some resourcefulness. The best place to start is with your teen's interest. Chances are good, that your teen can find a rewarding and interesting program that is the perfect fit for him or her.

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Free Summer Programs for High School Students