Polygence blog / Research Opportunities and Ideas

Summer Programs at Harvard University for High School Students

5 minute read

As you start thinking about a summer program for next year, why not think big? Like Harvard big? Beyond its iconic Ivy League prestige, Harvard’s name is synonymous with groundbreaking discoveries across many fields. The first computerized "Mark I" by Howard Aiken and Grace Hopper enabled complex calculations. The invention of the first synthetic gene by Har Gobind Khorana advanced genetic engineering. Nobel Prize winners George Minot, William P. Murphy, and George Whipple's research helped treat pernicious anemia with liver extracts. John F. Enders, Thomas Weller, and Frederick Robbins also received a Nobel Prize for cultivating poliovirus in tissue culture. Harvard-backed advances in neuroscience, stem cell research, and medical breakthroughs have continually pushed the boundaries of scientific knowledge.

Many impressive faculty and alumni of Harvard University have achieved great things in fields unrelated to STEM. Barack Obama graduated from Harvard Law School, and numerous U.S. Supreme Court Justices, senators, governors, and prominent lawyers are also Harvard alumni. T.S. Eliot, the renowned poet and playwright, attended Harvard. Academy Award-winning actors and directors like Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman, and Matt Damon also call Harvard their alma mater, as do business legends Warren Buffett and Sheryl Sandberg. 

Surrounded by all this history, spending part of your summer just walking through Harvard Yard and the Widener Library can spark your imagination. Add to that the summer programs we’ve included here—with their opportunities to engage with exceptional faculty and peers from all over the world, explore your favorite subjects more deeply than you can in high school, and experience the exciting freedom of college life—and your summer could be game-changing.

Summer Academic Programs at Harvard University

These summer programs offer a rich learning environment where high schoolers discover their passions by delving into various subjects through hands-on projects, interactive workshops, and challenging coursework. You’ll have access to state-of-the-art facilities and resources that allow you to learn from world-class faculty and industry experts. The connections and friendships you establish during the program can provide a lifelong network of support and collaboration. An inspiring summer program at Harvard can awaken your passion for future academic pursuits and propel you toward a successful career in various disciplines. 

We’ve arranged this list alphabetically. Some are full-residence programs, some are day-only programs, and a few have online options.

The Academies

Hosting institution: Harvard Student Agencies

Cost: $999 (virtual)-$1,500 (in-person; no housing option is offered)

Format: Online or in-person (Cambridge, MA)

Application deadline: Late March

The Academies are 1-week summer day programs in the fields of business, coding, government, and pre-medical studies, all held on Harvard's campus. Harvard undergraduates teach the courses. They make up for what they may lack in professional experience by sharing their college experiences and becoming mentors. The program also includes keynote speeches from professionals in the field, field trips, and a final project presentation. This program doesn’t offer housing, so you must arrange that separately. 

Data Science Summer Program

Hosting institution: Center for a Learning Health System (CELEHS), Harvard University  

Cost: Free, and stipends are available

Format: In-person (Boston, MA)

Application deadline: Mid-May

In this 2-week introduction to machine learning, students will build a self-driving toy car. The course starts with lectures on conceptual-level statistical learning, machine learning, and programming components. Next, you will be introduced to various machine learning methods and algorithms and their applications in different fields, including biomedicine. You also learn Python and implement the new concepts you’re learning and the classification algorithms you’re generating into programs. Lunch includes conversations with machine learning experts who’ll share their views and experience with data science.

Harvard Chan C-CHANGE Youth Summit on Climate, Equity, & Health

Hosting institutions: Putney Pre-College, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Cost: $4,490 

Format: In-person (Cambridge, MA)

Application deadline: Mid-April

Created in collaboration with Putney Pre-College, the Harvard Chan C-CHANGE Youth Summit on Climate, Equity, & Health is a week-long, residential event organized by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health's Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment (C-CHANGE). The summit aims to foster a new generation of advocates for a sustainable and equitable future. Through discussions, workshops, and collaborative activities, you will explore innovative solutions to climate-related challenges and their impact on health and equity, fostering a new generation of advocates for a sustainable and equitable future. You’ll hear from experts at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, along with policymakers, academics, and scientists working in fields related to climate change and public health. You’ll also develop your own Community Action Plan—a practical action to make lasting change when you return home—based on your interests. You’ll present your vision to your peers.

MEDscience Summer Programs

Hosting institution: Harvard Medical School

Cost: $2,100-$5,000

Format: In-person (Cambridge, MA)

Application deadline: Late March

If you’re interested in medicine, the 1 or 2-week MEDscience day programs held at Harvard Medical School are very active hands-on experiences that all use realistic medical emergencies to bring science to life. The focus here is on practical, real life application with no textbooks or homework. You’ll meet working healthcare professionals and learn to think critically and problem-solve on your feet and work together as a team. The program options offered are MEDscience@HMS, which is a shift in a simulated “Emergency Room”; MEDscienceLAB, which focuses on caring for a “patient” (the interactive STAN) and working in a research lab to diagnose and treat their disease; MEDscienceLABForensics, where you’ll learn to analyze crime scene evidence in the lab; and Moonshot (the only 2-week program), which is a biomedical engineering deep dive where you can prototype your own AI surgical robot to solve medical problems. All programs are day only and provide no residential options; students must be rising 10th, 11th, or 12th graders.

Pre-College Summer School Program for High School Students

Hosting institution: Harvard Division of Continuing Education

Cost: $5,375

Format: In-person (Cambridge, MA)

Application deadline: Early April

This 2-week program is an intensive experience designed to give you a glimpse of life at one of the most academically rigorous and leader-producing colleges in the world. These classes are non-credit so you can try college-level courses and discover your passions without fear of failure. Participants are encouraged to debate diplomatically on complex topics. You’ll also meet students all over the U.S. and 72 countries worldwide. There are over 30 courses to choose from, and some of the business and leadership offerings include management, speech, government, and economics.

Secondary School Program (SSP)

Hosting institution: Harvard Division of Continuing Education

Cost: $3,600 (virtual or commuter)-$13,750 (residential)

Format: In-person (Cambridge, MA)

Application deadline: Late February

89% of students who have taken a summer course through Harvard’s Second School Program say that this intensive 7-week experience helped them decide what they want to study in college. With over 200 courses to choose from, this program is a perfect opportunity to dive into college-level research on a topic of your interest with world-renowned faculty, from The Life and Death of Stars and their Planets to Comedy Sketch Writing. This program has three attendance options (residential, commuter, or virtual) and students have the opportunity to earn 4 or 8 college credit hours.

Summer Workshops

Hosting institution: Harvard Debate Council

Cost: $1,349 (online) - $3,849 (resident)

Format: Online or in-person (Cambridge, MA)

Application deadline: Mid-June

Whether you’re interested in debates but have never tried it or you’re a full-blown champion debater, or you’re somewhere in between, the 2-week Harvard Debate Council Summer Workshop has a spot for you. The four programs you can choose from are Public Speaking for students without competitive debating experience; Public Forum for those currently competing; Congressional Debate, a Model Congress for those currently competing or looking to compete on national topics; and Policy Debate, a two-person debate event on topics implementing domestic and/or international policy. You’ll work with instructors who are master persuaders themselves. A virtual session is also available.

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