Polygence blog / Research Opportunities and Ideas

Best MIT Summer Programs for High School Students

8 minute read

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As a high school student interested in engineering or math, attending a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) summer program is an unparalleled opportunity to explore your passions, expand your knowledge, and engage with like-minded peers.

The prestigious MIT was founded in 1861 by William Barton Rogers with the mission to provide practical, hands-on education in engineering and applied sciences to meet the growing demands of the industrial revolution. It is renowned for its groundbreaking research, innovative culture, and academic excellence. Famous former alumni include Richard Feynman and Buzz Aldrin.

MIT generated innovations such as GPS and the Human Genome Project, along with contributions to autonomous vehicles, nuclear power generation, and more. The fact that MIT alumni, faculty, and researchers have been awarded a total of 93 Nobel Prizes in the categories of Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Economic Sciences, and Peace speaks for itself. 

Summer Academic Programs at MIT

MIT's summer programs offer a rich learning environment where high schoolers can delve into various subjects through hands-on projects, interactive workshops, and challenging coursework.

You’ll have access to state-of-the-art facilities and resources, allowing 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. Ultimately, a summer program at MIT can be a life-changing experience that prepares you for future academic pursuits and propels you toward a successful career in engineering, mathematics, or other related disciplines.

Here are the best summer programs available at MIT, in alphabetical order. One thing to note is that the free programs are significantly more competitive to get into. Some of these programs are so notoriously selective that simply attending them can help you stand out to college admissions officers. 

Beaver Works Summer Institute (BWSI)

Hosting institution: Lincoln Laboratory | School of Engineering

Acceptance rate: Unavailable, 40 students are accepted  

Cost: Free

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

Application deadline: March 31st

This prestigious 4-week hands-on, project-based learning program is a partnership between MIT Lincoln Laboratory and the MIT School of Engineering, and it’s a “collaboration for collaboration.” All of the courses involve some sort of engineering, coding, and/or design challenge, such as: building an autonomous racecar, an autonomous cognitive assistant, or a CubeSat; engaging in security hacking attempts; or testing ideas on a quantum computing simulator.

Some courses have virtual and in-person components, and some have prerequisite courses, so be sure to read the course descriptions carefully. As BWSI is not a residential program, you will need to provide your own room and board.

Fundamentals of Engineering at MIT

Hosting institution: Summer Springboard

Acceptance rate: Unavailable, 60 students are accepted

Cost: $3,098- $5,398

Format: In-person (Cambridge, MA)

Application deadline: Rolling admissions

This 2-week residential or commute-in program gives you access to some of the most cutting-edge engineering labs in the world. You’ll learn fundamentals through hands-on challenges and simulations, all starting with an intro to MATLAB computer programming. Your Fundamentals of Engineering at MIT instructors are Ph.D.-level professors in mechanical engineering.

Mathroots

Hosting institution: MIT-PRIMES

Acceptance rate: 5%

Cost: Free

Format: In-person (Cambridge, MA)

Application deadline: March 1st

The group activities and guest lectures in this 14-day program focus on creative problem solving you won’t see in your regular high school math classes. You’ll be introduced to techniques of mathematical proof, creative problem-solving, and ideas in higher mathematics.

Mathroots is intended for promising high school students from underrepresented backgrounds or underserved communities interested in exploring creative topics in mathematics.

Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES) Summer

Hosting institution: MIT

Acceptance rate: 4%

Cost: Free

Format: In-person (Cambridge, MA)

Application deadline: February 1st

MITES is a challenging 6-week, residential program for rising seniors at MIT that is geared toward historically underrepresented and underserved students. You’ll take seminars with esteemed STEM professionals and tour local companies that employ MITES alumni and MIT labs.

You’ll also be part of an extraordinary success community. Many of the program’s alumni go on to study at MIT, Harvard, Princeton, Brown, and Stanford. It’s an amazing opportunity for gaining experience and building your network.

National Geographic’s Engineering & Robotics on the MIT Campus

Hosting institution: National Geographic Student Travel

Acceptance rate: Unavailable

Cost: $6,490

Format: In-person (Cambridge, MA)

Application deadline: Rolling admission

If you really want to attend a summer program at MIT, but the low acceptance rates create a barrier for you or are otherwise too competitive, this 10-day guided program is another option. Though pricier, scholarships are available (be sure to review the eligibility requirements).

This partnership program between National Geographic and MIT focuses on technology that’s being developed to rebuild coastlines at the Self-Assembly lab at MIT, rapid prototyping of robotic tech for exploration, and other innovative work being done by National Geographic Explorers. Classes are led by MIT and Nat Geo experts.

Program for Research in Mathematics, Engineering and Science for High School Students (MIT PRIMES and PRIMES USA)

Hosting institution: MIT (MIT PRIMES | PRIMES USA)

Acceptance rate: Unavailable, but these are highly competitive programs

Cost: Free

Format: Online (for PRIMES USA) and in-person (Cambridge, MA)

Application deadline: November 30th

MIT has a few year-long research projects, both for students in the Greater Boston area (MIT PRIMES) and a distance mentoring version for students outside of Boston (PRIMES USA). In both of these programs, you’ll be able to work on an advanced research project, collaborate with MIT faculty and grad students, publish your work, and give an oral presentation of your findings.

An impressive 45% of PRIMES alumni go on to become college students at MIT. You’ll also do extensive reading on advanced mathematical topics. There are a few other year-long MIT math programs, including Yulia’s Dream (specifically for students from the Ukraine) and CrowdMath (a collaborative year-long research project).

Radar Introduction for Student Engineers (LLRISE)

Hosting institution: Lincoln Laboratory

Acceptance rate: ∼7.5%  

Cost: Free

Format: In-person (Cambridge, MA and Lexington, MA)

Application deadline: March 10th

This Lincoln Laboratory program is a 2-week hands-on session devoted entirely to building small radar systems.Radar systems are used in several industries: in aviation for air traffic control and weather monitoring; in defense for surveillance and target detection; in maritime navigation for collision avoidance; and in automotive applications for adaptive cruise control and collision avoidance systems. The LLRISE project-based enrichment program provides opportunities for students to collaborate with highly talented scientists and engineers. Note that you must be an incoming high school senior to be eligible to attend LLRISE (i.e., submit your application in your junior year).

Research Science Institute (RSI)

Hosting institution: Center for Excellence in Education

Acceptance rate: <5%

Cost: Free

Format: In-person (Cambridge, MA)

Application deadline: January 14th

This is always one of our top most cost-effective, prestigious, academically rigorous, socially enriching picks. RSI only admits about 100 high school juniors each year from a pool of thousands of applicants. (i.e., no seniors allowed). RSI is hosted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and includes a five week research internship and development of written and oral presentation about the research project, which you will give in the final week of the program.

Students are selected based on their academic achievements, research potential, and personal qualities such as creativity, leadership, and motivation. The program is free with all expenses paid, including travel, room and board, and research supplies.

Summer Science Program (SSP)

Hosting institution: Various 

Acceptance rate: 10%

Cost: $8,400 (but most qualify for discounts)

Format: In-person (host campuses include New Mexico Tech,

University of Colorado, Purdue University, Indiana University, Harvey Mudd

College, Caltech, and MIT)

Application deadline: March 3rd

This 5-week “educational experience of a lifetime” is open to high school juniors. Running since 1959, SSP immerses its 12 research teams (of 3 participants each) in a difficult research project. Past programs have included astrophysics, biochemistry, and genomics. You will also attend guest lectures, go on various field trips, and meet other brilliant kids from all over the world.

To increase its accessibility, the program fee is scaled to what each family can afford. Most attendees are entering their junior year; enrollment is limited to students who are at least 15 years old and younger than 19.

Women’s Technology Program (WTP)

Hosting institution: MIT

Acceptance rate: 3%

Cost: Free

Format: In-person (Cambridge, MA)

Application deadline: January 15th

Girl power! WTP is a rigorous 4-week day program (i.e., no dorms, commute-in only) for the summer after your junior year. Full-time residence in the U.S. is an eligibility requirement and enrollment is limited to 20 students. WTP classes are designed and taught by MIT graduate students, with support from undergraduates. In past years, the focus has been on electrical engineering, computer science, and mechanical engineering.

In addition to attending the in-person classes and activities, participants will need to complete assignments at home in the evening. The program provides loaner laptops for this purpose. Apply to WTP if you like problem-solving and are rather new to, but very interested in, engineering. Financial assistance is available for public transportation to and from the MIT campus if those commuting costs will be a hardship for the student’s family.

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