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Princeton Summer Programs for High Schoolers

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As one of the most prestigious universities in the country, Princeton University offers a wide variety of great summer programs available to high school students. These programs are a great learning opportunity that can help further your interests in a specific topic and can also give you exposure to some of the most accomplished faculty in the world. In this article, we’ll dive into our list of top Princeton summer programs for high school students, discuss how to choose the right program for you, and how to submit a strong application.

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What to Expect Out of a Princeton Summer Program

Think of a Princeton Summer Program as an opportunity to learn in a more personal environment than in a traditional school setting and a chance to experience student life on a college campus! Some summer programs for high school students may be more class-oriented while others may be more research or project-based. Across all programs however, you should expect plenty of opportunities to learn from accomplished faculty or professionals and a community of other students who you can spend time with outside of work or class.

The Benefits of Summer Study at Princeton

We want to make clear that participating in a summer program at Princeton does not guarantee or boost your chances of admission into Princeton University in any way. The benefits mostly apply to your personal development! You get to learn important skills within specific topics, build relationships with faculty or professionals which can turn into long-term mentorship, and you also get to meet like-minded peers along the way.

Top Princeton Summer Programs

Princeton Summer Journalism Program

In this hybrid summer program, students participate in online workshops and lectures with renowned journalists from all over the country throughout the month of July. Students also complete weekly reading assignments to stay up to date on current events, begin preparing their own articles and work with an assigned college counselor to complete components of their college applications. 

For the in-person component of the program, students attend an annual 10-day residential institute on the Princeton University campus in New Jersey. Students have the chance to stay in University undergraduate dorms and attend workshops and lectures taught by renowned educators and journalists. Students will also be able to see journalism firsthand through tours of major news organizations such as The New York Times, Huffington Post, and Bloomberg. Students will then be able to contribute to their very own journal, the Princeton Summer Journal, which will be published on the program’s last day.

Overall, this program provides a comprehensive experience that allows students to develop their journalism skills in the classroom and also in the real world. The program is also designed to give students a boost in preparing for their college application process - students have the chance to attend seminars on crafting personal narratives, how applications are evaluated, and even get to meet with college admissions representatives. If you’re a high school student looking to dive deep into journalism and get a head start on your college applications, this pre-college program is perfect for you!

Topic: Journalism

Location: Hybrid - remote and in Princeton, New Jersey

Cost: No cost. Housing, meals, and transportation covered for the in-person portion of the program

Program Dates: Mid-July - August

Eligibility: Junior in high school at the time of application + must meet socioeconomic conditions. See more details here

Application Deadline: Opens in November/December, closes in late February

Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory Summer Internship

The Princeton Plasma Physics lab offers a limited number of summer internship positions for high school seniors for the summer after their high school graduation. The 8-10 week internship program provides students the chance to work on a project with a member of the research or engineering staff at the laboratory.

As an intern you’ll be working around 40 hours per week so keep that in mind if you’re thinking of pursuing other activities during your summer as well. The website recommends that you have

some experience relevant to an experimental or computational project in plasma physics, that you’ve taken some or all of the following classes: physics, chemistry, advanced math, and engineering, and that you have some experience in coding. Even if you don’t have all 3 of those experiences, we would still highly recommend you apply and emphasize your interest in plasma physics in your application!

Topic: Physics

Location: In-person, but remote projects are available (indicate that you’d prefer remote on your application)

Cost: Free

Program Dates: 8-10 weeks in the summer

Eligibility: At least 16 years of age and a graduating senior in high school when the internship begins

Application Deadline: Opens in November, closes on March 1

W.E.B. DuBois Summer Institute

The W.E.B. Du Bois Summer Institute program, located on the Princeton University campus, allows students to participate in one of three academies, including the Engineering, Pre-Med/Biological Sciences, or Leadership Academy. Participants receive five weeks of instruction in university-level courses, and classes meet Monday through Thursday, with each class meeting every other day for 120 minutes. 

This summer program is very class-based, which can be a great fit for you if you’re looking to gain experience with college-level courses. The Institute also boasts a student-faculty ratio of 1:4 so the learning environment is much more personal than a traditional school setting.

There is a cost to the program, however, and the maximum scholarship given is $800.

Topic: Various

Location: In-person - Princeton, New Jersey

Cost: $6,800

Program Dates: June 22 - July 27

Eligibility: Freshman, sophomore, or junior in high school

Application Deadline: April 3

Princeton University Preparatory Program (PUPP)

This summer program has been around for over two decades now and focuses on the college preparation and development of students from groups who’ve been historically marginalized. 

Selection is prioritized for those who would be among the first generation in their family to attend a traditional, four-year college. Once you’ve been selected as a PUPP Scholar, you participate throughout the remainder of your high school and college career! Scholars complete three, intensive six-and-a-half week summer institutes at Princeton University which include topics such as science and math, yoga and personal development, and a research symposium. Scholars also participate in school-year programming, including weekly after-school academic enrichment sessions and a series of cultural excursions. PUPP also works directly with students to navigate the college admissions process.

Although eligibility for this program is geographically limited, PUPP is truly one of the few programs out there dedicated to helping students throughout their entire journey, rather than just in one summer.

Topic: Various

Location: In-person - Princeton, New Jersey

Cost: Free

Program Dates: Throughout high school and college

Eligibility: Must attend partner high school in Mercer County, New Jersey region

Application Deadline: Not specified

Laboratory Learning Program

The Laboratory Learning Program is a full-time, free research experience where students can join an ongoing research program supervised by Princeton faculty and research staff. Students can apply for either engineering summer programs or natural sciences research opportunities. In the summer science program, there is an incredibly wide range of research program topics such as exploring lung development in lizards and birds, and even hurricane risk forecasting. 

Participation dates for the program are customized according to the schedules of the research personnel, but internships typically span 5-6 weeks. Students also create a two-page research summary report that’s due at the end of the summer session program. 

Topic: Engineering, natural sciences

Location: In-person - Princeton, New Jersey

Cost: Free

Program Dates: 5 weeks in the summer

Eligibility: 16 years of age and in high school

Application Deadline: Closed on March 15, check the website for when they reopen

The James Madison Seminar on the Principles of American Constitutionalism

In this one-week seminar, participants study the fundamental questions of equality and liberty in American political life. You’ll be able to explore questions like, “What have Americans meant by these principles of equality and liberty from the founding to the present?” Seminar readings will include primary sources such as The Federalist and Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, as well as other basic texts from American history. If you’re interested in history and politics, then this could be the perfect summer program for you. The seminar is held off-campus at the Chauncey Conference Center, but there will be opportunities during the week to visit historic Princeton and the university campus.

Topic: History, politics

Location: In-person - Princeton, New Jersey

Cost: $250

Program Dates: July 7-13

Eligibility: Upper-level high school students

Application Deadline: Closed on February 25, check the website for when they reopen

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How to Choose the Right Princeton Program

When it comes to selecting the right program for you as a high school student, the most important aspect to consider is the program topic. In order for the program to be worth your time you should be interested in the topic of the summer program, whether that’s physics, journalism, or something else. Browse through program websites to see if the projects/topics covered in the program are exciting to you!

You should also be mindful of program costs and financial aid. Some of the Princeton summer programs are free, but others have costs attached to them. Be sure to look through websites to understand tuition costs and potential opportunities for financial aid. However, keep in mind that it never hurts to apply so that you can give yourself more options for the summer, and if you do get accepted then you can work with the program to figure out appropriate financial aid.

Preparing Your Application

In the application process, Princeton’s summer programs will typically ask you to submit essays explaining your interest in the program and what you hope to gain from it. Some programs may also recommend having certain skills or experience, but in general, these programs don’t have technical skill requirements.

Writing a Stand-Out Essay

In the essay portion of the application, you must emphasize your desire to learn. Remember that applicants stand out by having clear reasons for why they’re interested in the program. Do your research by looking through the internship program website and find several parts of the program that really appeal to you. Be sure to include those parts in your essay or mention them in your general application.

Letters of Recommendation and Interviews

Some of Princeton’s summer programs may require letters of recommendation, so if you know during the school year that you’d like to apply for a Princeton program, try to build relationships with your teachers in school and show good effort in their classes. 

A few Princeton programs also have in-person interviews. For these, we recommend that you review your essays and know by heart your reasons for why you’re interested in the program. Other than that, just relax! Don’t be afraid to share what you’re passionate about or ask more questions to figure out if the program is a good fit for you. 

Making the Most Out of Your Princeton Experience

In a Princeton pre-college summer program you’ll be able to meet with some accomplished researchers or professionals, and one way to make the most out of your summer is to ask them questions and build a relationship with them. You’ll find that if you show an enthusiasm for learning, people love to be helpful. In the final days of your summer program, be sure to express your interest in keeping in touch with your mentors. Get their contact info and set up a certain frequency for staying in touch so that they can follow your journey and also connect you with future opportunities as you enter college life.

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Opportunities at Polygence

Interested in doing a research project on your own time? Explore Polygence’s Research Mentorship Program where you can explore a specific topic of your choice and work with an expert mentor to help your research come to life. Check out our blog on how Polygence alumni Arul’s research project on star formation helped him get into and thrive in his first year at Princeton University.

If you’re looking to apply to Princeton University and want help navigating the application process, check out our article on acing the Princeton alumni interview! If you’re interested in other summer programs besides Princeton, check out our article on the top Ivy League summer programs for high schoolers.

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