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Top 10 Astrophysics/Space Science Summer Programs for High School Students

6 minute read

Pursuing a journey to explore the mysteries of the universe is an exhilarating endeavor, especially for high school students with a passion for astrophysics and space sciences. Fortunately, many summer programs are designed to nurture this curiosity and provide hands-on experiences. In this blog post, we’ve curated a list of the ten best astrophysics and space science summer programs for high school students, each offering unique opportunities to delve into the solar system and beyond. 

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What are the best summer programs for students interested in astrophysics?

#1 Experimental Physics Research Academy

  1. Hosting Institution: University of Pennsylvania

  2. Location: Philadelphia, PA

  3. Application Deadline: February 15

  4. Cost: $9,700

UPenn’s Experimental Physics Research Academy is an opportunity for students to understand astrophysics in the context of general physics concepts. Students gain the opportunity to learn about different physics concepts through lectures, discussions, panels, and hands-on activities. If you want to gain an understanding of not just astrophysics but other space physics concepts such as mechanics, electromagnetism, and quantum dynamics, this is a great program for you. 

#2 The Summer Science Program

  1. Hosting Institution: CalTech, MIT

  2. Location: UC Boulder, New Mexico State University, UNC Chapel Hill

  3. Application Deadline: February 16 

  4. Cost: $8,400

The Summer Science Program, hosted at a variety of universities, seeks to expand high school student’s knowledge in the realm of astrophysics. Using an interdisciplinary approach and teaching about related subjects such as mathematics and scientific programming enables this program to elevate students’ learning experience from solely theoretical to applied. An example of a past project is asteroid orbit determination, and determining future positions of these objects. 

#3 NASA High School Aerospace Scholars

  1. Hosting Institution: NASA

  2. Location: Houston, TX

  3. Application Deadline: October 19

  4. Cost: Free

NASA’s High School Aerospace Scholars is a program where high schoolers delve into the world of aerospace. Students get to engage in real-world challenges, interact with NASA scientists, and explore the intricacies of space missions. This space studies program is offered free of charge and provides a unique year-long opportunity for Texas residents to deepen their understanding of space exploration. 

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#4 Yale Summer Program in Astrophysics

  1. Hosting Institution: Yale University

  2. Location: New Haven, CT

  3. Application Deadline: March 8

  4. Cost: $7,500

Yale’s Summer Program in Astrophysics is a unique program that offers the benefits of both a summer course and a summer research opportunity. Students first spend two weeks in a self-study portion online, followed by four weeks in a residential program. Across the six weeks, you will take classes that teach you to program and analyze data in a computer lab, which you will then use to collect data with Yale’s telescope at the Leitner Observatory. This is a great summer program for students looking to get a true hands-on astrophysics experience and walk away with a tangible product. 

#5 Research Science Institute

  1. Hosting Institution: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  2. Location: Cambridge, MA

  3. Application Deadline: December 13

  4. Cost: Free

MIT’s Research Science Institute invites high school students to attend lectures and conduct hands-on experiments to understand the astrophysics research cycle from start to finish. Led by renowned faculty, participants gain insights into the latest planetary science and technology advancements while honing their analytical and research skills. This program not only provides a glimpse into the rigors of academic life but also fosters a passion for inquiry and scientific exploration. 

#6 Physics of Atomic Nuclei

  1. Hosting Institution: Michigan State University

  2. Location: East Lansing, MI

  3. Application Deadline: March 24

  4. Cost: Free

Physics of Atomic Nuclei, hosted at Michigan State University, is a chance for students to learn about astrophysics from a different lens. Rather than looking up at the sky, students have the chance to look down at the very particles that make up everything around us. This week-long program allows participants to work at one of the top rare-isotope laboratories in the world, learning about astrophysics, cosmology, and nuclear science. 

#7 Clark Scholars Program

  1. Hosting Institution: Texas Tech

  2. Location: Lubbock, TX

  3. Application Deadline: February 15

  4. Cost: Free

The Clark Scholars Program grants twelve highly qualified a coveted seven-week research experience at Texas Tech Honors College. With one of the tracks being physics, students can partake in astrophysics research. It’s important to note, that students should have some level of background in physics/astrophysics, as this is a pure research program with minimal coursework. It’s also important to note how selective the program is, accepting only twelve juniors and seniors from across the nation, so it’s best to apply to this program among others. 

#8 Introduction to Astronomy

  1. Hosting Institution: Carnegie Mellon University

  2. Location: Pittsburgh, PA

  3. Application Deadline: March 1

  4. Cost: $6,722

Introduction to Astronomy, hosted at Carnegie Mellon’s Summer Session, is an introductory course into the world of astronomy. This course is meant to be very beginner-friendly, so if you are looking for a more challenging course load or research opportunities, this may not be the best program for you. With a focus on encouraging non-technical students to become scientifically literate, Intro to Astronomy is an ideal option for those starting from ground zero in terms of applied and theoretical astrophysics astrophysics knowledge. 

#9 Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Sciences (PGSS)

  1. Hosting Institution: Carnegie Mellon University

  2. Location: Pittsburgh, PA

  3. Application Deadline: January 31

  4. Cost: Free

PGSS is a program hosted by Carnegie Mellon offered for Pennsylvania residents that covers a wide range of science topics. This is a great option for students interested in all sciences and research areas, not just astrophysics. Students are required to take five core courses: biotechnology of HIV and AIDS, organic chemistry, concepts of modern physics, discrete mathematics, and computer science. Students can also take electives, some of the past examples include AI and machine learning, how and why to go beyond the discovery of the Higgs Boson, and more. In addition to courses, students also have lab research in one subject area and team projects. All of this is accomplished in 35 days, making it one of the most rigorous programs on this list. 

#10 California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science (COSMOS)

  1. Hosting Institution: State of California

  2. Location: UC Irvine, Davis, San Diego, Santa Cruz

  3. Application Deadline: February 9

  4. Cost: $5,007

COSMOS is a four-week residential program offered at four different UC campuses for California residents. As of 2024, Introduction to Astrophysics is only offered at UC Davis. The Intro to Astrophysics course requires an Algebra II prerequisite, but no other science prerequisites. Similar to Introduction to Astronomy hosted at CMU, this course tends to lean towards the beginner side but is not as rudimentary as CMU’s course. Core concepts covered include foundations of astronomy, star and planet formation, and stellar evolution. 

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More Summer Opportunities in Astrophysics

These ten astrophysics and space sciences summer programs offer many opportunities for high school students looking to explore their passion for the cosmos. Whether you’re interested in hands-on experiments, astronomical observations, or engaging with renowned scientists, these programs provide a launchpad for your journey into the captivating world of astrophysics!

Interested in more ways to study the skies? See if you live by any observatories and reach out to see how you can be involved in their space research. Additionally, some incredible observations of outer space can be accomplished right at home and within local hobbyist groups. 

Ready to take on your own undergraduate research project? Polygence’s core program is ready to help you find a pathway forward in your investigations, and our mentors, like Candice and Carissa, are dedicated to your future success!

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