Polygence blog / Education and College Admissions

UIUC Summer Programs for High School Students

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The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) is the largest institution in the University of Illinois system. The campus has an undergraduate population of over 35,000 students, as well as 20,000 graduate students. In 2024, U.S. News & World Report listed UIUC at number 12 on their ranking of top public universities in the country. The school is best known as a leader in STEM fields, consistently ranking among the top ten universities in the nation for their Engineering, Computer Science, Chemistry, and Physics programs.

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Benefits of Attending Summer Programs

Attending a summer program at a top university, like UIUC, can be a defining moment in a high schooler’s college life and academic career. In addition to exploring specific topics that might not be taught in school, participating in university-led summer programs allows high school students to explore research opportunities while meeting and learning from some of the top instructors in the nation.

Types of Summer Programs at UIUC

Grainger College of Engineering Summer Camps

Eligibility: Varies by program

Program Dates: Vary by program

Application Deadline: Rolling admissions

Cost: Generally $1000 (residential program) or $600 (day program); can vary by individual camp.

UIUC’s Grainger College of Engineering offers 20 different summer camps for high schoolers, including 3 survey courses designed to introduce participants to a variety of engineering topics and 17 deeper courses in a specific subfield. Most engineering summer camp programs are in-person with both residential and commuter options, while their fully virtual survey course “What it Takes: Exploring Engineering Virtual Camp” lasts from July 2-26. Here are just a few of the available courses:

Catalyzing UR Interest in Chemical Engineering

Eligibility: 10th-12th grade

Program Dates: July 21-27, 2024

Application Deadline: Rolling

Cost: $600 (commuter) or $1000 (residential program)

One of the aims of this chemical engineering program is to support and empower groups who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields, including (but not limited to) minorities in gender, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, and ability. The program is open to all 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students.

Illinois Aerospace Institute Summer Camp

Eligibility: Rising 9th-12th graders

Program Dates: 

  • On-Campus Session 1: June 9 – 15, 2024

  • On-Campus Session 2: July 14 – 20, 2024

  • Virtual Session 3: July 21 – 27, 2024

Application Deadline: Rolling

Cost: $1000 (on-campus) or $150 (virtual)

If you are a high schooler and interested in model rockets, aerospace technology, or aerospace engineering, then consider applying to the Illinois Aerospace Institute Summer Camp. The week-long program includes discussions, projects, and hands-on engineering activities.

Molecule Maker Camp

Eligibility: 10th-12th graders

Program Dates: Jul 14-20, 2024

Application Deadline: Rolling

Cost: $1000 (residential) or $600 (commuter)

The Molecule Maker Lab Institute at UIUC’s Grainger College of Engineering offers this summer camp for high schoolers who are interested in research at the intersection of chemistry and computer science. Participants work with researchers at the lab and visit the Illinois Biological Foundry, the Beckman Institute, and the Siebel Center for Design.

Young Scholars STEMM Summer Research

Eligibility: Rising 10th-12th graders from Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin

Program Dates:

  • Online Orientation: June 11-13, 2024

  • In-person Orientation & Program Move-in/Check-in: June 17, 2024

  • In-person Research Begins: June 20, 2024

  • In-person Final Symposium: August 2, 2024

Application Deadline: Rolling admissions

Cost: Free

In addition to their summer camps, the Grainger College of Engineering organizes this six-week intensive research program for high schoolers from Illinois and neighboring states. The program is fully funded and therefore free except for transportation to and from campus (housing, meals, and a stipend are provided). Participants work alongside undergraduates, graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, and faculty in engineering, computer science, and medicine for 30-35 hours per week. 

If you are a high schooler and interested in conducting research of your own but don’t know where to start, have a look at Polygence’s research project ideas.

Digital Scholars Program

Eligibility: Rising 11th and 12th-grade students and first-year college students at City Colleges of Chicago and Illinois institutions

Program Dates: June 24-August 2, 2024

Application Deadline: Rolling

Cost: free

Location: 565 W. Adams St., Chicago

Beyond the other programs listed above, the Grainger College of Engineering works with the Discovery Partners Institute, UIC CHANCE, UIUC College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, and Swift to bring this program to Chicago-based students interested in pursuing careers related to computing and technology. The program focuses on career readiness and connecting participants to professionals in Chicago’s tech community.

Other UIUC STEM Programs

Girls' Astronomy Summer Camp

Eligibility: Rising 10th-12th graders

Program Dates: July 22-26, 2024

Application Deadline: Rolling

Cost: Free

This program is open to students of any gender while striving to empower girls who are interested in astronomy and related fields. Applicants are asked to submit an essay describing their interest in astronomy (past experience is not required).

Honeybee Biology and Beekeeping - Illini Summer Academies

Eligibility: Rising 10th-12th graders

Program Dates: June 23-27, 2024

Application Deadline: May 10, 2024

Cost: $477

Hosted by the UIUC Department of Entomology, this program allows students to safely explore beekeeping and bee research while discovering why they are crucial to our environments.

Molecular and Cellular Biology - Illini Summer Academies

Eligibility: Rising 10th-12th graders

Program Dates: June 23-27, 2024

Application Deadline: May 10, 2024

Cost: $525
Are you interested in research related to Biology or Medicine? Learn about the cellular processes that are at work in living organisms by enrolling in this introductory program, hosted by the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at UIUC. 

Summer Illinois Mathematics Camp

Eligibility: Middle and high school students

Program Dates: June 3-7, 2024

Application Deadline: April 26, 2024 (priority deadline); rolling admissions

Cost: $200

Graduate students in the Mathematics Department at UIUC teach this week-long day camp for middle and high school students. The camp offers two courses: “Rotations and the Algebra of Space” and “From Snowflakes to Seashells: Exploring Fractals”. Interested in math research? Check out this mathematics review paper from a Polygence student.

Narrative Design and Video Game Development

Eligibility: Rising 10th-12th graders

Program Dates: June 23-27, 2024

Application Deadline: May 10, 2024

Cost: $550

Although one week is not quite enough time to design and build an immersive video game experience, this program teaches the basics to rising 10th, 11th, and 12th-grade students. Topics include narrative, level design, and how to use GDevelop to build your game. If you’re interested in research related to video games, you might enjoy reading about this Polygence project on terrain generation in open-world games.

Arts and Humanities Programs

Arabic High School Program

Eligibility: Current high school students

Program Dates: June 9-22, 2024

Application Deadline: March 23, 2024 (March 9 early admission deadline)

Cost: $2500 (residential) or $1400 (commuter) — generous financial aid available

Participants in the Arabic High School Program through UIUC’s Department of Linguistics earn two University of Illinois college credits while learning the basics of Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), also known as العربية الفصحى (al-ʻArabīyah al-Fuṣḥā). No prior Arabic language experience is required. The goal of the program is to help students become familiar with the sounds and corresponding letters in Arabic, and to begin to understand and construct basic sentences.

Business and Entrepreneurship Programs

Illini Business Academy 

Eligibility: Rising 10th-12th graders

Program Dates: June 23-27, 2024

Application Deadline: May 10, 2024

Cost: $400

Participants in the Illini Summer Business Academy learn about business-related majors and careers through hands-on activities related to business ownership, brand management, and data analysis. The program is hosted by UIUC’s Gies College of Business.

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Eligibility and Application Process

Eligibility Criteria

The programs listed above are open to high schoolers, although the exact criteria for eligibility varies from program to program. For example, the Young Scholars STEMM Summer Research program is only open to students in Illinois or a neighboring state.

Application Deadlines and Required Materials

Although many of UIUC’s summer programs for high school students admit students on a rolling basis until the program is full, the programs operated through Illini Summer Academies (ISA) have an admissions cycle that ends on May 10. In order to be considered for admission, students are often asked to submit a written application demonstrating their interest and motivation in the topic and, in some cases, a recommendation from an educator.

Tips for a Successful Application

The application processes for summer programs for high school students can be confusing and competitive. To ensure that you submit the best possible application for your program of choice, Polygence can match you with a dedicated, one-on-one mentor to guide you through a college-level research project from start to finish. More information on our Core Program is available here. In addition, we recommend keeping in mind the following points:

  • Prepare your application early. If there is an early admission deadline, use it as an opportunity to get your application in ahead of others.

  • Highlight your accomplishments. Don’t be afraid to brag about yourself!

  • Keep it simple. Don’t exaggerate or add information just because you think your application is too short or not strong enough. Well-written essays that get straight to the point are usually ranked above essays that are copied, re-used, or artificially lengthened with filler content.

Safety and Supervision

Each program is supervised by staff members from UIUC. Participants entering UIUC labs receive laboratory safety training and remain under the supervision of UIUC researchers.

Costs and Financial Aid

Program Fees and Expenses

Program fees vary by program and by type of experience: residential, commuter, or virtual. In addition, some programs are fully funded and therefore free. In the list above, refer to the costs outlined below each program name.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

In many cases, need-based financial aid is available. Apply early to receive the maximum financial aid package.

Budgeting for Your Summer Experience

The listed cost of residential summer programs for high schoolers at UIUC includes housing and meals. Other expenses (laundry, transportation to and from campus on the first and last day, etc.) are not covered. For commuters, contact the program administrator to ask about transportation and food options. 

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Life After the Program

College Admissions Advantage

One of the goals of UIUC’s summer programs is to introduce students to education and career possibilities after high school, with many program alumni going on to study in related fields at top universities. Participating in a pre-college program during a summer session gives you a glimpse of the student life while possibly earning college credit. College applicants often choose to highlight their participation in summer research or enrichment programs to help demonstrate their college readiness. For information, see our article on research projects and college admissions.

Networking and Mentorship Opportunities

Working with current students and faculty is one of the top advantages of attending a university-led summer program. While on campus, whether you are participating in a residential program or commuting, be sure to ask your teachers about their experiences within their field of study. Mentorships often start at relatively short summer programs and then continue for years into the future. Keep in touch with your summer teachers!

Continuing Education and Resources at UIUC

UIUC Online offers continuing education programs for learners of all ages. Visit their website for information and course listings.