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Top UNC Summer Programs for High Schoolers

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The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, commonly referred to as UNC, holds the distinction of being the first public university in the United States. The school is known for its top-tier academics, wide array of programs, and picturesque campus. As a result, a UNC summer program can be a great opportunity to learn at a great institution and get a taste of college campus life. In this article, we’ll explore what you can expect from a UNC summer program, share our list of top UNC summer programs for high school students, and also provide some tips on the application process.

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What to Expect Out of a UNC Summer Program

Think of a UNC Summer Program as an opportunity to dive deeper into a specific topic and learn in a much more personal setting than in school, all while experiencing life on a college campus! Some programs may feel more like a class while others may be more project-based, but regardless, across all programs, you should expect plenty of opportunities to learn from accomplished faculty or professionals and expand your skill set.

The Benefits of Summer Study at UNC

We want to make clear that participating in a summer school program at UNC does not guarantee or boost your chances of admission into UNC in any way. More importantly, the benefits go directly towards your personal growth! You get to learn important skills within specific topics, engage in academic affairs, build relationships with faculty or professionals which can turn into long-term mentorship, and meet like-minded students from around the country. 

Top UNC Summer Programs

UNC Summer School

As a high school student, you can sign up to take university-level courses at UNC as a summer visiting student! The credit hours that you earn through your summer course will even be recorded on an official UNC-Chapel Hill transcript and become part of your permanent UNC record. With UNC summer courses there’s also a lot of flexibility regarding course instruction, with some courses being in-person and others being synchronously or asynchronously remote. 

In order to take a summer course however you need to submit a personal statement explaining why you want to take the specific course and how it will help you. Therefore, you should first thoroughly reflect on what you want to get out of a course and also do extensive research on the courses that are available. You also can’t take a course at UNC if your high school offers the same or a comparable course.

Topic: Various

Location: UNC-Chapel Hill campus or Remote

Cost: See here for full tuition details

Program Dates: Throughout the summer

Eligibility: Honor roll students who have completed their junior year of high school

Application Deadline: February 1

UNCG Young Writers’ Camp (YWC)

Students at the UNCG Young Writers’ Camp create 21st-century texts using digital tools such as storyboarding, blogging, and movie-making. Students participate in daily writing workshops and also have the chance to learn from  UNCG faculty, graduate students, NC teachers, and local authors. The program is designed to introduce young writers to the writing process and help them develop their style. 

There’s a lot of freedom to write in the style and genre that you want and there are also great mentorship opportunities in this summer session program as well. If you’re interested in seeing what past students have written, check out the Student Works section on the program website.

Topic: Writing

Location: UNC Greensboro Campus

Cost: Not specified

Program Dates: Two weeks in July

Eligibility: High school students interested in writing!

Application Deadline: Check website for Summer 2025 details

UNC Rural Medicine Academy

UNC Rural Medicine Summer Academy (RMSA) is a partnership program between the UNC Department of Family Medicine and the UNC School of Medicine Office of Rural Initiatives to create a 5-day experience where students will be introduced to a career in medicine. 

The program is designed to be hands-on and will allow students to explore things such as medical simulation, mentorship opportunities, CPR certifications, shadowing, and leadership workshops. If you’re thinking of pursuing a pre-med track in college, this is a great opportunity for you to better understand the world of medicine!

Topic: Medicine

Location: UNC Chapel Hill campus (housing provided)

Cost: Free

Program Dates: June 23-28

Eligibility: Rising seniors in high school

Application Deadline: April 1

iD Tech Camps

These 1-week tech camps offer students the opportunity to learn about topics such as VR, robotics engineering, digital video production, and AI + machine learning! Students learn from educators recruited from top universities, and the camp does a good job in emphasizing balance between learning and fun. 

Students will spend approximately 5 hours on the computer, but for the rest of the day they’ll have the opportunity to participate in traditional summer camp activities such as sports and gaming tournaments. Be sure to browse through the different course topics to find the one that’s most interesting to you.

Topic: Coding, robotics

Location: UNC Chapel Hill campus

Cost: From ~$1,199

Program Dates: June 17 - July 26, courses are usually 1 week long

Eligibility: All high schoolers

Application Deadline: Varies, check website for specific deadlines

UNC Health Volunteers

Interested in how hospitals operate? The high school volunteers junior program at the UNC Medical Center is an 8-week volunteer opportunity for students looking to learn more about how hospitals run while giving back to their community. 

Volunteers help out in areas such as gift shop, nursing units, outpatient clinics, and guest services. Volunteer tasks include checking in with patients, answering call bells, wayfinding, clerical work, and other supportive duties. Note that the program is not a shadowing experience but a true volunteer program. However, it’s still a great opportunity to see firsthand how a hospital works and the different roles that workers play in running a great hospital.

Topic: Healthcare, nursing

Location: UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill

Cost: Free

Program Dates: June 17 - August 9

Eligibility: At least 14 years old and completed 1st year of high school by program date

Application Deadline: March 1

North Carolina Health Careers Access Program (NC-HCAP)

One of the main goals of NC-HCAP is to grow the future health care workforce by increasing an interest in health careers among students. Each year, the NC-HCAP sponsors a number of fun, hands-on health exploration programs and activities. 

Two programs that we want to highlight here are The Leadership Series for Future Health Professionals and the Health Professionals Forum. The Leadership Series is a series of webinars focused on career exploration and development and gives students deeper insight into the work being done in the healthcare sector. The Health Professionals Forum is an annual event that brings North Carolina’s high-school students together to learn more about the different opportunities available in the health professions. The Forum specifically educates students about health problems disproportionately affecting underrepresented and disadvantaged populations, the need for greater numbers of minority health professionals, and the steps they can take to pursue health careers. If you’re excited about a future career in health, then both of these two programs can be great ways to learn about different careers and understand the most pressing healthcare issues in the country.

Topic: Healthcare

Location: UNC Chapel Hill campus or remote

Cost: Free

Program Dates: Throughout summer

Eligibility: All high schoolers

Application Deadline: No application required

Project Uplift 

This special program has been around for 50 years where high school seniors experience college life on Carolina’s campus for a full day. Students learn about the admissions and financial aid process, meet other students from around the country, attend a culture show, and interact with Carolina students, faculty, and staff. 

If your parents/guardians are also interested in joining the programming, they have the option to attend a parent panel, where they learn about academic and campus resources available to their student. Although this program is only for a day, it allows you to speak with faculty and admissions and learn more about the school.

Topic: College Prep

Location: UNC Chapel Hill campus

Cost: $50 

Program Dates: 3 sessions available throughout June 

Eligibility: Rising high school seniors across the country

Application Deadline: March 15

Uplift PLUS

This 2-week summer academic enrichment and college readiness program is a supplementary program to Project Uplift and only for North Carolina residents. During the program, participants live on campus, take an essay writing course where they draft their first college application essay, and participate in cultural competence workshops. 

Students in the school program will also receive one-on-one mentorship from current Carolina students, making this program much more intensive than Project Uplift. If you’re looking for guidance on your college admissions essay writing this is a great pre-college program. There is no separate application for Uplift PLUS, so if you’re interested in the program you must indicate on your Project Uplift application. 

Topic: College Prep

Location: UNC Chapel Hill campus

Cost: $1200

Program Dates: 3 sessions available throughout June 

Eligibility: Rising high school seniors, must be a Project Uplift participant and North Carolina resident

Application Deadline: March 15

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How to Choose the Right UNC Program

The most important thing to consider when choosing a summer enrichment program is the topic of the program. For the program to be worth your time you should be interested in the topic and material, whether that’s medicine, English, or working on your college admissions essay.

You should also be mindful of session length, program costs and financial aid. Some of the UNC summer programs are free, but others have costs. Be sure to browse through websites carefully to understand tuition costs and potential scholarship opportunities. 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 to figure out the financial assistance that you need.

Preparing Your Application

In the application process, UNC summer programs will typically ask you to submit essays explaining your interest in the program and what you hope to gain from it. Some UNC summer programs for high school students 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, it’s important that you emphasize your desire to learn about the specific topic that your program focuses on. Remember that applicants stand out by having clear reasons for why they’re interested in the program, rather than by having more technical skills than other applicants. 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 UNC’s summer programs may require letters of recommendation, so if you know during the school year that you’d like to apply for a UNC summer program, try to build relationships with your teachers in high school and show that you care about the class material.

A few UNC 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 ask the interviewer more questions about the program to figure out if it is a good fit for you. Sometimes we’re so worried about what questions the interviewer might ask us that we forget to ask our own pressing questions!

Making the Most Out of Your UNC Experience

In a UNC summer program you’ll be able to meet with some accomplished researchers or professionals, and one way to really make the most out of your summer is to build a relationship with them. Ask them questions, show enthusiasm for the work you do, and maybe find if there are other ways that you can be helpful beyond your set daily tasks. You’ll find that people appreciate enthusiasm and initiative from students! Also, in the final days of your summer session 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.

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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. 

If you’re interested in learning more about other summer programs in the state of North Carolina, check out our page that covers 17 Research and Summer Programs in North Carolina for High School Students and includes programs from other NC schools like Wake Forest and Duke. And if you’re just looking for more summer program options, read our list for the 20 Most Competitive Summer Programs!

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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