Polygence blog / Research Opportunities and Ideas

Top Virtual Research Opportunities for High School Students

14 minute read

For high school students interested in diving deep into a subject area they are passionate about, virtual research opportunities are a great way to get started.

Virtual research programs have the advantages of being more accessible and affordable than on-campus research. In this list, we’ve identified outstanding research opportunities which can be completed entirely online. They vary in subject matter from STEM, to the humanities, to entrepreneurship, and they vary in length from a single week to an entire academic year, so there is something for everyone’s interests and desired time commitment.

The vast majority of these programs also offer scholarships to help make them accessible to low-income and underrepresented students. Read on to find out about the best virtual research opportunities available for teens in 2023-2024.

As eligibility requirements, deadlines, and costs may fluctuate year to year, it is best to view the specific websites of any programs you’re interested in to ensure you’re viewing the most current information available.

Opportunities are listed alphabetically in ascending order, based on the hosting institution.

24 Virtual Online Program Opportunities for High Schoolers

1. CrowdMath

Hosting institutions: Art of Problem Solving (AoPS) Online

Cost: Free

Financial aid: N/A

Duration: One year

College credit: No

Eligibility: High schoolers and college students with advanced math preparation

A collaboration between MIT PRIMES and the Art of Problem Solving, CrowdMath is a large-scale collaborative mathematical research project which tackles unsolved problems in a different field of math every year. This community is free to join and within it, students become a part of a community of brilliant peers and top-tier mentors from MIT. This polymath project sometimes leads to results which are published under a collective pseudonym. This is a premiere online community of the world’s best young mathematicians and a perfect opportunity to gain experience in collaborative math research.

Explore Polygence’s list of Math research and passion project ideas for high school students

2. Summer Program

Hosting institution: AwesomeMath

Cost: $1,075-$1,375 per course, depending on enrollment period and payment date

Financial aid: None

Duration: Three weeks

College credit: No

Eligibility: All high school students

AwesomeMath offers an intensive online summer program for high schoolers who are advanced in math and seeking to train their problem solving skills for math competitions such as the AMC, AIME, or IMO. The summer program offers courses at four different skill levels across four subjects – Algebra, Combinatorics, Geometry, and Number Theory – during three sessions throughout the summer. This is an essential program for students seeking targeted training in advanced problem solving for math competitions beyond what their high school can provide.

3. BETA Camp Summer: Launch a Real Business in 4 Weeks

Hosting institution: BETA Camp

Cost: $3,000 (early bird pricing; can be broken into five installments of $600 each)

Financial aid: yes; partial scholarships are available on a needs-based basis

Duration: Four weeks

College credit: No

Eligibility: Ages 13-18

BETA Camp is a unique virtual entrepreneurship opportunity for ambitious and talented teens to turn their idea for a startup into a reality, through a combination of expert mentorship, a dynamic community of young entrepreneurs, and a rigorous business curriculum. In this MBA-inspired program, students will learn how to ideate, research, market, and pitch their startup to investors. BETA Camp alumni have gone on to raise millions of dollars in funding, secure internships with top global companies like TikTok, give TED talks, and more. Students will emerge from this program with improved skills in public speaking, leadership, and teamwork, which will prepare them to become the business leaders of tomorrow.

BETA Camp Junior is an 8-week program for students ages 10-13 to learn about careers in business and entrepreneurship.

The Polygence Pathfinders Program

Pathfinders is a career discovery mentorship experience designed to help you explore different career paths and gain more clarity about your future. Learn from three world class mentors in the fields of your choice and discover your passions!

4. Summer Academy for High School Students

Hosting institution: Boston Architectural College (BAC)

Cost: $1,200 (for early bird registration) or $1,500

Financial aid: Scholarships available

Duration: Four Weeks (July to August)

College credit: Yes; 11th and 12th graders may earn 1.5 credits upon program completion

Eligibility: 9th-12th graders, worldwide

This program is designed for students seeking hands-on experience in architecture, interior design, landscape design, and more. Virtual students explore case study buildings, take virtual tours, and receive a kit of materials and tools to allow them to conduct hands-on design work from home. All students gain access to cutting-edge design software, keep a sketchbook, build a digital and physical portfolio that can help them apply to college, and receive a 3D printing pen.

Explore Polygence’s list of Architecture research and passion project ideas for high school students

5. Leadership Institute

Hosting institution: Brown University

Cost: $5,313

Financial aid: Need-based and merit scholarships

Duration: Four weeks

College credit: No

Eligibility: Rising juniors, seniors, and college freshman

The Leadership Institute at Brown University provides high school students passionate about social justice the opportunity to turn their passion for social issues into action. Students in the program connect with a community of like-minded peers to discuss complex social issues and collaboratively brainstorm solutions to problems. This experience will sharpen students’ skills in active listening, problem-solving, conflict resolution, public speaking, and working as a team. At the end of the program, students take all that they have learned and create an original action plan which they can take back to their home community and use to make positive change.

Brown University also has a Summer@Brown Online program available to high school students who have completed grade 9 through 12 heading into the summer. Through this program, students may choose to enroll in 2, 3, 4, and 6-week courses on a wide variety of topics.

6. Pre-College Program

Hosting institution: Emory University College of Arts and Sciences

Cost: $3,135-$7,567 plus fees, depending on course length

Financial aid: Need-based scholarships available

Duration: Two, four, or six weeks

College credit: Yes, for six-week programs (three or four credits)

Eligibility: Grades 11 and 12

Emory’s Pre-College program offers over 100 courses each summer to high school students taught by experts in their fields, many of which can be taken online. Subject areas offered Summer 2023 included Social Justice: Activism and Co-optation, Readings in Pop Lit and Culture: The Harry Potter Phenomenon, Behavioral Biology, and American Crime Fiction. Students can choose to take two or four-week noncredit courses with fellow high school students, or six-week three or four credit courses with Emory undergraduates as their peers.

7. Economics for Leaders (EFL) Virtual

Hosting institution: Foundation for Teaching Economics (FTE)

Cost: $800 plus $35 application processing fee

Financial aid: Scholarships available (typically ranging from $100-$400)

Duration: One week

College credit: Optional

Eligibility: Rising high school juniors and seniors (apply during sophomore or junior year)

This competitive summer program is designed to teach high school students to integrate economic principles into their decision-making and shape them into effective public policy leaders. The program is taught by economics professors and leadership experts selected for their deep knowledge and effective teaching skills. Classes are interactive and involve group work as well as individual assignments. This is an excellent opportunity for students interested in research in economics and public policy.

EFL Virtual program participants have the option to pursue two undergraduate college credit hours through the University of Colorado.

Find out what high school students can do to prepare to pursue a degree in Economics

8. Medical Research Program

Hosting institution: Georgetown University

Cost: $1,495 - $1,795

Financial aid: Need-based scholarships available

Duration: One, two, and four-week sessions

College credit: No

Eligibility: Rising high school students and college freshman

Georgetown University offers a unique online research intensive for high school students interested in pursuing medical research in college. Through this program, students learn the clinical research process and the steps of evidence-based medicine (EBM), consider the ethics of medical research, develop their own study using professional methods, and learn how to convert their research study into an effective scientific publication. The mentorship, capstone project, and flexible learning model provided by this virtual experience are invaluable to any student interested in medical school and clinical research in the future.

Explore Polygence’s list of Medical research and passion project ideas for high school students

9. Secondary School Program (SSP) Online

Hosting institution: Harvard University Division of Continuing Education (DCE)

Cost: $3,700 per four credit course, plus $75 application fee

Financial aid: Need-based

Duration: Seven weeks

College credit: Yes

Eligibility: Rising 10th, 11th, and 12th graders

89% of high school students who have taken a summer course through Harvard’s Secondary School Program say that the experience helped them decide what they want to study in college. With over 200 courses to choose from, this program is a perfect opportunity to dive into college-level research on a topic of your interest with world-renowned faculty, from The Life and Death of Stars and their Planets to Comedy Sketch Writing.

Learn about additional Harvard University summer programs and opportunities for high school students 

10. Pre-College Summer Programs

Hosting institution: Johns Hopkins University

Cost: $1,950 (one credit), $562 (non-credit)

Financial aid: Scholarships available through Dean’s Fellowship

Duration: Two to ten weeks

College credit: Optional

Eligibility: All high school students

Each summer, premiere research institute Johns Hopkins University offers a wide variety of online pre-college programs and courses to high school students. These online courses are self-paced while also incorporating live instruction and offered at a range of time frames, so that students can easily fit them into their busy summer schedules. While offering courses in all subjects, the Johns Hopkins Pre-College Summer Program has particularly unique and hands-on opportunities for students interested in medicine, such as Medical School Intensive and Introduction to Surgery.

11. Hands-On Programs for Teens and Kids

Hosting institution: New York Film Academy (NYFA)

Cost: $325 (single weekend); $2,625 (four-week summer filmmaking camp)

Financial aid: None

Duration: Weekend

College credit: No

Eligibility: Ages 14-17

The New York Film Academy offers online weekend programs for teens in filmmaking, acting for film, and 3D animation. NYFA youth programs help students understand the language of cinema and learn how to create a film from the storyboard to the editing bay and you can participate from the comfort of your own home. For students whose research interests lie with film, this is an experience you don’t want to miss!

NYFA’s four-week summer filmmaking camp is an immersive, hands-on experience for teens. In this camp, participants create three short films as they learn about different elements of the filmmaking process.

12. College Preparation Program

Hosting institution: Northwestern University

Cost:  $5,407 (for credit courses)

Financial aid: Scholarships available

Duration: Three to ten weeks

College credit: Yes

Eligibility: Rising juniors and seniors

Northwestern University, an R1 research university in Chicago, offers a robust catalog of online courses for high school upperclassmen which earn students college credit. From a Linguistics course on Meaning to an Anthropology course on Human Origins, there are so many interesting course options to choose from, all of which are taught by Northwestern faculty who treat pre-college students with the same attention and care as their undergraduate students.

Northwestern University also has two-week, non-credit online e-FOCUS courses in the summer that are available to high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

13. International Summer School for Young Physicists (ISSYP)

Hosting institution: Perimeter Institute

Cost: $250 CAD

Financial aid: Scholarships available

Duration: Two weeks

College Credit: No

Eligibility: Grades 11-12

For more than 20 years, ISSYP has been training the next generation of theoretical physicists. Designed specifically for high schoolers who have taken at least one physics course and plan to study physics at the university level, this two-week online program will introduce students to the key concepts in modern physics such as quantum mechanics, cosmology, special and general relativity, and black holes.

Through interactive, hands-on mini-courses, keynote speakers, career panels, and a community of like-minded peers, this affordable program is ideal for budding physicist researchers in their junior or senior years of high school.

Explore Polygence’s list of Physics research and passion project ideas for high school students

14. Research Training Program for High School Students

Hosting institution: Seattle Children’s Hospital

Cost: None

Financial aid: N/A

Duration: One week

College Credit: No

Eligibility: Rising juniors, seniors, and high school graduates taking a gap year

The Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Training Program is a competitive program which comes at no cost to accepted students. The one-week online program welcomes student applicants from anywhere in the world (students within commuting distance also have the option to apply for a three week in-person experience). Students will attend lectures and lab demonstrations on biochemistry, immunology, and public health, and there will be opportunities for office hours with research scientists, small group discussions, and college and career panels.

15. Mathematics Camp

Hosting institution: Stanford University

Cost: $3,550

Financial aid: Need-based scholarships available

Duration: Three weeks

College credit: No

Eligibility: Grades 10-11

Stanford University Mathematics Camp (SUMaC) Online is the ideal opportunity for high students who have taken advanced math course work and are interested in studying pure math topics and conducting original research. Online students can choose from two different summer sessions on Abstract Algebra & Number Theory and Algebraic Topology, respectively.

The online program has the advantages of being more affordable and faster paced in its instruction than the in-person program. Students have daily access to lectures from world-class faculty and to teaching assistants to help them with problem solving. They present their final research projects at the end of the program to an audience of peers and Stanford Math faculty.

16. Stanford AI4ALL: Live Virtual Program

Hosting institution: Stanford University, Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI)

Cost: Free

Financial aid: N/A

Duration: Three weeks (late June to mid-July)

College credit: No

Eligibility: Rising high school sophomores (summer between freshman and sophomore year)

This intensive three-week program offered through Stanford University's Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence aims to increase diversity in the field of AI, introduce young people to cutting-edge concepts in the field, and empower them to conduct their own research. Students work with Stanford AI Lab to address real-world problems with AI through a combination of lectures, mentoring activities, and hands-on research. This is an opportunity not to be missed by budding young computer scientists looking to study at one of the top CS and AI universities in the world.

Explore Polygence’s list of Artificial Intelligence research and passion project ideas for high school students

17. Clinical Neuroscience Immersion Experience (CNI-X)

Hosting institution: Stanford University Medicine; Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Cost: $1,295

Financial aid: Scholarships available upon request

Duration: Two weeks

College credit: No

Eligibility: Rising high school juniors, seniors, and college freshman

This summer intensive offered through Stanford University’s Department of Behavioral and Psychological Sciences is designed to introduce students to state-of-the-art research in neuroscience, psychiatry, and psychology, culminating in a collaborative capstone project. These final projects are presented at the end of the program to an audience of Stanford professors, peers, and families.

18. Summer College – Research Immersion Program

Hosting institution: Syracuse University

Cost: $1,985, plus $65 application fee

Financial aid: Scholarships available

Duration: Six weeks

College Credit: No

Eligibility: High school students ages 15 or older by program start date

Newly-launched in 2023, Syracuse University’s Summer College - Research Immersion Program (SCRIP) is a highly selective six week program which gives high school students the opportunity to work directly with faculty on new and existing research projects. All students are involved in the collection and assessment of data which culminates in a final presentation. Course offerings will vary each year; in 2023, it was a service-learning research project design titled “Self-Healing as a Health Right for All,” which partnered with Yoga 4 Philly, a Philadelphia nonprofit.

19. Science for Youth Intensive Program (SYIP)

Hosting institution: University of California - Berkeley, College of Chemistry

Cost: $14,750

Financial aid: None

Duration: Academic year plus a four-week (in-person) summer internship

College Credit: No

Eligibility: Rising 9th-12th graders

UC Berkeley’s College of Chemistry selects 30 exceptional high school students each year and pairs them with research faculty, who they work with remotely throughout the academic year. During four weeks the following summer, students live on UC Berkeley’s campus and work hands-on in their faculty mentor’s lab. This is the perfect opportunity for students seriously interested in chemistry research who are looking to develop a strong relationship with a research mentor prior to college.

Note: this program is on hiatus for the 2023-2024 academic year

Explore Polygence’s list of Chemistry research and passion project ideas for high school students

20. Research Scholars

Hosting institution: University of California - San Diego, Division of Extended Studies

Cost: $1,500-$3,000 (varies by program)

Financial aid: Scholarships available

Duration: Four to ten weeks

College Credit: Yes

Eligibility: High school students

UC San Diego’s Division of Extended Studies offers courses throughout the summer and academic year designed to introduce high school students to cutting-edge STEM research methods. With online and hybrid courses available in the fields of bioengineering, design, life sciences, marine science, sports medicine, and business research, Research Scholars programs are a great opportunity to dive into real-world projects and develop skills that will set you up for success in research at the college level.

21. Programs for Pre-College Students

Hosting institution: The University of Chicago (UChicago)

Cost: $4,500-$7,725 depending on course

Financial aid: Need-based scholarships available

Duration: Varies

College credit: Yes

Eligibility: High school students

UChicago offers a robust variety of courses to gifted high school students each summer, which provide amazing opportunities to dive deeply into a subject area of interest and complete projects individually and in groups. Summer College and the Summer Language Institute are open to rising juniors and seniors, while Summer Online is open to high schoolers of all grade levels.

22. Summer Writing Online

Hosting institution: University of Iowa College of Education, Belin-Blank Center

Cost: $2,200

Financial aid: Need-based scholarships

Duration: Three weeks

College credit: Yes

Eligibility: Rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors

Known for its outstanding creative writing faculty and the top-ranked MFA program in the world, the University of Iowa offers emerging writers in high school the opportunity to deepen their writing practice in this three-week intensive program. Students will study craft with Iowa’s esteemed faculty, participate in workshops to receive feedback on their work, and attend talks with world-renowned authors. This is an essential program for passionate young writers looking for guidance and community as they execute a creative project this summer.

Learn about writing competitions and contests for high school students

23. Pre-College Online Program

Hosting institution: The University of Pennsylvania, Penn Arts and Sciences High School Programs 

Cost: $8,044-$13,056, plus $75 application fee

Financial aid: Available to residential students from Philadelphia area

Duration: Three to five weeks

College credit: Yes

Eligibility: High school students

Experience coursework and research at an Ivy League institution through UPenn’s online summer programs. Students can take an online course for credit in such fascinating research topics as Bioethics, Oceanography, and the Ethics and Economics of Wealth Creation. Penn Arts and Sciences High School Program course offerings are updated on the program website as they are announced.

24. Summer Session for Pre-College Students

Hosting institution: Yale University

Cost: $4,850 for one course credit (four semester credit hours)

Financial aid: None

Duration: Four weeks

College credit: Yes

Eligibility: Rising seniors and college freshman

High-achieving pre-college students can apply to take Yale summer courses alongside Yale undergraduates, an amazing opportunity to focus intensely on a subject of interest or to explore a new field not taught at your high school. Students will have the authentic experience of what it is like to study at an elite research institution all while earning college credit and meeting esteemed Yale faculty. From Feminist and Queer Ethnographies to Climate Change, Societal Collapse and Resilience, Yale offers many engaging and unique courses online to select high school students.

Do Your Own Research Through Polygence

Your passion can be your college admissions edge! Polygence provides high schoolers a personalized, flexible research experience proven to boost your admission odds. Get matched to a mentor now!"

Complete Your Own Virtual Research Through Polygence

Polygence provides middle and high school students with opportunities to work on a research or passion project of their choosing. Through our Core program you get matched with a research mentor who has expertise in your field of interest. Your mentor will meet with you one-on-one and provide guidance and support as you pursue your research or passion project and–if you choose to do so–showcase your completed work.

Your Project Your Schedule - Your Admissions Edge!

Register to get paired with one of our expert mentors and to get started on exploring your passions today! And give yourself the edge you need to move forward!