The Best Humanities and Arts Summer Programs

Padya Paramita

The Best Humanities and Arts Summer Programs

If you’re a high schooler talented in theatre, dance, studio art, music, filmmaking, or writing, you might be wondering about the best way to convey your passion when you apply to your top-choice colleges. In order to showcase your dedication and hone your skills, consider applying to one of the top humanities and arts summer programs available for high school students.

Although a lot of different topics can fall under the umbrella, we’ve summarized for you arts summer programs that primarily support students involved in writing, design, visual arts, drama, music, theatre, and dance. Some of these art programs might cover even more niche fields - for example, the New York University Tisch Summer Program has a concentration in Game Design! 

We’ve compiled a list of humanities and arts summer programs organized by prestigious institutions that can actually make a difference for your college applications. Without further ado, let’s take a look at some top selections, their deadlines, grade levels, competitiveness, and how they can help your profile.

Competitiveness Key

  • A+ Programs are extremely competitive and highly regarded by colleges
  • A Programs are very competitive and recognized widely by colleges
  • A- Programs are quite competitive and recognized by colleges 
  • B+ Programs are somewhat competitive and usually recognized by colleges

Iowa Young Writers’ Studio

As an aspiring writer, you might have heard about the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. While you can’t apply to the prestigious workshop until graduate school, the university does host a summer program for young writers, known as the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio. This two-week-long creative writing experience for high schoolers provides an environment to hone their craft through seminars and workshops. Upon choosing fiction, poetry, or a mix of both as your concentration, you will attend courses that encourage you to improve your writing skills through peer-edits, writing exercises and activities, different approaches to writing, and constructive criticism from mentors. 

Grade Level: 11-12

Deadline: February 7, 2020

Competitiveness: A+

Yale Summer Drama Program

For students looking for arts summer programs that focus on theatre, there are few better places to work on your acting or directing skills than Yale School of Drama. Applicants at this program have to choose between the 5-week-long Conservatory for Actors and the 10-Day Director’s Workshop. The acting workshop provides you with the opportunity to analyze text, improve your delivery techniques, understand vocal production and articulation, and study scenes to understand how different elements come together and create a production. The Director’s Workshop is catered more towards the technical side of theatre. Alongside working with actors in rehearsal, you’ll study set design, importance of voice, and stage management in more detail. Both of these workshops are run by professional actors and directors.  

Grade Level: 11-12

Deadline: April 10, 2020

Competitiveness: A+

Interlochen Center for the Arts Summer Arts Camp

If you’re already highly talented and looking for arts summer programs that can enable you to grow in your area of expertise, The Interlochen Center’s summer camp helps artistic students work on their skills in the following fields: 

  • Music
  • Music Production and Engineering
  • Creative Writing
  • Comparative Arts
  • Dance
  • General Arts
  • Film/Motion Pictures Arts
  • Leadership
  • Lectures
  • Media
  • Professional Development 
  • Theatre Design and Production 
  • Theatre Performance
  • Visual Arts

These are just broad categories covering the specific and unique courses Interlochen offers. For example, if you’re interested in the film camp, you can choose between intensive and interesting programs such as “Acting for the Camera,” “Animation,” “Documentary Filmmaking,” and more. The length of your stay at the camp depends on your concentration. All of the programs within Interlochen encourage the creation of original work as final projects. Within your niche selection, you’ll not only have the opportunity to learn from professional artists and instructors, but also to collaborate with other like-minded students and create art together.

Grade Level: 3-12

Deadline: February 1, 2020

Competitiveness: A

Medill-Northwestern Journalism Institute

The Medill-Northwestern Journalism Institute is a journalism camp that allows rising seniors to gain hands-on experience in writing, reporting, and editing for print and digital broadcasting. Especially if you’re hoping to apply to a top journalism program - participation in Medill’s program would look excellent on your profile. As part of this five-week summer institute, you’ll meet aspiring journalists from all over the world and partake in a variety of journalistic initiatives, from conducting interviews to working on stories about trending topics. You’ll also be paired with a mentor who will meet with you weekly to critique your writing assignments. Students are encouraged to pitch their articles and get published in the Daily Northwestern - which you should definitely strive for in order to impress college admissions officers! 

Grade Level: 12

Deadline: Mid-March

Competitiveness: A

Juilliard Summer Dance Incentive  

If you’ve trained intensively in ballet, want to refine your technique, and get more experience in performance, apply to the Juilliard Summer Dance Incentive. This three-week long experience is designed to give dancers an understanding of studying dance at Juilliard, what life might be like being as a dancer in New York City, and the opportunity to pick up new choreography from professional dancers daily. Students train in ballet and modern, participate in yoga classes, and showcase their skills at the end-of-the-year showcase. While you must have prior ballet training to get admitted, practice in modern dance isn’t required (but is an added bonus).

Grade Level: 9-11

Deadline: December 15, 2020

Competitiveness: A

Columbia Creative Journalism Summer Program

Columbia Creative Journalism is a program for high school students hoping to quickly understand the basics of reporting. If you’re interested in the journalism end of arts summer programs, this one-week course gives you the opportunity to learn from esteemed journalist Elizabeth Walters and Columbia writing professor Kristen Martin. Students hone their reporting and interviewing skills through writing assignments such as profiles, op-eds, features, and audio pieces while staying in the journalistic hub that is New York City. You will also be asked to read a variety of articles as well as write a new article draft every night to better understand the landscape of journalism today.

Grade Level: 9-12

Priority Deadline: January 23

Early Action Deadline: February 27

Final Application Deadline: June 4

Competitiveness: A

RISD Pre-College

If you’re looking for a visual arts summer program, the Rhode Island School of Design offers a six-week-long pre-college experience catered towards young artists. You might be planning to apply to a top arts school such as RISD, and attending this camp can give you an idea of what your college experience would be like. You’ll have the opportunity to follow a college-style curriculum with day-long studio classes. You might find yourself getting to take advantage of RISD’s resources such as the Nature Lab and the RISD Museum. At the program, you’ll be able to experiment with new materials, tools and techniques, learn from award-winning mentors, and create final projects that you can then use for college application portfolios.

Grade Level: 11-12

Application Deadline: Rolling starting November

Competitiveness: A-

UC Berkeley embARC Summer Design Academy

EmbARC is a four-week long program hosted by UC Berkeley’s School of Environmental Design. If you’re looking for arts summer programs that are design-centric or centered around environmental studies, this could be a suitable option for you. Students at EmBARC study urban design, architecture, and sustainable city components. Throughout the program, students have access to the Cal Architecture and Urban Design Studio. You’ll also have the chance to participate in a Sustainable City Planning workshop, a Digital Design workshop, as well as engage in an Environmental Design Conversations Series and a Community Build project. 

Grade Level: 11-12

Deadline: TBD

Competitiveness: A-

New York University Tisch Summer Program

NYU’s Tisch School of Arts offers students in search of arts summer programs with an array of options at this four-week-long camp, where participants can choose to focus in one of the following concentrations:

  • Dance
  • Drama
  • Drama: Production & Design
  • Dramatic Writing
  • Filmmaking
  • Game Design
  • Photography and Imaging
  • Recorded Music

Tisch emphasizes projects, professional training, and structured classes. To complete the program, you have to turn in all of the intensive assigned coursework and professional training requirements for your chosen track. For example, if you’re concentrating in dramatic writing, you will have to present your work to your peers, which is then reviewed and critiqued by the rest of the workshop members. You’ll have the opportunity to stay in an NYU residence hall and get a glimpse of what college might be like if you plan to attend art school in the Big Apple. At the end of the program you will have a chance to showcase your work – your play, video game, choreography – depending on your track.

Grade Level: 11-12 (11th grade for filmmaking program only)

Deadline: January 8, 2020

Competitiveness: A-

Boston University Tanglewood Institute (BUTI)

If you’re looking for the musical side of things when it comes to arts summer programs, Boston University offers the chance to learn from and collaborate with musicians from the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Tanglewood Music Center at BUTI. Depending on your instrument, you can attend programs ranging in duration from two to six weeks:

Two-week long workshops in the following instruments

  • Flute
  • Oboe
  • Clarinet
  • Bassoon
  • Saxophone
  • Trumpet
  • Horn
  • Trombone
  • Tuba & Euphonium
  • Percussion
  • Violin
  • Viola
  • Cello
  • Double Bass
  • String Quartet
  • Electroacoustic Composition

More Intensive Programs in the following:

  • Orchestra (6 weeks)
  • Voice (6 weeks)
  • Composition (6 weeks)
  • Harp (6 weeks)
  • Wind Ensemble (4 weeks)
  • Piano (3 or 6 weeks)
  • Conducting (2 weeks)

While at the program, you’ll get to experience a unique community of musicians - both peers and professionals - as well as attend Boston Symphony Orchestra events. In order to gain acceptance at Tanglewood, you have to nail an audition. You may apply for multiple disciplines, but will have to fill out applications and audition for each of them.

Grade Level: 10-12

Deadline: January 21, 2020

Competitiveness: B+

Once you’ve pinpointed your top-choice arts summer programs, make sure you act in a timely manner to get all of your applications prepared in time. Check whether your selections require an audition or a portfolio and prepare them in advance. Your talent in art, music, or writing will only improve the more you practice, and participation in one of these top programs can certainly help you demonstrate your talent to colleges. 

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