STEM Summer Camps: A Look at the Top Programs

Padya Paramita

STEM Summer Camps: A Look at the Top Programs

If you’re a prospective STEM major, you might be looking at summer opportunities that can help you stand out besides participating in the top high school science competitions. STEM summer camps, usually hosted by prestigious universities, offer productive ways to spend your time off from school, as they often provide you with valuable opportunities to engage in the sciences with greater focus and use your knowledge of STEM towards real-world applications.

The STEM summer camps on our list introduce participants to hands-on experiences at state-of-the-art research labs and chances to work with experienced mentors in STEM fields. We have divided them into categories of miscellaneous science camps (camps that cover more than one field within STEM), math, medicine & biology, physics, and engineering. Depending on what you’re looking for, read the descriptions of the following STEM summer camps to see which ones suit your interests and goals.  

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

B Programs are somewhat competitive and may or may not be considered impressive by colleges 

Miscellaneous Science Camps

MIT Research Science Institute

80 high school students participate in this free-of-cost program, working with accomplished STEM professors who serve as mentors. Your research process at this standout among STEM summer camps starts from scratch - first reading up on existing literature in your field, then designing your research plan, carrying it out, and finally presenting the results through a conference-style oral and written report. RSI can prepare you to work on exploring issues that concern the world, and help you grow into a global citizen. Participation in RSI can certainly provide you with a boost in your college applications, especially if you continue conducting research on your topic once the program is over. 

Grade Levels: 9-12

Deadline: January 15 (US), March 15 (International)

Competitiveness: A+

Stony Brook University Garcia Summer Research Program

Next on our list is the Garcia Summer Program, which brings together gifted high school students to design original research projects for seven weeks under the guidance of the Garcia Center for Polymers faculty. Past students have gone on to take their research to grander stages such as ISEF and received patents, awards, and acceptance into undergraduate programs of their choice. If you want to, you can continue working in the Center throughout the academic year under their Mentor Program, which allows you to plan an ongoing research schedule under a Stony Brook faculty member.

Grade Levels: 11-12

Deadline: February 22, 2020

Competitiveness: A


The California State Summer School for Mathematics & Science, or COSMOS, is an intensive four-week addition to our STEM summer programs list that takes place at UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC San Diego, and UC Santa Cruz. COSMOS is designed to help talented STEM students hone their skills through a challenging curriculum, hands-on lab experience, and the opportunity to work with faculty, researchers, and scientists on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. COSMOS accepts 150-200 students per campus and to be eligible, students must have a GPA of 3.5 or above.

Grade Levels: 8-12

Deadline: February 7, 2020

Competitiveness: A-


Stanford University Math Summer Camp (SUMaC)

If you’re leaning towards math-focused STEM summer camps, check out the Stanford University Math Summer Camp, or SUMaC. SUMaC enables students with a passion for math to engage in advanced courses, lectures, guided research, and group problem-solving. The courses involve participants conducting a research project and presenting the results to peers. The organizers pride themselves on assigning no grade to the camp students - the sole purpose is mathematical engagement!

Grade Levels: 11-12

Deadline: March 13, 2020

Competitiveness: A+

Ohio State University Ross Math Project

The Ross Mathematics Project is an intensive program for high school students engaged in math. The program encourages you to appreciate the value of abstract ideas, starting with basic courses in number theory. Over six weeks, you would have the opportunity to attend classes for 8 hours a week - 5 hours of lecture and 3 hours of problem solving seminars. The following topics are covered:

  • Euclid’s Algorithm
  • Modular Arithmetic
  • Binomial Coefficients
  • Polynomials
  • Order of Elements
  • Quadratic Reciprocity
  • Continued Fractions
  • Arithmetic Functions
  • Gaussian Integers
  • Finite Fields
  • Resultants
  • Geometry of Numbers
  • Quadratic Number Fields

                        This program is well regarded as it emphasizes the need for students to spend almost all of their waking hours practicing math. Students have to tackle one problem set every day and the counselors often help guide the students step-by-step through proofs and train them to think mathematically. 

                        Grade Levels: 9-12

                        Deadline: April 1, 2020

                        Competitiveness: A+


                        MathCamp is a 5-week long summer program designed to bring together students with a shared passion for mathematics. If you’re a math lover keen on improving your mathematical skills while learning from people who have similar interests, this might be the summer camp for you. MathCamp courses are geared towards helping you gain confidence in your mathematical knowledge and skills, set your own goals, and figure out your niche through classes and projects, studying under mathematicians and collaborating with math students from all over the world. The location of MathCamp varies year to year - the 2020 edition will be held in Burlington, VT.

                        Grade Levels: 9-12

                        Deadline: March 15, 2020 

                        Competitiveness: A

                        Penn Summer Mathematics Academy  

                        If you’re looking at STEM summer camps near New York, Penn Summer Math Academy is rigorous and focuses on proof-based problems. Through lectures, field trips (including one to the National Museum of Mathematics in Manhattan), and computer simulations, campers explore new ideas. You’ll also have the chance to engage in research across different topics in math, which include: 

                        • Combinational game theory
                        • Galois theory
                        • Linear algebra
                        • Prime and factorization algorithms
                        • Congruences and quadratic reciprocity 
                        • The geometry of numbers 
                        • Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometries

                                    Grade Levels: 9-11

                                    Deadline: May 1, 2020

                                    Competitiveness: A-

                                    Texas State University Honors Summer Math Camp

                                    The HSMC is one of a handful of STEM summer camps which encourages talented students from various socioeconomic backgrounds to pursue their interest in the discipline by offering need-based financial aid to all admitted students if applicable. Participants at the camp develop skills to prepare for future careers in math, science, engineering, and other STEM fields through faculty-monitored research projects and preparation for participating in science competitions. Students who want to return for a second year have to apply for the second-year program. 

                                    Grade Levels: 9-12

                                    Deadline: April 15, 2020

                                    Competitiveness: A-


                                    Penn Medical School Summer Program  

                                    If you’re planning to be a pre-med student in college or looking at BS/MD options, you could benefit greatly from this rigorous 4-week program at UPenn’s Perelman School of Medicine. Not a lot of high schoolers have the chance to learn from accredited medical school faculty, receive the basics of medical training (including drawing blood, using IVs, suturing), or observe a live surgery in Penn’s surgical amphitheater. Attending this program would be an effective way to convince admissions officers about your love for medicine, so definitely consider it.

                                    Grade Levels: 11-12

                                    Deadline: March 8, 2020

                                    Competitiveness: A+

                                    Yale Biological & Biomedical Sciences

                                    At the Yale Biological & Biomedical Sciences summer program (within Yale Young Global Scholars), students have the opportunity to explore interdisciplinary aspects of biology such as immunology, biochemistry, neuroscience, biomedical engineering, and molecular biology. Over the course of the program, you will be encouraged to think critically about the applications of biological sciences as a way of improving daily lives. If you’re looking for a standout opportunity where you can strengthen your analytical skills through collaboration with your peers, BBS might be the one for you!

                                    Grade Levels: 11-12

                                    Deadline: February 6, 2020

                                    Competitiveness: A+

                                    Cornell Research Apprenticeship in the Biological Sciences (RABS)

                                    This intensive and innovative selection on our list of STEM summer camps helps you develop your research skills, familiarize yourself with lab procedures, and attend seminars taught by Cornell faculty members on biology, medicine, and science ethics. You will not only collaborate with peers, but also with professors, postdoc fellows, undergraduates and graduate students. You’ll also have the opportunity to explore Cornell’s Ithaca campus, which is home to a renowned biomedical research community.

                                    Grade Levels: 11-12

                                    Deadline: March 8, 2020


                                    UChicago Research in the Biological Sciences (RIBS)

                                    At the UChicago Research in the Biological Sciences summer program, students engage with UChicago’s esteemed Biological Sciences Division. As part of this four-week camp, you get to apply your classroom knowledge to experiments and study a broad range of molecular, microbiological, and cellular biological techniques currently used in research laboratories. Standout students are invited back the following year to assist a UChicago research scientist, which is an opportunity you don’t want to miss!

                                    Grade Levels: 9-12

                                    Deadline: February 26, 2020


                                    Stanford Institute of Medicine Summer Research Program (SIMR)

                                    At SIMR, students work on medicine-oriented projects alongside Stanford faculty, postdoc fellows, current students, and researchers. Accepted candidates can choose from the following areas to concentrate their research: immunology, neurobiology, cancer biology, bioengineering, stem cell and regenerative medicine, cardiovascular biology, bioinformatics, genetics, and genomics. Other than these topics, students can also opt to participate in a bioengineering bootcamp, which unlike the others, is focused more on hands-on learning rather than the lab research component.

                                    Grade Levels: 11-12

                                    Deadline: February 23, 2020

                                    Competitiveness: A-


                                    Yale Summer Astrophysics Project 

                                    The Yale Summer Astrophysics Project is a research-based summer program for rising seniors hosted at the Leitner Family Observatory and Planetarium at Yale. If you’re among the 32 students accepted, you participate in a 2-week online self-directed course, followed by a 4-week residential program. While living together on Yale’s campus, YSPA students take classes at the planetarium, and work on programming and analyzing data in the computer lab at the observatory. You’ll have the chance to use telescopes for your research project. 

                                    At the end of YSPA, students write a scientific paper using their results and then present at the YSPA mini conference. The application process for this program asks you to delve into your interest in the area. 

                                    Grade Levels: 12

                                    Deadline: March 6, 2020 (US), February 7, 2020 (International)

                                    Competitiveness: A


                                    Engineering Summer Academy at Penn (ESAP)

                                    Students participating in this 3-week intensive program have to enroll in one of the six following classes: Biotechnology, Computer Graphics, Computer Networks, Computer Science, Nanotechnology, and Robotics. The courses are designed to give you a sense of college-level engineering classes, with opportunities to dive into hands-on practical projects inside the Penn Engineering labs and develop connections with like-minded peers. 

                                    Grade Levels: 10-12

                                    Priority Deadline: March 1, 2020

                                    Regular Deadline: April 5th, 2020

                                    Competitiveness: A-

                                    MIT Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES)

                                     If you’re a strong student interested in STEM from one of these underrepresented backgrounds, check out MITES: a free and rigorous six-week-long science and engineering camp for rising seniors. You have to take one math course, one life sciences course, one physics course, one humanities course, and an elective course, the placement for which are determined by diagnostic tests during orientation. MITES prides itself on stressing the value of pursuing advanced technical degrees and careers while helping students develop the skills necessary to achieve success in science and engineering.  

                                    Grade Levels: 12

                                    Deadline: February 5, 2020

                                    Competitiveness: B+

                                    Smith College Summer Science and Engineering Program (SSEP)

                                    Every summer, SSEP welcomes 100 girls from all over the world to the Smith campus to gain hands-on experiences in science and engineering under the membership of Smith’s life and physical sciences and engineering faculty. Students take two courses over two sessions and can choose from a wide variety of courses such as “The Chemistry of Herbal Medicine,” “Introduction to Python Programming Through Game Design,” and “The Sociophysiology of Exercise, Sport, and Fitness.” Student teams conduct lab and field work, and focus on developing critical thinking and analytical skills, along with mastering top-notch engineering equipment.

                                    Grade Levels: 9-12 (girls only)

                                    Deadline: March 22

                                    Competitiveness: B

                                    When you apply to college, you’ll be competing against thousands of other STEM applicants. To distinguish yourself, you have to convince the admissions officers that you’ve got what it takes to succeed in a rigorous science-oriented setting. Acceptance to, and strong performance in, STEM summer camps can boost your applications and help make a compelling case demonstrating your dedication to the field. 

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