Editor’s Note—February 2021: Due to the pandemic, many organizations listed here will be holding their programs online this year. Others have paused their programs in summer 2021, and I have kept their listing intact because they plan to resume in 2022.
Massachusetts is well known for its large number of universities and colleges located throughout the state. What parents might not know is that many offer summer courses and pre-college programs for high school students, run by individual departments or schools within the university. While some programs may also be offered by outside organizations that lease space on campus, the programs profiled in this post are all provided by the college or university itself. These courses are an excellent way for students to prepare for college, experience a college setting and sometimes college-level teaching, explore subjects that are not offered in high school, and build knowledge and skills in areas of interest. Some programs are taught by professors, others by graduate students or undergraduates with oversight by department faculty.
What You’ll Find Here
This article comprises 40+ STEM summer programs offered by universities and colleges in Massachusetts. Again, these are programs actually run by the institution, not programs renting space on their campus. You’ll discover programs in computer science, math, robotics, science, and engineering. Most of the programs are designed for high school students, but there are a few for elementary and middle school, too. The programs are listed in alphabetical order by school.
Choosing Among Programs
There are many factors to consider when choosing a summer program. In my experience, some of the most important are finding the teaching style that matches your child’s learning style and understanding your child’s readiness to concentrate on summer learning, especially since university-based programs tend to be more academically focused than your typical STEM summer camp.
Because these programs are a serious commitment of time and effort, it’s also important to set your expectations and your child’s expectations about what they want to put into and get out of the program. Are they simply exploring new interests, deepening existing skills, or are they trying to gain more experience in a particular subject matter before applying to college?
Budget, travel time, and scheduling are key factors to consider, as well.
Visit each program’s website for detailed information about curriculum, timing, cost, application, and registration processes. Some programs require students to apply by specific deadlines, while others simply require registration. Most fill up fast, so if you’re interested in a summer program, start your research and review process early, ideally in the fall.
Editor’s Picks—Free Programs
As a Boston-area mom with two children, I know that excellent pre-college summer programs can be costly. If your budget requires a program with high value and free tuition, start by looking at these three: Boston University’s LERNet programs, MIT’s programs (many of which are free), and MassBay Community College’s Summer STEM Sample workshops. Your child will receive high-quality teaching and it won’t break your budget.
Boston Architectural College (Boston)
Summer Academy: High School Design Exploration is a program designed to introduce high school students entering grades 9–12 to the fields of architecture and spatial design, using a hands-on learning approach. No previous design experience is required. Summer Academy students experiment with materials, build structures, test professional design software, visit professional firms, and explore buildings like libraries and museums in Boston. Application required.
Boston University (Boston)
Boston University offers a wide variety of STEM courses and programs for students each summer through its various colleges and Learning Resources Network (LERNet).
U-Design is a hands-on laboratory and engineering program for students entering grades 7–9, offered by the BU College of Engineering. Students learn about the engineering design process and have the opportunity to experiment, design, analyze, build, and test to solve challenging problems and create their own inventions. Students experience cutting-edge research and demonstrations by visiting the College of Engineering faculty and students. This is a challenging and creative program developed and taught by an outstanding team of experienced science and technology professors who specialize in teaching engineering design to kids.
The Artemis Project is a four-week summer program for rising 9th-grade girls focused on computer science. This program is run by BU LERNet and is led by BU undergraduates majoring in computer science or engineering. Participants learn computer languages such as Scratch, AppInventor, HTML, CSS, and Python, and are introduced to robotics, cryptography, artificial intelligence, and circuits. Students will learn how computer science is applied in the real world by hearing from guest speakers and going on field trips. Students must be enrolled in a Massachusetts school; priority is given to students in Boston and those who live within a 15-mile radius of the city. Application required.
Codebreakers is a four-week computer security program sponsored by BU LERNet, for young women entering the 10th or 11th grade at a school in the greater Boston area. Undergraduate coordinators teach basic cybersecurity concepts through lessons in programming, cryptography, and network security. Students learn to code in Python and have the opportunity to investigate exciting careers by visiting a local facility and hearing guest speakers from state, local, and federal agencies as well as other security professionals. Application required.
AI4ALL is a three-week program offered by BU LERNet, promoting greater diversity and inclusion in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). Young women entering their junior or senior year of high school in the Boston area are welcome to apply. During the program, participants explore the field of AI through team projects, industry field trips, and presentations from guest speakers. The program concludes with a small group research project and a presentation for friends and family. Application required.
Summer Term offers students in grades 8–12 one-, two-, three-, and six-week programs, with options to live on campus, commute from home, or study online. Students can earn college credit, discover new subject areas, including math, science, and engineering, perform cutting-edge research in university labs, or immerse themselves in hands-on learning. Participants push themselves academically while experiencing college life, making friends with fellow students, and engaging in social activities around Boston. Application required.
PROMYS is a six-week summer program designed to encourage strongly motivated high school students ages 14–19 to explore in-depth the creative world of mathematics in a supportive community of peers, counselors, research mathematicians, and visiting scientists. All first-year students attend a daily lecture but spend the bulk of their unstructured time working on their own or collaboratively on carefully crafted and very challenging Number Theory problem sets. Application required.
SummerLab provides hands-on laboratory experience in biotechnology for students entering the 10th grade through the first year of college. CityLab, a biotechnology learning laboratory at Boston University School of Medicine, sponsors this program. Students develop a deeper understanding of basic techniques and concepts related to DNA science. Working in teams, students assume the role of a biotechnology company and work together to design and carry out an investigation to solve problems in biotechnology. Application required.
Summer Pathways is a BU LERNet program for young women entering grades 11-12 who are interested in science, engineering, and technology. Activities include lab visits and hands-on science activities, interaction with faculty and students from STEM disciplines, visits to biotech or pharmaceutical companies, and career advice from a career panel and college admissions representative. Application required.
GROW offers rising high school senior women the opportunity to perform research in a lab at Boston University for six weeks and receive a $1500 stipend. Run by BU LERNet, students participate in cutting edge research under the guidance of a program manager in a collaborative group setting. Application required.
PopHealthExperience offers rising 7th–10th-graders an engaging and immersive introduction to the field of public health. Students learn from Boston University School of Public Health faculty and graduate students about a range of public health topics, participate in hands-on research activities, discover career choices, and develop leadership skills. Students are introduced to the foundations of public health and then delve deeper into the areas of biostatistics, environmental health, and epidemiology.
The Master Academy in Population Health provides rising 11th and 12th graders an engaging and intensive exposure to a wide range of public health experiences. Students will be immersed in a range of public health topics, participate in hands-on research activities, discover career choices, and develop leadership skills.
Brandeis University (Waltham)
App Design enables high school students to create apps, learn programming languages, and develop coding skills, with 45 hours of classroom instruction and mentorship led by faculty and students from the University’s well-regarded computer science program. Participants will see an app design through from concept to marketing, and present at a showcase for professional feedback from a local software company. The program seeks each year to provide a limited number of scholarships to outstanding applicants who otherwise might not be able to afford this exceptional opportunity. Application required.
Bridgewater State University (Bridgewater)
Summer Science Academy offers one-week science courses for students entering grades 4–12. Students are immersed in science courses and work as scientists, conducting hands-on investigations in their selected course. All courses focus on the importance of science communication as students lead presentations on the last day of class.
Hampshire College (Amherst)
Hampshire College Summer Studies in Mathematics (HCSSiM) is an intensive and demanding six-week encounter with college-level mathematics for talented and highly motivated high school students. Participants spend a major portion of each day actively engaged in doing mathematics (not simply learning the results of mathematics). HCSSiM students live in the dorms at Hampshire College in Massachusetts for six summer weeks and study and play in its fields, woods, and academic buildings. Application required.
Harvard University (Cambridge and Boston)
Harvard offers STEM courses through its main campus, medical school, and a student-run organization.
The Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (Harvard Chan C-CHANGE) has joined forces with Putney Pre-College, an initiative of Putney Student Travel, to launch a youth summer program on climate and public health this July. Part of the Center’s 25th anniversary, the Harvard Chan C-CHANGE Youth Summits will train students to be leaders in their communities through workshops, field-based activities, and meetings with scientists, health and policy experts, academics, energy innovators, and more. The Youth Summits combine Putney’s extensive history of designing educational and innovative student programs with Harvard Chan C-CHANGE’s academic expertise and thought leadership on climate and health. Application required.
HMS Medscience offers engaging hands-on experiences for high school students with an interest in sciences: biology, health care, medicine, or related STEM fields. With innovative medical science curriculums, classroom learning takes place in a simulation laboratory on Harvard Medical School’s Boston campus, where students learn to treat a high-tech “patient” with state-of-the-art, realistic clinically accurate features. Application required.
Summer Programs are designed for intellectually curious high school students ages 15–18 who want to explore college-level courses, including STEAM, and live and learn alongside a diverse set of peers. Students can choose from two options: a two-week pre-college residential experience featuring noncredit courses or a seven-week session offering college courses for credit (live on campus, commute, or study online). Application required.
The Academies are intensive five-day academic enrichment programs for high-achieving high school students. The Academies are organized by Harvard Student Agencies, a Harvard student-run corporation committed to bringing rigorous academic experiences to students around the globe. Programs include coding, pre-med, business, and politics. Application required.
MassBay Community College (Wellesley Hills)
Breaking the Silos: A STEM Interdisciplinary Virtual Program will introduce students to MassBay’s STEM Division academic programs, services, and resources for STEM students on July 15, 2021 from 10am-12:30pm. Participants will engage in a hands-on, participatory activity that will look at the science, engineering, biotech and computer science aspects of COVID-19 research.
MIT offers specialized STEM programs through offices, centers, and organizations and many are free to participants.
MIT Beaver Works Summer Institute (BWSI) is a rigorous, world-class STEM program for talented students who will be entering their senior year in high school. The free, four-week program teaches STEM skills through project-based, workshop-style courses. Course listings include autonomous robots and air vehicles, data science and medicine, cybersecurity, and more. Application required.
dynaMIT is a free science outreach program for economically disadvantaged middle school students (entering 6–9th grade) in the Boston area. MIT students teach critical thinking skills, science and engineering concepts, and design skills. Application required.
You GO Girl! is a four-day low-pressure science and engineering program for girls entering ninth grade, sponsored by the Edgerton Center. The program provides an introductory sampling of hands-on science and engineering activities mixed with high school preparatory sessions.
Engineering Design Workshop (EDW) at the Edgerton Center engages Cambridge, Boston, and Greater Boston-area 9th through 12th-grade students in hands-on engineering projects. Students work in small teams to design, build, and test projects that blend engineering, art, and science. Students have the opportunity to use many of the same tools and materials as MIT students and engineers.
LLCipher is a free one-week workshop that introduces high school students to cryptography, an approach to securing data. Taught by MIT Lincoln Laboratory technical staff, this program is designed for students interested in mathematics or cybersecurity. Students will learn how to build a secure encryption scheme and a digital signature. Application required.
Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES) is a free six-week science and engineering program for rising high school seniors from across the country. Students live on campus and take five courses (physics, calculus, life science, humanities, and a STEM elective), each having homework assignments and exams. At the end of the program, students present final projects. Application required.
MIT Online Science, Technology, and Engineering Community (MOSTEC) is a free six-month online science and engineering program for rising high school seniors from across the country. This program immerses students in an online STEM community that combines academic courses and enrichment activities. Application required.
Women’s Technology Program (WTP) is a rigorous four-week summer academic and residential experience where high school students explore engineering through hands-on classes, labs, and team-based projects in the summer before their senior year. MIT graduate students design and teach the classes, assisted by MIT undergraduate students. The daily required schedule includes classes, labs, homework, and social time with other WTP students, including field trips and other activities on weekends. Application required.
Lincoln Laboratory Radar Introduction for Student Engineers (LLRISE) is a free two-week residential hands-on workshop teaching rising seniors how to build small radar systems. Instruction is provided at MIT Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, MA, by Laboratory technical staff and undergraduate and graduate students from MIT. Participants will be challenged to build a Doppler and range radar by using creative problem-solving strategies. Application required.
Northeastern University (Boston)
Northeastern offers programs for both middle and high school students and assists in some other programs.
Northeastern University Summer STEM Program (NUSSP) is a two-week academic program run by the Center for STEM Education for students entering grades 6–8. The program emphasizes increasing students’ mathematics/science skills, introducing them to college life, and stimulating their interest in science and engineering as a potential career path. It supports historically underserved and underrepresented students with limited opportunities. Students must be MA residents and live within a 30-mile radius of Northeastern University. Application required.
Accelerate: Pre-College Programs offers summer programs designed for rising junior and senior students who want to give themselves an edge by learning from Northeastern’s faculty. Northeastern University’s STEM programs include bioengineering, engineering innovation and design, physics, and sustainable chemistry and renewable energy. Students engage with Northeastern faculty, utilize labs and facilities for cutting-edge projects, visit area companies in related fields, and attend lectures by accomplished professionals in the field. Application required.
Young Scholars Program (YSP) offers Massachusetts students entering senior year an opportunity for hands-on research experience. Working in research laboratories within Northeastern University’s Colleges of Arts, Sciences and Engineering, students will also participate in a special seminar series, Introduction to Engineering, with presentations by chemical, civil, electrical and computer, mechanical, and industrial engineering professors and graduate students. Topics include radar, environmental issues, superconductivity, lasers, microwave materials, biotechnology, chemical analysis, and robotics. Application required.
Smith College (Northampton)
Summer Science & Engineering Program (SSEP) is a four-week residential program for exceptional young women with strong interests in science and engineering. Students in grades 9–12 engage in hands-on research with Smith faculty in life and physical sciences and in engineering. SSEP offers hands-on, cooperative, investigative and challenging learning—where girls get all of the faculty’s attention as well as the opportunities and encouragement to achieve their best. Smith undergraduate students with science majors also serve as teaching assistants. Application required.
Tufts University (Medford)
Tufts offers students of all ages opportunities to explore STEM through summer programs.
Tufts Pre-College Programs provide a variety of opportunities for high school students entering grades 10–12 to get experience in STEM-related subjects along with other disciplines. Tufts offers courses, hands-on research projects, and pre-college intensive programs. In addition to residential and commuter options, Tufts also offers many online classes. Application required.
Adventures in Veterinary Medicine on the Tufts campus in North Grafton, MA is a fun and exciting way for middle school students entering 7th and 8th grade to spend one week learning about being a veterinarian and the varied career opportunities within the profession. Students explore specialty fields and important topics in veterinary medicine through engaging lectures by Tufts faculty, staff, and vet students. They will get up close and personal with animals on the farm while learning proper animal handling techniques and performing physical examinations. Application required.
DevTech Research Group at Tufts University offers programming, robotics, and technology camp sessions to teach coding as literacy to students entering Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO) runs design and engineering summer workshops for students in grades 1–12. CEEO is a leader in supporting efforts to integrate engineering into K–12 education, through workshops for practicing teachers and students alike. Every part of each workshop is based on numerous research studies and 20 years of work, optimized for kids’ inclusion, motivation, education, and enjoyment.
University of Massachusetts (Amherst)
UMass Summer Pre-College Programs are designed for motivated high school students in grades 9–12 interested in hands-on learning experiences. Through a wide range of program offerings in 1-week, 2-week, or 6-week sessions, students can earn college credit and gain valuable experience for future college applications. Courses include the Summer Engineering Institute, Modern Astronomy, Kinesiology, Veterinary Technology, and more. The Foundations of Data Science course has full scholarships available for students with financial needs. Application required.
University of Massachusetts (Lowell)
Future Engineers Summer Camp enables rising 10th-12th-grade students to discover the world of engineering through hands-on projects and interactions with students, faculty, staff, and alumni in two, overnight, week-long summer camps. Run by the Francis College of Engineering, students learn about many different forms of engineering, from the internet of things to sustainability to infrastructure. Application required.
Wellesley College (Wellesley)
Pre-College Summer Focus enables young women ages 15–18 to explore a subject of interest for two weeks and experience what it is like to live at Wellesley College. Courses include STEM subjects like math, physics, astronomy, and computer science, as well as other non-STEM disciplines. Taught by Wellesley professors, this is an opportunity to cultivate connections with a community of young women from around the globe. Application required.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) (Worcester)
WPI offers a range of STEM summer programs for students in elementary school through high school.
Frontiers is a residential, on-campus program for students entering 11th and 12th grade. Participants focus most of their time in a STEM major course and spend some time in a minor course. Students also get to use state-of-the-art technology and facilities and learn from WPI professors and graduate students while using experimental, analytical, and computer technology. Application required.
Launch allows students entering grades 9–10 the opportunity to use state-of-the-art research and technology and work with WPI’s renowned faculty to find solutions to current problems in a variety of scientific fields. There is the option to attend Launch during the day as a commuter student or stay overnight on WPI’s campus as a residential student.
Ignite is designed to offer students entering grades 7 and 8 the chance to explore more complex topics within a subject such as science (biology, chemistry, and physics), robotics, and computer programming.
Camp Reach is a residential program for girls entering grade 8 who have an interest in learning more about science and engineering careers. Participants work with college students, professors, and others who expose them to science and engineering concepts through discovery workshops, field trips, and hands-on community service projects. Application required.
Spark is designed to spark creativity and innovation in students entering grades 4–6. Students explore exciting topics of their choosing in the science, technology, engineering, and math disciplines.
Photo Credit: UMass Amherst