The world has changed dramatically in the last year and many extracurricular activities and summer plans for high school students have been disrupted or cancelled. Given their importance in the college process, this has left students scrambling to find alternative options.

Working with AcceptU’s former college admissions officers, we have developed a vetted list of the best summer programs for 2021. We took into consideration several factors, including COVID-19 adaptation, the skills and experience students develop – and overall impact on future college applications.

Many programs have application deadlines in February and March, so inquire and apply early.

Economics for Leaders (EFL): Economics for Leaders (EFL) is a selective summer program that teaches student leaders how to integrate economics into the process of decision-making in an interactive learning environment.

The Knowledge Society: Students are placed in a cohort of 30-40 people. Each cohort meets every weekend for 10 months (September – June). There are 4 main types of sessions: tech/science, challenges, hackathons, and philosophy. We’re not a typical STEM program, we’re a human accelerator. Our sessions are very interactive and we don’t do lectures. Takes place either virtual or in Boston, Vancouver, Toronto, LA, New York, Ottawa or remote.

Putney Student Travel: Putney’s innovative summer travel programs take students around the world to immerse themselves in local cultures and communities. We offer teen summer trips for students in high school and middle school, as well as Gap programs for college-aged students, across a variety of focus areas including Service, Language, Pre-College, Exploration, and Career.

Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY): Variety of seminars, volunteer opportunities, workshops and summits all geared towards expanding and growing young leaders. 

French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts: A co-ed sleepaway performing arts summer camp. Premiere program in the performing arts, we feature options in music, art, theater, dance, circus, magic and horseback. In addition to our core activities, all the programs of a traditional summer camp and more are included in our offerings. Older campers can participate in community service and legacy projects.

Where There Be Dragons: For decades we’ve offered an alternative to mainstream travel and tourism. Discover the rare opportunity to slow down, experience the day-to-day life of the communities we visit, and get a sense of what it is like to live somewhere else. Immerse yourself in Asia, Latin America, Africa, and the United States.

Carnegie Mellon University Pre-College Summer Session: Students enroll in CMU college courses, earning college credit and receiving a Carnegie Mellon transcript. Subjects include science, humanities, social science, engineering, computer science, and technology applied to the arts. The courses are the same ones taken during the fall and spring by Carnegie Mellon students, usually in their first year or as sophomores. In 2021, the Pre-College Summer Session expects to offer approximately thirty courses, all available by remote instruction.

United Nations Associate of Greater Boston: UNAGB’s Summer Institute in Global Leadership brings together local and international students to address global issues through Model UN. Students learn to think critically about the problems facing our world, use diplomacy and negotiation as tools, and form policy proposals that make solutions possible.

Global Leadership Adventures: GLA incorporates community service, immersive learning and adventure into every one of our programs as a method of lending a strong sense of purpose to student travel. Serve the community through meaningful volunteer efforts. Learn about culture, language, history or a special area of focus. Explore sites of significance along with adventure excursions. Also have virtual opportunities: Students will connect meaningfully with their peers and our partner organizations online through global engagement, participate in immersive learning opportunities, and set out on a path of personal and professional self-discovery.

Global Works Travel: Global Works inspires personal transformation by fostering empathetic relationships with our global community. We provide intentional, authentic, service-learning teen travel programs which reflect a commitment to sustainability and collaboration with local communities.

Oxford Scholastica Academy: We offer 12-18 year olds a chance to experience the magic of Oxford on our academic summer courses. Reach beyond the textbooks and experience what studying a course and pursuing a career will really be like. Independent of Oxford University, our accredited courses combine university-style teaching with practical Challenges, Masterclasses and cultural adventures to inspire you to discover, explore and prepare for a successful future.

Brandeis Pre-College: Brandeis Precollege will offer compelling programs for bright, curious teens during summer 2021, and will once again be offering these courses online – in live, synchronous sessions. Programs range from app design, to Jewish cultural learning to global health and social justice.

BU Summer Term (High School Honors; RISE; Academic Immersion; Summer Challenge; Summer Preview): With five exciting and challenging pre-college summer programs to choose from, you can earn college credit, discover a new subject area, perform cutting-edge research in University labs, or immerse yourself in project-based learning.

About the author
Amanda San Román

Amanda earned a BA in rhetoric from Bates College, where she was a Senior Admissions Fellow, responsible for interviewing applicants and leading information sessions. She continues to conduct alumni interviews both in-person and virtually. Amanda manages communication and partnership efforts for AcceptU by facilitating webinars, events, email marketing and technology management.

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