What is it about summer approaching that fills us with such heightened anticipation? For teens, the sensation mostly has to do with boundless free time. Being able to hang with friends, whenever. Lay out at the beach, all day. Laugh, openly. Go to movies and sleep over, on a week night.

No question: all of that makes summer special. It’s just that there’s a whole world of options for what to do during summer break. Things that are both fun and that enhance college prospects. Some you might not even know exist—well, until now.

National Geographic Summer Trips

National Geographic magazine offers four types of programs for high school students: world expeditions, world community service, photo workshops, and university workshops. With each program, students get a feel for what it means to be “on assignment” for a national publication and return home with tangible work to add to their high school resume and portfolio. Program costs and duration vary by destination; trips begin in June. Applications are being accepted now.

National YoungArts Foundation Competition

Each year the National YoungArts Foundation launches a competition for 15- to 18-year-old visual, literary, design, or performing artists. The National YoungArts Competition culminates in an all-inclusive, week-long intensive workshop conducted by internationally recognized artists. Finalists across 10 disciplines receive up to $10,000 in cash awards, become eligible for nomination as a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts, and can receive a lifetime of mentoring and professional support. The 2020 application opens June 4, 2019.

Breakthrough Junior Challenge

Here’s something different to do with your cell phone. Create a three-minute (maximum length) video that explains a big scientific idea in physics, life science, or mathematics and, if your submission wins the challenge, you stand to win $250,000 in a scholarship award. (The teacher who inspired you stands to win a $50,000 cash prize.) Here’s a peak at last year’s winner. Just be aware, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge requires multiple steps to be eligible, starting with registering and submitting your application. (Check out the video tutorial on their website.) Application period opens May 15; closes June 15.



Many in-state and out-of-state colleges offer a mix of programs for high school students. Below are just a few examples. If your son’s or daughter’s heart is set on a particular school, encourage him or her to search the school’s website for pre-college summer programs.


Clemson C-CATS Program

Clemson’s Challenge for Academically Talented Students (C-CATS) recruits top 9th and 10th graders from SC, NC and GA to participate in high-powered weekend retreats at YLI Headquarters in Pickens, SC. Through team-building and academic sessions, students gain leadership skills, learn how to foster positive relationships and improve their ability to think clearly and perform under pressure.  See your school counselor to be nominated.

College of Charleston Summer Camps

The College of Charleston boasts numerous summer camps aimed at providing meaningful experiences for high schoolers. Opportunities range from Elite Girls Resident Soccer Camp providing 12-18 year-old females with a sense of what to expect from the sport at the next play level to Honors College Summer Institute for rising 10th-12th graders wanting to explore Computing in the Movies; Race, Culture, and Stories of Illness; or social justice in contemporary America.

Furman University Emerging Public Leaders Program

Furman University established The Emerging Public Leaders Program in 2003. It is a free week-long summer camp (June 16-21) that brings together rising high school seniors from across South Carolina. The week is followed by a mentoring process whereby students lead a service project in their own communities and return to Furman in the spring to present their work and compete for funding to sustain the project. For information, contact Emerging Public Leaders Director Melanie Armstrong at 864-921-8367 or melanie.armstrong@furman.edu.

NYU Pre-College Courses & Workshops

New York University pre-college courses give high school juniors and seniors a chance to experience academic and student life in the Big Apple. Courses are available in more than 30 academic areas; run for six-weeks; expose students to college-level work; and earn academic credit that may be applied to a future degree. Students enrolled in at least one college-credit course, may also register for an NYU non-credit college writing workshop. Workshops run for five-weeks; are taught by NYU’s writing faculty; and help students hone their research and writing skills.