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19 Summer Programs for LA High School Students and Teens 2024

Updated for 2024

For teens, summer is a chance to work or work on their college application resume. Luckily, Los Angeles has many terrific summer programs for high school students.

Plans may need to be flexible, and there may be more online studies than in past years, so be sure to check with each of the programs for more information.

Many summer programs for teens begin accepting applications and have deadlines in Spring. It’s never too early to start looking into the amazing opportunities out there — and to help get your teen into a great program.

African American girl playing violin

Summer Programs for Los Angeles Teens

CalArts Animation Intensive
24700 McBean Parkway, Valencia, CA 91355

Students 14+ years old participate in an online course led by CalArts faculty from their esteemed Experimental and Character Animation Programs. This online course allows students to study drawing and design for film, access workshops, and listen to lectures. Students can learn about story development, animation history, drawing, and more from educators and animation artists.

Faculty evaluates each student’s work by video and students can support each other, share feedback, and develop a creative peer group. All levels are welcome to apply.

LaunchX Entrepreneur Summer Program

LaunchX isn’t a business plan competition – students start real companies. These startups are driven by using the design thinking process to discover innovative opportunities, backed by extensive market research, multiple iterations of prototypes and user testing, and gaining traction through getting real customers and partnerships.

Students are supported throughout by peer discussion groups, a team of mentors, and instructors and interns. This is now an online-only summer program.

California State Summer School for Math and Sciences

COSMOS is an intensive four-week summer program for students who have demonstrated an aptitude for academic and professional careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects. Talented and motivated students completing grades 8-12 have the opportunity to work with renowned faculty, researchers, and scientists in state-of-the-art facilities while exploring advanced STEM topics far beyond the courses usually offered in California high schools.

Students apply to one of the four University of California’s COSMOS campuses — UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC San Diego, and UC Santa Cruz. A typical COSMOS student has a GPA of 3.5 or above.

California State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA)

The California State Summer School for the Arts is a rigorous, preprofessional, month-long training program in the visual and performing arts, creative writing, animation, and film for talented artists of high school age. CSSSA provides a supportive environment in which students hone acquired skills and explore new techniques and ideas for an intense and exciting learning experience.

The school was created by the California Legislature and held its first session in 1987. Its purpose is to provide a training ground for future artists who wish to pursue careers in the arts and entertainment industries in California. California residents enrolled in grades nine through twelve may apply to attend CSSSA. 

Youth Mental Health Academy
Multiple locations in LA, San Diego, and the Bay Area

Youth Mental Health Academy is a community-based, career development program for rising high school juniors and seniors interested in careers in mental health. YMHA provides students from traditionally underserved communities an opportunity to gain valuable knowledge and experience in mental health science, practice, and communications through a 5-week paid summer academy, ongoing support from mentors in mental health-related fields, and a paid summer internship.

Pomona College Academy for Youth Success (PAYS)

The Pomona College Academy for Youth Success (PAYS) enrolls over 90 local high school students and seeks to support them in preparing for admission to selective and highly selective colleges and universities.  PAYS scholars engage in a thought-provoking combination of courses, cultural events, workshops, projects, and field trips during the intensive 4-week program as well as throughout the academic year.

PAYS serves rising sophomores through rising seniors from groups traditionally underrepresented in higher education — students who are first in their family to attend college; from low-income families; and from African American, Latino, Native American, Pacific Islander, and/or part of other underrepresented racial or ethnic groups.

Carnegie Mellon Summer Academy for Math and Science

The Summer Academy for Math and Science (SAMS) provides opportunities for students from underrepresented communities to explore STEM-related fields and earn college credit. As SAMS Scholars, students engage in a rigorous curriculum taught by our renowned faculty and staff who are deeply committed to student success.

The program allows students to develop a deeper understanding of areas such as mathematics, biology, and physics via traditional classroom instruction, hands-on projects, and sustained engagement with world-renowned faculty and skilled staff mentors. In addition to their academic experiences, students also have the opportunity to collaborate and develop meaningful relationships with peers from across the country.

UCSB Research Mentorship Program
University of California Santa Barbara

The Research Mentorship Program is a competitive, six-week summer program that engages qualified, high-achieving high school students from all over the world in interdisciplinary, hands-on, university-level research. Students will be paired up with a mentor (graduate student, postdoc, or faculty) and choose a research project from a large list of disciplines offered by the program each year.

EPIC at Cal Poly
Engineering Possibilities in College

EPIC is open to all rising 6th-12th graders. The program’s primary goals are to attract more female, first-generation, and low-income students to the field of engineering and inspire them to choose it as a career path. However, ALL students are welcome to apply regardless of background. Acceptance into EPIC is based on the essay you write and an indication (from your GPA, the classes you have taken, extracurricular activities, etc.) that you have applied yourself to your studies.

The EPIC program does its best to determine which students will gain the most from the program. Requirements for the virtual program: Students must have access to a computer, reliable internet, and a non-school district-issued email address.

UCLA Summer Writing Institute

A non-resident writing course for English-speaking high school students who seek to strengthen their writing and discussion skills. For over twenty years, UCLA Writing Programs has helped undergraduates successfully meet the challenges of a university education.

Through a three-week Writing Summer Institute, UCLA’s highly regarded writing specialists will help college-bound students prepare for those challenges. All activities will demystify the unstated differences between college and high school writing. The summer workshop will also attend to the college application process, including the application essay. The Writing Summer Institute is ideal for the ambitious high school student who wants to start college a step ahead.

Syracuse University PreCollege Summer College

For more than 60 years, Syracuse University has been providing exceptional and transformative pre-college experiences to high school students from around the world. Summer College – Online students have the unique opportunity to explore potential majors and pursue academic interests from the comfort of home — or from anywhere life takes them. Students participate in high-level instruction, have access to virtual campus offerings, and are welcomed into an engaging and supportive online community.

University of Chicago Summer Session

The University of Chicago’s Summer Session brings together a global community of thinkers who ask tough questions and embrace new ideas. Discover the awesome course opportunities for high school students this summer with the University of Chicago.

Within a supportive online community, students from all over the globe are exposed to diverse ideas in classes taught by world-class faculty and instructors. In their classes, students are given the chance to take intellectual risks, dive more deeply into subject matter, and discuss questions that go beyond the realm of their high school curriculum.

Cornell University SCE Precollege Studies

Cornell University’s pre-college programs give high school students the chance to benefit from an Ivy League education before they apply to or attend college. Whether they’re participating in the Summer Residential Program or taking a course online, they’ll experience what sets our programs apart — studying with Cornell faculty, learning in regular undergraduate-level courses, and earning real college credit for their work.

USC Summer Programs for High School Students
649 W. 34th St. Suite 108, Los Angeles, CA 90089-1627

USC Summer Programs provide outstanding high school students with the opportunities to “balance academic and campus life as they prepare for college.” The program offers 4-week summer courses which are taught by USC faculty and professionals of the USC academic community. Courses include lectures, hands-on workshops, labs, and guest speakers. Information about tuition, the application process, dates, and other details are available online.

Teens and Government
at Select YMCA branches around SoCal

“The LA Y is proud to feature the largest Youth and Government (Y&G) delegation in the country.” Local branches of the YMCA provide high school students with the opportunity to participate in the Model Legislature & Court (MLC) to learn more about government processes by “debating issues, writing bills, playing the roles of government officials,” and more. Contact your local branch for more information about this six-month program. 

UCI Experience University Research at UC Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697-5700

Choose from hands-on courses in some of UCI’s most popular academic areas of study, including Engineering, Business, Environmental Policy & Technology, Finance, Writing, JavaScript, Esports, AI & Machine Learning, and more. Develop academic research, writing, and presentation skills through project-based learning.

a group of students at the Civic Youth Leadership Academy
Civic Youth Leadership Academy on Olvera Street in 2018

Summer Discovery at UCLA
UCLA Campus, 760 Westwood Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90095 

“Summer Discovery is a pre-college enrichment program for high school and middle school students that combines academics with fun, activities, and sports.” Students learn about college life while taking courses taught by university faculty. Summer Discovery has been hosting students for 53 years now. Courses are offered in business, sports, screenwriting, acting, and leadership. Students may select 2, 3, 5 or 6-week programs. Information on program dates, tuition, and the application process is available online.

Summer of Art
Otis College of Art and Design
9045 Lincoln Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90045

The Summer of Art at Otis College of Art and Design is a program designed for high school students aged 15 and older. Students “build and develop creative and artistic skills while exploring a specific medium or aspect of art and design.” Classes are small and include hands-on studio courses and labs. 

Annenberg Youth Academy for Media and Civic Engagement
USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
3502 Watt Way, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0281

The Annenberg Youth Academy for Media and Civic Engagement is a four-week summer intensive program for high school students. “AYA strengthens students’ skills in writing, critical thought, public speech and debate, multimedia production, interviewing and ethnography.” Application information is available online.

The Intern Project (TIP)
202 W. 1st St., Ste 160, Los Angeles, CA 90012

The Intern Project (TIP) provides paid summer internships (of 4 or more weeks) to Los Angeles high school juniors and seniors. Priority is given to high-need students. Students work in a variety of specialized fields including the Arts; Media and Entertainment; Engineering and Tech; Business; Health Science and Medical Technology; Government/Non-Profit/Philanthropy; and Sports.

Applications open in January and close in March. By April interns are selected. In May, interns are matched with businesses, and from May through August, interns participate in orientation, ongoing coaching, professional development, and other events.

Latina girl looking in microscope


Disclaimer: MomsLA has made every effort to confirm the information in this article; however, things can often change. Therefore, MomsLA makes no representations or warranties about the accuracy of the information published here. MomsLA strongly urges you to confirm any event details, like date, time, location, and admission, with the third party hosting the event. You assume the sole risk of relying on any of the information in our list. MomsLA is in no way responsible for any injuries or damages you sustain while attending any third-party event posted on our website. Please read our Terms of Use which you have agreed to based on your continued use of this website. Some events have paid to be listed on MomsLA.

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N K Harmon

Tuesday 9th of April 2019

Where in the LA area can a high school student find a summer school history course? Without paying a lot of tuition?

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Yvonne Condes

Wednesday 10th of April 2019

I would try one of the community colleges. Some have free or nearly free courses for high school students over the summer. They fill up quickly so I recommend to start looking now.

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