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Free Summer Programs for Low-Income Students

Summer programs are a great way for students to get a taste of college life, pursue their interests, and to get a head start on the college admissions process. Held at universities around the program, students who participate in summer programs often value them as extremely positive and transformative experiences.


Though some summer programs have hefty price tags, low-income students should search for summer programs that are either free or offer full scholarships. Students should avoid expensive, noncompetitive summer programs that offer little to no advantage to them in the college admissions process. The best summer programs are ones that offer students advising throughout the college admissions process. Though these summer programs are difficult to get into, they have incredible acceptance rates at some of the country’s top universities.


Below is a list of the best summer programs for low-income students to check out, mostly during their junior year of high school.


LEDA Scholars. This is a FREE seven-week summer institute at Princeton University. This program is specifically designed to provide students with long lasting, impactful support throughout the college admissions process and is open to low-income, high achieving high school juniors. LEDA covers all travel, boarding, and other expenses, making the program completely free to its participants. The application normally opens in late September and is due in mid-December.


USC Bovard Scholars. This is a FREE three-week summer institute at the University of Southern California. Students receive individualized college and career guidance, standardized testing prep, and one-on-one counselling throughout their senior year. All fees associated with travel to and from the program as well as boarding are covered, and this program is open to high-achieving, low-income high school juniors. The application normally opens on November 1 and is due in mid-January.


Thrive Scholars. This is a FREE seven-week summer institute at both the University of Southern California and Amherst College. This program lasts for five years, giving scholars support and guidance throughout their entire time in college. Students take intensive writing courses for college preparation and receive a dedicated mentor. This program is available to low-income, high-achieving high school juniors, and the application normally opens in early November and is due in early January.


Alexander Hamilton Scholars. Similar to Thrive Scholars, Hamilton Scholars is a free underserved empowerment program that lasts for five years. Students receive support throughout the admissions process and are provided with guidance and resources throughout their time in college. This program is open to high school juniors, adn the application opens in November and closes in late January.


Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS). Though this two-week summer program at Yale University is not free, they do offer full-tuition scholarships to low-income students. YYGS offers a variety of classes for students to explore and is renowned for its selectivity and impact. Applications normally open in mid-September and close in early January, with an early deadline in late November. This program is open to both sophomores and juniors who are high-achieving.


Princeton Summer Journalism Program. This free-week journalism program at Princeton University allows low-income students to explore the broad field of journalism by collaborating with renowned journalists and by providing them with the opportunity to publish their own pieces of work. Students also receive a college admissions coach to guide them throughout their senior year. This program is open to low-income students with a passion for journalism, and the application usually opens in early December and closes in mid-February.


High School Diplomats. High school diplomats is a free cultural exchange camp at Princeton University, consisting of forty American students and forty Japanese students. Students engage in both fun social activities and in Japanese language and culture classes. Room, board, and meals are covered by the program, and financial assistance for travel is available to low-incomes students. This program is open to both sophomores and juniors, and the application opens in mid-September and closes in mid-January.


NSLI-Y Summer Intensive. NSLI-Y is a free program organized by the U.S. State Department for U.S. citizens. Students spend up to eight weeks in a foreign country learning that country’s language and are connected to a vast network of NSLI-Y alumni. An academic year is also available, and NSLI-Y allows students to learn languages such as Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Turkish, Arabic, and many more. Applications open up in early September and close in late October or early November.


To view a list of more summer programs that are accessible to low-income students, click here to check out our comprehensive database of summer programs, and follow our Instagram for more opportunities!


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