Considering majoring in computer science or pursuing a computer science career? Having some relevant knowledge and skills before you even graduate high school is a great way to set yourself up for success, and one of the best ways to get hands-on experience is through an internship. However, computer science internships for high school students, as well as high-quality summer programs, can be hard to find. That's where we come in! We've compiled a list of the 15 best high school computer science internships and courses for high school students so you can start college on a strong footing.
How Can High School Students Learn About Computer Science Careers?
If you're interested in a career in computer science, there are multiple ways you can get more knowledge and experience in the field before even graduating high school. Below are the three best ways high school students can get experience.
Job shadowing is an experience where you spend a day or a few days observing a professional on the job. Job shadowing is popular with high school students because it introduces them to different careers and helps them decide which jobs would be the best fit for them. It can also be a great fallback option if you can't find an internship willing to take on a high schooler.
In general, job shadowing involves following one worker, often called a mentor, as they go about their work day. A job shadow mostly involves listening and observing, but they often give you the chance to perform some simple job duties. For a job shadow at a computer science job, you might see programs they're working on, actual coding that's being done, and completed projects.
ClassesThe most obvious way for high school students to learn more about computer science is to take a class on the topic. This can range anywhere from a one-day class, to a semester-long course, to a full-on summer camp. If you attend a high school with a lot of electives, they likely have a computer science class you can sign up for. But, if not, you still have options. Your local community college will likely offer computer science courses, or there may be summer programs for you to enroll in. We also list several programs, both virtual and in-person, below.
Internships are the best way to get an idea of what working in a particular industry will be like. An internship is a short-term job that allows the worker, or intern, to gain introductory experience in a certain profession. As a computer science intern, you'll work under a program developer or similar person and gain hands-on and practical experience you can use for future computer science jobs.
However, it can be difficult to get one of these internships, especially if you're still in high school. That's why, in the next section, we provide a list of computer science internships for high school students.
15 Computer Science Opportunities for High School Students
Below are 15 computer science opportunities for high schoolers, organized into two categories: internships and courses. For each, we give info on location, length of time, and cost/salary, as well as an overview of what you can expect from the experience and what skills you can get from it.
Computer Science Internships for High School StudentsThese high school CS internships are a great way for high school students to dip their toe both into the field of computer science as well as the working world. Programming internships for high school students are sometimes paid and sometimes not (and sometimes you need to pay), so be sure to take note of that for each internship.
Stanford Summer Research Internships
- Virtual (for 2022), then expected to be in-person in Palo Alto, CA
- Length: 8 weeks
- Paid?: No
Stanford University has one of the country's top-rated computer science programs, and, fortunately for high school students, they offer summer internships to current juniors and seniors. The process is competitive, but if you're accepted, you'll be placed into a group with other interns and receive "early exposure to cutting-edge research in an academic environment." The internship focuses on various STEM areas, but you can choose to pursue projects tailored to your own interests. All interns will be mentored by students, faculty, and staff of the Stanford Compression Forum.
- Boston, MA
- Length: 6 weeks
- Paid?: No, costs $4,900 for tuition + additional costs for optional room and board
Current high school juniors are eligible to apply for BU's Research in Science and Engineering (RISE) internships. The internships are a way to get an in-depth look at university laboratory research for six weeks, working under the guidance of a faculty member, postdoctoral fellow, or graduate student mentor. The research project you work on will culminate in a poster symposium, and you may have the opportunity to submit your work to national science fair competitions as well. Interns will get a lot of hands-on experience at this internship, but a significant drawback is that you don't get paid, and, in fact, must pay nearly $5,000 in tuition costs.
- Various locations
- Length: Usually 8 weeks
- Paid?: Yes
MITRE Corporation is a not-for-profit corporation that operates R&D (research and design) centers across the US, focusing on defense, cybersecurity, healthcare, homeland security, the judiciary and transportation issues. They also offer internships for freshman year through senior year high school students. Internships are available in various fields and at various locations across the country; you'll apply to the specific internship that best fits you. Internships are full-time and include mentorship and hands-on duties. To qualify, you must submit a resume and have at least a 3.0 GPA.
- New York City or Boston
- Length: 4 weeks
- Paid?: No, fees range from $1995-$6495
We're always a bit wary of for-profit programs that charge high fees to match students with internships. They're out of reach for many families and, even if you can afford it, you're essentially paying someone to let you work for them. Know that in no way do you need to pay for an internship to get a good job down the line, but if you have the money and interest, they can be a good way to get experience. American Collegiate Adventures is well-reviewed and will match you with an internship tailored to your interests. Internships are full-time and last four weeks. The program also offers the option of room and board, as well as evening activities and weekend excursions.
- Length: 5-6 hours
- Paid?: No
Forage is a bit different than the other internship options in that its work experiences last only a few hours. However, there are a lot of offerings, and it's easy to register for a program if you're interested. All you need to do is enter your email, and you'll be able to complete the program at your own pace. The programs are created by companies and require participants to carry out day-to-day tasks actual workers do. Some current tech offerings include a back-end engineering experience with Lyft, a developer program with Accenture, and a cybersecurity program with MasterCard. Forage claims completing these programs will give you a big leg up when applying to jobs, which may be a bit exaggerated, but they can be great to add to your portfolio or resume, especially if you're a high school student just starting to get experience.
Computer Science Classes for High School StudentsWell-organized classes can be very hands-on and teach you a lot of skills similar to what you'd learn in an internship. By the end, you'll often have a completed project you can include in your portfolio and/or college application (see next section for more info).
- Durham, NH
- Length: 5 days
- Cost: Varies; many programs are free
UNH has two computer science-focused summer camps for high school students: Tech Venturers (for students entering grades 8-10) and Tech Leaders (for students entering grades 9-12). Recent programs have focused on using molecular visualization software to understand biomolecular structures, bioinformatics, and entrepreneurship and technology. A major bonus is that most of these programs are free to participate in! However, spots fill up fast, so be sure to apply in early spring when applications open.
- Austin, TX and virtual options
- Length: 1-2 weeks
- Cost: $799-$2,500
UT Austin offers several computer science summer academies for high school students. Courses are available both virtually via Zoom and in-person at the UT Austin campus, and they're taught by UT Austin professors. Recent courses cover game development, robotics, and iOS app development. There are programs for all experience levels, from beginners in computer science to more advanced levels, so you can choose the program that best fits your skill level.
- Hybrid (partially in Cambridge, MA and partially virtual)
- Length: 6 months
- Cost: Free, including room and board
MIT's MOSTEC program is an excellent way to get hands-on and in-depth mentorship in the STEM field. The program is for rising high school seniors and begins the summer before senior year. Participants complete two online courses and projects and are paired with undergraduate mentors. In early August, participants travel to MIT's campus for a five-day conference to present their projects and attend workshops. Then, from August until December, participants interact with MIT faculty and researchers via webinars and Q&A sessions and write online blogs. Courses and projects can focus on any STEM area, including computer science. Another bonus to the program is that it's completely free: you'd only need to pay for your transportation to and from MIT.
Santa Clara University's Summer Institute for Humanitarian Computing
- Santa Clara, CA
- Length: 4 weeks
- Cost: $250
Santa Clara University recently created the Summer Institute for Humanitarian Computing (SIHC) program, which is designed to give 20 high school students who have recently completed their junior or senior year in-depth instruction on how to create mobile apps for Android. The program will begin with three days of instruction, then participants will have two days to complete a top-level design of their project and present it to the group. After that, they'll refine the project over the next eight days with help from mentors. For the final five days, participants will work with a technical writing instructor to prepare a poster and a conference paper about their project, which they'll then present to the group.
- Chicago, IL
- Length: 2 weeks
- Cost: $1,595 for day camp, $2,395 for residential camp (room and board included)
Illinois Tech's Computational Science course is for rising 10th-12th graders. According to the program description, "Using real-world tools such as Mathematica, students will learn how to take an idea or question and find ways to formulate it for a computer. The course consists of hands-on activities and minimal lecturing." The program can be either taken as a day camp or residential on-campus program. Students who complete the program will receive two hours of college credit and can ask for a letter of recommendation.
- Pittsburgh, PA
- Length: 4 weeks
- Cost: No cost
Carnegie Mellon is often ranked as having one of the very best computer science programs in the country. For rising high school juniors and seniors, they offer the Computer Science Scholars (CSS) program, for students who have historically been excluded from the field of computer science. The program includes a combination of classroom instruction, hands-on research projects, and seminars. By the end of the program, students will be able to code an interactive application in the Python programming language.
- Length: 4 weeks
- Cost: Free, stipend provided
Google's CSSI is available for rising college freshmen who have a passion for technology. The program includes a project-based curriculum designed to prepare students for their first year of computer science college courses, developmental workshops, opportunities to virtually connect with other participants, as well as Google engineers, and insight into Google's internship and career opportunities. The program takes place every weekday from 9am-1pm (local time) for four weeks. You must be enrolled in a four-year college (beginning in the fall) to be eligible.
- East Lansing, MI
- Length: 1 week
- Cost: $979 (includes room and board)
Rising juniors and seniors who want a short program that teaches computer software skills and also gives them a taste of dorm living may be interested in Michigan State University's Making a Game of IT program. Program participants will spend the week developing software in Python and creating their own video game with instruction from MSU professors and grad students.
- Length: 2-6 weeks
- Cost: Free
- Atlanta, GA
- Length: 1-2 weeks
- Cost: $450-$650
High school students also have the option of summer programs at STEM powerhouse Georgia Tech. There are multiple programs, including one for beginners to computer programming and another for students who want to design mobile apps and games. The programs are only offered as day camps, so if you're not local to Atlanta, you'd need to arrange a place to stay.
How to Impress Colleges With Your Computer Science Internship
Once you've done a computer science experience, how can you make sure it gives your college application the biggest boost possible? A high school computer science internship or summer program has the potential to look very impressive to colleges, so use the three tips below to make yours stand out.
#1: Explain Your AccomplishmentsIt seems obvious but many people (even those much further in their careers), simply list their job title and expect others to understand their duties and accomplishments from that. But people looking over resumes aren't mind readers, so be sure to spell it out for them. In the part of your college application where you list extracurriculars and work experience, be sure to include several sentences or bullet points explaining what work you did for the job and what you accomplished during your internship. If you did a computer science course, do the same thing, listing the work you did for it and any final projects you completed.
#2: Link Your Portfolio
Many times after you complete a computer science internship or course, you'll have created a few projects, either on your own or as part of a group. Set up a website (another great way to show off your skills!) and include links and/or images of your project, along with a description of your thought process and the work you did. Having an online portfolio so early in your career will put you ahead of the game, not only when you apply to colleges, but also when you apply to other computer science internships and jobs down the line. It gives reviewers concrete examples of your talents and expertise.
There's often a spot on college applications where you can include additional information you think might be useful. Link your portfolio here! Include a sentence or two explaining what it is, as well. Then college admissions teams will be free to review all your computer science work without you trying to figure out how to fit it into the application itself.
#3: Get a Letter of Recommendation
Having your internship supervisor or course instructor write a letter of recommendation explaining what your internship duties/coursework requirements were and what you did is a great way for colleges to understand what you really accomplished. Some colleges require that letters of rec only come from people who taught you in high school, but others either don't have restrictions or allow an additional letter of rec from a non- high school teacher. If your teacher or supervisor is willing, having a letter of rec from them can really convince colleges that you had a meaningful experience and are seriously preparing yourself for a future career in computer science.
Summary: CS Internships for High School Students
If you've looked into computer science courses or computer science internships for high school students, then you know it can be tough to get a meaningful experience that'll give you a strong foundation for gaining more computer science skills. However, high school CS internships can be a great way to get real-world skills and knowledge as well as a great boost to college applications. When mentioning your computer science high school internship or course in your college applications, be sure to:
- Clearly explain your accomplishments
- Link to your portfolio
- Get a letter of recommendation from your instructor/supervisor
Considering majoring in computer science? Learn if a computer science degree is right for you by reading our expert guide!
Interested in learning more about schools with great computer-related programs? Check out our guide on the 14 best IT schools in the US!
Want to show off your computer science skills? Read our article on the 11 best computer science competitions for teens and get practicing!
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Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.