Zinc’s Favorite Highly Selective Summer Programs for Teens

It can be transformative for kids to have the experience of going away on their own. Summer programs, camps, and volunteer trips are great ways for them to flex their independence while digging deep into a topic or project that lights them up.

We often recommend that at least once kids try out a program where they’ll meet and work with an entirely new group of people. Sports team and school trips are fantastic, but to be college ready, it helps enormously for kids to have already navigated the experience of walking into a room with a cohort they haven’t met yet with whom they’re going to spend a couple weeks. Whenever possible, college shouldn’t be their first experience of being away from home.

If you and your child are scouting out summer opportunities, keep in mind that while there are many fabulous programs out there, only a handful are truly selective–that is, attendance at most of them is not a credential that will provide an in-road to a certain school. That doesn’t mean they’re not worthwhile; as we stressed above, non-selective programs can be enormously impactful in terms of helping kids go deeper into their passions while preparing them to be successful once they get to college. That’s reason enough to do them.

However, if you’re looking for nationally renown programs with selective acceptance rates (ones that would be noticed by admissions officers), we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorites. 

Here are Zinc’s favorite stand-out programs in:

Leadership + Business

Arts + Writing


Science + Research