While the summer period is a great time for high school students to relax and recharge, it is also a great opportunity for enrichment, especially for solidifying college applications. Students can use the break to pursue hobbies and interests they don’t have time for during the school year, or participate in academic and community opportunities that align with their long-term goals.

There is no shortage of summer activities available to Houston high school students, and your student can start researching the possibilities – both in the immediate community and on a nationwide scale – well before the end of the academic year. Of course, narrowing down these opportunities can be overwhelming! To make sure your student makes the most of their time off, they should:

  1. Consider how their extracurriculars align with their interests and passions. Summer extracurriculars can be a great way for your student to get to know potential career path(s) of interest a little better. When the time comes for them to fill out college applications, a strong history of engagement in a particular field can also showcase their authentic interest in their chosen major. By pursuing activities they are genuinely interested in, students will not only be more likely to enjoy how they’re spending their time – they will also stand out above students who participated in a laundry list of activities just to pad their resumes.
  2. Pursue leadership opportunities wherever they can. Positions of leadership can come in many forms; students can demonstrate their leadership potential by working as a camp counselor, becoming the captain of their soccer team, or starting their own nonprofit or student organization. Students typically have the most access to leadership roles once they are 11th or 12th graders, and sticking with commitments for the long haul by participating in related activities year after year can help these opportunities come easier.
  3. Use their time purposefully and avoid overcommitting. Make sure your student knows that high school is a marathon and not a sprint! While they should take advantage of learning opportunities throughout the summer and gain new experiences wherever they can, it’s also healthy to reserve time for family vacations and outings with friends. Maintaining balance is key to managing stress and preventing burnout.

Types of Summer Opportunities for High School Students

With these best practices in mind, we’ve broken down the major categories of summer opportunities for your high schooler to consider, along with curated examples of excellent opportunities in Houston and beyond.


Internships are a great way for students to gain practical experience in a field of interest. These opportunities can vary dramatically depending on the field, but they usually involve real-world experiences such as engaging in research projects, performing administrative tasks, or even developing original online content.

  • The Science and Engineering Apprenticeship Program (SEAP) places interns in laboratories in the Department of Navy, where they take part in 8 weeks of research over the summer. Students should apply with the intention of pursuing careers in engineering, STEM research, and/or the Department of Navy. Must be 16 years or older, and applications are typically due on November 1.
  • Aspire internships are run by Sewa USA, a Hindu faith-based non-profit service organization. Some of these opportunities are geared towards high school students, and day-to-day activities can include assisting with lessons, interacting with community members, and helping with recovery efforts. Must be a rising sophomore, junior, or senior.

Academic Camps

Academic camps are a great choice for students who would like to deepen their knowledge in a certain field or subject, as they typically include a week or two of classes and real-life experience on a college campus. Moreover, they are also a great way to introduce your student to dorm life, on-campus dining, and other elements of college living.

  • Camp ARCH is a one-week program at Texas A&M that allows students to focus on one of three disciplines: architecture, construction science, and landscape architecture/urban planning. The week is balanced between academic instruction and social activities to emulate the experience of a typical student enrolled at A&M. Must be a rising sophomore, junior, or senior, and applications are typically due on April 1.
  • Girls Who Code offers two different summer programs; one two-week program that includes participation in live virtual classrooms, and a six-week program that is completely self-paced. No computer science experience is required, and students can apply to both programs (but can only enroll in one). Must be a rising sophomore, junior, or senior for the two-week program, and must be a rising sophomore, junior, senior, or incoming college freshman for the six-week program.


Volunteering can be a great way for your student to familiarize themselves with non-profits as well as dip their toes into a field of interest. Volunteering can also be more flexible than internships or academic programs, and can typically be done year-round.

  • Citizens for Animal Protection (CAP) is a non-profit, Houston-based organization that rescues, shelters, and places animals for adoption. Students can participate in Teen Service Day or volunteer long-term over a minimum of 6 months. Must be at least 14 years old to participate.
  • Multicultural Education & Counseling through the Arts (MECA) is a non-profit, Houston-based organization that is committed to developing under-served communities through arts and cultural programming, the promotion of academic excellence, and community building. Volunteers can serve as tutors or mentors or assist with special events and fundraising activities. Must be at least 16 years old to participate.
  • The Houston Museum of Natural Science hosts a variety of volunteer opportunities, including a summer program meant exclusively for high school students. The Moran Ecoteen Summer Volunteer Program enables students to assist teachers and work with campers in the museum’s summer classes. Some volunteers also give exhibit hall presentations and engage visitors of all ages. Must be a rising freshman, sophomore, or junior, and applications are typically due in mid-March.
  • The Houston Health Museum also hosts several volunteer opportunities, including programs that are either year-round or specific to summer camps. Their Discovery Summer Camps run from early June to late August, and each youth volunteer must commit to at least 2 weeks during the summer months.

Pre-College Programs

Unlike academic camps, Pre-College Programs often host students grades K-12 and are typically more general in terms of scope. They can serve to enrich a student’s summer experience through an in-person or online curriculum, and they can also be a great way for high schoolers to meet other students and get to know certain colleges better. With that being said, they should not be seen as a way to get a leg up for admission to a particular college when the time comes to apply; most colleges with pre-college programs state that students who attend do not gain any advantage in the admissions process.

  • Northwestern’s Center for Talent Development offers a wide variety of options, ranging from honors or AP courses, leadership and service-learning programs, and residential camps (which are held on Northwestern’s campus in Evanston, Illinois). Programs held for rising Pre-K to 12th grade students.
  • Emory’s Pre-College Program is held exclusively for high school students. Students get the choice of selecting a course among over a hundred options, and they are able to select multiple courses. Courses offered tend to be introductory in nature, such as elementary language courses and foundational sciences. There are three waves of start dates; one in mid-June, the second in late June, and the final wave in mid-July. Programs held for rising 10th and 11th graders, and applications are due 2 weeks before each course begins.

Summer Jobs

Landing a summer job is a great option for students who would like to gain real world experience and skills while also earning some extra cash! Your student will need to take some initiative in filling out job applications and creating a resume – both of which are meaningful experiences in and of themselves.

  • Working as a camp counselor is a solid option for students who enjoy working with youth, and it may be an especially attractive opportunity for those who enjoyed a particular camp in their elementary years. Camp counseling is also generally seen as a great leadership opportunity, as it allows students to act as teachers, mentors, and role models for their younger counterparts.
  • Taking on a sales associate position is a great choice for students who want to hone their communication and presentation skills; maintaining a welcoming and professional presence is key to excelling in retail and customer service roles. Depending on the specifics of the job, your student may also be able to sharpen their ability to multitask and think on their feet.
  • Many students also leverage existing skills to find enjoyable part-time work. For example, working as a lifeguard is a great way to utilize your student’s swimming abilities, and other useful skills like becoming CPR-certified are likely to follow.

Passion Projects

Passion projects are the most open-ended of our suggested summer activities, and they arguably hold the most potential. The specifics of the project will be unique to your student, and they will need creativity and initiative to see their project through. Depending on the project, it can be helpful to start by consulting a mentor, such as a teacher or coach. Additionally, like every other activity listed here, your student’s “passion project” can be showcased with pride on their college applications when the time comes.

  • It’s never been easier to create online content such as a podcast or YouTube video, and this can be a great way for your student to demonstrate their creativity while picking up practical skills around planning and editing.
  • Your student can also organize an awareness campaign around an issue they are passionate about; this might involve researching a topic, printing out and distributing flyers, and even getting in touch with local government representatives. This type of project can showcase your student’s dedication and passion through the lens of a cause they truly care about.
  • As web development becomes more accessible, high school students can even create their own mobile or web-based app. Your student’s app can serve any purpose under the sun, and the skills they’d build along the way include coding, performing competitor research, and implementing user feedback.

Online Learning Opportunities

Finally, the summer is a great opportunity for students to pick up some new skills and knowledge! The internet has no shortage of online resources, and your student can easily utilize them in tandem with the other opportunities they choose to pursue.

  • edX is an online platform that offers a variety of self-paced courses, free of charge. The courses consist of learning sequences that are made up of short videos and interactive learning exercises. When applicable, online laboratories are also included. Topics featured include AI and coding and their relation to a multitude of fields, such as healthcare and education. Your student can enroll in a class at any time of the year, and the summer can be a great opportunity to participate without having to juggle school work as well.
  • Open Yale Courses include comprehensive materials from courses taught at Yale between 2006 and 2011, and your student will be able to take advantage of video lectures, syllabi, suggested readings, and exams. In addition to STEM, Open Yale Courses include classes in the humanities, such as history, philosophy, and religious studies.
  • The summer is also a great opportunity for your student to learn a new language! Duolingo and The Spanish Experiment are both great places to start, and General Academic’s multilingual tutors are happy to provide additional structure and support, where needed.

Not Sure Where to Start? We Can Help!

General Academic’s Early Guidance and Counseling Program (EGCP) provides structured support designed to get 9th, 10th, and 11th graders prepared to apply to college in the fall of their senior year. Moreover, our brilliant tutors provide academic support in all K-12 subject areas as well as top-notch standardized test prep. Our staff can help your student make the most of their summer by helping them:

  1. Understand and express their interests, passions, and goals
  2. Identify and apply to summer opportunities that are a great fit for them
  3. Prepare for the SAT and ACT or get ahead in a particular subject area

Contact us to get started today.


  • Ashley Chang

    Ashley Chang is General Academic's Assistant Manager. She graduated from Millsaps College, where she received her BA in History in 2020. Prior to joining General Academic, Ashley was a high school history teacher as well as an aide in various elementary school classrooms. Ashley has also completed Rice's College Access Counseling Certificate Program.

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