Free and Low-Cost Summer Youth Programs at Columbia University

Discover no-cost and budget-friendly summer youth programs Uptown in 2024.

Janrey Serapio
January 29, 2024

Academic programs can be enriching, life-changing experiences for young students. But, oftentimes, they can be hard to find or financially out of reach. Some students may find out about an opportunity long after the deadline has passed.

Though springtime still feels far away in these cold winter months, now is the time to get ahead on application season.

Columbia Neighbors compiled a list of free and no-cost summer programs available here at Columbia and throughout Uptown to help students and families prepare for application season. 

For any questions about the following opportunities, please reach out to the program contact directly. 

Know of a free or low-cost summer youth program that we should include here? Send us an email.

Summer Programs at Columbia University


Deadline: Feb. 16
Price: Free
Location: Columbia University Irving Medical Center: 622 W. 168th St.

The YES in THE HEIGHTS program at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center is a summer internship for high school and undergraduate students that aims to increase the pool of youth entering STEM fields. 

The program includes a formal orientation and hands-on scientific training as well as training in academic etiquette and professionalism, completion of an Individual Development Plan, required submission of a scientific abstract of their work, and more.

For any questions, please contact Marian LaForest at [email protected].

Secondary School Field Research Program

Deadline: March 1 
Price: Free
Location: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory: 61 Route 9W, Palisades, NY

The Secondary School Field Research Program (SSFRP) is a summer internship in field and laboratory science at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. High school students participating will work in field research teams mentored by Columbia scientists and undergraduate science majors to do research on ecology, earth, and environmental sciences. Apply here.

For any questions, please contact SSFRP at [email protected].


Next Generation of Hudson River Educators

Deadline: March 1
Price: Free
Location: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory: 61 Route 9W, Palisades, NY

The Next Generation of Hudson River Educators program is a summer internship for high school students interested in learning from the Hudson River through field investigations and data collection. Students will create educational resources using different platforms to teach peers, families, and communities about the importance of the Hudson River estuary and Hudson watershed. 

For any questions, please contact Marisa Annunziato, Education Program Assistant at [email protected].

Freedom & Citizenship

Deadline: Priority: March 3, Regular: March 31
Price: Free
Location: Center for American Studies: 1130 Amsterdam Ave.

Beginning in July and running through May of the next year, Freedom & Citizenship requires its students to commit to a four-week intensive summer seminar on political philosophy, followed by a year-long civic leadership program. 

The program prepares juniors in high school for college and life beyond, supplying them with college application guidance and supervision from professors and undergraduate teaching assistants. First-generation college-bound students from low-income backgrounds are especially encouraged to apply. 

Check out the FAQs or contact Executive Director, Dr. Jessica Lee with any additional questions at [email protected]

Engineering the Next Generation

Deadline: March 26
Price: Free
Location: Columbia Engineering: 500 W. 120th St.

Engineering the Next Generation (ENG) is a six-week summer research program at Columbia Engineering for academically competitive NYC high school juniors and seniors. Student researchers are matched with mentors and supervised by Columbia faculty members and graduate students. 

For any questions, please reach out to the ENG program at [email protected]

Science Honors Program 

Deadline: March 27
Price: $600 new participant fee, program fee waivers available
Location: Morningside Campus: 116th St. and Broadway

Though not specifically a summer program (it runs throughout the academic year), the deadline to apply for the Columbia University Science Honors Program (SHP) is coming up in the spring. 

SHP is a Saturday morning program specifically designed for high school students in the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades. The program is highly selective for high school students who have a strong interest in the sciences and mathematics. Courses are primarily in the physical, chemical, biological, behavioral, and computing sciences; and instructors are scientists and mathematicians who are actively engaged in research at the University. Classes are held on the Morningside Campus from September to May.

For any questions, please reach out to [email protected] or call the SHP office at 212-854-3354. 

State Pre-College Enrichment Program (S-PREP) 

Deadline: May 15 (for summer session) 
Price: Free
Location: Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons: 630 W. 168th St.

The State Pre-College Enrichment Program (S-PREP) is a free high school and college preparatory program for students interested in medicine or related STEM fields. S-PREP has both a summer and an academic year session. See the Columbia University Irving Medical Center website for more details.

Students who participate in S-PREP during their academic year are eligible to apply for The Zuckerman Institute’s Brain Research Apprenticeships program (BRAINYAC)

For any questions, please reach out to the S-PREP program at [email protected]

Science Enrichment Month

Deadline: Registration opens on March 1 and closes on June 24
Price: Free 
Location: Virtual

Is your child interested in cancer research? The Scientific Enrichment Month program, held at Columbia's Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC), is a free virtual program taking place in July for high schoolers as well as undergraduate college students. This month-long program focuses on cancer education, scientific enrichment, and professional development. 

See the Scientific Enrichment Month program website for contact information. 

Little Lions Summer Camp

Deadline: March 8 for lottery application
Price: Free for three weeks if selected through the lottery application

Columbia University offers scholarships every summer based on the financial need of children from Manhattanville in the West Harlem area. All scholarship applications must come to Columbia through the West Harlem Development Corporation (WHDC). For more information on eligibility, please contact the WHDC.

Little Lions Camp is a kid-centered, fun-based day camp for children between the ages of 6 to 12 years old, with a focus on keeping kids physically and creatively active. Programming features an ever-changing combination of classic games, backyard favorites, sports, and special surprises to keep kids happy, active, and engaged. Learn more about the program.

Local Summer Programs

BioBus Harlem Junior Scientist Internships 

Deadline: March 1
Price: Free (paid internship program)
Location: Harlem and Lower East Side

BioBus Junior Scientists are high school and college students who receive training and mentorship from research scientists, while developing their own independent projects and co-teaching BioBus programs for younger students. Junior Scientists gain research experience, develop lab skills, and learn science communications.

For any questions, please reach out to the contact for the area most relevant to you at

Biobus parked outside Columbia's Jerome L. Greene Science Center

Harlem YMCA Summer Camps

Deadline: Early bird deadline: April 20
Price: Varies (financial aid available)
Location: Harlem YMCA: 180 W 135th St.

The Harlem YMCA camp continues to give students of all ages the opportunity to make the most of their summers through sports programming, project-based learning, and so much more. Not only is it a great way for little ones to stay active this summer, but to build community and make long-lasting friendships. 

For any questions, please contact Katherine Allotta, Camp Director at [email protected].

Urban Leadership Fellows Program

Deadline: February 28
Price: Free (paid internship)
Location: Various 

The Urban Leadership Fellows Program by Futures and Options is a paid summer internship program for graduating seniors interested in business, finance, government, and public policy. Fellows will be placed at prestigious firms around New York City, gaining valuable hands-on work experience and training in the municipal finance industry.

Interested? Sign up for a virtual information session happening on February 8 and February 12 at 5:00 pm. For any questions, please reach out to Program Manager, Sasha-Lee Lewin at [email protected].

Girls Who Code Summer Programs

Deadline: Early application: Feb. 14; General application: March 22 
Price: Free
Location: Virtual

Girls Who Code offers two free programs in the summer: the virtual Summer Immersion Program and the Self-Paced Program. Students can apply for both programs, if eligible, however, students can only participate in one summer program. Learn more about the programs at the Girls Who Code website.


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