Discover+ Opportunities: Computer Science Programs

November 21, 2023

In the fiercely competitive world of college admissions, high school students are always on the lookout for ways to distinguish themselves and showcase their academic prowess. Participating in a computer science program can be an effective way of doing so. In addition to honing technical skills, involvement in such a program offers a range of benefits that can elevate a student's college application.

  • Enrolling in a computer science program demonstrates a student's commitment to academic excellence in the realm of technology, showcasing their eagerness to go beyond the standard curriculum and explore advanced computer science topics. Admissions officers value applicants who display a passion for their chosen field of study, seeing this as an indicator of potential success in a challenging college environment.
  • Participation in a computer science program underscores a student's ability to think analytically and logically. It spotlights their proficiency in tackling intricate coding challenges, comprehending complex algorithms, and applying computational reasoning to real-world situations. Admissions officers acknowledge the importance of these skills across various academic disciplines.
  • Computer science programs provide students with ample opportunities to cultivate and refine their problem-solving abilities. These programs often expose students to intricate coding projects and collaborative endeavors that demand creative thinking and persistence. By engaging in such programs, students demonstrate their capacity to approach challenges with resilience and devise innovative solutions—qualities that are prized by colleges and universities.

Discover+, AtomicMind's free online catalog of impactful extracurricular opportunities, was developed based on years of experience assisting students in discovering and participating in a diverse range of enriching activities, including rigorous computer science programs, some of the best of which are described below. Feel free to contact us for guidance in selecting and engaging in a computer science program that aligns with your interests and aspirations.

Berkeley Summer Computer Science Academy

The Berkeley Summer Computer Science Academy is a rigorous two-week program for motivated students aged sixteen to seventeen who are interested in computer science. Participants engage in daily coding challenges using Snap!, a visual programming language, exploring key computer science ideas and working on individual projects. In addition, the program, which accommodates students of all coding backgrounds, includes organized activities to foster connections among participants and prepare them for future college experiences.

Carnegie Mellon Computer Science Scholars

Computer Science Scholars (CSS) is a merit-based program for rising high school juniors aiming to engage people from groups that have been historically underrepresented in STEM fields. Led by Carnegie Mellon faculty, staff, and researchers, CSS offers an immersive experience in computer science, as well as an opportunity for participants to build connections with peers and mentors. Participants engage in college-level courses and hands-on research projects while attending faculty lectures and engaging with leading technology companies. The program includes weekly seminars covering various topics such as college admissions, financial aid, mental health, and emotional wellness. The program emphasizes inclusivity, anti-racism, and encourages discussions about equity within STEM education and society. Successful participants may be invited to return as rising seniors for CMU's AI Scholars program the following summer.

USA Computing Olympiad

The USA Computing Olympiad (USACO) is dedicated to advancing computing education by identifying, motivating, and training high-school computing students. It offers extensive online resources that allow students to enhance their programming and computational problem-solving skills at no cost. It hosts approximately six contests annually, catering to students of all proficiency levels. The top-performing students in the United States are invited to an intensive summer training camp, providing advanced learning opportunities and skill refinement. In addition, the program offers the chance for the top four students in the United States to represent their country at the International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI), the most prestigious global competition for high-school-level algorithmic programming.

UPenn Summer Coding Academy

The University of Pennsylvania Summer Coding Academy is a three-week residential program that introduces students to front-end web development. Participants learn HTML, CSS, and JavaScript and gain the skills to create functional and visually appealing web pages for desktop and mobile devices. The program, which includes collaborative coding using GitHub, combines instructor-led demonstrations, explanations, and hands-on exercises for effective learning. Geared towards those interested in technical careers, it also empowers students in diverse fields to integrate coding tools into their disciplines. No prior coding experience is required.

NYU Tandon Summer Program in Automation, Robotics, & Coding (SPARC)

The Summer Program for Automation Robotics and Coding (SPARC) is a two-week, full-day summer program designed for rising ninth through twelfth-grade high school students that introduces participants to the fundamentals of robotics, mechatronics, and programming. While prior robotics experience is not required, students should be academically strong and possess an interest in robotics. The program covers a high-level understanding of robotics, integrating concepts from computer science, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering. Participants engage in hands-on activities with a robotics kit, exploring microcontrollers, sensors, actuators, basic electrical components, circuits, and coding key constructs. The program delves into advanced technical skills such as interfacing components, serial and parallel communication, sensor integration, and program-controlled actuation.

Girls Who Code Summer Programs

Girls Who Code offers free virtual summer programs aimed at providing students with essential computer science skills for impactful careers in technology. The programs, which foster a supportive sisterhood, include a two-week immersion program featuring live, virtual classes sponsored by industry-leading companies. Participants gain exposure to computer science concepts, the iterative design process, UX design basics, and game design. The other program is a six-week, self-paced experience that allows students to explore web development in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, or explore more intermediate applications of Python with a focus on cybersecurity or data science. Participants work at their own pace, complemented by weekly live advisory sessions and activities designed to foster the development of a supportive community.

Princeton Program in Algorithmic and Combinatorial Thinking (PACT)

The PACT program's main group, primarily composed of students with limited theoretical computer science experience, begins with an exploration of discrete mathematics, covering systematic counting, proof methods, induction, and basic graph theory. Moving into combinatorics and probability, the curriculum advances from foundational to more intricate concepts like set theory, permutations, conditional probability, and random variables. In addition, the summer may extend to algorithm studies, incorporating topics such as asymptotic analysis and Euclidean algorithms. Guest lecturers enrich the program with insights into diverse computer science fields. Post-summer, main-group students continue their engagement by exploring advanced algorithmic classes and delving into nondeterministic polynomial (NP) completeness and polynomial-time reductions. Meanwhile, Group 2, comprising experienced PACT participants and equivalent-knowledge undergraduates, takes on mentoring responsibilities for main-group students while studying approximation algorithms and randomized algorithms under the guidance of guest lecturers.

HPE CodeWars

CodeWars is a high school computer programming competition that originated in 1998 at the Hewlett Packard Houston campus and has since expanded to various global locations, including Roseville, California; Fort Collins, Colorado; Taipei, Taiwan; Barcelona, Spain; and Bengaluru, India. Participants can use languages such as C, C++, Java, and Python 3, and teams are categorized into Novice and Advanced groups. Novice teams are newer to programming, familiar with basic concepts like printing to the screen and handling input/output, understanding variables and conditionals, and basic program design. Participants in advanced teams usually have prior competition experience or have completed an AP Computer Science course. They grasp advanced concepts like string interpolation, recursion, base conversion, file and directory manipulation, and optimization strategies and thus face potentially more challenging problems at the discretion of the contest organizers.

CoderZ League

CoderZ League is an international virtual competition designed to engage students in coding through collaborative team challenges. Divided into Novice, Junior, and Pro divisions based on students' grade levels and coding experience, teams of up to six students and one teacher participate in missions and challenges using virtual robot programming simulations. The competition consists of four stages: Preliminaries, where teams complete missions; Group Stage, where top-scoring teams face the CoderZ Bot; Playoffs, featuring knockout rounds leading to a world champion; and World Finals, where regional winners compete. The competition spans several weeks, culminating in a two-day World Finals event broadcast on

Kode With Klossy Flagship Summer Camps

Kode With Klossy camps are two-week, free, coding-intensive programs specifically designed for students of traditionally underrepresented genders, including young women and gender-expansive youth, in the STEAM fields. Open to applicants with no prior coding experience, the camps focus on fostering a passion for STEAM among participants. The curriculum covers four areas: web development, artificial intelligence/machine learning, mobile app development, and data science. Scholars not only gain a new skill set but also become part of a supportive community of inspiring alumni. The goal is to empower students with coding fundamentals and beyond, encouraging a lifelong interest in STEAM disciplines.