8 Awesome Opportunities Your Teen Needs to Know About

Not every high schooler's path leads to college. We've compiled a list of programs that can help your teen figure out what's right for them before they have to make decisions.

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With high school and navigating new independence, these years can be some of the most overwhelming for teens. Some are feeling the pressure of what they want to do post-high school—and many won't know until well after graduation.

As parents, our job is to do our best to help our teens navigate these challenging years and guide them in the right direction while honoring them as individuals. There are tons of programs available for teens to experience to help them fuel their ambitions and steer them in the right direction for after graduation—whether that's entering the workforce, college, or whatever other path they choose.

Here is a list of awesome opportunities that your teen needs to know about.

Disney Dreamers Academy

Disney Dreamers Academy is a four-day event for 100 select students occurring annually at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Throughout the program, Disney Dreamers interact with Disney cast members, celebrities, alumni, and industry experts through workshops, inspirational talks, and immersive career activities. There are also networking and interviewing experiences. The goal is to encourage students to "dream big," just like Walt Disney did. Plus, students will get to enjoy Disney World (with a parent or guardian in tow).

Age: High school students between the ages of 13 and 19.

Application Process: Students will first have to register online. They'll have to answer essay questions, complete a parents' consent form, and submit the application before the deadline, which is usually in the fall.

Fee: Selected participants and one parent or guardian will receive an all-expense-paid trip to Walt Disney World Resort for Disney Dreamers Academy.

Peace Ambassador Leadership Summit (PALS)

The Peace Ambassador Leadership Summit (PALS) is a week-long summer program where a diverse group of high school students is invited to exercise their leadership abilities while forming friendships and working together. PALS is a program where students earn service hours, enjoy university campus life, and receive training in leadership, public speaking, empathy, life skills, college/career prep, and more. PALS is hosted at Florida International University, the University of Central Florida, and Georgetown University.

Age: 14 to 19

Application Process: Since PALS is hosted at three different universities, the application is different for each location. Interested participants can apply through the program's main website. Before you even apply, you can attend an information session, which is held monthly virtually and in person.

Fee: At the two Florida Universities, the cost ranges from $950 for the early bird price to $1,250. Georgetown University costs more, ranging from $1,700 on the low end to $2,000. Those prices include all expenses from housing to meals. That also covers program expenses, including presenters, t-shirts, materials, classroom usage, activity fees, and any ground transportation during the event.


BETA Camp is a global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp where (virtually) students learn business, tech, and entrepreneurship skills through the process of building their own revenue-generating startup. The program is taught by world-class instructors, industry professionals, and entrepreneurs from companies like Google, Apple, IKEA, Meta, DoorDash, and McKinsey.

Age: 13 to 18

Application Process: The application for BETA camp includes answering three essay questions and submitting your most recent school transcript. While admission for the program is selective, there is no cap on the number of participants. Prospective participants can apply on BETA Camp's website.

Fee: Admission for BETA camp starts at $3,750. They do have a financial aid program that will cover up to 80% of fees for students whose family or caregivers earns less than $100,000. The program also offers a risk-free guarantee. If you do the work in BETA Camp and are not satisfied by the end of the program, you are able to email within one week of the program end date, and you'll get a 100% refund as long as you fall within the eligibility guidelines.

Elevate Gap Program

This post-high school experience combines the great outdoors with learning life and work skills in Colorado. The Elevate Gap Program is run by the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park Center. There are three main parts to the gap semester: outdoor adventure, employment in the hospitality industry, and community service. Participants earn money throughout the semester for the work they do. They can also earn free certifications, like wilderness first aid and Red Cross CPR. The Elevate Gap Program also includes two week-long road trips as well as hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding, fly-fishing and even snowshoeing in the winter.

Age: 18 to 22

Application Process: Interested participants can apply at the YMCA of the Rockies website.

Fee: The program fee is $250, but participants will earn money back while working a seasonal job throughout the semester. Housing is based at the YMCA of the Rockies for a weekly fee.

Gap Year at SOAR

The GAP Year at SOAR is specially designed to empower young adults ages 18–24 with ADHD or other learning disabilities through adventure, travel, and independent living, as well as volunteerism. Developed directly from parent feedback, this program is geared towards high school graduates or those who have gotten their GED, but aren't ready to go to college or start a career. You can also earn college credit if that is your path. The year-long program is held in Wyoming and North Carolina.

Age: 18 to 24

Application Process: Families are encouraged to apply for SOAR through the website's online application.

Fee: Tuition is $56,000 for the full year. Applicants are eligible to apply for independent scholarships for the program.

JumpstART at Oregon State University

If your child is interested in the arts, JumpstART may be for them. It's a summer program for high school students focused on accelerated art instruction. Students can take classes in drawing, painting, digital animation, color theory, printmaking, and photography. In addition, there are fun night-time activities. If a student is local, they don't have to stay on campus, but residence halls are available for out-of-towners.

Age: 14 to 18

Application Process: Participants can register for JumpstART on Oregon State University's website.
For non-resident students, the cost is $400. Residential students will pay $850, which includes meals. Need-based scholarships are also available on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Boston Leadership Institute

The Boston Leadership Institute is a summer STEM program for high school and even middle school students. Students are typically high-achieving or gifted. The programs include hands-on lab work and will expose students to careers in STEM and business. The institute is held at several college campuses around Boston. Students can commute to the program or stay on campus.

Age: Pre-high school programs for grades 6-8. High school programs for grades 9-12. Residential students must be in grades 10-12.

Application Process: One-week programs do not require an application. Three-week programs are competitive and require the students to submit an application. There is no application deadline. Interested students can fill out an application on the Boston Leadership Institute's website

Fee: Tuition ranges from $599 to $2,200. Residential fees will add on another $699 per week and include all meals.

LaunchX Entrepreneurship Program

LaunchX is a summer program for aspiring entrepreneurs from around the world. During the program, students get to launch an actual startup. Students will learn from industry experts step-by-step how to identify a market gap and create a real-world company. Another option is the innovation program where students learn how to problem solve for an existing company. There is an online option for this program or students can attend the program in person on a college campus.

Age: Students are required to be in grades 9-12 when applying.

Application Process: Prospective participants can submit an interest form to be kept up to date when applications open for the next enrollment season.

Fee: Tuition for the month-long online program is $5,980. The campus-based program is $9,450. Need-based financial assistance is available.

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