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Guide to Governor’s School

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Summer is just around the corner, and there are a multitude of things you can do to fill this time: Girls and Boys State, internships, work, college classes, and much more. One great summer opportunity that may not have crossed your mind yet is Governor’s School.


Governor’s School is a program available in twenty-three different states that offers gifted and high-achieving secondary (and sometimes middle school) students an enrichment program addressing three areas of student development: academic or artistic, interdisciplinary, and social and emotional development. Governor’s School is a residential program and encourages a constructive learning environment for ambitious students to explore their potential in various disciplines.


Read on to learn more about this program and to find out whether your state has a Governor’s School program.


What is Governor’s School?

Governor’s School is a summer program that offers gifted and high-achieving students the opportunity to participate in a residential program on sponsoring college campuses to study a variety of subjects, including science, math, technology, engineering, entrepreneurship, art, film, creative writing, and more. Some programs allow for students to do research on various topics, which may involve working in a laboratory with a college professor, studying at NASA Kennedy Space Center, or working with world-renowned artists.


How long is the program and what does it cost?

Programs vary from state to state, but most are between three and seven weeks. Most programs are partially or fully-funded by donors or government entities, and some offer scholarships for students to attend. If cost is an issue, most programs will work with accepted students so that no one is turned away due to finances.


Am I allowed to leave on weekends?

Although the policy of the program varies by state, most program organizers do not allow you to leave the campus during the weekend, as they want you fully immersed in the program. Evening and weekend activities are planned that are both educational and enjoyable. Weekend field trips may include visits to art museums, theaters, or outdoor activities that include camping and or canoeing.


Do I get credit for the program?

Most programs are grade and credit free, although some states do offer high school or college credit for some of their programs. Keeping the programs grade and credit free allows for students to explore different areas of interest and discover their potential in these areas without the stress of grades.


Is there an application process?

Governor’s School is a program for gifted and high-achieving students, so the application process is rigorous and often requires a nomination from a teacher or administrator. Sometimes, references may be required, and interviews may be held to determine those that will be the best fit for the program. Applications usually become available at the beginning of each school year, and students are notified of their acceptance or denial prior to the end of the school year.


Will this help me with scholarships?

Attending Governor’s School offers many opportunities for personal growth and demonstrates that you are truly interested in learning and exploring new avenues. Attending Governor’s School will be beneficial to add to your resume and may help you obtain outside scholarships. Several universities offer scholarships to Governor School participants through an application process.


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Can you give me some examples of Governor’s School Programs?

Each program varies as to the length and content of the program but we’ve chosen to highlight three different Governor’s School programs to give you an idea of the various programs available.


New Jersey Governor’ School:

New Jersey has two separate programs. The first is Governor’s School for Engineering and Technology, which is a four-week intensive program hosted on the campus of Rutgers University. The second is three-week intensive program for Science, hosted by Drew University.


Both programs are free of grades and official credit and are free to participants. During the programs, the students will have the opportunity to collaborate with two to four students on a novel research project which will be showcased in a conference style presentation in front of hundreds of invited guests.


Students will also be afforded the opportunity to visit local corporations to learn about future career prospects, participate in a variety of life-skills workshops, and engage with professors, professionals, and peers throughout the state.


All applicants must be rising seniors, nominated by their schools, and admission to the program is highly competitive. Of the 300-400 applications received, approximately 25% will receive offers of admission.


North Dakota Governor’s School

North Dakota Governor’s School is an intensive 6-week program hosted on the North Dakota State University (NDSU) campus that is available to all sophomore and junior students within the state of ND. The program is free to participants and high school credit is available.


Available programs include architecture, engineering, English studies, experimental science, informational technology, mathematics, visual and performing arts.


During the 6-week program, students are taught by NDSU faculty. The program offers highly concentrated instruction through classroom instruction, labs, group discussions, field trips, speakers and other activities.


Students are required to attend and participate in all sessions during their time at ND Governor’s School. The assignments may include anything from essay preparation to hands on laboratory experience, or performances, depending on the discipline you are studying.


California State Summer School for the Arts:

The California State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA) is a rigorous 4-week pre-professional training program in visual and performing arts, creative writing, animation, and film.


The program is open to talented high school age students who wish to pursue careers in the arts and entertainment industry and is partially funded by a unique public-private partnership between the state of California and various private sponsors.


Students apply for one of the School’s seven departments and may receive three credits from the California State University system for an additional fee.


College scholarships are available for CSSSA participants through the Herb Alpert Foundation.  Each year, the foundation selects twenty-one CSSSA participants. Fourteen participants will receive a $2,500 scholarship and seven participants will receive a $40,000 scholarship.


Governor’s School can be a great way to spend part of your summer honing your scientific, artistic or technological skills while meeting other students that want to be challenged and enjoying unique learning experiences.


Don’t just take our word for it!

“As a college student, I’m still feeling the positive effects of Governor’s school. The research experience has opened up other opportunities, my advisor is a phenomenal reference and role model, and my roommate is one of my best friends to this day.” – Abby, Governor’s School ‘12


“When thinking back on my time in high school, choosing to attend Governor’s School was one of the best decisions I could have made for myself! I feel like it gave me a sneak peek into what college life would really be like. It was my first time being away from home for more than a week at a time, so that was scary to me, but I had a fantastic time! I was learning alongside some of the best students in the whole state, but it didn’t really feel like learning; it was fun learning! Science has always been a passion of mine and still is to this day, and Governors school gave me the confidence to know that I was in the right field. From designing my own experiment in the entomology lab, to writing a 14-page paper, to creating a giant poster and presentation, it was all worth it and I would do it again if I could! I was able to convince my younger brother to attend NDGS a few summers ago, and he loved it as well! I would definitely recommend it to any and every high schooler!” – Allison, NDGS ’10


“My high school didn’t offer any classes in [computer] programming. Governor’s school taught me the basics of information technology and I still use skills I learned there in my career today. It was also a place to network with like-minded individuals from across the state. The friends I made there were the same people I would go on to face in every state level competition throughout high school.” – John, NDGS ’10


How do I know if my state hosts a Governor’s School Program?

Twenty-three different states offer a Governor’s School Program. Find out if your state hosts a program by visiting the National Conference of Governor’s School website.


To learn more about summer opportunities, summer academic programs, please visit our blog.


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Tammy Goerger
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Tammy Goerger is a long-time educator and geo-circle lead for the Joyce Ivy Foundation. She is the mother of three children who attended Yale, Stanford, and Princeton, and she has a passion for helping students achieve their dreams and aspirations. She has been a resource for students and parents about the application process, financial aid, and scholarships. She enjoys sharing her love for music with others and volunteers as an EMT on her local ambulance squad. She strives to teach her students about the importance of community service, as well as the importance of living with an attitude of gratitude.