20 Summer Leadership Programs for High School Students in 2023
When admitting students, colleges look for applicants that have drive, passion, and strong leadership skills. If you’re looking for a summer experience where you will gain valuable skills and become a better leader, look no further than this article! The lessons you learn at a summer leadership program are skills that you can apply at school and beyond.
Below, we’ve compiled a list of the best programs. Even though some summer programs can be a bit expensive, many of the ones listed here are free! As you go through this list, keep in mind that some of the most impressive summer programs are free and selective.
20 Summer Leadership Programs for High School Students
Application deadline: January 12, 2024
Location: Internship locations vary; one-week summit in Washington, D.C.
Dates: 8 weeks (Summer 2024)
Cost: Free (with paid component)
The Bank of America Student Leaders program prepares a diverse group of community-minded young people for success in the workforce through leadership training. While employed in these eight-week paid internships, high school juniors and seniors will gain firsthand experience working with nonprofits such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and Habitat for Humanity.
Participants leave the program with a direct look at how nonprofits, governments, and businesses collaborate to meet local needs, as well as the skills needed to bring about positive change. The program includes a one-week in-person summit in Washington, D.C. where students will congregate and continue to develop their skills.
Students are expected to be able to commit to 35 hours a week in person in order to participate in this program. They can easily apply online if eligible.
Application deadline: January 23, 2023
Location: Notre Dame, IN
Dates: July 22 – August 2, 2023
Cost: A $60 application fee, a $150 enrollment fee upon acceptance, and travel expenses. If admitted, tuition, housing, and meals will be paid for by the University.
The University of Notre Dame hosts a competitive 10-day summer leadership seminar for high school juniors. During the program, students will gain an introduction to collegiate academics, develop a commitment to community service, and receive college social experience in order to develop stronger leadership skills and gain insight into higher education.
In order to apply, students must submit a comprehensive online application that includes their transcript, a counselor report, and one letter of recommendation from a teacher, with the option to submit standardized test scores as well.
Tuition for the program, housing, and meals will be paid for by the University. Students will only be responsible for an application fee of $60, an enrollment fee of $150, and travel expenses to and from the University—financial aid for these fees is rarely offered but is possible in certain circumstances.
Application deadline: TBA
Location: Program available in New York, NY and Newark, NJ
Dates: 6 weeks (Summer 2023)
Cost: Free with a stipend provided based on participation
The Sadie Nash Leadership Project Summer Institute is a special leadership program for women and gender-expansive high school students who want to learn more about diversity and inclusion in the context of leadership. The program is typically six weeks long and participants go on field trips, participate in workshops, and listen to guest speakers and leaders around the greater NYC area. Students can apply online and while the application does not open until February, students can request to receive a message via email when the application is available.
Application deadline: January 25, 2023 (Priority), April 5, 2023 (Final)
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Dates: 3 weeks (June 4 – June 24, 2023; June 25 – July 15, 2023; July 16 – August 5, 2023)
The University of Pennsylvania’s business leadership program is one of the most reputable and selective programs in the country. Offered to high school juniors, the program teaches business in the context of leadership through modules on negotiation, organizational strategy, business models, and management.
During the 20-day program, students will attend a multitude of lectures from esteemed faculty, conduct research and speak with business leaders, and participate in a variety of simulations and field trips all while staying on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus.
In order to apply, eligible students can apply online and must submit a copy of their transcript, a letter of recommendation, and a series of completed supplements including a video or written essay presenting an overview of oneself. Students who identify as Black or African-American may be eligible for a full scholarship if they demonstrate financial need.
Application deadline: Generally in April annually
Location: Bloomington, IN
Dates: 4 days (Sessions generally offered in June)
The highly selective YWI program at IU is sponsored through the IU Kelley School of Business. This weeklong program, geared towards women who have finished their junior year of high school, teaches women leadership in the context of business. Over the course of four days, students take seminars in leadership and business with Kelley School faculty and complete a case study with a small team.
The application opens in the beginning of February and will require students to submit their resume, high school transcript, and short essays. If accepted, participation in the program is free and students are only responsible for transportation and any other personal expenses.
Application deadline: Varies (Early Action is in early November, and Regular Decision is in January annually)
Location: New Haven, CT
Dates: 2 weeks (June 18 – June 30, 2023; July 2 – July 14, 2023; July 16 – July 28, 2023)
The Yale Young Global Scholars program is a competitive summer experience for current high school sophomores or juniors. YYGS offers sessions covering topics including politics, STEM, global literature and culture, and solving global challenges.
During the program, students will attend lectures and discussions as well as work on an overarching capstone project culminating in a final student showcase. Students can apply online during the application window and the program offers need-based financial aid for eligible students.
Application deadline: TBA
Location: Washington, D.C.
Dates: Varies (July 2023)
Cost: Varies (Commuter: $3,199 – $5,299; Residential: $6,599 – $10,299)
Summer Discovery, a company that sponsors academic programs for high school students, is hosting a variety of sessions for 14-18-year-olds at colleges across the U.S. At Georgetown University’s Global Leadership Skills & Agents of Social Change session, participants will learn skills in negotiation, conflict resolution, and influence. The program allows students to commute or live on the Georgetown University campus. The session covers a single class that can be taken in either the morning or afternoon.
Application deadline: Rolling basis
Location: Dobbs Ferry, NY, with one day in NYC
Dates: 1 week (June 25 – July 1, 2023; July 9 – July 15, 2023; July 23 – July 29, 2023)
Cost: A $495 fee for food and activities. Tuition and board are provided for free.
The Mercy College Summer Leadership program is an intensive one-week session for rising high school seniors who want to learn more about careers in management and business. Admissions are selective, and students must have a cumulative average of 90% or higher to apply.
Throughout the program, students learn about successful team building and professional development, and get to explore a variety of careers while staying on campus. Students even visit different companies in NYC during one day of the program. The program recommends that students be nominated by a counselor or instructor. This recommendation is not necessary to apply.
Application deadline: TBA
Location: New York, NY
Dates: 2 weeks (July 3 – July 14th, 2023; July 17th – July 28th, 2023)
The Bella Abzug Leadership Institute is an institute for female-identifying and gender-expansive youth aged 13 to 21. During the program, participants will meet female leaders, learn the skills needed to win debates and influence audiences, and participate in a series of leadership-building workshops.
There is a short interview as part of the application process, and priority admission is reserved for youth coming from underserved schools or areas.
Application Deadline: January 21, 2023
Location: University, MS, with one week in Washington, D.C.
Dates: 4 weeks (May 28 – June 30, 2023 or June 25 – July 28, 2023)
Cost: $1000 in fees
The Lott Leadership Program is a competitive month-long summer program for rising seniors. Students participate in debates about current events, hear about careers in the federal government, and learn skills to become more effective leaders in their own high schools.
During the program, students will take three courses and spend a week in Washington, D.C., meeting with leaders in politics and the nonprofit sector. To apply, students must be nominated by their school. Applicants are selected based on their interest in public service and community service, as well as their academic achievement.
Application deadline: Rolling admissions until May 12, 2023
Location: Providence, RI, or online
Dates: On-Campus – 2 weeks (June 25 – July 7, 2023 or July 16 – July 28, 2023); Online – 4 weeks (July 10 – August 4, 2023)
Cost: On-Campus – $5,218; Online – $5,313
The Brown Leadership Institute is a highly selective two-week in-person program or four-week online program for 9th-12th grade students who want to learn how to become empowered leaders in their communities.
Students learn about topics such as social entrepreneurship, women in leadership, leadership in refugee policy and health policy, and law and social change. Students in the in-person section experience college life through additional activities.
Students can apply online and must include a writing supplement, a copy of their most recent transcript, and an application fee, with the option to submit additional supplements and a letter of recommendation.
Application deadline: Rolling admissions until May 15th, 2023
Location: Varies, locations around the world
Dates: Varies (Summer 2023)
Cost: $600 deposit and $100 application fee, tuition varies
Designed for youth aged 14-18, Global Leadership Adventures is a program for students who want to learn to become global leaders through international cultural travel and immersion in a foreign country of their choosing. During GLA’s programs, students gain leadership skills through language-learning and volunteering in a foreign country.
Students can choose from a wide variety of in-person global programs or virtual programs, each of which will let them engage in service learning and adventure. Students can apply online at any point during the application window. However, it should be noted that most programs reach maximum capacity by March.
In order to apply, students will need to respond to several brief essays, complete a self-evaluation, and include background information about their life and experiences.
Application deadline: January 31, 2023
Location: Austin, TX
Dates: 5 days (June 11 – June 15, 2023)
Subiendo is a competitive program hosted at UT Austin for rising juniors and seniors in high school. The program introduces students to the McCombs School of Business through leadership seminars, case studies, campus visits, and tours with current students.
The program is completely free for students, and students from underrepresented groups are encouraged to apply. Students will stay on campus over the course of the week and all educational, food, and boarding costs will be covered by the University.
Application materials include the online application, a transcript, a description of extracurricular involvement and leadership, essays, a letter of recommendation, and an optional resume.
Application deadline: February 11, 2023 (Priority); April 15, 2023 (Final)
Location: New York, NY
Dates: 3 weeks (June 25 – July 14, 2023 or July 23 – August 11, 2023)
Cost: Residential – $9,058; Commuter – $7,772
The Barnard College Young Women’s Leadership Institute helps develop female leaders by dividing students into interest-based “tracks” and having them complete small group projects throughout the program. Open to all rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors, participants can choose one of seven tracks—STEMinist, Writing and Literature, Political Science and Economics, Urban Studies, Art History, Sociology and Gender Studies, and Dance.
To apply to the program, students must submit an online application form, an unofficial high school transcript, a list of extracurricular activities, a recommendation letter, and a 500-word statement of purpose. Financial aid is offered on a need-based basis, but is limited in amount.
Application deadline: Late May annually
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Dates: 3 days in July 2023
The Chicano Latino Youth Leadership Project hosts a summer leadership program for Los Angeles County students enrolled in a California high school. 50 participants are chosen each year to network with leaders in education, business, and political roles to better understand the role of public service in society. Students also learn about college and post-high school opportunities over the span of the weekend.
To apply, students should check the website for updates and more information.
Application deadline: May 15, 2023
Location: Medford, MA, or online
Dates: Varies (In-Person: July 9 – July 21, 2023; Virtual: July 30 – August 11, 2023)
Cost: On-Campus – $5,500; Virtual – $3,800
Open to any rising junior, senior, or recent high school graduate, the Tufts Leadership for Social Change pre-college program offers students the opportunity to develop their leadership skills. Participants discuss issues including educational inequities, environmental justice, public policy, and more.
Students can choose to participate in an in-person or virtual edition of the program and will receive a single Tufts credit upon completion of the program. In the in-person section, social activities will be a major part of the program experience. Students can apply online and must include their transcript, parental permission, a letter of recommendation, and a 250-word statement of interest.
Application deadline: Rolling admissions until December annually
Location: Cambridge and Boston, MA
Dates: 12 weeks from February to May 2024
MIT offers its Leadership Training Institute each year over the course of twelve Sundays in the spring. Students are separated into small groups led by Leadership Development Mentors. They will reflect on what it means to be a leader before embarking on a large-scale community service project that aims to tackle a problem in the community. The program culminates in a final presentation of each student’s project.
Students can apply online during the application window and must complete all the application questions and submit one letter of recommendation from a teacher.
Application deadline: February 3, 2023
Location: Quantico, VA
Dates: 1 week (June 22 – June 30, 2023)
This Youth Leadership Program is hosted by the FBI National Academy Associates, a nonprofit law enforcement leadership network. In this eight-day intensive program, students will engage in extensive coursework and instruction focused on the issues facing today’s youth and their individual talents.
The program is offered to high school sophomores or juniors. Interested students must apply through their local Chapter Coordinator, which they can find with the website’s directory.
Application deadline: March 15th, 2023
Location: West Point, NY
Dates: 1 week (June 3 – June 9, 2023 or June 10 – June 16, 2023)
The Summer Leaders Experience at West Point is offered to rising high school seniors. It gives students insight into the lives of cadets in the U.S. Military Academy. Students will be mentored by current West Point cadets to develop their leadership skills through problem-solving and team-building challenges, academics, and tests of athletic caliber. Students can apply online and must have high test scores and grades in order to be eligible.
Application Deadline: Varies (Early – February 8, 2023; Priority – March 15, 2023; Final – April 12, 2023)
Location: Varies, locations around the United States, or online
Dates: 1 week (Summer 2023)
The Foundation for Teaching Economics offers leadership seminars teaching economics at college campuses across the country to interested high school sophomores and juniors. Over the course of a week, students will learn the basics of economics, engage in leadership exercises, and take on various challenges. The program’s goal is to inform students about various concepts in the global economy and to help them develop new leadership skills.
Students can apply online during the application window and must include a copy of their transcript, a letter of recommendation, and a supplemental essay response. Students who are unable to participate in person can also choose to apply to the virtual program.
Summer Programs and College Admissions
Summer programs can be a great way to boost your chances of admission to college. Generally, the best programs you can attend are the ones that are free and selective. There are four tiers of extracurricular activities that colleges think about when reviewing applicants’ activities.
Tier 1 and 2 activities are the most impressive as they represent the most unique and impactful activities, such as being a highly recruited athlete or an award-winning science fair competitor. Tier 3 and 4 activities tend to be more common extracurriculars, such as holding school leadership positions or being on a debate team. Selective summer programs often fall into Tiers 3 and 4, but extremely selective programs can sometimes be considered Tier 1 or 2 programs.
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