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10 Leadership Programs for High School Students

Summer Leadership programs can be valuable for you if you want to develop skills beyond academics.

Why do leadership programs in high schools?

Well, for starters, a lot of these programs focus on developing skills that are essential for both academic and professional success, such as communication, problem-solving, collaboration/leadership, and critical thinking. By participating in leadership programs, students can learn how to work effectively with others, lead projects, and develop strategies for success.

But, to be clear, doing a leadership program doesn’t make you a leader. These programs can be great ways to develop skills that apply broadly - but unless they are selective then they may not be particularly valuable for you in the college admission process. It’s better to demonstrate leadership through doing your own passion project or club than by doing a program. But, if you can get into a selective program, it can have a lot of valuable. Let’s dive into what options exist!

How to choose a summer leadership program?

  1. The credibility of the program: a good way of understanding this is to look for stats on the acceptance rate, hosting/affiliated organizations, type of mentors and how rigorous the application process is.

  2. Cohort size & Mentorship: Sometimes, a smaller cohort size can indicate the program's selectiveness. There may also be cases where the entire cohort may be divided into smaller groups with mentors working closely with students. In either case, be sure to understand how accessible the program's facilitators are so that you can maximize your learning through increased interaction.

  3. The mission of the leadership program: Different programs have different missions catering to different domains. For instance, the University of Pennsylvania's Leadership Program focuses on leadership in the business world, while Brown University's Pre-College Leadership Program advances social justice. Hence, it is crucial to deepen research, understand the program's mission, and align it with your goals.

Top Leadership Programs for High School Students

Female high school students are competitively selected and sponsored by American Legion Auxiliary units for the Girls State program. They learn about the political process by electing officials for all levels of state government and actively running a mock government. The girls are assigned to mock cities and either the "Federalist Party" or "Nationalist Party."

Assistance from dedicated ALA volunteers ensures the program's nonpartisan governmental, patriotic, and civic objectives are carried out through interactive learning. Candidates should be keenly interested in government and current events and show strong leadership abilities.

Eligibility: Female high school juniors in the USA

Dates: State Dates may vary

Cost: The costs of ALA Girls State programs are underwritten by each state-level American Legion Auxiliary. ALA Girls State delegates' registration fees are paid for by the sponsoring local American Legion Auxiliary unit, with additional support and funding sometimes coming from various civic and nonprofit organizations. Participating young women may incur nominal expenses for transportation, site-specific fees, or contribution to an optional service project.

Selectivity High

American Legion Boys State is among the most respected and selective educational programs of government instruction for U.S. high school students. Participants learn franchised citizens' rights, privileges, and responsibilities. Legion posts selected high school juniors to attend the program. A sponsoring post, a local business, or another community-based organization pays most personal expenses. The training is objective and centers on the structure of city, county, and state governments. Operated by students elected to various offices, Boys State activities include legislative sessions, court proceedings, law-enforcement presentations, assemblies, bands, choruses, and recreational programs.

Eligibility: Male high school students who illustrate leadership, character, scholarship, loyalty, and service in their schools and community should be considered.

Dates: State Dates may vary

Cost: Vary based on State

Selectivity: High

Every year, the Bank of America Student Leaders Program admits hundreds of community-minded high schoolers are into the program. Selected high-schoolers intern with nonprofits like Boys and Girls Clubs of America and Habitat for Humanity and experience community service through a paid eight-week internship.

In this leadership program, high school students participate in the National Student Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C, and understand how stakeholders like nonprofits, governments, and businesses collaborate and interact to meet local needs. This experience enables participating students to create change and improve more lives with inspiring stories of enthusiasm and commitment.

Eligibility: A current junior or senior high school student legally authorized to work in the USA.

Dates: 8 weeks, (from the end of your school year, and including the week of July 17-24 in D.C)

Cost: Fully funded, stipend provided

Application Deadline: To be Announced

Selectivity: High

YYGS is a globally diverse academic enrichment program for outstanding high school students worldwide. Students from over 150 countries participate in an interdisciplinary, two-week session at Yale's historic campus each summer.

Students may opt to study STEM, Social Sciences, humanities, or cross-disciplinary track, facilitating student discussions shaped by international perspectives. YYGS empowers the next generation by designing interdisciplinary programs that foster intellectual curiosity, deepen understanding and inspire creative action across all borders.

Eligibility: At least 16 years by July 16 2023


  • Session 1: June 18 - June 30,

  • Session 2: July 2 - July 14,

  • Session 3: J July 16 - July 28

Location: Yale University Campus

Cost: $6,500 with a Need-Based Scholarship

Application deadline: January 10, 2023,

Selectivity: Moderately High

The Brown University Pre-College Leadership Institute brings passionate students worldwide to engage with complex issues such as racial justice, educational access, and gender equity.

Students study courses on Women and Leadership, Social Entrepreneurship, and The Future of Science and Technology. The summer program empowers participants to be collaborative leaders by increasing their ability and effectiveness in advancing social justice, active listening, public speaking, problem-solving, conflict resolution, and teamwork.

Students can take this Pre College program for two weeks on campus or for four weeks online.

Eligibility: Students completing grades 9–12, ages 14–18 by June 19, 2022

Dates: June 27 – July 8 on-campus, July 11 – August 5 online

Location: On Campus or Online

Cost: $5,171

Application deadline: May 12, 2023

Selectivity: Moderate

Harvard Summer School's Secondary School program enables students to delve deeper into a passion or subject beyond the offerings of a high school. The rigorous academic environment ensures students explore interests that could potentially be future careers. This seven-week educational program gives high schoolers a first-hand Harvard experience by taking college courses with college and high school students for credit. In addition to the classes, students interact with different peer groups and learn to balance academics with extracurriculars and networking. Here are a few programs offered - Environmental Science, Introduction to Political Philosophy, The Psychology of Cults, and Introduction to Statistics and Applied Data Analysis.

For the complete course catalog - click here!

Participants can choose to do the program in three different formats: Residential, Online and Commuting for students who live in the community.

Eligibility: Mature, academically motivated students who graduate high school and enter college in 2023, 2024, or 2025 and are at least 16 years old by June 17, 2023, and will not turn 19 years old before July 31, 2023.

Program Dates: June 20, 2023- August 5, 2023

Location: On Campus or Online

Cost: $3600- $13750 and $75 Application fee.

Application deadline: Early Application Deadline: January 25 2023

Regular Application deadline: February 22, 2023

Late Application Deadline: April 26, 2023

Selectivity: Moderate

MIT Leadership Training Institute, hosted by MIT, is centered around the principle that all students have the potential to become leaders. This high school leadership program includes leadership development sessions and a community service project. It ensures to bring out students who hone leadership traits such as confidence, creativity, and determination.

The community service project is completed with the help of Project Mentors that help students brainstorm challenges in various communities and identify solutions for the same. Mentors support students in translating leadership theories into practical solutions.

LTI recruits competitively from numerous schools in Boston and has a 15-year track record. They have mentored nearly 1,000 students, many of whom are now college students, advanced degree students, or working professionals.

Dates: Sundays from 1-4 pm EST between February 5, 2023, to May 7, 2023.

Location: On-campus

Cost: Free

Application deadline: November 19, 2022, and December 10, 2022, 11:59 pm EST

Selectivity: High

LBW is a summer program designed for high school seniors to introduce them to business education, leadership in 21st-century organizations, teamwork, and communication skills. Students are trained through a dynamic mix of classes with Wharton professors and business leaders, real-time business simulations, and case competitions. Research projects, team-building activities, and access to industry leaders familiarize students with essential components of business education - organizational strategy, negotiation, and customer-centricity.

Participants earn a Wharton Global Youth Certificate of Completion on completion of the program.

Eligibility: Seniors with demonstrated leadership experience and a minimum GPA of 3.5

Dates: Jun 4 - Jun 24, 2023, Jun 25 - Jul 15, 2023, Jul 16 - Aug 5, 2023

Location: On Campus, Philadelphia, PA

Cost: To Be Announced

Application deadline: January 25 2023, April 5 2023

Selectivity: High

The NSLC is a competitive, multi-subject summer program for high school students. The NSLC pre-college program offers 20+ courses across various disciplines such as Acting, Journalism. Law, Nursing, and Aviation. As part of the program, you are required to engage in hands-on simulations, learn and interact with guest speakers, gain leadership skills and training, and network with like-minded peers. Based on the course you select, you will be expected to live on the corresponding college campus (a few affiliated campuses being UPenn, University of Miami, University of California, Berkeley, Yale University, and Virginia Tech). You learn and live on the campuses of some of your dream schools - which can be a great way to expose yourself to university life before committing to a major or school. The program boasts of a 9:1 student-to-staff ratio. It has seen students from over 70 countries participate in past years.

Eligibility: Students in grades 9-12 can apply

Dates: Varies from course to course, usually spans from 9-18 days

Location: Varies, you can check out the locations offered here

Cost: Varies from course to course, can range from 3,000 - 6,500 dollars, scholarships available

Application Deadline: Varies, but you can expect deadlines to be somewhere around mid-March.

Selectivity: Moderate

Based in the Boston and Greater Boston Area, the Boston Leadership Institute is a summer program for high and pre-high school students. Their programs are designed for students to get hands-on experience, making them leaders in the STEM and business fields.

The Boston Leadership Institute has two options of programs ranging from three-Week Programs to One-Week Programs.

Three-week programs are in-depth introductions to subjects like Science, Engineering, Medicine and Business that allow high school students to engage with these subjects through field trips, facilities and project ideas.

One-week programs enable students with limited time to dive into a STEM subject. Students can opt to take multiple one-week programs in a row without the requirement of an application, creating opportunities for students to understand the courses they are passionate about.

EDGE Programs are one-week programs that give students a head start on the material they'll see in their Fall classes.

The Boston Leadership Institute offers in-depth, immersive programs for students entering grades 8-12 at all locations.

Eligibility: Students are entering grades 10-12.

Location: Boston Leadership Institute campus

Dates: Varies from program to program

Cost: Varies from program to program

Application Deadline: Varies from program to program

Selectivity: Moderate

Lumiere Research Scholar Program

Research is another way to showcase leadership. If you are passionate about research, then you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students that I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 2100 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.

Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a PhD student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.

Image source: Bank of America Student Leaders Program



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