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10 Liberal Arts Summer Programs for High School Students

Exploring liberal arts disciplines before college offers high school students a valuable opportunity to develop critical thinking skills and gain a broader perspective on the world. Engaging with subjects like literature, history, philosophy, psychology, and the arts fosters intellectual curiosity and creativity, while also demonstrating to college admissions officers a student’s versatility and readiness for higher education. Early exposure to liberal arts can significantly enrich your academic journey, fostering intellectual growth and enhancing your college prospects. 

Here are the 10 best liberal arts summer programs for high school students that you can apply to!

Location: Cornell University, University of Maryland, and University of Michigan

Cost: Free

Application Deadline: The deadline for TASS 2024 was January 3. Dates TBD for 2025!

Program Dates: 6 weeks, between June to August. The 2024 program sessions will run from June 23 to August 3.

Eligibility: High school sophomores and juniors. Participants must be at least 15 and no older than 18 at the start of the program. Black and Indigenous students, other students of color, and/or students who have experienced economic hardship are strongly encouraged to apply!

If you’re a sophomore or junior with a passion for the liberal arts, the Telluride Association Summer Seminar (TASS) offers an exceptional opportunity. This prestigious, six-week program is entirely free and focuses on fostering critical thinking and building a supportive community. TASS covers all costs, ensuring financial barriers don’t hinder talented students. 

Expect rigorous academic engagement with three-hour daily classes led by expert faculty, including discussions, group work, and lectures. You’ll also hone your writing skills through essay assignments. Beyond academics, TASS encourages democratic decision-making in communal activities, fostering an inclusive environment where like-minded individuals thrive. For a deep dive into TASS and tips for applying, check out this article!

Location: Online and in-person on campus (Princeton, NJ)

Cost: Free

Application Deadline: The application deadline for 2024 was February 15. Dates TBD for 2025.

Program Dates: A multi-week, hybrid summer intensive beginning with online workshops in July and culminating in a 10-day residential experience on Princeton’s campus from July 26 to August 5, 2024.

Eligibility: Applicants must be a junior in high school at the time of application, live in the U.S. and intend to attend college here, have a minimum unweighted GPA of at least 3.5 out of 4.0, have an interest in journalism, and meet at least one of the socioeconomic conditions listed here!

The Princeton Summer Journalism Program presents a unique opportunity for aspiring journalists to immerse themselves in the craft through a dynamic blend of online workshops, lectures, and a transformative residential institute element. Across July, participants engage in virtual sessions led by distinguished journalists, delving into the intricacies of the field while also exploring pressing issues shaping contemporary media landscapes. 

On campus, hands-on activities include visits to major news organizations, reporting on local news, producing digital content, and investigative reporting, culminating in the creation of The Princeton Summer Journal. The program’s liberal arts approach extends its curriculum beyond technical skills to encompass discussions on humanities, arts, culture, social events, and history! Check out this article to learn more about this program.

Location: Stanford Campus, CA

Cost: $8,250 (Financial aid is available).

Application Deadline: The application deadline for the 2024 program was February 1, 2024. Dates TBD for 2025.

Program Dates: 3 weeks, typically between June and August. 

Eligibility: Rising high school juniors and seniors are eligible to apply. 

The Stanford Summer Humanities Institute offers an enriching experience for those passionate about sociology, providing an opportunity to delve into humanities fields beyond the standard high school curriculum. The program emphasizes original research projects, fostering academic independence and critical thinking! Collaborating closely with Stanford professors and mentors, participants create independent research projects, allowing for deeper engagement with sociological topics. 

One highlighted course, “Racial Identity in the American Imagination,” explores the evolution of racial identity in the United States through historical, legal, and literary texts and films. By examining major historical transformations, the program equips students with research skills and insights into complex societal issues, preparing them for future pursuits in sociology and related fields.

Location: Yale Campus, CT

Cost: $6500

Application Deadline: The application deadline for the 2024 program was January 10, 2024. Dates TBD for 2025. 

Program Dates: Multiple cohorts throughout June to August. 

Eligibility: Must be at least 16 years old, a current sophomore or junior (or any international equivalent), and a first-time participant.

The Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS) Politics, Law, & Economics (PLE) session offers high school students a deep dive into the intricate realms of economics, government, and law. Tailored for those keen on exploring economic theories, governmental practices, and legal frameworks, this program delves into topics such as public policy, human rights, market regulation, and international relations!

Through interdisciplinary study, participants develop critical thinking and analytical skills vital for understanding contemporary global issues. The program encourages you to analyze current challenges using economic, legal, and political theories as frameworks. Students will explore questions ranging from the dynamics of political change to the challenges of regulating cross-border economic activities. YYGS PLE equips students with insights crucial for future studies or careers in these fields.

Location: Brown University campus, Providence, RI

Cost: Varies according to the number of courses and their duration. Some financial aid is offered.

Application Deadline: May 10, 2024

Program Dates: 1-3 week sessions are available between June 23 and July 26, 2024

Eligibility: Students who are completing 9th, 10th, 11th, or 12th grade, and are between the ages of 14 to 18 years old by June 16, 2024.

Brown University’s summer program provides high school students with access to over 300 non-credit courses, both online and on campus, with a notable focus on liberal arts topics. These intersectional offerings span courses like Power and the Production of History, Introduction to Neural Networks and the Philosophy of AI, and The Racial Politics of Skepticism, among others

With such diverse options, students are bound to discover topics that captivate their interest. What sets Summer@Brown apart is its flexible schedule, empowering students to balance academics with extracurricular pursuits as they prepare for college.

Location: Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)

Cost: $5,550 + $75 application fee. Some financial aid is offered.

Application Deadline: The late application deadline for 2024 was April 10, 2024. Dates TBD for 2025.

Program Dates: Multiple two-week sessions spanning June 23 to August 3, 2024.


  • This program is open to rising juniors and seniors. Those applying must not be turning 19 years old before the start of the program. 

  • Additionally, eligible applicants will graduate from high school and enter college in 2025 or 2026.

This academically rigorous two-week pre-college program, conducted exclusively on campus, offers a range of course options for students interested in the humanities. From Speech, Writing, and Literature to Law, Politics, Philosophy, Race, Gender, and Ethics, there are various avenues to explore. 

Led by Harvard faculty, participants can anticipate academic challenges as they develop their skill set and lay a solid foundation in their chosen field. This prestigious program provides a glimpse into college life on campus and is an excellent opportunity for students eager to delve into their potential major.

Location: Pomona College, Claremont, CA

Cost: Free

Application Deadline: Dates TBD for 2025. Applications typically close in February.

Program Dates: Typically 4 weeks from June to July. The 2024 program will run from June 23 to July 19.

Eligibility: Applicants must be:

  • Currently a 9th-grade student

  • A resident of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, or Ventura Counties

PAYS is an intensive 4-week residential program where students engage in coursework, cultural events, workshops, field trips, and projects. However, this continues throughout the academic year for 3 consecutive years upon acceptance. During the summer, PAYS participants engage in a rigorous, four-week liberal arts curriculum intended to push students’ academic boundaries and to foster community among students and college mentors. 

You’ll get to enroll in demanding Critical Inquiry seminars taught by Pomona College professors that require active, attentive class participation and a minimum of three analytical papers. You’ll be assigned at least one hands-on exercise each week that involves data collection and Excel modeling. Trained college teaching assistants will support you in learning and leading your seminars. Through the summer, classroom training that fosters quantitative, analytical, and writing development is supplemented by a residential group context, close mentoring, and ongoing networking opportunities.

Location: University of Pennsylvania, PN

Cost: $9,700 program fee + $75 application fee

Application Deadline: The applications for summer 2024 are closed. Dates TBD for 2025.

Program Dates: 3 weeks between June and July. The 2024 program will run from July 6 to July 27.

Eligibility: Current 9th — 11th grade students are eligible to apply!

The Social Justice Research Academy aims to foster critical thinking regarding the sociological, historical, and political dimensions of inequality and resistance. Throughout the program, participants engage in a liberal arts-style curriculum spanning lectures and workshops aimed at honing leadership, research, and analytical skills.

Selected participants undertake a capstone project, wherein they develop a research question related to topics explored in the coursework. These projects can be traditional academic papers or more innovative endeavors. Past projects have delved into various subjects, such as AAPI representation in Hollywood, redlining, gun deaths among Black men, and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on minority populations.

Location: Brown University, RI, or Virtual.

Cost: $5,498 (on-campus, residential) | $4,318 (on-campus, commuter) | $5,314 (online)

Application Deadline: May 10, 2024.

Program dates: Students can choose to attend one 2-week session on campus, or a 4-week session online. The on-campus session has two options — June 23 to July 5, 2024, and July 14 to 26, 2024. The online session will be held from June 24, 2024, to July 19, 2024.

Eligibility: Students completing grades 9 to 12, aged 14 to 18, by June 16, 2024, can apply.

The Leadership Institute offered by Brown University provides students with an opportunity to deepen their understanding of intricate social issues and acquire the tools to drive meaningful change. With a diverse array of course options including Leadership and Social Change, Women and Leadership, Leadership, Power, and the Politics of Language, participants have the flexibility to explore topics aligned with their interests. 

The program focuses on developing skills such as active listening, public speaking, problem-solving, conflict resolution, and teamwork. Culminating in an Action Plan, students are tasked with selecting a cause they are passionate about and devising a strategy to address it, drawing upon the knowledge and skills acquired throughout the program.

Location: University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA

Cost: Free

Application Deadline: Summer 2024 applications are now closed. Applications typically close in November of the previous year. Dates TBD for 2025. 

Program Dates: 4 weeks, typically from June to July. The 2024 program will run from June 17 to July 19.

Eligibility: Students must reside and attend high school in Los Angeles County!

This four-week summer intensive academy caters to 26 talented high school students eager to explore the intersection of media communications/journalism and civics in depth. Throughout the program, participants will hone skills in writing, critical thinking, public speaking, debate, multimedia creation, interviewing, and ethnography

You should expect to engage in a range of first-year college-level courses and have the opportunity to connect with innovative academics dedicated to advancing issues of racial, gender, and ethnic diversity in journalism and communication!

One other option - Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you would like to participate in a rigorous research program open to high schoolers, you should also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.

Also check out the Lumiere Research Inclusion Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented, low-income students.

Trisha Malhotra, an Ashoka University alumna, has 5 years of experience being a freelance writer and currently writes for Lumiere Education. She is passionate about music, reading, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, as well as a devoted cat parent.

Image Source: UPenn logo


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