The American Legion Boys State is a highly respected educational program for US high school students. At Boys State, participants learn about the rights and responsibilities of citizens, with training centered on the structure of city, country, and state governments. Boys State programs currently exist in all Legion departments in the United States, except Hawaii. Boys Nation is an annual forum concerning the same values of civil training, government, and leadership, but consists of only 100 participants, chosen from the pool of 20,000 Boys State participants. These delegates attend a week-long event in Washington D.C.
A prestigious program, there are many reasons one might apply for Boys State and Nation. In this guide, we’ve listed 7 reasons a student should consider joining!
1. The program is prestigious
With just 2 out of 400 representatives chosen from each state, Boys Nation is one of the most selective and prestigious programs a high schooler can participate in. The admissions process is extremely rigorous: candidates are nominated by city counselors and building coordinators. They will then have to go through two rounds of interviews by a senior staff committee, and then the American Legion, before the two delegates are finally chosen. Boys State is also well regarded and is the only way you can be considered for Boys Nation. This sort of honor will certainly be of significance to your college application. Joining Boys State or Nation shows that you’re among the most passionate leaders, learners, and citizens in the country, something admission committees will be sure to take note of.
2. You build a great network
Boys State and Nation have a long list of notable alumni, including members from the Biden and Clinton family. Many delegates go on to become US Senators, governors, Congressmen, Chief Justices, and CEOs. This is a great opportunity to get connected to people who are deeply involved in state and federal governments and deeply influential when it comes to certain policies. Boys Nation participants will have the opportunity to meet many important people, often meeting with the incumbent president. If you are interested in other fields as well, Boys State and Nation hold a wide variety of alumni: brain surgeons, lawyers, actors…even Michael Jordan was a part of Boys State!
3. The program is fully funded
Boys Nation and Boys State is fully funded by scholarships. This means there is no cost to the program, and no loss if you decide to join! Even travel and stay are covered by various sponsorships. Given the value the name brings and the opportunities the program provides, there’s certainly no incentive not to apply!
4. You will be given great learning opportunities
During Boys State and Nation, you will learn all about the different forms of government in the US through engaging, hands-on activities. In Boys Nation, you will form a mock Senate and organize mock elections with your fellow members, writing and introducing bills to the Senate floor. You will also have the opportunity to attend lectures and forums and visit governmental institutions and historic sites. It is also tradition for the students to take a private tour of the White House, Supreme Court, Congress, and Pentagon. These are all fantastic, real-life learning opportunities: if you are interested in the US government and politics, there is no greater platform in which to explore this field as a high schooler.
Leadership is a skill that will no doubt be built through Boys State or Nation. You will be expected to take on great responsibilities, just as Senators do, and learn how to manage and handle them well, becoming a more well-rounded and confident leader. As leadership is one of the traits colleges most highly value, joining Boys State is a fantastic way to show that you’ve held many leadership responsibilities already.
5. You will participate in a new, engaging community
Boys State and Nation have been renowned for the communities they foster. In these week-long programs, you’ll be able to meet and connect with people with diverse backgrounds and experiences—this is a great forum in which to meet and befriend new people and expand your world views. Being a state representative at Boys Nation also means you’ll get to know the policies of your state a lot better; it forms a greater connection and understanding with your community.
6. The program can be used as preparation for a future career
If you are looking at a career in politics and government, there will likely be no better experience to try in high school than Boys State and Nation. Delving into the political process and meeting all sorts of professionals at Boys State or Nation will be a great experience to get your foot into the door. If you are considering a career in these fields, your experience at Boys State and Nation will likely be a good indicator for whether or not you’d enjoy a career in Congress, and if not, what it is you’re truly looking for.
As we’ve noted earlier, Boys State and Nation alumni have gone on to hold many prestigious positions in their wide variety of careers: it seems that the program works to provide their participants with the life skills they need to succeed later in life.
7. You have the chance to invoke real change
Joining Boys State and Nation means you’ll meet senators, representatives, and presidents. You’ll probably meet people who have a direct influence on your town or state policies. If you have an idea or change that you think would really help your community, now is your chance to say something about it! Rather than sending them an email or letter that might get lost in the flux, you’ll be able to speak to people face to face, one-on-one. Tell them about your opinions, your experiences, your ideas—this will be valuable for them to hear as well! It might just result in some real change.
Lumiere Research Scholar Program
If you are passionate about research then you could 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.
Amelia is a current junior at Harvard College studying art history with a minor in economics. She’s enthusiastic about music, movies, and writing, and is excited to help Lumiere’s students as much as she can!
Image source: American Legion logo