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8 Public Policy Summer Programs for High School Students

Summer breaks while in high school are the perfect time to explore your interests outside of the school curriculum. If you’re interested in exploring the field of public policy, then this article is for you! 

Summer programs can offer a structured platform for students to dig deeper into their subject of interest. They can also provide the opportunity to develop the skills and build a network that will come in hand when you start planning your career. These programs can connect you with experts in the field, offer college credit, and provide unique experiences as you dive into topics that might not be covered in school. Attending a summer program also shows college admissions officers that you’re motivated to go the extra mile to explore your field of interest.

If you're interested in gaining pre-college experience in public policy, we’ve curated a list of 8 public policy summer programs for you to consider.

At Georgetown’s American Politics Academy, students will take an in-depth look at the three branches of government through a combination of lectures and debate exercises. Students will get to learn from key elected officials, Capitol Hill staff, lobbyists, and various policymakers, who will join class discussions on congressional campaigns, legislative priorities, and emerging national issues. You will also participate in congressional simulations and contemporary political debates with your mentors, peers and university faculty. The subject areas covered are: Congress and the presidency, the impact of the judiciary, public opinion, interest groups, and foreign and public policy. 

Application deadline: May 15, 2024

Eligibility: Current or rising high school freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors during the academic year prior to the summer program are eligible to apply.

Program dates: July 14-20, 2023 

Location: Georgetown University, Washington, DC

Cost: $3,389 (This is the estimated fee. It includes tuition, housing, and meals.) $2,625 is the commuter fee.


CivicWeek is a community-based program that encourages students to examine important social topics, while they experience how different communities address challenges first-hand. Students will gain hands-on experiences, hold debates with their peers, and engage in team-building exercises during the program. Students will get the chance to interact with government leaders, business and nonprofit experts, learn about their careers, motivations, and understand how they bring about change. A service project is an important part of the program: students are asked to partner with a local non-profit or community organization and support their work by using what they’ve learned from the program. 

Application deadline: February 14, 2024

Eligibility: Students in grades 7-12 can apply, provided they meet one of the following criteria: and must also provide one of the following:

  • Obtained a score of 90th percentile or higher on a nationally-normed grade level assessment in the required verbal / reading qualifying subject area

  • Successful completion of a Center for Talent Development course, with a verbal/reading qualifying subject area within the past two years

  • Submission of a portfolio application, consisting of a teacher recommendation and the student’s most recent report card, demonstrating that the student is performing well in language arts or humanities.

Program dates: 4-day and 7-day program options are offered in the Spring and Summer. Exact dates are yet to be announced.

Location: Northwestern University, Evanston, IL  

Cost: While the exact costs are yet to be announced, the program fee will cover lodging and meals, transportation, staff instruction, recreational expenses, and project materials.  

At the NSLC on Political Action and Public Policy, you will get a chance to explore the functions and workings of Congress, advocacy groups, lobbying efforts, and citizen engagement. Students will be guided by leading political advisors and politicians, while they explore what a future career in politics would entail through hands-on training and learning. The program offers field trips and tours, sessions with guest speakers from different backgrounds, and encourages students to build their leadership and communication skills. Simulated sessions include taking on the role of a Senator as you draft a bill, planning an election campaign, and more. 

Application deadline: Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Eligibility: All high school students (grades 9-12) can apply.

Program dates: The conference has two sessions to choose from – July 12-20, 2024 |  July 24, 2024 - August 1, 2024

Location: Georgetown University, Washington, DC

Cost: $3,795 (includes housing and meals)

The Lumiere Research Scholar Program, founded by researchers at Harvard and Oxford, pairs you with a top PhD student. You then work with your mentor 1-1 to produce a university-level research paper.

Hundreds of ambitious high school students do research in a number of fields through this program. You can choose to do research in political science, public policy, governance – up to you! The programs are entirely virtual and vary in duration based on the student’s end goal with respect to how much of a deep dive they would prefer. The research opportunities range from pure political science to combining politics with other social sciences.

Past research conducted by students in this program has explored the impact of social movements on effective political change and public political attitudes and their effect on democratic backsliding in countries.

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

Application deadline: January (Spring cohort) | April (Summer cohort) | August (Fall cohort) | November (Winter cohort)  Apply here for the upcoming Spring cohort!

Eligibility: All high school students are eligible to apply.

Program dates: For the 4 yearly cohorts (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter), typically a start date is set. Dates and durations vary as this is a 1-1 program.

Location: Virtual! You can be anywhere in the world.

This Leadership Institute offered by Brown University can help students deepen their understanding of complex social issues, and build knowledge on how to enact change. This program has many course options to choose from, such as Leadership and Social Change, Women and Leadership, Leadership, Power, and the Politics of Language. The program aims to help you build your skills in active listening, public speaking, problem-solving, conflict resolution, and teamwork. The course culminates in an Action Plan – where students must choose a problem they are passionate about and create a plan to address that problem by applying what they have learned during the program.

Note: This program is part of Brown’s Pre-College Summer session.

Application deadline: Applications open January 17, 2024. Applications are accepted on  a rolling basis January 22, 2024 onward. The final date to apply is May 10, 2924.

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

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, 2024 – July 5, 2024

  • July 14-26, 2024

The online session will be held June 24, 2024 – July 19, 2024.

Location: Brown University, Providence, RI, if you’re choosing the on campus option. Virtual, if not!

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

UCLA’s political science department offers a three-week summer program with introductory coursework in politics, allowing students to develop a strong understanding of the workings of government and policy. The program also includes a variety of career panels, where students can listen to various policymakers talk about their career journeys, meet mentors, and learn about the different paths they could pursue with a political science degree. This program offers college credit! You can get a sense of what the program schedule will look like here. For this program, housing is mandatory.

Application deadline: June 15, 2024

Eligibility: High school students who will be in grades 9-12 by spring 2024 can apply.

Program dates: June 23, 2024 – July 13, 2024

Location: University of California, Los Angeles, CA.

Cost: $461. This is the estimated fee. Do check the program page for updates! 

Harvard University’s undergraduate program in political science is one of the most prestigious programs in the country. High school students can get a glimpse into that with Harvard’s pre-college program. This is a two-week intensive summer program where students live on the Harvard campus while taking college-level courses in a field of their choosing. While there’s a wide range of subject choices, those keen on public policy can select Government or Legal Studies, each offering a number of courses. Some of the courses you could choose are International Relations, Global Governance, and the United Nations, The Politics of US Social Policy, and Introduction to American Law. At the end of the program, you’ll receive a written evaluation from your instructor, as well as a Harvard transcript. This program is also a great way to enhance your college applications! 

Application deadline: January 10, 2024 (Early applications) | February 14, 2024 (Regular applications) | April 10, 2024 (Late applications)

Eligibility: High school students who will be college freshmen in 2025-26 can apply. Students applying must be at least 16 years old by June 22, 2024, and should not turn 19 years old before July 31, 2024.

Program dates: Session I (June 23, 2024 - July 5, 2024) | Session II (July 7-19, 2024) | Session III (July 21, 2024 - August 2, 2024)

Location: Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

Cost: $5,550 + $75 application fee. This includes tuition, room and meal plan, activity costs.

As part of its residential 2-week Global Young Scholars program, Yale University offers a Politics, Law, and Economics track aimed at building students’ critical thinking and analytical skills, as they explore present-day issues and public policy approaches. The program allows students to connect them with Yale University professors, mentors, and peers, helping them build a strong network. Students will learn key concepts in topics such as public policy, market regulation, international policy, and more. Sample seminar offerings include ‘Can Genocides be Forgiven?’, and ‘The Meritocracy Trap’ and ‘Artificial Intelligence and the Law’.

Application deadline: November 1, 2023 (Early applications) | January 10, 2024 (Regular applications)

Eligibility: Students who will be between the ages of 16-18 by July 21, 2024, and are current high school sophomores or juniors, can apply. 

Program dates: Session I - June 23, 2024 - July 5, 2024 | Session II - July 7-19, 2024 | Session III - July 21, 2024 - August 2, 2024.

Location: Yale University, New Haven, CT.

Cost: $6,500 (This includes housing, meals, tuition)

If you are passionate about research in public policy, trade, and international relations, then you could consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, an online high school program for students that I 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.

Amelia is a current senior at Harvard College studying art history with a minor in economics. She’s enthusiastic about music, movies, and writing, and is excited to help Veritas AIs students as much as she can!

Image Source: NSLC logo


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