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8 Reasons Why You Should Apply to the Davidson THINK Summer Institute

For high schoolers like yourself, there are an increasing number of options to learn deeply about subjects you’re passionate about, while simultaneously strengthening your profile for college applications. Whether you’re into STEM, history, sociology, or art, there are plenty of summer programs or pre-college courses out there that will let you build your skills while demonstrating your commitment to personal growth. 


Today’s blog post focuses on one such opportunity - the Davidson THINK Summer Institute, a program that offers a unique blend of academic rigor and cultural enrichment.


What is the THINK Summer Institute?

The Davidson THINK Summer Institute, hosted by the Davidson Institute, is a three-week residential program held at the University of Nevada, Reno. Designed for high-achieving students aged 13 to 16, it aims to provide an intensive, interdisciplinary study experience. You'll have the chance to earn college credits, access university resources, and enjoy field trips and activities. The program focuses on providing a comprehensive learning environment, both through holistically structured courses introducing you to college-level concepts as well as social connections with academically motivated peers.


Who is eligible to apply?

To be eligible for the THINK Summer Institute, you must:

  • Be 13 to 16 years old during the program dates.

  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent U.S. resident living in the United States.

  • Have a copy of your SAT or ACT score report. Admission to THINK is driven largely by your academics, though there is no minimum score requirement as each application is evaluated holistically.

  • Have one recommendation from an individual who can attest to your capability and aptitude.


How does the application process work?

The application period for THINK is open from January 5 to March 29, 2024. You will need the following when filling out your application:

  • Your SAT or ACT score report.

  • Recommender contact information.

  • Your unofficial high school transcript.

  • 300-word responses to the following three essay prompts:

    • Essay #1: Introduce yourself, explain why you want to attend THINK, what you hope to gain from attending, and why you are interested in your first-choice course. Address prerequisite completion (if applicable), any experience you have had at summer camps (if applicable), and any experience staying organized and remaining focused in a challenging learning atmosphere. 

    • Essay #2: THINK is an intense academic and social experience that requires organization and focus. Please tell us about a time that you experienced a social or emotional challenge. How did you overcome this challenge and how do you believe having this experience will benefit you during your time at THINK? 

    • Essay #3: Choose ONE of the following prompts:

      • Write about a problem that you want to solve. It can be as big or as small as you can think of! How will you solve it?

      • Pick a quote or song lyric that best describes a lot about you at the moment. Explain why you connect with it.

      • Describe something you're passionate about, something that makes you easily lose track of time. How do you learn more about it? What makes it so appealing?

      • Completed online application.

      • A $25 application fee.


Normally, you’ll receive a decision notification within a month of completing the application.


How much does THINK cost?

A non-refundable deposit of $1,000 is required after acceptance, with the remaining fee of $3,425 due by April 26, 2024, bringing the total cost to $4,450.


Note that limited financial aid is available for families demonstrating financial need, and you will need to concurrently submit a Financial Assistance Application with your regular application.


How is the THINK Summer Institute structured?

The THINK Summer Institute offers courses taught by faculty from the University of Nevada, Reno. You can enroll in one course for 3 or 4 credits, which may include a laboratory portion. These courses are designed to challenge and engage you with college-level content, with at least 6 hours of study in the average day along with additional time for self-study and group activities. The credits you earn from successfully completing the course transfer to high school or college, providing a head start in your academic journey. The course catalog for 2024 includes the following courses:


  • Sociology 101 - Principles of Sociology (3 credits): Taught by Associate Professor Clayton Peoples, Ph.D., this course delves into the sociological principles that shape culture, society, human groups, and personality formation. You'll explore the development and function of these elements and their role in social change. This course is ideal for students interested in understanding the dynamics of society and human behavior, with no prerequisites required.

  • History 209 & 498 - World History II & Advanced Historical Studies (4 credits): Under the guidance of Edward Schoolman, Ph.D., Department Vice Chair and Associate Professor, this course offers a comprehensive survey of world history since 1500. You'll examine significant events like the exploration and conquest of the Americas, the transformation of Europe, and the expansion of colonial power. The course also covers the tumultuous events of the 20th century, providing a deep understanding of historical developments that have shaped our world. No prerequisites are needed for this course.

  • Math 181 - Calculus I (4 credits): Instructed by Darren Ripley, Ph.D., this course introduces the fundamental concepts of analytic geometry and calculus, including functions, graphs, limits, derivatives, and integrals. It's perfect for students who have completed Precalculus/Trigonometry by May 15 and are ready to dive into higher-level mathematics. This course not only strengthens your math skills but also prepares you for advanced studies in fields like engineering, physics, and economics.


  • Anthropology 222 - Fundamentals of Forensic Anthropology (3 credits): Led by Marin Pilloud, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director, this course provides an introduction to forensic anthropology. You'll learn about the methods used to recover and identify human remains and evaluate trauma and taphonomy in legal contexts. This course is ideal for students interested in anthropology, forensic science, or criminal justice. There are no prerequisites, making it accessible to all students with a curiosity in this field.

Is the program prestigious?

The Davidson THINK Summer Institute is designed to be quite selective - the average participant works one or two grade levels above in one or more subjects and scores around the 95th percentile in academic testing. This means that simply qualifying to attend it adds a notch to your profile proving your academic capabilities. The opportunities the program provides for practical experience and deep learning are also significant and readily apparent in its pedagogy and curriculum. While this prestige is somewhat offset by the relatively higher cost of entry, the rigorous academic requirements make it selective enough to bolster that prestige.


8 reasons to apply

  1. You get to earn college credits: This program is an exceptional opportunity to earn college credits while still in high school. It not only gives you a head start in your higher education journey but also demonstrates your ability to handle college-level coursework to future universities.

  2. You will experience campus life: Living on the University of Nevada, Reno campus, you'll get a real taste of college life. This experience is helpful in preparing you for the transition to university, helping you develop independence and a sense of responsibility.

  3. You will get to connect with similarly talented peers: You'll meet and build friendships with other gifted students from across the country. These connections often last beyond the program, forming a network of supportive, like-minded individuals who share your academic interests and aspirations.

  4. You will receive expert guidance: Learning from experienced university faculty, you'll gain insights and knowledge from experts in their fields. This exposure to high-level academic thinking and research can inspire your future academic and career choices.

  5. It is a comprehensive learning experience: The program offers an intensive, interdisciplinary study experience. You'll dive deep into subjects, encouraging critical thinking and a broader understanding of complex topics, which is essential for academic growth.

  6. The program goes beyond academics: The program includes field trips and activities that enrich your cultural understanding. These experiences provide a well-rounded education, allowing you to learn outside the traditional classroom setting.

  7. You will grow socially and emotionally: In the supportive but competitive environment that THINK provides, you'll develop not just academically but also socially and emotionally. This growth is crucial in building confidence, resilience, and social skills that are vital for personal and professional success.

  8. You will get excellent networking opportunities: The program connects you with a network of alumni and professionals, offering opportunities for mentorship and future collaborations. These connections can be instrumental in your academic and career development, opening doors to new possibilities.

In conclusion, the Davidson THINK Summer Institute offers a unique blend of academic challenge, cultural enrichment, and personal growth. It's an opportunity not just to enhance your college application, but to gain experiences and skills that will benefit you long into the future.



Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you’d like to participate in a rigorous research program open to high schoolers, you may want to consider the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded by 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. Last year, we had 150 students on full need-based financial aid!


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: Davidson THINK Summer Institute logo

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