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Everything You Need to Know About TASS (Telluride Association Summer Seminar) Summer Program

High school students interested in the humanities sometimes struggle to find exposure in the field of their choice outside of high school. If this sounds like you, or if you’re a curious humanities student looking to further their knowledge, then you should keep reading to learn more about Telluride Association Summer Seminar (TASS).


This article will offer an overview of the program and explore whether it is a good fit for you.


What is the Telluride Association?

Telluride Association is a non-profit dedicated to fostering intellectual curiosity and social impact among young people. The Telluride Association Summer Seminar (formerly known as Telluride Association Summer Program) was established in 1945 to inspire and develop future scholars in the humanities.


The Telluride Association Summer Seminar exists in an in-person living and learning format, with this year’s seminar being hosted at the University of Michigan. The camp welcomes a select cohort of 40-70 students from across the world who are led by faculty members and teaching assistants. The two seminars currently offered are the Program in Critical Black Studies and the Program in Anti-Oppressive Studies.


TASS is held at different university campuses each year, with previous hosts including Cornell University, the University of Michigan, the University of Maryland, Boston University.


How prestigious is TASS?

TASS is one of the most prestigious summer programs for high school students, boasting a cadre of alumni who are leading scholars in the humanities. In addition to its list of distinguished affiliates it is also highly selective; its acceptance rate each year is consistently below 5%. Students who have participated in TASS have gone on to attend highly selective colleges and universities including Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, & Williams.


Who is eligible?

All students in their second and third years of highschool are invited to apply for TASS. While international students are encouraged to apply to TASS, the program is not able to assist with acquiring visas for international travel.


Students interested in the humanities and social sciences, especially in topics such as politics, sociology, and philosophy are encouraged to participate!


Program dates and deadlines

TASS typically takes place from late June until early August of each year. Next year’s camp is scheduled to take place from June 23rd through August 3, 2024. Applications for Telluride Arts Camp open up in mid-October of the preceding year. Students are required to submit their application early January of the year they wish to attend and may only apply to one of the two Summer seminars offered.


How much does it cost?

One benefit of the TASS is that it is free for students. Generous donations allow for the Telluride Association to offer its programs at no charge to students. Additionally, the program offers additional need-based financial aid to cover the cost of travel and/or a stipend for students who demonstrate significant need.


What will you do as a TASS Participant?

TASS participants in small seminar-style classes in either Critical Black Studies or Anti-Oppressive Studies for the duration of their six weeks on campus. Students engage with thought-provoking readings and collaborate on projects that challenge their critical thinking skills. These classes are led by dedicated educators who are passionate about fostering intellectual growth.


Outside of their classes, TASS also offers cultural enrichment activities, allowing students to explore the local culture and engage in artistic and recreational pursuits. These activities contribute to a well-rounded experience, encouraging personal growth and community.



TASS's 2023 cohort
TASS's 2023 cohort

Pros and Cons of TASS

Pros of TASS

  1. The program is very prestigious: The Telluride Association Summer Seminar is one of the oldest and most prestigious high school programs in the humanities. Not only do alumni of the program go on to attend highly selective colleges and universities, they are among some of the foremost scholars in feminist studies, queer studies, literature and other subjects in the humanities.

  2. TASS hosts a diverse and inclusive community: TASS brings together a diverse group of high-achieving students from various backgrounds. This diversity fosters an inclusive community where participants can learn from each other's perspectives and experiences. The subject areas of the seminars, Critical Black Studies and Anti-Oppressive studies, lend themselves to attracting students from a wide array of socioeconomic backgrounds.

  3. It offers robust networking and mentorship opportunities: TASS provides an excellent opportunity to build a strong network with like-minded peers. The connections made during the program can be valuable throughout your academic and professional journey. In addition to the peers students encounter in TASS, faculty and teaching assistants will serve as intellectual mentors throughout the summer seminar and beyond.

  4. The program is fully funded: One of the most significant advantages of TASS is that it is fully funded. This means that tuition, room, and board are covered, making it accessible to students from all economic backgrounds.

  5. TASS helps you with college prep: TASS helps prepare students for the academic challenges of college. The small seminar-style classes and independent research projects mirror the college experience and equip participants with essential skills. Students walk away from TASS having grown their analytic thinking and are able to build upon that further over the course of their senior year.


Cons of TASS

  1. Selection for this program is quite competitive: TASS is highly competitive, and gaining acceptance can be challenging. The rigorous application process includes essays, recommendations, and interviews, making it a significant time investment.

  2. The workload is quite intensive: The academic rigor of TASS can be overwhelming for some participants. The workload is demanding, with daily seminars, assignments, and readings, which might leave little room for leisure. This may clash with other commitments, such as summer jobs or family vacations.

  3. It has a limited focus on extracurricular activities: While TASS focuses on academics, it offers limited extracurricular activities. If you're looking for a program that combines intellectual pursuits with a broader range of experiences, TASS may not be the best fit.

  4. The camp is not very accessible for students based outside of the USA: TASS is held in the United States, limiting its accessibility for international students. Additionally, the program is hosted at different college campuses each year, which may require travel. TASS does not help students secure international visas, which may present an obstacle for some international students who want to attend.


Our Review

The Telluride Association Summer Seminar is one of the best ways you can demonstrate a rigorous commitment to the humanities. Participation in this highly competitive program has fostered the intellectual development of leading scholars and social scientists. Furthermore, the free nature of the program creates additional incentives for students to apply. On the other hand, if you prefer a more balanced summer experience or have other commitments, you may want to explore alternative programs such as the Stanford Summer Humanities Institute (SHI), the Penn Summer Social Justice Research Academy, or the Carleton Summer Liberal Arts Institute. You should consider TASS if you are a hardworking student who is strongly considering future study in the humanities and liberal arts. TASS is well suited for students who are looking to be intellectually challenged and preparing for further humanities preparation. TASS is not the best fit for less rigorous students or students looking to further their education in the social sciences or empirical research.


Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you are passionate about research in the humanities and social sciences, you should also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students that was 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.


Ive Jones is a current senior at Princeton University Studying Health Policy and Dance. She is fiercely passionate about transforming the landscape of what is possible in America's healthcare system. Aside from her intellectual interests, she enjoys eating food from across the world, running, and experiencing performance art.


Image Source: TASS logo



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