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Is it Worth Participating in the MIT Leadership Training Institute (LTI) as a High Schooler?

Regardless of what degree or academic path you’re considering, learning leadership skills can add great value to not just your college applications profile, but also to your own skill set. As such, you should make the effort of participating in some kind of leadership development program. Such experiences can help you showcase your initiative, commitment, and even provide you with the opportunity to make a positive impact. One program that stands out in this regard is the MIT Leadership Training Institute (LTI), the subject of today’s blog post. But is it worth your time and effort as a high school student? This blog will take you through what the LTI offers and whether it could be the right fit for you.

What is the MIT Leadership Training Institute?

The MIT Leadership Training Institute (LTI) is a twelve-week weekend program designed to empower high school students with the skills and mindset needed for effective leadership and community engagement. The program aims to cultivate leadership qualities by both teaching and developing leadership skills in a classroom environment, as well as facilitating a real-world community project to put those skills into practice. LTI’s sessions focus on exploring the various aspects of leadership, fostering planning and teamwork, and encouraging execution and change. By the end of the program, you will have a deeper understanding of leadership principles and how to apply them to drive meaningful change. LTI was founded in 2007 by two MIT students to be a self-sustaining leadership program, and has been offering these experiences for 17 years.

How is LTI structured?

The LTI program takes place on twelve Sundays from 1-4 pm at MIT’s campus during the spring, typically the second week of February to the second week of May. It consists of two main sessions: one focused on leadership development and the other on a community service project. These sessions are designed to complement each other, with leadership activities informing the community service projects and vice versa.

  1. Leadership Development: This part of the program focuses on building essential leadership skills like confidence, creativity, and determination, as well as exploring what leadership represents. You and your peers will be divided into small groups, each led by two Leadership Development Mentors (LMs), fostering a close-knit environment. The curriculum includes discussions on the traits of leaders, emotional intelligence, and group dynamics. You will also spend time understanding diversity, community, privilege, and the American dream. Through self-examination and discussions with your peers and mentors, you will learn to think strategically, resolve conflicts and manage communities, preparing you for effective teamwork and leadership.

  2. Community Service Project: Each LTI student undertakes a community service project under the guidance of a Project Mentor (PM). While it starts with identifying the communities you belong to and the issues these communities face, you can choose to pursue almost any kind of community service project. Through brainstorming sessions, your PM will help you narrow down a real, practical and approachable project idea, which may be anything from addressing school-related issues like stress and bullying to broader community concerns. The PM will help you create a timeline and plan, which you will then pursue to the best of your ability and with regular guidance. The program culminates in a final presentation, where you will be showcasing your project to an audience of LTI parents, students, and mentors. This process not only builds project management skills but also enhances public speaking and confidence.

Is it prestigious?

While the LTI requires participants to live within commuting distance of the MIT campus, therefore limiting the potential pool of applicants, it is still a moderately prestigious program that accepts only a few students each year working in small batches. This competitive selection, along with the deep and practical experience offered, make it a coveted opportunity for high school students. The skills you will be taught here are useful throughout your academic journey and your career, regardless of where you may choose to pursue it. The networking opportunities the program offers, along with the opportunity to make impactful change in your community, makes it a valuable program to both build connections as well as produce tangible results to showcase on your resume.

Who is eligible for LTI and how do you apply?

To apply for the MIT Leadership Training Institute, you simply need to be a high schooler in grades 9-12 living within commuting distance of the MIT campus. The application for LTI requires:

  • Your basic information.

  • Four short answer (150-250 word) questions:

    • Identify a problem you think needs to be addressed in your community and why it is important.

    • Describe a time in your life you have dealt with adversity, on any scale, and how it may have changed your perspective.

    • What do you do for fun?

    • Why do you want to join the Leadership Training Institute? What do you hope to gain from this experience?

  • You will also need to provide the details of a mentor or school counselor who can speak to your ability and motivation.

While the deadline for the application is December 1, LTI conducts rolling applications, so you’re encouraged to apply at the earliest. Note that LTI is completely free of charge!

Pros and cons of TLI


  1. Expert, close-knit mentorship: The program’s structure of having small groups led by two Leadership Development Mentors allows for personalized guidance and support, fostering a close-knit environment that enriches your learning. The Project Mentors (PMs) are experienced in guiding you through complex project development, ensuring high-quality learning and project outcomes.

  2. Diverse curriculum: The curriculum emphasizes diversity, community, and understanding privilege, providing you with a broad perspective that is crucial for modern leadership.

  3. Practical application and meaningful impact: You will get to apply your leadership skills in real-world scenarios through a community service project that you are passionate about, helping you put your learnings into practice and make the world a better place in the process.

  4. You get access to a prestigious network: Being part of the LTI program connects you with a prestigious network of peers and professionals, offering long-term benefits in terms of mentorship and career opportunities.

  5. Helps you develop public speaking skills: The final presentation requirement will help you build confidence in public speaking, a vital skill for any leader.

  6. The program is free of charge: LTI is completely free of charge, making it accessible regardless of your finances.


  1. The admission may be competitive: The program’s small batch size and low acceptance rate means that you may not get the opportunity to participate, so best to have a back-up plan in place.

  2. It is not a startup incubator program: If you are looking for a program that helps you launch/build a startup, you may want to consider programs that are branded as startup incubators, such as the Young Founders Lab, or BETA Camp. 

  3. It’s a significant time commitment: You’ll be spending every Sunday for 12 weeks in the spring on LTI classes along with additional effort for your project, which might conflict with other academic and extracurricular commitments.

  4. Geographical limitation: Since the program takes place on MIT’s campus, it may not be accessible if you’re living far from Boston unless you can arrange for travel and accommodation.

Our review - is it worth it?

The MIT Leadership Training Institute offers a fully-funded opportunity to develop your leadership skills and make a tangible impact on your communities. While the selection process is competitive, the benefits of participating are substantial, including high-quality mentorship, leadership skill development, and the chance to lead real, meaningful change. If you are passionate about leadership and community service, and are able to commute to the MIT campus, applying to LTI could be a significant step toward achieving your goals and enhancing your college application profile.

If you’re looking for an incubator program that helps you establish a developed startup in high school, consider the Young Founders Lab! 

The Young Founders Lab is a real-world start-up bootcamp founded and run by Harvard entrepreneurs. In this program, you will work towards building a revenue-generating start-up that addresses a real-world problem. You will also have the opportunity to be mentored by established entrepreneurs and professionals from Google, Microsoft, and X. 

You can access the application link here!

One other option - Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you’re interested in pursuing independent research in business, you could also consider applying to one of the Lumiere Research Scholar Programs, selective online high school programs 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. 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: MIT LTI logo



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