You might be tempted to spend your time in high school pursuing academic projects and extracurriculars. While we highly recommend that, exploring internship opportunities can be a powerful way for you to develop real-world skills and tangible skill sets. Internships in high school can showcase your ability to supplement your theoretical knowledge with practical application - a skill that admission officers highly value! Your performance at an internship will also bring many advantages, from networking opportunities to solid letters of recommendation.
While there are multiple methods for finding an internship (which you can see on our blog here), a solid option you could consider is a structured internship program.
In this blog, specifically, we will be reviewing Ladder Internships, a selective virtual internship program open to high school students.
Before we dive into the structure, costs, eligibility, and testimonials of Ladder Internships, we thought it best to take you through the “why” of doing an internship in high school.
Why do internships in high school?
There are many reasons why internships are highly beneficial, and here are a few you can consider:
You get the chance to immerse yourself in application oriented learning -
Through an internship, you can experience the practical challenges that experts face in your interested industry. You understand how your theoretical knowledge can be applied in such situations, and you will make use of critical thinking and analytical skills. Apart from learning, you are also given the chance to develop your interpersonal skills, business communication, leadership skills, and problem-solving aptitude!
You will gain access to solid networking opportunities -
Moreover, an internship gives you the opportunity to network with peers and leading individuals in your industry. These connections will enable you to learn from their expertise and are excellent references for letters of recommendation and future job prospects. For example, programs such as Ladder Internships allow you to network with mentors who are ex-Google, ex-McKinsey and more!
Doing an internship showcases your commitment while applying to college -
Doing an internship while in high school showcases your commitment to your subject as you dedicate time outside school. Mentioning this on your resume can help increase your chances of acceptance to your dream school!
Now, let’s dive into a comprehensive review of Ladder internships.
What are Ladder Internships?
Ladder Internships is a selective program for high school students to work with startups. As part of their internship, each student will work on a real-world project and present their work at the end of their internship.
In addition to working closely with their manager from the startup, each intern will also work with a Ladder Coach throughout their internship - the Ladder Coach serves as a second mentor and a sounding board, guiding students through the internship and helping them navigate the startup environment.
Who is eligible to participate in Ladder Internships?
The program is open to high school students, undergraduates and gap year students! However, you must make sure that you can commit 10-20 hours/week for 8-12 weeks.
Where are Ladder Internships conducted?
Ladder internships are offered in an online format for high school students. While this may be quite beneficial for students who wish to intern without having to travel long distances, doing an in-person internship comes with its own set of benefits. You should closely consider your goals before committing to a virtual/in-person internship.
What are the dates and deadlines for each program?
Ladder Internship programs range from 8 weeks to 16 weeks for the research internship. There are 5 cohorts through the year that you can apply for:
Fall Cohort 2023 -
Application Deadline - September 10, 2023
Cohort Timing - September 24, 2023
Winter Cohort 2023 -
Application Deadline - November 26, 2023
Cohort Timing - December 18, 2023
Spring Cohort 2024 -
Application Deadline - January 14, 2024
Cohort Timing - February 5, 2024
Summer Cohort 2024 -
Early Admission - February 18, 2024
Priority Admission - March 17, 2024
Regular Admission 1 - April 14, 2024
Regular Admission 2 - May 12, 2024
Cohort Timing - June 3, 2024
Summer II Cohort 2024 -
Application Deadline - June 26, 2024
Cohort Timing - July 15, 2024
What is the cost of the program?
The 8-week program costs $1990, while the research internship costs $4,800. You can also combine the program and internship, for which you will be required to pay $5,900.
If the cost is a barrier, you can consider applying for full financial aid based on need! In the summer 2023 cohort, 15% of students were on full financial aid.
What is the application process at Ladder Internships?
1. The application process involves a written application where you’re asked what areas you’re interested in or would like to get a professional glimpse into! Some of the questions on the application form include “Why are you a good candidate”, “What areas for the internship are you interested in”, and “Why are you interested in these areas”.
2. Following this submission, you will be shortlisted for an interview. After this, your admission decision is finalized and you will be asked to pay a deposit.
3. Once this is completed, you will receive a company match based on your interest areas and you will have access to the details of the company and your project for the next 8 weeks. If you’re interested, then you can continue, however, if you’ve decided not to do the program, you’ll get your full deposit back!
4. Your company match is mainly determined by the interest areas you’ve mentioned in your application. You will also be questioned on these areas during your interview, after which you will be matched with a company that best first your areas of interest!
Are Ladder Internships prestigious?
Since there was no publicly available information, we reached out to the Ladder team and they have indicated that the acceptance rate for the 2023 spring cohort was 20%, however, there may be a higher acceptance rate in later cohorts as they grow the program!
In terms of impact on college admissions, previous Ladder interns have mentioned their experience and projects on their resume and college applications, and have received acceptances from universities like Princeton, UPenn, Stanford, Cambridge, and UC Berkeley!
What can you expect as a Ladder intern?
1. Your placement decision and company matching: The program starts with your placement decision. Ladder works closely with companies to pre-determine bite-sized projects that are of genuine use to the start-up or non-profit. If you are interested in working in a specific area and convey it in the application form, chances are you’ll get paired with a company that reflects these interests!
2. Regular meetings and discussion about deliverables: Throughout the 8-week internship, you will have a mandatory 45-minute meeting with your intern manager weekly. Here, you will start by defining your project and deliverables. You will also discuss weekly deadlines and progress goals! At the end of the 8-weeks, you will have a complete project to present to the company, and the cohort of interns you graduate with!
3. You will start by defining your project and deliverables before sharing this with your company coach who will give you feedback on your work. At the Week 4 mark, you can show your first deliverable to the company, and at Week 8, you will present your final project to the company!
Here’s a week-by-week summary of your project timeline. You can get this information on the brochure as well!
Which companies can you work with as a Ladder intern?
As a Ladder intern, you can work with companies in these fields - finance, health tech, environmental science, engineering, fashion, tech/deep tech, non-profits, consulting, mental health, machine learning/AI, and media/journalism!
Ladder Internships Program Timeline
What are some projects you can work on?
The project(s) you work on as an intern vary from subject to subject, and company to company. However, here is a list of 4-5 projects that you can expect to work on, depending on the company you are matched with. You should note that this list is not exhaustive, but an indicator of the type of projects you can delve into.
Work on competitor analysis for a health-tech company focused on scaling nursing homes
Create a whitepaper for a San Francisco-based nonprofit focused on mental health
Develop a machine learning model to predict customer churn for an e-commerce website backed by Y-Combinator.
Chart out a marketing strategy for a Series A-backed media company.
Ladder Internships - Companies you can work with
Pros and Cons of Ladder Internships
1. The internship is fully remote
A limitation of most selective internships is that they are in-person. Additionally, if these internships do not cover transportation or housing costs, they can be quite the financial burden. If an internship only invites students from in and around a particular city (where the host company is based), that excludes many high schoolers from applying and participating in an enriching professional experience. Ladder Internships is a pretty solid option in that regard, because it offers you a plethora of choices, and does not require you to travel/relocate, saving you a lot of time and money!
2. You can apply for full financial aid
As we have mentioned above, Ladder does charge students for an internship experience. However, it also offers full-financial aid based on the need to eliminate any financial barriers that students from underrepresented communities or families may face.
3. Interning with Ladder opens up a host of networking opportunities
Participating in this program is a great opportunity to network with leading experts in their respective fields. Ladder coaches are ex-Harvard, ex-Microsoft and have been featured in Forbes 30 under 30! You will be able to build a very valuable professional network through Ladder, and this can be valuable for college applications. Networking before high school is one aspect many students miss out on, and this can impact their journey to gain LORs, future work opportunities, and guidance for further research!
4. You’ll get an internship opportunity that meets personalized goals
Finding the right internship opportunities is often the hardest part of the process. If you become a Ladder intern, you won’t have to scout for internship opportunities yourself! The program will match you with a company based on your interests. Moreover, you will intern with a company that is fully prepared to host and mentor younger students.
5. You’ll have a guided internship experience
If you haven’t had any past internship experience, you may be confused about how to go about an unstructured/independent internship or research program. To solve for this, you can consider Ladder internships, keeping in mind that your Ladder coach will constantly provide guidance and advice for your project and this mentorship will allow you to maximize your potential and refine your project!
1. You will have to pay to intern
This is definitely a drawback! The program is structured to provide support for students in doing the internship (e.g., with professional training and a ladder coach). But, that also comes with a cost attached.
2. Its virtual nature takes away certain opportunities and channels to network
As opposed to in-person internships, you may notice a certain lack of exposure in terms of networking. You may not be able to freely network and work with different individuals or peers working at the company, but will have to put in a bit of an extra effort to reach out to people.
3. You may be expected to contribute to workstreams from the get-go
Since the internship only lasts a few weeks, you will be expected to pick up on concepts and practices quickly, as opposed to a 3-4 month internship that is paced a lot more slowly than Ladder. As an intern, you will be tasked with contributions that may spread across multiple workstreams. You can make sure you are able to reasonably match expectations by indicating your preferences and goals clearly on the application form.
4. You may get roles which an organization can reasonably delegate to a high school student
This isn’t really a con, but more of a reality check. Since there are different skill sets required for different roles, you may find that the roles that are feasible for high school students are similar in nature - even though the industries are diverse.
5. The research + internship option may be quite hectic in nature
While Ladder offers both tracks in a combined manner, this may take up a chunk of your time, especially if you are a high school senior preparing for university admissions in the summer. You can consider branching out with your research with other mentored research opportunities such as Lumiere Education’s Research Scholar Program, and focus only on an internship with Ladder.
What are Ladder Interns saying about their experience?
Christopher Tilley, a high school junior who interned with Certinell Telehealth mentioned how he worked with the company on some manuals for their new patient monitoring system, and how the program “allowed them to get to know himself, his workflow, and how to work with and around other people!”
Here’s what Khalid Hajji had to say about his experience as an intern with Billion Dollar Startup Ideas -
“This internship was my first real working experience, and I took away a lot of value from it. It was both fun and a great learning experience. It opened my eyes to the world of business, finance, and AI, and also helped me realize that this is what I would like to pursue as a major in college. I also valued my direct interaction with the founder of my host company, who I found to be inspiring, and who I hope to continue to have as a mentor going forward.”
You can read more about past interns and their experiences here!
Ladder Internships look like a pretty solid option, especially for high school students who wish to intern in a niche field but aren’t able to scout for opportunities themselves. The internships are well structured, and have multiple rounds of mentorship and feedback, so you can fully expect to be well-guided as an intern.
The program is quite selective, and only selects a handful of interns each year, so getting in can be an addition to your resume before you apply to college. You should keep in mind that your experience highly depends on how clearly you put your internship/sector/company preferences across for the company-intern matching. The cost is definitely quite steep, but if you qualify for full financial aid or have the means to pay the full amount, Ladder is one of the best structured internships out there. However, if cost is a barrier, then you will need to apply for full financial aid which we understand is more competitive (2-3x more competitive is our estimate)
We’ve also looked at testimonials from students and some common features that ladder interns liked were the opportunity to do real-world projects, the guided mentorship, and how the program was tailored based on the student’s interest! They’ve particularly mentioned how the LOR from their manager/Ladder coach helped boost their application profile - which is something you can gun for as well!
Lastly, since Ladder Internships are completely virtual, you can balance this internship with your other extracurriculars, whether it be during the summer or year-round!
If you are looking for a fully-funded in-person internship, you may be better off applying to other opportunities such as the KP Launch internship, AFRL Scholars, the Microsoft’s Discovery Program, or the Bank of America Student Leaders program.
Additionally, if you’re interested in research-focused internships that are highly selective, and/or fully-funded, you might be interested in applying to Ladder as a safety.
Another option - Lumiere Research Scholar Program
If you are interested in doing university-level research, then you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program 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.
Manas is a publication strategy associate at Lumiere Education. He studied public policy and interactive media at NYU and has experience in education consulting.