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UCLA Economics Summer Institute - Should You Consider It?

If you’re an aspiring economist, you would likely already know the powerful opportunities provided by summer programs in the field - offering a deep dive into core concepts, an experience of college-level learning, and of course industry and peer exposure. These programs are designed to nurture your curiosity, enhance your analytical skills, and provide a comprehensive understanding of economic principles and policies. In today’s blog, we’ll be covering one of the more notable ones - the UCLA Economics Summer Institute.

We have also covered more such economics research opportunities and internships in our previous blogs!

What is the UCLA Economics Summer Institute?

Hosted by the University of California Los Angeles, one of the best public universities in the US, the Economics Summer Institute is a three-week program with both residential and virtual options. The program is pitched as an opportunity where you get to think, analyze, and explore like an economist. It aims to cover various aspects of economic policy and analysis, encouraging participating students to build robust data analysis skills and learn to apply these methodologies to real economic challenges. You will be learning from UCLA’s award-winning faculty and doing case studies with your peers guided by UCLA economics undergrad students to further enhance your learning.

Who is eligible to apply?

The program welcomes students who are in 9th-12th grade in Spring 2023, aged between 14-18 years. International students are also invited, but those from non-English speaking countries must meet specific English proficiency requirements to ensure they can fully engage with the curriculum.

Application process & deadlines

To apply to the Economics Summer Institute, you must submit:

  • A copy of your most recent unofficial academic / grade transcript

  • A personal statement on the following topic: “In 250 words or less, tell us what distinguishes you from your classmates and peers. What do you expect to gain from participating in the Economics Summer Institute, and what do you hope to accomplish during the program?”

  • If you’re a citizen of a non-English speaking country wanting to apply, you’ll need to provide one of the following proofs of English proficiency:

    • TOEFL – Minimum score of 80 (iBT) or 550 (PBT); IELTS – 6.5 or higher;

    • iTEP – 5 or higher;

    • DUOLINGO (DET): 105

    • CEFR/CAE/CPE – Level C1- Grades A, B, and C;

    • International Baccalaureate (IB) or students attending a high school taught in English: students may submit a transcript or verification of enrollment from their school; OR

    • Proof of completion in English as a language course

The application and enrolment deadlines for 2023 were:

  • Application deadlines:

    • Session A – June 15, 2023

    • Session B – June 1, 2023

  • Enrolment deadline:

    • Session A – June 23, 2023

    • Session B – June 15, 2023

What are the costs associated with the program?

The fees for the Economics Summer Institute are broken down as follows:

Program Fee: $3,295

Registration Fee: $350

IEI Fee: $61

Document Fee (for first-time Summer Sessions students): $50

Total Estimated Fees: $3,756

UCLA also provides financial aid via its Summer Scholars Support program, a need- and merit-based scholarship. This can be a full or partial scholarship for the program fees.

Is it prestigious?

While there is scant information available on the selectivity of the Economics Summer Institute, that doesn’t detract from its prestige. For one, being under the ambit of UCLA provides attendees access to the brilliant faculty and resources of one of America’s best universities. The program itself has a comprehensive curriculum with a generous mix of individual assignments, case studies, group work, and peer learning. The lecturers themselves are Federal Reserve Bank advisers, noted researchers, and economic experts. Under their tutelage and with the assistance of the economics undergraduates who will be facilitating classes, you can expect that the program will be an excellent learning experience. In our estimation, we would rate this as a moderately prestigious program due to its association with UCLA, but the real benefit it will bring to your college applications is the learning it will provide.

How is the Economic Summer Institute structured?

The program is divided into two sessions, A and B, with the former being residential and the latter being virtual. Other than this division, both sessions are exactly the same in terms of curriculum and pedagogy. Each session will have participants divided into small teams led by UCLA economics undergraduates so that you’re able to develop your knowledge and skills in a guided environment. Aside from lectures by UCLA faculty, the pedagogy also involves workshops, group discussions, and case studies and presentations.

The curriculum covers the following:

  • Analyzing empirical data

  • Case studies

  • Justifying various positions based on data

  • Price ceilings and floors

  • Discussing the pros and cons of rent control

  • Costs of taxation

  • International trade

  • The Power of Trade

You can expect to participate in team-based projects and also create weekly presentations to demonstrate your comprehension and learning.

Pros and Cons of attending


  1. You will have access to a rich curriculum & distinguished faculty: UCLA has one of the best economics departments in the country, who have come together to create the comprehensive curriculum of this program. Enrolling in it means you will get to benefit from both the syllabus and the pedagogy.

  2. You will earn college credits: Completing the program nets you college credits that can be transferred and used for your GPA at whichever college you choose to enroll in, including of course UCLA.

  3. You will gain exposure: Since you will be interacting with the professors who are themselves industry stalwarts, as well as undergrads who will also be entering the field, you will have an excellent chance of making some very useful connections that might significantly boost your future academic and career prospects.

  4. You can choose between virtual and residential options: Whether you’re an international student or simply limited in your ability to travel, neither will prove a restriction for the Economics Summer Institute. The course material and pedagogy will remain the same regardless, so you can extract the same level of learning even from your home.


  1. The program is steeply priced: While UCLA offers scholarships, and the program fees itself land squarely in the median when compared to other similar programs, it still may be unaffordable for some. We suggest you go over the scholarship criteria thoroughly and apply on time.

  2. You will need to commit time and effort: Whether residential or virtual, you’ll have to commit the full three weeks of effort to the program due to the intensive nature of the curriculum. So you will need to structure your summer accordingly.

  3. You may not qualify: The eligibility criteria is largely built around academic strength and a good personal statement. While UCLA clarifies that no prior mathematics or economics knowledge is required beyond basic algebra, it may be safe to assume that acceptance in the program is not too easy. We suggest making sure you have a backup plan in place.

Our review

The UCLA Economics Summer Institute is an excellent program that offers a wealth of knowledge and practical learning experience in economics. Its choice of residential and virtual options makes it accessible for the breadth of the syllabus it offers, and the faculty you get to work with is a powerful incentive. If economics is your passion, and you are ready for an intensive, enriching summer experience, then this program should definitely be on your radar. Just make sure that your academics are strong enough to help you stand out from the crowd, and that you are able to afford the fees or secure a scholarship.

Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you’re looking for the opportunity to do in-depth research in economics or other fields, you could also consider applying to one of the Lumiere Research Scholar Programs, selective online high school programs for students 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.

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.


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