20 Best Summer Leadership Programs For High School Students

Leadership students
March 20, 2024
6 min read


Reviewed by:

Rohan Jotwani

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 3/20/24

Summer opens up a world of opportunities for high school students, offering the perfect backdrop to ignite passions, master new skills, and pave the way for future success.

At the heart of this exciting season are leadership programs for high school students—your gateway to unlocking potential and shaping tomorrow's leaders. These experiences are specially designed to enhance vital skills such as effective communication, teamwork, innovative problem-solving, and critical thinking. 

From ethical, organizational, and social leadership, these programs and camps immerse students in the art of leadership, providing a well-rounded perspective on how to lead with confidence and impact in today's fast-paced world. 

Jump in and see how you can make this summer a time for growth, become a leader, and explore endless opportunities!

20 Best High School Leadership Summer Programs

Check out our list of 20 leadership programs for high school students who want to be leaders. To help you determine which one is right for you, we’ll explore what each program is about and how you can join.

1. Brown University Pre-College Leadership Institute

Location: Providence, Rhode Island

Program Length: Typically one to two weeks

Cost: Varies by course; financial aid is available for those who qualify

Eligibility: High school students from around the world

Start Date: Dates vary depending on the course

Application Deadline: Applications typically start in the winter with rolling admissions

The Brown University Pre-College Leadership Institute offers high school students the opportunity to develop and refine their leadership skills through interactive workshops, seminars, and group projects. 

Participants engage in topics such as ethical decision-making, diversity and inclusion, and social entrepreneurship. The program aims to empower students to become effective leaders in their communities and future careers.

2. Harvard Summer School's Secondary School Program

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

Program Length: Seven weeks

Cost: Varies by course selection and housing option; financial aid is available

Eligibility: Students completing grades 9-12

Start Date: Summer, usually in June

Application Deadline: Typically in March or April

Harvard's Secondary School Program allows high school students to experience college life while taking courses alongside college students. Participants can choose from over 200 courses in a variety of disciplines, including arts, sciences, technology, and humanities. 

3. National Student Leadership Conference 

Location: Varies depending on the program 

Program Length: One week

Cost: Varies

Eligibility: High school students

Start Date: Multiple sessions depending on program and location

Application Deadline: Varies based on program. NSLC accepts applications past deadlines if space or waitlist spots are open, as shown on the online application.

The National Student Leadership Conference provides an immersive pre-college experience that prepares students for life beyond middle and high school, allowing them to study in university classrooms, learn to navigate the campus, and experience living with roommates. 

Students are able to explore a career concentration they are interested in before going into college and declaring a major. Each NSLC program also contains a leadership curriculum designed to teach skills that can apply to all areas of life.

4. Stanford University Summer Camp

Location: Stanford, California, USA

Program Length: Typically two-four weeks

Cost: Varies; financial assistance may be available

Eligibility: Students in grades 9-11 or 10-12, depending on the program

Start Date: Summer, with specific dates depending on the program

Application Deadline: Usually in February or March

Stanford University offers various summer camps for high school students, focusing on subjects ranging from business and entrepreneurship to science and engineering. 

These programs provide hands-on learning experiences, access to Stanford faculty, and the chance to explore potential career paths. Leadership, innovation, and creativity are key components across all camps.

5. MIT Summer Camp

Location: Varies on program and location

Program Length: Typically four–six weeks

Cost: Varies depending on the program however, many programs are free or low-cost

Eligibility: High school students, specific requirements vary based on program 

Start Date: Usually June or July

Application Deadline: Typically in February

MIT's summer programs for high school students cover a wide range of STEM subjects, including mathematics, science, and engineering. 

Participants engage in challenging coursework, laboratory experiments, and team projects designed to enhance their problem-solving skills and understanding of complex concepts. The camp encourages innovation and aims to prepare students for careers in STEM fields.

6. Student Conservation Association (SCA) High School Crews

Location: National parks, forests, and urban green spaces across the United States

Program Length: Varies from one to several weeks

Cost: Free

Eligibility: High school students interested in environmental conservation

Start Date: Varies by program and location

Application Deadline: Varies by specific program

The SCA High School Crews program offers high school students the opportunity to participate in conservation projects across the United States. This program combines environmental education with hands-on service work, aiming to build the next generation of conservation leaders.

7. Boston Leadership Institute

Program Length: Offers one-week sessions and three-week session programs

Cost: Varies by program; financial aid may be available

Eligibility: Students aged 13–18 with a strong academic record

Start Date: Varies by program and session

Application Deadline: Rolling admissions; early application is encouraged

The Boston Leadership Institute offers STEM summer programs for high school students interested in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. 

Programs range from one to three weeks and cover topics such as biomedical and surgical research, engineering, and marine biology. Hands-on lab experiences and research projects are central to the curriculum.

8. Bank of America Student Leaders Program

Location: Washington, DC 

Program Length: Eight weeks Internship 

Cost: Free; participants also receive a stipend

Eligibility: High school juniors and seniors in the U.S. with a commitment to community service

Start Date: July 22, 2024

Application Deadline: Typically in January

Student Leaders will engage in an eight-week paid internship at a local nonprofit organization, gaining firsthand insight into their community's needs and the vital role of nonprofits. Additionally, they will acquire valuable civic, social, and business leadership skills. 

Each Student Leader will participate in the Student Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C., where they will learn about the collaboration between government, business, and the nonprofit sector in addressing critical community needs.

9. Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY) Seminars

Location: Various locations across the United States

Program Length: One week

Cost: <$500

Eligibility: High school students, ages 14–18

Start Date: Sessions in April, May, June

Application Deadline: Varies by state

HOBY's State Leadership Seminar (LS) is crafted for high school sophomores to uncover and utilize their leadership skills for positive influence within their homes, schools, and communities. 

Through engaging, interactive sessions over three to four days, participants discover their potential, understand their place in the world, and connect with peers, forming valuable networks and friendships. Post-seminar, they emerge equipped with the confidence and insight needed for impactful leadership.

10. Economics for Leaders (EFL) - Foundation for Teaching Economics

Location: Multiple university campuses across the USA

Program Length: One week

Cost: Varies; financial aid is available

Eligibility: Current high school sophomores and juniors

Start Date: Various start dates throughout the summer

Application Deadline: Varies by location; typically in early spring

Economics for Leaders is a selective summer program that combines principles of economic reasoning with leadership training. High school students learn about decision-making, market economics, and the impact of economic policies on societies and individuals. 

The program emphasizes real-world applications of economics and develops leadership skills through group activities and simulations.

11. Ronald Reagan Student Leadership Program 

Location: Washington, D.C.

Program Length: One-week

Cost: $750

Eligibility: High school students

Start Date: June 17, July 8 and July 29

Application Deadline: March 1, 2024

The Ronald Reagan Student Leadership Program (SLP) - Leadership in Action, offers high school students a distinctive five-day experience at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. The program is a deep dive into leadership through the prism of one of the most esteemed Presidential Libraries in the U.S.

Participants engage in practical leadership activities, collaborate with peers, and gain insights into the historical and value-driven legacy of Ronald Reagan. A highlight of the program is the development of a Leadership Action Plan (LAP), where students, guided by community mentors, craft strategies for positive community impact.

12. Leadership in the Business World (LBW) at University of Pennsylvania - Wharton School

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Program Length: Four weeks

Cost: Approximately $7,995 (subject to change; financial aid available)

Eligibility: Rising high school seniors

Start Date: July

Application Deadline: Early February

Leadership in the Business World is offered by the Wharton School, this program introduces high school students to the fundamentals of leadership in the context of business and entrepreneurship. 

Participants attend lectures by Wharton faculty, engage in team projects, and visit businesses to learn about management, finance, marketing, and business ethics. The program aims to prepare future leaders in the business world.

13. Telluride Association Summer Programs (TASP)

Location: Hosted at different universities each year 

Program Length: Six weeks

Cost: Free including tuition, room, board, and books

Eligibility: High school juniors

Start Date: Late June

Application Deadline: Early January

The Telluride Association Summer Programs (TASP) are educational programs for high school juniors. They focus on discussion-based learning in topics like philosophy, history, and literature, led by college faculty. TASPs encourage students to think critically, work together, and take part in community service. 

The program is for students who love to learn and think deeply. It's competitive, with selection based on essays and recommendations. All costs, including meals, housing, and books, are covered, making it accessible to all students regardless of financial background.

14. Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS) 

Location: New Haven, Connecticut, USA

Program Length: Two weeks

Cost: Approximately $6,300 for the 2023 session; need-based financial aid is available

Eligibility: High school sophomores or juniors at the time of application

Start Date: Multiple sessions in June and July

Application Deadline: Early January or early February

Yale Young Global Scholars is a rigorous academic summer program that brings together outstanding high school students from around the world at Yale University. 

The program offers interdisciplinary courses that encourage students to explore complex global issues through lectures, seminars, and group projects. YYGS covers topics across STEM, social sciences, humanities, and the arts, aiming to develop leaders and critical thinkers. 

15. The University of Notre Dame Leadership Seminars

Location: Notre Dame, Indiana, USA

Program Length: 10 days

Cost: Free, includes tuition, housing, meals, and transportation

Eligibility: Current high school juniors

Start Date: July

Application Deadline: Typically in January

The University of Notre Dame Leadership Seminars are intensive programs focusing on global issues, ethics, and leadership. High school students engage in discussions, seminars, and group projects, led by Notre Dame faculty. 

Topics vary each year but often include global affairs, science and society, and moral debates. The program is designed to challenge students intellectually while fostering leadership skills.

16. Princeton University Summer Journalism Program

Location: Princeton, New Jersey, USA

Program Length: 10 days

Cost: Free, including travel, lodging, and meals

Eligibility: High-achieving juniors from low-income backgrounds

Start Date: August

Application Deadline: Typically in February

The Princeton University Summer Journalism Program is a 10-day, all-expenses-paid program for high-achieving, low-income high school juniors interested in journalism and media. Participants attend workshops led by journalists, report on real events, and produce a newspaper. 

The program aims to diversify the field of journalism by empowering students with the skills, knowledge, and networking opportunities necessary to pursue a career in journalism.

17. United States Naval Academy Summer Seminar (NASS)

Location: Annapolis, Maryland, USA

Program Length: One-week 

Cost: Approximately $650 plus travel expenses

Eligibility: Rising high school seniors

Start Date: Multiple sessions run throughout June

Application Deadline: Typically in January or February 

The United States Naval Academy Summer Seminar (NASS) offers a challenging, one-week introduction to life at the Naval Academy for rising high school seniors. Through rigorous physical, academic, and leadership training, students get a taste of the Naval Academy experience. 

The program includes exposure to engineering, science, and humanities courses, physical training, and leadership development.

18. Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program

Location: Various locations across the United States; some programs may be offered virtually

Program Length: Two weeks (virtual) or six weeks (in-person)

Cost: Free

Eligibility: High school students who identify as female or non-binary, no previous coding experience required

Start Date: Varies, typically starts in June or July

Application Deadline: Varies, often in early spring (March or April)

Girls Who Code offers high school girls and non-binary students free virtual Summer Programs to learn computer science and prepare for tech careers. Choose from a two-week immersive game design course or a six-week self-paced exploration of tech's biggest topics. 

No prior coding experience is needed. Participants benefit from professional networking, financial grants, tech support, and a global community, all aimed at fostering a supportive environment and opening doors to future opportunities in technology.

19. The Junior Statesmen Summer School (JSA)

Location: Varies depending on the program

Program Length: Varies depending on the program

Cost: Varies

Eligibility: High school students interested in politics and government

Start Date: Varies by program location, generally in June or July

Application Deadline: Rolling admissions, but early application is encouraged (typically by March or April for the best chance of admission)

The JSA provides a comprehensive exploration of American government, politics, and public speaking in a collegiate setting. 

Drawing on elements from the Burd Institute on Media & Politics, Young Women’s Leadership Institute, and Stern Civics Immersion Program, JSA offers university-level courses, workshops, debates, and simulations aimed at developing leadership skills and deepening understanding of democracy. 

Students engage with journalism fundamentals, learn the importance of leadership, and tackle pressing societal issues through a blend of lectures, content creation, and problem-solving activities, all while interacting with professionals and leaders in the field.

20. Global Young Leaders Conference (GYLC) 

Location: Washington, D.C., and New York City, NY

Program Length: Approximately 10 days

Cost: Varies; scholarships may be available

Eligibility: High school students from around the world, ages 15-19

Start Date: Typically in July or August

Application Deadline: Various deadlines

The Global Young Leaders Conference (GYLC) is a leadership development program that provides a unique forum for young leaders from around the globe to explore global challenges and cultural differences. 

The program includes seminars, workshops, and cultural exchanges, focusing on diplomacy, international relations, and the role of the United Nations. Participants develop leadership skills, self-confidence, and a better understanding of the complexities of the global community.


Welcome to our FAQ section, offering guidance on leadership programs for high school students, including application processes, eligibility criteria, and the leadership skills these programs aim to cultivate.

1. How Can High School Students Apply for Leadership Camps, and What Is the Selection Process?

High school students can apply for leadership camps by submitting an application through the program's website, which typically includes personal information, academic records, recommendation letters, and essays. 

The selection process varies by program but generally involves evaluating the applicant's leadership potential, academic achievements, and extracurricular involvement.

2. Are There Specific Eligibility Criteria for High School Students to Attend These Camps?

Yes, most leadership camps have specific eligibility criteria, including age or grade level requirements, academic standing, and sometimes prerequisites in related subjects or activities. It's important to review these criteria carefully before applying.

3. What Leadership Skills Are Emphasized During the Camp?

Leadership camps emphasize a variety of skills, including effective communication, ethical decision-making, team collaboration, problem-solving, and adaptability. These skills are cultivated through a mix of theoretical learning, practical exercises, and reflective activities.

Final Thoughts

Leadership programs for high school students during the summer offer a unique chance to develop essential skills, gain valuable insights, and get ready for future challenges. 

By joining these summer leadership programs, students not only improve their leadership abilities but also lay a solid groundwork for success in college and their careers. 

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