Best Summer Programs for High School Students: Leadership

Best Summer Programs for High School Students: Leadership

As part of your college application, extracurricular activities—including those over the summer— help demonstrate your intellectual curiosity and commitment to an area of study (typically, the one you might pursue in college). Some programs, however, are not purely academic, like those geared toward leadership development. The following programs are some of our favorites for students interested in developing their leadership skills (and so much more!).

Please keep in mind that “programs” are not the only way to explore academic interests. In fact, many colleges like to see students go beyond canned programming (ask us about this directly). You can join clubs at your school or locally, take free online classes via edX and Coursera, shadow, or intern (aka volunteer for most students)—there are tons of options ranging from super formal (and pricey) to those as simple as reading in your free time.

Bank of America Student Leaders Program

Student Leaders participate in an eight-week paid internship at a local nonprofit organization where you learn first-hand about the needs of the community and the critical role nonprofits play. In addition, you will learn valuable civic, social and business leadership skills. Each Student Leader will attend the Student Leaders Summit held in Washington, D.C. where you will learn how government, business and the nonprofit sector work together to address critical community needs. Note: in-person events will be in line with local and national guidelines around gatherings and travel and may be subject to change.

The LEAP Young Adult Leadership Program

LEAP Week is a highly-immersive week-long leadership program for high school and college students held annually at the UCLA campus in Los Angeles, California. Each year, 400 students from around the globe travel to attend LEAP Week, a full week dedicated to helping young adults uncover the “real-life” skills needed to achieve great success. Another major focus of LEAPweek is developing young adults’ networking skills. Especially in this modern age of social media, most teens already have strong networking capabilities, they just need some guidance to maximize these abilities. Networking will be tremendously important when you begin your career, and it also helps develop lasting friendships in every phase of life.

Young Women’s Leadership Institute

The Young Women’s Leadership Institute embraces the complex relationship between gender and leadership as its focus. As an YWLI participant, you should be curious, passionate, and ready to develop your skills as a leader. The Institute will allow you to develop trailblazing qualities and push you in new directions as you explore leadership through a feminist lens. Students are given the opportunity to tackle a problem in the world and work in small groups to design and execute a solution using the skills they’ve gained in courses and workshops. You will also have the opportunity to meet with women in workplaces throughout the city to learn about the skills and tenacity needed to stand out in today’s workforce.

Notre Dame Leadership Seminars

Leadership Seminars is for current high school juniors who are academically gifted leaders in their school, church, local community, or other social organizations. Students participate in one of three seminars (sample topic: Global Issues: Violence and Peace in the Modern Age). Around 90 students are admitted each year—usually ranking in the top 10 percent of their class—and are eligible to receive one college credit.

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Free Online Courses for High School Students

Free Online Courses for High School Students

I have been suggesting free classes via edX and Coursera for a while now. They are the perfect way for students to build their academic narrative, which is a must when applying to selective colleges. If you did not jump on this suggestion already, this summer is a great time (if you don’t have a lighter EC load right now!

Below are some of my current favorites from both platforms. Click on the course title for a direct link.

Specializations (Multiple Courses)

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Move Over Testing

Move Over Testing

Testing has been on the way out for some time now, and 2021 just might be the year that we see test blind—even beyond SAT subject tests—become more prevalent. 

So with testing on its way out, what’s in?

  • Being interesting, bold, different, eclectic in your interests and pursuits outside of “school”
  • Excellence in something (or a few things), but real excellence, like wow excellence
  • A deep interest in something (or a few things), but real depth, like wow depth
  • Forging your own path…

But this isn’t anything new.

In the past, the most successful applicants we have gotten to know were those who had competitive grades, competitive scores (maybe even a laundry list of them), and on top of that—for the most selective schools—had an interesting resume that told a clear and compelling story. Some activities were even a bit out-of-the-box, rare/unique, or at best a bit surprising; surprising is wonderful in college admissions because so many applications are just the same. If an applicant took an interest to a depth uncommon for someone in high school, even better. 

At the most selective schools, everyone has awesome grades and test scores. One of the main reasons so many applications don’t stand out has nothing to do with testing or grades, but a student’s resume and activities—their life outside of coursework. Many students feel like they are doing something wrong if they are not doing what everyone around them is, like play multiple sports, joining Science Olympiad or Debate, NHS, Interact/Key Club, and minimally taking part in a bunch of other clubs or “service” opportunities they don’t really care about. They do this instead of pursuing a few activities deeply, especially if those activities are not what their peers are doing. 

If we keep moving toward a test-less or less test-heavy college admissions model, students will hopefully have more time to focus on their interests outside of school. What these interests are, and the depth in which they are genuinely pursued, might become more important than ever before as we see the bar on that front rise. 

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Resume/Activity Sheets: Where Less Is Always More

Resume/Activity Sheets: Where Less Is Always More

The resumes we see tend to take two forms: the students who does it all, but nothing very deeply or well, and the students who does very little (to varying degrees of depth and rigor). 

You don’t need to do it all, but you do need to do something, or a few things, really well or to an extent that goes beyond that of your peers. And if you can’t help but spread yourself a bit thin, you can still craft a narrow application (ask us how!). 

Colleges look for students with something unique, a specific talent, skill, or interest to add to their next class. Students who drill down on an interest or two early on in high school will be better positioned to tell a clear, focused story in their applications. By doing so, they hand the reader of their file exactly what they are looking for—they make it easy to see the value you will add on campus.

This might mean doing a lot of exploration early in high school and this is okay. However, don’t be afraid to find something you like, drill down on it, and not do too much else extracurricularly. You don’t want a resume that reads like a laundry list anyway.

Here’s what a few top colleges have to say on the subject via Niche:

  • “You [should] demonstrate a deep commitment to and genuine appreciation for what you spend your time doing. The joy you take in the pursuits that really matter to you – rather than a resume padded with a long list of activities – will strengthen your candidacy.” –Yale’s advice on Activities
  • “When we evaluate an applicant’s activity list, we’re not looking for a specific number of involvements or even specific types.  We are much more interested in seeing an applicant follow their passions and show dedication over time to a few specific involvements rather than spreading themselves too thin.” –USC Admissions Blog
  • “We are looking for students who will contribute their talents, interests, perspectives, and distinct voices to our community… We are more interested in your focus on a few activities over time (such as work, care for parents and siblings, service, or athletics), rather than membership in a long list of clubs—although we understand that some students can balance an assortment of activities.” –Swarthmore College, “What We Look for in a Swattie”
  • “You’re joining a team. And because we’re recruiting a team of people who will work together, we want a variety of strengths and talents that, together, will form a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. So, not every talented student needs to be talented in the same way.” – UNC-Chapel Hill, “Who We Want”

The question I ask a lot when thinking about activities: How much can you meaningfully contribute to more than a few activities? Narrowing down your interests and corresponding activities can provide the time and space needed to engage more meaningfully and at a higher level in the one or two things you love the most. It’s a bonus if these activities relate to your potential college major, or support it in some way!

Remember, colleges seek to build a well-rounded class comprised of students with unique talents and skills, not a class full of generalists.

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Remote Volunteer Opportunities!

Remote Volunteer Opportunities!

We shared a bunch of these back in the early days of COVID. However, we found a few others recently that looked interesting. Check them out below!

Robotics for All: Robotics for All strives to provide equitable educational opportunities to students of all backgrounds, particularly low income and under-represented students, with an emphasis on teaching the fields of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). The goal is to reduce the opportunity gap, allowing students to gain beneficial skills for the rest of their academic and professional careers. We believe that it is important for students to have access to a quality STEM education, regardless of socio-economic status.

As an online volunteer teacher, you will be responsible for running an eight week long online class. This includes leading the two weekly synchronous classes (either on Monday/Thursday or Tuesday/Friday), evaluating student homework (assigned between each synchronous class) and managing teacher’s assistants. It will be your responsibility to ensure that the class runs smoothly and take care of any issues, whether related to student behavior or errors in code. You must possess strong leadership skills and a high level of independence. Our current curricula for online classes are the Code.org Curriculum (for K-3rd graders), Scratch Curriculum (for 4th-6th graders), Python Curriculum (for 6th-8th graders), CAD Curriculum (for 6th-8th graders), and Fusion Curriculum (for 7th-8th graders). You are expected to have mastered the curriculum they teach. Learn more here.

The Empowerment Factory (TEF): a non-profit dedicated to giving youth the skills they need to lead happier, healthier more empowered lives. We focus on three areas of development: creativity, self esteem, and civic pride. Our Creative Squad programs blend hands-on activities with social emotional learning (SEL) and environmental education. Our vision is for every child to develop the confidence and ability to express themselves and become successful in school and life. Every child should feel that they matter and can make a difference in the world around them.

The Empowerment Factory is partnering with The United Way to bring you a fun and safe volunteer opportunity folding paper Peace Cranes! The purpose of this initiative is to share positivity and hopeful aspirations for our community. The Peace Cranes will be used to create a public art installation in January that aspires to exemplify the goal of this tradition. Learn more here.

Girl Scouts: Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. We seek to accomplish this by providing girls opportunities to develop their potential and have fun with their peers in a supportive, all-girl setting.

Do you have a passion for a particular topic or life skill? Do you want to create a fun event that shares your enthusiasm with girls? You could design an event that helps girls earn a Girl Scout badge related to your specialty or help teach girls a skill they need to grow into the leaders of tomorrow! If you have a love for STEM, outdoors, or the arts – there are ways you can use your skills and resources to provide an experience that helps girls explore something new. There are dozens of new badges that will inspire you to think of creative ways to bring the projects to life for a group of girls, including things like “Inside Government”, “Eco Advocate” or “Philanthropist” badges! You can decide how many girls you’d like to participate, select what age girls you’d like to involve, and pick a date and time, and an online meeting platform that you’re comfortable with! You can also use materials we provide to host a meeting rather than making your own program. Learn more here.

Head to Volunteer Match to search for other remote roles!

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Our Favorite (and Free!) Online Courses for High School Students

Our Favorite (and Free!) Online Courses for High School Students

I have been pushing free classes via edX and Coursera for a while now. They are the perfect way for students to build their academic narrative, which is a must when applying to selective colleges. If you did not jump on this suggestion already, this summer is certainly the time.

Below are some of my favorites from both platforms. Click on the course title for a direct link!

English/Writing

Creative Writing Specialization, Wesleyan

Writing in the Sciences, Stanford

Write Your First Novel, Michigan State

Business/Psychology/Leadership

Leading People and Teams Specialization, U-Michigan

The Art and Science of Relationships, U Toronto

The Art of Negotiation, UC Irvine

New Models of Business In Society, UVA

Arts/Fashion

Circular Fashion: Design, Science and Value in a Sustainable Clothing Industry, Wageningen

Inspiring and Motivating Arts and Culture Teams, Michigan

Hollywood: History, Industry, Art, Penn

Weird/Wonderful

Star Trek: Inspiring Culture and Technology, Smithsonian

Tangible Things: Discovering History Through Artworks, Artifacts, Scientific Specimens, and the Stuff Around You, Harvard.

The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact On Pop Culture, Smithsonian

 

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