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Best Business and Leadership Summer Programs for High Schoolers 2021

Are you looking to apply to business programs? Or are you just looking to supplement your leadership experience or spend your summer in a fun setting discussing interesting topics? You’ve come to the right place.

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By ALEX LOVELESS

As mentioned in my other articles, the vast majority of summer programs are just there to generate revenue for a school and don’t provide much, if any, admissions value. This goes double for programs that are providing business or entrepreneurship experiences, as these programs have become quite popular for students to apply for. Remember to keep in mind the cost of the program, the application deadline, the number of essays required, and confirmation from lists from admissions office blogs. Check out our article on identifying worthwhile summer programs

This list is specifically for business and leadership programs. I group these programs together because I see these programs as having a similar type of admissions value. For students applying to business programs, demonstrating leadership qualities and the ability to build community are quite important. For students applying to any other kind of humanities or social sciences program, leadership programs can inspire you by interacting with impressive peers and discussing some of the most pressing issues our society faces today. Getting into a program like TASP, EFL, or Notre Dame Leadership would look good on any application, including ones for business programs. 

The list below represents business and leadership programs that just about every admissions officer will have at least heard of. To get a better idea as to the competitiveness and admissions value of each program, I’ve tiered the programs into three categories: S-Tier, A-Tier, and B-Tier. The specific rankings are certainly debatable, but again, this is just my opinion based on what I’ve researched and based on where students I’ve worked with have attended. 

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S-Tier: Must Go If Admitted

1) Telluride Association – Summer Program for Juniors (TASP)
Program Dates: Cancelled 2021
Application Deadline: Cancelled 2021
Cost: Free
International Students: Yes
*** Telluride also sponsors the TASS program for sophomores, which is also quite competitive and valuable for admissions. 

Telluride’s Summer Program for Juniors (TASP) is one of the most competitive summer programs to apply for, regardless as to what category we’re talking about. It’s a program that doesn’t really fit in a particular category, as each program varies in scope and topic. In 2020 (online program), topics ranged from Humor, Comedy, and the Politics of Identity to Storytelling Across Genre: Writing for Personal and Political Change to Education and Citizenship

Traditionally, students live on campus in a dorm at one of multiple locations. TASP has recently been hosted on the campuses of Cornell, UMaryland, and UMichigan, though locations can change each year. Students attend classes with professors on particular topics but are also given ample time to explore and participate in their own activities. TASP is unique in giving the students themselves the opportunity to shape their experiences through weekly house meetings to establish rules and discuss community items and a budget to sponsor activities. 

Acceptance rate to TASP is often below 5%, so it is among the most competitive summer programs and the application is quite intense. The number of essays required to apply can exceed the number and length of just about any Ivy League college application, so be prepared to write a lot and to stand out in the application process through your writing. 

It’s hard to summarize what kind of experience TASP is but just about every student who attends has an amazing experience. While getting into TASP isn’t a golden ticket for college admissions, TASPers generally do really well when applying to colleges, as the qualities that TASP are looking for in its applicants are quite similar to the most competitive colleges and universities. 

“For students applying to any other kind of humanities or social sciences program, leadership programs can inspire you by interacting with impressive peers and discussing some of the most pressing issues our society faces today.”

A-Tier: Very Competitive Programs

2) University of Pennsylvania – Jerome Fisher Management and Technology Summer Institute (M&T)
Program Dates: July 11th – July 31st 
Application Deadline: February 3rd, 2021 (passed) 
Cost: $7,500
International Students: Yes

3) Bank of America Student Leaders Program
Program Dates: July 11th – July 31st (nine weeks total) 
Application Deadline: Passed (will open again in November 2021) 
Cost: Paid internship 
International Students: No (US citizens and permanent residents only)

4) Wharton Business School – Leadership in the Business World (LBW)
Program Dates: Session 1 — May 30th – June 19th, Session 2 — June 20th – July 10th, Session 3 — July 18th – August 7th
Application Deadline: Priority — February 26th, 2021; Regular — April 15th, 2021 
Cost: $8,499
International Students: Yes

5) Economics for Leaders
Program Dates: Various dates and locations from June 14th to August 8th (online and in-person programs available)
Application Deadline: Early Decision – March 3, 2021, Regular – April 14, 2021
Cost: $1,850 for residential (financial aid available)
International Students: Yes

6) Notre Dame Leadership Seminars
Program Dates: July 17th – July 28th 
Application Deadline: January 25th, 2021 (passed) 
Cost: $50 application fee and $150 enrollment fee
International Students: Yes (TOEFL required for some students)

These five programs are all very competitive and generally, not too burdensome financially. The only programs that really cost a lot of money are the Jerome Fisher and LBW programs at Wharton. These are some of the rare programs that would be worthwhile to attend and pay the high stick price for a summer experience. While none of these programs are a golden ticket to any institution, interacting with esteemed business professors at Wharton and securing a recommendation would certainly help any student in college admissions if applying to business, economics, or even engineering programs. 

LBW is a unique experience that gives students the chance to take business classes with Wharton professors, interact with and meet business leaders, and actually pitch a business plan to a group of business professionals and venture capitalists. The M&T program is particularly great for students interested in both engineering and business, as I explained in my article on the Best Engineering and Technology Summer Programs

The Bank of America Student Leaders Program offers students paid internships with actual NGOs in their local communities. The program gives students a chance to gain invaluable work experience in the nonprofit sector and helps them to learn how NGOs connect with local and federal government advocacy to affect actual, positive changes in their communities. The program is capped off with a one week Student Leaders Summit in Washington, DC to meet with their congressional group from their district to talk about the issues in their community and what they want to see addressed. 

EFL is a great program for students interested more on the economics side of things. The program offers economics classes during the day and leadership workshops at night to help students to apply the economics principles they’ve learned to the real world. Students attending the Notre Dame Leadership Seminars choose one of three seminars to join, similar to TASP in organization and topic. Current topics range from Global Issues: Violence and Peace in the Modern Age to The Power of Investing: The Wealth Gap, Financial Literacy, and the Miracle of Compound Interest and students can receive one college credit from Notre Dame for completing this program. 

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B-Tier: Expensive Programs with Some Admissions Value

7) LaunchX Summer
Program Dates: Online — June 28th – July 30th
Application Deadline: Early — December 21, 2021; Regular — February 15th, 2021
Cost: $5,980
International Students: Yes

8) Kelley Business School (Indiana) – Young Women’s Institute
Program Dates: June 7th – June 11th 
Application Deadline: June 1st, 2021 
Cost: Free
International Students: Yes

9) Yale Young Global Scholars
Program Dates: Online, Session 1 — June 21st – July 3rd; Session 2 — July 5th – July 17th; Session 3 — July 19th – July 31st
Application Deadline: Early Action — November 10,2020; Regular — January 12th, 2021
Cost: $3,500 (financial aid available)
International Students: Yes

10) NYU Summer at Stern
Program Dates: Online — July 5th – August 13th 
Application Deadline: Scholarship Deadline — February 26th, Regular Deadline –March 19th, 2021
Cost: $13,300 (8 college credits)
International Students: Yes

11) Berkeley Business Academy for Youth 
Program Dates: Online, Session 1 — July 11th – 23rd; Session 2 — July 25th – August 6th (2 weeks) 
Application Deadline: April 15th 2021
Cost: In-state — $4,685, Out of state — $5,685
International Students: Yes

Most of these programs are quite expensive, which is unfortunately quite common for business. They are most likely not worth applying to and paying for the majority of students. However, compared to many other paid business programs out there, you can certainly do worse. If money is not an issue, then these programs can have value in offering college credit, learning about entrepreneurship in a hands-on environment, or interacting with and getting recommendations from professors in the field. The Kelley Business School Young Women’s Institute is a great, free program that helps to inspire more women to get involved in business, but it unfortunately is quite short in length. As a result, it’s tough to form the bonds with mentors and peers that students at other programs do, limiting its overall value. 

Just like the other categories of programs, these programs can help students to establish or confirm an interest in business or entrepreneurship and can be used as a launching pad for a younger student’s resume to apply to some of the more competitive programs later on. However, keep in mind that relying on one of these programs alone as an extracurricular will not be sufficient for applying to programs like TASP, TASS, M&T, or LBW. 

There actually aren’t too many other programs that I can see that would go in this category. The business and entrepreneurship fields are certainly where a lot of for-profit summer program organizers are trying to lure students into. Some of the programs here in the B-Tier could slip in quality and not be worthwhile to even consider for most high schoolers. If you don’t care about admissions value, these programs can be a great option to spend time in the summer and learn about the business world. But again, without the residential experience and community aspects of the virtual programs, they might not be worth the cost. 

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