Best Business and Leadership Summer Programs for High School Students 2022

This summer, are you looking to grow as a leader? Are you interested in delving more into business and entrepreneurship? Or are you more interested in discussing economic and social issues with other peer leaders?

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By ALEX LOVELESS

The summer is one of the best times for high school students to meet motivated students with a shared purpose outside of their own schools. Through business and leadership programs, students can get experiences in public speaking, public office, debate, business plan development, or networking while working towards solving problems that they see in their communities. Some focus more on academics, community involvement, and public service while others focus on business solutions and innovation. We group these programs together because we see them having similar value in developing a student’s leadership portion of their Admissions Angle. But each program is quite different from one another, so please make sure to do your research. This list is here to let you know about programs that are worthwhile.

Keep in mind, the general advice for summer programs applies – the majority of them were created to generate revenue for a school and provide little admissions value. There are a lot of programs focused on business and entrepreneurship that are quite expensive, so for those particular programs, this is even more true. Make sure to consider the cost, application deadline, and rigor of the application to gauge the value of each program that you’re considering. You can check out our article on identifying worthwhile summer programs to learn more. 

A handful of these programs have conservatively decided to stay online for this summer, which is unfortunate for any business or leadership focused experience. Much of the value in these programs is the networking with business professionals, mentors, and peers. As such, I’ve accordingly dropped these programs on the list. While most programs are planning to be in-person again this summer, the variability of COVID could quickly change this and convert many programs back to virtual. Keep in mind that many of these programs, if in-person, will most likely require students to be fully vaccinated.

These rankings are certainly debatable, but again, this is just my opinion based on research, the feedback of accepted students, and conversations with admissions officers, who know many of these programs. 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, B-Tier, and C-Tier.

S-Tier: Must Go If Admitted

1A) Telluride Association Summer Seminars: Critical Black Studies (TASS-CBS)
Program Dates: June 26th – Aug 6th (6 weeks)
Application Deadline: January 5th, 2022 (Student nominations due mid-December)
Cost: Free
International Students: Yes

1B) Telluride Association Summer Seminars: Anti-Oppressive Studies (TASS-AOS)
Program Dates: June 26th – Aug 6th (6 weeks)
Application Deadline: January 5th, 2022 (Student nominations due mid-December)
Cost: Free
International Students: Yes

Telluride’s Summer Seminars are brand new in 2022 after canceling their summer programs for summer 2021. This year marks a huge pivot in the focus for Telluride Association, deciding to end their longstanding TASP (1954-2020) and TASS (1993-2020) programs in favor of this year’s Summer Seminars. While previous programs have touched on topics of race and oppression (TASP 2016 Michigan II: BLACK LIVES MATTER), this monumental shift in focus signals an overall shift in philosophy for the program, likely a result of the 2020 George Floyd protests and the generally pervasive racial tensions in the US. While I’m sure that not everyone will agree with this bold change in direction for the Telluride Association, I believe it to be a just direction for one of the most storied high school summer programs in this country. 

At first, I was hesitant to keep Telluride’s Summer Seminars in the S-Tier because of the enormous shift in focus and all the growing pains that this might entail. But given their track record and inevitable competitiveness for their programs, I decided to keep them there until they prove otherwise. The new program seems to run similarly to the previous TASP/TASS programs by giving students the opportunity to shape their experiences through inclusive community events and democratic decision making to figure out itineraries and budgets for activities. 

Another big change that we’ve noticed relates to the applications themselves, which I believe increases access to the program. Instead of requiring students to write essays or submit recommendations and transcripts before a January deadline, they instead seem to only be requiring that students get a nomination for faculty at their school and fill out a more streamlined application. Essays and other supporting materials seem to not be required until after a student passes the interview round of the admissions process, the website stating that they are not due until April 15th, 2022. Acceptance rates to TASP/TASS were often below 5%, so with this increased access to the program, we’re expecting similar, if not more competitive numbers for the Summer Seminars, making them among the most competitive summer programs.

It’s hard to estimate what kind of experience the new Summer Seminars will be, but again, given the track record of the Telluride Association, I can confidently say that accepted students will have a unique and enriching experience that happens to also greatly help in the college admissions process. 

A-Tier: Very Competitive Programs

2) University of Pennsylvania – Jerome Fisher Management and Technology Summer Institute (M&T)
Program Dates: July 10th – July 30th (4 weeks)
Application Deadline: Priority – February 1st, 2022, Final – April 1st, 2022 
Cost: $9,000 (financial aid available w/ separate application)
International Students: Yes

3) Bank of America Student Leaders Program
Program Dates: Varies by region, DC Summit July 25th – July 30th
Application Deadline: January 28th, 2022 (Opens in November for 2023)
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 — June 5th – June 25th, Session 2 — June 26th – July 16th, Session 3 — July 17th – August 6th
Application Deadline: Priority – January 20th, 2022; Regular — April 7th, 2022 
Cost: $8,999 (financial aid available)
International Students: Yes

5) National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y)
Program Dates: Dates vary but typically programs start in mid June/early July and end in early/mid August (6-7 weeks)
Application Deadline: November 9th, 2021 (Summer 2022)
Cost: Free
International Students: No

These four A-Tier programs are valuable leadership and business experiences for high school students. Each of them have a completely different focus, but they all have in common just how competitive they are for admission. In terms of cost, they are all quite affordable aside from the Jerome Fisher and LBW programs. However, this year the Wharton programs have made it more clear on their websites that they do offer up financial aid. These programs are some of the few expensive options that we consider worth the cost and work to apply to. 

The Jerome Fisher M&T program is a great option for students interested in both business and engineering. It’s run by the Wharton Business School and Penn engineering department, making it a unique interdisciplinary program that challenges students in both fields. I cover it extensively in our article on the Best Tech and Engineering Summer Programs, so I won’t go into too much detail here. 

LBW is also run by Wharton and gives students the chance to grow as business leaders. Students can expect to attend business lectures with Wharton professors, meet with CEOs and entrepreneurs, and discuss research-based theories of leadership and teamwork. Then, students are given a chance to apply what they’ve learned to interactive digital simulations and case competitions.  

The Bank of America Student Leaders Program is unique in connecting students paid internships with actual NGOs in their local communities and then connecting this work to the political process through a one-week Student Leaders Summit in Washington DC to meet with congressional leaders about how their work synergizes with public office. For students interested in working in the nonprofit or public sectors, this program gives an invaluable opportunity to see how they work from the inside and find out what community issues you’d like to address. 

NSLI-Y is a language and culture focused program run through the US State Department. Through NSLI-Y, students will live abroad to take language immersion classes and participate in cultural and language partner activities. Students also live with a host family to learn about day-to-day life in that culture and make real relationships with locals. They offer programs for Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Persian (Tajiki), Russian, and Turkish. 

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B-Tier: Competitive, Valuable Leadership Experiences

6) Economics for Leaders (EFL)
Program Dates: Various dates and locations from June 6th to August 7th (online and in-person programs available)
Application Deadline: Early Decision – February 9th, 2022; Priority – March 16th, 2022; Regular – April 13, 2022
Cost: $2,000 for residential, $800 for online, $244 for college credit (financial aid available)
International Students: Yes

7) Notre Dame Leadership Seminars
Program Dates: July 16th – July 27th 
Application Deadline: January 24th, 2022  
Cost: $60 application fee and $150 enrollment fee
International Students: Yes (TOEFL required for some students)

9) Kelley Business School (Indiana) – Young Women’s Institute
Program Dates: Session 1 – June 5th – June 8th; Session 2 – June 8th – June 11th; Session 3 – June 12th – June 15th; Session 4 – June 15th – June 18th
Application Deadline: April 15th, 2022 
Cost: Free
International Students: Yes

These next three B-Tier programs are not quite as competitive as the ones above, but they are valuable leadership experiences. They are also affordable and offer meaningful financial aid or completely free aside from transportation costs, making them accessible to most students looking to do something different over the summer. 

EFL is a great program for students interested more in economics than business or finance. Students at EFL take economics classes in the morning and then participate in leadership workshops after lunch to build their personal, relational, and contextual leadership skills. While it is a short program, attendees are also offered college credit through the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs Economics department. 

Students attending the Notre Dame Leadership Seminars choose one of three seminars to join: 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. 

The Young Women’s Institute invites women who are rising seniors to participate in business workshops, group presentations, and networking with peers and coaches. Though short, this program encourages women interested in business to dive into their interests and meet female business leaders at the University in Bloomington, Indiana. 

C-Tier: Expensive Programs with Some Admissions Value

9) Berkeley Business Academy for Youth 
Program Dates: Session 1 — July 11th – 23rd; Session 2 — July 23rd – August 6th (2 weeks) 
Application Deadline: March 15th 2022
Cost: In-state — $5,800; Out of state — $6,800 
International Students: Yes

10) 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 3rd, 2021; Regular — January 10th, 2022
Cost: $3,500 (financial aid available)
International Students: Yes

11) LaunchX Summer
Program Dates: Online — June 20th – July 22nd (5 weeks)
Application Deadline: Early — December 20, 2021; Regular — February 15th, 2022
Cost: $5,980 (financial aid available)
International Students: Yes

12) NYU Summer at Stern
Program Dates: July 6th – August 17th 
Application Deadline: Priority/International Deadline – March 15th, 2022; Scholarship Deadline — April 1st, 2022; Regular Deadline – June 24th, 2022 
Cost: Up to $13,300 (8 college credits, financial aid available)
International Students: Yes

The C-Tier programs still made the list this year but have been dropped in ranking because they are either quite expensive or they’ve decided to keep their programs virtual. While I can understand the decision from a risk management perspective, these types of leadership and business experiences just don’t hold nearly the same value in the virtual format. Much of the appeal to these summer experiences was the immersion of living on a college campus and getting inspired by the campus environment and motivated peers through social events and engaging conversations. While the virtual format can do a decent job in conveying lectures or host guest speakers, I don’t think they’re able to effectively teach students about leadership and networking in the real world. 

These programs can be great for younger high school students to confirm an interest in business, finance, or entrepreneurship, and they can also be a great launch pad on a resume to apply to more competitive programs like M&T or LBW the following year. However, these programs won’t impress admissions officers enough for them to be that showstopper activity that a Summer Seminar or M&T might represent, so make sure to keep your expectations for direct admissions value low. 

Beyond these programs, there may be a couple of others that are similarly expensive and teach students about business and entrepreneurship, but be careful. A lot of them are run by for-profit organizations that only rent out space on a campus to lure students in and the instruction quality could be quite low. Always make sure to research the instructors that are running the program and make sure they are qualified in their fields. If you are less interested in admissions value and instead, want an enriching and organized way for your son or daughter to spend their time, these programs can be great to learn about the business world. Overall though, without the residential experience of the virtual programs, they are not, in my opinion, worth the high cost. 

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