Selectivity is a tricky metric for evaluating the quality of a program. Does it necessarily mean that a program is worth attending if it’s acceptance rate is really low? Not always – perhaps the program is popular among students, but it isn’t regarded as highly by colleges themselves, meaning that although the program has a large pool of students to select from, its acceptance rate will not tell a complete story. Coupled with other factors, however, it can be a telling sign of a program’s worth. The program below all have all been holistically examined and are all well-renowned programs with institutional prestige, high selectivity, and good curricula. Their applications are long, but this shouldn’t be a reason not to at least consider applying. Many of them are experiences that enrich students not only academically but also personally, with many alumni going to so far as saying that attending the programs was life-changing.
DEADLINE: 1/9/2018 LINK: https://www.tellurideassociation.org/our-programs/high-school-students/sophomore-seminar-tass/
Eligibility: students must be sophomores at the time of application
What it is: The Telluride Association Sophomore Seminar (TASS) offers bright, motivated high school sophomores challenging six-week college-level courses in critical Black and ethnic studies. We work with university faculty to create exciting courses designed to inspire young people to explore the the histories, politics and cultural experiences of people of African descent and a variety of other topics. Because we believe that students should have the opportunity to pursue their ideals, we cover all the program costs, including tuition, books, room and board, field trips, and facilities fees. Students with financial need may apply for additional assistance with travel costs and a subsidy to replace summer earnings.
Why you should apply: The Telluride Association Sophomore Seminar is an all-around excellent program, for many reasons. To begin with, it is one of the few fully-funded opportunities that offer a rigorous, college-level seminar in the humanities. It is also one of the most well-known summer programs that can make a real difference in the college admissions process. Beyond the prestige, however, TASS is a program that many participating students have found to be a hallmark in their personal development. At TASS, students have the opportunity to improve their reading, writing, speaking and critical thinking skills, but do so in an intensely collaborative process, both in and out of the classroom. While students of color and students with an interest in ethnic studies are particularly encouraged to apply, TASS is open to all sophomores. This means that if you can write essays that demonstrate the qualities sought after at TASS. You have to demonstrate a capacity and passion for learning, and a willingness to engage with the world critically and thoughtfully.
DEADLINE: 1/16/2018 LINK: https://www.tellurideassociation.org/our-programs/high-school-students/summer-program-juniors-tasp/
Eligibility: students must be juniors at the time of application
What is is: A Telluride Association Summer Program (TASP) is a free six-week educational experience for high school juniors that offers challenges and rewards rarely encountered in secondary school or even college. Each program is designed to bring together young people from around the world who share a passion for learning. Telluride students, or TASPers, attend a seminar led by college and university scholars and participate in many other educational and social activities outside the classroom. Students attend TASPs because they want a personal and intellectual challenge. Telluride Association seeks students from all kinds of educational backgrounds who demonstrate intellectual curiosity and motivation, rather than prior knowledge of the seminar’s subject matter. TASPers participate solely for the pleasure and rewards of learning with other intelligent, highly motivated students of diverse backgrounds. The TASP offers no grades or college credit.
Why you should apply: Even more renowned than the program for sophomores, the Telluride Association Summer Program for Juniors is an opportunity you can’t pass up looking into. Both Telluride Association programs are founded on a very specific educational philosophy, and as the program that has been running the longest, it is firmly rooted into a mission to bring together the brightest juniors across the nation and foster a one of kind educational community. Beyond the academic prestige and the extensive alumni networks, the experience that TASP provides is difficult to describe, though many have used the word “life-changing.” Don’t be intimidated by the extensive application process – while it may seem like it is too demanding for a summer program, you may find that it will challenge you in unexpected ways, and that the writing experience itself may prove to be rewarding, or even useful – many TASP applicants claim that the essays they wrote for the program ended up serving as the foundation for their college supplements. TASP is one of most selective programs you will come across – they are looking students with specific qualities, and having an intense application process is one way to carefully select from the large pool of candidates who apply.
DEADLINE: rolling LINK: https://www.cee.org/research-science-institute
Eligibility: students who are high school juniors at the time of application
What it is: The Research Science Institute is an intensive six-week residential academic program in scientific research where participants gain first-hand experience with open-ended, scientific inquiry in leading laboratories in the Boston area. It is hosted by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Students attend seminars, read advanced literature and join laboratories where they have the opportunity to conduct original research, in addition to attending an evening lecture series where they have the opportunity to meet face to face with leading science and technology figures
Why you should apply: With an acceptance rate of approximately 8%, RSI is more difficult to get into than some of the nation’s top colleges. Students on College Confidential make discussion threads weeks in advance, before the application is even launched, to exchange stats and strategies on how to approach writing the essays. Although a major emphasis is placed on quantifiable achievements, the program’s admissions committee spends a lot of time evaluating the passion and motivation candidates demonstrate through their essays, extracurriculars and letters of recommendation. Furthermore, admission has to be selective, given the nature of the program – participants spend six weeks in the company of some of the nation’s most academically gifted students, in a challenging and intensive environment where they have opportunity to do original research contributions to ongoing projects carried out by various professional teams.
The application process is so challenging because the program itself requires a lot of work and effort. Admission is definitely competitive, but that shouldn’t discourage you from applying. If anything, you should be motivated to apply to a program where candidates are selected so carefully and each application is held to such a high standard. Writing about your experiences and motivation will be an exercise in self-presentation, and there is always the chance of being admitted to the program, which in and of itself makes the time you spend working on your application worthwhile.
DEADLINE: not available LINK: http://www.summerscience.org/
Eligibility: sophomores and juniors at the time of application (very few sophomores are admitted)
What it is: SSP is an immersion into experimental science, designed to challenge and inspire talented rising seniors from around the world. Working in teams of three, participants complete a research project from beginning to end: either in Astrophysics – near-earth asteroid imaging and orbit determination – or (new in 2017) Biochemistry – fungal enzyme inhibition and drug discovery. Each team acquires its own original data and performs its own analysis. Field trips and guest speakers round out an intense 39-day schedule. The experience changes their lives, and the benefits continue for life.
Why you should apply: The Summer Science Program can prepare you for college in many ways – the level of study, for instance, and the intensity behind the collaborative and team-based research. It is especially meant to leave you with a very strong sense of whether a STEM major is something you should pursue at university. Furthermore, although the program invites top-performing students to apply, and is itself a very rigorous and demanding experience, it does not ask for any extensive background in a particular field. Extracurricular scientific pursuits are definitely looked at, but most of the strict pre-requisites are courses that are often offered in regular high schools. You need not be exclusively interested in Astrophysics or Biochemistry – a general interest in the sciences, coupled with intense curiosity is enough. Furthermore, the program claims that if you meet these prerequisites, you will have enough background knowledge, as nobody that attends the program arrives knowing how to complete the projects. Emphasis is placed, instead, on being intellectually challenged and learning at a faster pace than ever before, which mirrors what is expected from students at university.
Note: While this program does have a tuition fee, about half of its participants typically receive financial aid in the form of grants. Additionally, admissions decisions are need blind, so your ability to pay for the program will not influence the decision of the admissions committee.
* programs marked with an asterix are free of charge