15 Summer Programs That Cultivate Strong Leadership Skills

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

15 Summer Programs That Cultivate Strong Leadership Skills

Summer is an excellent time for high school students to develop valuable skills, especially leadership. Leadership is crucial in various life aspects, from academics to careers and personal growth. Numerous summer programs across the United States have been designed to cultivate strong leadership abilities in young individuals like you. Today, we’ll guide you through 15 outstanding summer programs. Let’s explore these opportunities together and find the perfect program to help you grow as a leader this summer.

1. Wharton’s Essentials of Leadership

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: $4,099
  • Program Date: June 17 to July 19, 2024 (depending on the selected session)
  • Application Deadline: May 1, 2024
  • Eligibility: Grades 9 to 12

The Essentials of Leadership program offers an immersive, two-week summer experience designed for a carefully chosen cohort of students eager to explore top-tier undergraduate business education. Through this initiative, participants will cultivate essential leadership, teamwork, and communication abilities while engaging with renowned Wharton faculty, visiting speakers, and fellow ambitious high school students from diverse global backgrounds. 

This innovative online venture integrates case competitions and dynamic digital simulations, such as the Saturn Parable—an advanced leadership exercise developed by Wharton Interactive.

2. Bella Abzug Leadership Institute Summer Program

  • Location: Hunter College, Main Campus
  • Cost: Free
  • Program Date: July 1 to August 9, 2024 (depending on the selected cohort)
  • Application Deadline: May 5, 2024
  • Eligibility: Ages 13-21 years old, residing in or from the NYC metropolitan area

The Bella Abzug Leadership Institute Summer Program, hosted at Hunter College, aims to hone your leadership and debate skills. Throughout the program, you’re offered a choice among three cohorts running from July 1 to August 9, with each session lasting two weeks. You’ll engage in workshops, seminars, and debate labs designed to equip you with the necessary skills for effective, dynamic leadership. 

This immersive experience is at no cost to participants, as a $500 stipend is provided, ensuring accessibility to a wide range of students. The application deadline is May 5, emphasizing the importance of early submission. The program seeks to inspire you, regardless of background, to actively participate and lead in civic, political, corporate, and community life.

students listening and talking to male teacher

3. Babson College’s Summer Study for High School Students

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: Up to $6,450 
  • Program Date: July 8 – July 29, 2024
  • Application Deadline: March 31, 2024
  • Eligibility: Rising high school juniors and seniors

The Babson College Summer Study for High School Students is a comprehensive online program designed for rising juniors and seniors interested in developing an entrepreneurial mindset and becoming innovators and changemakers. Scheduled from July 8–29, 2024, the program spans over three weeks and offers a blend of experiential learning and academic study, allowing you to earn 4 college credits

Through the program, you will engage in the Introduction to the Entrepreneurial Experience course, which emphasizes problem-solving, teamwork, and applying entrepreneurial principles to address social, economic, and environmental issues aligned with the U.N. Global Goals. Beyond classroom learning, you will have the opportunity to connect with a global network of peers and gain insights from entrepreneurial leaders and innovators, fostering a rich understanding of entrepreneurship, leadership, marketing, finance, and business communication.

4. Rutgers’ Building Leadership Strategies Summer Academy

  • Location: Rutgers University
  • Cost: $3,518.50 – $4,580.50
  • Program Date: July 21 – July 27, 2024
  • Application Deadline: May 31, 2024
  • Eligibility: High school students

The Rutgers’ Building Leadership Strategies Summer Academy is a one-week intensive residential program aimed at high school juniors and seniors interested in enhancing their leadership skills. Participants engage in lectures, public speaking workshops, and activities to discover their leadership style, improve critical thinking, and develop communication skills. The program covers emotional, social, and cultural intelligence in leadership, organizational leadership concepts, and ethical dilemma resolution. Students earn 1.5 college credits upon completion and participate in final presentations on leadership development.

5. Tony Robbins Global Youth Leadership Summit

  • Location: San Diego, CA
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Program Date: July 26 – July 31, 2024
  • Application Deadline: Unspecified
  • Eligibility: Ages 14 to 16

The Tony Robbins Global Youth Leadership Summit (GYLS) is a transformative four-day program designed for young individuals aged 14 to 16, aiming to instill leadership qualities that have a positive impact on their lives and communities. Founded in 2000 by The Tony Robbins Foundation, GYLS offers a dynamic environment for youth from various countries to develop their leadership skills through hands-on service learning experiences, leadership simulation games, and small group discussions. 

The program also features keynote speakers from around the globe who cover a wide range of topics, from leadership styles to community contributions. GYLS 2024 is scheduled from July 26 to July 31 in San Diego, CA, offering first-time participants, referred to as Ambassadors and returning participants, or Alumni, the chance to deepen their leadership skills while guiding new Ambassadors.

Female teacher addressing students in a classroom

6. Georgetown University’s Business Academy

  • Location: Georgetown University
  • Cost: $7,299
  • Program Date: July 14 – August 2, 2024
  • Application Deadline: Unspecified
  • Eligibility: High school students

The Georgetown University Business Academy offers high school students an in-depth introduction to the business world through two tracks: Business & Leadership and Global Business. You will learn from professors at the McDonough School of Business and industry experts, engage in business simulations, and cover topics like investment, entrepreneurship, and international business strategies. The program promises practical skills development, critical thinking enhancement, and a certificate of participation upon completion, all set within the vibrant Washington, D.C.​

7. Hansen Leadership Institute Program

  • Location: University of San Diego, California
  • Cost: Fully funded by the Fred J. Hansen Foundation
  • Program Date: July 1 – 23, 2024
  • Application Deadline: March 15, 2024
  • Eligibility: Undergraduate students

The Hansen Leadership Institute (HLI) offers an intensive three-week program in San Diego, California, aimed at empowering young leaders from around the globe. Participants are selected to engage in rigorous leadership training through workshops, seminars, and discussions on conflict resolution, human rights, and sustainable development. 

The institute promotes cultural exchange and offers site visits to key institutions in the USA for a broader understanding of the country’s history and culture. The program also provides a unique opportunity to build a global network of young leaders committed to positive change. To apply, interested individuals must submit their applications by January 15, 2024, for international applicants and March 15, 2024, for U.S. applicants.

UCLA campus

8. UCLA’s Global Leadership Program

  • Location: University of California, Los Angeles
  • Cost: $846 – $4135
  • Program Date: June 24 – August 2, 2024
  • Application Deadline: June 1, 2024
  • Eligibility: Students with a minimum of 3.2 GPA or equivalent (unweighted)

The UCLA Summer Global Leadership Program is designed for individuals aiming to address global challenges such as climate change and social inequity. It offers up to 9 units of UCLA credit, workshops, seminars, and the opportunity to develop a research project. Participants will learn from faculty and industry experts, focusing on global public policy, international diplomacy, and more, preparing them for leadership roles in various fields.

9. Wharton’s Leadership in the Business World

  • Location: Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Cost: $9,899
  • Program Date: June 9 – August 10, 2024
  • Application Deadline: April 3, 2024
  • Eligibility: Rising senior high school students

Wharton’s Leadership in the Business World (LBW) is designed for rising high school seniors interested in business and leadership. Hosted at the prestigious Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, this program offers an in-depth introduction to undergraduate business education and the opportunity to develop critical leadership, teamwork, and communication skills. 

Throughout the program, you will engage in a blend of lectures and presentations from distinguished Wharton faculty and guest speakers, participate in classroom discussions on core business subjects, and enjoy real-world business simulations. The program also includes company site visits and activities designed to enhance your understanding of business in the 21st century. Admission to LBW is highly competitive, seeking students with demonstrated leadership potential and academic excellence.

Three business students smiling at the camera.

10. National Student Leadership Conference

  • Location: In all participating universities
  • Cost: $3,795 – $6,500
  • Program Date: Varies per university (mid-June to late July or early August 2024)
  • Application Deadline: Unspecified
  • Eligibility: 6th to 12th graders

The National Student Leadership Conference (NSLC) provides immersive, pre-college experiences for students, offering them a glimpse into various career fields before college. Participants gain practical skills, explore career interests, and develop leadership abilities through workshops and activities at prestigious universities across the U.S. 

The program covers diverse areas, including business, medicine, engineering, and more, facilitating hands-on learning and interactions with professionals. Since 1989, the National Student Leadership Conference has allowed students to experience their dream careers before heading to college.

11. MEPI’s Student Leaders Program

  • Location: In all participating U.S. universities
  • Cost: No cost (fully funded)
  • Program Date: June 28 – July 26, 2024
  • Application Deadline: December 18, 2023
  • Eligibility: Students aged 20 to 24

The Student Leaders Program (SLP) is a comprehensive leadership and civic engagement initiative targeting undergraduate and graduate students aged 20 to 24 from the MENA region, focusing on Climate Change and Environmental Protection for the 2024-2025 program. Participants will be placed in U.S. universities to undertake academic coursework, develop leadership skills, and engage in activities promoting civil society and participatory governance. 

A key component involves creating Community Engagement Plans to address climate-related issues in their communities. The program spans a year with a pivotal four-week in-person summer session in the U.S., offering follow-on support and networking opportunities within the MEPI Alumni network. Eligibility extends to students from specific MENA countries, with a preference for under-served participants and those without prior U.S. travel experience.

12. Outward Bound’s Classic for High School

  • Location: In all selected outdoor locations
  • Cost: $3,200 – $7,540
  • Program Date: Unspecified
  • Application Deadline: Unspecified
  • Eligibility: Students aged 14-17

The Outward Bound Classic for High School is for students aged 14-17, offering expeditions that challenge them physically, socially, and emotionally. These adventures push students beyond their perceived limits, fostering personal growth, teamwork, and the development of technical and interpersonal skills in a natural setting alongside adventurous peers.

Ballet Dance

13. Colorado State University’s Dance Lab: Summer Intensive

  • Location: Colorado State University, Fort Collins campus
  • Cost: $1,400 
  • Program Date: July 28 – August 10, 2024
  • Application Deadline: June 14, 2024
  • Eligibility: Pre-professional dancers aged 14 and above

The Dance Lab: Summer Intensive at Colorado State University, running from July 28 to August 10, invites dancers aged 14 and above to a two-week immersive program focusing on classical and contemporary dance forms. Participants will engage in intensive study, choreography, repertory, and performances, mentored by CSU Dance faculty and guest artists. This program not only enhances dance skills but also provides insights into dance theory and composition, culminating in a public performance.

14. Harvard Summer School’s Secondary School Program

  • Location: Harvard University
  • Cost: $3,900 – $14,250
  • Program Date: From June 22 to August 10, 2024 (depending on the selected session)
  • Application Deadline: April 10, 2024 (late applications)
  • Eligibility: High school students

The Harvard Summer School’s Secondary School Program (SSP) offers high school students the opportunity to experience college-level academics in a rigorous summer program at one of the world’s leading universities. You have the option to enroll in either a 4-week or a 7-week session, with courses available in a variety of subjects taught by Harvard faculty and visiting scholars. 

The 4-week program is residential and requires students to live on Harvard’s campus, providing a fully immersive college experience. In contrast, the 7-week program offers more flexibility with residential, online, or commuting options. Students can earn college credit upon completion, all while developing a deeper understanding of their subject of interest and gaining valuable skills for future academic and professional success.

15. Harvard Summer School’s Pre-College Program

  • Location: Harvard University
  • Cost: $5,550
  • Program Date: June 23-July 5, July 7-19, and July 21-August 2, 2024
  • Application Deadline: April 10, 2024
  • Eligibility: High school students

The Harvard Pre-College Program is an intensive on-campus experience designed for high school students to get a glimpse of college life. You can choose from around 100 non-credit courses, allowing you to explore new academic areas or deepen your knowledge in a field you’re passionate about. The program aims to provide a dynamic, immersive, and supportive academic environment, where you will live alongside peers from around the globe.

Final Thoughts

Leadership is not just about guiding others; it’s also about understanding yourself, your strengths, and areas where you can grow. This summer, you can take a significant step forward in your personal and professional development. By participating in any of these programs, you’ll not only enhance your resume but also set yourself up for success in college and beyond.

So, as you consider your options, think about what leadership means to you and how you want to make an impact in your community and the world. The skills you develop now will serve you for a lifetime, in countless situations and across diverse fields. We encourage you to seize this opportunity to invest in yourself, grow as a leader, and prepare for the exciting challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Here’s to a summer that propels you toward your goals and beyond!


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