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21 Politics and Social Sciences Programs for High School Students

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

The scales of justice with hands supporting the balance

21 Politics and Social Sciences Programs for High School Students

Are you a high school student with a keen interest in politics and social sciences? Are you looking for ways to deepen your understanding and enhance your college application? If yes, you’re in the right place. This blog post is dedicated to exploring 21 exceptional programs in politics and social sciences designed specifically for high school students like you. These programs offer unique opportunities to explore complex societal issues, engage in thought-provoking debates, and gain insights that could shape your academic and career path.

From competitions to interactive workshops, we’ve got you covered with a range of options that cater to various interests within the field of politics and social sciences. Let’s explore these opportunities together and find the perfect fit for your academic journey.

1. Model United Nations

  • Location: In all participating schools and offices
  • Cost: $200 – $400
  • Program Date: January – March 2024
  • Application Deadline: Unspecified
  • Eligibility: Students, fresh graduates, and working professionals

Model United Nations (MUN) is a student-led simulation of the United Nations, where students from around the world come together to engage in debate and discussion about global issues. This politics and social sciences program mimics the operations of the real United Nations, with participants representing various countries and engaging in committees such as the Security Council or General Assembly. In these sessions, delegates research and present their assigned country’s policies and positions on a range of international topics, including politics, economics, and social issues. The process is overseen by a chair or panel of chairs who ensure adherence to parliamentary procedures.

MUN serves as a platform for students to develop a multitude of skills, including public speaking, research, negotiation, diplomacy, and critical thinking. It’s not only an educational experience but also a venue for fostering global citizenship, encouraging delegates to appreciate the complexity of international relations and broadening their cross-cultural awareness. 

2. Junior State of America

  • Location: In all participating schools
  • Cost: $5650 – $7500
  • Program Date: Multiple events occur between February – June, 2024
  • Application Deadline: Based on individual events
  • Eligibility: High school students from 9th to 12th grade

The Junior State of America (JSA) program offers a dynamic and engaging experience for high school students interested in politics, leadership, and civic engagement. This politics and social sciences initiative, with chapters across 20 states and eight territories, focuses on developing leadership skills, fostering civil debate, and enhancing community engagement through volunteering and activism.

JSA is well-known for its summer experiences, which are immersive learning opportunities that delve into topics like civic responsibility, media literacy, and women’s leadership. These programs provide a college-level curriculum and encourage students to engage in collaborative projects and activism. 

During the school year, JSA students can participate in a variety of activities, including organizing events, moderating debates, and engaging in activism initiatives. They can also experience the responsibilities of running their own “governments” at different organizational levels, from chapter to national. These experiences not only enhance students’ understanding of government but also help them develop lifelong skills in speech, debate, and community involvement.

Law student office

3. Future Problem Solving Program

  • Location: Indiana University Bloomington (International Conference)
  • Cost: $50 – $130
  • Program Date: June 5 – June 9, 2024
  • Application Deadline: May 1, 2024
  • Eligibility: Grades 4 – 12

The Future Problem Solving Program International (FPSPI) is an educational initiative aimed at developing the ability of young people globally to design and achieve positive futures through problem solving. The program emphasizes critical and creative thinking, problem solving, and decision making. Future Problem Solving involves thousands of students annually from various countries around the world, teaching them a unique six-step problem solving process that can be applied in real-world, local, and global communities, as well as in future societies. 

The program fosters 21st-century learning skills, increasing students’ global awareness and encouraging them to explore content related to business, economics, science, technology, society, and politics. Participants focus on current world happenings and project these into the future. FPSPI offers several components, including Community Problem Solving, Global Issues Problem Solving, Scenario Writing, and Scenario Performance

4. Prudential Spirit of Community Awards

  • Location: Newark, New Jersey
  • Cost: Free
  • Program Date: April 20 – April 23, 2024
  • Application Deadline: November 2, 2023
  • Eligibility: Students ages 14 – 18

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, initiated in 1995 by Prudential in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), is the United States’ largest youth recognition program centered exclusively on volunteer community service. This program honors middle level and high school students for their outstanding service to others at local, state, and national levels, aiming to applaud young people who are positively impacting their communities and to inspire others to consider how they might contribute as well​​.

In recent years, this program has evolved into the Prudential Emerging Visionaries program. This new initiative continues to recognize young individuals aged 14-18 who are leading innovative projects addressing financial or societal challenges in their communities. Applicants have the chance to receive significant awards, including cash prizes up to $15,000, an all-expenses-paid trip to Prudential’s headquarters in Newark, New Jersey for the Prudential Emerging Visionaries Awards Summit, and opportunities for coaching and skills development. The program emphasizes innovation, the potential to scale, and a deep connection to the community problem being addressed​​​​.

5. U.S. Senate Youth Program

  • Location: Washington, D.C.
  • Cost: Free
  • Program Date: March 2 – 9, 2024
  • Application Deadline: December 1, 2023
  • Eligibility: High school juniors and seniors

The United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP) is an enriching politics and social sciences initiative for high school students, especially those with a keen interest in public service. Established in 1962 through a U.S. Senate resolution, the program selects two high school juniors or seniors from each state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity to participate in a week-long experience in Washington, D.C. This event, known as Washington Week, typically occurs in early March, with the 62nd annual USSYP Washington Week planned for March 2-9, 2024.

During this immersive week, students engage with a variety of political leaders and policymakers. They attend sessions with U.S. Senators, members of the President’s Cabinet, officials from the Departments of State and Defense, and possibly a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. The experience is designed to give students a deeper understanding of the interplay between different branches of the federal government and a real-life perspective on public service careers. The Hearst Foundations fully sponsor the program, covering all expenses including transportation, hotel, and meals. 

Additionally, each delegate receives a $10,000 scholarship for undergraduate studies, encouraging them to continue their education in history and political science. The selection process for this prestigious program is competitive and merit-based, with students being chosen for their leadership roles and academic interests in government and politics​​​​​​​​​​.

6. Model Congress

  • Location: In all participating educational institutions
  • Cost: $140 – $160
  • Program Date: Varies per school
  • Application Deadline: Varies per school
  • Eligibility: High school students

The Model Congress is a politics and social sciences program that allows high school students to simulate the legislative process of the United States Congress. In these simulations, students take on the roles of Congress members, proposing, debating, and voting on a variety of legislation in a mock legislative environment. This experience is not only intellectually stimulating but also sharpens essential skills such as critical thinking, effective communication, and teamwork. 

The program promotes a deeper understanding of the democratic process and encourages students to become informed and active citizens. Participants in Model Congress develop a keen insight into complex policy issues and gain practical experience in debate and negotiation, fostering an appreciation for civic participation and inspiring some to pursue careers in politics, law, or public service. Renowned institutions like Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania host large-scale Model Congress events, providing platforms for students from various high schools to engage in this experiential learning process. 

7. National High School Mock Trial

  • Location: Wilmington, Delaware
  • Cost: $200 – $500
  • Program Date: May 2 – May 5, 2024
  • Application Deadline: Varies by state
  • Eligibility: High school teams that have won their state-level mock trial competitions

The National High School Mock Trial Championship is a politics and social sciences program that provides high school students with a unique opportunity to gain firsthand experience in the American judicial system. Established to promote understanding and appreciation of the judiciary, this program involves students in a mock trial setting, where they assume various roles in a courtroom trial. This immersive experience is not only educational but also competitive, as students from across the nation come together to demonstrate their understanding and skills in legal proceedings.

In 2024, the National High School Mock Trial Championship will be hosted by the Delaware Law Related Education Center, Inc. in Wilmington, DE, from May 2-5. This event brings together high school teams who have won their respective state-level competitions, pitting them against each other in a simulated court environment. The participants engage in presenting cases, examining witnesses, and making legal arguments, closely mirroring the real-world operations of a trial court. This program is an excellent opportunity for students interested in law, public speaking, or government to develop and showcase their skills in a rigorous and realistic setting​​​​​​.

Sorority members studying together

8. Barnard College Young Women’s Leadership Institute

  • Location: Barnard College
  • Cost: $3,800
  • Program Date: June 30 – July 19, 2024 & July 22 – August 10, 2024
  • Application Deadline: Unspecified
  • Eligibility: high school students

The Barnard College Young Women’s Leadership Institute (YWLI) offers a unique and immersive experience for young women interested in developing their leadership skills. At this institute, you will engage in experiential learning, emphasizing the practice of leadership in various scenarios, including group activities, workshops, and community engagements. 

The YWLI provides you with the choice of several distinct tracks, each offering a unique learning experience. These tracks include STEMinist, Writing and Literature, Political Science and Economics, Urban Studies and Architecture, Art History, Sociology and Gender Studies, and Dance. Each track explores its field in depth, offering insights and experiences that are both enriching and relevant. Additionally, the Leadership in Action series, part of the program, involves collaboration with the Athena Center for Leadership team, where you refine communication skills and explore your leadership identity. This series includes intimate group sessions that guide you on a journey of self-discovery and help you articulate your unique leadership story.

9. Brown Leadership Institute

  • Location: Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island
  • Cost: Online – $5,313; residential – $5,218
  • Program Date: June 23 – July 5, 2024 & July 14 – July 26, 2024 for on-campus sessions. June 24 – July 19, 2024 for the online option
  • Application Deadline: Rolling basis
  • Eligibility: Students aged 14 to 18

The Brown Leadership Institute, part of Brown University’s pre-college programs, offers a distinctive experience for high school students interested in leadership and social change. The program is designed for students who have completed grades 9 to 12 and are between the ages of 14 to 18 by June 16, 2024. You can choose to participate in either a 2-week on-campus program or a 4-week online program. The on-campus sessions are scheduled from June 23 to July 5 and July 14 to July 26, while the online session runs from June 24 to July 19. The program is held at the Brown University campus in Providence, Rhode Island, for the on-campus participants and utilizes Brown’s Canvas Learning Management System for online participants.

This program uniquely combines academic learning with practical leadership training. You can select from a range of interdisciplinary topics such as Women and Leadership, Leadership and Social Justice, and Leadership, Law and Social Movements, among others. The program emphasizes the development of public-speaking, problem-solving, and team-building skills and encourages you to work on a meaningful Action Plan to address social issues. 

10. Brown Environmental Leadership Lab

  • Location: Rhode Island, Alaska, & Eastern Sierras
  • Cost: $6,958
  • Program Date: July 14 – July 27, 2024
  • Application Deadline: May 10, 2024
  • Eligibility: Grades 10 to 12

The Brown Environmental Leadership Lab (BELL) is an engaging program that merges concepts in environmental studies, ecology, and leadership to develop socially responsible leaders. At BELL, you will embark on a learning journey that emphasizes reflection and community-building among fellow student environmentalists. The program is designed to give you a hands-on experience, allowing you to explore various environmental topics deeply. You’ll gain a comprehensive understanding of these issues and develop practical skills to address them through classroom instruction, fieldwork, and potentially internships.

BELL offers a range of programs, each focusing on different aspects of environmental studies such as climate change, conservation biology, sustainable agriculture, and environmental justice. Through these programs, you’ll be empowered to become an effective leader and agent of change, equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to tackle complex environmental problems. These experiences aim to shape you into an influential advocate for sustainability, positively impacting both your local community and the planet as a whole. BELL’s programs are experiential, giving you opportunities for fieldwork and real-world application, preparing you for future leadership roles in the environmental sector​​​​​​​.

Group of students walking in the stairs.

11. Yale Young Global Scholars Program

  • Location: Yale University
  • Cost: $6,500 (need-based financial aid available)
  • Program Date: June 23 – July 5, 2024 & July 7 – July 19, 2024
  • Application Deadline: January 10, 2024​​​​​​​​
  • Eligibility: Students at least 16 years of age

The Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS) Program is a highly selective summer academic program hosted by Yale University for high school students from around the world. This program brings together students to engage in rigorous academic coursework and develop leadership skills, fostering a global community of learners. Each summer, over 2,000 students from more than 150 countries, including all 50 U.S. states, participate in interdisciplinary, two-week sessions held on Yale’s historic campus. The program offers various academic programs, covering subjects like science, social sciences, humanities, and arts, designed to be interdisciplinary and to encourage critical and creative thinking.

YYGS is known for its diverse and inclusive environment, and it provides over $3 million USD in need-based financial aid and scholarships. Eligibility for the program typically includes being at least 16 years old by the start of the program, proficiency in English, and being a current high school sophomore or junior. The application deadline for the 2024 program was January 10, 2024​​​​​​​​.

12. World Affairs Youth Seminar at Auburn University

  • Location: Auburn University
  • Cost: $890
  • Program Date: July 7 – July 12, 2024
  • Application Deadline: Rolling basis
  • Eligibility: 10th to 12th graders

The World Affairs Youth Seminar (WAYS) at Auburn University is a politics and social sciences program for high school students, specifically targeting those entering 10th to 12th grades. Scheduled for July 7-12, 2024, WAYS offers an immersive experience in international relations and diplomacy through a Model United Nations (MUN) framework. Participants take on the roles of country delegates in MUN General Assembly sessions, delving into global issues and striving to accurately represent their assigned countries’ viewpoints.

At WAYS, you’ll engage in group research and collaborate to draft resolutions or plan strategic alliances, confronting different global challenges each day. The program features lectures by faculty on international issues, giving you a broader understanding of complex global dynamics. Beyond academics, you’ll get a taste of college life by staying in Auburn’s resident dormitories, dining on campus, and participating in social and recreational activities. The seminar also offers scholarships to make this enriching experience accessible to a wider range of students. If you’re interested in international affairs, public speaking, debate, or public service, WAYS is an ideal platform to enhance your understanding, leadership, and communication skills​​​​​​​​.

13. John F. Kennedy Institute In Government

  • Location: Choate Rosemary Hall
  • Cost: $9,325 – $11,620
  • Program Date: June 23 – July 26, 2024
  • Application Deadline: January 31, 2024
  • Eligibility: Grades 10-12

The John F. Kennedy Institute in Government at Choate Rosemary Hall is a prestigious program designed to stimulate curiosity about public policy and the desire to serve the public interest. Established to honor the memory of President Kennedy, a Choate graduate, the program attracts students from across the United States who are interested in government, politics, and public service.

As a participant in this four-week program, you will be immersed in a rigorous academic environment on the Choate campus, engaging in intensive reading, discussions, paper writing, tests, and oral presentations. The curriculum encompasses a wide range of topics, including the interplay of political ideas in Western civilization, the foundations and workings of the American Republic, and contemporary public policy issues

14. FBLA National Awards

  • Location: Orlando, Florida
  • Cost: $195.00
  • Competition Date: June 29 – July 2, 2024
  • Application Deadline: May 1, 2024
  • Eligibility: FBLA members who qualify through their local and state-level competitions

The Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) National Awards program is a dynamic and comprehensive competitive event platform designed to recognize and reward excellence in a wide array of business and career-related areas. Participation in FBLA competitive events not only showcases your talents and knowledge in various business aspects but also equips you with practical skills necessary for your professional growth. 

At the national awards, students are challenged in various competitions that assess their business acumen and skills. Winners at this level gain the opportunity to compete at the National Leadership Conference held every summer for national recognition. It’s important to note that states have the discretion to alter the events presented at the district/region and state levels. Therefore, always consult your state’s specific guidelines when participating in these levels of competition. 

students looking out into the university

15. Leadership for Social Change at Tufts

  • Location: Tufts University
  • Cost: $3,800 – $5,500
  • Program Date: July 7 – July 19, 2024 & July 28 – August 9, 2024
  • Application Deadline: May 1, 2024
  • Eligibility: High school students

The Leadership for Social Change program at Tufts University, offered by the Tisch College of Civic Life, is a compelling and engaging two-week summer experience for high school students passionate about making a difference in the world. This program is uniquely designed to advance equity, inclusion, and participation in civic life. It equips you with the necessary civic skills and knowledge to build connections, work collaboratively, and emerge as change agents capable of inspiring others. The program is available in both on-campus and virtual formats, providing flexibility to accommodate different needs.

The on-campus session of the program runs from July 7 to July 19, 2024, while the virtual session is scheduled for July 28 to August 9, 2024. In this politics and social sciences program, you will participate in interactive lectures and panels, engage in mentoring and group discussions, and work on a culminating project that focuses on researching a social issue in your community. This hands-on experience not only deepens your understanding of social issues but also hones your leadership skills, preparing you to be an effective advocate for social change. Additionally, successful completion of the program earns you valuable academic credit from Tufts University, and you will have access to an official Tufts transcript upon request​​​​​​​​​​.

16. Lott Leadership Institute at the University Of Mississippi

  • Location: University of Mississippi
  • Cost: $1350
  • Program Date: May 26 – June 28, 2024 & June 23 – July 26, 2024
  • Application Deadline: December 15, 2024
  • Eligibility: Undergraduate students and high school students

The Lott Leadership Institute at the University of Mississippi is dedicated to identifying and nurturing young talent for leadership roles at state and national levels. The Institute provides a unique blend of small-institute benefits, such as selective admission, challenging academic programs, and small class sizes, along with the advantages of a large public university, like affordable tuition and a wide array of resources and opportunities. 

The Lott Leadership Summer Institute for high school students, a part of the University of Mississippi’s Summer College, is a month-long dual credit program for high school juniors. This program focuses on developing leadership skills and offers students the chance to earn college credits. Participants in the program are exposed to real-world public policy issues and develop public speaking and networking skills. The program includes creating and presenting policy proposals and meeting with national leaders for discussions on contemporary issues. The ideal candidate for this program is someone committed to service and leadership with an interest in public policy and civic engagement​​.

17. Washington Workshops Foundation

  • Location: 2101 L Street NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20037
  • Cost: Unspecified (typically free and low-cost)
  • Program Date: Varies per specific event
  • Application Deadline: Varies per specific event
  • Eligibility: High school and middle school students

The Washington Workshops Foundation, established in 1967, is renowned for its experience-based educational programs that deeply engage high school and middle school students in the political process. Located at 2101 L Street NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20037, this private, non-profit, and nonpartisan foundation offers a unique learning environment in Washington, D.C., attracting students from diverse backgrounds across the United States and internationally.

This foundation’s mission is to inspire and empower young global citizens to become thoughtful, dynamic, and impactful future leaders through experiential learning. Its programs cover a wide range of topics including civic education, public policy, and American government, and offer students a hands-on approach to learning. Students have the opportunity to meet and discuss with elected leaders, gaining practical insights into the complexities of the political landscape. 

Over the years, many participants have gone on to achieve notable success in various fields, often attributing their growth to the experiences and mentorship provided by the Washington Workshops Foundation. The foundation also focuses on expanding its reach and impact through the development of online resources, partnerships with local community organizations, and establishing regional chapters across the country​​​​​​​.

Cheerful Indian asian young group of college students or friends laughing together in campus

18. Georgetown International Relations Program

  • Location: Georgetown University
  • Cost: $3,198 – $5,498
  • Program Date: June 23 – July 5, 2024 & July 7 – July 19, 2024
  • Application Deadline: Unspecified
  • Eligibility: High school students

The Georgetown International Relations Program for High School Students is a politics and social sciences program hosted by one of the world’s oldest universities and a recognized hub for international dialogue. During this program, you will have the opportunity to learn from world-renowned faculty and gain valuable experience in addressing global issues and challenges. The program is structured to include a mix of classes, off-site activities, group discussions, and hands-on learning experiences. Subjects covered range from the structure of the international system and instruments of foreign policy to topics like terrorism, nuclear weapons, and global health​​.

A standout feature of the program is its real-world application through international crisis simulations. These aren’t typical classroom exercises; they are detailed scenarios that closely mirror actual international crises, allowing you to take on roles, set objectives, and navigate diplomatic, ethical, and strategic considerations to resolve the crisis. This immersive experience provides insights into the pressures and challenges of a career in international relations. 

19. National Geographic Bee

  • Location: National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C.
  • Cost: $100
  • Program Date: April 26-27, 2024
  • Application Deadline: January 31, 2024
  • Eligibility: Grades 4 – 8

The National Geographic Bee, known as the GeoBee, is a prestigious annual competition designed to encourage students to learn more about geography and how it affects our lives. This competition is open to students in grades four through eight in the United States and its territories, who are under the age of 15 on the day of the national championship. To participate, students must be citizens or legal residents of the United States, Canada, or its territories, and enrolled in a public, private, or home school. Students who have previously competed in the national championship are not eligible to compete again​​.

The competition format begins with a preliminary round where all participants answer questions in written form. The top-scoring participants then move on to the oral rounds, which are conducted in a question-and-answer format and divided into preliminary, semifinal, and final rounds. In the final round, the top three contestants face off, and the winner receives a $50,000 college scholarship and a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society. 

The competition is known for its significant impact on promoting geographic literacy and has inspired many participants to pursue careers in geography and related fields. The competition is held over four days, with preliminary rounds on the first day and final rounds on the third. The national finals are hosted at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C., usually in late May​​​.

Junior high school students doing debate as group work

20. National Personal Finance Challenge

  • Location: Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland
  • Cost: Free
  • Competition Date: May 19-20, 2024
  • Application Deadline: April 24, 2024
  • Eligibility: High school students

The National Personal Finance Challenge (NPFC) is a captivating and competitive opportunity for high school students across the United States to showcase their knowledge and skills in personal finance. In this challenge, student teams, guided by a teacher or coach, delve into various aspects of financial management, including earning income, buying goods and services, saving, using credit, investing, and protecting and insuring

The 2024 National Personal Finance Challenge Finals are set to take place on May 19-20 in Cleveland, Ohio, at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. During this event, state champion teams will engage in creating financial plans for a fictional family scenario, and the top 16 teams will further compete in a Quiz Bowl for the national championship title. Not only is this an exciting learning experience, but it also comes with significant rewards. All expenses, excluding transportation to and from the state of origin, are covered for the teams in Cleveland. Furthermore, the top four teams will receive cash prizes, with the first-place team winning $2,000, the second-place $1,000, the third-place $500, and the fourth-place $250, for each student member and the teacher coach​​​​​​.

21. North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad

  • Location: In all participating schools
  • Cost: Free
  • Program Date: January 25, 2024 & March 14, 2024
  • Application Deadline: January 23, 2024
  • Eligibility: Middle and high school students

The North American Computational Linguistics Open Competition (NACLO) is an engaging contest for middle and high school students across the United States and Canada. The problems are crafted by professionals in linguistics, computational linguistics, and language technologies, using a plethora of languages to create captivating problems that reflect current issues in their fields. This competition not only challenges your problem-solving and logic skills but also exposes you to the diversity and consistency of language.

The NACLO competition typically takes place in two stages: the Open Round and the Invitational Round. For 2024, the Open Round is scheduled for January 25, from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, and the Invitational Round will occur on March 14. The exact timing for the Invitational Round is yet to be announced. To participate, you must register by January 23, 2024. 

The competition is open to students who have never been full-time college or university students, are less than 20 years old on the first day of the International Linguistics Olympiad (though it primarily targets the 13-18 age group), are US citizens or students in a secondary school in the US, and are available to participate in the contest at the offered times. Winners of the Invitational Round may have the opportunity to represent the United States at the International Linguistics Olympiad, which in 2024 will be held in July in Brasília, Brazil​​​​​​​​​​.

Final Thoughts

As you step forward in your academic journey, remember that exploring your interests in politics and social sciences through these programs can be a transformative experience. Not only do they offer you a chance to deepen your understanding of critical issues, but they also provide a platform to develop skills and connections that can benefit you in college and beyond. 

We hope this list of 21 programs sparks your curiosity and guides you toward making an informed decision about how to spend your time before college. Your passion for these subjects has the potential to shape not just your future, but also the world around you. Keep exploring, stay engaged, and use these opportunities to pave the way for a fulfilling academic and professional life in the field of politics and social sciences.

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