A Complete Guide To The Stanford Summer Humanities Institute

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

a professor in front of his class

A Complete Guide To The Stanford Summer Humanities Institute

The Stanford Summer Humanities Institute offers students a unique opportunity to delve into their passion for humanities without the pressure of grades. Participants gain a taste of Ivy League-level education, experience a college environment, and deepen their understanding of the humanities’ impact on society. This program allows students to immerse themselves in rigorous academic exploration while benefiting from the prestigious and stimulating atmosphere of Stanford University.

What is the Stanford Summer Humanities Institute?

The Stanford Summer Humanities Institute is a three-week residential program for high school juniors and seniors. Stanford University hosts this summer program, which allows students to engage with the humanities and social sciences, guided by Stanford professors. 

Students explore texts, write college-level essays, and develop strong arguments in academic sessions. The program aims to develop analytical skills to understand the complexities of the human condition.

The program covers literature, history, philosophy, and the arts and offers a broad understanding of human culture. Living on the Stanford campus adds to the experience, immersing students in an academic community that promotes transformative learning and growth.

How does the Stanford Summer Humanities Institute work?

When applying, you can choose up to three courses, but you will study only one if selected. The Stanford admissions office will assign courses based on candidate profiles.

Stanford professors and graduate students lead the courses, sharing their expertise and passion. You’ll be admitted to one of the courses you ranked on your application, offering an in-depth exploration of topics like the American Enlightenment, ancient Greek philosophy, and the repatriation of museum artifacts. 

Concentrated african american woman doing paperwork, sitting in modern office on conference.

Studying alongside peers with similar interests, you’ll deep dive into contemporary society and global history, explore humanities at a college level, investigate philosophical questions, and pursue personalized research topics.

The program includes lectures, readings, group work, and other assignments, providing a college-level workload with significant assignments to complete outside the classroom. At the end of the program, you will produce an original research project.

Important Dates

The 2024 Stanford Summer Humanities Institute is scheduled to run in two sessions.

  • First Session: June 23, 2024 to July 12, 2024
  • Second Session: July 14, 2024 to August 2, 2024
  • Application Deadline:  February 1, 2024
  • Notification Date: Mid April 2024

Each session spans over three weeks providing students with ample time to immerse in the subject they’ve chosen fully.

Who is eligible to join the Stanford Summer Humanities Institute?

The summer institute accepts  U.S. and international students in grades 10 and 11. To apply, you need to submit the following:

  • Academic Records: Unofficial transcripts for each school or academic program with grades from Fall 2021 through Fall 2023. Combine multiple grade reports from one school into a single file. Homeschooled applicants should submit a document similar to a transcript, including any graded courses taken with a school or program during this period.
  • Work Sample(s): One sample of your work in the humanities or social sciences, completed as a school assignment within the past year, demonstrating your best effort. Ideally, include graded work and the prompt. Acceptable samples include analytical essays, persuasive essays, or research papers, limited to five pages of content plus any directions or grading sheets.
  • Teacher Recommendation: One online recommendation form from a teacher of English, history, or social science.
  • Video Essay (Optional): An optional video essay to share more about your interest in the program. Highly recommended if your school’s primary language of instruction is not English.
  • $65 Application Fee: Submit the $65 application fee online using a credit card. Fee waivers are available if you qualify. Contact [email protected] for more information.

Stanford Summer Humanities Institute Courses

The courses offered by the Stanford Summer Humanities Institute are a vital aspect of the program’s prestige and significance. When applying, you will rank your course preferences based on your interests or past experiences with the topics. While all courses fall under the humanities umbrella, they cover many subjects.

Courses Description
Revolution The ongoing turmoil in the Middle East shows how revolutions can reshape the world’s political order more than any other force. Many modern states were born from revolutions. But what exactly is a revolution? Is it the inevitable result of social conflict, as Marx believed, or does it require determined revolutionaries? Must it be called a “revolution” to qualify as one?

This course explores these questions by examining the early revolutions in seventeenth-century England and the revolutions in America and France. You’ll then study the nineteenth-century revolutions and the major revolutions of the twentieth century in Russia, China, Cuba, Cambodia, and Iran. The course concludes with a look at recent revolutions in the Middle East.

Ancient Rome and Its Legacies In this course, you’ll explore various aspects of this historical phenomenon. You’ll read many of its most famous texts, reflect on how the Romans viewed themselves and others, trace the history of one particularly controversial text, and follow the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. Throughout the course, you’ll note how different Roman society was from modern Western societies, despite the profound influence Rome has had on them.
Happiness and the Good Life In this course, you will consider what philosophers, psychologists, anthropologists, neuroscientists, writers, and artists have to say about happiness and reflect on its relationship to love, belonging, community, fame, fortune, freedom, spirituality, and mortality. You will explore both Asian and Western sources and examine deeply held assumptions through the lens of cross-cultural inquiry.
The American Enlightenment The American Enlightenment, spanning roughly 1770 to 1820, was a period of significant change in American and European history. This era included major events like the American, Haitian, and French Revolutions and the transatlantic Enlightenment, which introduced many new ideas.

In this course, you will explore how America became a hub for innovative ideas about politics, nature, rights, and humanity. You will study original writings from key figures such as Thomas Jefferson, Voltaire, and Rousseau. Discussions will focus on the debates of the American Enlightenment, which continue to inspire us today.

Racial Identity in the American Imagination This course explores the experiences, representations, and debates around racial identity in American history, from Sally Hemings to Barack Obama. You will engage with historical, legal, and literary texts, as well as films, to understand the major transformations in racial identity.

You will also examine autobiography, memoir, photography, and music to see how racial identity is represented in American society. Key questions include:

(1) How do racial and American identities interact?

(2) What role do mixed-race identities play in American society?

(3) Is race just a performance? What does it mean to say race is a “social construct”?

(4) How do class, gender, and sexuality influence racial identity?

Magical Realism: One Hundred Years of Solitude What is “magical realism”? Is it a genre, a style, or just a label for elaborate fiction from the Third World? How does this global phenomenon reflect on globalization itself? This course explores these questions through an in-depth study of the masterpiece most associated with magical realism: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez.

The course has two main goals: (1) to train students in college-level literary and cultural criticism, and (2) to develop well-informed positions on scholarly debates about this work and magical realism in general.

Topics include the interactions between metropolitan centers and peripheral locations in magical realism, postcolonial approaches, translatability, and the relationship between storytelling, historical narratives, fantasy, and critique. Additional readings may include works by Rushdie, Morrison, Carpentier, Benigni, and Del Toro.

The Greeks and Beyond You’ll focus on four main topics:

(1) Knowledge and Skepticism: Can we know anything? If so, what and how? We’ll explore the radical skeptical view that living without beliefs leads to tranquility.

(2) The Nature of Love: Is loving someone good or bad for me? What does it mean to love someone, and should we have reasons for it? What are good reasons to love someone?

(3) Personal Identity: How am I the same person as the baby I once was, despite having different matter and thoughts? What makes me the same person over time? We’ll discuss scenarios like teletransportation and consider how understanding personal identity affects how we treat others.

(4) The Nature of Death: Is my death bad for me? If so, why? We’ll examine Lucretius’ argument that death isn’t bad for us, even if it seems better to die in certain circumstances. His argument helps us understand what is truly good for us.

For each topic, you’ll dedicate one meeting to reading related modern philosophy.

Colonial Extractions of African Cultural Treasures During the colonial era, European powers extensively extracted cultural treasures from around the world. Countries like Greece and Egypt argue that these objects should be returned home instead of being housed in museums in London, Paris, and New York. This class invites you to explore the role of African art in debates about ownership, access, and aesthetics. For instance, Stanford University’s Cantor Museum has a large collection of African artifacts, and nearby San Francisco’s De Young Museum features a significant selection in its Africa gallery.

How much is the tuition for Stanford Summer Humanities Institute 2024?

It is important to note that the summer program is not free. Tuition for the Stanford Summer Humanities Institute is $8,250.

This fee includes housing in Stanford residence halls, meals, daily activities, and field trip expenses. It does not cover airfare, incidental purchases, computers, clothes, school supplies, or toiletries.

Participants live on campus in supervised Stanford residence halls. Tuition includes meals in Stanford dining halls and housing on campus at no additional charge. You will receive linens and towels as part of your housing.

Field trips to exciting cultural attractions in the San Francisco Bay Area are scheduled on weekends. You will be provided with the necessary supplies for each course and activity, including transportation and fees for academic field trips. However, you are expected to provide your own computer during the program.

two male students reading with a teacher

Transportation is provided between Stanford University and San Francisco International Airport (SFO) at select times on arrival and departure days.

Financial Aid

Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies is dedicated to making its programs accessible to students worldwide. Finances should not be a barrier to high-quality pre-collegiate education. Financial aid is awarded based on demonstrated financial need. All applicants are eligible to apply for financial aid, and applying for aid does not affect your admissions decision.

We encourage you to apply for financial aid if tuition costs are a barrier. Be sure to include any relevant details about your family’s circumstances in your Parents’ Financial Statement. Financial aid is available to both domestic and international participants. You can check here for the specific requirements to apply for financial aid.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is there a possibility for an early admissions decision?

No, they cannot provide admissions decisions before the designated notification date due to the high volume of applications received. The Admissions Committee reviews applications holistically and needs to evaluate all submissions before making final decisions. All applicants will be notified of their admissions status on the designated notification date.

2. Is there financial aid available?

Limited financial aid is available and is granted based on demonstrated financial need. Students seeking partial or full financial aid awards should submit a complete online financial aid application and all required income documentation.

We encourage you to apply for aid if tuition costs are a barrier. Include any relevant details about your family’s circumstances in your application. Financial aid is available to both domestic and international participants.

3. What does residential life at Stanford Summer Humanities Institute look like?


Participants stay with other Summer Humanities Institute students in residences used by Stanford undergraduates during the academic year. Trained residential staff live in the residences with participants to create safe and welcoming communities.

Rooms are assigned by gender. We are committed to providing an inclusive, supportive, and comfortable residential environment for all participants, and gender-inclusive housing assignments can be provided.


The daily schedule includes a variety of co-curricular activities in the afternoon to enhance the education that takes place outside the classroom. These activities aim to provide participants with new skills, exercise, and community building. Activities cater to a variety of interests and energy levels.

an AP class with students participating in a room discussion

Field Trips

Weekend field trips enrich the academic experience and offer an opportunity to socialize with peers outside the classroom. Transportation, lunch, and entrance fees (if applicable) are included for all participants. Examples of evening and weekend activities may include a talent show, a firepit night, and visits to Downtown Palo Alto.

4. Is Stanford Summer Humanities Institute prestigious?

SSHI is a prestigious and selective pre-college program, on par with Stanford’s other Summer Institutes. Choosing a program that aligns with your strengths will benefit your application the most. SSHI’s prestige comes not only from its affiliation with Stanford but also from its financial aid offerings. Colleges highly regard programs that provide partial or full scholarships, recognizing them as some of the best opportunities available.

5. What is the Stanford Summer Humanities Institute acceptance rate?

The Stanford Summer Humanities Institute (SSHI) does not reveal its acceptance rate, but it is known to be highly selective. The program seeks academically talented high school students with strong interests in literature, philosophy, history, and related fields. Admission is based on a holistic review of the applicant’s academic record, extracurricular activities, and demonstrated passion for the humanities.

To maximize your chances of acceptance, focus on creating a strong application that highlights your achievements and enthusiasm for the humanities. This includes submitting exemplary work samples, securing strong teacher recommendations, and optionally providing a video essay further to demonstrate your motivation and suitability for the program.

Due to its competitive nature, applying to other summer programs with a similar focus is wise to increase your chances of participating in an enriching educational experience.

Is the Stanford Summer Humanities Institute worth it?

The Stanford Summer Humanities Institute (SSHI) can be a valuable and worthwhile experience for several reasons:

  • Academic Prestige: As a program offered by Stanford University, SSHI provides access to high-caliber faculty and resources. Stanford’s reputation and its top-ranked humanities department add significant value to the program, which can enhance college applications and future academic opportunities​​.
  • Intensive Learning Experience: The program offers a rigorous, college-level curriculum that challenges students to engage deeply with complex humanities topics. This can help develop critical thinking, academic writing, and research skills that benefit college and beyond.
  • Networking and Mentorship: Students can interact with professors, graduate students, and peers who share similar academic interests. This networking can provide mentorship, academic guidance, and long-term connections that are valuable for future educational and career endeavors.
  • Holistic Development: Besides academic growth, SSHI offers extracurricular activities and field trips that enhance social skills and cultural awareness. This well-rounded experience is designed to foster personal growth and community building​​.
  • Financial Aid Availability: The program offers financial aid to ensure that talented students from diverse backgrounds can participate, making it more accessible to a wider range of applicants​.
  • Selective Admission: Being admitted to a highly selective program like SSHI can be a significant accolade on a student’s resume, demonstrating to colleges and universities a commitment to academic excellence and a proactive approach to education​.

Indian male mentor and latin female young professional sitting in creative office space.

Overall, if you are a high school student with a strong interest in the humanities and you meet the program’s admission criteria, participating in the Stanford Summer Humanities Institute can be a highly enriching and rewarding experience. However, it’s essential to consider the cost and ensure it aligns with your educational goals and financial situation. Exploring additional summer programs with similar focuses can also provide more options and potentially comparable benefits.



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