The Truth Behind “Exclusive” Summer Leadership Programs


The Truth Behind “Exclusive” Summer Leadership Programs

This spring tens of thousands of high school students will receive news that they have been nominated to attend a “highly selective” or “exclusive” one-week summer program. The program will probably have the word leadership in its name, and the invitation to apply will most likely come with a glossy, impressive-looking certificate. After receiving this unexpected piece of mail, students typically have a few questions. For instance:

What are these programs like?

Participating students spends about a week living on a college campus and learning about a specific career field through lectures, classes, and field trips. Examples of these programs include the National Student Leadership Conference (NSLC), The Congress of Future Science and Technology Leaders, and the National Youth Leadership Forum.

(The names all kind of sound the same, huh?)

How was I selected?

Although these programs may claim you were personally nominated, the truth is they probably found your name through a mailing list. They send out tens of thousands of these invitations.

Program nominations are sent to thousands of students each year

So these programs aren’t really selective?

Unfortunately, no. They are, for the most part, “pay-to-play” programs. As long as you are willing to pay the program fee (which is usually in the 1000-3000 dollar range, not including travel expenses) you will be able to attend.

Are colleges impressed by these programs?

Again, the simple answer is no. Attending will not meaningfully boost your chance of college acceptance.

Are there any benefits to these programs?

There certainly can be. By attending, you can learn more about a particular career, meet other students, have fun, and get a taste of college life. In other words, they are not a scam, and they can be a good option for some families.

Keep in mind, however, that there are many other ways (some of which are more cost effective) to gain similar benefits over the summer. For more ideas, check out the Future Stars blog post on “7 Ways to Make the Most of Your Summer.” You can also go over your options with a Future Stars counselor.

Where can I learn more?

Here are some great articles on these types of programs (along with the parent company that operates many of them, Envision EMI)

Congratulations! You Are Nominated. It’s an Honor. (It’s a Sales Pitch.)

Don't expect this 'award' to help you enter college


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