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HSLP Applications Now Open!

Apply today for Summer 2024.
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Based on the firm belief that young people can make a positive difference in their communities, Sorensen engages Virginia high school students in public policy challenges facing the Commonwealth and prepares them for civic leadership. The High School Leaders Program is designed to:

  • Prepare future leaders for ethical and responsible citizenship and public service in the Commonwealth of Virginia
  • Connect Virginia’s youth leaders with peers from different regions of the state, backgrounds, and philosophies and with current leaders in Virginia's public, private, and non-profit sectors
  • Energize our democratic republic system of government by promoting civic engagement among youth leaders
  • Help students become effective advocates in their communities and schools through a curriculum that offers the practical skills and political knowledge. 

Program Details

2024 Program

The 2024 High School Leaders Program will be held Saturday, July 13 through Saturday, July 27. All students are housed at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville for the duration of the program. Aside from some field trips, the students will spend most of their time on the University’s Grounds. Students are required to attend the entire program.

A typical program day starts at 8am with breakfast and classes beginning promptly at 9am. Lectures, presentations, discussions, and workshops run throughout the day with multiple breaks and a lunch hour. Dinner takes place at the dining halls each evening around 5:30pm, after which students may work on their culminating project or share free time with classmates. Program Managers, all of whom are alumni of High School Leaders Programs, live on site with the students and are available to assist students at all times. 

On the last day of the program a ceremonial Graduation is held at the University. Family and friends and encouraged to attend Graduation.


The two-week HSLP is held on the Grounds of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. 

Attendance by all participants during all HSLP classes, presentations, workshops, lectures, and field trips is very important to the success of the program -- there are no "free" days during the HSLP. If you cannot commit to participating in the entire program, you should probably wait and reapply in a future year.

HSLP Participants

Students will be staying in dormitories on the Grounds of the University of Virginia. For 2024, we anticipate that participants will have the option of selecting either a shared room or an individual room. 

A typical HSLP cohort includes no more than 32 students who either: attend a public or private Virginia high school; are a Virginia resident attending high school in another state; or are home schooled in Virginia. Students must be at least 16 years old by the start of the HSLP and may be in their sophomore, junior, or senior years at the time they apply. Students come from across Virginia, representing diverse communities.

Successful HSLP alumni have included students interested in many different academic subjects and who have participated in many different kinds of extracurricular activities.

Successful applicants are generally interested in learning more about leadership and public service but need not have studied politics or been active in student government.

We seek cohorts that are diverse across a range of factors, including region, gender, race or ethnicity, and areas of interest in and outside the classroom.

We are also seeking applicants who want to be leaders in their communities and, hopefully, the Commonwealth of Virginia.


The HSLP curriculum is divided into three primary learning modules:

  • The Informed Leader: Virginia Government and Politicsfocuses on the basics of Virginia state and local government, who the players are, how government functions, and primary issues facing Virginia.
  • The Thoughtful Leader: Virginia Public Policyexplores how public policy is formed and debated in the Commonwealth. Students learn how to engage positively and effectively in policy discussions and learn how they can influence public policy. They will work on group policy projects and present them to public policy professionals.
  • The Active Leader: The Tools of Modern Advocacy—gives students hands-on training and real-world skills to help them make their ideas a reality. They will learn how to pursue advocacy and civic engagement successfully, work with others who have different views, prepare a professional resume, communicate effectively, and work in teams to achieve results.

Meg Heubeck is Director of Instruction at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. In that role, Ms. Heubeck is responsible for providing educational materials for the Youth Leadership Initiative (YLI) and the Global Perspectives on Democracy (GPD) programs. This includes creating educational materials, managing simulations, and leading instruction in leadership and civic engagement for teachers, youth, and international visitors. Ms. Heubeck is a 2015 alumna of the Sorensen Institute's Political Leaders Program and has been the HSLP faculty instructor since 2020.

Ms. Heubeck's instruction is supplemented by presentations and conversations with leaders from Virginia's public, private, and nonprofit sectors.

Program Fees & Aid

Program Fees

Program fees for the 2024 HSLP is are $3,300 for a shared room and $3,700 for an individual room. Unlike past years, the 2024 program is not offering graded college credits in 2024.

Financial Aid

Some financial aid is available for students who otherwise could not afford the program. Potential applicants are encouraged to apply regardless of financial considerations. Visit our financial aid webpage for more information.

An applicant's need for financial aid will not affect their chances for acceptance into the HSLP. Requests for financial aid will be reviewed by Sorensen's parent organization, the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, after applicants have been accepted into the program. Thus, the people who make financial aid determinations will differ from those who evaluate applications to participate in the HSLP.


How to Apply

Application Timeline
  • December – March: Applications accepted for the July 2024 HSLP
  • March – April: Interviews of applicants, selection of class participants
  • May: Acceptance packets distributed, forms and payments due
  • July 13-27: Class meets for two weeks at the University of Virginia
Application Deadlines

Applications Open:

December 18, 2023

Applications Close:

March 25, 2024

Supplemental materials submitted electronically by:

March 29, 2024

How Applicants Are Selected

The High School Leaders Program applicant pool is evaluated to create a highly qualified and diverse class. Applicants who are offered interviews will meet with interviewers via Zoom during March and April 2024. Decisions on admittance may be made on a rolling basis. For those on a waitlist, decisions will occur no later than mid-June. Students for the program are chosen through a careful selection process that includes the following considerations:

  • complete application and essay
  • academic record
  • letter/s of recommendation (at least one, but no more than two)
  • a resume or activity sheet (evaluated for content, not formatting)
  • personal interview—a number of qualified finalists will be contacted for an interview conducted by Sorensen staff, program alumni, and board members.

If you would like to refer someone to our High School Leaders Program, please complete our referral form

Application Requirements
  • Completing on online application which includes:
    • short essay questions
    • background/contact information
  • Submitting by email (do not mail) to the following three documents: (Your application is not complete until we have received all three).  
    • a copy of your high school transcript (official and unofficial are both accepted)
    • a resume or activity sheet
    • at least one (but no more than two letters) letter of recommendation
  • Completing an interview
    A number of qualified finalists will be contacted for an in-person interview with board members, alumni, and staff.
Application Short Answer Questions

The HSLP online application includes a number of short-answer questions. Answers are a significant part of the selection process and very important to making admissions decisions. Please answer each question fully. The short-answer questions on the High School Leaders Program online application are as follows:

  1. Why are you interested in attending the High School Leaders Program?
  2. Why are you interested in government, politics and public policy in Virginia?
  3. Please list any major commitments or events that might conflict with the program dates.
  4. Is there anything else you would like us to know or take into consideration that has not been included on this application form? 

The following question is for informational purposes only and is not factored into the admissions decisions:

  1. How did you learn about the High School Leaders Program?

Please write a (NO MORE THAN) 300 word essay on ONE of the following two topics:

OPTION 1: Describe the accomplishment you are most proud of and why. Feel free to address the following questions: What obstacles did you need to overcome to achieve your goal? What did you learn from your experience? What would you have done differently if you had the chance to do it again? How has this affected your goals for the future? How would you be different if you had not had this experience?

OPTION 2: Briefly outline a public policy issue that you care about and suggest a solution. Address why this issue is important to you. Give the three strongest reasons for your solution, and give the three strongest arguments against the solution you have proposed. What would you say to convince someone who was opposed to your solution that it is the correct path to take?

The essay answer is a significant part of the selection process.

Additional Application Requirements

You should also be prepared with the following information to successfully complete the HSLP application:

  • Name
  • Email address
  • Cell phone number (if applicable)
  • Home address and phone number
  • Year in school
  • Name of high school and its location (city, state)

Join Us

Apply to the High School Leaders Program today.