The Sorensen Institute’s High School Leaders Program (HSLP) is a two-week program that takes place on the grounds of the University of Virginia. Individuals who successfully complete the program earn three hours of graded college credit. HSLP involves a concentrated study in civics, youth leadership, and Virginia politics and government. HSLP is designed for high school students who live and/or attend high school in Virginia. The HSLP is based on a firm belief that young people not only can make a positive difference in their communities, they should be strongly encouraged to do so. Apply to the next HLSP program.

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The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has recognized the Sorensen Institute's High School Leaders Programs as among the very best in the nation and a national model when it comes to giving young people the skills and motivation to become politically or civically engaged in their communities.



HSLP participants

The program features a Virginia-focused, multidisciplinary curriculum in which participants work with a UVA faculty instructor, engage in substantive dialogue about the public policy challenges facing the Commonwealth, and interact with Virginia leaders. The goals of HSLP are 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 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 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. 


HSLP participants

Program Overview

The two-week HSLP is held on the grounds of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Successful completion of the program earns a student three graded college credits from the University of Virginia.

A typical program day starts at 8am with breakfast and class begins 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 5pm, 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.

2023 Program

The 2023 High School Leaders Program will be held Saturday, July 15 through Saturday, July 29. 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 grounds at the University. Students are required the attend the entire program.

Attendance & Grades

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 wait and reapply in a future year.


Students will be staying in dormitories on the grounds of the University of Virginia. For 2023, we anticipate that participants will have the option of selecting either a shared room or an individual room. 

HSLP Participants

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



HSLP class


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 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 Center for Politics. In this 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.



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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, April, and early May 2023. Decisions on admittance may be made on a rolling basis and 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 Timeline

  • November – March: Applications accepted for the July 2023 HSLP
  • March – early May: Interviews of applicants, selection of class participants
  • May: Acceptance packets distributed, forms and payments due
  • July 15-29: Class meets for two weeks at the University of Virginia


Application Details and Deadlines 

Program Applications Open Applications Close Application Process Link to Application
High School Leaders Program Mon, November 28, 2022 Mon, March 20, 2023

Tuition & AiD


Tuition for the 2023 HSLP is $3,300 for a shared room and $3,700 for an individual room. Tuition includes three University of Virginia graded college credits.

Financial Aid

Some financial aid is available for students and potential applicants are strongly urged 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 review financial aid requests will differ from those who evaluate applications to participate in the HSLP.

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If you have questions about the High School Leaders Program, please contact Sarah Campbell (sarah.campbell@virginia.edu). If you would like to refer someone to one of our programs, please contact JaVori Warren (jw3uj@virginia.edu) or visit our referrals page