The Sorensen Institute’s High School Leaders Program (HSLP) offers concentrated study in Virginia politics and government for high school students from across the state over the course of two weeks. 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.

uva campus
In 2007 the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching recognized the Sorensen Institute's College and High School Leaders Programs as among the very best in the nation and something of a national model when it comes to giving young people the skills and motivation to become politically engaged in their communities.



HSLP participants

The program features a Virginia-focused, multidisciplinary curriculum in which participants engage in substantive debate about the public policy challenges facing the Commonwealth and interact with Virginia’s political and business leaders. The goals of the program are to:

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


Gooch-Dillard Residence Hall at UVA

Program Overview

The two-week HSLP is held each summer on grounds at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Successful completion of the High School Leaders Program earns each 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 lunch. 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. There will be multiple breaks throughout the day including an hour for lunch. 

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

2022 Program

The 2022 High School Leaders Program will be held Saturday, July 9 through Saturday, July 23. 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 during the program for all classes, presentations, workshops, and lectures by all participants is very important to the success of the program. A sample schedule can be seen here. Full participation is expected, 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 the Gooch/Dillard suite style dorms for the duration of the High School Leaders Program. For 2022, participants will have the option of selecting either a shared room or an individual room within the shared suite. Floor plans of Gooch/Dillard are available: First floor suite and second floor suite

HSLP Participants

A typical High School Leaders Program class includes no more than 32 students who attend a public or private Virginia high school—or a Virginia resident attending high school in another state. Students must be at least 16 years old by the start of the HSLP and at least a rising junior. The class is also open to graduating seniors. Students come from throughout Virginia, representing diverse communities.

A HSLP class will typically include students who are interested in many different academic subjects and participate in numerous extracurricular activities.

  1. are keenly interested in learning more about leadership and public service, not just those who study politics or are active in student government.
  2. are diverse; each class is roughly balanced according to gender, and aims to reflect the racial, ethnic, and regional diversity of Virginia’s population.
  3. will be leaders in all aspects of life in the Commonwealth.


HSLP Class


The HSLP curriculum is divided into three primary learning modules:

  • The Informed Citizen: Virginia Government and Politicsfocuses on the basics of Virginia state and local government; who the players are, how government functions, and what the primary issues facing Virginia are.
  • The Thoughtful Citizen: Virginia Public Policyexplores how public policy is formed and debated in the Commonwealth. Students learn how to engage positively and effectively in policy debates and learn how they can influence public policy.
  • The Active Citizen: The Tools of Modern Advocacy—gives students the hands-on training and real-world skills that they will need to make their ideas a reality. They will learn how to write a professional resume, to pitch stories to the media and hold press conferences, to effectively address crowds large and small, to collaborate with others who possess different personality types and conflicting opinions, and to personally lobby legislators.


Meg Heubeck—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 an alumna of the Sorensen Institute's Political Leaders Program, class of 2015. Ms. Heubeck has been the HSLP instructor since 2020.



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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. Participants are chosen from throughout Virginia. Interviews for the 2021 class will be conducted in late May and early June and decisions will be made in 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.  Resumes and activity sheets will be evaluated for content, not formatting
  • personal interview—a number of qualified finalists will be contacted for an in-person interview. The interviews are conducted by board members, alumni, and staff.

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

Application Timeline

  • January – March: Applications accepted for the July class
  • April – early May: Interviews of applicants, selection of class participants
  • May: Acceptance packets distributed, forms and payments due
  • July: 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 Wed, January 19, 2022 Tue, March 22, 2022

Tuition & AiD


Tuition for the 2022 HSLP is $3,200 for a shared room and $3600 for an individual room in a shared suite. Tuition includes three University of Virginia college credits. Participants can apply for financial aid. Requests for financial aid will be reviewed by representatives of our parent organization, The Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, after applicants have been accepted to the program. 

Acceptance to any Sorensen Institute program is need-blind, meaning that the people who evaluate applications to participate in the program differ from those who review financial aid applications.

Financial Aid

Financial aid and fundraising opportunities are available for students who need them. Potential applicants are strongly urged to apply regardless of financial concerns. Visit our financial aid webpage for more information. 

Woman working on a computer in a coffee shop


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 visit our referrals page