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Summer Business Programs ... are they worth it?

Recently, a few members of the team attended a business program specifically for high school students in grades 10-12. The name of it is LaunchX, which you might have heard. It's one of the more prestigious programs for high school entrepreneurs. The program we attended was hosted at MIT (we'll talk about issues down below). Overall, did we think it was worth it?

Here are some details about our session (LaunchX @ MIT 2019)

Cost ~$8,000

Length 4 weeks

Tuition 8/10

Lodging 4/10

Selectivity 7/10

Airfare not included

Meals included

The price tag is staggeringly high. $8,000 is a lot to fork over. LaunchX is hosted at numerous places (Northwestern, UMichigan, MIT) and the ones not at MIT were about $500 cheaper. Keep in mind - airfare is NOT included, but meals are (for the most part) included. I still spent about $400 because my friends and I wanted to eat out and around Harvard Square.

We actually stayed at a university called Lesley University. There was no AC - which sucked because the East Coast summer weather was considerably warmer than I expected (and I was used to Californian heat ...) A lot of students ended up purchasing their own box fans for around $30, which isn't so bad. Think of it like paying $1 a day to have mild AC.

Everyday we walked about half a mile to the bus station. Then we rode the bus to a location in MIT. We had classes in a building in MIT, which was cool, since it replicated a real college learning experience for most of us. We had a lot of guest speakers, in all sorts of interesting fields and with a lot of background in business school, entrepreneurship, etc. We were able to network with some of them, too.

Overall, I was happy with what we learned. Going in, I did not know much about entrepreneurship. Coming out, I know a lot more about what business entails, the work I have to put in, learning how to function in teams, revenue models, so on and so forth.

Maybe for other people it wasn't as worth it because they could have already known the info. But for me, I have few qualms about it.

Now ... onto whether or not they are worth it. Most of the people who attended my session did not receive financial aid. And I could tell that they were able to afford it. Many students went to elite private schools. Speaking of the students, I believe they are extremely intelligent and ambitious. Many of them have excellent test scores, GPAs, and activities. I definitely felt a little Imposter Syndrome. Still, $8,000 is a lot to shell over. I want you to think about a few things.

First, is it selective? Or is it a camp that accepts most applicants?

Where is it located? Who will students get to meet? Who will they get to talk to?

How rigorous is the curriculum? LaunchX gave us a lot of assignments in the short four weeks. How much will you learn?

Is airfare included? Is a dining plan included? What will students have to buy over there?

Before I end things off ... I would like to offer a list of summer business programs that I myself have applied to. I highly recommend researching these before applying (application fees are high).

<EXTREMELY SELECTIVE> Leadership in the Business World - This is one of the most selective summer business programs for high school rising seniors. It costs about the same as LaunchX, but it is only hosted in Wharton, and instead of selecting 80 students per session, there is one session of 160 students. It is extremely hard to get into, with an acceptance rate of (I believe) ~10 percent. Apparently a lot of alumni of this program actually get into Wharton. It's not a causal relationship, but more so that the alumni can write really good "Why Penn" essays when the time comes. I was rejected from this program. The curriculum is focused more on business than entrepreneurship. The application process is very straightforward. You can even submit a resume or maybe a research abstract.

<EXTREMELY SELECTIVE> Management & Technology Summer Institute - Hosted by Penn's Jerome Fisher program, this selective business program offers students a chance to learn more about technology and business together. Note: I did not apply to M&STI because I don't know a single thing about computer science. I heard that the curriculum is rigorous, and most students actually DO something during their 4 weeks here. There is also, supposedly, an uneven gender balance by a wide margin. I think this program is only for rising seniors. Again, you should probably fact-check this. I recommend this program for students who have technology experience (IT, computer science, programming, etc.) who are also interested in entrepreneurship.

<SELECTIVE> LaunchX - In 2019, there were 4 sessions. 2 in MIT, 1 in Northwestern, and 1 in UMichigan. I was first waitlisted, and then I only chose MIT Session 2 due to scheduling conflicts. I've pretty much described LaunchX above. My personal opinion is that the people I met have made the experience largely worth it. I forgot to mention - the application process includes a video portion. And then you'll get interviewed.

<SELECTIVE> LEAD Summer Business Institute - This program is mostly for minorities. Like LaunchX, it is hosted at multiple campuses, such as Wharton, Duke, Lehigh, UMichigan, and Northwestern. It is mainly for high-achieving minorities. That doesn't mean that non-URM (under-represented minorities) cannot get in. I was first waitlisted but then I got into the program at Lehigh. The cost is much lower than LaunchX or LBW. It was, I believe, $4,000 for 3 weeks or 2 weeks, depending on the campus. LEAD is more of a business program than an entrepreneurship program like Launch. You'll learn curriculum similar to LBW, such as business plans, finance, other business fundamentals, etc. I think LEAD's cohorts are small. They get to visit a lot of locations and companies in the area. The alumni also go to great schools (again, not a causal relationship.)

<???> Leangap - This is a very new program. It is 4 weeks, and about $6,000, although they did offer me a $500 scholarship near the end. The online form is very quick and easy to fill out. Then you will get an interview. After some online research, I wasn't sure if Leangap was a scam or not. It looked promising, though. You definitely should research Leangap to see if it is worth the cost. I don't know too much about this program.

<SELECTIVE> Berkeley Business Academy (BBAY) - This program is a UC Berkeley program. It was about $6,000 for 2 weeks. UC Berkeley has a great business program - Haas School of Business. So I was excited that I was accepted to BBAY. However, the price is extremely high for only 2 weeks. There are 50 students in the cohort. For parents with younger students, I think they also provide middle school programs. I now remember that I missed the deadline of the business program, but I was accepted into a case study "Critical Thinking" program, which could have been similar, but we would analyze case studies and critical thinking more so than business itself probably.

<???> Knowledge@Wharton Global Young Leaders Academy - Finance - I applied to this after being rejected from LBW. I was accepted very quickly. So maybe that tells you how selective or prestigious it is? The cost was also high, about $6,000 or so for 2 weeks. It was at hosted at UPenn, though! This program is solely focused on FINANCE, not business overall or entrepreneurship. It could be great for students who KNOW they want to do something finance-related in the future!

<SELECTIVE> Endevvr - I tried applying to this, but I don't know what happened with the application, since I couldn't submit it even though it was before the deadline .... I know for sure that the 2018 program commenced. But 2019? I don't know. It looked very promising. You will need to make a video for the application, I'm pretty sure. It is hosted at Penn, and it is 5 weeks long. It is focused on entrepreneurship like LaunchX is. I would say the acceptance rate is fairly low. It looks very cool.

<???> Quarter Zero's Catapult Incubator - The founder of Quarter Zero really made an effort to reach out to me, which I found really awesome. I was on the website, and suddenly I was talking to the founder, who said he could speed up my application by forgoing the video portion. I ended up being accepted into the program. It costs about $6,000 for 3 weeks of actual onsite lodging. The actual program lasts almost the entirety of summer, about 6-7 weeks I think, in which 3-4 of it is remote work with your team. You go to 3 technological hubs: Silicon Valley, Chicago, and New York (as far as I remember), and you spend 1 week at each location. There are 3-4 cohorts, and they all meet/start at different locations. I think the selectivity isn't as low as the more prestigious ones, but I think it's promising. I like that you can visit so many places and maybe network with a lot of people in the incubator space.

ONE LAST THING - A lot of top colleges offer these summer college immersions. Some of them do have to do with economics or business. I know Stanford offers one summer business program but first you need to apply and get into Stanford's high school summer sessions, and then apply into that one. Caution about these college programs is that they ARE worth a lot. But the advantages could be numerous. If the school is a great school, and maybe your child's top school choice, it would help with their essay to that school, and maybe also help your child make a connection - do I like this environment? Do I like the students here? Are they happy? etc. etc. If you want to apply to summer collegiate studies programs, be my guest. I personally did not apply to those because I wanted an experience focused specifically on business/entrepreneurship.

While we're on the topic of programs for high school students, here are some that are really prestigious and/or really good for specific studies.


COSMOS (multiple UC campuses)

Rosetta Institute (UC campuses)

SIMR (Stanford)

RSI (MIT - EXTREMELY prestigious)

RISE (Boston University or College ... one of those)

Penn has a few science internship/pathways for HS students in the summer

And I'm sure a lot of other colleges offer science pathways


CSSSA (not very expensive, but really good if you want to go into art!)

MPulse (UMichigan)

Music - I don't know too much about music. Berklee probably has great programs for students!


Cornell Engineering Experience (Cornell)

Stanford AI4All (Stanford)

iD camps (multiple campuses)

National HS Game Academy (Carnegie Mellon University)


TASP (EXTREMELY! prestigious! You have to be a great writer ... but still have room for improvement! There is a LOT of reading with this program ... but the alumni go to TOP schools, probably because their writing is just amazing!)

LOCAL - Fremont

ASDRP for Biology, Chemistry, and Engineering (inexpensive, very long program, culminates in end of the summer EXPO)

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