2020 High School Summer Institutes

Institute Details

General Institute Schedule

All of our institutes are divided into morning (9:00am-12:00pm) and afternoon (2:00-4:30pm) sessions which may include lectures, discussions, hands-on labs, small group work, and field trips. Each institute has assigned readings, daily assignments, and final projects. In between morning and afternoon sessions students have lunch and independent study. On evenings and weekends, students participate in social events, weekend outings, and college readiness activities. 

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Please note that all institutes are subject to change or cancellation.

Reflection Essay

Institute are designed to give students exposure to a variety of themes. Students will choose an institute activity, such as a lecture, discussion, or field trip, and write one 250-300 word double-spaced essay. In the essay, students reflect on why they believe this activity had relevance to the development of their knowledge.  

Four essays from each institute will be chosen to be published in our pre-college publication “Reflections: A Collection of Student Essays” which is made available online and distributed to the WashU community. 

Read 2019 Reflections: A Collection of Student Essays

Evaluation and Certificate of Completion

Institute students are evaluated based on attendance, completion of assignments, quality of work produced, participation in discussions, interaction with peers, engagement during activities as well as their ability to adhere to academic integrity standards and program policies. At the end of the program, students who have met the expectations of the program will receive a certificate of completion. High School Summer Institutes are noncredit programs. Grades are not issued for courses. It is important to note that participation in a High School Summer Institute does not guarantee admission to Washington University.

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Creative Writing

June 28-July 11, 2020

Program Fee: $3,985

Students spend their mornings in traditional writer's workshop discussing published work, creating their own pieces using innovative prompts, and sharing their work with classmates. Workshop provides students with the unique opportunity to hear their classmates' reactions to their poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, in a supportive setting, and to develop students' critical skills regarding others' writing. Workshop is an immeasurably valuable process, sparking new ideas, energizing writing, and opening up new perspectives so students become more thoughtful writers and critics. The afternoons are spent in independent writing sessions guided by prompts. These prompts might find students responding to a documentary or film, exploring WashU's campus, or traveling off-campus on a field trip. Writing prompts are designed for students to focus on a specific writing skill. 

Literary Journal Project

At the conclusion of the program, students will submit a final piece of writing that demonstrates their development as a writer over the course of the program. Pieces are presented on the final day of the program and published in our online literary journal. 

Young Leaders

August 2 - 8, 2020

Program Fee: $1,985

How can someone take action in their community, school, or the world? How do leaders stand-up for social change? These are just some of the questions explored by students in our Young Leaders Institute. Through innovative and interactive curriculum, students develop skills to become successful leaders. Students choose from one of two morning tracks:  

Crafting Your Voice: Whether writing a speech, personal narrative, blog, or tweet, learning to convey thoughts and ideas clearly and effectively is a critical skill for all leaders to develop. Students will explore the words of leaders both past and present, and create their own pieces using innovative prompts. Students will workshop their pieces with their peers; sparking new ideas, energizing writing, and opening up new perspectives so students become more thoughtful writers and leaders.

Embodied Problem Solving: The ability to speak well, to communicate effectively in the public forum, and to understand other perspectives are essential skills for all leaders. Students in this tract will explore ways of effecting positive social change in a theatrical context. Students will participate in various games and exercises designed to mine issues of social (in)justice, while developing their confidence in public speaking, problem solving, and group collaboration. 

In the afternoon, all students participate in experiential learning opportunities which include visiting local organizations, speaking with on campus and local St. Louis leaders, and participating in team building and service-themed activities. These afternoon sessions are designed to further explore the topic of leadership and provide examples of how students can take the next steps to effect change in their own communities.

Leadership Reflection Forum

Students will compose a one-page essay reflecting on the development of their leadership abilities, and share their essay with peers and members of our WashU community on the final afternoon of the program.

Environmental Studies

The 2020 Environmental Studies Institute is full and we are no longer accepting applications.

June 28-July 11, 2020

Program Fee: $3,985

How do we preserve the world for future generations? What can we do as individuals and as a society to minimize harmful effects on the environment?  Students answer these questions and more as they discover the ecological principles that are the basis of environmental studies and sustainability. Through hands-on labs, field trips, and case study analysis, students explore how environmental studies incorporates concepts from politics, social sciences, economics, ethics, and philosophy.

Case Study Project

Throughout the two weeks, students work together in teams to research, analyze, and develop a case study proposal to address a pressing local, regional, and/or global issue in environmental sustainability. Students will present their proposal at the end of the program.

Global Leadership

The 2020 Global Leadership Institute is full and we are no longer accepting applications.

June 28-July 11, 2020

Program Fee: $3,985

We live in a complex, fast-paced world. Technological advances and economic interdependence are bringing us closer together, enabling people from around the world to collaborate, innovate, and solve difficult problems. At the same time, globalization is creating new pressures on national governments and new challenges that cannot be solved by one country alone. The Global Leadership Institute prepares students to meet these challenges by understanding the dynamics that drive these changes and building practical leadership skills to apply that knowledge and tackle the pressing global issues that we face today. 

Policy Proposal Project

Students work together in groups to research, analyze, and develop policy proposals to address a pressing global or social issue. Classroom and outside experiences will tie in with the projects to reinforce learning. Along the way, students practice communication, organization, strategy, and negotiation skills as they work together to come up with solutions. Students present their policy proposals at the end of the program.

Philosophy, Neuroscience, and Psychology (PNP)

The 2020 PNP Institute is full and we are no longer accepting applications.

June 28-July 11, 2020

Program Fee: $3,985

The Philosophy, Neuroscience, and Psychology (PNP) Institute explores the intersection of philosophy, neuroscience, and psychology. Students ask philosophical questions, focusing on “what is the Good?” and evaluate philosophical arguments that seek to answer this question. The institute provides a brief introduction to psychology with particular focus on mental health and the intersection between mental illness and morality.  Finally, students explore the burgeoning field of neuroscience, learning the basics of brain functioning and research to ask critical questions about the role of neuroscience in philosophy and psychology. 

Philosophy of Life Project

The students final project is an 8-10 page Philosophy of Life. In this project, students discuss their notion of “the Good” and argue for why their theory of welfare is the most fitting. Daily moral exercise journal assignments and discussions will help students start thinking about what should be included in their Philosophy of Life. 


The 2020 Pre-Engineering Institute is full and we are no longer accepting applications.

July 12 - August 1, 2020

Program Fee: $5,785

Engineering is one of the fastest growing career fields in the world. Discover the exciting and diverse fields of engineering and learn how to apply scientific, economic, and social knowledge to solve problems, create new systems, or design a structure. 

Morning sessions consist of field trips, lectures, and small-group activities. This broad classroom experience is designed to prepare students for what it will be like to major in engineering, and answer questions such as "What field of engineering do I want to study?" and "What career opportunities are there in engineering?" 

Field Trips

  • Experience space travel at the James S. McDonnell Prologue Room at Boeing.
  • Explore the Washington University and NASA developed "Mission Mars" exhibit at the St. Louis Science Center.
  • Learn about biotechnology at Monsanto. 
  • Ride to the top of the St. Louis Arch and marvel at it's unique construction.

Lecture Topics And Small Group Activities

  • Introduction to Engineering
  • Aerospace and Aviation
  • Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Ethics and Engineering
  • Fictionomics
  • Applying to Undergraduate Engineering Programs
  • Connecting Engineering to Art and Design
  • Case Study Analysis
  • Documentary Discussions

Students spend afternoons in the School of Engineering Biomedical Teaching Lab participating in a variety of labs that examine the intersection of different engineering fields such as electrical, biomedical, mechanical, and computer science. Students will build their own light-activated rollerbots, learn the physics behind rocket launches, and work as a team to build a working prosthetic. Throughout the three weeks, students will work in groups to design their own CAD/Arduino project that solves a real world issue. Students will 3-D print a prototype of their invention and present to their faculty and peers on the final day of lab. 

Research Symposium Project

Working in teams, students create a research symposium project on a topic of their choice that is relevant to the current engineering community. The project must demonstrate both critical-thinking and undergraduate-level research skills. Projects are presented to Washington University faculty and staff on the final day of the program. Parents and family members are also welcome to attend. 


Both sessions of the 2020 Pre-Medical Institute are full and we are no longer accepting applications. 

June 7 - 27 or July 12 - August 1, 2020

Program Fee: $5,785

The ever-changing world of medicine is a fast-paced and exciting atmosphere in which to spend the summer. The Pre-Medical Institute is designed to build on students’ strong scientific academic foundations and introduce them to topics that they may not otherwise experience before college. Through this research-based program, students are exposed to academic publications, theories, and resources that examine human health and medicine. We offer the Pre-Medical Institute in both June and July. 

All students attend the same morning general session. Students will attend general lectures that provide an introduction to the history of medicine, medical diagnosis, and professions. Faculty and physicians from the Washington University community visit to share their current research and expert experience in their fields. Students will also learn about the importance of different clinical skills like taking patient histories, physical exams, and neurological exams. Students will also confront some of the issues currently facing the medical community.

Lecture topics may include:

  • Neurology
  • Oncology
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Immunology
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Psychology
  • Global Health
  • Health Disparities
  • Biomedical Ethics
  • Overview of Healthcare Professions
  • Cellular Biology Biology Basis of Medicine

In addition to physician and faculty lectures, students participate in a number of small-group activities designed to expand students’ scientific and medical knowledge including:

  • Disease Investigations: Research and present findings on the symptoms and treatment of various diseases.
  • Biomedical Engineering Lab: Practice using medical diagnostic tests including EOG, EMG, and ECG.
  • Bleeding Control 1.0 Training and Certification: Led by Stop the Bleed STL, students will learn about trauma first aid and receive certification in bleeding control.

After lunch, students attend afternoon sessions which include: 

  • Microbiology labs: Learn about AU sequencing, DNA bacterial identiviation, and genetic variation in humans.
  • Anatomy and physiology activities: Explore the structure and function of the human body as you develop your critical thinking and analytical skills through hands-on activities...and have a little fun!
  • Case study analysis: Examine medical cases and make diagnostic observations.
  • Practice MCAT
  • Brain dissection
  • Documentary viewings and discussions
  • Off campus field trips (MidAmerican Transplant and the School of Occupational Therapy)

Research Poster Presentations

Working in teams, students create a research project on a topic of their choice that is relevant to the current medical community. The project must demonstrate both critical-thinking and undergraduate-level research skills. Projects are presented to Washington University faculty and staff on the final day of the program. Parents and other family members are also welcome to attend.


Applications for 2020 summer have closed. Applications for 2021 will open October 1, 2020.