At the top of my list of pet peeves you’ll find radio stations and malls that start playing holiday music well before Thanksgiving. So feel free to call me a hypocrite for suggesting you think about summer programs when sessions won’t start for another seven months.
But there’s one group of unique summer opportunities that require students to apply in the late fall or early winter, with some deadlines falling as early as this week: state-sponsored Governor’s School programs. Funded by state legislatures, Governor’s Schools offer advanced academic study and state-of-the-art resources to talented high school students—and make it worth filling out summer applications when your classmates are thinking about turkey and stuffing.
What are Governor’s School programs?
North Carolina governor Terry Sanford established the first Governor’s School at Salem College in 1963. Several other states launched programs of their own, and although individual program offerings and admissions guidelines vary by state, all Governor’s School programs share certain characteristics:
- Each school is a summer program for gifted and talented state residents of high school age.
- Each school has highly selective criteria for student selection.
- Most member schools are supported entirely or in large part by their state legislatures and educational funding.
- Residential accommodations are provided, although session lengths vary from one week to six weeks.
Some programs do not use “Governor’s School” in the program name, including the New York State Summer School for the Arts (NYSSSA) and the Missouri Scholars Academy (MSA).
Which states offer Governor’s Schools?
The number of states that operate summer Governor’s School programs varies from year to year as programs gain and lose legislative funding. Each summer, between 15 and 20 states traditionally offer Governor’s School programs.
Since many states offer multiple program options at the same time, the number of individual Governor’s Schools is over 50. The National Conference of Governor’s Schools maintains a list of all current programs.
Because Governor’s School programs are limited to state residents, the NCoGS encourages parents and youth in states without programs to lobby their elected representatives to propose and fund such programs.
Why should you attend?
Governor’s Schools provide intensive, often college-level instruction in a variety of academic subjects depending on the individual program. Usually conducted on college campuses, programs take advantage of the resources of a higher education institution. Successful participants may earn transferable college credit.
Interdisciplinary courses combine the arts, humanities, science, and mathematics in the study of one interrelated theme or topic. Specialized programs focus on arts instruction, leadership skills, and potential career paths such as entrepreneurship, science and engineering, or health and medicine. Admission to all programs is highly competitive, so attendees will meet and work with similarly talented students from around the state.
Because Governor’s Schools are funded by state governments and/or private companies, the cost to attendees is significantly less than other residential pre-college summer programs—some programs are even offered free of charge. Attending a Governor’s School also helps participants gain eligibility for a range of college scholarships.
How to apply
Age requirements, required application materials, and deadlines vary by program; but most require students to be nominated by their high school guidance counselor, so talking to your counselor is a good first step. Governor’s Schools application materials resemble college application requirements, including academic transcripts, teacher references, standardized test scores, and essay questions.
Make sure to give teachers plenty of time to write recommendations, and work with your counselor to make sure you have the required standardized test score reports and academic transcripts ready well in advance of program deadlines.