What are the plans for SPS 2021?

In an effort to keep students and faculty safe and at the same time remain diverse and accessible for students from all around the country (and the world), the School of Public Service (SPS) will host its summer 2021 program online, as it did in 2020.

What will the schedule look like?

The SPS 2021 program will run from Monday, June 28, through Friday, July 23, with weekday sessions between 11:00 am and 4:00 pm Eastern time. Students will be given access to an online calendar that will show what the sessions for each day will include, as well as links to all online meetings.

The schedule will include case study discussions, public policy simulations, a mini-course on public speaking and advocacy, organized debates, and sessions with distinguished public servants from around the world. During last year’s online program, students heard from an incredible array of speakers, including former White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, four-star admiral William McRaven, former White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, journalist David Frum, former White House national security expert Fiona Hill, and U.S. Congressman Raul Ruiz, among others.

What will the tuition be for the online program?

The tuition for the four-week virtual session will be $2,750. SPS maintains a financial aid fund to assist students who could not attend SPS without financial assistance. To be considered for financial aid, a student’s parents or guardians must submit:
    1. The SPS financial aid form, which will be emailed upon request; and
    2. A signed copy of their prior year’s Form 1040 statement of federal income tax and all schedules, along with a copy of their W-2 form and/or 1099 form(s).
In considering applications for financial assistance from separated or divorced parents, SPS considers the assets of both parents before making an award. Financial aid funds are, unfortunately, not without limit, and chances of receiving an award are better earlier in the application process.

How will the admissions process work?

Nothing has changed about the admissions process. Admissions decisions are made on a rolling basis based on applicants’ submissions of:
  1. An application with a brief essay,
  2. A transcript from their high school,
  3. Copies of any standardized tests they have taken to date (if any), and
  4. A letter of recommendation from a teacher.
Further information and instructions about the admissions process appear on the “How” page of this website.

How is this online program different from the online learning done during the regular school year?

SPS is uniquely well-suited for the transition to the online format. Because so many of the activities we do at SPS are student-led, the online sessions tend to be much more interactive than the typical school-year online learning.

For example, in case studies, debates, and simulations, students are placed in the role of decision-makers and/or advocates, and so most of the time students are online, they are actively engaged in conversation with their peers. This makes the sessions more lively and allows the students to get to know each other well over the course of the program. And by having the program online, students from all over the country and world will still have the chance to participate in SPS and get to know others with different life experiences and perspectives — something that students every year, including in 2020, say is one of the best parts of SPS.
The online format also allows us to introduce students to a wider range of public servants because those people can be joining us from any part of the globe. So last summer, students heard from speakers in Washington, D.C., but also from Texas, Indiana, and Canada. They were also able to participate in an online discussion with young activists in East Africa working on climate issues.

In addition, students will also get the opportunity to meet alumni of SPS who will serve as mentors during (and hopefully after) the program. Graduates of the program who are in college or out in the workforce will run social programming during the program and serve as guides to all things SPS.
“The best part of the program, however, was the people. Not only was the program spectacularly run, with clear communication and engaging activities, the opportunity to work with and get to know students from all around the country (plus a student from China) was incredible. Coming from a school where I mainly interact with people who share my same political views, it was a powerful experience to hear from students of different backgrounds and beliefs in a respectful setting.”
“The most amazing part for me, however, was the speakers. Although I did not share the same beliefs with every one of them, their dedication to serving others was awe-inspiring. Admiral William McRaven’s speech on the importance of integrity resonated with me, while former public defender Andrew Stanner speaking on the need to put aside ego to help others challenged me to reconsider my future hopes. Additionally, I was starstruck hearing from trailblazers like Valerie Jarrett and Pete Buttigieg. It’s not often a student would have their personal question addressed by a former presidential candidate!”

What was the online experience like for last summer’s students?

To everyone’s happy surprise, the first-ever online SPS program last summer was a real hit with the students who participated. To give you a flavor of the online session, here’s how some more of the 2020 students described their experience:
“I had never anticipated to make such strong connections with my peers in an online format. It amazes me how emotional I was to leave the program on the last day, despite only speaking to others through tiny boxes on my computer screen. The depth of conversation and the meaningful relationships I was able to build not only speak to the quality of the faculty at SPS, but to the character of the students the program attracts.”

“SPS was all I could have hoped for and more. While I regret being unable to conduct the program in person, it was still amazing, and I hope to stay connected with SPS going forward.”

“SPS exceeded my expectations since I could delve into case studies and listen to other opinions. As well, I could listen to influential speakers that sparked my desire to serve the domestic and worldwide community.”
“Coming into SPS, I didn't know it was possible to come across such a plethora of driven, articulate, and passionate young adults. Attending SPS has allowed me to recognize that I have truly found my people: young adults who yearn to discuss and delve into uncomfortable topics, while many back home avoid such complex conversations. Furthermore, I didn't expect to leave this program confident that I would interact with many of my fellow students again in our future professional careers. The devotion these students have to pursuing public service is unmatched by any group of teenagers I have ever, or will ever, meet. I am eager to meet many of these students again in our professional careers, as I am fully confident that our commitment and excitement for public service will bring us together once again.”
Even early skeptics were won over:

“To say my hopes weren’t too high for SPS would be an understatement. My brother had so many stories about all the people he met and the experiences he had that I simply didn't think could be recreated virtually. How wrong I was?! I loved all the discussions in class, and I had so much fun at all of the debate activities: the initial climate change debate, then the press conference, and the voting session on the last day. The speakers were also tremendous—I didn’t think that there would be so many opportunities for questions, but there always were (even with Mayor Pete’s seemingly short block)! I learned a lot, had so much fun, and really enjoyed the Zoom lunches with my mentor group. Overall, I’m thrilled I decided to do VSPS (Virtual), and will be quick to tell Juniors to apply next year when it's hopefully in person, but ESPECIALLY if it isn’t.”