Tasp Application Essays That Worked

Selectivity is a tricky metric for evaluating the quality of a program. Does it necessarily mean that a program is worth attending if it’s acceptance rate is really low? Not always – perhaps the program is popular among students, but it isn’t regarded as highly by colleges themselves, meaning that although the program has a large pool of students to select from, its acceptance rate will not tell a complete story. Coupled with other factors, however, it can be a telling sign of a program’s worth. The program below all have all been holistically examined and are all well-renowned programs with institutional prestige, high selectivity, and good curricula. Their applications are long, but this shouldn’t be a reason not to at least consider applying. Many of them are experiences that enrich students not only academically but also personally, with many alumni going to so far as saying that attending the programs was life-changing.

 1. Telluride Association Sophomore Seminar*

DEADLINE: 1/9/2018LINK: https://www.tellurideassociation.org/our-programs/high-school-students/sophomore-seminar-tass/

Eligibility: students must be sophomores at the time of application

What it is: The Telluride Association Sophomore Seminar (TASS) offers bright, motivated high school sophomores challenging six-week college-level courses in critical Black and ethnic studies.  We work with university faculty to create exciting courses designed to inspire young people to explore the the histories, politics and cultural experiences of people of African descent and a variety of other topics.  Because we believe that students should have the opportunity to pursue their ideals, we cover all the program costs, including tuition, books, room and board, field trips, and facilities fees. Students with financial need may apply for additional assistance with travel costs and a subsidy to replace summer earnings.

Why you should apply: The Telluride Association Sophomore Seminar is an all-around excellent program, for many reasons. To begin with, it is one of the few fully-funded opportunities that offer a rigorous, college-level seminar in the humanities. It is also one of the most well-known summer programs that can make a real difference in the college admissions process. Beyond the prestige, however, TASS is a program that many participating students have found to be a hallmark in their personal development. At TASS, students have the opportunity to improve their reading, writing, speaking and critical thinking skills, but do so in an intensely collaborative process, both in and out of the classroom. While students of color and students with an interest in ethnic studies are particularly encouraged to apply, TASS is open to all sophomores. This means that if you can write essays that demonstrate the qualities sought after at TASS. You have to demonstrate a capacity and passion for learning, and a willingness to engage with the world critically and thoughtfully.

2. Telluride Association Summer Program for Juniors*

DEADLINE: 1/16/2018LINK:https://www.tellurideassociation.org/our-programs/high-school-students/summer-program-juniors-tasp/

Eligibility: students must be juniors at the time of application

What is is: A Telluride Association Summer Program (TASP) is a free six-week educational experience for high school juniors that offers challenges and rewards rarely encountered in secondary school or even college. Each program is designed to bring together young people from around the world who share a passion for learning. Telluride students, or TASPers, attend a seminar led by college and university scholars and participate in many other educational and social activities outside the classroom. Students attend TASPs because they want a personal and intellectual challenge. Telluride Association seeks students from all kinds of educational backgrounds who demonstrate intellectual curiosity and motivation, rather than prior knowledge of the seminar’s subject matter. TASPers participate solely for the pleasure and rewards of learning with other intelligent, highly motivated students of diverse backgrounds. The TASP offers no grades or college credit.

Why you should apply: Even more renowned than the program for sophomores, the Telluride Association Summer Program for Juniors is an opportunity you can’t pass up looking into. Both Telluride Association programs are founded on a very specific educational philosophy, and as the program that has been running the longest, it is firmly rooted into a mission to bring together the brightest juniors across the nation and foster a one of kind educational community. Beyond the academic prestige and the extensive alumni networks, the experience that TASP provides is difficult to describe, though many have used the word “life-changing.” Don’t be intimidated by the extensive application process – while it may seem like it is too demanding for a summer program, you may find that it will challenge you in unexpected ways, and that the writing experience itself may prove to be rewarding, or even useful – many TASP applicants claim that the essays they wrote for the program ended up serving as the foundation for their college supplements. TASP is one of most selective programs you will come across – they are looking students with specific qualities, and having an intense application process is one way to carefully select from the large pool of candidates who apply.

3. Research Science Institute*

DEADLINE: rollingLINK: https://www.cee.org/research-science-institute

Eligibility: students who are high school juniors at the time of application

What it is: The Research Science Institute is an intensive six-week residential academic program in scientific research where participants gain first-hand experience with open-ended, scientific inquiry in leading laboratories in the Boston area. It is hosted by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Students attend seminars, read advanced literature and join laboratories where they have the opportunity to conduct original research, in addition to attending an evening  lecture series where they have the opportunity to meet face to face with leading science and technology figures

Why you should apply: With an acceptance rate of approximately 8%, RSI is more difficult to get into than some of the nation’s top colleges. Students on College Confidential make discussion threads weeks in advance, before the application is even launched, to exchange stats and strategies on how to approach writing the essays. Although a major emphasis is placed on quantifiable achievements, the program’s admissions committee spends a lot of time evaluating the passion and motivation candidates demonstrate through their essays, extracurriculars and letters of recommendation. Furthermore, admission has to be selective, given the nature of the program – participants spend six weeks in the company of some of the nation’s most academically gifted students, in a challenging and intensive environment where they have opportunity to do original research contributions to ongoing projects carried out by various professional teams.
The application process is so challenging because the program itself requires a lot of work and effort. Admission is definitely competitive, but that shouldn’t discourage you from applying. If anything, you should be motivated to apply to a program where candidates are selected so carefully and each application is held to such a high standard. Writing about your experiences and motivation will be an exercise in self-presentation, and there is always the chance of being admitted to the program, which in and of itself makes the time you spend working on your application worthwhile.

4. Summer Science Program

DEADLINE: not availableLINK: http://www.summerscience.org/

Eligibility: sophomores and juniors at the time of application (very few sophomores are admitted)

What it is: SSP is an immersion into experimental science, designed to challenge and inspire talented rising seniors from around the world. Working in teams of three, participants complete a research project from beginning to end: either in Astrophysics – near-earth asteroid imaging and orbit determination – or (new in 2017) Biochemistry – fungal enzyme inhibition and drug discovery. Each team acquires its own original data and performs its own analysis. Field trips and guest speakers round out an intense 39-day schedule. The experience changes their lives, and the benefits continue for life.

Why you should apply: The Summer Science Program can prepare you for college in many ways – the level of study, for instance, and the intensity behind the collaborative and team-based research. It is especially meant to leave you with a very strong sense of whether a STEM major is something you should pursue at university. Furthermore, although the program invites top-performing students to apply, and is itself a very rigorous and demanding experience, it does not ask for any extensive background in a particular field. Extracurricular scientific pursuits are definitely looked at, but most of the strict pre-requisites are courses that are often offered in regular high schools. You need not be exclusively interested in Astrophysics or Biochemistry  – a general interest in the sciences, coupled with intense curiosity is enough. Furthermore, the program claims that if you meet these prerequisites, you will have enough background knowledge, as nobody that attends the program arrives knowing how to complete the projects. Emphasis is placed, instead, on being intellectually challenged and learning at a faster pace than ever before, which mirrors what is expected from students at university.

Note: While this program does have a tuition fee, about half of its participants typically receive financial aid in the form of grants. Additionally, admissions decisions are need blind, so your ability to pay for the program will not influence the decision of the admissions committee.


* programs marked with an asterix are free of charge

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Topics: Colleges, Featured, Pre-College Programs, Summer Camp, Talent  

Are you a highly motivated, intellectually curious high school junior? Apply to the Telluride Association Summer Program!

Telluride Association Summer Program

Telluride Association Summer Program (TASP) is a free six-week summer education experience for high school juniors who are looking for an intellectual challenge. TASP works with institutional partners to offer seminars that will test each students thinking and provide an environment where motivated students can engage and learn from one and other.

Accepted students, TASPers, will attend a seminar, in which they are placed in based on their submitted application materials, led by university scholars and participate in many other educational activities in and outside the classroom.

TASP looks for students from different education backgrounds who demonstrate intellectual curiosity. While a strong academic background is recommended, the TASP does not look to test of the seminar’s subject matter but rather focuses on how students engage with the subject at hand in the classroom, and with other highly motivated students. No grade or college credit is offered through the program.

Eligibility & Selection Criteria

  • All current high school juniors (11th grade)

  • Application is open to U.S. citizens and international students

  • Applicants do not need to attend high school in the U.S.

Every year, TASP accepts approximately 70 students. Students cannot choose which seminar to participate in. While applicants are given the opportunity to rank their preferences, they are placed based on the student’s submitted application materials.

TASP Program Details

The main focus of TASP is the academic seminar you are placed in. For six-weeks, students will attend the simar every weekday morning for 3 hours. Each seminar is led by two faculty members and are discussion-based classes. Students should expect to spend several hours on assigned reading or other preparation for each class to properly participate in the seminar discussions. Additionally, students will be tasked with a number of writing assignments over the six-week program. Students will receive feedback, but will not be graded on their assignments.

Additionally, TASP also enroll students in a public-speaking program and invite guest speakers to give lectures to TASP students. Some past guest speakers include a Nobel laureate physicist, a DNA researcher, and a college president. They come from many different academic disciplines to allow TASP students to explore new fields of study.

Finally, TASP gives students the freedom to pursue their own intellectual pursuits. Students are responsible for organizing their activities outside of the classroom, like community service projects, reading groups, excursions to museums. There will also be time for students to get to know each other and enjoy their summers on a college campus. There will also be college students facilitating the program, giving TASP student a chance to learn more about other things like applying to college, college classes and campus culture.

The 2018 TASP offers 4 different seminars:

1. Cornell I Program

Pleasure and Danger: Bodies in History, Science, Literature, and Philosophy

Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

June 24 – August 4, 2018

2. Cornell II Program

Facing Fictions

Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

June 24 – August 4, 2018

3. Maryland Program

Protest Poetics: Art and Performance in Freedom Movements

University of Maryland, College Park

June 24 – August 4, 2018

4. Michigan Program  

Just Comics

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

June 24 – August 4, 2018

Here is the complete overview of the offered seminars for the 2018 TASP.

TASP Application Requirements

Applying to TASP will also be good practice for applying to college. The application requires:

  • Applicant Information

  • Academic Information

  • Essays: Students are required to write 3 essays of 9,000 characters (approximately 1,500 words) or less. Here are the essay prompts for the 2018 application:

Essay 1: Reflect on the education (formal and informal) you have received: What experiences have you felt fortunate or unfortunate to have? What part of your education (formal or informal) has challenged you the most? If you attended TASS, please reflect on that experience and explain what you in addition you would hope to gain from and contribute to TASP.

Essay 2: At TASP, you will discuss texts and ideas in a college-style seminar. You should feel comfortable thinking deeply about an issue, communicating a well-reasoned stance, and genuinely engaging with others’ positions. To that end, tell us about a time a text (a piece of writing, movie, song lyrics, etc.) influenced your ideas about an issue. What did you think at first, and how did your thinking change? Refer to specific parts of the text to analyze how it affected your ideas

Essay 3: TASP is comprised of small education communities that rely greatly on the maturity of individual members. Tell us about a recent time you did something that upset or hurt a peer in a community you were involved in. How did you respond to this situation? Reflect on your response, and evaluate it. What would you do the same, and what might you do differently? Why?

  • Short Answer Questions: In addition, students also have to respond to 3 short answer questions, each with a response with no more than 1,500 characters (or 250 words). Here are the prompts:

Question 1: A brief explanation of why you are interested in each seminar and an order of your preference for attending them. If there is a seminar that you would definitely not attend, explain why. (If you are selected for TASP, we will use your answer to help place you into an appropriate seminar.)

Question 2: A list of your favorite books and other media (such as films, exhibits, newspapers, magazines, lectures, music, works of art, etc.)

Question 3: A list of your most relevant activities, work or volunteer experiences, scholarship programs, honors and awards. For each, include a very brief description of its importance to you.

You also allowed to submit an optional essay up to 1,500 characters (250 words) of any other information you feel would help the committee understand your application. This essay can be used to explain any anomalies in your academic record, or a semester off.

TASP Application Deadline & Timeline

  • Application Deadline: Tuesday, January 16, 2018
  • Early March: Applicants selected for interview will have to submit a transcript, recommendation letter by a teacher or counselor, and a paper written for class.
  • Mid-March to Mid-April: Interviews are conducted
  • Late April: Final admissions decisions are made

You can find the application PDF and online form here.

TASP Summer Program Feedback

Many of our College Admits recommend applying to TASP, including those who never applied! It is a well-known, competitive program for rising high school seniors. In fact, some even wrote about that she learned at TASP in her college supplemental essay:


Lia_Columbia, Columbia University ‘19

“TASP, like Columbia, brings together people from vastly different backgrounds. Most of us had never been exposed to the ideas and philosophers we studied. We debated Plato’s view on the value of art late into the night, and discussed the merits of communism in the bathroom in the morning. We built a common repertoire of experience through reading the same texts, discussing our responses, and enduring the absence of decent produce. In only six weeks, my fellow TASP participants and I were able to communicate things like “panopticon” and “Proust” to each other without saying a word. I had one of the best summers of my life.”

She was accepted to Columbia University Early Decision to study creative writing. Unlock her Columbia profile to read her full application essays and her TASP experience in her advice section!

Applying to college?

View the app files and essays of accepted students.


It’s not too early to start planning out your summer! Many of these competitive summer programs have early January application deadlines. So don’t miss out on these opportunities and prepare your application over the holidays! Here is a list of other summer programs you should look at.

About The Author

Frances Wong

Frances was born in Hong Kong and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. She loves super sad drama television, cooking, and reading. Her favorite person on Earth isn’t actually a member of the AdmitSee team - it’s her dog Cooper.


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