If you are looking for an idea rather than something to apply for, you may want to check out my ideas page.
In secondary school, I did a lot of extracurriculars and projects. I generally found them to be significantly more beneficial than my actual education. They tend to fall into three categories: a) paid programs dominated by Americans that people do to look impressive, b) foundations or companies with too much money sponsoring something bizarrely specific, (“The best Benjamin Franklin essay wins £500!”) and c) things that are actually good. I’ve been circulating this doc within my friend group for a while now, so I decided to update it and post it publicly. If there’s something particularly great that I missed, please contact me.
Projects and programs
- The Undergraduate Awards accept any college submissions (essays, dissertations, etc.) that got the highest possible grade. Best entries get published, winners get invited to a conference and receive various alumni benefits. There’s also an Ireland specific category.
- Pioneer is an online global tournament for projects and startups. Benefits include funding, mentorship and a network.
- Various think tanks run summer courses for international undergraduates. For example, there are ones by the American Enterprise Institute and George Mason University. Your mileage may vary putting something political down on your CV.
- The Wolfram Summer School runs around June in the US. There are no age restrictions and they say they’ve had a few high-schoolers but that most are recent college graduates.
- The Summer Programme for Applied Rationality and Cognition (SPARC) runs out of California State University every year and accepts 30 people, with the only exception being that you can’t have finished your first year of university while applying. Topics include decision theory, causal modelling and cognitive biases. Housing and food are provided. The European version is called ESPR.
- Cern OpenLab is a summer program for any undergrads in maths, physics, computer science, or closely related subjects. Also, CERN runs a competition for secondary school students to design particle physics experiments.
- If you like the mathematics of voting systems as much as I do, the Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group at Tufts runs programs in the summer for maths university students.
- Interact is a fellowship/community of technologists. Accepts ~50 new people aged 18-23 globally each year and they have retreats in California. Members are founders, researchers, investors, scientists and more. I think the idea is that you get together and have interesting conversations and potentially launch companies or other projects.
- INSPYRE is a week-long course for secondary school students to go to Italy and learn about particle physics. It’s in English, but I would recommend befriending an Italian-speaker as quickly as possible as no-one in the surrounding town seemed to speak English. My friend and I took a week off school to do this and it was one of the most fun weeks I had in any year in school.
- Patch is a summer accelerator in Dublin. I did it in its first year and some of the people I met from it are now my closest friends. I couldn’t recommend it more highly.
- The Washington-Ireland Programme is a leadership summit for Irish college students to spend 8 weeks in the US. It’s highly subsidised and scholarships are available but they still look for a student contribution. Might be decent.
- Team Maths is a very fun maths contest.
- As you probably know if you’re Irish, CTYI is the foremost academic summer program. The best one I did by far was the Early University Entrance program in maths.
- Emergent Ventures funds any project with a general mission to “meaningfully improve society”, including businesses, research projects, and travel. The only criterion is that the guy who runs it, Tyler Cowen, thinks it’s cool. This blog is funded by Emergent Ventures!
- Y Combinator If you are reading this blog you almost certainly know what this is, but putting this here just in case.
- Innocentive is a website where, if you have some business or research problem that you want to outsource, you can post it along with some incentive for completion to the internet. Conversely you can make money helping people with their projects.
- The Thiel Fellowship will pay you $100,000 to drop out of/delay university to work on a project/business. Well-known for being insanely competitive.
- The 1517 fund is a similar idea.
- Z Fellows is a one-week program to fast-track you into Silicon Valley with $10,000 initial funding. Seems like it would be useful if you want to start something but you’re not sure whether you want to drop out or quit your job.
- Other lists of microgrants: here and here.