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Benefits of the Boston Leadership Institute (BLI)

6 minute read

city waterfront with a walking path in the foreground

We recently posted our top 25 summer leadership program picks. There are so many good ones out there that we couldn’t squeeze them all in, including the Boston Leadership Institute (BLI). Because it’s such a great program and deserves to be considered by any student interested in STEM topics, particularly biology, computer science, and engineering, we decided to give it its very own post. We’ll go over its main strengths and help give you a better idea of your options, the application process, and what it’s like to go there. Without further ado, BLI’s main benefits are:

1. Offers a wide variety of STEM topics

BLI offers 1-week in-person, 2-week remote, 3-week in-person, and 1-week “Edge” in-person programs. Right off the bat, we’ll say that the programs that deserve the “leadership” title are the more competitive 2-week remote and 3-week courses. 

The two shorter programs are worthwhile for different reasons, but you don’t need to go through an application process to be accepted. The 1-week in-person courses let you “dip your toe” into tons of subjects in 7 different STEM categories. Topics are as varied as Marine Biotech, Forensics, Investment Banking, Cryptography, and Architecture, just to name a few. The Edge programs (offered in Biology, Chemistry, and Physics)  are intensive, but they are strictly tutoring for challenging high school courses, with no actual leadership skill building. For any of these 1-week courses, you can register and get in as long as you “perform at your grade level,” and they have enough space to let you in. 

The longer programs require your application to be reviewed and accepted by an admissions panel. If you want to do the 2-week remote option, you can choose from Biotech Research or Biomedical and Surgical Research. For the 3-week in-person program, you have many options in the categories of Science, Engineering/Tech, Medicine, and Business. Examples include Synthetic Biology, Sports Medicine, Robotics, and Mars Mission.

All in-person programs take place on one of three campuses: Olin College in Greater Wellesley, Gann Academy/Bentley University in Waltham, and Longwood Medical Area in Boston.

2. Flexibility with online and in-person locations

As mentioned, BLI offers a remote option for students trying to fit classes into a busy schedule or as a cost-effective alternative to the in-person program. You still get to work with an experienced faculty, take part in group discussions with your peers and are provided with essential laboratory kits to run hands-on experiments as needed at home. 

3. Cutting-edge facilities and renowned faculty

One location, the Emmanuel College campus, utilizes state-of-the-art science labs and pristine classrooms. It is situated in the Longwood Medical Area, the home of Harvard Medical School, Boston Children’s Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Joslin Diabetes Center, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. Faculty includes distinguished professors with advanced degrees from some of the finest universities in the country as well as graduate students completing their own advanced research.

4. A network of peers from diverse backgrounds

BLI accepts students from all over the world who are really passionate about the specific STEM subjects they are studying in the program. You will meet folks in your own program who share your interests, and out of the classroom you will meet other students interested in related or completely different fields. 

5. Practice grounds for leadership and communication skills

In all of the 3-week courses, your subject matter will be translated into real world applications, and you will have the opportunity to practice presenting your findings and collaborating with your fellow students. These are leadership “soft” skills at work, and there’s really no better way to learn them than in real time in challenging situations with other people. 

6. Edge courses provide strong foundation for taking on tough high school STEM classes

Within the 1-week offerings, there’s a category called Edge. You can choose from Biology Edge, Chemistry Edge, or Physics Edge, and these programs are all designed to help you get a handle on complex concepts and hands-on lab skills that you’ll need to master if you decide to take higher-level courses in these subjects. Again, the focus here is not so much leadership as mastering the subject matter.

7. Residential options prepare you for college 

If you end up enrolling as a residential student, you’ll stay in one of three different campus dorms. You’ll eat your meals at the dining hall, have access to extracurricular facilities like pools, sports fields, and gyms, and do a lot of fun sightseeing excursions throughout Boston. You’ll also bond with a diverse group of peers in and out of the classroom.

8. Competitive and non-competitive application options

As mentioned, the more competitive application options for the 3-week program might appeal to those of you looking for a prestigious opportunity in a more rigorous and in-depth program with connections to Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Boston University, among others. 

If you’re looking for more of an introductory experience, want to augment other activities you’re doing this summer, or need a last-minute summer opportunity, the 1-week, less competitive options that don’t even require an application might be for you. All of the programs run on a rolling admission, so you may be able to apply as late as mid-July and possibly still get in. 

Final thoughts

Like any program, BLI does have a few potential drawbacks. The main barriers that we identified are its cost and relatively short length. The price ranges from $600 for a 1-week non-residential program to $4,297 for a 3-week residential program. The competitive 2-week remote program is $1,200. They do offer a limited number of need-based full scholarships. As for the program’s depth, it is difficult to cram a lot into the 1-week program. Even the 3-week programs might be too short for those seeking an intensive summer research experience. 

As for the program’s “prestige,” it may not be as attention-grabbing to college admissions officers as some of the highly selective, free leadership programs on our best-of list. However, if your primary objective is to go further in-depth on a subject you’re super passionate about and to practice your leadership and presentation skills, you can get a lot out of attending BLI’s 2-week remote or 3-week in-person program.

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