The Politics, Activism, and Leadership Institute (PAL) is for high school students who wish to understand how communication is at the heart of politics, activism and leadership in a democratic society. We employ both synchronous (via Zoom or Google Hangouts) and asynchronous (content review, virtual tours, etc.) formats to educate, illustrate, and creatively present information during these turbulent times around the globe.
With COVID-19 on the minds of everyone, the staff will encourage conversations related to this disease and its effects on a number of important issues, including, community activism, social justice, civic engagement, public service, scandal/crisis management, grassroots organizing, and communicating with the media. Discussions beyond COVID will, of course, be front and center as you “find your voice” through the various activities, seminars, guest speakers, and virtual field trips. Whether you’re interested in what takes place behind the scenes or in front of an audience, the Institute rests upon the belief that young people can be active agents within your communities both today and in the future, and serve as ambassadors and advocates for various causes and issues.
PAL is offered as a noncredit program.

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Program Dates and Costs


  • July 12–July 24, 2020 (including required orientation)
  • Presentation: July 24, 2020

Costs per student:

  • Politics, Activism, & Leadership Institute Tuition: $2,495
  • Non-Refundable Application Fee: $60

Pre-college programs are not eligible for Emerson college's tuition benefits.

Learning Outcomes

As a student in the Politics, Activism, and Leadership Institute, you will:

  • Engage as citizen-leaders in a complex and unpredictable political and cultural environment
  • Prepare for a variety of career leadership opportunities in municipalities, business/industry, and non-profit arenas
  • Become enlightened to the various areas in which social injustice is perpetuated, including environmental rights, LGBTQIA rights, labor laws, health care access, sexism, racism, among many others
  • Become emboldened through important interpersonal and public communication skills as they relate to advocacy positions
  • Gain enhanced public speaking skills by creating a Speech of Advocacy in which you will focus on a socially significant topic that you care about and wish to present to a relevant constituency


The weekly schedule is Monday through Friday.


  • Grassroots Organizing in the Political Arena Activity: Social Activism & Making a Difference
  • What is Politics? What is Communication? What is Social Advocacy? Activism vs. Advocacy
  • The Nuts & Bolts of Political Speechwriting Activity: Exemplars of Political Speeches: Excellence & Disaster; The Era of the Permanent/ NonStop/Political Campaign Public Opinion in Society
  • Tour: Massachusetts State House; Culture & Politics/Pick a Country Activity/Presentation of Country’s Political System
  • Message Advocacy Speech Criteria Brainstorming Topics & Ideas; Drafting the Political Speech Roundtable Discussion of Speeches
  • Message Advocacy Speech Prep; Polling, & Public Opinion Constructing a Survey: Boston Common Survey Roundtable Analyses: Survey Results
  • Big Data Research & Permanent Public Opinion; Political Reporting: The Beat of the Political Report Covering Campaigns & Covering Government
  • Message Advocacy Speech Prep

Emerson College reserves the right to change any provision of this program at any time. The College specifically reserves the right to change its tuition rates and any other financial charges. The College also reserves the right to rearrange its courses and class hours, to drop courses for which registration falls below the minimum enrollment, and to change instructor assignments. 

Application Guidelines

Who Should Apply

PAL is designed for students who want an intensive training experience in the significant areas of politics, activism, government, and social advocacy, and who understand how to manage their time and complete assignments both in and out of the classroom. Students entering grades 10, 11, and 12 during the 2020–2021 academic year and who have the desire and maturity to receive constructive criticism about their work and provide helpful feedback to others during the program are encouraged to apply.

Application Materials

Each candidate for the Politics, Activism, & Leadership Program must submit the required online application, a non-refundable $60 application fee, and the following documents:

  • Student Statement of Purpose: In one or two pages, please describe:
    • what you hope to achieve during the institute
    • an event you feel has prepared you for the Institute.
  • Essay: a 200–300 word essay that responds to the following question: What does ideal government look like to you? Responses should include a brief explanation of your skills and knowledge.
  • Teacher Recommendation Form: Please submit at least one recommendation, completed by a teacher who knows your work. If possible, the teacher should know your work in the field to which you are applying.
  • Resume

International Student Applicants

Visit international student information to learn about additional required application materials and find out more about applying to pre-college programs.

Application Deadlines

  • Priority Deadline: February 1, 2020.
  • International Student Deadline: April 3, 2020. 
  • We will accept applications through May 15, 2020. 

Admission to Emerson College's Arts and Communication Pre-College Programs is on a rolling basis. We suggest applying early, as space is limited. Admission decisions are made frequently.

For questions, please contact: