Are The National Youth Leadership Forum Programs Worth It?

Based on the questions in my in-box, I guess it is that time of year again—time for letters notifying students of their nomination for National Youth Leadership Forum programs and the summer experiences you can elect to join. First, National Youth Leadership Forum (NYLF) programs are legitimate.  This is not a scam, but this program is no more recognized than other organized summer-camp program.  The letter makes it seem as if NYLF is the only way your child can receive this type of recognition and enrichment.  I’ve had many students over the years attend the summer programs and I think they can be great enrichment experiences for students, but I would encourage you to shop around. Just so you understand the nomination process—teachers, counselors, and deans are sent nomination forms.  Many list top students and send them back to National Youth Leadership Forum. Some programs also get mailing lists from the SAT, PSAT, ACT, PLAN, etc.  Once they have compiled names they send their promotional materials to the student telling them they have been nominated for the program. Yes, it is a nice to recognize top students.  However, I feel as if the marketing materials overstate the prestige.  Hundreds of students at each high school are nominated to participate; it is not an exclusive opportunity. Colleges like to see students develop their interests.  National Youth Leadership Forum programs are one way to do this.  Unfortunately, the programs are often limited to a week to 10 days and cost more than many other camps.  Personally, I like to see students participate in programs that also enhance their knowledge of the college experience and/ or show their own creativity and willingness to develop their interests independent of an organized program. You might want to compare the National Youth Leadership Forum offerings to the programs offered by different colleges.  If one can participate in a two-week college program for the same price, he or she will also gain an appreciation for dorm and college life. Another great summer opportunity is to create your own opportunities, which shows even greater initiative. I can’t say whether the National Youth Leadership Forum program is right for your family.  I have known students in the past who have participated and loved it.  I do think there are other less expensive options that will provide extra enrichment and experience in the field.  Understand that this is just one of many options for your student. [Update: We discuss the National Youth Leadership Forum programs and other options on the January 26, 2015 episode of The College Prep Podcast.  The discussion begins around 22:20 minutes.  You can listen on iTunes (episode 27) or online here.]]]>

enrichment experiences, National Youth Leadership Forum, summer programs, summer programs for high school students

Comments (182)

  • I am a sophomore in High School and considering the National Youth Leadership Forum. Do you feel it benefits all high school students, or specific to Seniors, Juniors etc.
    Also, you mention other camps and programs. What is the best way to locate these programs, through the universities directly.
    Thank you for your help and information.

    • Anthony,
      These programs benefit sophomores as well as juniors and seniors. As with most things, it’s how much you put into the experience.
      To find other programs you can start by Googling “summer programs for high school students”. If you have particular universities in mind add the school name to your search.
      I’m glad you are thinking about summer plans already. Applications for many programs are due in the next couple months.

  • I am planning on becoming a lawyer in the future and received the nomination letter for the National Youth Leadership Forum. Will this summer program truly benefit my experience with law and will being a part of it look great on college applications?

    • Jackie,
      Congratulations! The NYLF programs are fun and enriching. It will look good on applications, but so will dozens of other things that cost less. Before you make a decision, spend some time researching other programs.

  • I received this nice package too in the mail. The trouble is, I’m 31 years old! I’m working on my bachelors of science currently and already have an associates degree! Where did they get my name from! Thought it was a scam right away when the first letter said to the parents of Candice….

    • Candice,
      This is the best one yet! Just further proof that they purchase mailing lists and send these “exclusive” offers to anyone on a college-bound track. Did you take the SAT? ACT? My guess is they got your name somewhere in the admissions process.
      I guess you don’t want to spend your summer with a bunch of 17 year olds. And your parents probably feel less honored than they may have 15 years ago.
      Best wishes for success in your degree program. Thanks for the laugh of the week!

    • My son’s name was given, by his principal for the NYLF mailing list. I am not happy! She had no right to do that (horrible principal without doing that). I keep getting information about the program, at least every year. I was going to try and take his name off the list, but other people said they send you more information even more often. It seems to be a scam to me.

  • I attended the forum on National Security and I must say it was a great experience. I had the opporutunity to meet many great leaders as well as interact with my peers. You will make alot of friends and its up to you to stay in touch with the. You will meet people from all over the U.S. If your execting fun and games then this isnt the program for you. Your day consist of seminars, and panelist all day. Your day starts around 7 and ends at 9 I believe. The last 3 days will be you most enjoyable days, because of the trips and the party. The food is great but bring spending cash in case you would like to order take out before bed. AND MAKE SURE YOU NETWORK!!

    • I got an envelope in the mail inviting me to attend the National Security Forum! I have been reading some of the reviews and I’ve not been getting the best impression. Most people are saying that this program is a scam, and I’m not quite sure what to believe.

  • HI Megan,
    I received the invitation to attend NYLF: Pathway to to STEM for my son Isaac. He is 8yrs old. He is interested on CSI and all about “Sherlock Holmes” adventures. Do you think that NYLF is a good program for him at his young age?
    Thank you!

    • Would he get more out of the program if you waited a year or two? I have an 8 year old and I would want to know a lot more about how they structure the program before I would send him. I like to see a full day of programs and activities and limited free time because this is when younger students tend to get homesick. Of course, you know your son best.
      I think the NYLF programs offer interesting opportunities. I’ve had students who have really benefited from the experiences. They can be expensive. As long as you know there are other enrichment opportunities out there, I don’t have any complaints about the NYLF programs.

  • My 9 year old 4th grader just received this “invite”. It sounds quite interesting and I’m sure she would love it but $2000!? That is a lot of money. I have 4 kids and don’t want to fall into a trap of doing things to “look good on a college app”. I feel like…just save the $2000 and put it into a college savings account for her. Thoughts?

    • First, I agree. Kids don’t need to do things to “look good.” But I do think summer experiences can be valuable in developing skills, building confidence, and exploring topics not covered in school.
      I, too, find the $2000 cost high, especially for a 4th grader. You can find other excellent opportunities that cost less. See if any of the colleges or universities in your area are offering summer programs for kids. Look into opportunities through community groups or area religious groups.
      Last summer my then 7th grader did one week at Girl Scout camp (under $400) and a week-long mission trip in Texas with our church (free). This summer she is participating in a Girl Scout Destination program where she can study at the Teton Science Center and camp in Yellowstone (about $750 including travel.) So we have found great alternatives at a fraction of the price.

  • I’m a freshmen hoping to go in to medicine and got sent a letter all about it do you think as a freshmen it is beneficial for me or should I wait a year or 2?

  • I am a freshman and I received a letter in the mail yesterday and I’m wondering if you think the medicine program is something that someone of my age is ready for. I would like to be able to do it but I’m not sure if its worth it for a freshman to learn all this at once and I’m also worried about the cost.

  • So I have no idea if you’re still reading these or not but recently I have received one of their offers in my mail. From how it looks, my mother was and possibly is still concerned that this is a scam.

  • I’m a sophomore and I got one of these in the mail yesterday and I’ve been reading about the program online. There were several sources that said it would make little to no difference on applications and if I’m going to spend that much money I would like for it to impact my chances of being accepted at least a little. I’m also worried about spending all of this money only to change my mind about what I want to do later. I got one for medicine, but I want to be an ICU nurse, not a doctor. I’m just very overwhelmed and confused about the opportunity.

    • Rylee,
      Go ahead and listen to our discussion of this on The College Prep Podcast. (starts at about 22:20 minutes) Listen on iTunes ( to episode 27 or listen here:
      No single activity will impact admissions; colleges are looking at the big picture. Any summer program should be part of an overall pattern of activity. So this isn’t your only chance.
      I’d encourage you to look for a variety of opportunities. Can you start to volunteer at a local hospital? You won’t start in the ICU, but you will see the environment and get a chance to meet and talk to plenty of nurses. Can you get a job or intern in a medical position this summer? Do you have a HOSA or other medical / health club at your school?
      You might also find more camp programs that are directed towards nursing and fit your budget. I googled “summer programs for high school students interested in nursing” and found a long list of options. Give it a try.
      Do some additional research into options then you may feel more confident making a decision. NYLF programs are good, but they are not your only opportunity.

  • What is the difference between the medicine program and the advanced medicine and health care program? One of my friends received a letter for medicine and I received one for advanced medicine and health care… So I was just wondering is the advanced based on accademic performance and more competitive than the medicine program offered?

  • Hi, I’m a sophomore in high school and just received my invitation to the NYLF of Medicine and I think it sounds like an awesome opportunity, but I also wonder if there are ones just like it that might cost a little less. I have been very interested in pursuing a career in medicine for the last couple years. But with my parents it’s mostly about the cost. I’ve seen that they have scholarships and fundraising that would help though. The experience as a whole looks very appealing and I would love the opportunity to go learn and meet new people who share a common interest. Still not sure though if this would be a good trip for me. Thanks

  • I can’t believe I’m actually asking a question. I’m always the first to be able to tell something is a scam and the amount of money my parents waste on me should not rise anymore, but the NYLF for Engineering (a career path I am not sure if I really find interest in anymore , but I circle on the SAT anyway) is in San Francisco and I would love to go there without parents even if it’s a scam. Is it worth the price and what kind of benefits may I get? I don’t really care about looking good on college resumes because I try to do a bunch of stuff outside of school for that.
    Bonus if your not a paid spokesperson for this program because apparently those exist.

    • I’m NOT a paid spokesperson. You probably knew that from my article and the responses to comments here. I’ve worked as a high school and independent counselor for years, so I’m telling you what I’ve observed from years of working with students and talking with college admissions officers.
      Worth the price? That’s for you to decide. If you were my child, I think we’d look for some other programs before making a decision. I’d encourage you to google “summer engineering programs for high school students.” You can specify California or San Francisco and see what you find.
      Here’s a website with lots of California engineering camps to get you started:

  • My 5th Grade son received the invitation in the mail a couple of weeks ago. One of the pages urged us to call within 48 hours to confirm receipt of the invite so we would not lose our spot should we decide to enroll…. that seemed a little strange – like if you were invited then there would be space for you already reserved?? The 6 day conference in Chicago is quite expensive, as other people have posted, around $2,000. That’s quite a bit of money.
    They talk about programs like Crime Scene Investigation, programming a robot and something medical related. My wife and I are unsure if we should try to come up with the money to send him. Being 11 years old we’re a little skeptical of it. Will he really benefit by going to this program? Thanks!!

    • Mark,
      I agree; that does sound strange. This is the first time I’ve heard of the “call within 48 hours” part. Maybe I’m cynical, but this sounds like they will give you the full sales pitch over the phone.
      I’d encourage you to find other camps for your son– ones you can comfortably afford. There will be plenty of opportunities down the road. I’d encourage you to save some money and find something less expensive. Try searching for summer programs for students at some of the state universities in your area.
      We covered this topic in this week’s College Prep Podcast episode (starts about minute 22:20.) You can listen on iTunes ( to episode 27
      or listen here:

      • Thanks Megan! We’re going to talk with our son about it this weekend to see if he’s interested. I’d really prefer to find something at a local college that is more geared towards his interests, not just a set curriculum that the kids follow. What if he’s not interested in the medical or CSI portions? He would still need to attend, it’s not like he can pick and choose what he’s interested in.
        At 11 years old he is not defining his career path, I could see this more beneficial for H.S. kids that have an interest in any of the fields that are presented. If he could attend and focus on what he is truly interested in then he’d get much more out of it (in my opinion).

      • My package actually says to call within 24 hours. My son is 12 and in the seventh grade. Really hesitant about the whole thing. The packet just seems over the top!

        • Jessica,
          I agree. We received one for my 9th grade daughter. You can tell they are spending a lot of money on marketing. There are so many other programs out there that you don’t need to worry about the 24 hour pressure.

      • We just got one today and were quite elated that he was chosen by his teacher to represent his school. We were told 24 hours to notify them, Iam so glad I saw all these comments, I think I d rather gas up my car and spend the $$$ on visiting museums & historical sights over the summer instead.

    • Don’t do it, it is too expensive. My son unfortunately has been receiving their brochures every year. I hope that stops before he is 18. Right now he is 11.

  • So what everyone here agreed on is that if the program cost less, it would be an awesome experience for students. But since it is too expensive, it is not. I don’t get it. If local colleges and universities have similar summer programs, then aren’t they just as credible as NYLF? Or are you saying that since it’s a university or college run program, than it’s more acceptable? My most important question is …which program would have the most impact, the most impression on my student if they want to continue to pursue or not their career path?

    • John,
      You identified the key question — which program will have the greatest impact? Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear answer. It depends. It depends on each student and his or her own experience. Sometimes it depends on outside factors such as the personality of the people leading the program or the opinions of peers.
      All of these programs are equally credible. All have the potential to provide amazing experiences or terrible ones depending on the student and the circumstances. NYLF spends more on marketing and promotion than most of the university-based programs which is why you hear more about it.
      I want families to know they have options. Look closely at the scheduled activities at each camp. Often kids get greater value out of hands on activities than out of lectures with big-name experts. Think about how your own child prefers to experience things. Is he or she the one to jump into new experiences and ask questions even in a large group? Does she or he enjoy listening to presentations or reading or would that be seen as “boring”? Try to find the program that offers the best balance of activities for your child. (And do it within your budget!)

  • Hi Megan! I am a junior and just got this invite for the National Youth Leadership Forum: Engineering & Technology and am wondering how many people get them! I am assuming at least half of my grade got one but just want to be sure. I also do not understand how people are nominated.. I would love to go into Engineering and participate in an Engineering Program at my school and do advertising for it so was I possibly nominated for that reason? I am guessing this invite is just marketing and tons of people get them but I just want to be 100% positive just in case there for some reason is some specialty in receiving the letter(: Thank you so much!

    • Cecilia,
      You are probably right– a lot of your peers got letters. I have not researched the “nomination” process, but I have to believe it is more than teacher recommendations. I worked as a teacher and counselor in a large public high school for years and can’t remember ever sending in nominations. My guess is that some nomination may be made by school officials, but a majority of letters are sent from mailings lists NYLF acquires. When you take the PSAT, PLAN, SAT, ACT, etc., your name and address may be given to outside organizations. (They never release your exact score.) Colleges and summer programs can get a list of all students with above average math scores or top scores overall. I think a lot of letters are sent from these lists.
      So, yes, the letters are more marketing than exclusive honor. But the programs are legitimate and good. You decide if it is the right program for you after comparing it to other opportunities.

  • If this program is legit, how did my step-grandson, a 4th grader, get nominated to a program this summer and does not attend the school nor has the teacher listed in the correspondence informing him of the nomination???????

  • I got a letter from NYLF for Law and CSI and I didn’t know if it would be worth going or not, and I just wanted an opinion on whether or not I should go.

  • Hi I got a letter from NYLF for ENGINEERING and TECHNOLOGY i t seems good but I want to know the total cost for the whole thing

  • i am an eleven grader and i just received a mail from NYLF and I’m very interested in going. How much can it cost and how did they get my name? This is the forth time I am receiving such invitations from prestigious Universities ans colleges and my parents are very proud but kind of freaked about about it because they don’t undertand how my name got there.

  • Im not sure if these are being read or not, but i believe the most tempting part of NYLF is the fact of the leadership aspect. Im going to be a sophmore in high school and my parents really want me to do this program. Im already doing many medical related volunteer work and im not so sure if its completely worth it now. Im not sure how there policy for refunding or compensation workw either. Theyre very vague about the program but immediately asked for money which is a bit scary /:

    • Samrina,
      I think if you are looking to expand your leadership skills, you would be better off doing something at your school or in your community. Sitting as a participant in a large program isn’t the best way for you to gain leadership experience. Doing and leading though the volunteer work you have already begun will be more impactful.

  • My son just returned from attending the NYLF Science and Technology session in San Francisco. This program was definitely NOT worth the price and in fact we found the materials describing the forum bordering on false advertising. The materials said it would be held at the University of Berkeley campus…it wasn’t. It took place at a small annex and the students never even visited the Berkeley campus, something my son was looking forward to. The students were promised hands on experience with the technology…not so. A session on electrical engineering had one circuit board for the entire class, most students never even touched it. There were NO COMPUTERS, at a “science and technology” forum. The entire experience was a huge disappointment for us, and my son tells me that was the prevailing sentiment among most of the kids he spoke with. That certainly qualifies as a “scam” to me. Don’t waste your time or money on NYLF.

    • Moses,
      I’m sorry your son didn’t have a worthwhile experience, but I appreciate you sharing it here. I hadn’t heard from anyone in the engineering / technology program before; I’ve heard mixed reviews about the law and medical programs. Thanks for the warning!

  • I recently went to the prpgram in San Francisco. It was the best week of my life. I met many new friends who I plan on keeping contact with for many years to come. We stayed on a campus at Berkeley. We visited the Berkeley main campus. We went to Stanford. We went to Pier 39 in San Francisco. There were 5 guest speakers ranging from professors at Berkeley to executives at big companies, such as google. There was a lecture on applying to college which I found incredibly helpful. All activities were hands on: We built a robot, programed a helicopter and flew it with a computer, worked with 3-D modeling and 3-D printers. We also built a replica zipline. Besides the fact that there were so many activities the friends I made was what truly made the experience, as all the kids I met there came from diverse backgrounds and were all very talented. All in all it was one of the greatest weeks of my life.
    Btw I am a tenth grade student at an academy

    • I’m glad you had a great experience!
      This is why I have a difficult time advising families on the NYLF programs– some students have an amazing experience while others find it a waste of time. I’m glad your program was good.

  • I got nominated and my mom thinks it too much just for one child.1,970$. I mean I really wanna go but my mother thinks otherwise. Is there anyway there’s a better payment plan than the one they offer??

  • I got nominated, but I am unsure how they got my name, I haven’t done any testings listed above, nor do I know how they discovered my want for law school

  • My 11 year old got his letter this week. Do you think it is worth the investment for an 11 yr old to go to a program like this? He is a little bit shy and I am nervous about him being away in a city with people he doesn’t know. Do they do a background check on the people who will be taking care of them while they are at the residence halls?
    Thanks for the advice!!

    • Jenny,
      Why don’t you look for some weekend workshops closer to home?
      I cannot speak for the background checks from NYLF or any other organization. Check with any program to find out who will be working, their background, and how much unsupervised freedom the kids will have.
      I know every student is different, but 11 is still young. You and your son can wait a few years and still have plenty of opportunities.

    • Hank,
      It depends. Last summer my daughter had finished 8th grade and was getting ready to enter high school. She spent one week in Wyoming for Girl Scout camp and two weeks away at debate camp. She had a great time, but not every 14 year old is ready to be away in that type of environment. You are the best judge of what is appropriate for your daughter.

      • My 13 year old daughter was nominated by her teacher, as were several other kids in our charter school’s middle school program. When I thanked him for the recommendation, he said she deserved it, but he apologized about the cost. He did not realize how much it was. How nice of them to solicit nominations, but not mention the cost. We will be looking for less expensive, more local opportunities. We just don’t have that kind of money.

  • I am a special education teacher at a high school. My son got one of these packets in the mail and I was super proud of him. I had already started planning in my head how to pay for it, but I did some research and determined it was a lot of false advertising. Then a couple of days later one of my students pulled out a packet and showed it to me. She asked what it was and said “I don’t even like science”. This student is in self-contained special education classes. We later determined that she might have accidentally bubbled in science as an interest on the required PSATs. She is a wonderful student who can do wonderful things, but this proved without a doubt in my head the nominations are pure bunk. This company feeds off of parents’ and students’ desire to feel special. Which in my mind makes it a scam.

    • Yes, it is not as special as they make it seem.
      On the positive side, I’ve had students attend these programs and leave feeling more motivated about their future plans.
      I just don’t want families to feel like it is the only option. There are so many other wonderful summer programs out there.

      • Hi Megan,
        My son also got invitation for this program. As I understood it does not worth that money. Do you know any other programs? Can you advise something? Thank you so much.

    • I don’t think it’s about feeling “special” at all. It’s about helping your child decide if this is what they want to do & to just have the experience & memory. To enrich their lives with what is important to them. A parent wants to help their child with their future career. Has nothing to do with being or feeling “special.”

      • But I can say that I agree that they can feed of of the parent & child’s desire to attend the program thinking that it will enrich them. Not necessarily about feeling or being special. More so feeding on people who want the best for their child. It’s all about money. That’s why it’s so expensive. Even my child said it is too expensive.

        • Yes, these programs are costly. You can find many other enriching programs at a fraction of the cost. The NYLF programs are not bad, but they are financially out of reach for many.

      • Very true, Diana. I just talk to too many families each year who were dazzled by the important sounding name. They didn’t realize there are hundreds of other programs, many less expensive, that they could have considered.

  • My 9 year old received the packet for the Chicago based one also. It did come with a local list of children who attended last summer. Maybe a good start for most people would be to get in contact with families on this list and ask them personally about their experience. I also had to confirm receipt of getting the letter within 24 hours but did not have to make any decisions at that time.

  • My 3rd grader got this in the mail today. I was so excited and proud of her but the cost seems outrageous. Not to mention we live near Springfield Missouri and this is in Chicago, il. I am very prudent of her for getting the recommendation from her teacher but I’d like to know just how many kids they recommend compared to how many actually go. This would be my daughter’s first time away for that long and not being with family. I’d have to stay in a hotel for a week also because I can’t fathom the idea of dropping her off and leaving her 8 hours away for a week. As much as she want to go and I think it would be a great experience for her. I’m just so unsure about the whole thing. Any one have thoughts?

  • The other day I received an email stating I had been nominated for the NYLF medical program. It’s extremely expensive and I have received a couple similar “nominations” for similar programs. The other ones have already been decided against, and now my family is trying to determine if we should put any value in this one.
    Is there any worth of going? Will it provide me with any type of competitive edge for college or a career in medicine in the future? I hope to hear back..

    • Ella,
      Is there worth? Yes, but there are so many worthwhile programs out there– many that cost much less.
      Competitive advantage? Not really.
      You would be more cooperative if you took challenging science classes at school and earned good grades. You might seek out opportunities in your area to become more involved in the field– volunteering, speaking with people in your future career path and seeking their advice.
      This is a nice program, but it isn’t going to set you apart more than any other summer program / camp.
      Wishing you the best!

  • Thank you for the great information on this topic. I can see that the questions asked by some of the other parents to comment here are exactly the same ones my husband and I asked ourselves when our son, a high school sophomore, got an invitation for the NYLF Security seminar. It’s a lot of money for a week’s experience, a bit over $2000, but in the end, we bit the bullet. He’ll be attending in March 2016.
    Here’s what helped influence our decision. Perhaps it will help some of your other readers. As it happens, both my husband’s father and my father were in military intelligence fields during their service days. Our son has grown up hearing their stories, at least the ones they are permitted to tell, and he’s always been interested. However, hearing a cool story from Gramps is not necessarily the best thing to base future plans on, as far as I’m concerned. A lot of intelligence and security work is grind work, plowing through reams of information in order to establish patterns. Not only that, but the Security and Intelligence field is a mighty big umbrella, covering everything from cyber security to data analyzing to being the guy that ensures all the old classified documents get appropriately disposed of.
    How can we provide that information to a young person that might be interested in entering the field someday? It’s not as though federal and private security firms are opening their doors to high school interns or volunteers.
    Then we read the NYLF Security: Diplomacy, Intelligence, and Defense brochure. I showed it to my father: he personally knew two of the three keynote speakers listed. He also read the brochure carefully, studied the various activities outlined, handed the paperwork back to me, nodded, and said, “Yeah, I’d pay money for that.”
    If you knew my father, you’d know that’s practically glowing praise.
    In the end, it was my son’s interest in the program that convinced us. My husband and I figure one of two things will happen with our son after this seminar: either he’ll be super fired up and have a clearer idea as to what path he wants to take, or he’ll discover that National Security is NOT for him at all. If the former, fantastic, I won’t have to hassle him about becoming more focused on the steps to take because he’ll be self-motivated. If the latter, also fantastic, because he won’t be wasting our money at college studying for a Security career that he’ll later discover he doesn’t really want!
    Two thousand dollars is a lot of money, but it’s a lot less than even a single year at our local community college.
    I should add that we live within driving distance of Washington, D.C., where the seminar is held. If we had to fly our son in from, say, California, I don’t think we would have chosen to do this for financial reasons.
    Your advice about researching cheaper options is spot on. If my son were interested in the Medical field, or the Engineering field, for example, you can bet I’d be contacting my local hospitals and local engineering college for opportunities for high school students.
    In the end, I would never have spent this kind of money if my son were younger. I can’t see how any of these programs would be worthwhile to elementary- or middle school-aged children. I know that my son has been interested in the security and intelligence field for pretty much his whole life, and I know that he now has the mental maturity to ask pertinent questions, and to network not only with his peers, but with the adults at the seminar.
    I’ll let you know what his thoughts of the seminar was when he completes it!

    • Melissa,
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree that the national security program is unique and not something as easily replicated by students in their home towns. I’d love to hear your son’s thoughts once he’s completed the program. I hope he has a great time.

      • Thank you for sharing! My 4th grade son received one of these for Chicago. I can say I was extremely excited for him and his recognition…. however the mother in me set back in and couldn’t help but ask why? Why so young and why a week in a big city by himself…. just not something I am willing to chance. Then I seen the price of the program and I couldn’t help but think how in the world will I be able to come up with all that money!? I think after reading all of these comments and the original article I will shop around for something closer to home he can participate in.

    • Can you please let us know what your son thought of this? My situation is very similar. My son is now a sophomore, we can drive to DC and has an interest in National Security/Military. Considering NYLF but it’s definitely a stretch for us. It sounds like a great experience. Let us know if in the end it was worth it. Thank you!

    • Melissa,
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the NYLF National Security. I also have a son who is a high school sophomore who is very interested in attending this forum. I was wondering, I didn’t see a post from you after he attended. was it worth it? I have the same concerns about the money and travel (unfortunately we don’t live close enough, it’s about a 6-7 hour drive) which I am willing to do but just want to make sure its worth the money and time. Would be nice to here from someone who’s child actually attended. Thanks!

    • Hello Melissa Sullivan,
      My son has also received this opportunity. I was just wondering what your son and family felt about the program after your son attended?
      Sincerely, Amy Minzola

  • Today I received an e-mail stating that I was nominated for the NYLF medical program. I am really interested in attending the 2016 summer program, however, it is too expensive! I know for a fact that my parents cannot afford it. I want to if that program offers grants or scholarship of some kind to maybe students who do not have the benefit like others. I honestly really would like the opportunity to attend to those, but don’t know how it will be possible. Thank you for the help.

    • they do offer scholarships! the applications are due sometime in april, and you just have to outline your financial situation. you can also receive scholarships for community efforts and grades!

  • My 14 year old granddaughter received a letter from NYLF today and a letter with Buzz Aldrin’s endorsement last month.
    We were also thrilled that she had gotten acknowledged for Engineering and Technology. (Her Fields) But I did some investigating and found both sources to not be worth the paper they are printed on.
    You are completely right. There is no need to invest money in these expensive programs as these when there are so many programs closer to home with excellent educational, leadership, and technology skills.
    It is best to do your homework to make sure the student will get the credit and education out of any program you invest. There future depends on it.
    Shame on NYLF for taking advantage of parents of students who only wish to have the best education for their children.

  • I recently received an invite to this and the NSLC conference. They are both for advanced medicine, as opposed to regular medicine. There are obvious differences in the programs, and I would not even consider the regular. I know that the organizations obtained my name from college board, and my teachers. I understand the cost, and my family is prepared to shell out the cash. The two programs cost roughly the same, and after reading some of these comments, it seems to me that the NYLF program is what you make of it. I have several friends applying, and we are all trying to get in the same week. I know they both offer scholarship opportunities for academic proficiency. However, regionally, I am in an area with no good places to have a hands on experience like this. I am not interested in gaining prestige, just experience and a fun week filled with learning. For advanced medicine, there is college credit from george mason university – can that credit be transferred to another college? I would be participating in this program as a junior in high school. I am curious though, do you know anything about the NSLC one?

  • I’m a sophomore in high school. I received a letter for medicine in the mail today. My parents seemed really thrilled about it, but my concern is how expensive it is. My parents don’t mind, but I told them they shouldn’t waste it (because of the situation we are in). Yet they still don’t listen to me. Is there any other programs that will have a better price than the NYLF?

    • I am a junior and i received the same thing for advanced medicine. I told my mother i did not want to do it because of the price. She told me no you will do it. My friend told me about NSLC, national student leadership conference, you should check it out. It is much cheaper and you get great benefits from it. I have been reading on the programs to see other peoples views on it and if it s really worth breaking the bank.

    • That is awesome of you and congrats! As a single parent who has an 11 year old who was nominated, I am going to do everything in my will to get him there. Extra over-time, long weekends, teaching BJJ personals & IT work. We know we may not have the funds for it, but as a parent, we will find them. We want you (our children) to have it easier than we did! Congrats once again!

    • Alexis, it’s fantastic that you want to save your parents’ money; I applaud you for that. Speaking as a parent myself, I believe that your folks simply want to ensure you have the best opportunities they can secure for you- even if that means they have to make financial sacrifices to do it. Have you expressed an interest in going into medicine in the past? If your parents watched you play doctor as a little girl, and listened to you talk about how great it would be to help people by going into medicine, then when this invitation came in the mail, I imagine they decided to make it happen, no matter what they had to do to pull it off.
      However, if you really aren’t sure that you want them to spend the money, contact your local hospital(s). Ask if they sponsor any youth programs, or if there are any volunteer opportunities for high school students. Also, if you have any colleges or universities near you, go to their websites and see if they offer summer programs for high school students- many do. Your high school guidance counselor can also be an invaluable resource; counselors often get the most up-to-date information about educational opportunities in your area- some at no cost to you!
      If you get this information together and look through the opportunities, including the NYLF seminar, you’ll be able to see which ones really appeal to you. Then you can sit your parents down and talk to them as the young adult you are, and they will know that you’ve genuinely thought about what it is you want to do. They will also know that you aren’t turning down what might be an amazing experience only because of the cost.
      Whatever you decide to do, I wish you the best of luck!

  • I’m in 4th grade and I just got a letter from the NYLF . Do think it’s worth $2000 for me to go to this program in the summer of 2016?

      • Hi Sam,
        My 5th grader received his invitation today. He is really wanting to go but I want to make sure this is truly worth the money. What was your child’s experience and what were your opinions of everything?
        Thank you!

  • I got the NSLC later in the mail a couple days ago and I was pretty excited. But then I did some research online and figured out its really just a glorified marketing campaign. I still might go, just to figure out if medicine is a field I really want to go into. I was just wondering if you know of any less expensive options for leadership/extracurriculars woth more prestige. If this doesn’t work out, I still want to do something with medicine this summer.

  • I received a letter from the NYFL for business and am very interested in attending. Unfortunately, based on what i’ve read these programs are expensive and my family is of low income. Does the NYFL offer some sort of scholarship to attend there programs ? You would think that if it was a legit program for helping students they would offer scholarships to at least some students nominated for this.

  • Hi, late last year I received a nomination to NYLF: Engineering and Technology. I would absolutely love to go, but it is nearly $3,000, which with my parents divorcing, we can’t afford. My mom is talking about putting it all on credit, or maybe taking out a loan, both her and I really want me to go, but I need to know if it really is worth 3,100 dollars. So, any thoughts or answers? I don’t want my mom to fork out so much money to take me to a program I might not even like.

  • I’ve been reading a lot about the programs offered. My daughter who is only 8 years old is a HUGE dreaming of being in the fields of science. She of course is undecided where yet, she loves space and chemistry. These are not something you can find courses of study on for an 8 year old, especially not one who already knows half the periodic table of elements!
    With that said, the program is the only I found that will be local enough for her age group. Of course we were super excited to get her letter. Once I got notice I was unsure, though she was dying to go. My finances are not exactly capable to cover the $2000 tuition but several family members donated enough to make our first payment. I’ll be bound to make up the rest. Yes, we did apply for a scholarship based on her grades and our financial needs.
    But finding something like this for someone who hasn’t even gotten into middle school yet is hard. They barely have a science class in 3rd grade as it is. We’ve hit all the museums and spent $100’s on books already.
    I’m glad the program is legit, and I’m glad its being held where we can drive in couple hours and drop her off. I would never let her leave the state so I appreciate they hold it in many states at many major colleges

    • Hi Shannon,
      I’d love to hear your feedback now that your daughter has attended. I’m considering this for my 9 year old son. However, we live far enough away that he would have to do the residential program. Please feel free to email me personally. Thank you.

  • Thank you everyone who has shared. This is very helpful. My 10 year old also received a letter from NYLF. And I am glad that I have read your comments. I think I will wait for now until he is older. Please if your kids have the experience, please share.

    • My granddaughter attended NYLF:STEM in Fort Lauderdale, Florida last year. She was 9 years old and in the 3rd grade. We chose to not do the residential camp due to her age. I stayed with her in a hotel in Fort Lauderdale just minutes from the campus. The days are long for them but she never complained because she loved it so much! It was very educational. I was amazed at the things they learned. It was a great experience both educationally and personally. She will be attending again this year. It is very expensive; but she raised money to help with the costs. That would most definitely be the biggest downfall to the program. They do grant a limited # of partial scholarships. I hope this has been of some help to you.

  • I’m in 6th grade and I just started middle school. I got nominated to go to nylf and my mom thought that it would be an amazing experience for me to go. 6 people in my school (elementary, middle, and high school) got nominated, so I think that it is pretty exclusive. I think that it would be a great experience for anyone who got nominated and is thinking about going.

    • Hi,
      I went to this last summer and it was nice for engineering. It was worth it for what I wanted to do, but now they won’t stop bothering me about other nylf programs that I have no interest in. I’ve emailed them 20 times a month and called twice in one week to tell them I wasn’t interested but they do not listen. Its a good program for what you want to do, but be prepared to be fed up with them when they try and bring you into other events.

  • I went to the engineering conference and it was awesome and completely worth it. I loved my experience there. I think it was only so great because of the people I met there, though. I still talk to them

    • As a teacher who nominates students every year I can say we do not get any compensation or “kickback” from the program.

    • I have taught high school for over 10 years and during that time have nominated several students, some have attended the event. As far as I know teachers do not get any type of compensation, I know I never have nor have I wanted any. I am always looking for ways to provide beneficial opportunities for students. The students that have attended all had positive things to say regarding the events.

  • Hey my daughter just got nominated, she is in the 11th grade and looks forward to attending. We are about to pay for her to attend but will like to know if the amount you pay includes your flight to go and return, if she will be traveling with other students choosed from different schools or if we have to find a means for her to get to the college campus she will attend the program at.

    • The website says travel to and from is not included in the tuition. Their is an FAQ section for students on their main page.
      “Your tuition includes all curriculum and instruction, program activities, site visits, and events, overnight housing, program materials, at least two meals a day, a Certificate of Completion, and local transportation during the program.
      Transportation to and from home and the program location is NOT included in tuition. While attending the program, you will only need money for snacks, souvenirs, and other incidentals.”

    • Hey. I got chosen for the program as well and had to do some research. On their website they say the program includes everything except transportation to and from the place.

    • No, unfortunately. All the price includes is “housing, onsite meals, instruction, supervisory personnel, program materials, all forum materials, and private motor coach transportation during the forum” according to my invitation.

    • The packet mt daughter got says it does not include flight and there will be someone at a certsin airport to pick students up from 1-4

    • I was nominated as well. I read through everything. They will not be paying for any transportation to and from the campus although I believe they said they will have a shuttle pick them up from the airport. You have to pay tuition and transportation.

  • I was googling national youth leadership forums trying to figure out what I attended back when I was in high school and found this thread. I am now a physician and attended the NYLF on medicine. In retrospect, I think I gained maybe 10%-20% benefit from this experience. It was a lot of marketing…I was really excited as a high schooler when I was nominated but it really wasn’t worth it. Especially for the money. I remember a girl in my group who couldn’t spell “nurse.” Really?? They base nominations on what exactly? You can get a very similar experience just calling up a residency program in your local town and having your son/daughter shadow. Or volunteering at the hospital. I also remember a field trip to the mall…great waste of money.

  • I am a high school student and received a letter about the National Security trip today. It says a faculty member at my school nominated me, but I’m not so sure — I’ve spoken to him once, so how would he know that I am planning on going into the military? Although he talks to my advisor, who is trying to help me pick a career and knows about my thoughts on the subject, it still seems kind of odd. While it sounded like a pretty great opportunity, all of these replies to your article are making me nervous. My parents can afford it, but should I do it? It sounded so awesome before I realized that they sent a letter to everyone whose name they could find.

    • Julia,
      I have had students attend these programs in the past and enjoy them. Just don’t think it is as selective as the marketing material makes it sound. It is a nice program– right for some people, but not for everyone. You will find other summer options out there. I don’t have any issue with students attending if you like the content of the program, want to attend, and your parents can afford it.

      • My granddaughter receive letter today in mail about program she very interest in attending don’t have funds to attend is there assistance for low income families

      • My granddaughter receive letter today in mail about program she very interest in attending don’t have funds to attend is there assistance for low income families.

    • I attended it in middle school. I loved it, but all the things they said they would do… Why? I was so excited for the robotics bit! But.. it was lego stuff (not to mention drag coding to make the thing go.. that kinda defeats the purpose). Legos. And, get this, their instructions for teaching you how to code.. hogwash. They were horrible. It absolutely ticks me off because those 2000 dollars could’ve been used for something else my poor family could’ve liked lmao but seriously
      not worth it
      not to me, anyway
      might be a pretty thing to put on your resume, and sure the people are nice, but I don’t like paying $2000 USD to get a good 5-day cook out, as it essentially was to me xD

  • yesterday I get a card of NYLF but I don’t know if I want to go because I am in 8th grade and I have 12 years and I am kind of scared and also I don’t know what I’m going to do in those university

    • Valeria,
      Take your time and only consider a program if you think it is right for you. Maybe in a couple years you will feel ready to attend a week-long program held at a university, but don’t feel like you need to go right now. Opportunities will be there when you are a little older.

  • My son attended the STEM camp this summer. We were terribly disappointed in the staff, content of material taught, supervision, quality of kids and quality of teachers. Do not waste your money. The STEM officials have yet to respond to concerns I raised to them about camp.

  • I just received my letter for NYLF:medicine and I’m really confused i wanna go but it doesn’t seem worth it especially since i have to take time off work to go (11th grader I’m a life guard/ swim teacher in the summer) i just really don’t know what to do and I’d like som advice.

  • Hello for online purposes my name is Jeff, I’m a junior at my high school and for months I’ve been searching and researching different ways to prepare myself for college. Last Summer I had decided on engineering and three months ago I decided on aerospace Engineering. I just got a letter from NYLF: Engineering and Technology and I was extremely excited because I was just about to start researching camps. The letter mentioned different tracks. I see mixed comments about this camp for the fact that it is very expensive. I wish to know if as a introductory to engineering would this be worth it? I don’t have much background and I feel this would be a good experience for me. What do you think?

  • The curriculum looks interesting for a highschooler. But the oversell and false claims of selection taints it. I can’t sign up for something that starts out on the wrong foot like this.

  • Hi!
    I just received an email about being nominated for NYLF: Medical Program. I would love to attend even though it is expensive because one of the locations for the program is at UCLA, my first school of choice. But, I think my father would be a little hesitant, so I was wondering if you could suggest some other medical summer programs that might be last about a month or longer and would be at UCLA or Ivy Leagues?

  • I think it’s great that you’re reviewing this programs, so thank you for writing this review.
    However, you don’t mention some of the other key problems with NYLF, so I wanted to note them here. The first is that anyone can nominate anyone to attend and there are no selection criteria for getting in, other than a parent writing a check. I called them to verify this, and you can see on their website a section for “nominate someone.” As long as the child is the right age, a parent can nominate them for the camp/program.
    Being open to all students is fine, of course, but the problem is that the company sells the camps as a special honor to “the best” students, implying that not everyone can get in or will be selected. This feeling makes parents feel pressure to send their children, even if they can ill-afford the price tag.
    By soliciting teacher nominations, the camp makes well-meaning parents feel special when their children are nominated. It’s very clever: the nomination itself makes the student feel great (and it should). But the camp itself is not “special” so this cheapens the nomination process and exposes it for what it is: a marketing ploy to separate parents from their money.
    Further, the programs are run by a for-profit company, called Envision EMI. Envision was sued in 2009 (and settled in 2010) for deceptive marketing practices, among other things (see here: An article in the New York Times in 2009 provides some additional detail: They apparently had a rating of F by the BBB for a few years, although they seem to have regained a good rating in recent years. Still, the BBB rating doesn’t seem to reflect the user comments on the site (
    As I described above, it is my strong opinion that this company preys upon, and manipulates, the relationship between classroom teachers and parents. Being nominated by a teacher is a legitimate and significant honor for a student. Envision EMI understands this perfectly, and relies on parents’ genuine delight in being nominated to entice parents to spend far more money than they should on the program.
    This company does a tremendous job of keeping all this negative information in the dark corners of the internet! Put succinctly, Envision EMI is very slick, very clever company with marginal ethics that has found a niche in capitalizing and exploiting on the close and trusting relationship between parents, students, and teachers.
    I find the company, and their business practices, appalling.

  • We just got the letter stating my son is nominated for the NYLF Pathways to STEM Summer program. He’s only 9 years old and in the fourth grade. Does this seem extremely young to be attending something like this? Between the very high tuition and very over the top letter (repeating how prestigious it is in every paragraph), it’s a hard pass. From everything I’ve seen online it is a program better suited to high school students. Why target the young ones except to make more money?! No thanks!

    • Mana,
      I have a son who is 11 and I would NOT send his to one of these programs at his age. We will find less expensive, age appropriate activities for him in our area. For my high school age daughter, we have found other camps that offer more hands on experiences than the NYLF.

  • How do the kids transport from housing to class? my son is going to go in June after reading these comments I’m a bit taken back.