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AU High School Summer Scholars

American University (AU) offers high school students the opportunity to pursue their interests in greater depth by enrolling in 1-credit online courses covering a range of topics, from international diplomacy and law to biotechnology andpsychology and neuroscience. By enrolling in an AU Summer Scholars course, you will enjoy a stimulating, rigorous, and personalized college-level learning experience especially tailored to high school students. Students will access their course via AU's Canvas platform at hours that suit their own schedules and will have four weeks to complete all assignments.

Asynchronous Format: The AU credit course is taught online in a self-paced, asynchronous format, allowing flexibility in completing reading and written assignments on your own schedule. Instructional content may include pre-recorded lectures, podcasts, documentaries, and faculty-led discussion boards. AU faculty remain involved and accessible to students during the course via Canvas or office hours conducted via Zoom or Skype. 

Course Topics and Dates: See the chart below for course offerings and dates.  

Course Selection: Students should select the course that best suits their interests. Because the nature of instruction is asynchronous and there are no live sessions, it is possible to enroll in more than one course. To enroll in more than one course students must obtain program permission by emailing  hsss@american.edu.  Students should understand that each course will require a minimum of five hours per week, inclusive of watching pre-recorded lectures and assigned videos, participation in online discussion boards, and completing course readings and written assignments. 

Eligibility: Rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors with a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Academic Expectations. Students will be assigned reading and written assignments appropriate for a 1-credit college-level course. Although the assignments will vary by instructor and topic, students should understand that each course will require a minimum of five hours per week, inclusive of watching pre-recorded lectures and assigned videos, participation in online discussion boards, and completing course readings and written assignments.  Students are expected to observe assignment deadlines and submit their work via AU’s Canvas platform. For a course outline, please email hsss@american.edu.

Tuition:  Tuition is $919 per course, a significant discount from AU’s standard undergraduate tuition rate.

Instructor Access. Instructors are committed to your success. They will remain accessible throughout the entire course via email and/or office hours conducted via Zoom or Skype. Please contact your instructor for any course-related questions. 

Course Materials. All readings and course materials will be available on AU’s Canvas platform. There are no additional fees required. 

How to Apply. To enroll in the AU Summer Scholars program, visit the Apply Now and follow application directions. Students should email hsss@american.edu if they seek permission to enroll in more than one course.

AU Account Set-Up. In March, AU will send detailed instructions for creating your AU user account. It is essential that you create your AU user account in a timely manner to avoid delays in accessing your course. 

Application Deadline: Rolling admissions until all spots are filled.

Questions: Email hsss@american.edu. If you wish to speak with someone, please email this address and request a time to talk. 

Course Topics and Descriptions

Recent advances in the study of genome function reveal the fluidity and flexibility of the information encoded in our DNA. Gene structure, gene positioning within chromosomes, non-coding DNA sequences and the chemical structure of the nucleotides are all factors in how genetics impact our daily lives and development. Biotechnology is the collection of tools scientists use to manipulate and modify genomes for use in pharmaceuticals, medicine, agriculture and the criminal justice system. Techniques including polymerase chain reaction (PCR), DNA sequencing, and molecular cloning allows us to isolate and characterize portions of DNA, so we may ultimately create new DNA sequences, new proteins and even entirely synthetic organisms. In this course, students will devise a CRISPR-Cas based research project. This will include DNA and protein sequence analysis, reading scientific literature, and scientific communication. This project will provide first-hand experience in the biotechnology field of genomics. 

This course examines contemporary issues in Asia focusing on political and social challenges of a region where the United States has significant interests in a broad array of spheres. The course offers an overview of current problems and emerging challenges shaping the political and social agenda, as the region deals with the development imperative and adapts to new trends in the 21st century.

Organizations such as governments, businesses, scientific research groups, and financial institutions more increasingly rely on data to make decisions. This course seeks to enable students with the ability to understand and explore data from a variety of sources. Students will be introduced to the R programming language and use technical skills to answer questions. Students will learn how to organize data, perform calculations and create visualizations. Most importantly, students will learn how to carry out the data science process and convey insights from data.

This introductory course, designed for students who are interested in learning the fundamentals of using science to solve crime, provides a basic overview of the crime scene investigation process, and the issues involved in the presentation of forensic evidence in court. Students learn about the identification, documentation, and collection of physical evidence, including fingerprints, shoe impressions, hair and fibers, firearms evidence, and questioned documents. The class discusses the impact of television and other media on the field of forensic science.

Fundamentals of Law will introduce you to the American legal system, law, the role of the lawyer, and legal writing. We will learn about the structure and function of the legal system, and look at the process of resolving grievances through the courts. Additionally, we will review the key substantive areas in criminal and civil law, highlighting controversial issues in each. Finally, we will learn about the different roles that lawyers and judges can play, as well as their unique ethical obligations. Throughout the course, you will learn how to use legal terminology, conduct legal writing, and examine the many interesting facets of the American legal system.

This course approaches health care as much more than an individual- or local-level activity. Rather, it is embedded in a complex global system of health threats and responses. This arena, global public health, brings together scientific, economic, and political issues, and its outcomes affect billions of lives. We will discuss the historical development of the field, the state of public health around the world (including but not limited to the COVID-19 pandemic), and the prospects for addressing current and future health threats. Politics and advocacy movements surrounding public health will be a particular focus, as well as explorations of how COVID-19 is situated within broader debates in the field. Finally, this course is designed to be a college experience and will emphasize the critical analysis and other skills that are required for university-level work.

This course is designed to introduce students to the role that intelligence plays in international security. The class will begin with exploring the relationship between intelligence and security, examining the different ways nations seek to protect themselves. The course will move on to assess the nature of contemporary threats by focusing on what constitutes a threat and by discussing whether today's threats are more challenging than those of the past. Finally, the class will investigate the tough choices policy-makers are forced to make on a daily basis. Threats, responses, and intelligence are rarely crystal-clear, necessitating a set of very high-stakes decisions by national leaders. The follow-up assignments will allow students to explore these issues in greater depth. Students will finish the course with a deeper appreciation for the nuances of security studies, threat assessment, and intelligence analysis.

The course will seek answers to some of the most pressing questions facing today's world. For example, what are the main challenges international businesses face when navigating the increasing patterns of global interdependence and trade? How are goods, people and ideas moving around the world in new ways? If globalization goes beyond our borders, it underscores the fact that problems such as financial crises, conflicts, and environmental concerns are now experienced on a global scale, affecting countries, businesses and communities. The recent pandemic illustrates how important it is to understand the link between public health and economic activity. This class will be interdisciplinary in nature in order to reflect the challenges international businesses and entrepreneurs face in today's globalized world. This class will therefore examine the intersection of globalization, economic development, political science, the environment and gender issues. Through the use of videos, newspaper articles and other media tools, we will uncover what it means for businesses and individuals to be globally oriented in today's world.  

Diplomacy has been a significant form of interaction between sovereign entities since antiquity. In our time of tremendous social, political, and economic change, diplomacy persists as a prominent feature of international relations. It has been alternatively reviled as facilitating war and misperception, too antiquated to mitigate global issues, yet also praised as the only useful process for peace and effective communication. In this course, we will explore how scholars and practitioners have viewed diplomacy, offering arguments about its function, practice, limits, and response to change.

The course examines why and how individuals organize to influence government in the development of public policy. Students are introduced to interest group politics, effective advocacy, the tools of political communication, and policy development and analysis. The course will examine critical domestic policy areas, such as energy, environment, education, health, justice, and economic stability.

Students interested in medicine, the behavioral sciences, or life sciences will learn how the structure and function of the nervous system relates to human memory, learning, emotions, and sensations; and how psychologists understand normal and abnormal behaviors in terms of these processes. Over the last twenty years, knowledge of the brain has been greatly enhanced by the development of new neuroscience tools and techniques to examine neuroanatomy, neuropharmacology, and neurophysiology. Students will learn how to interpret results of brain imaging and neuropsychological tests, which are used to probe the functioning of the human brain in both normal and abnormal states. Students will also learn about the value of animal models to understanding brain structure and function. They will perform simulations of brain and spinal cord of sheep dissections; and study the structure of nerve cells (neurons) and nerve pathways that connect our extremities to the central nervous system via the peripheral nervous system. The neurons of these systems are able to conduct signals based both on electrical current and chemically-mediated neurotransmitter-receptor mechanisms. Students will read primary literature and design experiments to test their own hypotheses on how changes in neurotransmitter levels affect behavior and nervous system development. Students will be able to apply what they learn to what is known about psychological conditions such as addiction, schizophrenia, and depression.

This course begins by introducing students to the concept of sustainable development. Development professionals, engineers and city planners interested in sustainability must take a series of factors into consideration when designing products, projects and cities that will have lasting impacts on the planet, human populations and local, national and international economies. As problem solvers, these actors can play a fundamental role in resolving development challenges – or in making them worse. In this class, we will examine what drives the need for environmentally and socially sustainable design, explore leading theories and concepts from the field, and work together to come up with potential solutions to real-world scenarios. Some questions we will discuss are: What does it mean to design products that are good for people and for the planet? How do we build products without negative social and environmental impacts? How can development staff and engineers apply their skills to address problems in developing countries? This course explores these questions through a combination of sustainable design exercises, film excerpts, peer-based activities and instructor lectures.

Summer 2023

Applications for Summer 2023 are now live.

Apply now

Program Benefits

  • Earn college credit
  • Enjoy personal instruction from your college professor
  • Gain in-depth insight in a field of interest
  • Bolster your college applications
  • Have an official AU transcript sent to any college to which you are applying