Become part of a community of scholars

Through activities with your peers, become part of a close-knit community and create new friendships with other highly talented and engaged high school students from rural and small-town high schools across the Heartland! Connect with WashU upper-division students, faculty, and staff who also hail from rural and small-town Heartland communities.

Through a combination of lectures, discussion, and hands-on activities, students will learn about developing interpersonal, leadership, and academic skills. The program will also explore the process for highly-selective university admissions with the guidance of WashU admissions officers. Students will be exposed to the kinds of academic and professional development opportunities available in an urban center through group activities, including social activities, that showcase the city of St. Louis.

The all-expenses-paid program will be hosted on WashU’s campus. All food, housing, and activities will be provided free of charge. Program participants must reside in on-campus housing for the duration of the program.

Program dates

Sunday, July 14 – Saturday, July 20, 2024.

How to apply

The application will open on November 1, 2023.


  • Must be a current high school sophomore, who is at least 15 years old or will turn 15 prior to July 1, 2024.
  • Must attend a rural or small-town high school within the United States.
  • Students of any citizenship who meet these criteria are eligible to apply.

Submitting the application

  • Submit the online application.
  • Provide an up-to-date high school transcript.
  • Provide a response to the short essay.
  • Provide a reference from your school who can tell us more about you.
  • Applications will be accepted online beginning on November 1, 2023, and will close on March 1, 2024.
  • All materials must be submitted by March 1, 2024.

Free tuition

  • Thanks to a gift from Washington University in St. Louis alumna and Emerita Trustee Joyce Buchheit and her husband, Chauncy Buchheit, program participants will receive a scholarship to cover the cost of the week-long program including food, housing, and activities.
  • Participants can apply for funding to cover travel expenses.

How do we define rural and small-town?

We use data from the US Census Bureau and the National Center for Education Statistics to determine which communities are considered to be “rural” or “small-town”. The Heartland Initiative serves high schools in rural or small-town communities within the WashU Pledge territories (Missouri and southern Illinois). Most rural areas have populations of less than 50,000 residents and are located several miles outside of an urban or suburban area. If you are unsure whether your high school would be considered rural or small-town, please contact Dacoda Scarlett at

Design thinking workshop

This multi-day workshop provides students an overview of approaches to design thinking, which is an experiential, visually oriented process of identifying, creating, and implementing solutions to problems. Together we will study the importance of play and the value it brings to public spaces. Students learn hands-on methods for understanding people, synthesizing gathered information, identifying opportunities for design, prototyping, and communicating key concepts.


Lecture faculty

Amy Auman

Amy Auman

Lecturer, Communication Design

Audra Hubbell

Lecturer, Communication Design

College admissions workshops

Dacoda Scarlett

Associate Director
Office of Undergraduate Admissions

Phil Layfield

Assistant Director
Office of Undergraduate Admissions

Professional portrait of Lia Garofolo

Lia Garofolo

Assistant Director
Office of Undergraduate Admissions

Ariel Brown

Senior Assistant Director, Student & Family Engagement
Student Financial Services

Program contact

All questions should be directed to Dacoda Scarlett, Associate Director for Rural Recruitment, at