Back to the ACLU Summer Advocacy Institute


What is the application process for the ACLU Summer Advocacy Institute?

  • The application is open and can be found here. Each applicant must respond to an essay question and submit a teacher recommendation. We encourage students to apply as soon as possible. Space is limited and applications are reviewed in the order received (with priority given to students who apply earlier). 

A few spots remain in the 2018 class! Apply as soon as possible! 

How would you describe a highly qualified participant?

  • The ACLU Summer Advocacy Institute is looking for students who demonstrate a keen interest in civil liberties issues and social justice advocacy. Students are not required to have previous familiarity with civil liberties issues or advocacy methodologies (and those students who are already deeply immersed in civil liberties issues/advocacy will have a unique opportunity to deepen their skill-set and expand their organizing network).

Are scholarships available?

  • Yes, the ACLU is committed to providing scholarship opportunities for students who qualify based on family income. Full and partial scholarships will be available. Candidates can apply here.

How many students will be accepted to the ACLU Summer Advocacy Institute?

  • At this time, the ACLU plans to accept between 700 - 1000 highly qualified candidates to participate in the Institute.

Can current seniors apply to the Institute?

  • The Institute is designed for students entering their junior and senior years of high school. Current seniors should not apply to the Institute.

When will I find out if I have been accepted to the ACLU Summer Advocacy Institute?

  • The ACLU will notify candidates via email in as soon as possible and applicants will have approximately one week, time permitting, to accept and make a deposit on the Close Up website.

Who can I contact with application or scholarship questions?


What does a typical day look like?

  • The Institute has an academically and socially rigorous program schedule that runs from 9am - 10pm daily. Students will participate in both large group and small group activities. Large group activities will include a combination of lectures, seminars, and key-note speakers organized and facilitated by ACLU experts. Small group activities and discussions will be facilitated by Close Up instructors.

Where will the Institute take place?

  • Most programming and activities will take place at a local hotel in Washington, DC. Students will also have the opportunity to explore the surroundingF neighborhood and will travel to various sites in and around Washington, DC.

Will students have unstructured time?

  • Students will have a limited amount of unstructured time during the day. Each evening, students will have free time to socialize with their peers at the hotel.

Can students use the gym or pool?

  • Yes, students can use the fitness center between 6am-8:45am each morning.

Can you tell me more about the student experience during the Institute?

  • Upon arrival at the Institute, every student will be assigned to a homeroom group that will include one Close Up instructor and 20-25 other students. The homeroom groups will serve as a small community for students throughout the week where they will have daily debriefs and discussions with their peers. Close Up instructors will account for their 20-25 students throughout the Institute and will be available to help their homeroom groups with any concerns that arise.

Can students leave program during the week?

  • Students are discouraged from leaving program during the week. If necessary, students must submit a written request 3 business days prior to the date of requested leave. Not all requests will be approved. Any student found to have left the Institute without prior approval will be subject to immediate dismissal.

Will students have a curfew? Is there night security at the hotel?

  • All students must be in their hotel rooms at 11pm for room check. Each night, students are checked into their rooms by Close Up Night Monitors who are stationed on each hallway overnight for security and to address any needs that arise. Night monitors are Close Up employees who are stationed on each hallway from 11pm - 6am.

What are the rules of the Institute?

  • Safety and the well-being of the entire student body of the Institute is a top priority, and students must follow the rules outlined below at all times. Any rule violation will result in some level of adjudication. If found committing a violation, students will meet with a member of Close Up staff who will then decide the best course of action. Students found committing major infractions will be sent home.

  1. Alcohol, smoking, drugs, and weapons are forbidden.

  2. Abuse, defacement, or theft of property or facilities is prohibited.

  3. Students will respect other participants, staff, speakers and others, as well as the diversity of opinions they express.

  4. Student participation is expected on all program activities.

Is there a dress code?

  • Generally, dress is informal. Please be aware that summer in Washington can be very hot and humid, so be sure to bring light, comfortable clothing. We also recommend that you pack a good pair of walking shoes for off-site visits. Students will have the opportunity to participate in 1-2 evening social activities (e.g. a dance or theater) where they may want to dress up.

Will students need their laptop or tablet on program?

  • No, students will not need a laptop or tablet for academic programming. If students choose to bring electronics, students are responsible for their own devices and the Institute cannot be held responsible for any lost or stolen items.

What training and qualifications does Close Up Staff have?

  • You can learn more about Close Up staff at All Close Up instructional staff are college graduates, and have received over 120 hours of training including CPR, AED, and First Aid. Close Up staff has experience working with a diversity of students in and around the DC area. They will also have received specialized ACLU training for the Institute.

What is the supervision structure in place for the Institute?

  • Close Up will be utilizing its extensive 45 years of experience in programming for high school students to oversee the supervision of the students. Leading all of the Close Up Instructors is a Program Leader, who is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the student experience and logistics of the program including student safety. The Program Leader sets up expectations for behavior on the Institute during Orientation to ensure the building of a positive community and will address any concerns that may arise. The Program Leader will also assist students that need special accommodations. While we do maintain close supervision of students, we are a pre-college program that encourages students to be independent and reach out to staff as they need support. Like life in college, it is important to note that students may not be supervised at all times, such as during unstructured time.

Who should I contact with any questions or concerns before and during the ACLU Summer Institute?

  • For any concerns leading up to the Institute or while your child is at the Institute, please email or call (703) 706-3555

  • During the Institute, students should share any needs or concerns with their Homeroom Instructor who will share the information with all necessary Close Up and ACLU staff. In addition, Close Up has a 24-hour Emergency Hotline for students to call if they are unable to find a staff member. The number is printed on their nametag and schedule.


Where do participants stay during ACLU Summer Advocacy Institute?

  • Students will stay at a hotel in the Washington, DC area. More detailed hotel information will be posted on your Close Up student account.

How are students housed during the week?

  • There will be two students per room and each student will have their own bed. Students will be assigned a roommate; we do our best to house two students from different states together. We do not permit roommate changes and our experienced staff is trained to mediate any concerns.

Can students submit roommate requests?

  • In an effort to simulate a true college learning experience, we typically do not accommodate roommate requests. You will meet your roommate when you arrive at the Institute.

I live in the area, can I stay at home?

  • No, all participants must stay at the hotel to ensure a quality experience at the ACLU Summer Advocacy Institute.


Does Close Up provide transportation for students to and from the ACLU Summer Institute?

  • Transportation to and from the ACLU Summer Institute is not included in the tuition price. For an additional fee, Close Up offers travel from a limited number of major cities across the country. Close Up offers the opportunity to select the group travel package through June 1, 2018. If you apply after this date, you will need to arrange travel to and from the institute independently.

If students book their own transportation, what time does the ACLU Summer Advocacy Institute officially begin and end?

  • Please plan to arrive at the hotel for registration between 4:00pm - 5:30pm on Wednesday, July 18. The Institute officially ends Wednesday, July 25 at 9:00am. Please plan to leave the hotel between 9:00am - 11:00am.

Can students arrive in Washington a day before the ACLU Summer Advocacy Institute starts or stay late?

  • Close Up cannot arrange any travel, accommodations, or supervision before or after the Institute. Please note if you choose to make your own arrangements prior to program, a student will have to be 18 to check into a hotel room.


What are the required medical forms?

  • Each student must bring to Washington: 1) a completed Medical Questionnaire and Consent for Treatment Form that can be found on your Close Up student account and 2) your Health Insurance card or a copy of the front and back.

What if someone gets sick during the ACLU Summer Advocacy Institute?

  • Close Up partners with several leading health care providers; including Georgetown University Children's Medical Center (GUCMC) to ensure that students have access to quality health care should they get sick while on program. 911 emergency services are available around the clock - from when the ACLU Summer Advocacy Institute starts until it ends. Fortunately, Institute activities and the hotel are close to a number of excellent hospitals. Thus, help is usually not far away. For a non-911 situation, typically we will be in contact with a triage nurse at GUCMC to determine what course of action to take. In some cases, we will transport the student to GUCMC for diagnosis and treatment. GUCMC maintains a pediatric doctor on-call who will assist and make appropriate referrals. In the more serious cases, the student may be referred and transported to a specific medical facility for diagnosis and treatment. In others, a student might simply drink fluids and rest in her or his hotel room under the periodic supervision of Close Up staff. As an added precaution, Close Up program staff is trained in CPR, AED, and First Aid.

Does staff receive any medical training?

  • Yes. Close Up program staff is trained in CPR, AED and First Aid.

What if students do not have health insurance?

  • We recommend that all participants purchase travel insurance that has medical coverage. To purchase travel insurance or to receive additional information, please go to your Close Up student account.

Should students bring their own medicine?

  • Students should bring their own over the counter and prescription medication. Students are responsible for managing medications and are responsible for dispensing their own medications during the Institute.

What about an allergy, dietary restriction, disability, or other special need?

  • Please email with a detailed description of your allergy, dietary restriction, or special need as soon as possible to ensure there is enough time to make accommodations.


How much does the ACLU Summer Advocacy Institute cost?

  • A tuition fee of $2,895 per student covers all experiential learning activities, off-campus social events, and all student meals. Transportation to and from Washington, D.C. can be arranged by Close Up for an additional cost. Information regarding travel arrangements can be found in the Transportation section of the FAQs.

How is payment made for the ACLU Summer Advocacy Institute?

  • After acceptance to the Institute, the Close Up Foundation will email you with registration and payment information. You will make all payments through

Can students receive donations?

  • Yes! If someone would like to donate to your account, please direct them to visit and provide them with your Close Up participant ID# so they can contribute directly to your account. Donations can be made online using a credit card, debit card or electronic check. Close Up is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and our tax ID # is 23-7122882. Please consult your tax advisor to see if your contribution may be tax-deductible. Donations made to individuals are non-refundable.

How long does it take for payments to process and post online?

  • Online payments made by credit or debit card before 10:00 PM EST will be posted to your online account after 10:00AM EST the next day. Electronic check payments take 7 business days to process and post to your account. Payments by mail generally take about 2 weeks to process from the date they are mailed.

When are payments due?

  • The dates and deadlines for your program can also be reviewed through your student account on

Are payments refundable?

  • Per Close Up’s terms and conditions, the initial deposit payment is non-refundable and non-transferable at the time of payment. Should you request a refund prior to the 100% cancellation deadline, Close Up will refund any amounts paid over the initial deposit. All dates and deadlines, including the 100% cancellation deadline, are available through your Close Up student account.

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