What is SPARC?

SPARC — the Summer Program on Applied Rationality and Cognition — helps talented high school students apply their quantitative thinking skills to their lives and the world. SPARC is hosted in Northern California for around two weeks, typically in late July and early August. Room and board are provided free of charge.

The curriculum covers topics from causal modeling and probability to game theory and cognitive science. But the focus of SPARC is on applying the same quantitative and rigorous spirit outside of the classroom. How can we understand our own reasoning, behavior, and emotions? How can we think more clearly and better achieve our goals?

Even when the content is challenging, the atmosphere is relaxed and centered on experiences. Classes are small and discussion-based, activities range from programming labs to estimation markets to periods of self-reflection, and invited speakers include academics, CEOs, and philanthropists.

Perhaps most importantly, SPARC students are surrounded by a community of thoughtful students, junior counselors, guests, and instructors. For many participants, discussing and sharing ideas outside of class is the most important part of SPARC.

The program is free for all admitted students.

For more information about SPARC, check out our FAQ or our video from 2014. We also have a podcast that you can listen to to get a sense of what SPARC is like.

Update (2/28/2021): SPARC 2021 will still be held virtually again this year, running for 10 days from July 31 to August 9 2021. From running a 2 month long virtual SPARC last year, we feel ready to now adapt SPARC to an intensive summer experience that is fitting for a virtual environment. Applications are now open!