In 1980, faithful to its fundamental mission of discovering and cultivating talent, the Scuola Normale started its university orientation courses in Cortona, which today constitute an uninterrupted tradition of almost forty years and are one of the Scuola's defining activities.
The orientation courses of the Normale consist of periods of one week each during which the brightest students in Italy and elsewhere are invited – following a selection process – to attend an intense programme of lectures and meetings held by university professors, PhD students and people from the professional world, on a very wide spectrum of disciplines (including those not available at the Normale). The aim of the courses is to give high school students the opportunity to preview the university world and to form a more precise and direct idea. This helps future university students to base their choices on more solid foundations - sometimes even to challenge their previous certainties, or even to radically change their mind regarding their academic career.
In a dialogue that is always open and free, participants visit the future frontiers of scientific research, led by the most prominent scholars in their respective fields. It is an opportunity for exchange and friendship; the orientation courses cultivate and nurture a personal and collective hope, inviting the students to participate in the difficult exercise of complexity.
For the last two years, following the federation between the Institutes for Advanced Studies (SNS, Scuola Sant'Anna Pisa, IUSS Pavia), the range of orientation courses has widened, with the establishment of the "Scuola di Orientamento Universitario", which offers, in addition to the courses of the Normale, further courses, designed and organized in common by the three Institutes for Advanced Studies.