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What is the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio?

Iowa Young Writers’ Studio is a summer creative writing program for high school students offered by the University of Iowa. There are two programs available: the 2-week summer residential program and 6-week online courses. Young Writers’ Studio provides students the opportunity to share their writing with teachers and peers, receive constructive feedback, and continue to develop their skills.

What is the structure of the residential program?

As of 2023, both in-person and online versions are offered with two sessions: one in June and one in July. For students participating in the in-person program, they will live in a double or triple room (with one or two roommates) in Catlett Hall, which is the newest dormitory on University of Iowa’s campus. They will be eating in Catlett Market Place, which is the university’s newest dining hall. There is no option to commute.

Each day begins with Morning Reports, a time for announcements and making sure everyone is up to speed. Afterwards is time for Stretch, a group writing exercise led by a faculty member. Additionally, every Tuesday and Thursday morning, students will join different groups for Observatories, which are writing exercises usually outdoors. Observatories give students the chance to observe the world (so they can then describe it), and students will also be able to work with a teacher they haven’t worked with before. Of course, though, the main focus of the program is each student’s core course.

Core courses — available in fiction writing, poetry writing, creative writing, TV writing, and playwriting — are taught by graduates of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. These courses are supplemented with readings by published writers, workshops, discussions on adjacent subjects (like film, mental health), and collaborative projects where small groups of students work together. Each student must choose one and only one to participate in. These classes are small with 10 or fewer students, and the course is divided into seminar and workshop components (with the same instructor teaching both). The seminar component is for you to engage in writing activities related to readings, and the workshop component is a time of collaboration where you will receive constructive criticism on their writing from their peers and teacher. Note that these core courses are not for college credit.

You will also have time to socialize and get to know your peers another beyond the classroom. The program schedule includes open mics, talent shows, icebreakers, and social gatherings. On top of these activities, during free time between classes or before curfew, students participating in the in-person program can explore downtown Iowa City.

What is the structure of the online courses?

For 6 weeks during the summer (courses are also available during the winter), students will participate in online courses taught by graduates of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. They are required to complete 3-4 hours of engagement per week, which includes writing assignments, reading, critiquing peers’ writing, and partaking in online discussions. The format of this program is asynchronous; so, students can finish these engagement assignments on their own time as long as they meet weekly deadlines. The 3 online courses offered in summer of 2023 are based on (1) poetry writing, (2) creative writing, and (3) fiction writing.

Note that these courses are not offered for college credit either. However, those who complete a course with a passing grade will receive a Letter of Completion. Students will be able to download a file with their final letter grade once the course is over as well.

Who is eligible?


Applications are accepted from students (both in and outside of the United States) currently in 10th, 11th, or 12th grade. 9th graders still may apply, but it is rare that they are accepted.

Online Courses

Applications for online courses are accepted from 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th graders both in the United States and abroad.

How does the application process work?


There is a rather early application period for this program. Application materials are accepted starting late January, and the period ends early February.

The most crucial part of the application is your writing sample, especially since there is no minimum GPA requirement. Depending on which kind of writing you are interested in (fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, TV writing, playwriting), the requirements for your writing sample (such as the page limit and prompts) are different. Admissions decisions are almost entirely based on your writing sample. You will also need to write a statement of purpose, provide a letter of recommendation with someone familiar with your writing (likely an English teacher), and submit a transcript (can be unofficial).

There is a $10 reading fee to apply, which goes directly to those who read and evaluate the writing samples. But, to prevent the fee being a hindrance to any applicant, the fee will be waived without penalty for students unable to pay, so there will be an option to bypass the fee on the application. You can find more details about the application here.

Online Courses

The application period for summer online courses is later in March and April (September and October for winter courses).

When applying to online courses, you must submit the following: a statement of purpose, permission form from a parent or guardian, teacher statement of support (similar to a letter of recommendation), and high school transcript. All students must be enrolled in high school and have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0. Admissions decisions are generally based on a student’s level of enthusiasm and eagerness for writing as well as dedication to engage in the course.

There is no cost to apply for summer online courses. There is more detailed information about the application here.

How much does the program cost?


The in-person residential program session requires a $2,500 fee, whereas the online session costs $575.

There is aid available for applicants who meet the need-based requirements. Every year, the program grants several full tuition grants and several partial tuition grants. Accepted students will be asked to fill out a financial application and awards will be made in the spring.

Online Courses

The fee for each online course is $475. There does not seem to be a financial aid program for online courses.

Our Review

You may be wondering which program may be better for you — or for high school students in general who want to strengthen their college applications.

Taking an online course with the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio program may be a better option for you if you have other time commitments (such as another program, an internship, a part-time job, etc.) for the summer. However, if you find yourself having no other commitments, and you are looking for a more involved, engaging experience, the residential program (either in-person or online) may be the option for you. Note, however, that the residential program is only 2 weeks, whereas online courses go on for 6 weeks.

Another factor to consider is the program fee. The summer residential program, especially the in-person session, costs more than the online courses (but financial aid is still available). On the other hand, if you are looking for small classes where you can interact with each of your peers and have a close relationship with your instructor, the residential program provides that for its students.

Of course, there are other aspects of each program to consider. Even so, at the end of the day, it is a decision between whether you want a more intense, immersive or an asynchronous, less time-consuming experience.

Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you are passionate about research then you could consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students to connect with researchers from prestigious universities. Last year, we had over 2100 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.

Rachel is a first year at Harvard University concentrating in neuroscience. She is passionate about health policy and educational equity, and she enjoys traveling and dancing.

Image Source: Iowa Young Writers' Studio logo


1 Comment

Larry Malley
Larry Malley
Jul 27, 2023

Rachel, thanks for the article. I'm wondering what the Young Writers' Studio is in this area. Perhaps by enrolling here, I could improve my writing skills and learn how to write correctly and beautifully? I just need this, because recently I needed help with writing personal statement I decided to entrust this to specialists. I was confident in the quality of my work, as it was carried out by guys with higher education. This makes me very happy. Another advantage that I have identified for myself is direct communication with writers.

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