The Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop

August 1, 2020
By AdmissionSight

The Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop: How to Participate and What the Program Has to Offer

The Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop is a program designed to help young writers and students stand out on their college applications while providing opportunities to communicate and collaborate with other student writers. The program also provides students and writers with critiques of their works from professionals in the field as well as prizes and scholarships for students who wish to continue their professional and academic pursuits in writing.

A male student raising his hand while other students listen intently

Initially established in 1939, the Kenyon Review provides a way for students to publish their works and gain recognition within the literary community. The literary magazine has earned a strong reputation within the professional writer’s community and is recognized for being the nonprofit journal to win the most O. Henry Awards for Short Stories.

The program earned further recognition by offering the coveted Young Writers Workshop, a two-week workshop-based program from June to July for motivated high school students. Designed to help eager students develop their creative and critical skills within language, the program provides a dynamic and supportive environment for student writers to challenge themselves alongside peers in order to develop strengths in their written work. In addition to developing new ideas, the workshop also allows students to further pursue those ideas in the forms of short stories, poems, prose, and essays.

The Program:

The Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop takes place in Gambier, Ohio at Kenyon College, a leading liberal arts university known for its literary studies programs.

Prospective students and writers are encouraged to immerse themselves in the college campus and life. This includes participation in several experiences including:

  • Living in dorms,
  • Writing in college classrooms
  • Enjoying world-class meals at the Peirce Dining Hall
  • Gaining access to the Kenyon Athletic Center

The program is open to all high school students between the ages of 16-18 years old. Most students accepted into the program are juniors or seniors in high school. This also provides students with another unique opportunity to stand out during the college admissions process. Because of the program’s distinct honour and history, students may not reapply for the program if they have already participated in previous years.

Young woman looking serious while studying.

With specialized workshops, a unique experience, and a variety of amenities and activities, the total cost of the program totals up to around $2,475. The total cost of the program covers tuition, all accommodations, meals, and activities. Unfortunately, travel costs are not covered through the cost of admission. In order to enrol in the program, students are also required to submit a non-refundable $500 deposit along with all other enrollment forms by April of the academic year with the rest of the tuition due no later than June.

In certain situations, the program offers financial aid to select students who qualify. Made on a case-by-case basis in conjunction with admission decisions, most students receive their requested financial aid. In addition to filling out the Kenyon Review Financial Aid section of the application, students are also asked to submit several other evaluation forms related to receiving financial aid such as tax returns or a personal statement explaining the family’s financial circumstances. This letter also provides students with a way to further demonstrate their persuasive writing skills.

Application Process:

Due to the recent safer-at-home policies as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kenyon College has made the unfortunate decision to close down their campus, thus cancelling the 2020 Young Writers Workshop program. Applications open for the 2021 academic year in February with a strict March 1st deadline. With a wide range of applicants every year, the positions are highly coveted and applications require a wide range of supplemental materials. These include:

  1. The online application form
  2. A 300 Word Essay
    • This essay should illustrate a particular moment when words have been meaningful to you.
  3. A high school transcript
  4. The name and email address of a teacher who will submit a letter of recommendation
    • The teacher provided will receive an email with a link which will allow them to submit their letters of recommendation. Letters can only be submitted once the application form has been completed. The Kenyon Review welcomes letters from teachers of a variety of disciplines but highly encourages a current or recent high school English teacher.
  5. Financial aid information
    • Including financial aid supporting documentation as well as the student’s personal statement on why they qualify.

The selection committee from the Kenyon Review pays particular attention to the 300-word essay during the admittance process. Additional assistance on crafting the essay can be found here on the AdmissionSight website.

As a highly selective program with only a small percentage accepted each year, close attention is also paid to the letters of recommendation. The program attempts to highlight students who show a passion for writing as well as thrive in both workshop and residential settings.

While the program may only be attended one year, students who do not qualify from their initial application are encouraged to reapply the following year.

Due to the large applicant pool, the program is, unfortunately, unable to provide individual feedback and criticisms on all application essays.

The Workshops:

Once accepted into the program, students participate in several workshops and campus activities at Kenyon College.

a female student studying inside a library

The workshops consist of groups of 12-14 students who meet for five hours each day. While the workshops themselves vary, the curriculum remains consistent between them. Students cover a wide range of exercises and techniques including:

  • Freewriting
  • Responding to writing prompts and assignments
  • Discussing assigned readings
  • Sharing and discussing each other’s work

Everyone in the classroom, including both students and teachers, write and share their works each day. The workshops are ungraded and students are not evaluated in any formal sense. Instead, the workshops are intended to emphasize techniques in which students can:

  • Recognize their strengths
  • Focus on growth and potential
  • Evaluate methods for revisions

In addition to the workshops are Genre Sessions which each student has the opportunity to sign up for. These sessions are three-part workshops designed to focus on specific genres or crafting elements. This unique opportunity allows students to interact with several different instructors during their program as well as meet with other students. The genres and subjects vary with each session and are provided prior to attending.


Instructors meet with each student individually for one-on-one conferences which are designed to focus on the specific strengths and weaknesses of each writer.

The instructors are chosen from a diverse pool of candidates from around the country who tend to have a long association with the Kenyon Review as well as the Young Writers Program. Several previous instructors have been published and featured in The Kenyon Review and have even included several Kenyon College alums. Notable alumni from Kenyon College include Young Adult author John Green and Pulitzer Prize-winning poets James Wright and Robert Lowell as well as the National Book Award winner William Gass.

Most instructors for the program have advanced degrees and teach creative writing during the academic year at both a high school and college levels. A majority of the instructors have also been teaching within the Young Writers Workshop for several years, thus maintaining a deep understanding of both the curriculum and philosophy of the program.

What Students Will Experience:

While the intensive workshops are both productive and demanding, the overall pace of the program is relatively relaxed when compared to the normal academic year. Weekdays during the program follow a detailed structure which can be found within the FAQ section of the Kenyon Review website.

students sitting on a staircase while studying

A normal day in the program consists of:

  1. Breakfast in Peirce Dining Hall
  2. A Beginning Workshop
  3. Morning Break
  4. Continuation of the Workshop
  5. Lunch in Peirce Dining Hall
  6. Finishing of the Workshop
  7. Free Time
    • This period is usually spent taking time to relax, exploring the campus, connecting with new peers, utilizing the Kenyon Athletic Center, or focusing on reading and writing assignments.
  8. Dinner in Peirce Dining Hall
  9. Evening Meeting
    • These mandatory daily meetings are held by the site director as well as other staff members. They are designed to fill students in on important information and upcoming events. They are also utilized to answer any questions, deal with problems, and focus on ensuring students know what is expected of them during the duration of the program.
  10. Evening Readings
    • During the first week of the program, a diverse group of published authors give readings and answer questions about their writing and their works.
    • During the second week of the program, students are also encouraged to share some of the pieces they have produced during their time in the program.
  11. Free Time
    • During this time, Resident Advisors plan a wide range of optional activities for students which include:
      • Coffee Houses
      • Movie Nights
      • Game Nights
      • Craft Nights
      • Dances
    • This time can also be utilized to complete any additional homework and assignments for the following day.
  12. Curfew / Quiet Hours
    • At 11:00 pm each night, Resident Advisors check each room in their hall to ensure that all students are in their rooms and quiet by the 11:00 pm curfew time.
    • These check-ins also provide students with a chance to ask any questions or address any concerns with their Resident Advisors.

The weekend schedule for the program is much less rigid with no formal workshops scheduled and only a few mandatory activities.

Living Quarters:

The Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop is a residential program and requires all participants to live on campus during the duration of their two-week program.

Students share a double-occupancy room in the air-conditioned dorms on campus. Resident Advisors for the program are current Kenyon College students and can provide insight and other relevant information related to campus life and history.

Halls for the program are separated by gender and each dorm has a variety of different amenities. These include:

  • A Lounge Area
  • A Kitchen
  • Laundry Facilities
  • Vending Machines

Students are also welcome to explore both the university campus and the Village of Gambier on weekends where Kenyon College is located. The town resides in a safe community surrounded by bookstores, a small market, a deli, coffee shops, a post office, and a bank. Kenyon College is also a walking campus which includes the dorms, dining hall, several classroom buildings, and event spaces which students are also free to roam.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are provided at Peirce Dining Hall and are included in the cost of tuition for the program. The dining hall offers a wide range of foods including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options at all meals. If students should have any other specific food allergies, they are asked to inform the staff prior to their attendance.

Program Rules and Guidelines:

In order to accommodate the diverse group of students on campus and adhere to the university’s specific policies and philosophies, students are required to read and agree to the Young Writers Community Contract. The contract includes a wide range of guidelines for students who attend the workshop. Some of these rules include:

  • Being held responsible and accountable for any damage to college property
  • Students are only allowed within their assigned halls and the shared common spaces
  • No alcohol, tobacco, or drugs are to be used at any time
  • No one is allowed to leave campus without permission
  • During the week, all students must attend all meals
  • No student is allowed to visit dorms other than the McBride dorms
  • Quiet Hours begin at 11:00 pm
    1. This means students must remain in their rooms and quiet until the morning
  • Students are responsible for their swipe cards, lanyards, and room keys.
    1. Replacement fees for each item range anywhere between $40 for swipe cards and up to $150 dollars for room keys.

Additional rules and regulations can be found on the Kenyon Review website under the FAQ section. Anyone who deliberately violates any of the rules of conduct will be sent home at the discretion of the Kenyon College staff and at their parent’s expense without refunding tuition.

With a wide range of literary magazine programs available to explore on the AdmissionSight blog, the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop remains a significant option due to its extensive and thorough programs and events. The Young Writers Workshop also provides excellent opportunities for students to excel in writing while receiving individual instruction and guidance from some of the country’s most renowned professional writers. In addition to diversifying students’ college applications, the program also provides a unique opportunity to develop skills and advance their emerging passions for future careers in writing.


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