Iowa Young Writers’ Studio: Why You Should Join

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Three students studying together outdoors at the campus grounds.

Iowa Young Writers’ Studio: Why You Should Join

The Iowa Young Writers’ Studio is a summer creative writing program for high school students hosted by the University of Iowa. It’s a great place for young writers to share their work with teachers and other students, get helpful feedback, and hone their writing skills.

At the Studio, budding writers have the chance to grow through writing exercises and activities, and they can also enjoy readings and other fun literary events. It’s all about getting better at writing and having a good time with others who love it just as much.

If you are an upcoming college student and want to pursue a writing-related degree in college, the summer program is a great way to prepare you for a more intense writing experience. More importantly, this is an effective way to improve your college application profile.

What is the Iowa Young Writer’s Studio?

The Iowa Young Writers’ Studio is a fun and inspiring creative writing program made just for high school students. It mixes serious learning with the joy of creating, giving young writers the perfect space to improve their writing skills. They get to work with some amazing, experienced teachers and mentors, many of whom come from the famous Iowa Writers’ Workshop and other top writing programs at the University of Iowa. This means students get to learn from the best in the field!

The program is based at the Magid Center for Writing and offers various options to fit what you’re looking for. You can choose a 2-week summer session that’s available both in-person and online, or opt for a longer 6-week course that you can take online during the summer or winter.

Group of students walking in the campus.

The Studio inspires students to try out various writing styles, express themselves openly, and provide thoughtful and respectful feedback to others. It believes that learning creative writing is beneficial for anyone looking to write professionally, anyone wanting to excel in a world where writing is key, and any young person trying to figure out who they are and make sense of their experiences.

How does the Iowa Young Writer’s Studio work?

The Studio offers two primary programs: the Summer Residential Program and the six-week online creative writing courses.

2-Week Summer Residential Program

High school students get into two weeks of creative writing at the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio’s Summer Residential Program. They get to choose a main course to focus on throughout the session, taught by instructors who’ve graduated from the famous Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Options include the following:

Creative Writing

This course covers the three major genres: poetry, fiction, and personal essay, focusing on universal elements like language, image, voice/point of view, structure/story, setting, and character. If you enjoy working across multiple genres or are eager to explore new forms, the Creative Writing course offers the perfect opportunity to expand your skills.


For those drawn to the short story or novel, the Fiction course explores specific challenges such as character development, dialogue, stream of consciousness and interior monologue, and the use of various narrative points of view. You’ll learn how to manage plot and time and create immersive settings, deepening your grasp of fiction writing.


This course explores poetry, focusing on voice, image, metaphor, and the structure of lines and language. It’s ideal for those passionate about poetry, offering a chance to engage with the craft alongside a close-knit group of fellow poetry enthusiasts.

TV Writing/Writers’ Room

Join a team-oriented course where you collaborate to adapt a public-domain short story into a TV series. As part of this group, under the guidance of an instructor acting as showrunner, you’ll craft a pilot script and learn about TV story structure, character arcs, and more. This course is perfect for anyone passionate about dramatic TV and collaborative writing.


Targeting theatre enthusiasts, this course focuses on crafting dialogue, characters, settings, and plots to complete a one-act play. You’ll do a lot of reading and critiquing each other’s work, alongside studying dramatic texts from established playwrights, to enhance your understanding of the craft.

a female student writing to a piece of notebook

In these courses, students share their work, getting and giving valuable feedback. They’ll participate in various writing exercises to sharpen their skills. Beyond the classroom, the program offers extra fun, like readings by published authors, workshops on writing techniques, discussions on writing-related topics, and group projects. There are also exciting social events like open mics and talent shows, perfect for making new friends and having a great time.

Students attending the in-person sessions will stay in double or triple rooms (with one or two roommates) in Catlett Hall, the University of Iowa’s newest dorm. Meals will be served at Catlett Market Place, the university’s newest dining hall. Please note that commuting is not an option.

6-Week Online Courses

The Iowa Young Writers’ Studio has some cool online writing courses that run for six weeks in the winter and summer. The winter session runs from mid-January to late February, and the summer one runs from late June to early August. They take a break in the fall, so there are no courses offered then.

You can sign up in September and October if you want to join the winter courses. Registration happens in March and April for the summer ones. You can always check their website for the latest updates. These courses are open to high school students in grades 9 through 12 from the U.S. or anywhere else in the world. Just make sure you’re comfortable with reading and writing in English.

These online sessions are different from the Summer Residential Program. They focus on your willingness to learn about writing more than just your current skills. You’ll spend about 3-4 hours a week writing, reading, giving feedback, and chatting in online discussions. It’s a great chance for students who are really into boosting their writing skills.

These online courses are asynchronous, which means you can tackle the assignments and join the discussion forums whenever you have free time—there’s no need to rearrange your schedule for live classes. However, it’s important to remember that while you can work at any hour of the day or night, you’ll still need to hit weekly deadlines.

The Iowa Young Writers’ Studio at the University of Iowa is about improving your writing and making you love it even more. They aim to make learning creative writing straightforward and essential for all students, not just those who want to become professional writers. After all, being a good writer is super helpful in today’s world.

Writing at the Studio is about more than words on a page. You’ll get to try different types of writing, like poetry, stories, and non-fiction. You’re encouraged to discover your unique writing style and share your creations in a friendly setting.

Close up of a person writing on a table.

In the summer of 2024, they will offer three of these online courses:

  • Writing From Everyday Life: Nonfiction and Personal Essays – Nonfiction Writing (by Wyatt Williams)
  • Sense of Witness: Poetry and Perception – Poetry Writing (Danielle Wheeler)
  • A Perusable Feast. Creative Writing
  • Forget Ready, Forget Set, Go! Fiction writing 

How to Get Into the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio

Getting into the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio is competitive but definitely worth the effort. Whether you’re interested in the Summer Residential Program or the 6-week Online Courses, knowing how to navigate the application process and make your application stand out is key. Here’s a handy guide to help you through it.

Determine Your Eligibility

The program is open to 10th, 11th, or 12th grade students. Exceptionally talented 9th graders can be considered.

Students from outside the U.S. are also welcome.

Choose Your Program

Decide between the Summer Residential Program and the 6-week Online Courses. Each offers a unique experience, so consider what fits your needs and interests best.

Applying to the Summer Residential Program

Step 1: Know the Key Dates

The application period for the 2024 sessions opens at 1:00 AM (Central Time) on January 22, 2024, and closes at 11:59 PM (Central Time) on February 4, 2024.

  • Session 1: June 16-29
  • Session 2: July 14-27

Step 2: Prepare Your Application Materials

  • Writing Sample: Up to 10 pages of your best creative work in your chosen genre.
  • Statement of Purpose: A 1-2 page essay on why you want to join and what you hope to achieve.
  • Letter of Recommendation: From a teacher or mentor who knows your writing well.

Step 3: Submit Your Application

  • Register and apply via Submittable during the application period.
  • Upload your writing sample, statement of purpose, and have your recommender submit their letter.
  • Pay the $10 application fee (waivers are available if needed).

Sorority members studying together

Applying to the 6-Week Online Courses

Step 1: Check the Application Deadline

You can submit your applications for the Summer 2024 6-week online courses through Submittable, an online submission platform, starting from March 1st at 1 a.m. CST until April 21st at 11:59 p.m. CST. Please note that we won’t be able to accept any applications after the deadline, with no exceptions.

Step 2: Gather Your Documents

  • Statement of Purpose: 300-500 words describing your interest in the course.
  • Permission Form: Signed by a parent or guardian.
  • Teacher Statement of Support: Attesting to your suitability for the course.
  • Transcript: Showing a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Step 3: Complete the Online Application

Use Submittable to submit your application, including all required documents. There is no fee involved!

What are the fees involved to participate in the Iowa Young Writer’s Studio?

Please take note of the following fees for both the Summer Residential Program and the Online Courses:

Program Application Fees Program Fees Deadline
2-Week Summer Residential Program $10 $2,500 May 15, 2024
6-Week Online Courses Free $575 May 26, 2024

Important note on financial aid:

Financial aid is available for those who qualify based on need. Each year, the company offers several full and partial tuition grants. Once accepted, students must complete a financial aid application, and awards will be distributed in the spring. The Studio encourages everyone interested to apply!

Who is eligible to join the Iowa Young Writer’s Studio?

Take a look at the criteria in order to participate:

Eligibility Criteria

  • Grade Level: The program primarily targets students who are currently in the 10th, 11th, or 12th grade. However, you’re encouraged to apply if you’re a 9th grader with exceptional talent and maturity.
  • Academic Standing: There are no strict GPA requirements, but a good academic record can strengthen your application.
  • International Students: If you are from outside the United States, you are welcome to apply. The Studio values the diverse perspectives that international students bring.

Is it difficult to get into the Iowa Young Writer’s Studio?

In essence, getting in is difficult but not impossible. Getting into the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio is quite competitive due to its popularity and the high-quality experience it offers. Every year, talented young writers from all over the world vie for a spot, making the competition intense. The selection team closely evaluates the writing samples submitted, looking for your unique style and the emotional depth of your words beyond just grammar.

To make your application stand out, choose a writing piece that showcases your personal voice and style—something you’re really proud of. Your personal statement and recommendation letter are also key; they need to highlight your passion for writing and your desire to advance your skills. Be honest and clear in your personal statement about why you want to join, and pick a recommender who can sincerely endorse your writing and commitment.

Remember, applying is about securing a place and an opportunity to reflect on your passion for writing and share that enthusiasm. Even if you aren’t accepted, the application process is a valuable part of your writing development. So, keep writing, keep improving, and keep sharing your stories.

Residential Program or Online Courses: Which is the better option?

If you’re trying to figure out which program might be best for you or other high school students looking to boost their college applications, here’s some guidance.

The Iowa Young Writers’ Studio offers both online and residential programs, and choosing between them depends a lot on your summer plans and what kind of learning environment you thrive in.

a student looking for other colleges

The online courses could be a perfect fit for those of you with a busy summer—maybe you’ve got another program lined up, an internship, or even a part-time job. They last 6 weeks and are flexible, allowing you to manage your writing around other commitments. But if your summer is wide open and you’re craving a more engaging and hands-on writing experience, the 2-week residential program could be just what you’re looking for. This program, available both in-person and online, is immersive and lets you dive deep into writing while forming close bonds with your instructors and fellow writers.

Cost is another thing to consider. The in-person summer residential program costs more than the online courses, although financial aid is available for both. The residential program is particularly great if you value small class sizes and want the chance to really connect with everyone in your group.

Ultimately, the choice comes down to what kind of experience you’re after: an intense, community-oriented program that’s short and sweet, or a longer, more flexible course that fits around your other summer activities. Whatever you decide, both paths offer valuable opportunities to grow as a writer.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Where is the 2-Week Summer Residential Program hosted?  

The in-person Summer Residential Program is held right on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City. Everyone stays in Catlett Hall, the university’s newest dorm, which sits beautifully along the Iowa River.  As for living arrangements, you’ll share a room with a roommate since all the rooms are doubles. Don’t worry about getting paired up randomly—there’s a questionnaire you fill out to help match you with someone you’ll get along with. There’s always a Residence Hall Manager on hand, day and night, just in case you need anything.

2. How many people apply to the Iowa Young Writer’s Studio?

Every year, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop selects 25 fiction writers and 25 poets from a pool of more than 1,500 applicants.

3. Will I earn college credits from joining?

The Summer Residential Program at the Studio does not provide college credit for participation.

4. If I join the residential program, can I go to the venue by commuting daily?

The Young Writers’ Studio is a live-in program, meaning that even local students are required to stay in the residence hall throughout the duration of the program. Classes and scheduled activities are just one aspect of the Studio experience; living alongside fellow writers is an integral part of the learning process

5. What if I have already paid and need to cancel? Will I get a refund?

If you cancel or withdraw before June 1, 2024, a $50 cancellation fee will be deducted from your refund. After that date, any refund requests will no longer be honored.

Side view of a female student reading

6. When do I find out about my application?

After you apply and the application period ends, you’ll be waiting to hear back about your application. The Studio usually tells everyone if they got in or not by early Apri through email. For the 2024 program, they sent out these notices by April 5th.

The Iowa Young Writer’s Studio is an excellent opportunity for high school students to start looking at the world more critically and develop skills they’ll use throughout their lives. It’s where students can elevate their reading, writing, and presentation abilities over the summer, really getting a jump on skills that matter.

Considering your interest in programs that help improve college applications, like the Congressional Award program you’ve looked into before, the Iowa Young Writer’s Studio could be another valuable experience to consider. It can help showcase your commitment not just to academics but also to personal growth and community involvement—qualities that top colleges often look for. At AdmissionSight, the goal is to maximize your chances for college admissions success by highlighting such comprehensive involvements.


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