Best Art and Writing Summer Programs for High Schoolers 2021

Are you applying for art or writing programs at college? Or are you looking to add a wrinkle of creativity to your overall admissions strategy? The following summer programs can certainly have admissions value, especially if you follow through on the experiences with recs or submissions to competitions or literary magazines.


***If you’re looking for the 2022 list, you can check it out here: Best Art and Writing Summer Programs 2022***

If you haven’t already, please check out my original article on identifying worthwhile summer programs before determining what programs you want to apply to. There are certainly many more programs than the ones listed here, but for the arts, there isn’t a ton of consensus on the quality of certain programs. 

Again, I want to apologize for grouping all of these categories together. The decision to group these disparate fields into one post is simply because there aren’t enough worthwhile programs out there to warrant separate lists. The reasoning for grouping these subjects together is that most of these programs have little standalone value, but they can be great experiences to get mentored in developing a portfolio of work. Whether you’re trying to submit your visual arts or creative writing to literary magazines, Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, or you’re submitting an art supplement with your applications, carving out a dedicated amount of time over the summer with mentors to guide you can really help you get the work done. 

I’ve tiered the programs into two categories: A-Tier, B-Tier. You’ll notice that I didn’t include an S-Tier here, as I don’t think any of these programs stacks up to a Telluride, RSI, or MOSP type program in terms of admissions value and competitiveness. I decided not to rank the programs this time since it’s hard to compare art to writing programs. 

A-Tier: Competitive Programs

Creative Writing

Iowa Young Writers’ Studio
Program Dates: Session 1 — June 13th – 26th, Session 2 — July 11th – 24th
Application Deadline: February 7th, 2021 (passed)
Cost: $575 per session (financial aid available)
International Students: Yes

Kenyon Review Young Writers Online
Program Dates: Words and Wonders — June 13-18;  Observation Meets Imagination* Words and Wonders — June 27-July 2; Writing Across Worlds — July 12-17; Writing Across Worlds — July 26-31*
Application Deadline: March 1st, 2021
Cost: $995 per week-long course (financial aid available)
International Students: Yes

Emerson College – Creative Writers Pre-College Program
Program Dates: Virtual — July 2nd – August 7th
Application Deadline: March 1st, 2021
Cost: Credit Tuition – $4,310, Non-Credit Tuition – $3,531
International Students: Yes

Adroit Journal – Summer Mentorship Program
Program Dates: June 21st to August 2nd
Application Deadline: March 22nd, 2021
Cost: $295
International Students: Yes


Walter Cronkite School of Journalism – Summer Journalism Institute
Program Dates: Early June 2021
Application Deadline: TBD
Cost: Free
International Students: 

Asian American Journalists Association – JCamp
Program Dates: TBD 2021
Application Deadline: TBD 2021
Cost: Free
International Students: Yes

Princeton Summer Journalism Program
Program Dates: Mid-June to Early August
Application Deadline: February 22nd, 2021
Cost: Free
International Students: No

Visual Arts

Interlochen Center for the Arts – Visual Arts High School Summer Program
Program Dates: 1 week programs from June 19th – June 25th, 3-week programs from June 26th – July 17th
Application Deadline: January 14th, 2021 for programs that require audition/portfolio; rolling admissions otherwise
Cost: 1-week programs – $1,625, 3-week programs – $6,250 (financial aid available)
International Students: Yes

Otis College of Art and Design – Summer of Art Online
Program Dates: Virtual – July 6th – July 30th (2x/week or 3x/week or full 5x/week programs, 4 weeks)
Application Deadline: Scholarship deadline – April 2nd, 2021; Deadline for Early Enrollment (EE) discount – April 30th, 2021
Cost: 5x/week program – $2,800 ($2,700 for EE), 3x/week program – $1,800 ($1,700 for EE), 2x/week program – $1,000
International Students: Yes

These programs are all pretty competitive, though not on the level of the top overall summer programs.  They are some of the best experiences you can have for each of the fields listed.

For creative writing, Iowa’s Young Writers’ Studio is one of the best. Iowa is known to have some of the best creative writing programs in the country and their summer program from high school students is no different. They offer 2 two-week sessions that are reasonably priced for an online setting. Kenyon Review Young Writers Online is also a great program that offers themed week-long programs that are a little more expensive. If you’re looking for a more involved program, look to Emerson College’s Creative Writers Pre-College Program, though it will come with a higher price tag. The Adroit Summer Mentorship Program boasts a lot of success from their alumni in admissions and publications. But overall, it deserves a spot on this list because of the value in the price and length of the program. Overall, the creative writing experience won’t lose too much in the virtual format compared to some of the other programs, as much of the value in the experience is getting feedback/edits on your writing through Google Docs. For these programs, expect to submit some of your own creative writing pieces in the admissions process to demonstrate your passion for the craft. 

For journalism, the Walter Cronkite Program is a great experience. Students there focus on broadcast and digital journalism through students hands-on experiences from reporting to production to camera work. Participants get to work in Arizona State’s state-of-the-art broadcast facilities as well as tour local newsroom for the actual experience. JCamp was founded to address the shortage of diversity in the media, emphasizing multicultural perspectives. Students there participate in workshops, field trips, and hands-on instruction from professional journalists in a variety of areas, including writing, photography, broadcasting, and more. Princeton’s Summer Journalism Program is for talented current juniors from low-income households. Students similarly participate in workshops and lectures, tour leading news outlets, cover real events in preparation for the publication of their own newspaper. One of the best aspects of PSJP is the mentorship that students receive from staff after they return home.

For visual arts, Interlochen and Otis as some of the best experiences. This is certainly debatable, as art itself is quite subjective, but these programs are respected by their peers. Interlochen has programs not just in visual arts, but performing arts, creative writing, and music as well. Otis has a number of programs that culminate in a final exhibition. Visual arts programs overall are tricky because I don’t really know how they will translate in a virtual format. Add in the price tag for these programs, and you really need to evaluate the overall value of the program. Just as in real-life, visual arts is a pursuit that is easiest to accommodate if your family has the means to support the interest. 

College Admissions Services

Schedule a Free Consultation

Meet with a mentor one-on-one via video chat to talk about your son/daughter’s admissions plan. Afterwards, receive a no-obligation Customized College Roadmap (CCR) with advice on courses, extracurricular activities, standardized tests, and Admissions Angle strategy. 

B-Tier: Great Experience for Building a Portfolio

Creative Writing

Sewanee Young Writers Conference
Program Dates: Virtual, June 27th – July 10th
Application Deadline: Review of applications starts February 19th, 2021
Cost: $1,200
International Students: Yes

University of Massachusetts Amherst – Juniper Institute for Young Writers
Program Dates: July 12th – July 23rd (one or two weeks)
Application Deadline: Scholarship – April 12th, 2021, Regular – May 17th, 2021
Cost: $900 for one week; $1,700 for two (financial aid available)
International Students: Yes


Medill-Northwestern Journalism Institute
Program Dates: June 28th – July 23rd
Application Deadline: March 15th, 2021
Cost: $2,600 (financial aid available) 
International Students: Yes

Columbia Scholastic Press Association – Virtual Summer Journalism Workshop
Program Dates: June 21st – July 30th
Application Deadline: Rolling admissions
Cost: $849 per 1-week session ($300 discount for each additional class)
International Students: Yes

Boston University Summer Journalism Academy
Program Dates: Session 1 — June 21st – July 2nd; Session 2 — July 5th – July 16th; Session 3 — July 19th – July 30th
Application Deadline: Session 1 – June 11th; Session 2 – June 25th; Session 3 – July 9th
Cost: $1,200 (financial aid available)
International Students: Yes

Visual Arts

Rhode Island School of Design – Advanced Program for High School Students
Program Dates: Session 1 — June 21st – July 18th, Session 2 — July 19th – August 15th
Application Deadline: Registration opens March 1st
Cost: $5,200 (Certificate program)
International Students: Most likely

Parsons Online Summer Intensive Studies
Program Dates: July 6th – July 29th
Application Deadline: Register by June 30th, 2021
Cost: Early discount – $2,950, $3,250 otherwise (3 credits award)
International Students: Yes

School of Art Institute of Chicago – Early College Program Online Summer Institute
Program Dates: Session 1 — June 21st – July 9th; Session 2 — July 12th – July 30th; Session 3 — August 2nd – August 20th
Application Deadline: Financial aid/scholarship deadline – March 1st, 2021
Cost: Half-day – $1,740; Full-day – $3,480 (financial aid available)
International Students: Yes

This next set of programs are also programs that many have heard of, though they are not quite as competitive. Their placing in B-Tier again is debatable (especially the art programs), but you can see that many of them don’t really even have application deadlines, showing how competitive they are. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for an mentorship experience in a field you love and time carved out over the summer to get an art of writing portfolio put together, these programs could certainly be for you. As usual though, try to make sure to weigh the cost of the program to the length of involvement and the overall cohesion with your admissions strategy. 

Recent Articles