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Summer Writing Institute

Summer Writing Institute
June 12-24, 2016

An Academic Program for Motivated High School Students

The Summer Writing Institute at Rhodes College takes place annually for two weeks during June and is an intensive residential academic program committed to developing the critical thinking and writing skills of ambitious high school students. Within the college′s liberal arts environment, students sharpen their reading and analytical skills and learn strategies for writing creatively and critically through coursework in the humanities and social sciences. At the end of the session, students receive a grade for their work and class participation, earn two college credits, transferable to any college or university, and will have completed a portfolio of college-level writing.


The goal of the Institute is to offer a structured, diverse, and inspiring writing community where students share their strengths, explore their potential, and develop their work. Sponsored by the Rhodes English department, the Institute emphasizes writing but also engages faculty from many college disciplines to expose students to a variety of subjects. Students choose traditional coursework in either creative or expository writing, and faculty teaching both types of courses emphasize the entire writing process from the seed of an idea to the completion of a story, poem, or essay. Through class discussions and peer workshops, each professor guides students in understanding others′ writing and in creating their own writing-expressing ideas, finding a voice, discovering a style, building a structure, and developing a theme or position.

Academic Overview
Admission and Tuition Information
Apply Online
Registration Forms and Information
Social and Residential Life
Daily Schedule

Academic Overview

Academic Work

Each weekday of the Institute, students attend a two-hour morning and two-hour afternoon class with the same professor and same small group (12-15 students). The long lunch break provides ample time for resting, completing assignments, and socializing. Students may request coursework in one of two categories:

Creative Writing Program

In creative writing courses, students read and study collections of fiction, poetry, drama, or creative non-fiction written by established and well-known authors, and they explore what makes literature a skilled craft. Critical analysis of the texts leads to discussions of writing strategies-point of view, literary device, structure-that students then employ and examine in their own writing through a series of exercises and peer workshops. By the end of the session, students will have completed a writing portfolio of their work.

Expository Writing Program

In expository writing courses, students read and analyze texts and subjects from literature, history, political science, or psychology and learn how to construct arguments about them. Professors spend class time discussing the issues raised in the reading and identifying why certain rhetorical strategies work and how students can achieve them in their own writing. This critical inquiry gives students the tools they need to develop their own positions and write their own expository essays, which then become part of the class′s collection of texts to discuss. By the end of the two weeks, students will have written their own anthology of essays.

Intellectual Engagement

In addition to traditional coursework, the Institute offers a variety of intellectual activities. In the evenings, students, Rhodes faculty, and guest lecturers participate in “Brain Candy,” an evening lecture and reading series with topics such as "Homer Economicus Responds to Incentives", "How liberated, really, is Sex and the City?” and "Terrorism and National Security.”

Outside of class time and lectures, students engage in study and writing groups with their peers and Rhodes undergraduates, meet independently with their professor, share meals with Institute faculty, explore the library for reading materials, use the computer facilities for writing assignments, and visit the Writing Center, where they can receive individual help from Rhodes undergraduates. Additionally, students may attend the “College Prep” sessions, where admissions officers and faculty share their experience with college admission policies and provide tips for getting into college.

Admission and Tuition Information


The college atmosphere and level of academic work require that students be rising high school juniors or seniors. In other words, high school student applicants, typically 16-18 years old, must have completed their sophomore year and must not have begun college by the time the annual Institute session begins in June.

Applicants must submit four documents to be considered for admission to the Institute and these documents must be RECEIVED in our offices no later than March 1st for early decision and April 15th for regular decision:

  1. An application.
  2. Most recent high school transcript including grades and standardized test scores (submitted with the online application). You will need an electronic copy of your transcript (PDF or JPG). 
  3. A teacher letter or teacher recommendation form.
  4. A 3-5 page, double-spaced academic writing sample: Applicants should upload a paper written for a recent class. If you are requesting admission to a fiction or poetry course, you may also include creative writing samples.


Completed applications, including teacher recommendation, transcript, and writing sample, are due in our offices no later than March 1st for early decision and April 15th for regular decision. There is no application fee. Accepted students must provide proof of health insurance before enrollment.

Rhodes College welcomes applications from all persons and does not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, color, age, religion, disability or national and ethnic origin in its admissions policies, loan programs, or other college educational programs, policies and activities.


Tuition covers all program costs:

  1. Creative or expository writing course
  2. Books
  3. Room accommodations
  4. Meals
  5. Use of facilities (pool, gym, tennis courts)
  6. Evening seminars
  7. Social events

Field trips are optional and students must pay their own entry fee (usually $10-15). Transportation is provided by the Institute.

Financial Aid

The Institute and Rhodes College makes every effort to offer tuition support to applicants with a demonstrated need for financial assistance. Applicants whose total family adjusted gross income (AGI) is less than $85,000 are eligible to apply for aid. 

To request aid, applicants should submit the online Financial Aid Application and upload a copy of the family′s tax return, along with all W-2s, 1099s, and Schedules C, D, E, from the previous year. Need-based aid is distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Apply Online

The application portal will be available beginning January 4th, 2016.



What kinds of students come to the SWI?

Summer Writing Institute participants are academically motivated students who have a particular interest in writing. They have mastered basic writing skills and want to learn the nuances of sophisticated rhetoric, narrative, or poesy. They often excel in their high school courses that require writing. They come from both public and private institutions and represent a range of educational experiences.

Does the SWI admit exceptional students with excellent academic records who have not completed the 10th grade?

SWI policy requires that students must complete the 10th grade before participating in the program. We do not make exceptions to this policy.

How many students are in the program and where do they come from?

About 60 students come to the SWI each year. Approximately 60% are from the South and Midsouth regions (TN, AL, MS, KY, GA, NC, AR, TX), 15% from the metro-Memphis area, and 25% from states outside the region (for example, NY, PA, AZ, MO, NM, IN, OH, CA, AK, Malaysia, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico).

Campus Living:

What are the living arrangements like?

Girls and boys are housed in separate areas of a single dormitory or in two different buildings and are prohibited from entering the halls and rooms of the opposite gender. Each student will have 1-2 roommates and each room is equipped with a bed, dresser, and desk/lamp/chair for each person. Each hall has bathroom facilities with cubbies for keeping toiletries. All buildings on campus, including dorms, have central air conditioning and a coed social room with a TV, DVD player, and microwave. Students eat all meals in the main Rhodes Dining Hall, a short walk from the dorms.

Can I live at home and attend the Institute during the day?

No. The Summer Writing Institute is a residential program and all students are required to live on campus.

In what ways are the students supervised?

Rhodes alumni and senior undergraduates serve as Resident Assistants for the Institute. RAs live in the dorms with the students and provide both assistance and supervision. RAs also eat meals with the students and accompany them on field trips and at social events. Faculty teaching at the Institute serve in a supervisory position during the school day, and the Director of the program is on call throughout the 12 days. In addition, Rhodes Campus Safety provides around-the-clock security for the community.

Can students leave campus with a parent or other friend/family member for a local outing?

Once students check into the program, they must remain until check out. This policy maintains the communal strength of the program and the rigorous academic schedule.

Can friends and family visit a student during the program?

No. Because the program is highly scheduled and lasts just 12 days, students will not have extra time for visitors. The Institute also promotes a tight community among its participants and visitors are not part of the program culture.

Are students allowed to have cell phones and mp3 players?

Yes. Students may bring such devices with them but will be asked to refrain from using them in class or after lights out.

Is there a dress code?

No. Students may wear typical, school-appropriate casual clothing. There is no “formal” event requiring suits or dresses.

Academic Work:

How do the “2 college credits” work?

Students who successfully complete the program will be granted 2 credits by Rhodes College which are transferable according to the policies of the home institution. To transfer these credits to other institutions, students must contact the Rhodes Registrar and request that their transcript be forwarded. 

Can students spend one week in the program if another commitment coincides with the SWI?

No. Because coursework constitutes 2 college credits, students must attend all 12 days of the program. Students who cannot meet that schedule are encouraged to participate another year.

Do students need to bring a computer?

Students will be required to type their work for class and may use the Rhodes computers and printers to do so. While students need not have their own computer, many bring a laptop or desktop for ease of use. 

Extracurricular Activities:

Do the students get to leave campus at all during the 12 days?

Yes. Students may elect to participate in several field trips to sites of local interest such as the Civil Rights Museum, the Memphis Zoo, STAX, and Sun Studios. These trips are optional. Transportation is provided but students must pay their own admission fee, which is usually $10-15. Resident Assistants accompany students on all field trips.

What kinds of activities outside the classroom do students participate in?

Social activities change from year to year; below are some examples of past events:

  • Optional field trips
  • DJ’ed dance party
  • Open mike / talent night (students may bring instruments)
  • Movie nights
  • Brain Candy lectures
  • Outdoor games / party    

Registration Forms and Information

If you have applied and been accepted, please click on the Campus and Program Policies & Guidelines Information link below for more detailed information. Submit by mail or upload the completed Health Information form, Statement of Responsibility and a copy of the front and back of your health insurance card.

Campus and Program Policies & Guidelines Information

Daily Schedule

Lecture and College Prep Schedule

Emergency Protocol

*Required forms:

Health Information*
(Please send a copy of the front & back of your medical insurance card along with your health information form.)

Statement of Responsibility*

Optional forms

What to Bring

Airport Itinerary Form

Social and Residential Life

Institute students experience life on campus as if they were Rhodes undergraduates, taking advantage of both the beautiful gothic architecture and state of the art academic and recreational facilities, including tennis and racquetball courts, basketball courts, a weight and exercise room, and a swimming pool. Students take their classes in Palmer and Clough Halls, the central academic buildings on campus, eat meals in the refectory, and live with roommates in dormitories separated by gender. Select Rhodes undergraduates serve as Resident Assistants who supervise, live and dine with the students. On the weekends and after daily activities, students come together in social settings for relaxation and friendship. Favorite annual events include trips to Memphis landmarks, Open Mike Night, and the Friday Night Dance.


Ambitious young writers from around the country participated in Rhodes’ 35th annual Summer Writing Institute. 

Ivy Thompson, Summer Writing Institute class of 2007 and now an undergraduate at Rhodes, talks about her college experience.

"Being at the Writing Institute gave me a preview of what the English classes at Rhodes might be like as well as the opportunity to meet many new friends. Almost 20% of the people at the Institute went on to become freshman at Rhodes, so it was a little less intimidating having a group of people you already knew pretty well (versus most freshman who don′t know anyone). The Institute went a long way to further my skills as a writer, and it allowed me to develop in a different genre than I had in the past."

-Patrick Hoover, Institute student and Rhodes Class of 2007

"The summer program at Rhodes gave me a unique opportunity to learn more about creative writing and gave me the confidence to continue writing in college. My fellow students were great, the professors were stimulating, and the setting was unbeatable-an amazing experience." 

-Cleve Wiese, Institute student and Rhodes Class of 2005

"I had a wonderful time at Rhodes this summer-my professor was challenging, but very eager to help, and the friendships and memories I made with people all over the country will last a lifetime."

-Caitlin Sullivan, Institute student and Rhodes Class of 2005

"I had the time of my life that summer-really! It′s so wonderful to be around other kids who share that kind of desire for learning. The teachers make it fun, not work, and the RA′s were always willing to help us." 

-Ashley Bowen, Institute student

"I wish I was back at Rhodes every time I walk in my English class. Nothing compares to that summer writing experience. I was in a class I enjoyed with a professor who was really knowledgeable and who taught what he did because he loved it. With only four hours in class and a good amount of freedom, there is no way to avoid your fellow students, and after the first day, you won′t want to. I met some fascinating, smart people I won′t soon forget, people I′d never expect to meet in my own school or neighborhood." 

-Hale Shepherd, Institute student

"This program was awesome. I learned many things about writing and met really cool people. The professors helped us improve our writing, and the RAs showed us a true college experience. What else could you ask for? 

-Sarah Gaputis, Institute student

Typical Daily Schedule

8:00-9:00am: Breakfast
Students eat breakfast in the refectory and work on their papers in the computer lab.

9:00-11:00am:  Morning Class Session
Mornings are usually devoted to discussion of the reading.

11:00-1:00pm: Midday Break
Students have lunch with their professors and Institute staff with time left over for a swim or game of tennis at the gym, a nap back at the dorm, or a rough draft in the computer lab.

1:00-3:00pm:  Afternoon Class Session
Afternoons often involve workshops and writing exercises.

3:00-5:00pm: Free Time
Students usually spend these hours discussing their day′s work, relaxing in the social room or their dorm rooms, and exercising at the gym. The College Prep series also occurs during this time.

5:00-6:30pm: Dinner Break
Along with the rest of the campus community, students eat dinner in the refectory and socialize in Middle Ground, the student lounge.

7:00-9:00pm:  Evening Activity
The evening lecture and reading series “Brain Candy” takes place after dinner, as do film viewings. Some nights, especially on weekends, this time is devoted to social events like Movie Night, Open Mike, and a dance.