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Access Summer

Frequently Asked Questions

Writing & Thinking Workshop

Coronavirus Update

We regret to announce that, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 Writing and Thinking Workshop has been canceled. r.

If any of your questions are not answered below, please call the Workshop director, Tracy McCabe, at 847-735-5234 or email wtw@mx.lakeforest.edu 

  1. Applying
  2. Who We Are
  3. Costs
  4. Residential Life 
  5. Off Campus
  6. More Information


Who may apply?

We welcome applications from young people who love to write and will have finished 9th, 10th, or 11th grade by the time the Workshop begins.

When can students apply? What is the application deadline?

Students can apply at any time. There is no deadline. We have rolling admissions, meaning we consider applications in the order they are received until the program is full. There is still space available.

Who We Are

Why are you called a writing and thinking workshop?

We believe that the act of writing is a way of thinking. In the words of British author E.M. Forster, “How do I know what I think till I see what I say?” Participants learn creative strategies for getting their ideas on the page with ease and then shaping them into stories, poems, personal narratives, and much more. Participants are not required to focus on a single genre, as they are in some other writing programs. Finally, our program is affiliated with the Bard College Institute for Writing and Thinking.

What else makes your program unique?

Our proximity to Chicago, a one-hour drive south of Lake Forest, allows us unprecedented access to a wealth of cultural resources. To fuel writers’ creativity, we have visited the Art Institute of Chicago, the Neo-Futurist Theatre, and Millennium Park, home to outdoor concerts and stunning architecture.

Anything else?

We keep the program small because we believe that participants gain confidence in their voices when they belong to a small, supportive writing community. Each section consists of nine to twelve participants, in addition to the workshop leader and a residential mentor. At the end of each of the two weeks, everyone in the program comes together to share work and celebrate all we have written together.

Will this program improve participants’ writing for college?

Yes. Although the program does not focus on academic writing, it is modeled on the Workshop in Language and Thinking required of all students entering Bard College in New York. Thus, it is designed to prepare participants for the kinds of writing and thinking they will be asked to do in college. The unique and creative strategies we teach help participants develop confidence, stronger and more flexible voices, and proficiency in using writing as a tool for exploring ideas. These are all crucial in both academic and creative writing. In the words of a participant, “I learned that all writing can be creative.”

Who are the workshop leaders? 

They are veteran high school teachers who have been with our program for well over a decade. The workshop leaders are also longstanding Associates of the Bard College Institute for Writing and Thinking. The program director is also an Institute Associate and a professor at Lake Forest College.

What is the daily schedule like?

A typical day consists of writing in a workshop setting during the morning and early afternoon, with free time in the late afternoon. Guiding participants through a variety of writing experiences, workshop leaders help young writers find inspiration and translate their ideas into fresh, powerful language. During workshop time, participants also begin to shape their initial writing into more finished pieces. They have many opportunities, structured and not, to share their writing with others and to get one-on-one feedback from their workshop leaders. Participants also find inspiration while writing during off-campus outings.

What do students do in their free time?

The residential staff plans many activities, like games and movies in the dorm and a talent show. There is also downtime for relaxing, solo writing, and hanging out with new friends. Participants may be asked to read a short piece of published writing in the evening.


What is the tuition? What does it cover?

The cost covers tuition, meals, housing, and all off-campus activities. For 2020, the total cost is $2,050.

Is there financial aid available?

There is a small amount; we are a not-for-profit program. Awards are need-based and distributed on a first come, first served basis. There are no merit scholarships. The financial aid application form is attached to the rest of the application form online.

Can deposits be reimbursed if students do not attend? Can the tuition be reimbursed if participants leave the program for any reason?

Deposits and tuition will not be reimbursed without documented medical difficulties or documented family emergencies. Tuition is also not reimbursed if participants are asked to leave because they have violated program rules or choose to leave the Workshop before the final day.

How do students who are flying to the Workshop get to campus?

There is a $40 round-trip fee for our shuttle from O’Hare airport, which is a 45-minute drive from campus. There are also taxis that charge a flat rate of about $45 one-way and accept credit cards. We do not provide transportation to or from Midway Airport, although we can explain how to travel from Midway to O’Hare where participants can get our shuttle. Participants can also take Amtrak to downtown Chicago and switch to a suburban, commuter train that comes to Lake Forest.

Residential Life

Where do participants live? Can participants commute?

They live in an air-conditioned Lake Forest College residence hall. Each participant lives in a single or shared room. Participants have keys for the front door of the residence hall, their own rooms, and shared bathrooms.  The program is residential only, and participants may not keep cars on campus.

How are participants supervised in the residence hall?

Four residential mentors live in the dormitory with participants, overseeing their safety and social lives. The residential staff consists of Lake Forest College students, alumni, and area high school teachers, all hired and trained by the Workshop Director. These staff members attend workshops with participants, plan recreational activities, and mentor students as writers and young people.

Are participants allowed off-campus without supervision?

Participants are permitted to walk the several blocks to the shopping district of the small, safe town of Lake Forest, which is located about an hour’s drive north of Chicago. Participants may also walk to the Lake Michigan beach, a mile away. We have a sign-out system whereby participants indicate their destinations. Participants must return to the dorm in all cases by 10:00 pm for a community meeting.

Where do participants eat?

Participants eat their meals in the Lake Forest College dining hall, which offers vegetarian options. Parents are welcome to discuss gluten-free options and other dining needs in advance with dining hall managers. The dining hall is peanut-free.

Are there athletic facilities available?

The Sports and Recreation Center is not available to participants in summer programs, but Lake Forest is a beautiful and safe community perfect for running.

Off Campus

How are participants supervised during off-campus outings?

For the most part, staff and participants stay together as a group during the off-campus outings to the Art Institute and Millennium Park, which are tourist destinations located in the well-populated, safe, and vibrant heart of downtown Chicago along the beautiful Lake Michigan shore. We also have visited the unique Andersonville neighborhood, home to independent bookstores, distinctive restaurants, and locally owned shops. At times during these outings, participants are permitted to sightsee on their own in smaller groups for short periods. Everyone receives a map, phone numbers, and instructions on when and where to reconvene. 

More Information

Do participants earn college credit?

No, they do not. (Lake Forest College, however, offers for-credit summer classes.)

How many students usually attend, and what is the gender breakdown?

28-33 attend; typically three-quarters are female.

Where are participants from?

We have had participants from all around the Midwest as well as California, Alaska, Toronto, Puerto Rico, Florida, Alabama, North Carolina, New York, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, to name a few.