The Blank Summer Institute for the Arts & Sciences (BSI) is a prestigious one-week residential summer program for 120 of Iowa’s most talented 7th- and 8th-grade students, nominated by their schools. BSI provides exceptionally talented students with an intensive and advanced educational experience designed to enhance their intellectual and social growth. Each student selected for BSI will receive a $325 Blank Scholarship to cover a portion of the Institute's costs.

About the Program

BSI is currently on hiatus due to COVID-19. Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter to stay updated on our new offerings, and check out our other student programs.

Spend weekdays on the University of Iowa campus, immersing yourself in one of your favorite subjects, in a class full of other kids your age who share your level of interest and ability. Each of the students in your class will represent a different school, giving you a once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet Iowa's brightest and most promising middle school students. For the duration of the program, you will live together in a residence hall and experience life as university students. Evening and weekend activities include seminars, cultural and recreational activities, and off-campus field trips.

BSI's plan of study is intended to complement the regular school curriculum, offering eight rigorous courses which are typical of high school and college level. Neither grades nor academic credit will be given for participation in BSI. However, participants will be expected to show a high level of motivation and achievement.

I liked developing new ways to see the world that I had never thought about before.

BSI Student


Advanced Science

Grades 7-8

June 21 - June 26, 2020

Through laboratory experiences and hands-on learning, students will have an opportunity to examine advanced science concepts.

Creative Writing

Grades 7-8

June 21 - June 26, 2020

This course will be modeled after The University of Iowa's renowned Writer's Workshop. Students' written work will focus on the life and themes of Iowa.  

Invention & Innovation

Grades 7-8

June 21 - June 26, 2020

This program will build on inventive talents through a fast-paced curriculum designed to foster mechanical inventiveness. 


Grades 7-8

June 21 - June 26, 2020

This experiential course will allow young people to learn how to lead themselves and then how to lead others. We will examine a variety of leadership styles and skills, identify each individual’s strengths and passions for making a difference, and learn how to create positive impact. We will build a foundation for them to stand on centered around values, teamwork, and communication in order to ignite the potential of tomorrow’s leaders.  


Math Problem Solving

Grades 7-8

June 21 - June 26, 2020

This course will develop mathematical problem-solving skills and techniques within the context of topics not traditionally found in the standard math curriculum.   

Performing Arts

Grades 7-8

June 21 - June 26, 2020

An in-depth exploration into the world of theatre. Students will study playwriting, acting, and directing as they focus on the collaborative aspects of theatre. 

Social Science

Grades 7-8

June 21 - June 26, 2020

This course will allow students an in-depth study of social sciences concepts, issues, and analysis. The course will focus on historical and political perspectives.  

Visual Arts

Grades 7-8

June 21 - June 26, 2020

Students will expand on their talents through studio-based experiences and exposure to multiple genres in the visual arts. Genres may include painting, drawing, sculpture, and multi-media. 

How to Apply

While the application process is straightforward, planning ahead is essential. Schools must first nominate students (one per BSI class), and then students must submit a complete application. Here's all the information you and your school will need in order to complete the process.


You must be nominated by a school official in order to apply for the Blank Summer Institute. Parents may not nominate students. All current 7th- or 8th-grade students enrolled in Iowa public or approved private schools are eligible for nomination. You do not have to be identified by or enrolled in a talented and gifted program to be nominated.

All nominated students should be highly motivated and possess high levels of task commitment and emotional maturity.

In addition, some of the special qualities that are desirable for each of the courses are:

Advanced Science

  • Inquisitive mind
  • Good problem-solving skills
  • Outstanding performance in science classes/activities

Math Problem Solving

  • Strong analytical reasoning and problem-solving abilities
  • Unusually high math reasoning ability
  • Outstanding performance in math classes/activities

Social Sciences

  • Awareness of social issues
  • Appreciation for social relationships
  • Understanding of institutions and functions of society

Creative Writing

  • Ability to convey ideas in writing
  • Enjoyment of the writing process
  • Good imagination

Invention and Innovation

  • Good mechanical ability and a tendency to tinker
  • Willingness to see things differently
  • Perseverance on projects

Visual Arts

  • High-quality portfolio
  • Enjoyment of the artistic process
  • Ability to express and convey ideas through visual arts

Performing Arts

  • Enjoys performing
  • Ability to express and convey ideas through drama, dance or music
  • Good imagination


  • Good communication
  • Ability to convey vision and purpose
  • Willingness to empower others and understand human nature

Nomination and Application Process

Nominations open: TBA 

All application materials must be submitted online by: TBA.

For each school, we will accept only one application (grades 7 or 8) per each of our eight courses. Schools must develop their own selection process to determine the eight students they will nominate. All nominations must be made by school officials, not parents. Nominate a student here.

Once you are nominated, you must apply for the class. When you apply online, you will need to submit the following:

  • Your demographic information
  • Email addresses for two adults who will provide letters of recommendation: one from someone who knows your abilities and another who can speak to your character. (These may not be a family member or friend.) These two adults will be sent an electronic form which they must complete and submit to the Belin-Blank Center by the application deadline.
  • 250-500 word essay on your interests and achievements in the nominated area
    • Talented students may manifest their talents through involvement in co-curricular activities. Nomination committees will pay special attention to hobbies and other interests, awards, or participation in competitions or contests (e.g., science fairs and art contests) that may demonstrate ability or talent in the course areas.
  • 250-500 word essay on your interest in attending the Blank Summer Institute
  • Grades and test scores (if you're applying to Math, Science, Social Sciences, or Global Studies, or Invention)
  • Portfolio (if you're applying to Writing, Performing Arts, or Visual Arts)
    • Please upload two examples of your work in electronic format. This can be writing samples, audio/video files, photos, etc.


Faculty and staff from the Belin-Blank Center will evaluate completed applications. Selected students will be notified by TBA.

Applications for this program have closed. However, you may still log in if you have already applied.

After You're Accepted

You can look forward to a life-changing week! Here you can find answers to all the pressing questions you may have while making your plans to join us.

Cost & Financial Aid


Each student selected for the Institute will receive a $325 scholarship which covers a portion of the Institute's costs. Each student will pay a program fee of $750 to cover the remaining costs. Together, the scholarship and the program fee cover all instructional costs, room, board, books, and admission to all regularly scheduled activities.

The program fee does not include transportation to and from the University of Iowa or incidental expenses, such as souvenirs and snacks. You and your family are responsible for these expenses.

Payment Deadlines

You must either pay in full or have arranged monthly installments or a payment plan (see Payment Options) by the first day of the program in order to participate in the Blank Summer Institute. All fees are payable to the Belin-Blank Center.

Payment Options

There are three options to pay program fees:

  1. Pay the entire amount on a credit card.
  2. Pay in three equal installments using a credit card.
  3. Set up an individualized payment plan for the balance remaining after the scholarship and any awarded financial aid are applied. Payment plans are available by contacting the Belin-Blank Center at 319-335-6148.

Financial Aid

If selected, you may apply for financial aid, in addition to the $325 scholarship, when you enroll in the program. Financial aid is awarded on a first-come-first-served basis, while funds are available. Eligibility is typically determined by qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch. After your information is reviewed, a decision will be made, and you will receive an email regarding the amount of your award. Awards will be applied directly to your program fees.

Daily Schedule

You will attend classes from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., and 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The typical schedule for each day looks like:

  • 7:30—8:30 Breakfast
  • 9:00—12:00 Class / Lab
  • 12:00—1:00 Lunch
  • 1:00—4:00 Class / Lab
  • 4:00—5:30 Free time
  • 5:30—6:30 Dinner
  • 6:30—10:30 Evening activities
  • 11:00 Lights out

Evening and weekend activities include special seminars, off-campus field trips, and cultural and recreational activities. We carefully select activities to complement the program. For this reason, all activities, including the weekend activities are required.


You will be supervised at all regularly scheduled events and activities. Supervision at the residence halls will be provided by a Belin-Blank Program Coordinator and a residence hall staff specially selected and trained to work with and supervise students. There is approximately one resident advisor for every ten students. You are expected to live within the policies of the residence halls, the university, and the program.

Living on Campus

You will be housed in a residence hall located near the Blank Honors Center on the University of Iowa campus. Most program activities will take place within brief walking distance of the residence hall. Male and female students will be assigned to separate floors and all students will share a room with at least one other student.

In addition to academic programming, you will be able to participate in a variety of scheduled cultural and recreational activities selected by the staff, especially on the weekends. You will also have access to the University of Iowa libraries, computer facilities, and study areas.

Family Visits

We ask that your family inform staff of their plans so that arrangements can be made to facilitate any family visits. Because the program is dedicated to the development of a cohesive community, you may not have non-family visitors during the program.

Check-in / Check-out

Check-in for the program will be held from 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm on Sunday. The check-in process will begin at Catlett Residence Hall. All students should be checked in during this time. If you are unable to check-in during these times, please contact the Belin-Blank Center. The opening session for students and families will begin at 4:00 pm.

Check-out for the program will be held after the closing ceremony on Friday. The closing ceremony for students and families will begin at 1:00 pm and will conclude by 2:30 pm. Students should pack all their belongings prior to the closing ceremony.

Cancellation Policy

If you must cancel, please call the Belin-Blank Center at 800-336-6463 as soon as possible to decline the acceptance so that a student on the waiting list may attend. A $100 administrative fee will be retained for cancellations received by June 1st. Cancellations made after June 1st will not be refunded.


You may request a roommate once you have been accepted to the program and are asked to fill out enrollment forms. If you do not have a specific request for a roommate, you will be matched with another student from the program. Students who identify as transgender or have medical conditions or other unique circumstances may request a single room.

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