Can you write a good story? Are you a poet? If you interested in honing your skills, consider pursuing an MFA in creative writing. These programs are usually two years in length and there is a surprising amount of financial support for students in MFA programs. MFA programs are widely available that focus on poetry or fiction writing, though some have more specialized genres.
Creative writing course formats
MFA programs are typically residential, on campus programs that last two years. Some, like at Seton Hill University, are “low residency” format, which means students only need to come to campus on a limited basis and their courses may be delivered online.
How to apply for creative writing programs
Writing sample requirements
The application process typically includes all the usual items in a graduate school application, and also a writing sample. This is often considered the most important part of the application. It is common to require 20-30 pages of fiction, although the requirement for poetry applicants is shorter. Here are some examples of what schools require in the application process:
- Maximum of 30 pages, double-spaced, which can consist of one or more stories or part of a novel. If an excerpt from a longer work is submitted, please include a one-paragraph description of the work as a whole.
- Fiction: No more than 25 double-spaced pages–one or several stories, a portion of a novel, or a combination. If submitting a novel excerpt, please attach a brief plot synopsis.
- Nonfiction: No more than thirty double-spaced pages of nonfiction of literary quality–one or a combination of works of memoir, personal essay, opinion, reportage, biography, and/or criticism. Academic papers are acceptable though not encouraged; the faculty committee will evaluate them on the basis of literary skill rather than scholarly excellence per se.
- Poetry: No more than ten single-spaced pages of poetry, with no more than one poem per page.
- Prose applicants should submit a writing sample of sufficient length to allow us to judge the applicant’s work not to exceed 40 pages, double spaced, of fiction (part of a novel or several short stories).
GRE requirements for MFA programs
The GRE is often required but not always. It is sometimes required by the university, but not considered as important as the writing sample by the MFA admissions committee. These schools do not require the GRE (let me know if you find one that has changed their requirements).
|Arizona State University|
|George Mason University|
|Georgia College & State University|
|Minnesota State University – Mankato|
|Sarah Lawrence College|
|Seton Hill University|
|Soutern Connecticut State University|
|The New School|
|University of Arizona|
|University of California – Riverside|
|University of Michigan|
|University of New Hampshire|
|University of North Carolina – Wilmington|
|Virginia Polytechnic Institute|
|Wichita State University|
These schools do require the GRE in their application process:
|Florida State University|
|Iowa State University|
|Johns Hopkins University|
|Louisiana State University|
|New York University|
|North Carolina State University|
|Ohio State University|
|San Diego State University|
|University of Alabama|
|University of Arkansas|
|University of California – Davis|
|University of Central Florida|
|University of Florida|
|University of Illinois|
|University of Kansas|
|University of Montana|
|University of Nevada, Las Vegas|
|University of New Orleans|
|University of North Carolina – Greensboro|
|University of Oregon|
|University of Texas – Austin|
|University of Utah|
|University of Washington|
|Virginia Commonwealth University|
|Washington University of St. Louis|
|West Virginia University|
|Western Michigan University|
List of MFA programs with high acceptance rates
These programs have high acceptance rates, relative to other MFA programs. Rates may change annually so be sure to double check on each program.
|Seton Hill University||64.29%|
|Sewanee: University of the South||60%|
|Pine Manor College||55%|
|Pacific Lutheran University||48.72%|
Hardest MFA programs to get into
These 10 schools are extremely difficult to get into because of their low acceptance rates. Be sure your writing sample and everything else in the application is strong and really up to the competition.
|University of Texas – Austin [Michener Center]||1.12%|
|University of Virginia||1.21%|
|University of Wisconsin – Madison||1.29%|
|McNeese State University||2.22%|
|University of Florida||2.4%|
|University of Illinois||2.44%|
|University of Massachusetts – Amherst||3.48%|
|University of California – San Diego||3.57%|
|University of Alabama||3.7%|
|University of Arkansas||4%|
List of MFA programs with scholarships
Many MFA programs offer full tuition remission and a stipend for the duration of the program. This is usually offered in exchange for teaching duties during the semester. Competition for admission to schools with high aid level tends to be significant. To be sure, there are many more schools that offer aid, so consider these aid policies a sample of what you might see in other schools.
|Adelphi University||We have generous scholarships, internships, and teaching opportunities including the chance to teach a section of the undergraduate course “Introduction to Creative Writing.” All applicants are eligible and automatically considered for one of 12 partial tuition remissions.|
|Chapman University||All MFA applicants for fall semester admission are considered for the fellowships. To be considered, the application must be received by February 1. To find out more about these fellowships and other scholarships, please contact us at (714) 997-6750 or contact the chair at firstname.lastname@example.org.|
|Columbia University||Columbia University School of the Arts and Columbia University Student Financial Services work carefully with students to arrange the financing of their degrees. Loan packages, fellowships, scholarships and other options are available for eligible students. It is recommended that any applicant wishing to be considered for financial aid complete all necessary financial aid applications by February 15, 2013. Please see our Financing Your Degree page for information.|
|Minnesota State University – Mankato||The Department of English employs about 30 teaching and research assistants at stipends of approximately $9000 over two semesters. Assistants receive full tuition remission for up to 18 credits over the academic year (two semesters). All graduate assistants are required to enroll for a minimum of six credits per semester. Assistants are provided office space and have faculty library privileges.Teaching Assistants in the Department of English typically teach freshman composition. The TA Director provides a supportive atmosphere where assistants learn composition theory and pedagogy. In addition, assistants are trained in the latest methods of computer-assisted writing instruction. For more information, visit the English Graduate Assistantships web page and also see the [PDF] GTA Vacancy Notice (263 KiB) and [PDF] GTA instructions (49 KiB) for screening criteria.Other assistantships are available from Student Affairs, Learning Center, Memorial Library, and Residential Life offices of the University. For a list of available graduate assistantships, visit the Human Resources Job Posting web page on the College of Graduate Studies web site.|
|Seton Hill University||Seton Hill is dedicated to finding and keeping the students who will benefit most from a Seton Hill education. Potential graduate students who have financial need benefit from a variety of special programs and opportunities – including tuition discounts, loans, internships and military benefits – that make a Seton Hill education possible for most qualified students. http://www.setonhill.edu/admissions/tuition_and_financial_aid/graduate_programs/financial_aid|
|Soutern Connecticut State University||For every incoming class, we are able to offer a limited number of Graduate Assistantships that waive all fees and provide $9600 for the year. However, we work hard to find other means of financial support, including administrative graduate assistantships (20 hours of work each week in an administrative or support office), competitive graduate assistantships, fellowships (available during the second year, with fees waived and an award of $12,000), and adjunct teaching positions. At times, as many as 20 of our students at once have held funding. So, although we are unable right now to offer conventional tuition-waiver-plus-stipend GTAs to all incoming students, we are able to offer significant opportunities for funding and are dedicated to helping our students.|
|Temple University||The minimum admission standard for all graduate students is an undergraduate grade point average of “B” or 3.0 (see bottom of page for exceptions), or the functional equivalent for students who have attended universities outside of the United States. In general, a minimum GPA of 3.25 is required for teaching assistantships, and a minimum GPA of 3.5 as an undergraduate is required for university fellowships.|
|The New School||Speak to an admission counselor if you are concerned about costs. The New School will work with you to help you finance your graduate studies.. All accepted students are automatically considered for New School merit-based scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships.|
|University of Massachusetts, Amherst||MFA CANDIDATES ARE FUNDED THROUGH A RANGE OF APPOINTMENTS including Teaching Associate, Teaching Assistant, and Research Assistant position; fellowships; and paid internships. Currently, approximately 90% of full-time candidates are funded at a level sufficient to bring a waiver of tuition and most fees. In addition, the MFA Program offers several smaller fellowships and awards each year. All applicants are considered for MFA fellowships and for nomination for Graduate School Fellowships. The GRE is not required for admission to the MFA Program. However, it is recommended should you hope to be competitive for Graduate School Fellowships.|
|University of Minnesota||The Office for Diversity in Graduate Education administers the DOVE Fellowship, awarded to first-year students from underrepresented groups. The fellowship provides a $22,500 stipend, tuition and health benefits for one academic year. Graduate programs nominate prospective students who have applied for admission. Please submit your “Diversity Statement” under Statement #2 on the Apply Yourself application if you feel you fit the guidelines outlined in the application. If you have questions about this fellowship, please see http://www.grad.umn/edu/outreach/McNairScholars/index.html|
|University of New Orleans||There are a number of assistantships available. If you’d like to apply for a graduate assistantship, you can download the Graduate Assistantship Application.
The assistantship application will ask for a statement of purpose. You must write a separate statement for that application.
|Washington University of St. Louis||Because of our selectivity and size, we are able to offer all our new students full and equal financial aid. For first year students, this is in the form of a university fellowship which provides a complete tuition waiver plus a stipend sufficient for students to live comfortably in our relatively inexpensive city. The amount of the stipend is variable (it has risen each of the last five years), but for our students in 2013-14 it is $20,000. In addition, summer funding of $2,500 is provided between the first and second year. We also provide full and equal funding to all of our second year students in the form of a Teaching Assistantship which, again, includes a full tuition waiver, plus a stipend that, at present, is $19,250. To earn this assistantship, our students teach one section of an introductory creative writing workshop in their genres each semester of the second year (two sections total). There are also two university-wide fellowships for graduate students, which applicants to the MFA Program are urged to apply for separately: the Spencer T. Olin Fellowships for Women presently carry a stipend of $28,000 for each of the two years (please see the Olin Fellowship website), and the Chancellor’s Graduate Fellowships, for students who contribute to the diversity at the university, presently carry a stipend of $29,500 for each of the two years (please see the Chancellor’s Graduate Fellowship website). All MFA students receive health insurance through Washington University.|