Best Creative Writing MFA Programs: This could be one of the best periods in history to pursue a career in creative writing. A quick scan of the web, particularly social media websites, reveals a rising desire for material. This indicates a need for innovative and advanced writing abilities.
Do you intend to improve your creative writing abilities? Think about enrolling in one of the top graduate programs in creative writing. This list of the best creative writing MFA programs has been put together to help you get started in your search for a degree. The majority of these are actually low- or no-residency creative writing programs. This lists institutions that provide hybrid or online master’s degrees in creative writing.
A creative writer may have a variety of professional options available to them. To mention a few career opportunities in this industry, creative writers can produce books, work in publishing, advertising, or screenwriting.
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What Is a Masters in Creative Writing?
For those who are serious about pursuing writing as a career, a master’s degree in creative writing is a graduate program. Numerous writing workshops are typically part of the curriculum for a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. You’ll practice and hone your writing talents a lot in those classes. They might include a range of genres.
This program’s other courses may cover publishing and editing. You could also pursue a literary analysis or literature degree. Some institutions offer lessons on how to instruct others in writing. In this profession, an MFA is regarded as a final degree.
What Are the Career Possibilities for an MFA in Creative Writing?
The professional careers of novelists, poets, playwrights, and screenwriters can all be started with a master’s degree in creative writing. Some graduates might serve as an editor or an agency for other writers.
Your inventiveness might also be helpful to firms in their efforts to sell more goods. The majority of advertising and promotions managers make at least $61,250 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Marketing directors typically make higher money.
Some talented authors go on to work as teachers, encouraging others to write well. You could be able to teach high school or college students depending on your credentials.
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Potential students are assessed by creative writing programs on their writing and academic ability. In order to be admitted to creative writing school, you might need to submit:
- A processing fee and an application form
- GRE rating (not needed at all grad schools)
- Sample demonstrating your capacity for original writing
- Personal statement describing your objectives or experiences
- Earlier college transcripts—possibly requiring a minimum GPA
The criteria for admission varied between colleges. Additionally, some institutions could need resumes, references, or an interview.
Best Creative Writing MFA Programs
Here are the best creative writing MFA programs:
1. University of Oregon (Eugene, OR)
One of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious creative writing programs, the MFA at the University of Oregon, sits at the top of the list.
The curriculum is run by award-winning poet, longtime mentor, and teacher Garrett Hongo, and it is based on the studio-based method of one-on-one education used in the English academic system.
The MFA in Oregon takes pride in its strict reputation. Students take classes in more formal poetics and literature in addition to participating in workshops and tutorials.
Eugene, a traditional college town, offers the perfect setting for the writers’ community among Oregon’s MFA students and teachers.
Student-run readings with authors from the program are held at the well-known local bookstore Tsunami Books.
Graduates receive a wide variety of critical praise; notable alumni include Brigit Pegeen Kelly, the Yale Younger Poet, Major Jackson, the Cave Canem Prize winner and Guggenheim fellow, and Chang-Rae Lee, the recipient of the PEN-Hemingway Award.
Top writers are drawn to Oregon’s MFA program because of its desirable location and stellar reputation, and recent visitors Elizabeth McCracken, David Mura, and Li-young Lee are just a few examples.
The Oregon MFA experience is characterized by an individualized approach; a crucial component of the first year of the program is the personalized reading list that each MFA student prepares with their faculty advisor.
Meetings once a week center on both the student’s work and the extended exploration of voice through directed reading.
2. Cornell University (Ithaca, NY
The two-year MFA program at Cornell University provides a long-term approach to writing by including real-world editorial training and teaching experience.
As they progress through a mix of workshop and literary seminars, incoming MFA students select their own faculty committee of at least two faculty members who offer continuous guidance.
As readers and editors for Epoch, the prestigious literary journal of the program, first-year students gain editorial experience.
The Cornell program is grounded by teaching experience. MFA students stay in Ithaca over the summer to instruct in undergraduate programs, designing and leading writing-focused undergraduate seminars on a range of subjects.
Even MFA grads are permitted by Cornell to continue working there as lecturers for a while while they look for a job. Additionally, Cornell’s departments of Creative Writing and English provide a combined MFA/Ph.D. program.
Endowments support a number of well-regarded reading programs that bring renowned authors from around the world to campus for workshops and collaboration sessions with MFA students.
Salman Rushdie, Sandra Cisneros, Billy Collins, Margaret Atwood, Ada Limón, and others have recently visited readers.
3. Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ)
The three-year MFA in Creative Writing program at Arizona State gives students plenty of time to hone their skills, find their voice, and start to establish themselves in the literary world after graduation.
Writing and literary classes are equally balanced in the coursework, which also includes electives in fine press printing, bookmaking, and publishing, as well as courses in craft and one-on-one mentorship.
Although they choose a route in either poetry or fiction, students are encouraged to take classes in both.
The MFA program at Arizona State also emphasizes teaching, and its funding comes from teaching assistantships in the English department of the university. Teaching abroad in other countries, paid for by grants and internships, is another great opportunity.
The program’s affiliate, the Virginia C. Piper Center for Creative Writing, provides Arizona State MFA students with structured and informal professional development opportunities.
Students can interact with some of the greatest writers in the industry thanks to the Distinguished Writers Series and Desert Nights, Rising Stars Conference, which bring renowned authors to campus. The Piper Center is overseen by renowned author and poet Alberto Rós.
Through internships with publishers like Four Way Books, Arizona State prepares students for life beyond graduation.
Arizona State University’s MFA consistently ranks among the top degree programs due to its dedication to the student experience and history of producing celebrated authors, including Tayari Jones (Oprah’s Book Club, 2018; Women’s Prize for Fiction, 2019), Venita Blackburn (Prairie Schooner Book Prize, 2018), and Hugh Martin (Iowa Review Jeff Sharlet Award for Veterans).
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4. University of Texas at Austin, (Austin, TX)
The Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas in Austin has one of the most dynamic, exciting, and thriving literary faculties of any MFA program.
Theo Johnson Some of the biggest names in contemporary literature are on the list of recent guest faculty, including D.A. Powell, Geoff Dyer, Natasha Trethewey, Margot Livesey, and Ben Fountain.
Without assistantships or teaching scholarships, this three-year program fully finances applicants with the intention that they concentrate solely on their writing.
Students can select two focus areas, a primary and secondary, from Fiction, Poetry, Screenwriting, and Playwriting thanks to the Michener Center’s expanded genre tracks.
All forms of current writing benefit greatly from the work of the Michener Center for Writers.
The trendy, student-run Bat City Review welcomes submissions in every genre, as well as cross-genre, collaborative, and experimental works.
The New Yorker publishing, an Oprah Book Club selection, a screenplay award, and a 2021 Pulitzer Prize are recent achievements for renowned alumni (for visiting faculty member Mitchell Jackson).
Students in this curriculum are immersed in the action of current American literature.
5. Washington University (St. Louis, MO)
Washington University in St. Louis’ MFA in Creative Writing is a program that is growing; in the past five years, the number of candidates has almost doubled.
Paul Tran, Miranda Popkey, and National Book Award winner Justin Phillip Reed are a few recent rising star graduates on the literary scene who may be the cause of this sudden increase in interest.
The Hurst Visiting Professor program’s rotating faculty positions and active distinguished reader series may further contribute to the MFA program’s excellent profile at Washington University.
Superstars like George Saunders and Alison Bechdel have lately served as visiting professors, keeping the program’s energy high.
The MFA program at Washington University has a strong reputation for its mentorship opportunities.
MFA candidates establish small cohorts with their colleagues and benefit from attentive support and mentorship from an active and vigorous faculty because there are only five new students in each genre each year.
Students can choose from three genre tracks: fiction, poetry, and the increasingly popular and relevant creative nonfiction.
Another appealing aspect of this program is that first-year students receive full funding but are not required to begin teaching until their second year.
MFA applicants at Washington University have the freedom to grow in a low-stress but stimulating creative environment thanks to a generous stipend and St. Louis’s affordable cost of living.
6. The Indiana University (Bloomington, IN)
When selecting an MFA program, students must make one of the first and most important decisions: two or three years?
Indiana University makes a strong case for its three-year program, which gives students more time to work on their theses, which are typically novels or book-length collections, during the third year of support.
Indiana’s MFA program, one of the list’s more seasoned offerings, dates back to 1948.
The list of former professors and graduates reads like the index of a book on American literature.
The Indiana Review and the Indiana University Writers’ Conference are two other literary organizations housed under Indiana’s Creative Writing program.
This acclaimed literary magazine’s editorial board is made up of students, who occasionally contribute for course credit or a salary. Every year, an MFA candidate fills the position of assistant director for the renowned and well-attended conference.
Graduate students at Indiana have access to visiting authors, gain professional experience, and get a taste of the writing life outside of the classroom thanks to these two aspects of the curriculum.
7. University of Michigan Ann Arbor (Ann Arbor, MI)
The Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan develops its students through a mix of workshop-focused coursework and active off-campus activity. This two-year course of study consistently produces fresh new voices in poetry and fiction.
With the Zell Visiting Writers Series serving as its focal point, the school conducts several readings, events, and competitions. The Hopgood Awards provide students studying creative writing in Michigan with yearly awards.
MFA candidates have opportunities to develop a community role and public persona as a writer thanks to the department’s relationships with groups and events in the Detroit area. Examples include hosting writing retreats in collaboration with regional arts organizations or introducing authors at Literati bookstore.
The main narrative of this program is revealed by what occurs after graduation. Celeste Ng, Jesmyn Ward, Elizabeth Kostova, Nate Marshall, Paisley Rekdal, and Laura Kasischke are just a few of the notable authors from Michigan.
Their former employees now have books published by venerable publishers like Penguin and Harper Collins, stalwarts of the literary world like Graywolf and Copper Canyon, as well as the new vanguard like McSweeney’s, Fence, and Ugly Duckling Presse.
8. The University of Minnesota (Minneapolis, MN)
The University of Minnesota’s MFA in Creative Writing program is structured, with a strong emphasis on mentoring and individual attention.
Along with coursework and a final thesis, Minnesota’s MFA students also must compile a list of books on literary craft that are personally meaningful to them, write a lengthy essay about their writing process, and perform a reading of their thesis works in front of an audience.
Great River Review, a literary publication, and activities like the First Book and Mill City Reading Series all contribute to a broader educational experience for students that goes beyond the internal focus.
Charles Baxter, a retired professor at the University of Minnesota and author, founded the program’s Hunger Relief benefit to support Second Harvest Heartland in Minnesota.
This yearly contest and reading, which serves as an emblem for the program’s idea of the writer as a servant of mankind, brings together eminent authors, students, staff members, and community members in support of a wider objective.
9. Brown University (Providence, RI)
One of the finest universities in the country, Brown University offers a sophisticated Literary Arts Program that allows students to select one workshop and one elective each semester.
Any department at Brown may be used for the electives; Studio Art and other courses offered by the linked Rhode Island School of Design are particularly popular options. The candidate’s academic advisor will be in charge of the thesis construction throughout the last semester.
Only Brown’s MFA program offers the Digital/Cross Disciplinary track in addition to the poetry and fiction courses.
Multidisciplinary authors who require the assistance provided by Brown’s partnership between the departments of music, visual art, computer science, theater and performance studies, and other fields are drawn to this program.
The collaboration with the Rhode Island School of Design also enables artists who are curious about emerging media to study and further their field, creating fresh ways of expression and communication.
The goal of Brown’s Literary Arts Program is to foster an environment where students can develop their artistic visions with the help of supportive instructors who give them the time and resources they need to experiment.
Along with ground-breaking authors like Percival Everett and Otessa Moshfegh, the program has also created works by alumni fusing dance, music, media, and theater that have been presented all over the world, from the Kennedy Center stage to National Public Radio.
10. University of Iowa (Iowa City, IA)
Most people think of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop when they hear “MFA in Creative Writing.”
The Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the informal name of the University of Iowa’s creative writing program, was the first to provide an MFA in 1936.
Wallace Stegner, a well-known author, received one of the earliest degrees and later established Stanford’s MFA program.
With seventeen Pulitzer Prize winners and six U.S. Poets Laureate, it is difficult to disagree. The MFA tree’s root system is the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
Writing classes are balanced throughout the two-year program with curriculum from other graduate programs at the university. The student’s final semester includes a written exam in addition to the book-length thesis.
The program draws the best literary talent for its academic positions, reading series, events, and workshops because it epitomizes the ideal of a writing program.
The Iowa Review, the program’s premier literary journal, is an aspirational target for authors at all stages of their careers.
The Writers’ Workshop offers tracks in Spanish creative writing and literary translation in addition to fiction, poetry, playwriting, and nonfiction. Their reading series, which they host in collaboration with the bookstore Prairie Lights, is heard all over the world online.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a creative writing MFA degree worthwhile?
For a number of occupations, an MFA in creative writing is preferred or necessary. A Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing can set you apart from the competition if you wish to teach creative writing at any level, from elementary school to higher education.
What GPA is necessary for an MFA?
A weighted average undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. If the student attended a U.S. university, the last 60 semester hours (90 quarter hours) will be used to determine the GPA if the undergraduate GPA is less than 3.0.
Is a masters degree superior to an MFA?
Being a final or "terminal" degree, an MFA varies from other Masters programs. An MFA is frequently the highest degree of formal qualification for practice-based work in the Arts and Design, whereas an MA or MSc can lead to PhD work.
How challenging is it to get into MFA programs for creative writing?
Admission to an MFA program is challenging. MFA schools like to accept applicants who have been out of school for some time, have demonstrated their ability to write on their own time and may even have one or two publications or have worked in the writing/literary scene.
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