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The 10 Best MFA Creative Writing Programs [2024]

Zoë

Many people have a talent for stories, but not everyone will become a successful author. In many cases, people simply need to hone their skills – and the best MFA creative writing programs are the key.

If you have an undergrad degree and are looking for the next step in your academic adventure, you’re in luck: We’ve scoured MFA creative writing rankings to find you the best programs.

Table of Contents

The 10 Best MFA Creative Writing Programs

1. johns hopkins university – krieger school of arts & sciences.

Johns Hopkins University

Master of Fine Arts in Fiction/ Poetry

Located in Baltimore, Maryland, Johns Hopkins is a world-renowned private research university. Their Master of Fine Arts in Fiction/Poetry is one of the best MFA creative writing programs anywhere. Students take courses and receive writing practice (in fiction or poetry) at the highest level. This MFA program also offers the opportunity to learn with an internationally renowned faculty.

  • Duration:  2 years
  • Financial aid:  Full tuition, teaching fellowship (for all students set at $33,000/year)
  • Acceptance rate: 11.1%
  • Location: Baltimore, Maryland
  • Founded: 1876

2. University of Michigan –  Helen Zell Writers’ Program

University of Michigan

Master of Fine Arts

The University of Michigan is a public research university – and the oldest in the state. Its Master of Fine Arts program is one of the best MFA creative writing programs in the country, exposing students to various approaches to the craft. While studying under award-winning poets and writers, students may specialize in either poetry or fiction.

  • Duration: 2 years
  • No. of hours: 36
  • Financial aid: Full funding
  • Acceptance rate:  26.1%
  • Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • Founded: 1817

3. University of Texas at Austin – New Writers Project

University of Texas at Austin

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing

The University of Texas at Austin is a well-known public research university with around 50,000 students at the graduate and undergraduate levels. It offers one of the best MFA programs for creative writing, aiming to enhance and develop its students’ artistic and intellectual abilities.

  • Duration:  3 years
  • Financial aid:  Full funding
  • Acceptance rate:  32%
  • Location:  Austin, Texas
  • Founded:  1883

4. University of Nebraska – Kearney

UNK logo

Master of Arts

The University of Nebraska strives to provide quality, affordable education, including its online MA English program. Students can focus on four areas, including Creative Writing (which provides experiential learning in either poetry or prose).

  • Credit hours: 36
  • Tuition : $315 per credit hour
  • Financial aid :  Grants, Work-study, Student loans, Scholarships, Parent loans
  • Acceptance rate: 88%
  • Location: Online
  • Founded: 1905

5. Bay Path University (Massachusetts)

Bay Path University

MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing

Bay Path University is a private university with various programs at undergraduate, graduate, and doctorate levels (including women-only undergraduate programs). This creative non-fiction writing program is one of the first fully online programs in the country. No matter their location, students are able to develop their creative writing skills and knowledge – in a range of literary genres.

  • Credits:  39
  • Tuition: $775 per credit
  • Financial aid :  Federal Stafford loan, Student loans
  • Acceptance rate: 78%
  • Founded:  1897

6. Brown University (Rhode Island)

Brown logo

MFA in Literary Arts

Brown is a world-famous Ivy League university based in Providence, Rhode Island. Its two-year residency MFA in Literary Arts is designed for students looking to maximize their intellectual and creative exploration. The highly competitive program offers extensive financial support. In fact, over the past 20 years, all incoming MFA students were awarded full funding for their first year of study (and many for the second year).

  • Tuition:  $57,591  (but full funding available)
  • Financial aid :  Fellowship, teaching assistantships, and stipends.
  • Acceptance rate: 9%
  • Location: Providence, Rhode Island
  • Founded:  1764

7. University of Iowa (Iowa)

UoIowa

MFA in Creative Writing

The University of Iowa is a public university located in Iowa City. As one of the most celebrated public schools in the Midwest, students learn under established professors and promising writers during their two-year residency program.

  • Credits:  60
  • Tuition: $12,065 for in-state students, and $31,012 out-of-state
  • Financial aid :  Scholarships, teaching assistantships, federal aid, and student loans.
  • Acceptance rate: 84%
  • Location: Iowa City, Iowa

8. Cornell University (New York State)

Cornell University

Cornell is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York. This highly competitive program accepts only eight students annually, and just two from each concentration. Not only do students enjoy a generous financial aid package, but they also have the opportunity to work closely with members of the school’s celebrated faculty.

  • Tuition:  $29,500
  • Financial aid :  All accepted students receive a fellowship covering full tuition, stipend, and insurance.
  • Acceptance rate: 14%
  • Location: Ithaca, New York
  • Founded:  1865

9. Columbia University ( NYC )

Columbia University logo

MFA in Fiction Writing

Founded in 1754, Columbia University is the oldest tertiary education institution in New York – and one of the oldest in the country. The school offers a Writing MFA in nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and literary translation. The fiction concentration promotes artistic and aesthetic diversity, with a diverse teaching staff and adjunct faculty from a wide range of diverse experience.

  • Credits:  60 points
  • Tuition:  $34,576
  • Financial aid :  Scholarships, fellowships, federal aid, work-study, and veterans’ grants.
  • Acceptance rate: 11%
  • Location: NYC, New York
  • Founded:  1754

10. New York University (NYC)

NYU logo

New York University (NYU) is known for delivering high-quality, innovative education in various fields. Located in the heart of NYC, the institution’s MFA in Creative Writing boasts celebrated faculty from poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction backgrounds. This dynamic program fosters creativity and excellence through literary outreach programs, public reading series, a literary journal, and special seminars from visiting writers

  • Credits:  32
  • Tuition:  $53,229
  • Financial aid :  Fellowships, scholarships, and federal aid.
  • Location: NYC
  • Founded:  1886

Common Courses for MFAs in Creative Writing 

As part of your master’s in creative writing program, you’ll usually need to complete a number of compulsory courses, along with certain electives. Common courses you’ll need to take include:

  • Literary theory
  • History of storytelling
  • Genre conventions
  • Market trends
  • Marketing manuscripts to publishers
  • Thesis or dissertation

Typical Requirements for Applying to an MFA Creative Writing Program

Besides the application form and fee, most MFA in creative writing programs have standard requirements. While the following are the most typical requirements, always check with the specific program first:

Make sure your resume  includes all relevant information to showcase your interests, skills, and talent in writing.

2. Writing Sample(s)

MFA creative writing program selection committees look for applicants who are serious about writing. Therefore, they typically ask for at least one 10-20 page writing sample. The best samples showcase talent in your preferred area of writing (e.g., fiction, non-fiction). MFA poetry programs have varied sample requirements.

3. Transcripts

You’ll need to show your undergraduate degree (and possibly high school) transcript.

4. Statement of Purpose

A statement of purpose is usually 1-2 pages and shows your passion for writing and potential to succeed in the program.

5. Recommendation Letters

Most programs require letters of recommendation from academic or professional contacts who know you well.

Related reading: How to Ask a Professor for a Grad School Recommendation

6. GRE Scores

Some MFA programs require GRE scores (though this is not the case for all universities). If you happen to need some assistance while studying for your GRE or GMAT, be sure to check out Magoosh for easy test prep!

What Can Creative Writers Do After Graduation?

As a creative writer with an MFA, you’ll have a variety of career options where your skills are highly valued. Below are a few of the common jobs an MFA creative writing graduate can do, along with the average annual salary for each.

Creative Director ( $90,389 )

A creative director leads a team of creative writers, designers, or artists in various fields, such as media, advertising, or entertainment.

Editor ( $63,350)

An editor helps correct writing errors and improve the style and flow in media, broadcasting, films, advertising, marketing , and entertainment.

Academic Librarian ( $61,190)

An academic librarian manages educational information resources in an academic environment (such as a university).

Copywriter ( $53,800 )

Copywriters typically work to present an idea to a particular audience and capture their attention using as few words as possible.

Technical Writers ($78,060)

Technical writers are tasked with instruction manuals, guides, journal articles, and other documents. These convey complex details and technical information to a wider audience.

Writer ( $69,510 )

A writer usually provides written content for businesses through articles, marketing content, blogs, or product descriptions. They may also write fiction or non-fiction books.

Social Media Manager ( $52,856 )

A social media manager is responsible for creating and scheduling content on social media, and may also track analytics and develop social media strategies.

Journalist ($ 48,370 )

Journalists may work for newspapers, magazines, or online publications, researching and writing stories, as well as conducting interviews and investigations.

Public Relations Officer ( $62,800)

A public relations officer works to promote and improve the public image of a company, government agency, or organization. This is done through work such as: preparing media releases, online content, and dealing with the media.

Lexicographer ( $72,620 )

Lexicographers are the professionals who create dictionaries. They study words’ etymologies and meanings, compiling them into a dictionary.

Can You Get a Creative Writing Degree Online?

Yes, a number of institutions offer online master’s degrees , such as Bay Path University and the University of Nebraska. Online courses offer a high degree of flexibility, allowing you to study from anywhere – and often on your own schedule. Many students can earn their degrees while continuing with their current job or raising a family.

However, students won’t receive the full benefits of a residency program, such as building close connections with peers and working with the faculty in person. Some on-campus programs also offer full funding to cover tuition and education expenses.

Pros and Cons of an MFA in Creative Writing

Like anything, studying an MFA in Creative Writing and pursuing a related career can have its benefits as well as drawbacks.

  • It’ll motivate you to write.

Many people are talented but struggle sitting down to write. An MFA program will give you the motivation to meet your deadlines.

  • You’ll have a community.

Writing can be a solitary pursuit. It can be hard to connect with others who are just as passionate about writing. An MFA program provides students with a community of like-minded people.

  • Graduates have teaching prospects.

An MFA is one option that can help you find a teaching job at the university level. Unlike some majors that require a Ph.D. to enter academia, many post-secondary instructors hold an MFA.

  • Not always the most marketable job skills

Although an MFA in Creative Writing will provide several useful skills in the job market, these are not as marketable as some other forms of writing. For example, copywriting arguably has a wider range of job prospects.

  • It could limit your creativity.

There is a risk that your writing could become too technical or formulaic, due to the theories learned during your MFA. It’s important to know the theory, but you don’t want to let it limit your creativity.

How Long Does It Take to Get an MFA Degree in Creative Writing?

A master’s in creative writing typically takes between 2-3 years to complete. Unlike other master’s degrees’ accelerated options, creative writing program requirements require a greater number of workshops and dissertations.

Alternatives to Creative Writing Majors

There are plenty of similar majors that can set you on the path to a career in the creative writing field. Consider alternatives like an MA in English , literature, humanities, media studies, and library sciences.

Related Reading: Master’s in Fine Arts: The Ultimate Guide

Frequently Asked Questions

What can i do with an mfa in creative writing .

An MFA graduate could teach creative writing at a secondary or college level. They may pursue a career in advertising, publishing, media, or the entertainment industry. They could also become an author by publishing fiction, non-fiction, or poetry.

Are MFA Creative Writing Programs Worth It?

Having an MFA opens doors to a range of well-paid careers (more on that above). If you’re skilled in writing – and want to make a decent living with it – an MFA program might be an excellent choice.

How Do I Choose an MFA in Creative Writing?

First, consider whether an on-campus or online MFA program is best for you (depending on your lifestyle and commitments). Another key consideration is a university with renowned authors on their teaching staff who will give you the highest levels of training in creative writing. Also, consider your preferred focus area (e.g., fiction, poetry, nonfiction) .

What Are MFA Writing Programs?

An MFA in writing or creative writing is an advanced program that teaches students the art and practice of writing. During these programs, students hone their writing skills and equip themselves to publish their own work – or pursue a career in media, teaching, or advertising.

Can You Teach with an MFA? 

Yes! Teaching is one of the many career options an MFA provides . An MFA in creative writing can qualify you to be a teacher in creative writing (in schools or the higher education sector).

Is It Hard to Be Admitted to MFA Creative Writing Programs?

MFA creative writing programs are relatively competitive. Therefore, not all applicants will get into the program of their choice. However, if you are talented and ambitious that becomes more likely. Having said that, the most prestigious universities with the best MFA creative writing programs accept a small percentage of the applicants.

What Is the Best Creative Writing Program in the World? 

A number of creative writing programs are known for their famous faculty and excellent courses, like the Master of Fine Arts in Fiction/ Poetry from Johns Hopkins and the MFA in Literary Arts from Brown University . Outside the US, the most celebrated English program is likely the University of Cambridge’s MSt in Creative Writing.

How Hard Is It to Get an MFA in Creative Writing?

An MFA is an intensive, highly-involved degree that requires a certain amount of dedication. Anyone with a passion for creative writing should find it rewarding and satisfying.

Should I Get an MA or MFA in Creative Writing?

Whether you choose an MA or MFA in creative writing depends on your own interests and career ambitions. An MFA in creative writing is ideal for anyone passionate about pursuing a career in fiction, poetry, or creative non-fiction. An MA is a broader degree that equips students for a wider range of career choices (though it will qualify them for many of the same roles as an MFA).

Can I Get Published Without an MFA?

Absolutely. However, studying for an MFA will equip you with a range of skills and knowledge that are extremely helpful in getting your work published, from honing your craft to submitting your manuscript to working with publishers.

What Are the Highest-Paying Jobs with a Master’s in Creative Writing?

An MFA in creative writing can help you land a range of jobs in the creative and literary fields. The highest-paying jobs for graduates with a master’s in creative writing include creative directors ($90,000) and technical writers ($78,000).

Key Takeaways

An MFA in creative writing program will hone your talents and develop the skills you need to become a successful writer. The best MFA creative writing programs will give you incredible knowledge of the field while developing your practical skills in fiction, non-fiction, or poetry.

The acceptance rate for the best MFA writing programs is fairly low, so it’s crucial to understand the requirements well and prepare thoroughly. To help you with your application, check out our guide to applying to grad school .

  • Top 5 Easiest Master’s Degrees + 10 Easiest Grad Schools to Get Into
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Lisa Marlin

Lisa Marlin

Lisa is a full-time writer specializing in career advice, further education, and personal development. She works from all over the world, and when not writing you'll find her hiking, practicing yoga, or enjoying a glass of Malbec.

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The 10 Best Creative Writing MFA Programs in the US

The talent is there. 

But the next generation of great American writers needs a collegial place to hone their craft. 

They need a place to explore the writer’s role in a wider community. 

They really need guidance about how and when to publish. 

All these things can be found in a solid Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing degree program. This degree offers access to mentors, to colleagues, and to a future in the writing world. 

A good MFA program gives new writers a precious few years to focus completely on their work, an ideal space away from the noise and pressure of the fast-paced modern world. 

We’ve found ten of the best ones, all of which provide the support, the creative stimulation, and the tranquility necessary to foster a mature writer.

We looked at graduate departments from all regions, public and private, all sizes, searching for the ten most inspiring Creative Writing MFA programs. 

Each of these ten institutions has assembled stellar faculties, developed student-focused paths of study, and provide robust support for writers accepted into their degree programs. 

To be considered for inclusion in this list, these MFA programs all must be fully-funded degrees, as recognized by Read The Workshop .

Creative Writing education has broadened and expanded over recent years, and no single method or plan fits for all students. 

Today, MFA programs across the country give budding short story writers and poets a variety of options for study. For future novelists, screenwriters – even viral bloggers – the search for the perfect setting for their next phase of development starts with these outstanding institutions, all of which have developed thoughtful and particular approaches to study.

So where will the next Salinger scribble his stories on the steps of the student center, or the next Angelou reading her poems in the local bookstore’s student-run poetry night? At one of these ten programs.

Here are 10 of the best creative writing MFA programs in the US.

University of Oregon (Eugene, OR)

University of Oregon

Starting off the list is one of the oldest and most venerated Creative Writing programs in the country, the MFA at the University of Oregon. 

Longtime mentor, teacher, and award-winning poet Garrett Hongo directs the program, modeling its studio-based approach to one-on-one instruction in the English college system. 

Oregon’s MFA embraces its reputation for rigor. Besides attending workshops and tutorials, students take classes in more formal poetics and literature.  

A classic college town, Eugene provides an ideal backdrop for the writers’ community within Oregon’s MFA students and faculty.  

Tsunami Books , a local bookseller with national caché, hosts student-run readings featuring writers from the program. 

Graduates garner an impressive range of critical acclaim; Yale Younger Poet winner Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Cave Canem Prize winner and Guggenheim fellow Major Jackson, and PEN-Hemingway Award winner Chang-Rae Lee are noteworthy alumni. 

With its appealing setting and impressive reputation, Oregon’s MFA program attracts top writers as visiting faculty, including recent guests Elizabeth McCracken, David Mura, and Li-young Lee.

The individual approach defines the Oregon MFA experience; a key feature of the program’s first year is the customized reading list each MFA student creates with their faculty guide. 

Weekly meetings focus not only on the student’s writing, but also on the extended discovery of voice through directed reading. 

Accepting only ten new students a year—five in poetry and five in fiction— the University of Oregon’s MFA ensures a close-knit community with plenty of individual coaching and guidance.

Cornell University (Ithaca, NY)

Cornell University

Cornell University’s MFA program takes the long view on life as a writer, incorporating practical editorial training and teaching experience into its two-year program.

Incoming MFA students choose their own faculty committee of at least two faculty members, providing consistent advice as they move through a mixture of workshop and literature classes. 

Students in the program’s first year benefit from editorial training as readers and editors for Epoch , the program’s prestigious literary journal.

Teaching experience grounds the Cornell program. MFA students design and teach writing-centered undergraduate seminars on a variety of topics, and they remain in Ithaca during the summer to teach in programs for undergraduates. 

Cornell even allows MFA graduates to stay on as lecturers at Cornell for a period of time while they are on the job search. Cornell also offers a joint MFA/Ph.D. program through the Creative Writing and English departments.

Endowments fund several acclaimed reading series, drawing internationally known authors to campus for workshops and work sessions with MFA students. 

Recent visiting readers include Salman Rushdie, Sandra Cisneros, Billy Collins, Margaret Atwood, Ada Limón, and others. 

Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ)

Arizona State University

Arizona State’s MFA in Creative Writing spans three years, giving students ample time to practice their craft, develop a voice, and begin to find a place in the post-graduation literary world. 

Coursework balances writing and literature classes equally, with courses in craft and one-on-one mentoring alongside courses in literature, theory, or even electives in topics like fine press printing, bookmaking, or publishing. 

While students follow a path in either poetry or fiction, they are encouraged to take courses across the genres.

Teaching is also a focus in Arizona State’s MFA program, with funding coming from teaching assistantships in the school’s English department. Other exciting teaching opportunities include teaching abroad in locations around the world, funded through grants and internships.

The Virginia C. Piper Center for Creative Writing, affiliated with the program, offers Arizona State MFA students professional development in formal and informal ways. 

The Distinguished Writers Series and Desert Nights, Rising Stars Conference bring world-class writers to campus, allowing students to interact with some of the greatest in the profession. Acclaimed writer and poet Alberto Ríos directs the Piper Center.

Arizona State transitions students to the world after graduation through internships with publishers like Four Way Books. 

Its commitment to the student experience and its history of producing acclaimed writers—recent examples include 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)—make Arizona State University’s MFA a consistent leader among degree programs.

University of Texas at Austin (Austin, TX)

University of Texas at Austin

The University of Texas at Austin’s MFA program, the Michener Center for Writers, maintains one of the most vibrant, exciting, active literary faculties of any MFA program.

Denis Johnson D.A. Powell, Geoff Dyer, Natasha Trethewey, Margot Livesey, Ben Fountain: the list of recent guest faculty boasts some of the biggest names in current literature.

This three-year program fully funds candidates without teaching fellowships or assistantships; the goal is for students to focus entirely on their writing. 

More genre tracks at the Michener Center mean students can choose two focus areas, a primary and secondary, from Fiction, Poetry, Screenwriting, and Playwriting.

The Michener Center for Writers plays a prominent role in contemporary writing of all kinds. 

The hip, student-edited Bat City Review accepts work of all genres, visual art, cross genres, collaborative, and experimental pieces.  

Recent events for illustrious alumni include New Yorker publications, an Oprah Book Club selection, a screenwriting prize, and a 2021 Pulitzer (for visiting faculty member Mitchell Jackson). 

In this program, students are right in the middle of all the action of contemporary American literature.

Washington University in St. Louis (St. Louis, MO)

Washington University in St. Louis

The MFA in Creative Writing at Washington University in St. Louis is a program on the move: applicants have almost doubled here in the last five years. 

Maybe this sudden growth of interest comes from recent rising star alumni on the literary scene, like Paul Tran, Miranda Popkey, and National Book Award winner Justin Phillip Reed.

Or maybe it’s the high profile Washington University’s MFA program commands, with its rotating faculty post through the Hurst Visiting Professor program and its active distinguished reader series. 

Superstar figures like Alison Bechdel and George Saunders have recently held visiting professorships, maintaining an energetic atmosphere program-wide.

Washington University’s MFA program sustains a reputation for the quality of the mentorship experience. 

With only five new students in each genre annually, MFA candidates form close cohorts among their peers and enjoy attentive support and mentorship from an engaged and vigorous faculty. 

Three genre tracks are available to students: fiction, poetry, and the increasingly relevant and popular creative nonfiction.

Another attractive feature of this program: first-year students are fully funded, but not expected to take on a teaching role until their second year. 

A generous stipend, coupled with St. Louis’s low cost of living, gives MFA candidates at Washington University the space to develop in a low-stress but stimulating creative environment.

Indiana University (Bloomington, IN)

Indiana University

It’s one of the first and biggest choices students face when choosing an MFA program: two-year or three-year? 

Indiana University makes a compelling case for its three-year program, in which the third year of support allows students an extended period of time to focus on the thesis, usually a novel or book-length collection.

One of the older programs on the list, Indiana’s MFA dates back to 1948. 

Its past instructors and alumni read like the index to an American Literature textbook. 

How many places can you take classes in the same place Robert Frost once taught, not to mention the program that granted its first creative writing Master’s degree to David Wagoner? Even today, the program’s integrity and reputation draw faculty like Ross Gay and Kevin Young.

Indiana’s Creative Writing program houses two more literary institutions, the Indiana Review, and the Indiana University Writers’ Conference. 

Students make up the editorial staff of this lauded literary magazine, in some cases for course credit or a stipend. An MFA candidate serves each year as assistant director of the much-celebrated and highly attended conference . 

These two facets of Indiana’s program give graduate students access to visiting writers, professional experience, and a taste of the writing life beyond academia.

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (Ann Arbor, MI)

University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Arts

The University of Michigan’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program cultivates its students with a combination of workshop-driven course work and vigorous programming on and off-campus. Inventive new voices in fiction and poetry consistently emerge from this two-year program.

The campus hosts multiple readings, events, and contests, anchored by the Zell Visiting Writers Series. The Hopgood Awards offer annual prize money to Michigan creative writing students . 

The department cultivates relationships with organizations and events around Detroit, so whether it’s introducing writers at Literati bookstore or organizing writing retreats in conjunction with local arts organizations, MFA candidates find opportunities to cultivate a community role and public persona as a writer.

What happens after graduation tells the big story of this program. Michigan produces heavy hitters in the literary world, like Celeste Ng, Jesmyn Ward, Elizabeth Kostova, Nate Marshall, Paisley Rekdal, and Laura Kasischke. 

Their alumni place their works with venerable houses like Penguin and Harper Collins, longtime literary favorites Graywolf and Copper Canyon, and the new vanguard like McSweeney’s, Fence, and Ugly Duckling Presse.

University of Minnesota (Minneapolis, MN)

University of Minnesota

Structure combined with personal attention and mentorship characterizes the University of Minnesota’s Creative Writing MFA, starting with its unique program requirements. 

In addition to course work and a final thesis, Minnesota’s MFA candidates assemble a book list of personally significant works on literary craft, compose a long-form essay on their writing process, and defend their thesis works with reading in front of an audience.

Literary journal Great River Review and events like the First Book reading series and Mill City Reading series do their part to expand the student experience beyond the focus on the internal. 

The Edelstein-Keller Visiting Writer Series draws exceptional, culturally relevant writers like Chuck Klosterman and Claudia Rankine for readings and student conversations. 

Writer and retired University of Minnesota instructor Charles Baxter established the program’s Hunger Relief benefit , aiding Minnesota’s Second Harvest Heartland organization. 

Emblematic of the program’s vision of the writer in service to humanity, this annual contest and reading bring together distinguished writers, students, faculty, and community members in favor of a greater goal.

Brown University (Providence, RI)

Brown University

One of the top institutions on any list, Brown University features an elegantly-constructed Literary Arts Program, with students choosing one workshop and one elective per semester. 

The electives can be taken from any department at Brown; especially popular choices include Studio Art and other coursework through the affiliated Rhode Island School of Design. The final semester consists of thesis construction under the supervision of the candidate’s faculty advisor.

Brown is the only MFA program to feature, in addition to poetry and fiction tracks, the Digital/Cross Disciplinary track . 

This track attracts multidisciplinary writers who need the support offered by Brown’s collaboration among music, visual art, computer science, theater and performance studies, and other departments. 

The interaction with the Rhode Island School of Design also allows those artists interested in new forms of media to explore and develop their practice, inventing new forms of art and communication.

Brown’s Literary Arts Program focuses on creating an atmosphere where students can refine their artistic visions, supported by like-minded faculty who provide the time and materials necessary to innovate. 

Not only has the program produced trailblazing writers like Percival Everett and Otessa Moshfegh, but works composed by alumni incorporating dance, music, media, and theater have been performed around the world, from the stage at Kennedy Center to National Public Radio.

University of Iowa (Iowa City, IA)

University of Iowa

When most people hear “MFA in Creative Writing,” it’s the Iowa Writers’ Workshop they imagine. 

The informal name of the University of Iowa’s Program in Creative Writing, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop was the first to offer an MFA, back in 1936. 

One of the first diplomas went to renowned writer Wallace Stegner, who later founded the MFA program at Stanford.

 It’s hard to argue with seventeen Pulitzer Prize winners and six U.S. Poets Laureate. The Iowa Writers’ Workshop is the root system of the MFA tree.

The two-year program balances writing courses with coursework in other graduate departments at the university. In addition to the book-length thesis, a written exam is part of the student’s last semester.

Because the program represents the quintessential idea of a writing program, it attracts its faculty positions, reading series, events, and workshops the brightest lights of the literary world. 

The program’s flagship literary magazine, the Iowa Review , is a lofty goal for writers at all stages of their career. 

At the Writers’ Workshop, tracks include not only fiction, poetry, playwriting, and nonfiction, but also Spanish creative writing and literary translation. Their reading series in association with Prairie Lights bookstore streams online and is heard around the world.

Iowa’s program came into being in answer to the central question posed to each one of these schools: can writing be taught? 

The answer for a group of intrepid, creative souls in 1936 was, actually, “maybe not.” 

But they believed it could be cultivated; each one of these institutions proves it can be, in many ways, for those willing to commit the time and imagination.

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What To Know Before Applying to MFA in Creative Writing Programs

creative writing mfa competitive

An MFA in creative writing is a graduate program meant to help refine a writer’s craft. The curriculum is designed to give writers a few years after undergrad to focus on their writing while becoming a part of a community of like-minded people. As an MFA, you’ll spend the first few semesters in various workshops and then your last year working on your thesis and refining your writing. As a poet in an MFA program, I’m working on submitting about 40 pages worth of poetry. I’m not entirely sure what this looks like for prose writers, as the minimum page count can vary depending on your program.

There are some pros and cons I’d like to point out about MFA programs. The biggest pros are that you are given constructive deadlines for your writing, you are a part of a community, and you get to learn more about sharing your work. The cons? Well, I’d say those would be financial stress, not knowing what your post-graduate plans are, a potentially negative impact on your mental health, imposter syndrome, the pressure to publish, a lot of reading and writing, and bad workshops — just to name a few.

Deadlines for Your Writing

Having deadlines to meet was one of my favorite things about the MFA program. It pushed me to produce work that I wouldn’t have otherwise. While other students were stressed by their due dates, I loved the structure they provided. And more than anything, I loved knowing that I was on track to meet my goals.

During my time in the program, I was lucky enough to meet other writers. My classmates were all smart, hard-working and creative, and it was nice to get their feedback on my work. Similarly, my professors were all successful writers, but they weren’t cocky about it. I’d say they cared more about my general well-being more than the content they were teaching.

Sharing Your Work

Sharing my work was ultimately one of the most rewarding parts of my program. As part of the course requirements, I had to give a 15-minute reading of my work. I was really nervous about it, but I picked out my favorite poems that I had written and prepared to share them with my peers. While I wanted to be taken seriously, one of my poems had a funny line in it, and its delivery kind of turned the whole reading into a comedy show. I was super grateful for the comedic relief, and the reading went much better than I expected. After sharing my work in the program, I began submitting my poems to outside magazines and was pleased when they were accepted. You can find a few of my poems here and here .

Financial Stress

I wouldn’t recommend pursuing an MFA if you already have a full-time job secured. If you don’t, still think carefully about the decision. Trying to study while not being able to afford food is not a fun experience. One of my favorite poets actually had to sell plasma to make ends meet. Unless you have an assistantship, you will have to take out a lot of money in student loans. You may not think this is a big deal before you start, but once you see those numbers on your billing statement, you will be sick to your stomach.

If you do have an assistantship, you will most likely be teaching. Even if you love the practice, it will take time away from your writing, and you will be asked to do more work than what you’re paid for. Not to mention, it can be hard to focus on your studies when you are worried about what kind of job you’ll get after graduation. Many companies will see you as overqualified with a master’s degree, and many will wonder why they should hire you if you don’t have any real work experience.

Impact on Mental Health

I also wouldn’t recommend getting an MFA if you are really struggling with your mental health. Right before I started my program, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder . I thought that it wouldn’t take long for me to stabilize again, but I was wrong; it’s been three years, and I am still having a hard time. During my first year in the program, my mental health got so bad that I almost went to therapy three times a week until I realized that group therapy wasn’t working. I wish that I didn’t have the pressures of grad school on top of my new diagnosis and finishing undergrad.

  • Imposter Syndrome

Ask anyone in their first year of graduate school how they are feeling and you might get something along the lines of “I was nervous” or “I was excited.” It’s very common for students to feel imposter syndrome, especially after getting into such a competitive program. My imposter syndrome was so bad during my MFA program that I struggled to write poems for my first semester, and it continued into the rest of my time at Butler. I told myself that I wasn’t talented enough or that I didn’t study hard enough or that my writing wasn’t interesting enough. But they were all lies that came from my fear of failure.

Academic Rigor, the Pressure To Publish and Competition

Let’s be honest: Graduate school in any field of study is not easy. I learned the hard way that I shouldn’t take nine credits at a time. On top of lots of reading, there was a pressure to publish your work. Not only did it feel like you needed to have the best work ready for your workshop, but you also felt like you had to have work that was ready to be published.

To put a cherry on top, you would never know how your workshop would go. For instance, say you were really proud of your poem. Even though you were happy with it, there would be a good chance that the group would be critical of your work. For me, that was difficult because I was writing about my life. I felt like people were critiquing me instead of my work. It was a lot of pressure to be the most efficient, yet unique, yet eloquent writer all at once. I wish I would’ve stopped caring about others’ opinions a lot sooner.

Do I Regret It?

In a way, I do. I regret spending so much money on a degree that doesn’t guarantee a job. However, I don’t regret taking the time I needed to learn more about poetry, about myself and how I want to live my life and treat other people. It’s a hard thing to describe. In December, I’ll finish my MFA, and I will feel really proud of myself. Until then, I’m going to try to make the most of it.

If you are considering applying for an MFA program, I urge you to take your time when thinking about graduate school. Know that these programs aren’t going anywhere, and, as long as you keep in touch with your professors, they’ll still be happy to write you recommendation letters in the future. It’s okay to wait a year, or 10, or even 20. Whatever you do, make sure that it’s the right decision for you and not one based on what other people think.

  • bipolar disorder
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  • creative writing
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Audrey Bowers, Butler University

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Your Complete Guide to Creative Writing Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Degrees and Other Master’s Options

creative writing mfa competitive

Written by Haley Boyce

mfa creative writing

A master’s degree in creative writing is an intensive study in the craft of storytelling. And everyone has a story to tell. Writers come from all kinds of diverse backgrounds, and nowhere will this be more evident than in the classroom of a creative writing master’s program.

Each student’s purpose in earning a creative writing master’s degree is as varied as their own backgrounds and life experiences. Still, you’re likely to encounter others that share a purpose similar to your own. Personal growth or a career change… a desire to write a novel but unsure how to get beyond a quippy social media caption… a desire to be immersed in the craft and to master the art of storytelling… marketability as a job candidate when a creative writing master’s degree is combined with an undergraduate degree in a different field. Even if you’ve been conducting scientific research for the past ten years and are wondering if there’s a place for you in the writers’ room – you’ll discover there most certainly is. 

The diversity of purpose among creative writing graduate students gathers unique imaginations together to generate incredible storytelling.

There’s truly no other experience so freeing and affirming as twelve writers being given the same prompt and churning out twelve wildly different stories. You’re on the right track if the thought of this sets your heart to racing.

The fact that you’re here means you’ve completed your bachelor’s degree, are nearly finished with it. Or maybe you’re about to begin an undergraduate program and already planning what life will look like for you in about four years. It’s even possible that you’re reading this with a doctorate hanging on your wall and are considering a postdoctoral education.

Wherever you are in your education journey, there are bound to be questions you need answered about what earning a creative writing master’s degree might look like.

The World’s Most Illustrious Institutions Have Been Teaching Writing and Conferring Master’s Degrees for Centuries

king's college in cambridge

Later, it became a degree earned “in course” to recipients of a baccalaureate degree who were able to maintain a respectable lifestyle and paying a small fee.

This is the way it was for hundreds of years until the master’s degree began to develop into what we know it as today: A degree earned through the advanced study of a particular field. The “modernized” version of the master’s degree that came to America in the 1870s is the model on which today’s MFA and other creative writing master’s degrees are built. 

The Only Thing Predictable About an MFA or Other Master’s in Creative Writing is Basic Program Structure

A master’s degree in creative writing takes between one and three years to complete, with consideration to taking on a part-time or full-time course load. Some schools require the program to be completed within five years from your start date.

You can expect your coursework to start out with a close examination of literature and writers’ workshops, then taper into more independent study the closer you get to writing your thesis. 

Your thesis will naturally be a creative writing project like your novel, a play, a book of short stories, or a screenplay. The length of the thesis will vary by program. Some require the complete project while others set a minimum of fifty pages.

Differences Between an MFA and MA in Creative Writing Come Down to Intensity, Duration, and Purpose

studying late in the library

It’s not designed exclusively to prepare teachers and university faculty by any means, and most MFA students are more interested in being authors than instructors, but the degree does put the option of a teaching or tenure track position squarely on the table.

An MFA will offer smaller class sizes, allowing you to receive personalized instruction from professors and feedback in a workshop setting. 

Getting accepted to an MFA program can be competitive, so be prepared to apply to several programs that you’d be happy to be part of. If you aren’t accepted into your top choice, consider the possibility of beginning an MA in creative writing and then transferring into an MFA program. Doing so can give you an edge that other applicants don’t have.

Courses you can expect to take in a program for a creative writing master’s degree are:

  • Methods and Materials of Literacy Research
  • Writing the Short Story
  • The Art of the Pitch
  • Fairy Tales
  • Creative Nonfiction
  • The Personal Essay
  • American Poetry
  • Independent Study
  • Crafting the Thesis

These last two classes go by different names depending on the college or university, but their purpose is along the same lines, as they are meant to ease you into writing your thesis. Any former graduate student will tell you, the more you work under the guidance of your thesis director the better your results will be. It serves as the last bit of hand-holding you get and good preparation for how you will ultimately approach all of your future writings after graduation – independently. 

An MFA or Other Master’s Degree in Creative Writing Separates the Authors from the Amateurs

From only 64 creative writing MFA programs in the entire United States in 1994, the number has ballooned to over 300 today. Even so, spots are limited, and admissions can be competitive.

Sure, some people will earn their creative writing master’s having already published a book or two, but most will be unknown even in local literary circles. Without exception though, every student will be hungry to develop the writing skills and discipline that only an MFA or similar master’s program can provide:

The Art of Storytelling

Are you that person at the dinner party who holds a captive audience when you tell about the time you locked your keys in the car while you were still in your pajamas because all you wanted was a quick cuppa from the drive through? Or maybe you’re the one who was genuinely mortified by said experience and have no other way to process it other than to put it in writing. In any case, guess what? You’re a storyteller, and a master’s can bring out the best of that characteristic.

Time Management

Listen, when you’re a writer you’re only as rich as the number of words you produce for your publisher. If you have any intention at all of turning your words into dollars to keep a roof over your head, you’ve got to be disciplined enough to get your assignments done on time. Missed deadlines means missed opportunities for publication. Any master’s program in creative writing worth its salt will help you become better at managing the one thing every writer wishes there was more of. 

It can’t be stated enough – it’s not what you know, it’s who you know until you meet the people who believe in your ability to cut it as a writer. This is something very difficult to come by for novice writers outside of a creative writing master’s degree program. Your instructors will be your first connection. Then your classmates, who inevitably become colleagues and confidants, may connect you with the people (who connect you with the people) who are open to hearing your elevator pitch and reading the first few chapters of your novel. 

Self-promotion

This is probably one of the most uncomfortable skills to master while making your way in the publishing world. But if you pause your jittering nerves long enough to consider why you need it, it will all make perfect sense (even if you wish it didn’t). As the writer of your blog, novel, social media content – or the admissions statement letter you’re working on for your MFA program – you are the very first person who believed in your work. There was a reason you created this piece or honed this skill. Make others believe in your creativity for the same reasons you do. There’s a purpose to your craft, whatever your focus may be, and it’s part of your job to get others to believe in it too. This is the self-realized confidence you’ll come away with from a master’s program in creative writing.

Writing is an art. We arrange words on a page in order to evoke emotion, to tell stories that would otherwise be kept silent. There is no wrong way to tell a story, but there are ways to write a story so its published in its best form. This is why we edit and revise, edit and revise, and then edit and revise some more. As a writer, your job is to get that first draft on the page, then polish it until the story that is meant to be told is presented in its truest form. How you get there is entirely up to your dedication to the craft of authenticity and artistry, but a master’s degree in creative writing will teach you the techniques.

Self-advocacy and negotiation skills

Art comes at a price. In all honesty, you’re going to work some very low-paying jobs as a writer and will likely have work published for the value of the exposure even if it doesn’t help pay the electric bill. But there will be a turning point when people will start paying you for your words. We promise. Pay varies depending on the project. Having an agent who works a deal for your novel is very different from freelance content contributions or copywriting, which typically pays per word. In cases such as these, the average rate is five to ten cents per word, but some jobs come as low as three cents per word, so be prepared to either take the money and byline where you can get it, or seek something that matches your worth in experience and talent. Negotiation comes down to being realistic about your experience and skill in comparison to the competition. A master’s degree will give you the confidence to know what you’re worth

Editing and Proofreading

Your work is only as good as your final revision. There are a lot of sayings about that good ol’ first draft (some too salty to share here), but the sentiment is true no matter how you phrase it – that first draft is not your best work. Your MFA or other master’s degree in creative writing will provide a built-in workshop with trusted peers. Over time, your skin will grow thick and you will learn to love the sting of criticism far more than any patronizing praise. It’s then that you’ll be able to revise that first draft with endless devotion to your premise and craft, not to your haughty ego. 

Online Versus In-Person MFA and Other Master’s in Creative Writing

taking a break from studying

Take it from those of us who have been in both virtual and in-person graduate courses – creative energy comes from the tension of diversity and nowhere is this amplified more than in an online graduate-level creative writing course. 

Take a second to imagine the type of person you think might be in your program. Okay, now leave a couple of seats open for types of people you didn’t even know could exist.

It’s impossible to enter a graduate class in creative writing without having been made into a new person because of all the different creative minds you will encounter. Because online classes are more accessible than those held on campus, you are more likely to encounter these wonderfully diverse minds. 

MA/MFA Dual Degree Creative Writing Options

alone in the library

An MA/MFA dual degree creative writing program could be one of the most ideal scenarios for someone who has interests in multiple career options after graduation. Both set you up for success as a writer in any number of word-based occupations including, foremost, education at the secondary, community college, or university level; publishing, marketing, public relations, and social media specialist. 

The application process for an MA/MFA dual degree creative writing program at a college or university is a bit more arduous compared to individual MA or MFA programs. If you think you might choose this dual program as your path, be prepared to meet the following application requirements:

  • Be admitted to both the MA and MFA degree programs
  • Be enrolled concurrently in both MA and MFA degree programs
  • Complete all requirements for each degree program, including the thesis for both
  • Students applying to the dual degree program must do so before completing a certain amount of credits (refer back to seeking an advisor’s guidance before enrolling in either of the programs)

Coursework for a dual MA/MFA creative writing degree program can include a required set of courses and additional coursework for both the MA and MFA programs.

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DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH

  • Litowitz MFA+MA Program

The Litowitz MFA+MA Program in Creative Writing and English

Program faculty, the department of english is grateful to northwestern university alumna jennifer leischner litowitz ’91 and her husband, alec litowitz for helping launch and support this program..

The Litowitz MFA+MA Program in Creative Writing offers intimate classes, the opportunity to pursue both creative and critical writing, close mentorship by renowned faculty in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, and three fully supported years in which to grow as writers and complete a book-length creative project.  The Litowitz MFA+MA curriculum gives students time to deepen both their creative writing and their study of literature.  Students will receive full financial support for three academic years and two summers, a total of 33 months.  Both degrees—the MFA in Creative Writing and the MA in English—are awarded simultaneously at graduation.

Drawing on innovative scholarship, deep immersion in process, and cross-pollination between critical and creative texts, Litowitz students will complete a Capstone essay—a 20-25 page expanded version of a paper written for an English department graduate or MFA+MA seminar—by the end of their second year, and will spend their third year working on a book-length creative thesis of their own design, either within one genre or across genres.  The MFA+MA program's small size and attentive faculty will develop students' sense of literary context, the possibilities of genre, and their creative practice, while encouraging them to pursue the individual distinctiveness of their projects.

The Litowitz MFA+MA program provides significant exposure to a second genre in addition to the genre in which a student has been admitted. Students must take at least one out-of-genre workshop and have the option of taking more.

Over two years of coursework students will take:

In spring quarter of the second year, with advising and mentoring by the faculty, each student will complete the MA Capstone Essay.

In year three, students will be almost wholly dedicated to their creative thesis manuscripts.  Third-year students will take three quarters of the MFA Thesis Workshop/Tutorial.

Some students will complete their MFA thesis manuscript by the end of this year; others will wish to take more time.  The Graduate School permits students to submit the culminating project for the MFA at the end of full-time enrollment, or afterward.   

In all three years, students will be mentored by the faculty in the practice of their writing, the design of their projects, and regarding artistic and intellectual resources for their work.  In the teaching of creative writing and, through summer editorial work at TriQuarterly.org , students will get first-hand experience in editing a literary journal.

Visiting writers (including some anglophone international writers) will bring new perspectives to artistic practice, the three genres, and cross-genre or multi-genre work.

Students will pursue their work on our beautiful Evanston campus, amid artists, filmmakers, scholars and public intellectuals, with easy access to the vibrant literary arts scene of Chicago.

Admissions Cycle

Each year, the MFA+MA program admits new students in two of our three genres.  The genres in question rotate annually.  Information on the application process and the genres in which applications will be considered can be found here .

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SNHU graduate, Felicia Ramos-Peters working on her computer. With the text Felicia Ramos-Peters '14

Online MFA in Creative Writing Master of Fine Arts

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Earn an MFA in Creative Writing Online

  • $637/credit (48 credits total)
  • Transfer up to 12 graduate credits
  • 100% online – no residency required
  • Four fiction genres to choose from
  • Career-focused certificate included
  • No application fee or GRE/GMAT scores required

Online MFA in Creative Writing Program Overview

Share your story with the world and let the power of storytelling take your career to new heights with an online Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing . As one of the only programs available that encourages a focus on genre fiction, our online MFA lets you hone your craft in an area specific to your strengths and interests. You'll also learn about the business side of creative writing, preparing you to market your work in the real world.

While most MFA programs require a residency, Southern New Hampshire University's online MFA in Creative Writing can be completed entirely online, with no travel necessary.

“Traditional MFA programs, whether full-time or low residency, are out of reach for many writers,” said Paul Witcover , associate dean of creative writing. “The SNHU online MFA was designed to make the MFA experience accessible to all fiction writers, opening the door to diverse voices excluded for too long from the literary conversation. Our program is dedicated to giving writers the tools to succeed on the page and beyond it.”

Graduates leave the program with a completed and revised novel in one of our four offered genres: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance and Speculative. With the included certificates in either online teaching of writing or professional writing , you'll have the skills to support your writing career, no matter where it takes you.

.st0{fill:#21386D;} What You'll Learn

  • The business and technical sides of professional writing
  • How to navigate the publishing ecosystem, identify agents and editors, and market your work to appeal to decision-makers
  • Using social media to gain a following and build your brand
  • How to teach writing in a classroom setting

.cls-1 { fill: #21386d; } How You'll Learn

At SNHU, you'll get support from day 1 to graduation and beyond. And with no set class times, 24/7 access to the online classroom and helpful learning resources along the way, you'll have everything you need to reach your goals.

Why Emily Chose Online MFA in Creative Writing

The Value of an Online MFA

Emily Jones ’20 embraced a transformational experience through the online MFA in Creative Writing program, which supported her in taking her writing career to the next level. “I can now say, without even a hint of imposter syndrome, that I am a writer,” said Jones. “And that is because of Southern New Hampshire University.”

Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, writers and authors made a median annual salary of $69,510 in 2021, while editors made $63,350. 1

Paul Witcover with the text Paul Witcover

“Our mission is to give students a degree and associated practical skills they can use to forge successful pathways in academia, business, or by blazing their own career trail,” said Paul Witcover , associate dean of creative writing.

Earning one of the included certificates in online teaching of writing or professional writing will also be an invaluable addition to your resume for part-time, full-time and freelance jobs in a variety of fields, including:

  • Higher education. Instruct writing courses in higher education settings. In 2021, postsecondary teachers made a median annual wage of $79,640, and you can expect to see a 12% growth in available positions through 2031, according to the BLS. 1
  • Advertising. Use your storytelling skills in a way that influences consumer action. As a copywriter, you could find yourself doing any number of writing projects from crafting emails and ads to writing entire commercials.
  • Marketing. If you're more comfortable with long-form prose, many businesses have invested in content writers who create quality content such as blog posts, ebooks and podcasts to attract and retain customers.
  • Entertainment. Good at building suspense or setting up punchlines? From movies and plays to comedy and podcasts, being a good storyteller and writer is important to finding success in the entertainment industry.
  • History. Every person's life has a plot, but it takes writers like you to tell their stories in a compelling way. Help readers relive the experiences of historic figures and pop culture icons as a biographer.

Higher Education

Instruct writing courses in higher education at a college or university, either in-person or online.

Advertising

Influence consumer action through copywriting, from print ads to digital advertising and broadcast commercials.

Create written content such as blog posts, ebooks and podcasts to attract and retain customers.

Entertainment

From movies and plays to comedy and podcasts, writers often find success in the entertainment industry.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts favorable job growth in postsecondary education. And while statistics are not available for all job settings mentioned above, the BLS reports the following:

.cls-1 { fill: #21386d; } Job Growth

The BLS predicts an 8% growth in available postsecondary teaching positions through 2032. 1

.cls-1 { fill: #21386d; } Potential Salary

Writers and authors made a median annual salary of $73,150 in 2022, while editors made $73,080 and postsecondary teachers made $80,840. 1

Understanding the Numbers When reviewing job growth and salary information, it’s important to remember that actual numbers can vary due to many different factors — like years of experience in the role, industry of employment, geographic location, worker skill and economic conditions. Cited projections do not guarantee actual salary or job growth.

Start Your Journey Toward an Online MFA in Creative Writing

If you're looking to earn your Master of Fine Arts online, you've found the right program. Even though there are no residency requirements, you'll still interact frequently with other students and faculty members in asynchronous discussions, critique workshops and within our online writer’s community, where students come together to share industry news, extend writing tips and develop critique partnerships.

Jamilla Geter with the text Jamilla Geter

"I liked MFA-514 (Advanced Studies in Genre Literature) best," said student Jamilla Geter . "It was a great look into the different genres. It really helped me narrow down what genre I wanted to write in."

Felicia Warden with the text Felicia Warden

"Though it was not writing exactly, its connection to it – especially in our digital world – was made clear almost immediately," she said. "Writing is not just providing content of value to your readers, but also creating avenues of access so those readers can find your content. This course helped me to understand that and to learn how I can create those avenues."

Besides allowing you to focus on your own creative interests, part of our 48-credit online MFA curriculum requires you to choose from 2 certificate offerings designed to round out your education and better prepare you for a multitude of writing-related careers.

The first choice is a Graduate Certificate in Online Teaching of Writing , which is tailored to those who see themselves teaching in an online classroom setting as a supplement to their writing careers. Students practice approaches to editing and coaching, learning how to establish a virtual instructor presence and cultivate methods for supporting and engaging students within online writing communities.

Learn more about the online teaching of writing graduate certificate .

Students can also choose the Graduate Certificate in Professional Writing , which highlights the technical and business opportunities available to writers. Students will develop a range of skills, such as copywriting, social media, marketing principles and/or content generation, learning many of the freelancing skills integral to today’s project-driven economy.

Learn more about the professional writing graduate certificate .

All of our courses are taught by accomplished authors and industry professionals who know both the craft and business of creative writing. They will work closely with you to develop both your creative and professional skill set.

"All instructors within my program were extremely knowledgeable and helpful," Warden said. "I learned a lot about the different career paths my instructors chose. ... The course instruction, along with their anecdotal experiences, helped in offering knowledge in different areas of our field.

MFA Program Thesis

The thesis for the Online MFA in Creative Writing is required to be a novel of at least 50,000 words in one of the four genres the program offers: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance, and Speculative.

Every Southern New Hampshire University online MFA student who graduates from the program will do so with a revised novel manuscript in their chosen genre, which is completed in a three-course thesis series. Throughout your tenure in the program, you can either work on a singular idea that you will develop during the three thesis courses, or you can begin a new project for your thesis. You can also combine elements of the four genres offered in the program for your thesis. For example, your thesis might be a YA Speculative Fiction novel.

Kathleen Harris with the text Kathleen Harris

"My three thesis classes for the MFA degree were the most helpful," said Kathleen Harris '21 . "I was actually writing a book as my thesis, so it was both enjoyable and advantageous for the degree. And it was the end of a very long milestone of accomplishments."

Minimum Hardware Requirements Component Type   PC (Windows OS)   Apple (Mac OS)   Operating System  Currently supported operating system from Microsoft.   Currently supported operating system from Apple.  Memory (RAM)  8GB or higher  8GB or higher  Hard Drive  100GB or higher  100GB or higher  Antivirus Software  Required for campus students. Strongly recommended for online students.  Required for campus students. Strongly recommended for online students.  SNHU Purchase Programs  Visit Dell   Visit Apple   Internet/ Bandwidth  5 Mbps Download, 1 Mbps Upload and less than 100 ms Latency  5 Mbps Download, 1 Mbps Upload and less than 100 ms Latency  Notes:   Laptop or desktop?   Whichever you choose depends on your personal preference and work style, though laptops tend to offer more flexibility.  Note:   Chromebooks (Chrome OS) and iPads (iOS) do not meet the minimum requirements for coursework at SNHU. These offer limited functionality and do not work with some course technologies. They are not acceptable as the only device you use for coursework. While these devices are convenient and may be used for some course functions, they cannot be your primary device. SNHU does, however, have an affordable laptop option that it recommends: Dell Latitude 3301 with Windows 10.  Office 365 Pro Plus  is available free of charge to all SNHU students and faculty. The Office suite will remain free while you are a student at SNHU. Upon graduation you may convert to a paid subscription if you wish. Terms subject to change at Microsoft's discretion. Review system requirements for  Microsoft 365 plans  for business, education and government.  Antivirus software:  Check with your ISP as they may offer antivirus software free of charge to subscribers.  if (typeof accordionGroup === "undefined") { window.accordionGroup = new accordion(); } accordionGroup.init(document.getElementById('f756dce5bd874c61855f6f6e92d88470')); University Accreditation

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Tuition & Fees

Tuition rates for SNHU's online degree programs are among the lowest in the nation. We offer a 25% tuition discount for U.S. service members, both full and part time, and the spouses of those on active duty.

Tuition rates are subject to change and are reviewed annually. *Note: students receiving this rate are not eligible for additional discounts.

Additional Costs: Course Materials ($ varies by course). Foundational courses may be required based on your undergraduate course history, which may result in additional cost.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Related programs.

  • Extended University
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You love writing fiction or poetry and want to earn an advanced degree, but how do you put together a successful application to a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program? We chatted with Sylvia Aguilar-Zéleny, MH, MFA, Director for UTEP’s Online MFA, and she helped us answer six (6) of the most frequently asked questions about getting successfully accepted into a competitive master’s in creative writing. Read on to learn more about creating a strong statement of purpose and a writing sample that demonstrates literary quality.

   

What is a statement of purpose for an mfa in creative writing.

The statement of purpose introduces you to the admissions committee. This is your opportunity to let them know who you are, your interests and background, and why you are pursuing an MFA.

Specifically, be sure to address why you want to be considered for that particular MFA program. Highlight what you will contribute.

The statement of purpose is not a resume or bio, but rather the qualifications you bring to the program as well as the reasons why you want to earn your degree from this program.

Sylvia Aguilar-Zéleny, MH, MFA, Associate Professor of Instruction and Director of The University of Texas at El Paso’s fully online Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing recommends doing your homework and learning about the faculty. If there is a specific faculty member that you are looking forward to working with, highlight why you are interested in working with them.                                                  

What determines literary quality in the writing sample?

A piece with literary quality inspires the reader to keep reading. That may be through captivating storytelling. Or words that paint intriguing images. Or perhaps an engaging plot where the reader must find out how the story ends.

In short, the words are chosen carefully, capturing attention from the very first sentence.

Since you’re applying to a master’s program in creative writing, you already know that you can benefit from additional education, mentoring, and practice. Your writing sample should demonstrate knowledge of the craft and will provide clues to your potential as a poet or fiction or nonfiction writer.

Resist the temptation to submit a writing sample that crosses several genres. Instead, focus on the one genre in which you feel most comfortable writing and create a strong piece that stands on its own merits. A strong MFA program will give you the opportunity to explore a variety of genres and writing styles under the guidance of experienced writers.

What genre is best for the MFA application writing sample?

Research the application requirements for each MFA in Creative Writing program before submitting your writing sample. Make sure that you are delivering a piece that aligns with that specific program’s stated goals.

For example, UTEP’s online MFA in Creative Writing is looking for fiction, nonfiction, or poetry that brings attention to social issues and the human condition. They do not work with genre-literature such as fantasy, vampires, and sci-fi unless it’s used to address social, political, or cultural issues.

If you cannot find detailed guidelines on the program website, reach out to the program contact. The more information you have as you put your application together, the better you can position yourself for consideration.

What considerations affect the committee’s decision?

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing programs accept a limited number of applicants. With multiple applicants for each spot, selection committees can afford to be choosy.

Formatting doesn’t necessarily matter, but whatever you submit should be well-edited and proofread. Don’t submit something that is clearly still undergoing revisions.

Make sure that your statement of purpose and writing sample speak to something that aligns with what the program offers. If you are applying to more than one program, it may be tempting to use the same writing sample and statement of purpose. This can severely impact your chance for being selected. In fact, your application will be more competitive if it is tailored to specific program requirements.

For letters of recommendation, ask people who know your writing, capabilities, and sense of responsibility. This may include your colleagues, former professors, and supervisors. Recommendation letters and other credentials may be used to determine whether the candidate will be able to find a balance between work, life, and the online program.

How can you increase the likelihood your application will be accepted?

UTEP’s Director for the Online MFA, Professor Aguilar-Zéleny, offers these top suggestions for MFA in Creative Writing candidates:

  • Start your application early.
  • Ask questions.
  • Read the curriculum.
  • Read the faculty bios and look for a mentor.
  • If your application is not accepted, reach out and ask for feedback.

“A student who is willing to improve–that is the type of student I want in our program,” says Professor Aguilar-Zéleny. She goes on to recommend her favorite revising tool: “Share and read the statement of purpose and the writing sample out loud.”

What should you consider when choosing an MFA in Creative Writing program?

UTEP’s fully online Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing lets you earn your graduate degree from anywhere in the world. The curriculum has a strong emphasis on workshops, but there’s no residency requirement, so you can earn your master’s in creative writing from Texas without ever leaving home. And UTEP’s program is the only bilingual MFA in Creative Writing in the U.S. Classes and discussions are held in English, but creative assignments may be submitted in Spanish, allowing you to write in your native language or expand your ability.

Students come from a variety of fields, but they all share a common passion – an interest in improving their writing ability. Whether you are interested in establishing yourself as a writer or advancing your teaching career, UTEP’s online creative writing program lets you gain essential credentials without uprooting your life.

What’s Next

We invite you to explore our online program and see what it will take to make that next step into your profession. If you are interested in learning more, reach out and an enrollment counselor will contact you directly.

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Welcome to the MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Houston

M.F.A. in Creative Writing

Get an m.f.a. in creative writing.

Our creative writing M.F.A. allows students to focus on creative writing in a specific genre while also studying a broad and diverse range of literatures in English. This degree is not a studio degree. It offers students preparation for the following areas:

  • Creative publication
  • Expert teaching in creative writing and literature
  • Leadership in communication for business, education, and arts organizations
  • Advanced studies in literature and creative writing in a doctoral program.

Admission to our creative writing program is extremely competitive, with up to 20 new students across the two genres selected each year from the hundreds of applications received from around the world. The curriculum for M.F.A. students emphasizes creative writing and literary study.

The city of Houston offers a vibrant, multi-cultural backdrop for studying creative writing at the University of Houston. With a dynamic visual and performing arts scene, the Houston metropolitan area supplies a wealth of aesthetic materials. 

Overview of Admissions Requirements

Minimum requirements for admission.

  • B.A. degree
  • 3.0 GPA in undergraduate studies 

Application Deadline

Applications to the M.F.A. in Creative Writing program are due January 15.

For more admissions information, visit the How to Apply web page for our M.F.A. in Creative Writing.

History of the Creative Writing Program

CW Reading Event

Over the years many more internationally acclaimed writers have made the Program their home, including Mary Gaitskill, Richard Howard, Howard Moss, Linda Gregg, Adam Zagajewski, Daniel Stern, David Wojahn, Edward Hirsch, Alan Hollinghurst, Mark Strand, David Wagoner, Philip Levine, Charles Wright, Claudia Rankine, Kimiko Hahn, Mark Doty and Ruben Martinez.

Current faculty includes Erin Belieu, Robert Boswell, Audrey Colombe, Chitra Divakaruni, Nick Flynn, francine j. harris, Antonya Nelson, Alex Parsons, Kevin Prufer, Brenda Peynado, Martha Serpas, Roberto Tejada, and Peter Turchi.

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Our MFA in Creative Writing

Our three-year MFA program provides students with graduate study and professional training in the writing of fiction and poetry with our distinguished graduate faculty.

AWP Reading

The Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing is a terminal degree awarded by the University of Illinois. Our three-year MFA program provides students with graduate study and professional training in the writing of fiction and poetry with our distinguished graduate faculty :  Ángel García , Janice Harrington , Amy Hassinger , Christopher Kempf ,  Ted Sanders , Alex Shakar , Corey Van Landingham,  and David Wright .

The primary goal of the MFA in Creative Writing is to give literary artists time and space to work on perfecting their art. Students will teach creative writing and produce a book-length, publishable manuscript. Students will also gain extensive experience in literary editing and publishing while enrolled in the program.

MFA voice reading

Teaching Assistantships, Fellowships, and Tuition Waivers

The MFA program at the University of Illinois is fully funded. Students accepted into the program will receive full tuition waivers, guaranteed teaching assistantships, and partial-fee waivers for the duration of the program, as long as they remain in good standing and make reasonable progress toward their degree.

Stipends for MFA students are competitive and the low cost of living in the area is quite reasonable. In their first year, all entering MFA candidates will receive a 1/1 teaching assistantship (one class each semester). In their second year, students will receive a 2/1 assistantship, with opportunities for teaching-load reduction in the form of publishing-job-training graduate assistantships with our award-winning literary magazine,  Ninth Letter.  In their third year, students will again receive a 1/1 teaching assistantship.

Most semesters, teaching assignments will be in the undergraduate rhetoric program. MFA students will also teach at least one undergraduate creative-writing workshop, with an opportunity to teach additional undergraduate classes in creative writing. In recent semesters, MFA students have taught CW 104 Fiction Writing I, CW 106 Poetry Writing I, and CW 200 Reading for Writers, among other courses. 

For application requirements and instructions, please visit  Application Requirements for Prospective Students .

Life in Champaign-Urbana

Life in C-U combines some of the best aspects of life in a city with the benefits of a small-town environment.

Accessibility :

  • Low cost of living, affordable housing, and green spaces within half a mile of every home
  • Free, award-winning mass transit for all U of I students
  • Proximity to major cities with Chicago, St. Louis, and Indianapolis only a few hours away

Arts & Culture:

  • Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and Krannert Art Museum
  • Vibrant local live music scene
  • Public art and murals throughout the area, seasonal fairs and festivals

Food & Drink:

  • A food scene reflecting the diversity of the country’s second largest international population at a public university
  • A wide range of bars and local breweries to suit anyone’s taste

The faculty of the Creative Writing Program represent a diverse range of writing and teaching styles and interests. Faculty members work and teach actively in a wide variety of genres and media, including poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, juvenile fiction, theater, and film. Faculty members have received numerous awards and fellowships, including the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Fiction, the O’Henry Prize in fiction, the Pushcart Prize, the A. Poulin Jr. Poetry Prize, the Kate Tufts Discovery Prize, the Levis Prize, the William Peden Prize, the FC2 National Fiction Competition, the Academy of American Poets Award, the Bakeless Prize, the Wallace Stegner fellowship, and fellowships from the NEA, Guggenheim Foundation, Yaddo, MacDowell, CantoMundo, Bread Loaf, Sewanee, and many others.

Follow the links below to learn more about our MFA program's core faculty members:

Ángel García

Janice N. Harrington

Amy Hassinger

Christopher Kempf

Ted Sanders

Alex Shakar

Corey Van Landingham

David Wright

Ángel García

Ninth Letter

Ninth Letter , the University of Illinois's award-winning literature and arts magazine, is a semi-annual publication featuring emerging and established writers of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and other genres undefined, as well as visual artists   working in a variety of mediums. This collaborative energy comes together in a highly-designed format, both in print and on the web.

Ninth Letter  is dedicated to providing educational opportunities to all interested MFA candidates. Students may enroll in the  Ninth Letter - based literary publishing course and will have the opportunity to work as assistants on the editorial staff alongside the journal’s faculty editors: Amy Hassinger (Fiction Editor), Ja nice N. Harrington  (Poetry Editor) and Christopher Kempf  (Creative Nonfiction Editor).

Jericho Brown and MFA

Students in UIUC's MFA in Creative Writing program hail from a wide range of educational and cultural backgrounds, and their work in prose and poetry explores an extensive range of literary styles. While enrolled in the program, students past and present have published writing in  AGNI ,  Alaska Quarterly Review ,   The Believer ,  Cincinnati Review ,  Colorado Review ,  Copper Nickel ,  Georgia Review ,  Kenyon Review ,  Missouri Review ,  Paris Review , and elsewhere.  Additionally, recent MFA book publications include Laura Adamczyk's  Island City  (Macmillan, 2023); Lillian-Yvonne Bertram's  Negative Money  (Soft Skull, 2023); Chekwube Danladi's  Semiotics  (University of Georgia Press, 2020), winner of the 2019 Cave Canem Poetry Prize; Katherine Gaffney's  Fool in a Blue House  (University of Tampa Press, 2023), winner of the 2022  Tampa Review  Prize; Matthew Minicucci's  DUAL  (Acre, 2023); and Jess Tanck's  Winter Here  (University of Georgia Press, 2024), winner of the 2022 Georgia Poetry Prize.

Carrie Johnson (Poetry)

Deon Robinson (Poetry)

Nina Sannes (Fiction)

Andrea Sielicki (Fiction)

Zach Simon (Poetry)

Second Year

Matthew Fash (Poetry)

Justine Mercado (Poetry)

David Miller (Fiction)

Jason Pfister (Fiction)

Erin Stoodley (Poetry)

Hannah Thorpe (Fiction)

Isabella Escamilla (Poetry)

David Foley (Poetry)

Gabriella Hoggatt (Fiction)

Callan Latham  (Poetry)

Tyler Moore (Fiction)

Garrett Stack (Fiction)

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7 Creative Writing Careers You Can Get With an MFA Degree

MSMU Blog: 7 Creative Writing Careers You Can Get With an MFA Degree

Creative minds gift beauty to the world around them. Artists in every field give people the opportunity to appreciate the thoughts, emotions and stories that connect people across the globe. However, the field of fine arts is traditionally regarded as highly competitive, which can be discouraging to some aspiring artists.

But despite the competitive reputation of the field, an MFA in Creative Writing is one of the most versatile fine arts degrees in the field, offering those who are passionate about writing plenty of opportunities in countless industries. Because the world will always need talented writers, an MFA in Creative Writing can be put to use almost anywhere.

Download our guide, The Art of Storytelling: A Guide to Creative Writing Careers with an MFA Degree, to learn more about becoming a professional writer.

Are you a wordsmith searching for where to best use your creative skills? Keep reading to find out more about the various ways you can make a career out of your love for the written word.

Why Think About an MFA in Creative Writing?

Across languages, the history of human experience lives on through words. 

Words always have been and always will be one of the most important means of connecting people intellectually and emotionally. The passion to unite people through the written word is a unique one that deserves to be honed.

Vintage Newspapers

Writing is everywhere we look.  

On billboards, at the store, in our mailboxes, throughout our entertainment mediums — because of the importance of words in everyday life, nearly every job industry imaginable requires passionate, skillful writers. 

In other words, the world needs storytellers; if you long to tell stories, whether in the form of a novel or a newspaper, consider joining a community of storytellers in an MFA program. An MFA in Creative Writing will prepare you to use your creative writing abilities for any career you might pursue.

What Can You Do With an MFA in Creative Writing?  

So you like writing, and creative writing is needed in a variety of fields. But what can you actually do with an MFA in Creative Writing ? Explore just seven of the many options for a creative writer below.

Ever dreamed of seeing your novel on a shelf at the local bookstore? An advanced creative writing degree can help you fulfill your dreams of becoming a published author . Be a novelist or a poet, of fiction or of nonfiction, and share the words you craft inside your head with the world around you. 

2. Screenwrite

Bring your stories to life on screen. Whether you like creating plot, characters or script, you can use your creative writing skills as a screenwriter. Screenwriters create content for shows and movies and imaginatively translate the written word into a visual piece of art.

Is structure your forte? Do you enjoy digging into the details of grammar and style in writing? Help other writers better their writing by being an editor. Editors surround themselves with pieces of writing in all forms, readying them for publication . 

Want to help other people accomplish their goals of being a published author? Look into a career as a literary agent . Literary agents help aspiring authors navigate the overwhelming world of publishing.

Some creative minds find their strength in the world of nonfiction. Those with a natural curiosity for the real, current world and a gift for research can go for a career as a journalist. Newspapers, magazines and various online publications need people who want to gather information and report on world events.

6. Speak out

If you like sharing your opinions, providing perspective and having your voice heard, a job as a columnist might suit you. Columnists can write for all kinds of media, specializing in writing articles on a specific topic or interest .

In the age of rapidly advancing technological communication, skills in writing might lead you to be a social media specialist. As a social media specialist, you can help brands build community with the public through creating and managing a brand’s online presence.

A Quick Look at the Job Outlook for Writers

Jobs for writers and authors nationally have a stable market . Across the country, creative writing job openings grow at a steady rate of 4 percent per year with about 142,800 positions available at any time. The job growth rate increases for writers working in marketing ( at 10 percent ), technical writers ( at 6 percent ) and those working in broadcast media ( at 10 percent ).

Los Angeles Downtown

In the Los Angeles area alone, writers can find careers among thousands of job options . The versatile, secure market for writing jobs gives creative writers space to grow in their talents and passions.

Why Earn a Creative Writing MFA at MSMU? 

Los Angeles, California is a hub of creative minds. Home to the film hotspot of Hollywood and nationally famous papers like The Los Angeles Times, writers who find their passion in anything from screenwriting to journalism find themselves in a community of creative writers in Los Angeles. 

Doheny LA Skyline

And, Mount Saint Mary’s University Los Angeles sits right at the heart of it all.

A MFA in Creative Writing gives students a broad education on the craft. The Mount gives students the opportunity to deepen their knowledge in a specific area of study within the creative writing field by offering two certificate options in its MFA in Creative Writing program:

Latin American/Latinx Creative Studies Certificate (LALCS): Dive deep into the heritage of Latin American and Latinx cultures. With an LALCS Certificate, students study the rich artistic traditions of Latin American and Latinx cultures from the Caribbean and Southern, Central and Northern Latin America, especially across different genres of writing. Students will learn from faculty with expertise in a variety of literary and writing backgrounds and be able to immerse themselves in Latinx culture through studying abroad in Cuzco, Peru. This certificate prepares writers to think critically about and be engaged with the world around them

Writing for Media Certificate: Learn about how essential diversity is in all forms of writing. In MSMU’s Writing for Media Certificate program, students take courses in screenwriting, podcasting, cinema studies and more, to gain well-rounded knowledge of the writing field. Students also understand the value of appreciating and representing voices from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds in media. A diverse set of teachers and classes help students produce robust portfolios of work over the course of the program that they can carry with them as they enter their careers.

Pursue Your Creative Writing Career at the Mount!

The world wants to hear your stories.

At Mount Saint Mary’s University, students can pursue their Creative Writing MFA on campus, online or a mixture of both. Over the course of this interdisciplinary program, all candidates will complete fifteen credit hours in writing workshops, several electives in literary theory, the humanities and film and create an original creative writing manuscript in a selected genre. Students will graduate prepared to write in all fields and qualified to teach writing at the college level.

If you want to dedicate your life to telling stories of any kind – fiction or nonfiction, in sentence or verse, in print or online – a Creative Writing MFA could be your next step in sharing your voice with the world.

Write your career story starting at the Mount. If you are interested in MSMU’s Creative Writing MFA, apply now , request more information , or attend an info session .

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Aspiring Author

What Jobs Can You Get With an MFA in Creative Writing?

Author: Shannon Bowring Updated: January 31, 2023

Light and airy classroom set up for MFA in Creative Writing

So you took the plunge, endured the emotional upheavals and tough criticism of your writing, and took on student loan debt you’ll be paying off for years. Congratulations! You now have an MFA in Creative Writing. But what jobs can you get with your MFA in Creative Writing ?

How much can you expect to earn?

According to ZipRecruiter , as of December 2021, the average annual pay in the United States for a Creative Writing MFA is $73,613 per year. If this number seems optimistic, even unrealistic, it’s because it is. A deeper plunge into the report shows that annual salaries for writers actually range from $11,500 to $259,000. That’s a hell of a difference. We can only assume that the Big Bestselling Writers have claimed that top spot, while the rest of us aspiring authors are likely hovering far closer to that $11k range.

In other words, and I’m sure this is no surprise to anyone reading this, the majority of writers are grossly underpaid.

But I’m here to tell you not to lose hope. There are many ways, other than selling book s, to leverage that Creative Writing MFA to make a comfortable, if not lucrative, career as a writer .

Art of the Job Search by Heather Hund

If you’re a traditionalist

  Many writers go into teaching after earning their MFA in Creative Writing, often at the university level. The usual trajectory is to begin as an adjunct and then work one’s way up through the ranks to professor* , which ideally comes with a sweet corner office lined with leatherbound books. Typically, you need to have published at least one book to land the coveted position of teaching others how to write in a college or university.

If you want to teach, but not in a university

There are plenty of other ways to teach the craft of writing. If you’d like to work with writers but not within the world of traditional academia, consider offering your expertise as a writing coach, tutor, or adult education teacher. There are thousands of writers out there looking for someone to share what they’ve learned about the craft of writing and the business side of becoming an author. Seek out (or create) local and/or online venues where you can share what you have learned through your own experience. Having an MFA attached to your name will help writers feel you can be trusted to know what you are talking about.

If you are an online guru

Opportunities for good writers are continually expanding and evolving online. Countless websites and businesses are always on the lookout for talented content writers, copywriters, copyeditors, grant writers, and technical writers. (One good source for these remote jobs is Remote.co .) Having an MFA in Creative Writing can help give you an edge in this competitive market. One advantage of these jobs is that they are often flexible and part-time, which is great for those looking to keep their writing muscles fresh without making a lifelong commitment.

If you are That Person always correcting other people’s grammar

The world will always need quality editors and proofreaders . This career path can take many forms—you could work for a literary magazine , publishing house, or newspaper, or try your hand as a freelancer. Editing others’ work keeps your own writing skills sharp, with the added bonus of potentially bringing in big bucks: Depending on genre and level of editing, a freelance editor can earn anywhere from $36-$70 per hour. Sign me up!

If you are a rebel

You have an MFA in Creative Writing, so think creatively . Get involved with your local writing community and run writing workshops (a quick online search can guide you on how much you should expect to charge, depending on your format and attendance). Have a guest house on a beautiful piece of property you don’t mind renting out? Start a writing retreat or writing residency to give fellow writers a place to disconnect from their busy lives and work on their novels, poems, and essays. For an additional fee, you might also offer these writers one-on-one coaching or editing services.

A Creative Writing MFA isn’t a guarantee—but it is an opportunity

As an aspiring author , you must find a way to apply your skills as a writer and make them work for you . Many authors I know have shaped successful, happy lives for themselves by doing a variety of the jobs listed above, often more than one at the same time. The post-MFA life does not come with a guarantee of monetary wealth—but if you get creative and do the work, it is possible to create a writing life that is spiritually, artistically, and emotionally fulfilling. And isn’t that what real success is all about, anyway?

Though, honestly, I wouldn’t mind earning $259,000 a year.

*With the effects of the pandemic, and the slow but steady shift away from brick-and-mortar classrooms, this route of teaching in a traditional university seems to be getting more difficult. That said, the world needs great writing teachers, so if this is the path you want to take, please be intrepid and find a way to do so. You are the unsung heroes; teach away, teach away.

Recommended reading

Here at Aspiring Author , we love recommending bestsellers and fawning over hot new releases. On this real time recommended reading list, you will find a list of top rated books on the publishing industry, craft, and other books to help you elevate your writing career.

creative writing mfa competitive

Romancing the Beat: Story Structure for Romance Novels (How to Write Kissing Books)

creative writing mfa competitive

Writing to Learn: How to Write - and Think - Clearly About Any Subject at All

creative writing mfa competitive

The Divine Comedy (Annotated): The Vision of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise

creative writing mfa competitive

14 Steps to Self-Publishing a Book

creative writing mfa competitive

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

About the author.

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Shannon Bowring

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How Long Does it Take to Get an MFA in Creative Writing?

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15 Best Low Residency MFA Programs

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creative writing mfa competitive

Creative Writing, MFA

Publishing Laboratory Enjoys a Relationship with Harpercollins, the World’s Second-Largest English Language Publisher

2 Literary Magazines & 1 Literary Book Imprint - We Offer Graduate Students Experience Working for All 3

Writers’ Week is a Literary Festival Featuring a Diverse Lineup of Writers

STUDY OF CREATIVE WRITING PREPARES STUDENTS FOR PROFESSIONAL SUCCESS. OUR ALUMNI ARE:

Graduates have published books with top commercial, university and independent presses, garnering critical acclaim and prestigious awards. Many have careers as technical writers. Most importantly, they learned the skills and habits to pursue a satisfying and sustainable writing life.

The MFA is a terminal degree and qualifies graduates to teach at the university level. We provide teaching assistantships and pedagogical training. Our graduates go on to teach writing and publishing throughout the country.

Our graduate students gain hands-on experience in the editing, design, production and marketing of books and magazines and go on to careers as agents, marketing coordinators, art directors, managing editors, and small press publishers.

program completion feature

Generate complex, original writing of literary merit and personal value

Utilize form, style, and technique in effective and sophisticated ways

Critically analyze literary works

Articulate your own evolving aesthetic as a writer

“ I gained valuable teaching experience, served as managing editor of Ecotone, and relished my time with mentors who encouraged and challenged me. Simply put, it changed my life. ”

A Community of Writers

Our MFA program joins students who share a common passion and faculty members who provide critical support of their work. The faculty of the Department of Creative Writing view MFA students as colleagues-in-the-making. To help initiate them into the profession, we offer a series of panels and workshops designed to address practical issues that lie outside the scope of the writing workshop.

Apprenticeship Leading to Publishable Quality Manuscript

The MFA at UNCW is a 48-hour apprenticeship, requiring a total of 21 hours of writing workshops, 21 hours of literature or other elective courses, and 6 thesis hours, leading to completion and defense of a substantial book-length manuscript of literary merit and publishable quality.

While students apply in poetry, fiction or creative nonfiction, and focus primarily on that genre, some cross-genre study is required. Coursework in editing and publishing is offered through our Publishing Laboratory. Experience in magazine and book production is also offered in conjunction with our imprint Lookout Books and with Ecotone and Chautauqua , our department's national literary magazines.

author signing autograph on book

SAMPLE COURSES

Admission deadlines & requirements, information: mfa creative writing.

  • Complete applications are considered for admission as a group, after the published deadline.
  • All application and supporting documents must be received by the published deadline.

Coordinator

Location/Delivery Method

  • Main Campus

Concentrations

  • Creative Non-Fiction

Deadlines (11:59 p.m. EST)

  • Fall 2024:   January 15, 2024

Transcripts

  • One official transcript is required from each U.S. post-secondary institution attended. Refer to the Getting Started page for international transcript instructions.

Test Scores

  • None Required

Recommendations

Additional requirements.

  • Upload Supplemental Documents After Application Submission
  • Writing Sample: A typed manuscript in the applicant’s primary genre, labeled “poetry,” “fiction" or “creative nonfiction”: 10 pages of poetry, 30 pages of fiction or 30 pages of creative nonfiction (double-spaced prose, single-spaced poetry). The manuscript should demonstrate mastery of basic craft and unmistakable literary promise. Applicants are advised not to apply with a mixed-genre manuscript.
  • Essay:  An essay (300-500 words) on the applicant’s goals in pursuing the MFA, including previous educational experience.
  • Assistantship Essay: If you are interested in being considered for an assistantship in the Creative Writing classroom, or in the Publishing Laboratory (or both), please include a brief (one- to two-page) supplemental statement of relevant experience and interest. (If interested in both, upload a single combined essay.) 

Explore More Program Details

Learn more about the Department

Related Programs

Publishing, post-baccalaureate certificate.

Students seeking to enroll in the MFA publishing certificate program must first complete the introductory course, CRW 520, The Publishing Process.

Filmmaking, MFA

UNCW’s MFA in filmmaking is an immersive three-year terminal degree program. The comprehensive curriculum includes multi-modal (narrative, documentary, and experimental) workshops in cinematography, screenwriting, editing, sound design, producing, and directing, as well as courses in cinema history, analysis and aesthetics.

English M.A.

For lovers of literature, writing, film or the English language, studying English means doing what you love most.

Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies, Post-Baccalaureate Certificate

This certificate is designed for students already enrolled in a graduate degree program at UNCW, as well as professionals not seeking a degree. The program provides the opportunity to gain substantial training in women's and gender studies as a supplement to departmental degrees and careers.

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UMass Boston

creative writing mfa competitive

  • Creative Writing MFA

Further your commitment to writing as the center of your professional life.

Intensive study and practice of fiction and poetry writing with award-winning and nationally renowned faculty at the most diverse university in new england..

UMass Boston's Creative Writing MFA offers you an intense, 3-year program and focused opportunity to further your commitment to writing as the center of your professional life. Through a combination of mentoring by accomplished faculty in a series of creative writing workshops, courses focused on the study of literature offered through the English MA Program, and electives that include the practice of literary editing, the teaching of creative writing, documentary poetics, the art of memoir, and more—you will have the guidance to develop and shape your work to the full extent of your talent.

All accepted students receive funding. Graduate assistantships offer the opportunity to work with students as teaching assistants and fellows, or in editorial positions with one of our sponsors, including 826 Boston, Hanging Loose Press, Write on the Dot, Consequence Magazine, Breakwater Review, and Arrowsmith Press.

Career Possibilities

Pursue a career as a professional writer, publishing your work in literary journals, magazines. Work as an editor and collaborate with writers to refine their work and shape the final product for publication. These are just a few of the possibilities.

Become a(n):

  • Writer/Author
  • Literary Agent
  • Writing Instructor/Professor

Start Your Application

Plan Your Education

How to apply.

Applicants must meet general graduate admission requirements in addition to the following program-specific requirements:

  • A 3.0 GPA overall and in the student’s major
  • Three substantive and detailed letters of recommendation, from former teachers familiar with the applicant’s most recent academic and creative work
  • A 3-5 page personal statement focusing on the role of the candidate’s reading life in his or her development as a writer. (Note: The general Graduate Admissions application refers to this as a statement of interests and intent. They are one and the same.)
  • Applicants must indicate whether they are applying in FICTION or POETRY in their Statement of Purpose. If you want to apply in both genres, include one writing sample in FICTION and one in POETRY and indicate in the Statement of Purpose that the application is for both.
  • A writing sample of 10 manuscript pages of poetry or 20 manuscript pages of fiction

Deadlines & Cost

Deadlines: January 15 (priority) for fall. While rare, if space is available, we’ll happily consider applications until June 1 (final deadline).

Application Fee: The nonrefundable application fee is $75. UMass Boston alumni and current students that plan to complete degree requirements prior to graduate enrollment can submit the application without paying the application fee.

Program Cost Information: Bursar's website

Writing Workshops (24 Credits)

Complete one from below four times.

  • CW 601 - MFA Poetry Workshop 6 Credit(s) or
  • CW 602 - MFA Fiction Workshop 6 Credit(s)

Literature Courses (9 Credits)

Complete three graduate literature courses.

Electives (9 Credits)

Complete three from below.

  • CW 605 - Memoir Workshop 3 Credit(s)
  • CW 606 - Literary Editing and Publishing 3 Credit(s)
  • CW 614 - The Teaching of Creative Writing 3 Credit(s)
  • CW 675 - Creative Writing Internship 3 Credit(s)
  • CW 697 - Special Topics in Creative Writing 1-6 Credit(s)

Students may elect courses offered by other graduate programs with approval from the graduate program director.

  • ENGL 459 Seminar for Tutors may be taken for graduate credit (see Undergraduate Catalog)
  • ENGL 675 - Reading and Writing Poetry 3 Credit(s)
  • ENGL 676 - Reading and Writing Fiction 3 Credit(s)
  • ENGL 681 - Advanced Workshop in Poetry 3 Credit(s)
  • ENGL 682 - Advanced Workshop in Fiction 3 Credit(s)

Thesis Courses (6 Credits)

Complete the course below both semesters of the third year.

  • CW 699 - MFA Thesis 3 Credit(s)

Graduation Criteria

Complete 48 credits from twelve courses including four writing workshops, three literature courses, three electives, and two semesters of thesis workshops.

The MFA degree requires six semesters of full-time study, with 9 credits required in each of the first four semesters, and 6 credits in the final two semesters, during which students will concentrate on completing a thesis in fiction or poetry under the direction of a faculty member. MFA workshops are limited to 12 students, and seminars are limited to 15. Students have the opportunity to interact with writers in our Global Voices Visiting Writer series (recent visitors have been Raquel Salas Rivera and Carole Maso), and work with visiting prose writers - recently these have included Jane Unrue, ZZ Packer, and Fanny Howe.

Capstone: Completion of an MFA thesis of 48 to 64 pages of poetry or 100 to 200 pages of fiction written under the supervision of a thesis advisor, reviewed by a thesis committee, and subject to a public defense.

Statute of limitations: Five years.

Contact & Faculty

Graduate Program Director John Fulton john.fulton [at] umb.edu (617) 287-6700

English & Creative Writing MFA Department englishmfaprogram [at] umb.edu (617) 287-6702

Fiction Faculty

John Fulton , Program Director & Associate Professor Askold Melnyczuk , Professor Eileen Pollack , Visiting Assistant Professor

Poetry Faculty

Jill McDonough , Professor Shangyang Fang , Associate Lecturer

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Learn more about UMass Boston's English department, our programs, and our faculty.

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25 Best Writing Competitions for High School Students – 2024

April 12, 2024

Best Writing Competitions for High School Students

Over the past several years, the number of college applicants has been steadily rising. [i] As college admissions become more competitive, there are many steps a student can take to achieve high school success and become an outstanding candidate for college admissions: earning high SAT scores, securing strong letters of recommendation , and participating in various competitions will all boost your admissions prospects. [ii] In particular, writing competitions for high school students are a popular way to win scholarships and prize money, receive feedback on writing, build a portfolio of public work, and add to college application credentials!

Below, we’ve selected twenty-five writing competitions for high school students and sorted them by three general topics: 1) language, literature and arts, 2) STEM, environment and sustainability, and 3) politics, history and philosophy. It’s never too soon to begin thinking about your future college prospects, and even if you are a freshman, many of these writing competitions for high schoolers will be open to you! [iii]

Writing Competitions for High School Students in Language, Literature, and Arts

1) adroit prizes for poetry and prose.

This prestigious creative writing award offers high school students the opportunity to showcase their work in Adroit Journal . Judges are acclaimed writers in their respective genres.

  • Eligibility: All high school students (including international students) are eligible to apply. Poetry contestants may submit up to five poems. Prose contestants may submit up to three pieces of fiction or nonfiction writing (for a combined total of 3,500 words – excerpts accepted).
  • Prize: Winners will receive $200 and their writing will be published in Adroit Journal . All submitted entries will be considered for publication!
  • Deadline: May 1st (specific deadline may vary by year).

2)  Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest

This unique essay competition allows writers the chance to explore and respond to Ayn Rand’s fascinating and polemic 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged . Specific essay topics are posted every three months; prizes are granted seasonally with a grand prize winner announced every year.

  • Prize: Annual grand prize is $25,000.
  • Deadline: Deadlines occur every season, for each seasonal prompt.
  • Eligibility: Essays must be written in English and be 800-1,600 words in length.

Writing Competitions for High School Students (Continued)

3)  the bennington young writers awards.

Through Bennington College, this high school writing competition offers three prizes in three different genre categories: poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Winners and finalists who decide to attend Bennington College will ultimately receive a substantial scholarship prize.

  • Eligibility: U.S. and international students in grades 9 through 12 may apply.
  • Prize: First place winners receive $1,000; second place wins $500; third place winners receive $250. YWA winners who apply, are admitted, and enroll at Bennington receive a $15,000 scholarship per year (for a total of $60,000). YWA finalists who apply, are admitted, and enroll at Bennington will receive a $10,000 scholarship per year (for a total of $40,000).
  • Deadline: The competition runs annually from September 1st to November 1st.

4)  Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) Student Essay Contest

Do you love Jane Austen? If so, this is the high school writing competition for you! With the JASNA Student Essay Contest, high school students have the opportunity to write a six to eight-page essay about Jane Austen’s works, focused on a specific, designated topic for the competition year.

  • Eligibility: Any high school student (homeschooled students also eligible) enrolled during the contest year may submit an essay.
  • Prize: First place winner receives a $1,000 scholarship and two nights’ lodging for the upcoming annual JASNA meeting. Second place wins a $500 scholarship and third place wins a $250 scholarship. All winners will additionally receive a year membership in JASNA, the online publication of their article, and a set of Norton Critical Editions of Jane Austen’s novels.
  • Deadline: Submission accepted from February-June 1st (specific dates may vary by year).

5)  The Kennedy Center VSA Playwright Discovery Program

Young aspiring writers with disabilities are encouraged to apply to this unique program. Students are asked to submit a ten-minute play script that explores any topic, including the student’s own disability experience.

  • Eligibility: U.S. and international high school students with disabilities ages 14-19 may apply.
  • Prize: Multiple winners will receive exclusive access to professional development and networking opportunities at The Kennedy Center.
  • Deadline: January (specific deadline date may vary by year).

6)  Leonard M. Milburg ’53 High School Poetry Prize

Through Princeton’s Lewis Center for the Arts, this prestigious writing competition for high school students recognizes outstanding poetry writing and is judged by creative writing faculty at Princeton University.

  • Eligibility: U.S. or international students in the eleventh grade may apply. Applicants may submit up to three poems.
  • Prize: First place wins $1,500; second place wins $750; third place wins $500.
  • Deadline: November (specific deadline date may vary by year).

7)  Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest

Nancy Thorp was a student at Hollins University who showed great promise as a poet. After her death, her family established this scholarship to support budding young poets.

  • Eligibility: Female high school sophomores and juniors are eligible to apply. Applicants must be U.S. citizens.
  • Prize: First place wins $350 and publication in Cargoes literary magazine, along with a $5,000 renewable scholarship (up to $20,000 over four years) if the student enrolls in Hollins University, and free tuition and housing for Hollins University’s summer creative writing program (grades 9-12). Second place wins publication in Cargoes, along with a $1,000 renewable scholarship ($4,000 over four years) if the student enrolls at Hollins and $500 to apply toward Hollins’ summer creative writing program.
  • Deadline: October (specific deadline date may vary by year).

8)  National Council of Teachers of English Achievement Awards in Writing

Students may be nominated by their English teachers to win this prestigious writing award. Winners “exhibit the power to inform and move an audience through language” and prompts and genres may vary by competition year.

  • Prize: A certificate will be awarded to students who are judged to have exceptional writing skills. Student names will be displayed on the NCTE website.
  • Eligibility: U.S. high school sophomores and juniors are eligible for nomination.
  • Deadline: February (specific dates may vary by year). Contest prompts released in August.

9)  National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards

At Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, numerous opportunities for scholarships and awards await those who submit writing in various genres: literary criticism, drama, poetry, and fiction. In all, there are 28 generic categories of art and writing to choose from!

  • Eligibility: Teens in grades 7-12 (ages 13 and up) may apply.
  • Prize: Various types of recognition and scholarships (up to $12,500) are offered for these award winners.
  • Deadline: Scholastic Awards opens for entries in September; deadlines range from December to January.

10)  National Society of High School Scholars Creative Writing Scholarship

In this creative writing competition for high schoolers, students have the opportunity to submit a piece poetry or fiction (or both – one in each category!) for the opportunity to be published on the NSHSS website and win a monetary prize.

  • Eligibility: Rising high school students graduating in 2024, 2025, 2026 and 2027 may apply.
  • Prize: There will be three $2,000 awards for the fiction category and three $2,000 awards for the poetry category.
  • Deadline: Submissions Accepted from May to October (specific dates may vary by year).

11)  National Writing Award: The Humanities and a Freer Tomorrow

This writing competition allows high school students the chance to be nominated by a teacher for a piece of writing in response to Ruth J. Simmons’ “Facing History to Find a Better Future.” Specific prompt topics may vary by year.

  • Eligibility: Nominating teachers can submit work from 11th and 12th graders in one category (fiction, poetry, prose, or essay).
  • Prize: One top prize of $1,000. Four additional prizes of $500 each. Winners will have the opportunity to have their work published by NCTE.
  • Deadline: Applications are open September to October (specific dates may vary by year).

12)  New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award

Although this prestigious award isn’t exclusively for high schoolers (anyone younger than 35 may submit a work of fiction), if you’ve written a collection of short stories or even a novel, you should certainly consider applying!

  • Eligibility: Any writer below the age of 35 may submit a novel or collection of short stories to participate in this competition.
  • Prize: $10,000 award.
  • Deadline: September (specific date may vary by year).

13)  Princeton University Ten-Minute Play Contest

This writing competition for high school students awards three annual top prizes for the best ten-minute play. Play submissions are judged each year by an acclaimed guest playwright.

  • Eligibility: U.S. or international students in the eleventh grade may apply. Students may submit one play entry; entries must be ten pages or less. Plays must be written in English.
  • Prize: First place prize is $500; second place is $250; third place is $100.
  • Deadline: Varies by year. However, students are recommended to submit before the deadline date – the submission portal will close when a maximum of 250 applicants have applied.

14)  YouthPLAYS New Voices One-Act Competition for Young Playwrights

In this exciting writing competition, students have the chance to submit an original play script for a play of around 10-40 minutes in length. An excellent competition choice for any student considering a future in the theatre!

  • Eligibility: Prospective authors ages 19 and under may submit a script for consideration in the competition. See specific writing guidelines here .
  • Prize: First prize wins $250 and publication with YouthPLAYS; second prize wins $100.
  • Deadline: Submissions run from January 1st to May 1st.

STEM, Environment, and Sustainability High School Writing Competitions

15)  engineergirl essay contest.

This wonderful essay contest invites students to explore topics related to engineering and science. Each year a new, specific prompt will be chosen for young writers who wish to compete.

  • Eligibility: High school students are eligible to apply. Previous winners and close family members of employees of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine are not eligible.
  • Prize: First place winners receive $1,000; second place receives $750; third place receives $500.
  • Deadline: Competition opens in September and submissions are due February 1st of the following year. Winners are announced in the summer.

16)  Ocean Awareness Contest

The Ocean Awareness Contest is an opportunity for students to create written and artistic projects that explore sustainability, environmentalism, and positive change. High school freshmen (up to age 14) may apply to the Junior Division. Students ages 15-18 may enter the Senior Division.

  • Eligibility: Students ages 11-18 may apply (international students included).
  • Prize: Monetary prizes ranging from $100-$1000 will be awarded each year. Additionally, $500 will be awarded to ten students who identify as Black, Indigenous, or Latino via the We All Rise Prize program.
  • Deadline: June 10, 2024 (specific deadline may vary by year).

17)  Rachel Carson Intergenerational Sense of Wonder / Sense of Wild Contest

If you are interested in issues of sustainability, environment, biology and the natural world, this is one of the high school writing competitions that is just for you! Essay prompts explore the natural world and our place within it and may include poetry, essays, and photography.

  • Eligibility: Students must pair with an adult from a different generation (e.g. parent, grandparent or teacher – contestants need not be related). Entries must be submitted as a team.
  • Prize: Winners will receive a certificate from RCLA; their first names, ages, and entry titles will be posted on the RCLA website.
  • Deadline: November 16th, 2024 (specific deadline may vary by year).

18)  River of Words Competition

This writing competition for high school students is another top choice for those thinking of pursuing majors or careers in biology, environment, and sustainability; this specific contest hopes to promote positive education in sustainability by “promoting environmental literacy through the arts and cultural exchange.”

  • Eligibility: Any U.S. or international student from kindergarten through 12th grade may apply.
  • Prize: Winners will be published in the River of Words
  • Deadline: January (specific deadline may vary by year).

Writing Competitions for High School Students in Politics, History and Philosophy

19)  american foreign service association essay contest.

With this writing competition for high school students, entrants may submit essays ranging from 1,000-1,500 words about diplomacy, history, and international politics (specific prompts vary by year).

  • Eligibility: Students in grades nine through twelve may apply. Students whose parents are in the Foreign Service Association are not eligible.
  • Prize: The first-place winner will receive $2,500, an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. for the winner and the winner’s parents, and an all-expense paid voyage via Semester at Sea. The second-place winner receives $1,250 and full tuition for a summer session at the National Student Leadership Conference’s International Diplomacy program.
  • Deadline: Early spring (specific deadline may vary by year).

20)  Bill of Rights Institute We the Students Essay Contest

In this writing competition for high school students, civic-minded U.S. high schoolers may explore the principles and virtues of the Bill of Rights Institute. Interested applicants should review the specific submission guidelines .

  • Eligibility: Any high school student aged 13 to 19 may apply.
  • Prize: Prizes range from $1,500 to $10,000.
  • Deadline: Submissions for 2024 due May 19th (specific deadline may vary by year).

21)  JFK Presidential Library and Museum Profile in Courage Essay Contest

For students interested in history and political science, this competition offers the chance to write about U.S. elected officials who have demonstrated political courage.

  • Eligibility: U.S. high school students from grades 9-12 may apply.
  • Prize: First prize is $10,000; second prize receives $3,000; five finalists receive $1,000 each; ten semifinalists receive $100 each; eight students receive honorable mention.
  • Deadline: Submissions accepted from September to January (specific deadline may vary by year).
  • Sample Essays: 2000-2023 Contest Winner Essays

22)  John Locke Institute Essay Competition

This essay competition is for students who would like to write about and cultivate “independent thought, depth of knowledge, clear reasoning, critical analysis and persuasive style” from one of seven intellectual categories: philosophy, politics, economics, history, psychology, theology or law.

  • Eligibility: Students from any country may submit an essay.
  • Prize: $2,000 for each subject category winner toward a John Locke Institute program; winning essays will be published on the Institute’s website.
  • Deadline: Registration must be completed by May 31st, 2024; essay submission due June 30th, 2024 (specific deadline may vary by year).

23)  Society of Professional Journalists and the Journalism Education Association Essay Contest

This exciting writing competition for high schoolers allows students to explore topics related to journalism, democracy and media literacy. Specific prompts will be provided for contestants each year.

  • Eligibility: All U.S. students from grades 9-12 may submit original writing to participate in this contest.
  • Prize: First-place winners will receive $1,000; second place is awarded $500; third place receives $300.
  • Deadline: February (specific deadline may vary by year).

24)  Veterans of Foreign Wars Voice of Democracy Youth Scholarship Essay

This audio essay allows high school students the opportunity to “express themselves in regards to a democratic and patriot-themed recorded essay.” One winner will be granted a $35,000 scholarship to be paid toward their university, college, or vocational school of choice. Smaller prizes range from $1,000-$21,000, and the first-place winner in each VFW state wins $1,000.

  • Prize: College scholarships range from $1,000-$35,000
  • Eligibility: U.S. students in grades 9-12 may submit a 3-5-minute audio essay.
  • Deadline: October 31st
  • Sample Written Essay: 2023-2024 Prize-winning essay by Sophia Lin

25)  World Historian Student Essay Competition

The World Historian Student Essay Competition recognizes young scholars who explore world historical events and how they relate to the student scholar personally. Ultimately the student writer must describe “the experience of being changed by a better understanding of world history.”

  • Eligibility: Internationally, students ages K-12 may submit an entry. See specific prompt and submission guidelines for writing instructions.
  • Prize: $500

Writing Competitions for High School Students – Sources

[i] Institute for Education Sciences: National Center for Education Statistics. “Number of applications for admission from first-time, degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students were received by postsecondary institutions in the fall.” https://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/TrendGenerator/app/answer/10/101

[ii] Jaschik, Scott. “Record Applications, Record Rejections.” Inside Higher Ed . 3 April 2022. https://www.insidehighered.com/admissions/article/2022/04/04/most-competitive-colleges-get-more-competitive

[iii] Wood, Sarah. “College Applications are on the Rise: What to Know.” U.S. News & World Report. 21 June 2022. https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/college-applications-are-on-the-rise-what-to-know

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Jamie Smith

For the past decade, Jamie has taught writing and English literature at several universities, including Boston College, the University of Pittsburgh, and Carnegie Mellon University. She earned a Ph.D. in English from Carnegie Mellon, where she currently teaches courses and conducts research on composition, public writing, and British literature.

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Ashleigh F. Streiff

B. 2000, Maryland, USA.

“Juried Undergraduate Exhibition,” Ridenbaugh Gallery, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID

At Invitation, University of Idaho’s President’s House, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID

“In Medias Res,” Ridenbaugh Gallery, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID

At Invitation, “Painting Show,” Ridenbaugh Gallery, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID

“VAC is Back!”, Reflections Gallery, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID

“Pens, Pencils & Paint,” Ridenbaugh Gallery, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID

At Invitation, University of Idaho’s President’s House, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID. 2023-2024

“Palouse Plein Air,” Moscow City Council, Moscow, ID. (Winner: City Purchase Award)

“Mirage,” Reflections Gallery, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID.

At Invitation, “Painting Show,” Moscow City Council, Moscow, ID. Fall 2023-Spring 24

“Figures”, Downtown Arts Center, Honolulu, HI

“Palouse Plein Air”, Moscow City Council, Moscow, ID. (Winner: Best Watercolor)

At Invitation, “Student Painters,” Moscow City Council, Moscow, ID.

At Invitation, “Student Printmakers,” Ridenbaugh Gallery, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID.

“Clay?!”, Ridenbaugh Gallery, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID.

At Invitation, “Student Show”, Iolan’i Gallery, Windward Community College, Kaneohe, HI.

“Foundations Juried Exhibition”, The Looking Glass Gallery, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.

“Student Show”, The Arts Center, Carrboro, NC.

Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in Painting and Ceramics, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID. (Forthcoming)

Extracurriculars and Honors

President of Visual Arts Community (VAC), University of Idaho

President of Vandal Print Guild (VPG), University of Idaho

Volunteer Artist, Vandaljacks, University of Idaho

Dean’s List, University of Idaho

Alumni Award for Excellence, University of Idaho

Resident Artist, Cannon Hall, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.

Work Experience/Training

Gallery Attendant, Iolan’i Gallery, Windward Community College, Kaneohe, HI.

Studied Under:

Kelly Oakes, Durham, NC. 2019-2020.

William Zwick, Honolulu, HI. 2020.

Mark Brown, Honolulu, HI, 2020-2022.

Daunna Yanoviak, Kailua, HI. 2021- 2022.

Mark Norseth, Honolulu, HI. 2021-2023.

“Introduction to Figure Drawing,” Stacey Leanza, Class, The Arts Center, Carrboro, NC. 2018.

“Printmaking; Mono-prints,” Stacey Leanza, Class, The Arts Center, Carrboro, NC. 2018.

“Mixed Media,” Stacey Leanza, Class, The Arts Center, Carrboro, NC. 2018.

“Introduction to Portrait Drawing,” Kelly Oakes, Class, The Arts Center, Carrboro, NC. 2019.

“Painting Portraits in Alla Prima,” Kelly Oakes, Workshop, The Arts Center, Carrboro, NC. 2019.

“Demystifying the Modern Portrait,” Marie Rossettie, Class, The Arts Center, Carrboro, NC. 2019.

“Intuitive Painting,” Heather Gerni, Workshop, The Arts Center, Carrboro, NC. 2019.

“Oil Painting Crash Course,” Vanessa Murray, Workshop, The Arts Center, Carrboro, NC. 2019.

“Live Portrait Sessions,” Alla Parsons, Downtown Arts Center, Honolulu, HI. 2023.

“Introduction to Watercolor,” Dwayne Adams, Class, Downtown Arts Center, Honolulu, HI. 2023.

“Writing the Killer Mystery,” C1121, Central Carolina Community College, 2019.

“Flash Fiction Made Easy,” C1058, Central Carolina Community College, 2019.

“Charting Your Path To Publication,” C1060, Central Carolina Community College, 2019.

Newspapers and Articles

Long, Maryanne, “Windward Artists Turn Impression Into Expression,” Windward O’ahu Voice, February 9th, 2022.

UMD UMD College of Arts and Humanities Logo White

English Professor Elizabeth Arnold Dies at 65

April 15, 2024 College of Arts and Humanities | English

Black and white photo of Elizabeth Arnold with "In Memoriam" superimposed in light blue text

Arnold was a poet of national and international acclaim and a beloved teacher and colleague.

By Chloe Kim

Elizabeth Arnold, professor of English and a poet of national and international acclaim, died on February 24 after a long illness. She joined the faculty in the Department of English in 2001 and taught in the creative writing MFA program, where she was a beloved teacher, mentor and colleague.

Arnold is the author of six books of poetry: “Wave House,” “Skeleton Coast,” “Life,” “Effacement,” “Civilization” and “The Reef.” She regularly published critical essays, reviews and interviews and her poems appeared in prominent journals such as The Paris Review, Kenyon Review, Chicago Review, Harper’s, TriQuarterly, Slate, Poetry Magazine and The Nation.

Arnold's poetry was notable for its modernist technique, and widely praised for its sophistication. In a review of Arnold’s work in B O D Y magazine, poet Kathryn Maris wrote, “she sings courageously—and her voice is beautiful.”

Arnold was “intrepid, brilliant, passionate, adventurous, inventive, unafraid, inquisitive, quirky, encouraging, warm, loyal. A visionary. One of the best listeners on the planet—as a poet, colleague and friend,” said MFA program coordinator Lindsay Bernal MFA ’07, who is Arnold’s former student and longtime friend and colleague. The two met in 2004 when Bernal was an MFA student in the program, and developed a close personal and professional relationship over the next two decades.

“We trusted each other with our poems, even our earliest, most disastrous drafts, and I was so lucky to have had the chance to work with Liz on every book she published since ‘Civilization.’ That creative collaboration and friendship since 2007 has been one of the greatest joys and honors of my post-MFA life,” Bernal said.

English Professor Joshua Weiner, who first became friends with Arnold in the early 1990s, called her his “sister in the art of poetry.” Weiner joined the department in 2001, the same year as Arnold, and shared an office with her during their first few years. Their joint office hours for students fostered “collective advising and fast-paced discussions about poets and poems,” Weiner said.

As professor, Arnold directed numerous English honors theses, undergraduate independent studies and MFA theses, and regularly served on doctoral dissertation committees. Her reputation among students was “legendary,” Weiner said. “Liz listened to students' drafts with an uncanny intensity of attention at the level of the syllable; she could hear things in their work that they did not yet have the ears to hear themselves.”

Bernal added: “Liz had a singular way of pushing us outside of our comfort zones, challenging us to write and read against the grain, to experiment with a regular meter or some other pattern that at first felt rigid but ultimately led to a creative discovery or breakthrough as we learned where to loosen it, where to adjust. She made the most difficult material approachable.”

Former student Charlie Clark MFA ’03 valued Arnold’s mentorship and thoughtfulness. “She would never have brought less than all of her attention to the matter at hand, whether it was exploring poetic form, scientific data, or the particular birdsong that might interrupt a chat,” he said.

Arnold’s mentorship so deeply influenced Clark that he wrote a poem dedicated to her, titled “ Arnold ,” which was published in the literary journal The Account. “It’s a fairly thorough representation of my appreciation for her ongoing impact on me,” Clark said.

Arnold received her Ph.D. in English in 1990 from the University of Chicago, where she researched the poet Mina Loy and discovered Loy’s previously lost and unpublished novel, “Insel,” which Arnold edited for Black Sparrow Press in 1991. Arnold’s work on Loy helped return Loy to public awareness and highlighted women’s artistic contributions to the field of modernism. Arnold went on to earn an MFA in creative writing from Warren Wilson College, and subsequently taught at the University of Montana, North Florida University and Warren Wilson College before joining UMD.

Arnold was a recipient of numerous prestigious fellowships, including MacDowell in 2014, Ucross Foundation in 2008, Bread Loaf Writers Conference in 1997, Yaddo in 1995, and others, including three Creative and Performing Arts Scholarship awards from Maryland in 2003, 2007 and 2015.

Arnold’s five books with Flood Editions, an independent poetry press, helped elevate the press as it became recognized internationally as a home for innovative writing throughout the Anglophone world, including New Zealand and Australia. 

Outside of her work as a poet and professor, Arnold was an avid gardener and baker who baked a dozen loaves of bread every week for a food co-op in Frostburg, Maryland. Arnold enjoyed watching “Grey’s Anatomy” and tennis and football games, and was a fan of football quarterback Patrick Mahomes. She was also a birding enthusiast whose last trip was a birding adventure through Panama. She loved her labradoodles Daisy, Olive and Clare and a feral cat named Kitten.

“She will be missed and remembered by all who knew her, and because her poems live in the present tense, she will become known to future readers,” Weiner said.

Photo by Mark Shafer.

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