For writers who are sure they want to pursue their craft professionally, creative writing MFA programs can provide the credentials, time to write, and constructive criticism necessary to get them where they want to be. Unfortunately, there’s no definitive way to rank MFA programs or declare one better than the other; they each offer incredibly varied learning environments, take place for different amounts of times, and boast different specialties and professors.
However, when looking to see where you’ll devote years of your life to your craft, you’d like to think your money is going to a good program at the very least. As such, here’s a collection of exceptional MFA programs in creative writing and all the details you need to know to narrow down your options.
1. University of Iowa
Many people consider the University of Iowa’s program in creative writing one of the leading in the nation, and it’s hard to deny the program’s success. Iowa’s Writers Workshop is a two-year-long residency program, and it’s as hard to get in as it is elite. Alumni include literary greats such as Kurt Vonnegut and John Cheever (among many others) since the program’s founding in 1936, and it continues to foster the talents of Pulitzer Prize winners and renowned writers with each passing year.
2. New York University
If you’re the type of person who is endlessly inspired by the city, consider studying in New York with NYU’s creative writing program. Located in Greenwich Village, the program is perhaps best known for its elite teaching faculty. They also attempt to curate a community of writers who challenge and support each other, which works well for people who enjoy group work and frequent feedback.
3. University of Virginia
The poetry and fiction programs at UVA are well-respected, and the residency allows writers two years to perfect their work. The program is one of the best-funded in the country as well, offering students $15,000 their first year. They have a wide array of courses and a star-studded faculty, making them a yearly favorite for applicants.
4. University of Michigan
The University of Michigan is home to the Helen Zell Writers’ Program, another highly popular and selective program. Program coordinators insist applicants are judged on their work as well as how they foresee writers fitting into a larger community, making this an optimal choice for novelists or poets interested in fostering a writing community through their MFA.
5. Brown University
Brown University’s program is another two-year residency which boasts a collection of established writers as teachers. The University also houses The Brown Literary Review if students want hands-on interaction with a literary journal.
6. Cornell University
Cornell’s creative writing program is incredibly small, so it’s not for those looking for a community environment. The eight selected students a year participate in teaching and serve as editorial assistants to Epoch magazine, providing practical skills in both teaching and editing. If you want a more individualistic and practical program, consider heading out to Upstate New York to continue your path to publication.
7. University of Texas
The University of Texas actually has two different creative writing programs and they are some of the most generously funded programs available. There is both a two-year and a three-year program, though the three-year Michener is the more renowned of the two. The program claims they want to give writers the gift of time, and each participant has to practice in two of the four taught disciplines: playwriting, screenwriting, poetry, and fiction.