College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
MFA Creative Writing

Curriculum for the MFA in Creative Writing Program

The Courses

Each student is required to complete 36 hours of coursework and a successful thesis for the degree. This equates to 12 three-hour courses.

  • Four of those courses must be graduate-level workshops in the student's home genre. These are offered every semester.
  • Six must be electives.
  • Two must be independent thesis courses with the student's assigned thesis advisor.
  • Students are admitted in a particular genre, and may not take workshops in another without the approval of the Director and/or instructor of the course.
  • No student may take more than two workshops consecutively in his or her primary genre without also taking an elective.
  • MFA student may take one, but no more than one, 3 hour independent study while matriculating in the program. Any request for an independent study must be approved by the MFA Director, and should not be submitted without a written 1-2 page proposal, and the approval of a sponsoring faculty member.

The program will also offer graduate-level craft electives in each genre, either annually or biannually. Each student is required to take one of these courses in his or her primary genre, and may take more.

More about Electives

Typically, students choose their electives from among MFA-specific offerings or upper-level courses offered by the English Department. Each semester, the department will highlight and recommend several such courses for MFA students - for instance, courses that focus on the Visiting Writers Series or on topics especially relevant to students' work in poetry or prose. However, an elective can be any 300-level or above course in any department in the University, providing that the student fulfills the course prerequisites and can justify the relevance of the course to his or her course of MFA study. 

How Long Will I Be in the Program?

Most students take either one or two courses per semester.

Students may also choose to progress through the program at a different pace, with consent of the MFA director. It is not recommended that any student complete the program in less than two years. Students not completing the program within six years may face expulsion.

Summer courses are also available.

What about the Thesis?

A student should take his or her thesis courses over the course of one year. Thesis courses 710 and 711 cannot be taken simultaneously. No student may enroll in a thesis course (710 or 711) without having completed four workshops in his or her genre. For those who need to maintain eligibility for student loans while writing his or her thesis, an elective may be taken simultaneously with 710 or 711, as long as the focus of said elective is primarily reading, and not writing.

A student is not required to undertake his/her thesis immediately after the completion of course work (although a long layoff is not recommended).

Each student will be provided two readers for his or her thesis: an advisor, selected from the full-time faculty of the program, and a reader, a qualified teacher of creative writing not currently acting as full-time faculty in the program. Students will be consulted regarding the choice of advisor and reader, but cannot be guaranteed their first choices.

The successful thesis consists of a substantial sample of work in the student's home genre, approved by both readers, successfully defended (this defense will be scheduled at the end of the student's second thesis course), and submitted in the format mandated in University guidelines for graduate theses. 

Download the MFA program Thesis Application.

Download the MFA program Thesis Advice & Guidelines document.

What about Service?

Each student will be required to undertake a service or professional project in the field of creative writing. This could range from being a reader or editor at Booth to participating in our Writing in the Schools program, or can be an independent project. A description of the project should be submitted to, and approved by, the MFA Director no later than the student's completion of 18 hours of course work (in other words, for full-time students, by the end of their third semester).

A short reflective essay on the experience is a degree requirement, and must be submitted no later than the thesis defense.

And Public Reading?

Every MFA student is required to read his/her work in public at least once during the course of their degree pursuit. The program will make opportunities available.

What about Transfer Credit?

Students who have completed graduate level creative writing courses (or appropriate upper-level literary study) at other universities may apply for transfer credit for these courses, on the condition that the courses were part of an incomplete degree pursuit. These transfer credits will be limited to six hours per student.

And If I Have Other Questions?

The MFA Director is your administrative advisor - the person with whom to consult about registration, degree requirements, et al. But queries about curriculum, about what courses to take, about what to write, etc., may be directed to any member of the faculty you think most appropriate. For questions or for further information, contact Hilene Flanzbaum at (800) 368-6852. ext. 9860.