Best Writing Graduate Programs: List of Schools

Learn about some of the best graduate writing programs in the country. Read about two top schools offering programs of study in this field, including their rankings and course details, so you might make an informed decision.

Writing programs at the graduate level usually lead to a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree. Those who wish to pursue a career in creative writing - including playwriting and screenwriting - often find an MFA program helpful in gaining education and experience.

School Overviews

There are many schools around the country that offer graduate-level writing degrees, but the following four schools are on U.S. News & World Report's list of Best Fine Arts Schools for 2016, indicating that they provide particularly strong MFA programs. Each has a different set of strengths, such as a distinguished faculty or the ability to direct one's own studies.

School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Illinois

School Highlight: SAIC's MFA in writing is centered around graduate projects, in which graduate students have a high level of freedom in constructing and pursuing their own curriculum, as compared to similar programs.

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago was tied for fourth in the country for its fine arts graduate school in 2016, per U.S. News & World Report's best college listings. SAIC offers a Master of Fine Arts in Writing program at its campus in the heart of Chicago. Since SAIC attracts all types of art students, including those studying visual and performing arts, writers in the program have a unique opportunity to learn alongside an entire community of artists. Students sharpen their writing skills in workshops and seminars while rounding out their education in other art forms such as photography, sculpture, performing arts or art history.

University of Wisconsin - Madison

School Highlight: MFA students at Wisconsin have the opportunity to developing editorial skills by working on the school's student-run literary journal, Devil's Lake, or develop teaching skills by teaching courses on creative writing and English composition.

Located in Wisconsin's capital on the shores of Lake Mendota, UW - Madison is the school system's flagship campus. UW - Madison's fine arts graduate school was tied 15th place in the U.S. News & World Report rankings in 2016. Students who enroll in the MFA in Creative Writing program choose a specific genre to focus on - either poetry or fiction - and complete their studies mainly in seminars and workshops. University of Wisconsin - Madison's graduate writing program is highly selective, adding only about six new students each year.

Indiana University - Bloomington

School Highlight: The university's program is unique in that it is three years long.

At Indiana University in Bloomington, MFA students earn their degrees after three years of study, totaling 60 credit hours, instead of the two years required by most MFA programs. Students can take creative writing workshop courses in fiction and poetry, but they are expected to focus on a single genre over the course of the training. The program offers teaching assistantships to graduate students, giving them the chance to instruct undergraduate courses in creative writing and literature. To help improve students' pedagogical skills, a Teaching Creating Writing course is available.

New York University

School Highlight: NYU's program facilitates a highly regarded public reading series, as well as a student-run Emerging Writers Series.

Located in the heart of New York City, NYU accepts 35 to 50 students to its MFA program in poetry and fiction writing each year. Students have the chance to learn from a variety of distinguished faculty including Catherine Barnett, Deborah Landau, Rick Moody and Kimiko Hahn. Writers-in-residence include Martin Amis and Joyce Carol Oates. Because the school is located in New York City, students can easily find opportunities to meet with editors and agents, which can be helpful as they launch their careers in the future.

Top Writing Graduate Programs

Here are some other schools with well-regarded graduate-level writing programs:

  • Every year at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, students have the chance to hear from local writers through the Poets & Writers Series.
  • The writing program at the Urbana-Champaign campus of the University of Illinois provides a generous financial aid package for students that remain in good academic standing.
  • The MFA in English at the University of Iowa, located in Iowa City, is more commonly known as the 'Iowa Writers' Workshop'; its graduates include winners of nearly every literary award, including 17 Pulitzer winners and six U.S. Poets Laureate.
  • Tied for 20th place in U.S. News & World Report's 2016 graduate fine arts schools rankings, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor offers a program in creative writing with a strong focus on compassion and community service, granting a third year of residency to those who have defended their theses for the purpose of both service and writing.
  • A well-regarded school on the west coast is the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, which was ranked #23 among all national universities by U.S. News & World Report in 2016.
  • The University of Texas at Austin offers an interdisciplinary MFA in writing where students choose a main area of focus - fiction, poetry, screenwriting or playwriting - as well as a second area of interest in which to work.
  • Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, was tied for #2 on U.S. News & World Report's 2016 listing of schools with the best fine arts graduate programs.

For aspiring writers, there are many well-regarded MFA programs that can provide relevant instruction in poetry and fiction writing, as well as additional opportunities in teaching and outside enrichment.

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