Writing Classes in Chicago with School and Program Information

Feb 20, 2019

The Chicago area has about nine 4-year colleges and universities that offer writing courses and specialized degree programs. To make an informed education decision, learn about the degree options and program requirements at three of the schools located within 15 miles of downtown.

Chicago Schools with Writing Programs

Many schools in the Chicago, Illinois, area offer writing classes at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Most majors (even those outside of writing) require students to take a course or two on collegiate writing and research. Students who major in the field can learn to publish technical or creative writing and attain skills to become professional freelancers or future academicians. This article highlights the coursework and areas of focus in three colleges' programs. Also included is a table of school facts, along with info on a few other institutions with relevant programs.

  • Aspiring writers in Chicago can consider DePaul University, a private Catholic school that is located right in the heart of the city. It offers bachelor's and master's degrees in writing, rhetoric and discourse; an English bachelor's degree with a creative writing focus is also available, as is a master's degree in writing and publishing.
  • Another private school that is known for its communication programs, Columbia College - Chicago is in the city's downtown area and offers numerous specialized writing majors and minors. Students have the opportunity to earn a bachelor's degree in creative writing, journalism or fiction writing. They can choose to follow a poetry, fiction or non-fiction course of study within the master's degree program as well.
  • Chicago State University, the lone public institution on the list, offers an English bachelor's degree program with a professional writing option in addition to a master's degree in creative writing.

Comparison of Schools

Private universities generally charge higher tuition rates than public institutions do, as seen in the table of stats provided below. For many students, factors like costs and the number of students on campus can play a major role in where they choose to study. Use the table to get specific figures on these and other details that may help you weigh your school options.

DePaul University Columbia College - Chicago Chicago State University
School Type 4-year, private not-for-profit university 4-year, private not-for-profit university 4-year, public university
Total Enrollment (2017)* 22,769 7,312 3,101
Campus Setting Urban, large city Urban, large city Urban, large city
Undergraduate Tuition (2017-2018)* $39,010 $26,474 $10,252 in-state; $17,212 out-of-state
% of Undergraduate Students Receiving Financial Aid (2016-2017)* 96% 88% 99%
Undergraduate Acceptance Rate (2017)* 72% 92% 78%
Retention Rate (2016-2017)* 84% full-time 66% full-time 61% full-time
Graduation Rate (Students Beginning in 2011)* 71% 44% 13%

Source: *NCES College Navigator

DePaul University

The College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences at DePaul University houses the departments of English; Writing and Publishing; and Writing, Rhetoric and Discourse, each offering a variety of undergraduate and graduate options for prospective writers. All undergraduates at this school complete a first-year writing program, which includes courses in basic writing to prepare students for college-level academic writing.

Bachelor of Arts in Writing, Rhetoric and Discourse

This undergraduate writing program features coursework that covers writing styles, various genres of writing and professional workplace writing. Students can take classes in argumentative writing, technical writing, editing and social writing. Students may elect to complete an internship to get practical professional experience.

Bachelor of Arts in English (Creative Writing Option)

The creative writing option has core courses in prose and poetry. It features a variety of workshops in fiction and poetry, in addition to special topics courses in areas such as artistic memoir, editing and young adult fiction.

Master of Arts in Writing, Rhetoric and Discourse (Professional and Technical Writing and Teaching Writing and Language Options)

This graduate program includes advanced courses that involve experiential learning through working in the city; topics include grant writing, tutoring adults and teaching English as a second language (ESL). Program coursework includes topics such as global English, rhetorical history, semiotics and sociolinguistics. Graduate students may choose an optional concentration in professional and technical writing or teaching writing and language.

Master of Arts in Writing and Publishing

A prospective professional writer can pursue this graduate degree to obtain advanced training in creating publishable writing. Students can take courses covering stylistics, publishing topics and literary criticism. Special topics courses include writing for magazines, travel writing and science writing.

Columbia College - Chicago

A private college specializing in art and media programs, Columbia College was founded in 1890 as the Columbia School of Oratory. The college features an open admissions policy for all undergraduate majors, with selective admissions for graduate programs. The college and its students produce a number of prose publications as well as a poetry journal.

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fiction

Students may also opt to complete the more intensive BFA program. Students can study graphic stories, fantasy writing and suspense thriller novels. BFA candidates must complete a thesis, internship and writer's portfolio in order to graduate. The department of fiction writing features a publishing lab, a student-managed resource center that helps aspiring writers research prospective markets for their work and get their writing published.

Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing

Students can earn a BA degree, taking courses like science fiction writing, children's literature and creative nonfiction. This program includes four required courses (one that you take twice for a total of six credits). On top of those courses, students select six credits in electives to meet the 4-credit requirement.

Bachelor of Arts in Journalism

Journalism majors can choose from five concentrations: radio broadcast journalism, television broadcast journalism, magazines, news/features or sports. Core curriculum courses include topics such as copyediting, media law and grammar for journalists. The journalism department also helps students produce Echo magazine through the college magazine workshop course.

Master of Fine Arts in Fiction

Students who focus their MFA program on fiction can take classes on prose forms, novel writing and storytelling. To graduate, they must write a book-length fiction work that is high-quality enough to be published. Along with writing courses, students will learn about critically reading, as well as topics in nonfiction and composition.

Master of Fine Arts in Nonfiction

The MFA degree in nonfiction incorporates a number of workshop and literature classes to help students gain a broad understanding of the common procedures in the nonfiction writing field. The program requirements are 38 credits; six of these courses are required core courses.

Master of Fine Arts in Poetry

The MFA in poetry program incorporates advanced poetry workshops and seminars into the standard writing curriculum to expose students to the history of poetry and help them to develop a unique style and thesis. This program is 34 credits long.

Chicago State University

A public university south of downtown, Chicago State University offers writing courses and programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. With a total 2017 enrollment of just over 3,000, the university has grown from humble beginnings as a small teacher training school that opened in 1867, housed in a railroad freight car.

Bachelor of Arts in English (Professional and Technical Writing Option)

This program offers three sub-concentrations: print journalism, creative writing and technical writing. Writing students can take coursework covering advertising, critical strategies and business writing, as well as nonfiction writing and editing. Other program coursework includes topics such as short story writing, poetry and research paper writing. Completing a publishing workshop and writing internship is required. Students will complete 24 credits toward their concentration.

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing

The MFA program is housed in the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing, a facility that focuses on researching and publishing information about successful Black writers. Program courses include advanced topics in fiction, poetry, scriptwriting and creative nonfiction. Students will also complete special topics courses, instructional workshops and seminars taught by a variety of established writers.

Other Schools

There are about six other Chicago-area colleges and universities that offer undergraduate or graduate writing programs. National Louis University and School of the Arts Institute of Chicago are private schools located downtown. Roosevelt University has a creative writing master's program. Northwestern University is situated a bit outside of the downtown region.

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