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Graduate Program in Creative Writing



Students tell us that they love meeting each summer in this “wildflower capitol of the world” nestled in the mountains of Colorado, but our location is not the only thing that makes us unique. Our program prides itself on having faculty who are engaged in their fields now. They know how the business of writing works, and they do all they can to help students learn the ropes and become successful authors, publishers, editors, and teachers. Our program also prides itself on the diversity of its faculty, on its commitment to inclusivity and accessibility, and on the close mentoring it offers all its students.

A low-residency program is one that is delivered mostly using videoconferencing and online platforms, such as Zoom and Canvas. Students are only “in residence” once per year. In our case, that happens every July, on Western’s beautiful campus in Gunnison, Colorado. The low-residency format means you can access your education from anywhere, making it an ideal choice for working adults and those living in areas far from campus.

No GRE scores required. Applicants submit their undergraduate transcripts, two letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and a short writing sample. The kind of writing sample varies according to the concentration being applied to. Please consult our Admission Requirements & Application page for details.

We consider applications in four waves throughout the year: Early Admissions, from July 1 through November 30; Winter Admissions, from December 1 through February 28; Spring Admissions, from March 1 through April 30; and Late Admissions, from May 1 through June 30. Although we consider applications throughout the year, there are limited spots available in each concentration, and most scholarships are awarded in the first and second application waves.

All admitted students begin their course of study with intensive summer courses, which culminate in the Summer Residency held the last week of July. After the residency, the fall online semester runs from late August to early December, and the spring online semester runs from mid-January to early May.

For full-time students, the M.A. degree takes 13 months and involves two online semesters plus two residencies, while the MFA takes 25 months and involves four online semesters plus three summer residencies.

Yes. Although we strongly encourage all students to enroll full time so that they stay with their initial cohort, we do understand that work and family commitments may make a half-time course of study more convenient for some.

The expectation for each 6-credit class is 6 hours of instructional interaction per week (mostly asynchronous), along with additional hours of preparation outside of class. It is a big time commitment, but most of our students complete their degrees while holding full-time jobs and having busy family lives.

Innovative and up-to-date courses, close mentoring, and our commitment to you, to your writing and to your career as a writer. We strive to be the most inclusive and accessible program, and all our faculty and staff work hard to make every student feel as welcomed and supported as possible. We invite you to contact us and talk to our faculty, our current students and our alumni. You’ll discover an inspired community that is committed to helping all its students achieve their ambitions.

Besides the practical difference in time and cost, the main difference is that the MFA is a terminal degree, while the M.A. is not. Our M.A. is designed more for K-12 educators who are looking for a single year of advanced studies in the interest of improving their teaching skills. Our MFA is designed more for writers who plan to pursue writing as a passion or career in itself. For this reason, the second year of coursework emphasizes professionalization and culminates in the creation of a professional-quality, book-length manuscript under the close supervision of a faculty mentor. All that being said, there are many factors that could go into the decision to pursue one degree over the other, and our faculty and staff are happy to help you think it through.

Our program offers five distinct concentrations, or areas of study. They are: Genre Fiction, Nature Writing, Poetry, Publishing, and Screenwriting for Film & Television. Each concentration offers an innovative and carefully structured course of study. All applicants must declare which concentration they are applying to. While students take most of their courses in their declared concentration, MFA students broaden their horizons by taking one out-of-concentration course in their second year of study. Please visit the “Areas of Study” section on our homepage for more information on each concentration. We are also happy to put you directly in touch with any of our Concentration Directors.

Yes. In fact, if you are an MFA student, you will be required to take one class from outside your declared concentration in your second year. We also see increasing numbers of students adding a third year of study so that they can earn an MFA in Creative Writing with two concentrations, and we have had several students complete more than one degree with us over the years.

At $700 per credit, the total tuition cost is $21,000 for the M.A. and $42,000 for the MFA. Please see our Tuition & Fees page for a breakdown of tuition costs per semester.

Yes! Our program has increased its scholarship offerings each year and is dedicated to raising funds to further increase our program’s support of diversity and inclusivity. We now offer several generous scholarships, including our Merit Scholarships, Horizons Scholarships, Continuing Student Scholarships, Second Concentration Scholarships, and Bridge Scholarships. Beyond these scholarships, federal student loans are available to nearly all students. Here is a link to more information on financial aid.

We would be happy to arrange a discussion with our faculty or alumni concerning opportunities specific to each concentration.

Our program combines the Zoom and Canvas platforms to deliver the most effective learning experience. All of our courses are clearly organized on Canvas, and much of the coursework is done asynchronously using Discussions, Assignments, and an array of other Canvas features. However, all courses also include a healthy synchronous component using Zoom, because we believe that live, face-to-face interactions are essential to good community and effective collaboration.

We don’t really have a typical student. Our students come from all over the US—and beyond. They vary widely in terms of age (from 22 to 70+), undergraduate area of study (many were not English or writing majors), and experience in writing and publishing. Our program is deeply committed to diversity, equity, and inclusivity principles, and we pride ourselves on being accessible and welcoming of all people.

Yes, under normal circumstances, attendance is required of all students. We are committed to being low-residency, rather than “no-residency,” because we are convinced that the networking and community-building that takes place at the Summer Residency is a crucial factor in our students’ success not only during their time in the program but after it as well. The energy and inspiration that students experience in the face-to-face context of the Residency carry them through the year of online coursework, and the relations they build with fellow students, with faculty, and with visiting artists can last a lifetime.

The Residency is the most important event of the year, our one opportunity to come together in person as a community of writers and publishers. Think of it as a one-week writer’s retreat filled with courses, workshops, craft talks, readings and many lively social events. The Residency is where you will probably make your most enduring connections and build your professional network. There is nothing quite like grabbing a cup of coffee with a visiting artist, having dinner with your class, or joining a group of fellow students on a wildflower hike in nearby Crested Butte.

Further Information

We sincerely enjoy talking to prospective students. We believe that a phone call with Corinne Sublette, our Program Support Coordinator, is the best way to get started. Corinne can answer your initial questions and then put you in touch with any of our five Concentration Directors, who are best able to describe whatever area of study most interests you.

Corinne can be reached by phone at 970-943-2163 or by email at csublette@western.edu

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