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Writing Certificates

Graduate Program in Creative Writing


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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.

“Low-residency” means you can access your education from anywhere. Faculty and students meet in person once a year at an in-person residency in beautiful Gunnison, Colorado, and the rest of the coursework is done online, via Canvas, Zoom, and email. Low residency programs are ideal programs for those working and living in areas far from campus, although locals often take our program too!

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.

Western’s Graduate Program in Creative Writing considers applications on a rolling basis from August 1 through May 31, and all admitted students begin their coursework in early June, with online courses.

Although we consider applications throughout this period, there are limited spots available. Once a cohort has filled for the coming year, applications will be waitlisted or pushed to the following year’s cycle.

We make admissions decisions on all completed applications within 4 weeks of receipt. Students may be accepted, accepted with provisions (e.g. a requirement to finish their undergraduate degree before matriculating in the graduate program at Western), waitlisted (with a notification of a final decision by May 1) or rejected.

All admitted students begin their course of study in early June of each year with online summer courses, which culminate in the Summer Residency held near the end 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 15 months and involves two online semesters plus two residencies, while the MFA takes 27 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.

For a 6-credit class, students should set aside between 12-18 hours per week, on average. Coursework typically consists of a combination of live meetings, online discussions, and more independent activities such as writing, reading new materials, watching videos, listening to podcasts, freewriting, and seeking inspiration for future projects.

It is a big time commitment, but most of our students complete their degrees while holding full-time jobs and being parents or caregivers.

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. Each concentration offers an innovative and carefully structured course 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. Every summer, we offer a slate of 1-credit elective courses open to students from all concentrations. 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 offers several generous scholarships ranging from $1,000/yr. to $5,000/yr., depending on available funding.

Beyond scholarships, federal student loans are available to nearly all students. Students in good standing may apply for Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans, which are available for up to $20,500 for each year of attendance. Students must complete the FAFSA application each year with the Student Financial Services office to determine eligibility.

Here is a link to more information on financial aid.

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.

No. With the exception of the one-week residencies each July, the program is taught remotely using Zoom and Canvas.

Each Concentration Director works with their students to come to an agreement on the best time to hold class. We strive to make your classes flexible and accessible.

MA students complete two residencies, one in July at the start of their program and one the following July for graduation.

MFA students complete three residencies, one in July at the start of their program, one the following July as they start the second year, and one the next July for graduation.

Your application requires an 800- to 1,000-word personal statement describing your experience and commitment to writing. This statement should include a self-assessment of qualifications for admission to Western’s Graduate Program in Creative Writing for the chosen degree and concentration.

Writing sample requirements are as follows:

  • Genre Fiction: sample should include 20 to 25 pages, ideally from a single work.
  • Screenwriting: sample should include a complete scene or short.
  • Nature Writing: sample should include 20 to 25 pages, in any genre or a mix of genres.
  • Poetry: sample should include 10 to 15 pages of poetry.

Publishing: Based on a story provided during the application process, sample should consist of a 3- to 5-page critical assessment of the story’s suitability for publication.

Further Information

We sincerely enjoy talking to prospective students. We believe that a phone call with our friendly staff is the best way to get started. They 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.

Please reach out to us either by phone at 970-943-2014 or by email at gpcw@western.edu.

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