Below is a sample of three program profiles from the Creative Writing MFA Handbook
Johns Hopkins University – A two-year program that has just changed from a long-running M.A. program to a new MFA program (though the M.A. program is still available. See below)… Fiction or poetry concentrations in Baltimore, MD… Four workshops, four literature or craft courses, plus the creative thesis… Approximately five poets and six fiction writers are admitted annually… Students are fully-funded in the form of teaching assistantships. This is great, though keep in mind that teaching is a requirement, not an option… Students must turn in half of their thesis after one year. I think this is impressive. It says that the faculty wants to be involved and helpful during the entire process, not just the end…. There is a secondary language requirement… This program has always been thought of highly in the writing community. The MFA program is an excellent addition. One of the top ten programs in the country… There is also a continuation of the long-running M.A. program in creative writing, though this program focuses on part-time students, and if that’s what you’re looking for, this would be an excellent option for you… Additionally, there is a Master of Arts in Science Writing.
University of North Carolina Wilmington – A three year program in fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction in the coastal town of Wilmington, NC… 48 degree hours total, which breaks down to about five writing classes, six to seven literature courses, and six hours of thesis credit… An MFA exam and thesis is also required… Has an interesting Publishing Laboratory that offers experience in editing, design, production, and marketing… I like this program. It’s relatively new, and certainly very innovative… The program is connected to, but officially separate from the English department. This is unusual and quite possibly a good thing… Students may explore a minor concentration in screenwriting through the Department of Film Studies… About a third of students are awarded TAships, and other students receive partial funding… About 15-20 students accepted per year… I’d like the funding to be better, but overall this is an up-and-coming writing program.
University of Iowa – A two year MFA program in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction in Iowa City… Known as The Writers Workshop, the program is the oldest in the country, and is often regarded as the best… I guess you could say that graduates have had some publishing success. As in, say, a dozen Pulitzer Prizes. Four recent U.S. Poet Laureates are graduates of the program. Many, many, many have had success in the publishing and professional world… The program has been the model for other programs for decades… Iowa City is a terrific college town… The Nonfiction Writers Program is separate from the Writers Workshop… More than 60 students are admitted each year… 48 semester hours: half in writing workshops and classes, and the rest with great flexibility to take classes in or outside the department… Funding is available, but very competitive. The top third of students receive full funding, the middle third receive full-to-some funding, the bottom third receive some-to-no funding. In-state tuition is affordable… This ‘tiered’ system of funding sets up a very competitive atmosphere within the program. Students are in competition with each other for funding before they enter the program, and for some, after the first year… A very distinguished faculty… To be fair, because The Iowa Writer’s Workshop is so highly regarded, it creates a lot of supporters and many detractors… I don’t like the competitive funding system, though this is not unique to Iowa… What I can tell you is this: the Iowa graduates that I have met are either very enthusiastic about the program, or very down on it. Rarely do I meet someone in the middle. My sense is that their reactions are often related to their funding or lack of, and how they were treated within the program accordingly… Because of the funding situation, Iowa is no longer the best program in the country, and because of the competitive atmosphere it should not be considered a top ten program either… This program should be considered by any prospective student, especially those who are awarded funding. A top twenty program.