The MFA in Creative Writing challenges students to write in a variety of genres and to study literature from the point of view of a working writer. Recent graduates have become not only published authors of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, plays, and screenplays, but also journalists, editors, publishers, and college-level and secondary-level teachers. The degree program culminates in the submission and oral defense of a creative thesis in poetry or fiction. Students may develop custom programs in non-fiction and scriptwriting with available faculty with secondary interests in those genres. The MFA in Creative Writing is designed as a three-year degree program that values literary study, innovation and writing that tests the limits of conventional forms. 

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Admission Requirements

Teaching assistantships (TAs), Graduate Part-time Instructorships, various graduate level awards are available to MFA students on a competitive basis. The department funds about 70% of accepted MFA applicants each year. Students applying for admission to the program do not need to apply separately for teaching assistantships.

MFA students who are TAs and GPTIs teach creative writing courses only (not composition or literature). If offered a teaching appointment upon admission, you can expect:

  • During the first academic year, a Teaching Assistant (TA) is paid a monthly stipend set by the Graduate School. Based on the 2020-2021 rates, first-year TAs are paid approximately $5,695.36 with a tuition credit waiver of five (5) in-state or out-of-state tuition credits each semester. As a first-year TA, you will be responsible for leading one (1) section of ENGL 1191 Introduction to Creative Writing in the fall semester and one (1) section of ENGL 1191 Introduction to Creative Writing in the spring semester.
  • After your first year of satisfactory teaching and academic performance, you will be promoted from a TA to Graduate Part-time Instructor (GPTI). Contingent upon course enrollment and availability, your funding offer will increase to three (3) sections of Creative Writing during your Second-Year Teaching Graduate Part-time Instructorship (GPTI) and Third-Year Graduate Part-time Instructorship (GPTI). Based on the current 2020-2021 rates, the compensation for one semester at one (1) course assignment at the GPTI-rate is approximately $6,582.60 with a tuition credit wavier of five (5) in-state credit hours. The compensation for a second semester of two (2) course assignments at the GPTI rate is estimated to be approximately $13,165.19 with a tuition credit waiver of 9-18 hours of in-state tuition credits.
  • MFA TAs and GPTIs also receive a 90% contribution towards the cost of the CU Boulder Student Gold Health Insurance premium each semester as part of their compensation.

Tuition Remission for Teaching Assistantships:

Students with teaching assistantships are responsible for paying the cost of tuition for any credit hours taken in excess of what their waiver covers each semester. For example, if the TA compensation includes a waiver for 5 credit hours, and you enroll in 6 credit hours, you will be responsible for paying the difference in tuition cost between 5 and 6 credits. Non-resident students will be charged out-of-state tuition rates. Resident students will be charged in-state tuition rates. Tuition waivers may not be carried over between terms, and must be used in the same semester as the qualifying appointment

In addition to teaching assistantships, there are a limited number of paid positions available, such as reading series organizer, lead GPTI and hourly office assistants. Other resources for financial support include:

Students must take 45 hours of coursework (15 courses). At least 39 hours must be taken at CU Boulder. With approval from the Associate Chair for Creative Writing, up to 6 hours of coursework may be taken in departments other than English. A requirement may be waived if a student has taken an equivalent graduate course at another institution; waivers must be approved by the Associate Chair for Creative Writing. Coursework must be taken in the following areas:                                                               

  • 4 courses (12 credits) of writing workshops (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, publishing)
    (The publishing workshop may be taken two times for credit.)
  • 4 courses (12 credits) in literature
    (Literature courses may be taken in other graduate departments with the approval of the Associate Chair for Creative Writing.)
  • 2 courses (6 credits) in two of the following: Studies in Poetry; Studies in Fiction; Studies in Literary Movements
  • 2 courses (6 credits) of electives. This may include courses from other departments with the approval of the Associate Chair for Creative Writing.
  • 9 credits of thesis writing. Thesis hours may not be taken in the first year.

MFA students have four years from the semester in which they begin coursework to complete all degree requirements. To continue past four years, you must file a petition for an extension of the time limit with the Dean of the Graduate School. Such petitions must first be submitted for endorsement to the English Department Associate Chair for Creative Writing. Extensions may be granted for up to one year.

All MFA-Creative Writing students must complete a thesis as part of the degree requirements. The thesis should be a book of poetry, short stories, literary/creative non-fiction, or a substantial portion of a novel, play, or screenplay. It may also be a combination of these genres. The thesis should be at least 70 pages in length, though most students write between 70-100 pages. The bulk of work used in a thesis should have been written while a student is enrolled in the MFA-Creative Writing program, and it should be in a form acceptable to the committee. The thesis must include an abstract (1 to 3 pages) that states the writer’s aims and explains how the thesis reflects those aims. See the APPENDIX in the Graduate Student Handbook for the MFA-CRWR Thesis Action Item Checklist which includes deadlines and a suggested schedule.

MFA-Creative Writing students take a total of nine thesis hours in one or more semesters. The student should select a committee of three faculty (the advisor, who is a Creative Writing faculty member; one other Creative Writing faculty member; and a faculty member in literary studies) during the semester prior to that in which she or he will defend the thesis. A rough draft of the thesis should be made available to the advisor prior to the thesis defense so that problems may be discussed at an early enough date to enable the student to work on them. The advisor will work with the student, advising on length of manuscript, suggestions for improvement, and general compilation. The advisor and the student will also agree on a reading list about which the student may be questioned at the defense.

A thesis defense must take place before the semester’s deadline for completing defenses (see the Graduate School’s website for a list of semester deadlines). You must give your completed thesis to your entire committee and file a Master’s Examination Report at least two weeks in advance of your defense. Consult the Graduate Program Assistant for Assistance with the process. Please see the Graduate Student Handbook for additional defense requirements.

Thesis Submission & Format for MFA Degrees

The final draft of the MFA thesis must be submitted to the Graduate School by the applicable deadline and must comply with the Graduate School’s specifications for theses and dissertations. See information for the Master Graduation Requirements (thesis option). It is required that you include all parts of the stipulated thesis (title page, signature page, abstract, table of contents, bibliography, etc.). It is also suggested that students ask the Graduate School to pre-check the format of the thesis before submitting the final copy. To do so, email a copy of your thesis to

Students earning the MFA in Creative Writing must complete a foreign language requirement, either before or after enrolling at CU Boulder, prior to the semester in which they intend to graduate. The requirement may be fulfilled in one of the following ways:

  1. Complete a fourth-semester (second-semester sophomore) college language course with a grade of or better. This means completing a course that is the second semester of a sophomore-level foreign language. If you have completed or will complete this coursework at another institution, the Graduate Program Assistant will need a record of it your file if it is not part of your original application. Completion of only freshman-level language courses does not qualify as evidence of competence.
  2. Complete two semesters of Old English (ENGL 5003, ENGL 5013, ENGL 5023).
  3. Demonstrate proficiency in one foreign language by taking the appropriate language proficiency exam administered at least once each semester by the English department. For uncommon languages, students may be asked to make independent arrangements for their exam. The language exam consists of translating a text written in a foreign language into written English, utilizing English language sentence structure. The text is on the reading and comprehensive level of a fourth-semester student of the chosen language. Students are given two hours to complete the translation and the exam is open-book, open computer.
  4. Present other evidence of competence in a foreign language to the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies. In most cases, this other evidence consists of native or near-native command of a language.

For additional information about satisfying the language requirement, see the English Department Graduate Program Handbook.

For additional information about the language exam, see the FAQ for the Language Proficiency Exam.

The semester in which you plan to graduate, the Candidacy Application for an Advanced Degree must be submitted by the stipulated deadline, which is generally in the third or fourth week of classes. The Candidacy Application confirms that all degree requirements will have been completed by the end of the semester, and it be approved by the Associate Chair for Creative Writing. Please consult the Graduate Program Assistant for assistance with this process.

All students planning to graduate must apply online to graduate. This step must be completed by the published graduation deadline for each semester, regardless of whether or not you plan to attend the commencement ceremony. To do this, log in to your Buff Portal account. On the apply for graduation card, select the “Apply for Graduation."