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 a three-year degree program that values literary study, innovation and writing that tests the limits of conventional forms. 

Admission Requirements

  • Complete and up-to-date admission requirements can be found on our admissions page. 
  • Check how to complete and submit an online application. Please do not send application materials to the English Department.  

Financial Support

Teaching assistantships (TAs) and various graduate level awards are available on a competitive basis. The department funds about 70% of accepted TA applicants per year. These TAs teach creative writing courses only (no composition or literature). In addition, there are a limited number of paid positions available, such as reading series organizer, lead TA and office assistants. If offered a teaching assistantship upon admission:

  • A Teaching Assistant is paid a monthly stipend set by the Graduate School. Based on the 2017-2018 figures, first-year TAs were paid approximately $5,049.78 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 teach 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, and contingent upon course enrollment and availability, your funding offer will increase to three (3) sections of Creative Writing during your Second-Year Teaching Assistantship and Third-Year Teaching Assistantship. The compensation for one semester at one (1) course assignment is the same as noted above. The compensation for a second semester of two (2) course assignments, based on 2017-2018 rates, is estimated to be approximately $10,099.56 with a tuition credit waiver of 9-18 hours of in-state tuition credits.



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 Graduate Studies. Coursework must be taken in the following areas:                                                               

  • 4 courses (12 credits) of writing workshops (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, publishing)
  • 4 courses (12 credits) in literature
  • 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.

Time to Degree for MFA

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 1 ½ pages) that states the writer’s aims and explains how the thesis reflects those aims. See the Index 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 Program Assistant for details). 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. The defense is an oral examination of the thesis that lasts about an hour. All committee members must be present in person or via teleconference. A positive vote from at least two of the committee members is required to pass. A student who fails the defense may not reattempt it for at least three months, and not until any work prescribed by the committee has been completed. The student may retake the examination only once. “Retake” means that the second exam covers the same material and includes the same committee members as the first.

Thesis submission and 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. All information for the Master Graduation Requirements (thesis option) can be found at 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

Language Requirement

Students earning the MFA in Creative Writing must complete a foreign language requirement, either before or after enrolling at CU Boulder, in one of the following ways:

  • Complete a fourth-semester (second-semester sophomore) college language course with a grade of C 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.
  • Demonstrate proficiency in one foreign language by taking the appropriate 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.
  • 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.

Candidacy and Diploma Applications for MFA

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. This form is available on the English website at 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. Return all forms to the Graduate Program Assistant for signatures and submission to the Graduate School.

All students planning to graduate must apply online to graduate. To do this, log in to your myCUinfo account. On the “Student” tab, select the “Apply for Graduation” link under Academics/Schedule. This step must be completed whether or not you plan to attend the graduation ceremony.

Student Groups

The sCWA meets on the first Thursday of each month at 4:30 PM in HLMS 124 (Dilts reading room). Our mission is to create, support, and fund new programming as well as sustain current projects aligned with literary innovation, cultural diversity and educational encounters with focus on creative writing. sCWA is the official MFA student group which receives University funding for sponsoring and co-sponsoring guest speaker events, including the CU-Boulder Creative Writing Reading Series; Reading in the Raw Series; Timber Journal; 2-part Professional panel – academic & commercial jobs; among other endeavors. 

Swaggregate is the brainchild of the CU Boulder Creative Writing MFAs. It’s a common posting ground for events, photos, publications, dance moves, audio/video of readings, and recipes, if we are so inclined. While we don’t take creative work, we are always looking for more posts to keep each other, as well as the larger public, informed with all that CU Boulder MFAs are doing. It’s your one-stop-shop, your alternative to Facebook, your information juicer. Just the essence, not the bulk.

With an editorial staff made up of students in the Masters of Fine Arts program, Timber is dedicated to the promotion of innovative literature.

Each year, the department hosts the Creative Writing Reading Series to bring innovative writers to the University of Colorado for a free, on-campus reading. Past readers include National Book Award winner Terrance Hayes, Susan Steinberg, CAConrad, Ronaldo Wilson, Brian Evenson, Lynne Tillman, Claudia Rankine, M. NourbeSe Philip, and Pulitzer Prize winner Rae Armantrout. Please visit the events calendar for reading locations, dates, and times!