The 12 Best Creative Writing Colleges and Programs (2023)

The 12 Best Creative Writing Colleges and Programs (1)

Finding a dedicated creative writing program at a school you're excited about can be a real challenge, and that's even before you start worrying about getting in. Nonetheless, there are some great options. In order to help you find the best school for you, this list rounds up some of the best colleges for creative writing in the United States.

The Best Creative Writing Programs: Ranking Criteria

You should never take college rankings as absolute truth—not even the very official-seeming US News ones. Instead, use these kinds of lists as a jumping-off place for your own exploration of colleges. Pay attention not just to what the rankings are but to how the rankings are determined.

To help with that, I'll explain how I came up with this highly unscientific list of great creative writing colleges. I started by narrowing my search down to schools that offered a specific creative writing major. (If you don't see a school you were expecting, it's likely because they only have a minor.)

In ranking the schools, I considered five major criteria:

  • #1: MFA Ranking—If a school has a great graduate creative writing program, it means you'll be taught by those same professors and the excellent graduate students they attract. Schools with strong MFA programs are also more likely to have solid alumni networks and internship opportunities. However, many schools with great undergrad programs do not offer MFAs, in which case I simply focused on the other four options.
  • #2: General School Reputation—The vast majority of your classes won't be in creative writing, so it's important that other parts of the school, especially the English department, are great as well.
  • #3: Extracurricular Opportunities—One of the key advantages of majoring in creative writing is that it can provide access to writing opportunities outside the classroom, so I took what kind of internship programs, author readings, and literary magazines the school offers into consideration.
  • #4: Diversity of Class Options—I gave extra points to schools with a variety of genre options and specific, interesting classes.
  • #5: Alumni/Prestige—This last criterion is a bit more subjective: is the school known for turning out good writers? Certainly it's less important than what kind of education you'll actually get, but having a brand-name degree (so to speak) can be helpful.

The Best Creative Writing Schools

Now, let's get to the good stuff: the list of schools! The exact numbering is always arguable, so look at it as a general trend from absolutely amazing to still super great, rather than fixating on why one school is ranked #3 and another is ranked #4.

#1: Northwestern University

Northwestern's undergrad creative writing program boasts acclaimed professors and an unparalleled track record of turning out successful writers (including Divergent author Veronica Roth and short-story writer Karen Russell).

Outside the classroom, you can work on the student-run literary journal, intern at a publication in nearby Chicago, or submit to the Department of English's yearly writing competition. The university is also home to a top journalism program, so if you want to try your hand at nonfiction as well, you'll have plenty of opportunities to do so.

#2: Columbia University

Like Northwestern, Columbia is home to both a world-class creative writing program and a top journalism school (plus one of the best English departments in the country), so you have a wide range of writing-related course options. Columbia also benefits from its location in New York City, which is bursting at the seams with publishing houses, literary journals, and talented authors.

The 12 Best Creative Writing Colleges and Programs (2)Columbia University's Low Library (Wally Gobetz/Flickr)

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#3: University of Iowa

The University of Iowa's big draw is the infrastructure of its graduate Writers' Workshop, which is often considered the best MFA program in the country.

As an English and Creative Writing major here, you'll take classes from great young writers and established professors alike, and get to choose from a wide range of topics. This major provides transferable skills important for a liberal arts major with a creative focus. You'll also have access to the university's impressive literary community, including frequent readings, writing prizes and scholarships, and the acclaimed literary journal The Iowa Review.

#4: Emory University

Emory is renowned for its dedicated undergrad creative writing program, which draws the very best visiting scholars and writers. Students here have the chance to attend intimate question-and-answer sessions with award-winning authors, study a range of genres, compete for writing awards and scholarships, and work closely with an adviser to complete an honors project.

#5: Oberlin College

A small liberal arts school in Ohio, Oberlin offers very different advantages than the schools above do. You'll have fewer opportunities to pursue writing in the surrounding city, but the quality of the teachers and the range of courses might make up for that. Moreover, it boasts just as impressive alumni, including actress and writer Lena Dunham.

#6: Hamilton College

Hamilton is another small college, located in upstate New York. It's known for giving students the freedom to pursue their interests and the support to help them explore topics in real depth, both inside and outside the classroom. Hamilton's creative writing program takes full advantage with small classes and lots of opportunities to intern and publish; it also has one of the best writing centers in the country.

#7: Brown University

Brown's Literary Arts program offers one of the top MFAs in the US as well as an undergraduate major. For the major, you must take four creative writing workshops and six reading-intensive courses, which span an array of departments and topics, from music and literature to Middle East studies and Egyptology.

The 12 Best Creative Writing Colleges and Programs (3)Part of Brown University's campus (Chuck Roberts/Flickr)

#8: Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University has an excellent creative writing MFA program, lots of super specific class options, and a number of scholarships specifically earmarked for creative writing students. This school’s undergraduate English program also offers a concentration in creative writing that allows students to specialize in a specific genre: poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction. If you’re interested in exploring your potential in a specific writing genre, Washington University could be a great pick for you.

#9: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT might not be a school you generally associate with writing, but it actually has an excellent program that offers courses in digital media and science writing, as well as creative writing, and provides plenty of guidance on how graduates can navigate the tricky job market.

Not to mention the school is located in Cambridge, a haven for book lovers and writers of all kinds. Though it probably isn’t a good fit for students who hate science, MIT is a great place for aspiring writers who want to build writing skills that are marketable in a wide range of industries.

#10: University of Michigan

University of Michigan is one of the best state universities in the country and has a top-notch MFA program. This school’s undergrad creative writing sub-concentration requires students to submit applications for admittance to advanced creative writing courses. These applications give students crucial practice in both building a writing portfolio and articulating their interest in creative writing to an audience who will evaluate their work. If you're looking to attend a big school with a great creative writing major, this is a fantastic choice.

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#11: Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins is another school that's known more for engineering than it is for writing, but, like MIT, it has a dedicated writing program. As a major here, you must take not only courses in prose, poetry, and literature, but also classes on topics such as philosophy and history.

#12: Colorado College

Colorado College is a small liberal arts school known for its block plan, which allows students to focus on one class per three-and-a-half-week block. The creative writing track of the English major includes a sequence of four writing workshops and also requires students to attend every reading of the Visiting Writers Series.

Bonus School: New York University

I didn't include NYU in the main list because it doesn't have a dedicated creative writing major, but it's a great school for aspiring writers nonetheless, offering one of the most impressive creative writing faculties in the country and all the benefits of a Manhattan location.

The 12 Best Creative Writing Colleges and Programs (4)Washington Square Park at NYU

How To Pick the Best Creative Writing School for You

Just because Northwestern is a great school for creative writing doesn't mean you should set your heart on going there. (The football fans are completely terrifying, for one thing.) So where should you go then?

Here are some questions to ask yourself when looking at creative writing programs to help you determine the best school for you:

Does It Have Courses You're Interested In?

Look at the course offerings and see whether they interest you. While you can't predict exactly what classes you'll love, you want to avoid a mismatch where what you want to study and what the program offers are completely different. For example, if you want to write sonnets but the school focuses more on teaching fiction, it probably won't be a great fit for you.

Also, don't forget to look at the English courses and creative writing workshops! In most programs, you'll be taking a lot of these, too.

What Opportunities Are There To Pursue Writing Outside of Class?

I touched on this idea in the criteria section, but it's important enough that I want to reiterate it here. Some of the best writing experience you can get is found outside the classroom, so see what kind of writing-related extracurriculars a school has before committing to it.

Great options include getting involved with the campus newspaper, working on the school's literary journal, or interning at the university press.

Who Will Be Teaching You?

Who are the professors? What kind of work have they published? Check teacher ratings on Rate My Professors (but make sure to read the actual reviews—and always take them with a grain of salt).

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If you're looking at a big school, there's a good chance that a lot of your teachers will be graduate students. But that's not necessarily a bad thing: a lot of the best teachers I had in college were graduate students. Just take into consideration what kind of graduate program the school has. If there's a great creative writing MFA program, then the graduate students are likely to be better writers and more engaged teachers.

What Are the Alumni Doing Now?

If you have a sense of what you want to do after you graduate, see if any alumni of the program are pursuing that type of career. The stronger the alumni network is, the more connections you'll have when it comes time to get a job.

What About the Rest of the School?

Don't pick a school for which you like the creative writing program but dread everything else about it. Most of your time will be spent doing other things, whether hanging out in the dorms, exploring off campus, or fulfilling general education requirements.

Many schools require you to apply to the creative writing major, so make doubly sure you'll be happy with your choice even if you aren't accepted to the program.

What's Next?

Are you sure a creative writing major is the right fit for you? Read our post on the pros and cons of the major to help you decide what path to take in college.

For more general advice about choosing a college, check out our complete guide to finding the right school for you. Some major factors to consider include deciding whether you're interested in a small college or a big university, an in-state or out-of-state institution, and a public or private school.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

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Alex Heimbach

About the Author

Alex is an experienced tutor and writer. Over the past five years, she has worked with almost a hundred students and written about pop culture for a wide range of publications. She graduated with honors from University of Chicago, receiving a BA in English and Anthropology, and then went on to earn an MA at NYU in Cultural Reporting and Criticism. In high school, she was a National Merit Scholar, took 12 AP tests and scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and ACT.

FAQs

What are the best creative writing courses? ›

In summary, here are 10 of our most popular creative writing courses
  • Memoir and Personal Essay: Write About Yourself: Wesleyan University.
  • Creative Writing: The Craft of Plot: Wesleyan University.
  • Plagues, Witches, and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction: University of Virginia.
  • English Composition I: Duke University.

What majors go well with creative writing? ›

Use Your Minor to Specialize

Some minors I would recommend to someone majoring in creative writing are education, business (specifically marketing, if available), journalism, and communications. All of these fields require creative writing in some way, and they are fields you're most likely to pursue after college.

What University is known for writing? ›

Iowa is known as “The Writing University” largely because of world-renowned graduate programs such as the Iowa Writers' Workshop and Nonfiction Writing Program, but the university's commitment to helping all students build strong writing and communication skills is evident across campus and in every field of study.

Is it worth majoring in creative writing? ›

Ultimately, these degrees can teach valuable transferable skills that writers will learn to put into practice. Not only this, but these degrees also significantly boost an aspiring writer's confidence, which in turn, makes them more proactive in getting their work out there.

What are the highest paying writing jobs? ›

What Are the 15 Highest Paying Writing Jobs?
  • Grant Writer.
  • Copywriter.
  • Content Writer and Strategist.
  • Proposal Writer.
  • Romance Writer.
  • Public Relations Writer.
  • Columnist.
  • Nonfiction Writer.

What are the 3 types of creative writing? ›

Types of creative writing include: Poetry. Plays. Movie and television scripts.

Is creative writing a difficult major? ›

Studying Creative Writing isn't for everyone. Just because you love writing, that doesn't mean you'll enjoy studying it. That's ok — studying Creative Writing is much more academic than many people think. It's also much more difficult.

What should I major in if I love writing? ›

You can choose to major in English language and literature or composition and rhetoric. If you want to be a writer, getting plenty of time to practice is important. Some people think that an English degree is too general to help you secure a good job. However, the major allows you to be flexible.

What degree do most writers have? ›

A college degree in English, communications, or journalism is generally required for a full-time position as a writer or author. Experience gained through internships or any writing that improves skill, such as blogging, is beneficial.

What is a degree in creative writing called? ›

Earning an MFA In Creative Writing

The MFA degree path is for writers who are focused on honing their craft with the purpose of becoming a professional writer or novelist.

Where is the best place to study creative writing? ›

  • University of Hull.
  • Bournemouth University.
  • Bangor University.
  • Arts University Bournemouth.
  • Liverpool Hope University.
  • Sheffield Hallam University.
  • University of Winchester.
  • Coventry University.

Where did the best writers go to college? ›

Alma Maters of Authors
  • Adam Grant: Harvard University (Cambridge, MA) ...
  • Adam Grant: University of Michigan — Ann Arbor (Ann Arbor, MI) ...
  • Alice Walker: Spelman College (Atlanta, GA)
  • Bill Bryson: Durham University (Durham, England, UK)
  • David Foster: The University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ)

Should I go to college for writing? ›

The quick answer is, "No. Writers do not need college to be writers." I mean, I started writing and publishing in high school. So I didn't even have a high school diploma, and I know many writers who started publishing and earning money as writers before they graduated high school.

Can you make a living off of creative writing? ›

Creative writing jobs aren't just for the John Grishams and Danielle Steels of the world. If you love wordsmithing and enjoy developing an idea, you can earn money from anywhere — even if you've never been paid for writing before. It sounds like a pipe dream, but thousands of writers do it every day.

Is creative writing a BA or BS? ›

Mission Statement: The Creative Writing Program develops students' abilities in creative writing in the genres of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction on a foundation of study of significant literary texts in British, American, and world literature.

How much money can you make with a creative writing degree? ›

How much does a Creative Writer make? Creative writers make $73,095 per year on average, or $35.14 per hour, in the United States. Creative writers on the lower end of that spectrum, the bottom 10% to be exact, make roughly $46,000 a year, while the top 10% makes $114,000.

How do I turn my writing into a career? ›

How To Start A Writing Career in 10 Steps
  1. Don't wait to call yourself a writer. You don't have to be published to be a writer. ...
  2. Don't quit. ...
  3. Write from your passions. ...
  4. Work at it every day. ...
  5. Create your writer's website. ...
  6. Look for opportunities. ...
  7. Seek like-minded writers. ...
  8. Network, network, network.
5 Jun 2019

What is the most profitable form of writing? ›

21 profitable freelance writing niches to explore
  1. Finance. The finance, banking, and insurance industries are some of the most lucrative ones to write for. ...
  2. Cryptocurrency and blockchain. ...
  3. Real estate. ...
  4. Travel. ...
  5. Technical writing. ...
  6. Digital marketing. ...
  7. Education and e-learning. ...
  8. Alternative health and wellness.

How can I make a lot of money in writing? ›

  1. Start a blog. Blogging is a tried-and-true method for writers to make money online. ...
  2. Create blog posts (for others) ...
  3. Establish a niche website. ...
  4. Self-Publish a book. ...
  5. Create affiliate content. ...
  6. Write scripts for video creators. ...
  7. Write show notes for podcasts. ...
  8. Create written content for social media.

What are the 7 types of writing? ›

The 7 most common types of essay writing
  • Narrative. Narrative essays are traditionally intended to tell a story based on the writer's real-life experiences. ...
  • Descriptive. Descriptive essays essentially paint a picture of something. ...
  • Expository. ...
  • Persuasive. ...
  • Compare and contrast. ...
  • Reflective. ...
  • Personal.
5 Apr 2019

Is a creative writer born or made? ›

The takeaway for all writers is that we can improve, and we are not bound by an inborn, set level of writing talent. Good writers are not born. They are learned.

What is the most popular form of creative writing? ›

Storytelling: Storytelling is the most popular form of creative writing and is found in the realms of both fiction and nonfiction writing. Popular forms of fiction include flash fiction, short stories, novellas, and full-length novels; and there are tons of genres to choose from.

What are the 4 types of writers? ›

The four main types of writing styles are persuasive, narrative, expository, and descriptive. In this blog post, we'll briefly explore the defining features of these four writing styles. For more help using these writing styles, schedule an appointment at the GWC!

What are the 4 genres of creative writing? ›

This course deals with the four core literary genres: Drama, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, and Poetry.

Which type of writing is best? ›

#1) Narrative Writing

Best for fiction and creative writing. Narrative writing is storytelling in written form. It captures a journey, or a part of it, from the start to the very end.

How long is a creative writing degree? ›

SNHU's creative writing bachelor's degree program requires 120 credits to graduate and typically takes about 4 years to complete.

What is the hardest major of all time? ›

20 Hardest Majors: The Ultimate Guide
  1. Chemistry. At number one on the list is chemistry.
  2. Architecture. ...
  3. Chemical Engineering. ...
  4. Computer Science. ...
  5. Aerospace Engineering. ...
  6. Biomedical Engineering. ...
  7. Materials Engineering. ...
  8. Petroleum Engineering. ...

Is a Masters in creative writing Worth It? ›

An MFA in Creative Writing is preferred or required for a variety of careers. If you want to teach creative writing at any level, from elementary school through higher education, a master's degree will be required, and a Master's of Fine Arts in Creative Writing sets you apart from the competition.

What are 3 careers that a person should have good writing skills for? ›

  Writing jobs can be rewarding as they typically allow you to use your imagination and create content independently.
...
  • Reporter. ...
  • Grant writer. ...
  • Columnist. ...
  • Communications officer. ...
  • Social media manager. ...
  • Communication specialist. ...
  • Advertising manager. ...
  • Copywriter.

Are writers paid well? ›

According to the survey, “Just over 77% of self-published writers make $1,000 a year…with a startlingly high 53.9% of traditionally-published authors, and 43.6% of hybrid authors, reporting their earnings are below the same threshold.

What to study at college if you want to be a writer? ›

To develop these skills, you could get a qualification like a foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree in a subject like:
  • creative writing.
  • communication and media.
  • English language or literature.
  • creative and professional writing.
  • journalism.

Are writing jobs in demand? ›

If you know how to write, there is no shortage of freelance job opportunities out there. As the written word evolves and businesses use writing in ever-increasing ways, skilled freelance writers are given more choice than ever.

What majors don't require a lot of writing? ›

Here's a list of degree programs that require the least amount of reading and writing.
  1. Architecture. The bachelor's in architecture is far from writing-intensive, primarily focusing on: ...
  2. Chemistry. ...
  3. Computer Science. ...
  4. Criminal Justice. ...
  5. Economics. ...
  6. Engineering. ...
  7. Mathematics. ...
  8. Music.
8 Apr 2022

Where should I move to be a writer? ›

The Best Cities For Writers
  • #1. Seattle, Washington.
  • #2. London, England.
  • #3. Austin, Texas.
  • #4. New Orleans, Louisiana.
  • #5. Taos, New Mexico.
  • #6. New York City, New York.
  • #7. San Francisco, California.
  • #8. Portland, Oregon.
16 Jan 2022

Where do I start if I want to be a writer? ›

Here's How to Become a Writer:
  • Step 1: Become a better reader.
  • Step 2: Write Everyday.
  • Step 3: Start a Blog.
  • Step 4: Read the book “Everybody Writes” by Ann Handley.
  • Step 5: Enroll in an Online Writing Course.
  • Step 6: Find a Place to Get Honest Critiques.
  • Step 7: Start Journaling.
  • Step 8: Practice Becoming More Conversational.
14 Jun 2021

Are writing jobs hard to get? ›

It's highly competitive to get in at the great-paying magazines, or to land the lucrative copywriting gigs. Some clients are flaky and end up stiffing you. Some clients are boundary-pushers and want to suck up all your time. You'll need to find a way to differentiate your writing services and stand out from the crowd.

Is writing a hard career? ›

Being a writer has never been easy. You have to be comfortable with harsh critiques, lots of rejections from agents and publishers, and slogging your way through low-paying gigs before you find one that can pay you what you're worth.

How many years does it take to get good at writing? ›

It takes 3 years of professional experience to become a writer. That is the time it takes to learn specific writer skills, but does not account for time spent in formal education. If you include the normal education requirements to complete a college degree, then it takes 6 to 8 years years to become a writer.

Is an MFA in creative writing worth it? ›

An MFA in Creative Writing is preferred or required for a variety of careers. If you want to teach creative writing at any level, from elementary school through higher education, a master's degree will be required, and a Master's of Fine Arts in Creative Writing sets you apart from the competition.

Is there a career in creative writing? ›

Creative writing is a great career and the most important thing about it is that it will never die (hopefully), or, at least, not any time soon.

What kind of degree is creative writing? ›

A degree in creative writing is usually a bachelor's degree with a creative writing major. Students who are pursuing a degree in creative writing take courses about written works, such as novels and plays, and courses on how to improve writing.

How long does it take to get a creative writing degree? ›

SNHU's creative writing bachelor's degree program requires 120 credits to graduate and typically takes about 4 years to complete.

Which writing process is the hardest? ›

Invention. Often the most difficult part of writing is starting to write. The process of choosing a broad topic and narrowing it down to a thesis can be both daunting and frustrating.

What is MFA salary? ›

Average annual salary in MFA is INR 13.1 lakhs.

Is MFA or MA better? ›

Of the two degrees, the MFA is held in higher regard. MFA programs are known for rigor, and admission is more selective, which sets MFA recipients apart from MA graduates. Completing an MFA confers special recognition in the artistic community that may even offer a career advantage.

Will an MFA get me a job? ›

An MFA degree may show prospective employers, agents or professional partners that you put in the time and effort to develop highly advanced skills in your art, but it doesn't demonstrate precisely what your skills and strengths are.

Should I major in English or creative writing? ›

Those who choose to study English will be focused more on the study of existing literature. They will learn to analyze, interpret, and understand a variety of different types of writings. Those who choose to pursue a Creative Writing degree will be focused more on the generation of new literature.

Can you double major in creative writing? ›

Many creative writing students choose to double major in creative writing and professional writing. Most students in creative writing want to pursue a career as a writer of poetry, drama, or fiction.

How long is BA creative writing? ›

Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing is a four-year program that is designed to nurture and guide aspiring student writers in the four major genres: poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and drama.

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