Applying to the MFA Program


A Letter from the Director • MFA Application Procedures, Checklist, and Materials • Program Requirements • Funding, Teaching Assistantships, Grants, and Awards

All applications are ONLINEOur deadline for applying to the Fall 2020 class is December 15, 2019.



A Letter from the Director

Dear Prospective Applicant:

Thank you for your interest in graduate work in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Arizona. This is a great time to study creative writing at Arizona: we believe we have the best and most exciting writers and teachers and students here in our small MFA program, set in Tucson, a weird and incredibly literary city amid the lushest desert in the world. We welcome your application to join us. 

The MFA Program offers small, intense workshops and craft courses taught by world-class faculty who are practicing writers and editors and literary citizens. Our faculty lead practical and theoretical discussions in workshop and seminar settings about issues of craft and ethics and genre and content, the writing life, and the study of literature from the perspective of writers. And you'll be in these classes alongside many of the writers who will go on to shape the future of literature. Ours is a three-year MFA program designed to be flexible to the needs of individual students, culminating in the completion of a book-length thesis manuscript, as supervised by one of our faculty. We offer opportunities to study across genre borders, to work on magazines and presses like Sonora Review and the University of Arizona Press, and a surprising number of other national literary publications.

Admission to the MFA program is extremely competitive: we get approximately 500 applications each year for 12 positions, four in each genre. As you can imagine, that means that we get very many good applications, and deciding between them is a difficult and time-consuming task. 

Admissions decisions are based largely upon our evaluation of your creative sample. Such matters as GPA, personal statement, publications (if any), and letters of recommendation are also considered, but to a substantially lesser degree. Because of the quantity of applications, it is impossible to offer individual critique as part of the application process. All deliberations of the admissions committee are confidential.

And please note that if you already have received an MFA in creative writing, you cannot get another one at the University of Arizona. We're a small enough program that we prefer to prioritize students who haven't already had the chance to complete a terminal degree in the field. (MAs and/or terminal degrees in non-CW fields are fine, however.)

Our deadline for fall 2020 applications is December 15, 2019. 

Also, for some general strategic advice and best practices for applying, we wrote this handout for some of our undergraduate students on best practices for applying to MFA (and MA, PhD) programs in Creative Writing. It's not oriented toward our program in particular, but some of its advice may be useful to you too.

Applications are online and are now open. Please refer to the Application Checklist and Materials section below for more details on what should be included in your application. 

If you have any questions, first check the Frequently Asked Questions page. You might also want to check out our So You Want to Study Graduate Creative Writing best practices guide If you don't find an answer there, call or email Sharonne Meyerson, the Creative Writing Program Assistant, at (520) 621-7216 or here

With best wishes,
Ander Monson, Director, MFA Program in Creative Writing



MFA Application Procedures, Checklist, and Materials

Here is a link to the online application. Please submit document in PDF format.
All the following materials are required, and must be submitted via the online form by December 15, 2019 for Fall 2020 entrance:
  1. MANUSCRIPT: Poetry applicants submit from 6 to 10 poems; fiction applicants should submit up to 30 pages (typically a couple short or an excerpt of a longer work); nonfiction applicants should submit up to 30 pages (typically a couple essays or an excerpt of a longer work). These should be recent, representative samples of your writing and writing ambitions. Please do not submit more than about 30 pages. You may apply in more than one genre without paying an additional fee, but must submit complete writing samples for each genre to which you are applying. You need only upload one copy of all other materials (personal statement, letters of recommendation, etc.) when applying to more than one genre. Retain copies of all materials submitted, as manuscripts will not be returned. Please make sure your name is on your writing sample.
  2. RECOMMENDATIONS (3): These should come from three people familiar with your creative work or your abilities or best qualities as a student, colleague, and a member of a writing community. Ideally, they should be able to attest to your ability and promise as a writer and your qualifications as a candidate for our MFA Program in Creative Writing. No form is required. Please follow the instructions on the online application for requesting your letters. (These are typically submitted electronically by the recommender.)
  3. A STATEMENT OF PURPOSE. Please submit a 300-500 word statement expressing your goals and/or reasons for pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Arizona. What are your ambitions for your own work? What do you hope to accomplish during your time in our MFA program? What draws you to our program in particular?
  4. TRANSCRIPTS: Unofficial transcripts for all college level work should be uploaded into your application. If you are accepted into the program you will then be required to send your official transcripts.
  7. The Graduate College requires a $85 application fee ($95 for International Applicants) application, payable with a Visa, MasterCard or American Express. We are not able to waive this institutional fee.


Program Requirements

The MFA degree requires 42 units (12 three-unit classes + 6 credits of the one-unit MFA colloquium), at least four semesters in residence, and the completion of a thesis project. You can find much more information on the About the MFA page

Course requirements:

  • Four Creative Writing workshops in Fiction (604), Poetry (609), or Creative Nonfiction (501), depending upon genre of admittance.
  • Four Creative Writing Craft Seminars (596H): At least one in genre of admittance and one in another genre. We offer two to four 596h seminars each semester, in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Topics vary every semester.
  • Five Electives: Electives may include coursework in the English Department or in other departments, workshops outside primary genre, additional ENG 596h seminars, internships (up to 6 units), and preceptorship credits (up to 6 units for Writing Program GATs). Courses outside English require CW Program Director approval.
  • Enrollment each semester in MFA Colloquium (595a)

Thesis requirement:

  • 3 Thesis Credits (ENG 909) taken during student’s final semester. Third year students may also enroll in an additional 3 credits of studio hours in their last year with the apporval of their thesis advisor and the Program Director.



Funding, Teaching Assistantships, Grants, and Awards

Ours is a fully-funded MFA program. All accepted MFA students are offered a full funding package, typically a GTA appointment in the Writing Program, for three years, including tuition remission, health insurance, a modest but livable stipend (in 2019 it was about $16100 per year for teaching 1-2 courses per semester). The only thing MFA students are responsible for are university fees (around $1350/year).

Most qualified MFA students will likely get the chance to teach creative writing workshops during their time here, if they're interested. (GTAs teach approximately 20 sections each year of Introduction to Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, or Poetry. These are assigned through a competitive yearly application process.) 

Graduate Teaching Assistantships: All GTAs are selected annually to teach three courses in the Writing Program: The teaching load is 1-2, 2-1, 2-1. They are appointed by the Head of the English Department on the recommendations of the program faculties. 

Writing Program GTAs must complete a mandatory 10-day training in August before their first semester teaching. During the first semester, they are required to take preceptorship (Engl 591), held once a week by the Writing Program, for which they receive three units of credit. All GTAs are required to enroll for and complete the minimum of 6 units of graduate credit per semester. It is the GTA’s responsibility to be familiar with all Graduate College policies, as deviations may result in cancelled registration or withheld paychecks.

Second- and third-year GTA reappointments are granted provisionally, taking into account coursework and teaching performance (courses completed, grades earned, faculty recommendations, students' evaluations, supervisory reports, and the candidate's participation in preceptorship).

Creative Writing Teaching Opportunities: Many (most? we try to give everyone the opportunity if we can) MFA students are offered the chance to teach an introductory creative writing class, Introduction to Creative Nonfiction (201), Introduction to Poetry (209), or Introduction to Fiction (210).

These selections are made via a competitive application process each spring. Interested students are asked to submit a letter of interest, a C.V., and a teaching portfolio if available. 

Summer Teaching Opportunities are often available, including teaching hybrid or online courses in the Writing Program or in the Creative Writing Program. MFA students also serve as primary instructors for the Young Arizona Writers' Workshop, a weeklong workshop for high school students.

We also offer opportunities to apply for summer research grants and small grants for student research (writing) and travel to conferences if you are presenting your work or otherwise officially representing the University of Arizona.

Foundation Awards are monetary prizes for the best individual story, essay, and set of poems written by MFA students each year, and are judged—blind—by notable writers in the field. In 2018 the judges were Venita Blackburn (fiction), giovanni singleton (poetry), and Lia Purpura (nonfiction). And the program regularly nominates student work for the AWP Intro Awards as well as other competitions.


College of Social and Behavioral Sciences