This event took place on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022

Do you need an MFA in Creative Writing in order to be a writer? What about a PhD? When is the right time to pursue the degree-–right after college or a few years later? Learn the answers to these questions and more.

Takeaway Resources

Speakers: Lauren Cross, Silas Hansen, Paige Waters

Link to pdf of presentation slides

Why go to graduate school? What is graduate school? How is it different from college? Where to go? Whether to go?   

Georgia State Blog, Advice for Anyone Considering a Graduate Degree in Creative Writing 

Cecilia Capuzzi Simon, NYTimes, Why Writers Love to Hate the MFA 

Brian Rowe, Medium, Five Bad Reasons to Pursue an MFA in Creative Writing 


Degrees: Non-terminal degrees (MA) and Terminal degrees (MFA and PhD) 

Accelerated Master’s Program at Ball State 

MA programs in Creative Writing: Ball State, others in US and UK via New Pages. 

MFA programs in Creative Writing via New Pages. 

PhD programs in Creative Writing and/or English via New Pages. 


Types: Residential and Low-res programs 

Cathy Day and Jill Christman, Low-Res, High Motivation, Ball State English Blog 


Timing: When you should go (different schools of thought) 

Princeton Review, Should you go to grad school right after undergrad?  


Researching MA, MFA, and PhD Programs 

Poets and WritersTwenty Questions to Ask Before Applying 

The Cost 

  • tuition remission 
  • teaching assistantships/teaching load 
  • stipend and cost of living 
  • health insurance and other financial support 
  • hidden costs 
  • watch out for graduate programs that are “cash cows” for universities 

Special Interests:  

Interested in Screenwriting? 

DePaul University, Screenwriting/Comedy: This is where Grace Goze is. Also Ally Johnson (TCOM) who graduates in ‘22. 

Columbia College Chicago: Graduate MFAs in Directing or Producing 

Chapman University: Various graduate degrees in film and screenwriting 

Ohio University: Rani’s alma mater. They provide funding, are nearby, have the Athens Film Festival, have a screenwriting track and have opportunities to take Creative Writing in the English Department or Playwriting in Theater. 

Florida State University: Excellent reputation. They have production or writing emphasis. Barry Jenkins went here for undergrad. 

Columbia University: Great reputation. 

Stoneybrook University: MFA in Television Writing. They also have a partnership with Killer Films on a producing degree. 

University of Texas Austin: Another reputable program and city for film. 

University of Southern California: One of the BIG schools for people who want to work in the industry. Located and connected to the industry. 


Interested in Popular Fiction? 

Seton Hill MFA 

University of Nevada, Reno MFA 

Emerson College 

Stephanie Grossman, MFA Programs that are Chill with Speculative Fiction


Interested in the Environment? 

MFA at Iowa State University (John Carter) 


Interested in Publishing? 

Emerson College (‘21 Grad Ashley Burns is there now!) 



Applying: Components of an application 

Inside Higher Education, A Guy Who May Have Read Your MFA Application Speaks 

Cathy Day on Asking for an LOR 

Cathy Day on the Do’s and Don’ts of the SOP  

Applying to Graduate School (BSU English) 

Creative Writing News, 10 Statement of Purpose Examples 


Paying for it: Funded and unfunded programs–what does that mean?  

ProFellow, Fully Funded MFA Programs in Creative Writing 


You’re There! Making the Most of It 

Lori May, Writers Digest, 10 Steps for Maximizing your MFA Experience 


The MFA Thesis: Genres (Fiction, Poetry, CNF) and forms (short stories vs novel, etc.) 

  • The thesis is a polished manuscript of significant length and scope, generally a collection of poems or short stories, a play, a screenplay, a novella, or a major portion of a novel with a complete outline  

Cathy Day, The MillionsThe Story Problem: 10 Thoughts on Academia’s Novel Crisis 


Advice from CW Faculty

Man in grey shirtSean Lovelace

My grad school talk hits the usual points: know the faculty’s specialties, know the strengths and curricular offerings. I always advise do not go if you aren’t getting money to go. This may seem harsh, but I tell students if you can’t get funded, take that as a sign your writing sample/application needs work. I tell them to find work (go landscape or bus tables, something) and try the following year. Oh, I also tell them while a poor writing sample with great grades (or other great thing in the application) will not get you in, a STELLAR writing sample could overcome poor aspects of the application. I tell them to show a knowledge of authors in their genre, to VARY the forms and styles in the sample, and take a risk if they have the writing chops to take a risk.

I tell them the locale isn’t that important. Take a chance, move somewhere weird and live cheaply. Who knows what will happen.

Lastly, I tell them to take the same approach I might take if sending out a short story for publication, the “shotgun” approach. I may pick three DREAM markets, five I’d-be-happy-if-it-was-published-there markets, and two I-don’t -mind-the-story-appearing-within-though-it’s-not-all-that markets. Same with grad school. Pick ten schools and scatter that application out into the world.

BTW, I drink the “You miss 100% of the shots you never take” Kool-Aid. That’s why I tell the students to pick three dream schools. I got into Alabama with three short stories. They were first three I’d ever written, all completed in Jeanne Leiby’s night class at U of Tennessee. She said to me one night, “You should get an MFA.” I answered, “What is an MFA?”

Katy Didden

Research the writers that you love and see if they teach somewhere.

Then apply to those schools so that you can be mentored by them.

Consider attending a summer creative writing workshop or find a community workshop to develop your portfolio before applying to MFA programs.

Consider the Ball State Writer’s Community? Contact the advisor, Prof. Todd McKinney at tdmckinney ((at) for information about when they meet (which tends to change each semester).