Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing

The MFA Creative Writing Program at the College of Charleston provides advanced degree training in fiction or poetry writing. With separate curriculum emphases in Studio and Arts & Cultural Management, our program offers workshops taught by award-winning faculty. Immerse yourself in the history and traditions of literature, join a community of writers, and receive valuable feedback to craft your thesis—a full-length manuscript.

Why get your MFA in Creative Writing at the College of Charleston?

Our program is situated in one of the most beautiful and historic cities in the world, a vibrant literary community. You'll also have the opportunity to contribute to swamp pink, our premier literary journal. Benefit from engaging with renowned visiting writers and editors, expanding your understanding and knowledge. At the College of Charleston, you'll receive an education in writing that will shape your future. 

Learn the Ins and Outs of the M.F.A. Program

The Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing is designed for students who enroll full time. This is so you can complete the degree requirements in two years. By the end of this program, you’ll have a thesis—a full-length manuscript. Students will select either a Studio or an Arts & Cultural Management curriculum emphasis.
  • Studio Emphasis

    Those choosing to pursue the Studio emphasis will follow the traditional M.F.A. program model of workshops and literature courses. You’ll also select electives in creative writing. This will prepare you for a life in letters, for careers in editing and publishing, and for additional advanced degree work in related humanities-based disciplines.

    The MFA degree with a Studio emphasis is a 36-credit hour program that combines a traditional approach to the creative, the scholarly, and the practical. To earn the degree, students must complete:

    • 12 credit hours of M.F.A. Workshops in their primary genre (fiction or poetry)
    • 12 credit hours of Literature course electives
    • 6 credit hours of Creative Writing course electives
    • 6 credit hours of thesis, working under the mentorship of a faculty advisor
    • Final thesis and an oral defense

    Creative Writing electives include courses, such as: Reading for Writers; Publishing Practicum; Special Topics in Creative Writing, Craft and Form courses, and the MFA Workshop in the other genre.
    There are no period requirements for the Literature course electives. Literature courses are offered through the joint College of Charleston/Citadel M.A. in English program.

  • Arts & Cultural Management Emphasis

    If you choose the Arts & Cultural Management emphasis, you will take workshops and a creative writing elective, but also take courses through the Graduate Certificate in Arts and Cultural Management. This includes topics like in arts advocacy, organization leadership, fundraising and resource management, marketing/audience development, educational programming, and social justice engagement in the arts.

    The MFA degree with an Arts & Cultural Management emphasis is a 36-credit hour program that allows students to also earn a Graduate Certificate in Arts & Cultural Management. To earn the master’s degree and certificate, students must complete:

    • 12 credit hours of M.F.A. Workshops in their primary genre (fiction or poetry)
    • 15 credits hours of Arts & Cultural Management (ARCM) courses
    • 3 credit hours of a Creative Writing course elective
    • 6 credit hours of thesis, working under the mentorship of a faculty advisor
    • Final thesis and an oral defense

    Students who are interested in the M.F.A. degree with the ARCM curriculum emphasis will need to apply to the Arts & Cultural Management Graduate Certificate program after they have been officially admitted to the M.F.A. program. For questions concerning ARCM, please contact Dr. Hsin-Ching Wu, ARCM Director (

  • About the Thesis

    To complete your M.F.A. degree, all students are required to write and revise a creative thesis of “near publishable” quality. The M.F.A. thesis is a sustained piece of imaginative writing of literary merit. Students must complete their thesis in their primary genre they applied to the program in. If a student wishes to change their primary genre, they must reapply to the M.F.A. program in the next application cycle. The thesis may consist of a collection of poems, short stories, a novella, a novel or a novel excerpt. Typically, a thesis for poetry is 48-64 pages and for prose is at least 100 pages.

    M.F.A. students enroll in thesis hours (6 credits) during the fall and spring semesters of their second year of study. Students work with a set M.F.A. thesis advisor and select a second reader from the English / Creative Writing graduate faculty whose expertise aligns with the student’s creative work. The MFA student and the thesis advisor will meet as necessary during the academic year to discuss and evaluate the student’s ongoing writing and revising progress.

    At the beginning of the academic year, the MFA Program Director determines an internal thesis deadline (typically around March 15th) for students to turn in their complete thesis manuscripts to their thesis committee and then to prepare for the oral defense, which are typically held in April. After the thesis defense, MFA students must format their manuscript according to the Graduate School’s thesis guidelines and submit it to the Graduate School for approval.

  • Degree Requirements

    Degree requirements include:

    • a minimum 36 credit hours with an average of "B” or better
    • 12 hours of coursework in the M.F.A. core workshops in a primary genre emphasis (either creative nonfiction, fiction, or poetry)
    • a thesis (a collection of poems, a collection of essays, a memoir, short stories, or a novel)
    • an oral defense
  • Faculty & Staff

    Students attending the College of Charleston’s M.F.A. in Creative Writing program benefit from its distinguished faculty. Their wisdom, expertise, and love of the word show in their mentorship of students. Our faculty are nationally and internationally acclaimed writers who have long been practicing and professing the art. 

    Faculty include: 

    In addition, faculty and staff have served in various capacities, from first readers to editors with literary journals such as The Missouri Review, The Southern Review, Ploughshares, Epoch, Cimarron Review, Ironhorse Literary Review, Blue Mesa Review, and, of course, swamp pink and Crazyhorse.  

    This level of expertise brings with it a deep knowledge of the writing and publishing process. 

Careers & Outcomes

The MFA is the terminal degree in the field. In addition to pursuing careers in teaching, our graduates are prepared to seek jobs in publishing, editing, marketing, advertising, and arts administration. Our graduates may also pursue further studies in Ph.D programs in Creative Writing and English Literature.

“I feel so lucky to be in a space full of such incredible writers, in a city brimming with artistic inspiration, and at a new job abundant with opportunities to better the campus community. I feel immensely proud. “- Annie Grimes, ‘24

How to Apply

The entire application process is online. The documents outlined below are required components of the application. A file is not complete until all documents have been submitted and processed, so read carefully and prepare your application materials in advance of applying. 
  • Dates & Deadlines

    The MFA program priority application deadline is January 15, 2023 for entrance into the program in Fall 2023.

  • Application Process

    Prospective students applying to the MFA program in Creative Writing MUST do so by first accessing the Graduate School application site. 

  • Application Process

    Required Application Materials for the MFA program in Creative Writing: 

    • A Baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution of higher learning with a cumulative undergraduate GPA of at least 2.500 on a 4.000 scale. 
    • A creative writing sample in the genre of application that demonstrates skill and promise for further development in the art. Fiction samples may include one short story, several short stories, or a section of a novel, and must not exceed 30 pages in length. Poets should send no more than 10 pages of poetry. 
    • A statement of purpose (300-500 words). Applicants should discuss: their writing style, as well as literary influences; how the College/program will support these goals; and what the applicant believes they will contribute to the program. 
    • Three letters of recommendation. Each referee should be as specific as possible in addressing the applicant’s motivation and ability to successfully complete a graduate degree. 
    • An official copy of scores from the general test of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). 


    • Unofficial transcripts FOR REVIEW PURPOSES ONLY. Unofficial transcripts should be printed from a college or university’s online portal and MUST include the name of the applicant and the name of the institution. An applicant may also submit official transcripts as described below with their application. 


    • Official transcripts from all previously attended colleges and universities.  Transcripts may be submitted electronically; otherwise they must be submitted in sealed envelopes with the stamp or seal of the institutions’ Registrar on the flap. If not submitted with an application, official transcripts will be required as a condition of admittance to the University. 

    *Candidates who submit a completed application by the priority January 15th deadline will automatically be considered for Graduate School and/or graduate program funding. The final deadline for applications, for entrance in the Fall, is July 1st. 

  • Fellowships & Assistantships

    The M.F.A. Creative Writing program awards several merit-based fellowships, which have been made possible by the extraordinary generosity, vision, and good will of alumni of the College of Charleston:

    The fellowship award is $10,000 total for the recipients’ two years in the MFA program. Typically, Woodfin Fellows also are awarded a renewable 10-hour Graduate Assistantship ($6,300/yr.), usually to work as an Editorial Assistant at swamp pink. Each year, two Woodfin Fellowships are awarded to one incoming fiction writer and one incoming poet whose application and creative writing sample demonstrates exceptional skill and promise.

    The Banks Scholarship is $5000 total, divided across the recipient’s two years in the MFA program. Every other year, the Banks Scholarship is awarded to a student who plans to enroll in the Studio curriculum emphasis, who has a minimum cumulative 3.5 GPA, and whose application and creative work demonstrates excellence and the ability to tap into the universal human experience.

    The Hane Scholarship is approximately $6,000 total, divided across the recipient’s two years in the MFA program. Every other year, the Hane Scholarship is awarded to a student who has a minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA, and whose application and creative work demonstrates exceptional skill and promise.

    Graduate assistantships are one-year positions that require students to work either 20 hours per week (at an annual stipend of $12,600) or 10 hours per week (at an annual stipend of $6,300). The MFA program awards a limited number of competitive Graduate Assistantships to work as an Editorial Assistant at swamp pink literary journal based on the merit of a student’s creative writing sample, statement of purpose, GPA, and professor recommendations.
    Recipients of graduate assistantships must be enrolled full time in the program and in good academic standing.

    Admitted students can apply for graduate assistantships in other departments and offices on campus as well, such as the Avery Research Center, the Honors College, and the Arts & Cultural Management department.

    Students accepted into the MFA in Creative Writing program who meet the academic criteria will be nominated for competitive scholarships and fellowships offered by the Graduate School. These scholarships and fellowships are awarded for academic excellence and are made by the discretion of the Graduate School Dean.