Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing

Our two graduate programs differ in scope, distinguished by innovative classes. Both include seminars, workshops, opportunities for community projects and a thesis.

The Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing is a 54 unit program which consists of writing workshops as well as creative process and/or literature courses. It also requires a 12 unit correlative, a cluster of courses related to your special interests. The M.F.A. degree takes about three years for a full time student to complete; M.F.A. students can attend part time and have seven years in which to complete all the requirements for their degree. The M.F.A. is the terminal degree in creative writing. If your goal is to teach creative writing at the four year college or university level, you will need an M.F.A. degree in addition to book publication; now, many community colleges also hire M.F.A.s to teach in their English Programs. The M.F.A. will, like the M.A., prepare you for an English Ph.D. program.

Read more about our programs in our graduate program brochure (pdf) or our graduate handbook (pdf). 
 

View the bulletin page for the M.F.A. in Creative Writing

View the M.F.A. Advising Worksheet (pdf)

Please email cwriting@sfsu.edu with any questions! 

Deadlines for Fall 2023 Admission: 

Fall 2022 applications open October 1.

  1. Round 1 Deadline: February 15th for Priority Consideration for Scholarships
  2. Round 2 Deadline: April 19th

We are moving to an all online application process; all materials for the application are to be uploaded via the Cal State Apply for Graduate Study website. Creative Writing only has applications open once a year, however you can choose to defer your study for a single semester or to the following Fall semester if you are interested in starting at a later date. Applicants need a B.A. degree, or equivalent, and a 3.0 GPA or equivalent. 

Cal State Apply for graduate admission materials required for either the M.A. Creative Writing Degree Objective or the M.F.A. Creative Writing Degree Objective:

  1. Cal State Apply for Graduate Study
  2. Cal State Apply application fee; currently $75.
  3. One set of unofficial transcripts for all college and/or university coursework (If you are chosen for admission, official transcripts will be requested to finalize admission). Please note: If you previously attended SF State University, you do not need to submit an SF State transcript. All are submitted electronically by uploading as part of this complete application to Cal State Apply for Graduate Study 
  4. Statement of purpose - briefly write (500 words) why you wish to study at the graduate level, what led you to choose creative writing, your experience writing and reading, etc.
  5. One manuscript in one of the following genres- creative nonfiction or fiction: 15-20 pages double-spaced, single-sided pages (either one or more stories, or 15-20 pages of a longer work); 15 poems;  1 play: either a finished play of any length, or 20-25 pages of dramatic writing (theater plays only! No Film scripts, no radio plays, nor television plays; they will not be considered); 10 pages of literary translation into English accompanied by 10 pages of the literature in the original language. Manuscripts must be legibly typed to be considered.
  6. Two letters of recommendation, preferably from an academic reference such as a former instructor, tutor, or someone who can speak of your writing skills from a position of knowledge. Creative Writing does not have a template for letter writers.
     

INTERNATIONAL APPLICANTS: please reference Cal State Apply for International Students for the following:

  • Academic requirements by country.
  • English language requirements.
  • Summary of CSU Application for Graduate Study process.

FAQs for the Graduate Application

Please click on the following question to be taken to the answer on this page. If your question is not addressed on this page, please email Katherine Kwid at kkwid@sfsu.edu.

I'm interested in a graduate degree in Creative Writing, but I'm not sure if the M.A. or the M.F.A. is right for me. What is the difference between the M.A. and the M.F.A.?

  • The M.A. degree program is 30 semester units: 3-6 units (1-2 classes) of writing classes, 3-6 units of process classes, 3-6 units of special topic creative process courses, 9-12 units of teaching courses guided elective classes and a 3 unit thesis (written creative work); the time it takes to finish the M.A. program typically is two years, but you have up to seven years to complete the program. California community colleges typically want to hire people with an M.A. in English; this degree will increase your potential for obtaining a teaching position in 2 year colleges.
  • The M.F.A. degree program is 54 semester units with a fair amount of latitude in your choice between workshop, seminar and literature seminar classes (there is a required minimum of 2 M.F.A. workshops and 2 M.F.A. seminars) and a 6 unit thesis (written creative work): the time it takes to finish the M.F.A. program typically is three to four years, but again, you have up to seven years to complete the program. Four year university creative writing departments typically hire adjunct and permanent faculty with this degree. BOTH degrees will prepare you for application to Ph.D. programs.
  • One way of getting a feel for the program beyond our bulletin requirements, is to attend an event, either at the SF State Poetry Center or one of the many events listed on our public Facebook page (public - so you don't need to have a Facebook account to view all content, simply click on the "f" icon on the right-hand side of our webpage.)

What do I need in order to qualify for a graduate degree in Creative Writing?

  •  A bachelor's degree or a recognized equivalent from a regionally accredited institution (See the Bulletin for information regarding Applicants from Institutions Without Regional Accreditation).
  • A satisfactory scholastic average; a minimum grade-point average (GPA) of 3.0.
  • In good academic standing at the last college or university attended.
  • Complete the application process outlined on the Graduate Application section on this page.
  • Completing these steps does not guarantee entry to the program. A formal offer of admission will be sent to you by mail by the Division of Graduate Study after the decisions have been made. 

I'm about to upload my supplementary application materials that are requested by the Department of Creative Writing, but am concerned I may have forgotten something! What is supposed to be included?

  • One manuscript sample of your work (appropriate submissions are detailed on the Graduate Applications tab on this page).
  • One 500 word statement of purpose.
  • Two letters of recommendation.
  • Unofficial transcripts for each institution attended.

I just got an email from the Division of Graduate Study that told me I am missing items for my application. I'm not sure what items are missing. How can I find that out?

  • Open a browser (Internet Explorer is recommended for best function) to sfsu.edu.
  • Click the Login link at the top of the page.
  • Click SF Gateway.
  • Enter your SF State ID and your password. If you have forgotten your password, click the link below the login box. 
  • Click on Academics, under STUDENT.
  • Click on the Student Center "button" in the bottom of the box in the middle of the page.
  • On the right hand side, there is a "To Do List". You will find the items that are missing listed under the "To Do List".

I'm not sure who to ask for my letters of recommendations. What is the Admissions Committee looking for?

  • Your options range widely, anywhere from a writer in the field of Creative Writing, to a teacher or professor of an unrelated subject who knows your study habits. People who can speak of your skills as a writer are preferred, but not necessary. If you cannot find someone who can speak of your writing, someone who can speak of you in a professional setting would be preferred. 

How many students apply to and are admitted to the Graduate Program each year?

  • Our program adds between 30 and 50 Graduate students per year, and we get approximately 120 applications per year. Approximately 1/4 of the applied students are admitted to our MA program. 

Can I apply for Spring Admission?

  • No. Our admission dates are from October 1st to February 15th for priority consideration for our entry scholarship, for the following Fall semester only. Students admitted for the fall semester may request to defer their admission for up to two semesters, if spring admission is desired.

Is the GRE required for admission to the Creative Writing Graduate Programs?

  • No, the GRE is not required for the application to the Department of Creative Writing.

I'm not sure how to finance my education. Does SFSU offer any financial assistance? 

  • New students in both graduate programs are automatically considered for our three scholarships for new students: The Joe Brainard Fellowship (two or more prizes, amount varies between $1000-$5000), the William Dickey Fellowship in poetry (two prizes; amount varies between $500 – $2000), Miriam Ylvisaker Fellowship in Fiction (one prize; amount varies between $500-$1000 scholarship)
  • The Kathryn A. Manoogian Scholarship (one prize; amount varies between $500 - $2000) is awarded to one graduate student, new or continuing, based on merit and financial need. A call for applications will be posted to our students at the beginning of the fall semester.
  • For information on applying for financial aid, please contact the financial aid office; finaid@sfsu.edu. SF State Financial Aid Officewebsite. Please be advised that it has come to our attention that California State University Grants, SUG, are available for only ONE graduate degree per student. If you have other questions about Financial Aid, including the SUG issue, you should call (415) 405-7000 or emailfinaid@sfsu.edu. The best way to get in touch with them would be to visit them in person at their desk in the One Stop Student Center
  • The Federal Student Aid website has information for international applications about U.S. Financial Aid eligibility requirements.
  • The Financial Aid Office at SF State also has more information about other scholarships.
  • The University and national scholarships page is a resource web page that offers useful links, including information about how to make a one-on-one appointment with a fellowship advisor. Of special interest to graduate student is the Graduate Equity Fellowship.
  • There are approximately 3-5 teaching positions available to graduate students per academic year. It is by application in the Spring semester, for the coming academic year; minimum qualifications are classified graduate standing in the SF State Creative Writing M.F.A., English; Creative Writing M.A. program or the M.A. in Creative Writing; suggested completion (grade B or better) of C W 860 Teaching Creative Writing. Successful completion of C W 859 Practicum in Teaching Creative Writing which is a course which offers Graduate Instructional Aides (you assist in a class under the mentorship of the instructor of record for credit) an opportunity to practice, reflect upon, and revise teaching choices and strategies is also helpful when applying to these positions. 

How much does it cost to be an M.F.A. or an M.A. student in Creative Writing?

Note: Campus fees should be regarded as estimates that are subject to change upon approval by the President and/or Student Fee Committee, without notice.

CURRENT fees PER SEMESTER for graduate study at SF State:

  • California Resident;
    Part time, 6 units (2 courses) and under: $2,082
    Anything over 6 units: $3,588

    More information about California resident fees can be found on the SF State Bursar website.

  • Out of State/International, these fees are based on the California resident fees, plus $396 per unit:
    - 3 Units (1 course): $2,082 + $1,188 = $3,270
    - 6 units (2 courses): $2,082 + $2,276 = $4,458
    - 9 units (3 courses): $3,588 + $4,458 = $8,046
    (3 units x $396 = $1188; 6 units x $396= $2276; 9 units x $396= $4458)

How do I establish residency?

You can find basic guidelines on how to establish residency and find out if you are eligible on the Division of Graduate Studies website. Because neither campus nor Chancellor's Office staff may give advice on the application of these laws, applicants are strongly urged to review the materials for themselves and perhaps consult with a legal advisor. 

Can I defer admission to the Graduate Program in Creative Writing?

You can defer your admission until the following spring or following fall semester to which you applied once you have accepted your seat in the program. You can do this, you would submit a Petition for Graduate Admission selecting the option for "other" and stating that you wish to delay your start term to either Spring or Fall of the following year. Please email Katherine, kkwid@sfsu.edu, with any questions. 

Many organizations are interested in working at a distance with our students during this time. Early in my search for workable community engagement, quite a few organizations have stepped forward to express interest in CW 675 and 875 students:

These include Aunt Lute Books, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, Omnidawn Publishing, Red light lit, Small Press Traffic, Mount Tamalpais College & the Milvia Street Journal, two different organizations that connect writers to incarcerated people, The Aneurysm and AVM Foundation (TAAF) and more.

Students will also be free to make their own connection for a writing projects that sustain us through COVID. Class meets at the beginning and end as a group; you do your community project in the middle and contribute through I-Learn to an ongoing discussion of your project. Email Anne Galjour, agaljour@sfsu.edu if you want to get your own community project idea approved before the class.

CW 675/875 Community Projects in Literature is an opportunity to gain experience in the fields of publication, teaching, and arts administration, which will make valuable additions to your resume. Though each internship will be individually shaped, you will make a commitment of at least six hours a week for the length of the semester to earn three units credit.

Below is link to a list of organizations which you may use as a guide to finding a community project, or you can find one on your own. This list includes on-campus  opportunities, such as the Poetry Center. You also may create your own project as well; for example, teaching writing workshops in community, institution or school settings, or creating a reading series.

Typically, the organizations listed will ask you for a brief resume; try to give them some idea of the kinds of experience you already have.  For example, did you work on a campus journal, can you operate a computer, file, write clearly?

Community Projects Leads

Submitting your ATC and PCE Forms

If you are planning on enrolling in your thesis next semester, please review the following information.

There are two forms due the semester before enrollment in your thesis course. These are the Advancement To Candidacy (ATC) form and the Petition for Culminating Experience (PCE) form and can be found in step two and three of the Steps to Graduation guidelines. These forms are due November 1 for the following Spring Thesis enrollment, or April 1 for Fall Thesis enrollment. There’s a helpful deadline calendar for all things graduation.

Petition for Culminating Experience (PCE)

  • Please select 893 Written Creative Work to generate the appropriate petition.
     
  • The Petition for Culminating Experience proposes your thesis. The description needs to be at least 40 words, and we recommend keeping it vague if you think your thesis has the potential to change. The timeline asked for is a general guideline and not one you will be held to. Your thesis chairperson can help you come up with these dates and they are generally listed as reviewing sections of the thesis; first 4 chapters, first two acts, x number of poems, and so on.
     
  • Your thesis chairperson should be a tenured professor of your choosing. Please reach out to the professor to request that they be your thesis chairperson before the petition is submitted. Each professor has a limited number of thesis spots available and permission is required. The tenured faculty are listed at the top of the advising page under faculty academic advisors. You will also need a second reader who is an informal position on your thesis committee. The second reader only signs the paperwork, and will not be working with you on your thesis. Please reach out to a tenure track professor to be the second reader. The only reason I’ve seen someone say no to this informal position is when they will be on leave the semester the thesis is completed. Once a first and second reader have agreed to work with you, please follow directions on this page to upload your 893 paperwork for processing and signatures; Proposal for Culminating Experience (PCE) | Division of Graduate Studies. No third reader is needed. 

Advancement To Candidacy (ATC)

  • For the ATC form you will need to list the courses you are using to fulfill the degree requirement. You can determine which courses should be listed by filling out an advising worksheet for your degree which can be found on our Advising page. The courses listed on the ATC form will be the same ones you would use to complete the worksheet.
     
  • The class schedule for the Spring is not generally not yet available before the due dates for the ATC petition, so we ask you to guess which course you would like to use to complete your requirements if you have more than just the thesis course to complete. If the course you guess will be offered does not end up being offered next semester, you would then find an appropriate course to enroll in and submit an ATC substitution form on the Grad Forms website to amend the course list. 
     
  • If you are using any coursework towards your degree, as approved by your faculty advisor, you will need to fill out an ATC substitution which you can do by following these procedures; DocuSign.
     
  • Your graduate advisor should be a tenured professor of your choosing, and this signature is usually given by your thesis chairperson. We do not assign advisors, rather encourage you to reach out to a faculty member you would like to work with in your genre. Tenure track faculty are on the top of the office hours page, or anyone with professor in their title on the people page.
     
  • Once you have the form completed, please follow the submission guidelines for processing and approval available on the Advancement to Candidacy Substitution Submission website.

Please note that completion of these forms does not automatically enroll you in your C W 893 Thesis course. Please request a class number and a permit number from your thesis chairperson when registration begins for the semester of your thesis enrollment.

You can find examples of the petitions below.