2011-12 HEAF fellow Jacques Rancourt and 2011-13 MFA Jesse Damiani talk after a reading
by MFA grad Bri Cavallaro in Milwaukee. Photo © Oliver Bendorf, 2011-13 MFA.
Students who have earned a BA or equivalent degree may apply for admission to the MFA program in fiction or in poetry. Please read this page carefully before applying at https://apply.grad.wisc.edu/.
Fiction writers and poets are admitted in alternating years. This year we are reading fiction: the application period opens in September and closes December 15, 2017, for admission in fall 2018. We are not reading poetry applications this year; the next application deadline for poetry is December 15, 2018, for admission in fall 2019. All application materials—including transcripts, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, a writing sample, a CV, and the application fee—must be submitted online in pdf format by midnight, U.S. Central Time, on December 15.
In Fall 2017 we are reading for fiction only. To submit online, please prepare the materials listed below, in pdf format. Please note that the applications system may not be active or up-to-date until September. However, it is strongly recommended that you begin the application and request your recommendations as early as possible; you do not need to have all of these materials prepared the moment you begin the application:
- A statement of approximately 500 words explaining your reasons for pursuing this graduate degree.
- A 30-page fiction manuscript of one short story or novel excerpt—single-spaced in 11 or 12-point Times New Roman, Garamond, Baskerville, or a similar typeface. Your name should appear on each page of the writing sample, and each page should be numbered.
- A curriculum vitae or resume in pdf format is also required by the University, but please note that it is not a chief concern of the Program in Creative Writing.
- You will be asked to supply the names and email addresses of three recommenders. If you do not use a dossier service, each recommender will receive an email link to the online letter of recommendation form. If you do intend to use a dossier service, please confirm with that service the best way to proceed with an electronic application. If you are using the Interfolio dossier service (not required, though we strongly recommend it), please click here for important guidelines on using Interfolio with the online application system.
- An unofficial copy of your undergraduate transcript(s) uploaded as a PDF under the “Education” tab. With the exception of study-abroad transcripts, you should provide transcripts from every post-secondary educational institution you attended, even if transfer credits from one school appear on the transcripts of another. You will be required to provide an official transcript should you be offered admission to the Graduate Program in Creative Writing.
- GRE scores are not required and will not be considered for admission. Simply leave these fields blank on the online application form.
For questions about the MFA Program, writing sample, or statement of purpose, please contact Amy Quan Barry, MFA Program Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org. For all questions related to the online application itself, or technical problems, please contact Robyn Shanahan in the Department of English. As a courtesy, please make sure your question is not answered on this website before emailing.
Online Application Requirements
Once you've prepared the above materials, you may apply online by clicking here. When filling out the application form, please note the following:
- Under “Program Selection,” be sure to select "Creative Writing MFA," not "English MA."
- Don't forget to complete the "Supplemental Application" tab! This is where you will upload your writing sample, which is the most important part of the application, to the admissions committee.
- Under the "Educational" tab, you will be asked to upload a pdf of your writing sample. If you have attended multiple post-secondary institutions, you will need to combine the transcripts from all of these schools into a single file. If you spent a semester or year abroad through a program sanctioned by your undergraduate University, we do not require the transcript of the international institution where you studied. Should you be recommended for acceptance to the MFA, however, we will require official copies of all transcripts.
- Under the "Educational" tab, leave the "GRE" fields blank; we do not consider GRE scores for acceptance to the MFA program.
- Under the "Statements & CV" tab, upload a personal statement in pdf format, approximately 500 words in length. A curriculum vitae or resume in pdf format is also required by the University, but is not a chief concern of the Program in Creative Writing
- Under the "Recommendation" tab, be sure to fill out the recommender forms as completely as possible, even if your recommenders insist on sending their letters by post, and even if the letters will be uploaded by a dossier service. To use Interfolio, you will need to follow these instructions when entering your letter-writers’ email addresses.
- Many applicants are confused by the “Funding” tab. Please note that all successful applicants receive substantial funding as detailed on our website, without needing to apply for funding. The “Funding” tab is only necessary if you intend to apply for Federal loans or grants, which most of our MFA candidates do not require.
- You will receive a confirmation email when your application has been received. Please note that this confirmation may tell you that your supplemental application is "pending" or "incomplete"; please don't fret! This simply means we haven't had time to manually confirm all of your materials yet. If we find some of your materials missing, we will contact you directly.
Like most institutions with a graduate program in creative writing, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is a member of the Council of Graduate Schools and as such is bound to the following resolution: "Students are under no obligation to respond to offers of financial support prior to April 15; earlier deadlines for acceptance of such offers violate the intent of this Resolution." You can see the full resolution as well as a list of council members by clicking here.
We at Wisconsin advise any applicant who is feeling pressured to accept another MFA program's offer before the April 15th deadline to simply send the program a friendly email that states, "I see that your institution is a member of the Council of Graduate Schools. As such, I believe that I have the right to consider your offer up until the April 15th deadline as established by the council. Thanks so much!" Most universities are big places where one hand doesn’t know what the other hand is doing. Showing them you know your rights will help ensure that your rights are respected. At Wisconsin, our promise is simple:
- We will make our decisions by March 15th.
- Should you be placed on our waitlist, we will tell you up front. We won't put off giving you an answer about your status simply so we won't have to tell you you've been waitlisted.
- While we will tell you if you are on our waitlist, we will not discuss the nature of the waitlist, e.g. how many students are on it, where a particular student’s place is.
- We will respect the April 15th deadline as established by the Council of Graduate Schools.
- Out of respect to you, (not lack of interest!) we will not call you repeatedly just to "check in with you" to see if you've made a decision.
- All our students are fully funded, which means we won't at any time threaten to yank or alter funding to pressure you to say yes before April 15th.
Finally, we urge all MFA applicants to know their rights and to ask the schools they're applying to in advance if they are members of the Council of Graduate Schools. If they're not familiar with the CGS's resolution, send them a link to this page. We hope that by spreading the word regarding applicants' rights, all students can begin their graduate studies on the right path.
Campus Visits for
While we are happy to answer questions about our graduate programs via email and to meet with anyone who has been admitted to the MFA program, it is difficult for us to meet with potential applicants or with applicants who have yet to be accepted. We wish this were not the case, but we are a small group trying to run three significant programs, teach our classes, and attend our meetings, and then there's that writing thing we try to find time for. In short, we just have no time to meet with all the applicants who are interested in our program. We also worry that it's a bit unfair for some people to have what amounts to on-campus interviews and others not to have that face-time.
We also cannot provide you with contact information for our current MFA students unless and until you've been admitted to the program (or placed on the wait-list). Again, we receive over 600 applications for our program and our 12 graduate students cannot handle the requests we have for their time. You are always welcome to come to campus and take one of the University's free guided tours or self-tour yourself around. Feel free to poke your head in the Creative Writing suite at 6195 Helen C. White Hall, which will give you a sense of our program. If you don't see a dartboard and several glass bookcases full of faculty, fellow, and student books—and if you don't hear laughter—then you are not in the Creative Writing suite.
Creative Writing Admissions FAQ
- Q: Do you offer an MFA in creative nonfiction? A: While students may take creative nonfiction classes as electives, we do not offer an MFA in creative nonfiction.
- Q: Do you offer a PhD in creative writing? A: We do not. While students currently enrolled in UW-Madison's PhD programs may apply for an Internal or External Minor in Creative Writing, the PhD remains a scholarly degree requiring a scholarly dissertation. For more info, see the Creative Writing for Non-MFA Grad Students page on this website.
- Q: Must I have a BA in English to apply (or do you give preference to English majors)? A: No and no.
- Q: Are you looking for a particular kind of writing? How can I improve my chances of being admitted? A: Selecting among writing samples is a subjective process in which personal taste plays a large role. Rather than restrict ourselves to a particular style of writing, we are interested in voices that strike us as fresh and compelling. We see our role as helping our students become the writers they want to be, as opposed to teaching them a "Wisconsin style." Applicants may wish to read the work of our MFA students, our Institute fellows, and the faculty to get an idea of the work we've been drawn to in the past—but we also love expanding our horizons or being surprised by an exciting new voice. We suggest that, while you not give short shrift to any of your application materials, the bulk of your energy should go to polishing your writing sample, which is the most important factor by far in our decision process.
- Q: How do I save my Microsoft Word documents as pdfs? A: If you are using a Windows operating system, select "Save As" from the file menu in Microsoft Word, and then select "pdf." If you are using Mac OSX, proceed as if you are printing the Word document, then choose "pdf" from the bottom of the print dialogue box.
- Q: What's an "unofficial transcript" and how do I turn one into a pdf? >A: An unofficial transcript can take two forms: 1) a digital transcript accessible through many undergraduate institutions' websites, which can be "saved as" or "printed" as pdfs, as detailed in the question above, or 2) a scanned copy of an "official transcript" mailed to you by your undergraduate institution. Most copy-and-print centers offer scan-to-pdf services, or you can use any number of smartphone applications to generate pdfs using your phone’s camera.
- Q: May I send my letters of recommendation using a service like Interfolio? May my recommenders send hardcopies of their letters directly to you? A: Using a dossier service like Interfolio is encouraged; please see Interfolio’s instructions for uploading letters to an online application system. We strongly prefer electronically submitted letters of recommendation, but if your recommenders cannot or will not use the electronic form, please make sure to list the names of your recommenders on your on-line application. Hard-copy letters of recommendation can be sent to the attention of "Sean Bishop, CW Program Administrator / Department of English / 600 N Park St., H.C. White Hall Rm 6195C / The University of Wisconsin / Madison, WI 53706. Letters of recommendation can arrive prior to your completion of the online application; we suggest requesting letters a couple months prior to the application deadline.
- Q: The University of Wisconsin Graduate School website says all applicants must have a GPA of at least 3.0. My GPA was lower than 3.0. Am I not eligible to apply? A: The Program in Creative Writing does not believe a GPA is indicative of future success in an arts program like ours. Our primary interest is in a candidate's writing skills; thus a low GPA is not a deal-breaker. If we admit you and your GPA is under 3.0, we will request the Graduate School to waive this requirement.
- Q: I'd like to apply using a series of short shorts or flash fiction. Is this possible? (Applies to fiction years only) A: Writing samples in fiction should consist of 1-2 stories and should not exceed 30 pages. We make this stipulation because the fiction faculty is interested in seeing how an applicant creates and sustains a narrative and develops characters. Thus, we find that flash fiction and short shorts tend not to be helpful indicators during the admissions process. Often students submit one long story and then, to reach the 30 pages, add a short short. That's fine, but a word to the wise: don't send a second story of any length that is weaker than your first story simply to get to 30 pages.
- Q: Is it possible for me to talk with a current MFA student about the program? May I meet with faculty to help me decide if I want to apply? A: Because we are a small program with only 12 students on campus at a time, we make every effort to safeguard our students' time. Consequently due to the large number of requests we receive from prospective students to meet with / email / talk to current students, we have a policy of giving out our current students' contact information to applicants only after they have been formally accepted into the program. Similarly, the faculty regretfully cannot accommodate requests for meetings. Also, keep in mind when contacting faculty that we tend to be away from campus during the summer months and during winter break. You are unlikely to get an expedient reply during those periods. After an applicant has been accepted into our program, the faculty will be more than happy to meet and talk with those admitted.
- Q: I am not a US Citizen. Is my foreign Bachelor's Degree acceptable? Do I have to take the TOEFL? A: The Graduate School, not the Program in Creative Writing, sets the admission requirements for international students. Please refer to the Graduate School's TOEFL guidelines here. As stated under the heading “I am an international student,” a degree equivalent to an American bachelor's degree is necessary. The Graduate School requires that any applicant whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English, must provide an English proficiency test score. For more information, see the Graduate School's proficiency guidelines.
- Q: I am not a US Citizen. Will this negatively affect my funding opportunities? A: No. International students accepted to the MFA in creative writing receive funding identical to their U.S.-citizen peers.
- Q: Due to my financial circumstances may I request a waiver of the application fee? A: The Graduate School, which sets and collects application fees, requires all applicants to pay the fee. Eligible candidates may subsequently apply to have the fee refunded. To find out if you are eligible for such a refund, see the criteria outlined here. Please note that neither the Department of English nor the Program in Creative Writing awards departmental fee waiver grants, and cannot help applicants to receive them.