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 before applying: https://apply.grad.wisc.edu/.
Fiction writers and poets are admitted in alternating years. This year we are reading poetry: the application period opens in mid-September and closes December 15, 2022, for admission in fall 2023. We are not reading fiction applications this year; the next application deadline for fiction is December 15, 2023, for admission in fall 2024. 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.
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 mid-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 poetry manuscript, consisting of ten single-spaced pages, in eleven- or twelve-point font, with each poem beginning on a new page. If you choose to include a cover page listing the poems included, this will not count toward the ten-page limit. 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.
- 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, you will first need to find the unique email addresses associated with each letter in your dossier. To find those addresses, log in to your Interfolio “letters” portal and click “View Details” for the first letter you wish to upload. On the letter’s “details” page, scroll down until you see a section labeled “Document Email.” Copy the email address (it should look something like “send.Lastname.L123CD4567@interfolio.com”) and paste that into your UW application, in the field where you are asked to enter your recommender’s email address. Repeat this process for each of your three letters.
- An unofficial copy of your undergraduate transcript(s) uploaded in pdf format. 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 Sean Bishop, Program Administrator, at email@example.com. For all questions related to the online application itself, or technical problems, please contact Vivan Ye in the Department of English. As a courtesy, please make sure your question is not answered on this website before emailing.
Once you’ve prepared the above materials, you may apply online by clicking here.
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 says something to the effect of, “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!”
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, though we might not be able to tell you exactly where you are on the waitlist.
- We will abide by the April 15th deadline as established by the Council of Graduate Schools.
- Out of respect to you, we will not call you regularly to see if you’ve made a decision.
- All our students are fully funded, which means that your funding is secure until April 15th.
Campus Visits for Prospective Students
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 distinct programs, teach our classes, and meet our various responsibilities.
We also cannot provide you with contact information for our current MFA students unless you’ve been admitted to the program (or placed on the waitlist). Since we receive around 600 applications for our program we need to do our best to protect the writing time of our 12 graduate students. You are always welcome to come to campus and take one of the University’s free guided tours. And please also feel free to drop by the Creative Writing suite at 6195 Helen C. White Hall and say hello if you’re passing through Madison. If you don’t see a bunch of bookcases full of faculty, fellow, and student books—and if you don’t hear laughter—then you are not in the Creative Writing suite.
Meet Our MFAs!
Jackie Chalghin (MFA in fiction) recently graduated with an English BA from Connecticut College, where they completed an honors thesis in the form of a story collection. Jackie is currently working on a short story collection about a girl whose puberty is shaped by a tarantula, roommates who read futures into their period blood, and Syrian women who find community through the occult. They fear there is a novel hidden in there.
Nitya Gupta (MFA in fiction) hails from the Chicago suburbs and holds a B.A. in English from the University of Michigan.
R.E. Hawley (MFA in fiction) is a writer and graphic designer. Her essays and cultural criticism have appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Gawker, and other publications. Currently, she is an MFA candidate in fiction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Previously, she served as the creative lead of The Chicago Reader. She is a graduate of Northwestern University.
Megan Kim (MFA in poetry) was raised in the foothills of the Siskiyou Mountains and is currently pursuing her MFA in poetry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She serves as an Associate Editor for Palette Poetry. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Narrative Magazine, Ninth Letter, and The Adroit Journal, among others.
Phoebe Kranefuss (MFA in fiction) is at work on her first novel. She has yet to win any awards, but once she does, you’ll be the first to hear about them. She’s also an illustrator, graphic designer, sewer of her own clothes, and graphic novelist in the making. She studied English Literature at Bowdoin College. She does not correct her students when they refer to her as “Professor.”
Renée Lepreau (MFA in poetry) previously worked as an out-of-hospital midwife, lactation consultant, and community organizer. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Seneca Review, The Worcester Review, Dunes Review, Santa Ana River Review, and others. Her photographs have been exhibited in group shows at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Harvey Milk Photo Center, and others.
Caleb A.P. Parker (MFA in poetry) is a poet and musician from the industrialized Texas Gulf Coast. After spending years in the nexus of the Episcopal Church, cooperative housing, and the Austin music scene, he began his MFA following his father’s death from cancer.
Aurora Shimshak (MFA in poetry) is a poet and educator from Wisconsin. She’s worked as a high school English teacher, a public radio intern, and as the managing editor of Ecotone. Her poetry and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Spillway, New Ohio Review, Shenandoah, and Poetry Northwest.
Robert Sorrell Bynum (MFA in fiction) is a bi fiction writer who grew up in the Midwest but became an adult in Philadelphia, where he was a member of the Kelly Writers House Writers Workshop. In his fiction, Robert pushes the boundaries of realism while still being deeply engaged in the dynamics, nuances, and politics of the present. His fiction was recently selected for the 2022 Marguerite McGlinn Prize for Fiction by writer Camille Acker, and his nonfiction, journalism, and reviews have appeared in the South Side Weekly, Mosaic: Art and Literary Journal, and The Cleaver.
Mandy Moe Pwint Tu (MFA in poetry) is a writer and a poet from Yangon, Myanmar. Her work has appeared in Longleaf Review, West Trestle Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Monsoon Daughter (Thirty West Publishing House, 2022) and Unsprung (Newfound, 2022).
Alumni Spotlight: Lucy Tan
Lucy completed her MFA at UW-Madison in 2016, receiving the August Derleth Prize for excellence in teaching. She also returned to Madison as the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing’s James C. McCreight Fiction Fellow, in 2018. Lucy is the author of What We Were Promised, which was long listed for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and named a Best Book of 2018 by The Washington Post, Refinery 29, and Amazon. Her work is published or forthcoming in journals such as McSweeney’s, Asia Literary Review, and Ploughshares.
Creative Writing Admissions FAQ
If you do not find your answers in this FAQ, please look through the Graduate School FAQs before contacting Sean Bishop, Creative Writing Program Administrator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Q: Do you offer an MFA in creative nonfiction? A: While students may take creative nonfiction classes as electives (we offer sections of CNF nearly every semester), 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.
- 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 an admittedly subjective process. 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 urging them to conform to a particular style. Applicants may wish to read the work of our MFA alumni, our Institute fellowship alumni, and our 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 exciting new voices. 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. We recommend you scan your transcripts in grayscale (not color), at 150 dots per inch.
- 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 would rather not use the electronic form, please make sure to list the names of your recommenders on your online application. Hardcopy 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 one or two stories or a novel excerpt, totaling 30 pages or less. Please do not submit more than two stories. 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. That said, we encourage you to submit your absolute best work, so if your best story is 20 pages long, and your second-best story is 30 pages long, you should still submit the 20-pager.
- 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 except with admitted students. Also, please 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.
- 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.