Best Creative Writing Schools

Updated on January 3, 2024

Creative writing is a popular field of study for those with a passion for the written word. Excellent creative writing programs exist across the United States, each with unique strengths and focuses. Here are 10 of the best creative writing schools based on factors like curriculum, faculty, facilities, career outcomes, and more.

Columbia University

Location: New York, NY

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 6%

Avg SAT Score: 1520

Tuition: $59,430 per year

Avg Salary: $65,000

Website: https://arts.columbia.edu/writing

The distinguished Columbia University Creative Writing program is highly selective, only admitting about 5% of applicants. Students benefit from small workshop-style classes led by acclaimed faculty members like director Ben Marcus. The program offers an MFA in Fiction, Poetry, and Creative Non-Fiction. Columbia creative writing graduates have published award-winning books and placed in top writing jobs.

New York University

Location: New York, NY

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 16%

Avg SAT Score: 1480

Tuition: $53,308 per year

Avg Salary: $60,000

Website: https://tisch.nyu.edu/creative-writing

The NYU Creative Writing Program is a top destination for emerging writers in the thriving New York literary scene. The faculty features literary stars like Zadie Smith and offers small, focused instruction. There are workshops and craft seminars in fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and writing for children/young adults. NYU creative writing grads have published bestsellers and won major awards.

University of Iowa

Location: Iowa City, IA

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 83%

Avg SAT Score: 1245

Tuition: $9,357 per year (in-state)

Avg Salary: $45,000

Website: https://writersworkshop.uiowa.edu/

The Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa is the oldest graduate creative writing program in the US. Many consider it the leading program in the field, emphasizing literary writing with renowned instructors. Workshops are intimate, focused on each student developing a creative manuscript. Numerous Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winners have graduated from or taught at Iowa.

University of Michigan

Location: Ann Arbor, MI

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 23%

Avg SAT Score: 1440

Tuition: $17,742 per year (in-state)

Avg Salary: $50,000

Website: https://lsa.umich.edu/english/grad/mfa-creative-writing

The University of Michigan Creative Writing Program offers both an MFA and PhD with workshops across genres led by distinguished writers. There is notable flexibility to tailor studies, with students producing either a book-length creative manuscript or analytical thesis. Michigan creative writing graduates have secured faculty jobs, published acclaimed books, screenplays, comics, and more across diverse careers.

Emerson College

Location: Boston, MA

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 49%

Avg SAT Score: 1245

Tuition: $49,922 per year

Avg Salary: $45,000

Website: https://www.emerson.edu/academics/departments/writing-literature-and-publishing/graduate-programs

Emerson College’s Creative Writing Program focuses on careers in writing and publishing. There is an intimate, supportive community with award-winning writers as mentors. Students tailor studies based on interests in fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, children’s literature, or journalism. Optional specializations in publishing or teaching provide versatile skills. Emerson creative writing alumni have published award-winning books and placed in writing jobs.

Sarah Lawrence College

Location: Bronxville, NY

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 51%

Avg SAT Score: 1315

Tuition: $58,918 per year

Avg Salary: $45,000

Website: https://www.sarahlawrence.edu/writing-institute/mfa-creative-writing/

The MFA at Sarah Lawrence is one of the most intimate, selective, and flexible programs with world-class mentoring in fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, writing for children/young adults, and playwriting/screenwriting. With a 6:1 student to faculty ratio, the program emphasizes craft through workshops tailored to each student’s interests and goals. Sarah Lawrence creative writing graduates have published award-winning books across genres.

University of California, Irvine

Location: Irvine, CA

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 29%

Avg SAT Score: 1325

Tuition: $16,657 per year (in-state)

Avg Salary: $50,000

Website: https://english.uci.edu/grad/concentrations/creativewriting.php

UC Irvine offers an acclaimed MFA in Creative Writing & Writing for the Performing Arts. The workshop atmosphere sparks creativity across fiction, poetry, screenwriting, stage plays, TV, graphic novels, and video game writing. Tailor studies based on interests while receiving guidance from award-winning faculty. Graduates have placed in top writing, film, TV, theater, and game jobs while some start their own companies.

Boston University

Location: Boston, MA

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 19%

Avg SAT Score: 1390

Tuition: $58,920 per year

Avg Salary: $50,000

Website: https://www.bu.edu/com/academics/creative-writing/

Boston University’s Creative Writing Program takes place within a thriving literary hub. Workshops are intimate yet varied with acclaimed faculty in fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, graphic novels, journalism, publishing, screenwriting, songwriting, and more. There are also editing opportunities with on-campus literary journals. Graduates have published award-winning books, placed in writing/film/TV jobs, and founded media outlets.

Vanderbilt University

Location: Nashville, TN

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 10%

Avg SAT Score: 1495

Tuition: $53,980 per year

Avg Salary: $50,000

Website: https://as.vanderbilt.edu/creativewriting/

Vanderbilt’s dynamic MFA program has esteemed visiting faculty and varied course options in fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, plays/screenplays, graphic narratives, and more. Hands-on editing, publishing, event planning, and teaching experiences prepare graduates for writing careers. Alumni have published acclaimed books, directed award-winning films, edited prestigious journals, and more while based across the country.

Northwestern University

Location: Evanston, IL

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 9%

Avg SAT Score: 1500

Tuition: $58,227 per year

Avg Salary: $55,000

Website: https://creativewriting.northwestern.edu/

Northwestern University’s Creative Writing Program brings together nationally-known writers as faculty and talented peers. With a focus on developing skills, workshops nurture bold artistic visions across genres. Optional specializations provide focused instruction, such as the vibrant undergraduate concentration in writing for screen and stage. Northwestern creative writing alumni have published award-winning books and created impactful media.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What should I major in for creative writing?

While not required, common creative writing majors are English, Literature, Journalism, and Communication/Media Studies. Related majors developing writing skills include Marketing, Technical Writing, Education, and more. Any major can supplement studies with creative writing courses. Top graduate programs offer MFA and PhD degrees specifically in Creative Writing.

What jobs can you get with a creative writing degree?

Creative writing develops versatile, transferable skills for many jobs involving communication, editing, publishing, content creation, analysis, and critical thinking. Common careers for creative writing graduates include author, editor, journalist/writer, screenwriter, copywriter, content strategist/manager, publisher, literary agent, marketing professional, teacher, and more.

Do you need a master’s degree to teach creative writing?

Most full-time creative writing professor positions require an MFA or PhD, but it’s possible to teach with a bachelor’s. Many adjunct, part-time, community college, and high school creative writing teaching jobs accept a bachelor’s degree initially but prefer or require a graduate degree. Earning an advanced degree makes candidates more competitive for academic creative writing teaching roles.

What can I do with a creative writing degree besides teaching?

Teaching is just one of many possibilities for creative writing majors. Other top careers include author/novelist, screenwriter, playwright, journalist, editor, copywriter, content writer, marketer, publisher, literary agent, writing coach/tutor, blogger, technical writer, grant writer, critic/reviewer, researcher, writing program administrator, librarian, lawyer, and many more fields involving communication skills.

What skills do you learn in creative writing?

Key skills learned in creative writing applicable to many fields include writing style/technique, editing/proofreading, communication expertise, analyzing literary works, providing constructive feedback, imagination/creativity, portraying characters and events, conducting research, time management, collaboration, handling critique, and conveying messages to audiences.

Should I double major in English and creative writing?

Pursuing both English and Creative Writing as dual majors or minors provides complementary knowledge enhancing career preparedness as a writer or teacher. Studying literature analyzes acclaimed writings while creative writing focuses on producing original works. Combined, these majors offer versatile skills in writing, editing, analysis, communication, storytelling, and more. Doubling these related majors takes dedication but provides solid foundations.

Is creative writing hard?

Creative writing brings challenges like any rigorous, skill-based field. Key difficulties often include facing writers’ block, managing time writing lengthy pieces, revising effectively, handling criticism in workshop environments, competing in a subjective publishing/entertainment industry, and determining personalized career paths. However, small classes led by supportive faculty provide guidance in navigating the writing life. Patience, commitment, and an artistic spirit facilitate success.

Should I get a creative writing MFA?

Earning an MFA opens more teaching and publishing opportunities, but it’s not essential for writing careers, especially in technical, business, journalism, marketing, or freelance positions. Aspiring creative writers should weigh factors like intended careers, costs/funding options, program reputations, faculty expertise, locations, specializations, and more when deciding if advanced creative writing degrees fit goals. Many establish writing careers before or without MFAs.

What makes creative writing different from other types of writing?

Creative writing focuses on original works like novels, plays, short stories, poetry, memoirs, and creative nonfiction. The author has flexibility for artistic expression. Most other writing follows conventions and rules to accurately convey information like technical writing, journalism, academic writing, business writing, medical/legal writing, copywriting, and content writing. Both creative writing and technical writing skills prove valuable for writers.

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Rohit Mittal is the co-founder and CEO of Stilt. Rohit has extensive experience in credit risk analytics and data science. He spent years building credit risk and fraud models for top U.S. banks. In his current role, he defines the overall business strategy, leads debt and capital fundraising efforts, leads product development, and leads other customer-related aspects for the company. Stilt is backed by Y Combinator and has raised a total of $275M in debt and equity funding to date.