Here are the top 12 best college for creative writing degrees plus a list of factors to consider when making your choice for higher education.
Have you ever considered becoming the next novelist or best-selling author? Do you dream of a writing career contributing to literary journals or becoming a journalist?
If you have, you may wonder about choosing a creative writing program. So you browse the internet, research a few schools, and bam-tons of options with different colleges and programs pop up.
As you navigate all of these websites, you start to feel like a small fish in a big pond. There’s simply so much to choose. But what is the best undergraduate program option for your bachelor’s degree and to begin your writing career? Let’s look at the best school options and undergraduate degree programs!
12 Best Colleges in the United States for Creative Writing
Harvard continues to rank amongst the top 10 schools worldwide for their humanities’ programs. They have one of the best creative writing programs. Many poets, essayists, and successful writers such as TS Eliot, Margaret Atwood, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Robert Lee Frost studied at Harvard. And their faculty also consists of writers, authors and scholars.
Although Harvard does not offer a specific creative writing major, it does offer an English program for english majors, along with creative writing workshops. This is a great option, especially if you are interested in writing fiction.
The genre fiction workshop caters towards undergraduate students who are passionate about sci-fi, fantasy and speculative fiction. Horror lovers can also apply for a workshop which specifically focuses on writing about supernatural and paranormal stories.
For grad school hopefuls, the department offers an option to participate in the Honors Creative Thesis. There are many programs offered from professional writers for creative writing majors to take.
These opportunities allow students to discover different genres within the creative writing realm. However, the caveat is that Harvard is a private institution: Tuition is more than $50k USD a year.
University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor continues to rank as one of the top universities in the world, especially in the field of creative writing. On QS University Rankings, UMich is currently in 21st place which is good news for creative writers.
At the undergraduate level, UMich offers the Creative Writing and Literature major. Many students decide to specialize in a specific genre as the program is structured in four specific tracks: Fiction/creative non-fiction, poetry, digital storytelling, and honors. Students in the digital storytelling track have the option to take courses in photography, digital media, and tech. These creative writing courses are highly ranked and sought after.
But other than interesting courses, UMich also offers students opportunities to improve their craft. There are “engaged learning opportunities,” which are practical, field-based coursework for students to interact with their local communities. And for students looking for work experience, the summer undergraduate internship program can be a good option.
As a result, UMich continues to produce alumni who become writers, or other working professionals in related fields. Some writers who have attended the university include William McPherson, Robert Aspirin, and Margaret Hillert.
Emory’s creative writing program recently celebrated its 32nd anniversary. Their creative writing core faculty is composed of poets, novelists, and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.
Other than a myriad of workshops, Emory also offers an individualistic approach towards their creative writing students. As soon as a student enters the program, they are matched with a faculty advisor, who will specialize in the student’s interests. Students also have the option to change faculty advisors just in case their passions have changed throughout the program.
Having a faculty advisor to mentor you is crucial for academic success: You’ll have someone to discuss about career and postgraduate opportunities. And if you’re going through tons of personal challenges, you can reach out to your advisor.
But with that being said, it’s also good to note that Emory is a private research university. And similar to other private schools, tuition can be more than $50k a year.
Swarthmore is a private liberal arts college founded in 1864. The school is known for its creative writing program, which was founded over four decades ago. Students will be amazed by the diverse amount of courses offered within the department: Other than studying the main creative writing genres, students have the option to combine both literature and creative writing.
There’s the historical aspect of writing, which students can study, throughout their program at Swarthmore. Some faculty members specialize in Old English and Medieval studies, American and Ethnic studies, and Modern and Contemporary Poetry of English and Ireland.
Moreover, Swarthmore is closely connected to the literary community. Guest speakers such as authors and Nobel Prize winners often visit classes, deliver speeches, and judge writing competitions.
However, since Swarthmore is a private school, the tuition is still on the expensive side of the spectrum. Students can expect to pay over $55,000 USD a year for their tuition.
Indiana University Bloomington
Indiana University Bloomington has a creative writing concentration under the department of English. The faculty comprises of poets, playwrights, and authors. And the university is often known for its diverse and unique programs.
The creative writing department is said to be close-knit. Within the English department, students can take courses such as media studies, planetary fiction, editing and publishing, and literary history. These courses will allow a student to explore more of their interests within writing and gain more inspiration.
Another perk is that Indiana University Bloomington is a public research university, which often means that tuition is cheaper, especially for Indiana residents. In-state tuition is around $12k, while out of state tuition is around $40.5k.
University of Iowa
Ranked number two on US News, the University of Iowa in Iowa City is another school worth considering for a creative writing program. After all, the university pioneered the first creative writing degree program through the Writers’ Workshop. Many alumni have won plenty of writing awards, including seventeen winners of the Pulitzer prize.
Students can take a variety of undergraduate courses which include science fiction, business communication, writing for specific industries, popular culture, and writing for musicians. Moreover, students can also choose to participate in workshops in poetry writing, fiction, and general creative writing.
The University of Iowa is also one of the more affordable colleges as well. Local tuition is usually less than $10k USD, and out-of-state tuition is around $30k USD.
Located in Providence, Rhode Island, Brown is consistently ranked as one of the best creative writing schools nationally. The college has tons of opportunities for students who plan to immerse themselves in the creative fields, including the performing arts.
Within the Literary Arts program, students can select different concentrations and learn more about the visual arts, theatre, and speech and music. However, there are courses which cater towards a global perspective: Some reading courses focus on literature from regions around the world.
Instead of learning about creative writing in a Westernized perspective, students have the opportunity to learn about ancient global literature and history.
However, the downside is that Brown is a private university, so tuition continues to be on the higher end. Currently, tuition is above $60k a year.
Washington University in St. Louis
Washington has one of the best MFA programs within the country. Their department of English, at the undergraduate level, offers a concentration in creative writing. And students have three choices in terms of specialties: fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry.
But that’s not all – there are also electives for students to choose from. For those looking to work in the publishing industry, they can choose courses on publishing where they constantly act with professionals. And for students who want to write comedy, there’s a humor writing course available.
Outside of classes, students can engage in various extracurricular activities and professional internships.
But the opportunities do come with a cost. Something to consider is that the school is a private institution, so tuition is currently around $60k a year.
Colleges Outside of the United States
Are you looking to study outside of the United States? Lots of schools in Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom have excellent creative writing programs. So if you feel that you’re catching a travel bug, feel free to pack your bags and apply to universities abroad.
Why study in a different country?
Studying in a different country can open up new experiences for you: You’ll have the opportunities to visit new places, try new food, and make new friends. Not to mention that studying in another country can be a resume booster as well because it’s something super unique and distinguishable.
Additionally, you may be surprised to hear that tuition, even as an international student, is actually cheaper than some of the private institutions.
So if you’re interested in exploring a new country, here are some universities known for their creative writing programs:
Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU)
Formerly known as Ryerson University (RU), TMU is known for its media programs. Situated in the middle of downtown Toronto, students can explore a vibrant location. Within their English program, students can take courses in creative writing and attend workshops.
The curriculum covers a broad range of genres including contemporary fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, and print and digital culture. Students who want to participate in campus activities further can join their literary journal, White Wall Review, where they can collaborate with graduate students.
For students who aim to learn more about the global perspective of literature, TMU offers courses where you can analyze and learn about literature from the United States, all the way to the Middle East. And if you’re a Disney fan, you can take a fairytale course too!
If you’re an international student, tuition for the English program is around $20k USD a year, which is way less than most private universities.
University of Waterloo (UWaterloo)
Many say that UWaterloo is known for its engineering, computer science, and math programs. Though that may be true, the school still has a robust English department.
The Creative and Professional Writing program was introduced in Fall 2023: Students can choose to specialize in the creative writing area, where they’ll learn fiction, screenplays, poetry, drama, and literary nonfiction.
Another component which distinguishes UWaterloo from most universities is their co-op program: Students will be paid to do a work placement over a semester or two in their field of study. Being in co-op allows students to practice their networking, interview, and communication skills, while dipping their toes in the industry.
For international students, the program costs around $37k USD. Co-op students will have to pay an extra fee for the resources.
University of Melbourne
If you want to visit the Land Down Under, now’s your time-the University of Melbourne in Australia offers a creative writing program perfect for those who want to be a little more experimentative and adventurous with their work.
You’ll be able to master the craft of novel writing, as well as learn about life writing, which is a form that encompasses genres from blogging to autobiographies, all centered around lived experiences.
Moreover, a capstone is available for students looking to research more about Australian and global writing. Instead of classes, writers and other professionals will visit and present a weekly panel.
For international students, tuition at the University of Melbourne per semester is around $25k USD for the creative writing program.
University of Leeds
The University of Leeds is one of the biggest institutions in the United Kingdom (UK). They have a reputed master’s program in creative writing. And students can choose to take their English Literature with Creative Writing program.
Within this program, students not only have a chance to hone their creative writing skills but explore more about social issues. Texts on race and ethnicity, climate change, gender, and disability are covered.
Moreover, plenty of well-known authors have graduated from the program at the University of Leeds: JRR Tolkien, Geoffrey Hill and Jon Silkin are notable alumni.
For international students, tuition is around $30.6k USD a year.
Factors To Consider When Choosing a College
When choosing a school, it’s important to consider what you’re comfortable with and your current situation. Great writers don’t have to go to the top colleges to be successful. There are plenty of places to refine your skills with the written word without breaking the bank.
So, ask yourself a few questions including:
- Do I want to stay in state or move out of state?
- What am I looking for in a college?
- What extracurriculars do I hope to participate in?
- Do I want to focus more on academics or student life?
- How do these colleges support these students in terms of academics, mental health, and other personal matters?
- Am I looking to commute or stay in a dorm?
- Do I want to attend a public or a private college?
After considering all of these questions, you perhaps have a better idea of what you’re looking for. And if you’re dead set on creative writing, you can consider some other factors before choosing your college.
What are some of these factors?
When choosing a college program, most students look at one outcome: employability. Sure, finding work after graduation is important, but for students who have a different goal other than employment, they may need to consider other criteria. Here are some of them, which we considered, when choosing the schools:
Other than poetry, fiction, short stories, or prose, you may want to learn more about other styles of writing or examine literary works.
If you’re more into movies or TV shows, you’re perhaps more interested in taking a screenwriting course, which is only offered in a few schools. Although this may not matter at first, you’ll notice that as your academic career progresses, you may want to try something new.
So when there are plenty of courses to choose, there is often more room to explore and determine what you’re passionate about.
Opportunities for Students
Colleges should have many opportunities for you to apply your studies from the course material. These opportunities include workshops, writing competitions, and internships.
As an aspiring writer, internships are a great way to network and collaborate with other writers within the industry. They not only provide you with some experience on a resume, but allow you to explore the field and learn some tips and tricks.
Having these opportunities as a creative writing student is an asset in terms of building your written communication skills.
Faculty and Alumni
Another important factor when considering a creative writing program is the faculty and alumni of the school. Some universities consist of faculty members who are authors of best-selling novels, while others may consist of editors of magazines.
Having faculty members who excelled in the industry will allow you to learn their tricks and techniques to make your own mark as an author.
Consider looking at alumni and faculty of each school on LinkedIn. Are they people you’d like to be connected to and learn from? This is a good place to start when determining your professors and potential connections.
Cost and Affordability
Cost is an important factor when deciding on an institution for many students. Some students may be funding their studies on their own, which often means that they will have to be on a tight budget as soon as the semester starts.
So although some private schools are known for their top-notch education or classes, they may be way more expensive than a public institution with a well-known program. After all, it’s important to be able to afford education and learn new concepts without splurging your wallet.
It’s also important to consider the location of your school. Do you plan to stay in this area post-grad? Or will you be looking for employment opportunities elsewhere?
Are there opportunities nearby for internships where you can get more hands-on experience in your industry? Or will you need to travel somewhere else, like New York City or Los Angeles for example, to get more experience for your resume.
You can also consider what going to school in a different country would mean for your career path. This might be a good study abroad opportunity as well.
In Summary: Best Colleges for Creative Writing
Choosing to major in creative writing is a fun and challenging endeavor. Throughout your program, you’ll definitely learn to analyze different texts, and gain better critical thinking skills. And by constantly learning new material, you may surprise yourself with some of your assignments.
However, when choosing a college, it is best to choose what you’re most comfortable with. A strong undergraduate creative writing program is only one factor to consider, among may. After all, you’ll be spending four years there, and you need to ensure that those four years are full of fun and change.
If your goal is to become a writer, you’ll want to think about what your career looks like. What kind of company would you like to work for? What are your best options for earning potential? Do you want to write your own book or series? Consider all of these things as you begin your career journey!
Whether you’ll be the next bestselling author, you’ll never know what legacy you’ll leave your school with. So, it’s best to choose wisely and enjoy your adventure. Good luck!
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