Top Writing Programs in the U.S.

If you want to hone your writing skills, you are spoilt for choice with the writing programs offered by universities in the U.S. These courses span fiction, non-fiction, poetry, screenwriting, translation, and more. Workshops, seminars, periodic evaluations of your work, and an exposure to prizes, festivals and readings, can build you up as a writer.

Advantages of doing these programs include interactions with other students and faculty, and with that access to perspectives, useful critique, and being a part of a community of writers. You will also learn to approach the subjects from a writer’s perspective.

Writing programs in the US

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These are some of the top undergraduate and graduate writing programs offered by U.S. universities.

Brown University
  • Programs: Graduate and undergraduate courses, Literary Arts MFA and Cross-Disciplinary MFA in fiction, poetry, digital arts, and playwriting
  • Other highlights: Readings, prizes, festivals, and writers-in-residence
  • Literary journals: The Round, Clerestory Journal, The Brown Literary Review
  • Location: Providence, RI
  • Alumni: Marilynne Robinson, Jeffrey Eugenides
Colorado College
  • Programs: Writing Intensive and Writing in a Discipline programs; specific topics of study include fiction, poetry, environment, art history, women in art, and more
  • Other highlights: Writing evaluations, writing center at the Colket Center of Academic Excellence
  • Literary journal: The Leviathan
  • Location: Colorado Springs, CO
  • Alumni: Mark Fiore, Frieda Ekotto
Columbia University
  • Programs: Undergraduate programs and a MFA Writing Program in fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction; options of dramatic writing, screenwriting and art of translation
  • Other highlights: Small workshops and seminars, Felipe P. De Alba Fund for Writers and Henfield Prize
  • Literary journals: Quarto, Columbia Journal
  • Location: New York, NY
  • Alumni: Langston Hughes, Allen Ginsberg
Emerson College
  • Programs: BFA and MFA Creative Writing programs, Online MFA in Popular Fiction Writing and Publishing, and MA in Publishing and Writing; courses cover literature, publishing and writing
  • Other highlights: Teach writing through emersonWRITES, Emerson’s Graduate Reading Series, Breakwater Reading Series, Snowden Writing Center, recognized with a CCCC Writing Program Certificate of Excellence
  • Literary journals: Ploughshares and Redivider
  • Location: Boston, MA
  • Alumni: Olen Steinhauer, Paul Dini
Emory University
  • Programs: Undergraduate Creative Writing program with a mandatory 200-level introductory workshop in prose or poetry, honors program in creative writing
  • Other highlights: Creative writing contests, Grace Abernethy Scholarships, Tom-Chris Allen Scholarship in Nonfiction, Emory Literary Club that organizes various workshops
  • Literary journal: Alloy
  • Location: Atlanta, GA
  • Alumni: H. Jackson Brown, Jr., Barbara Brown Taylor
Hamilton College
  • Programs: Creative writing concentration with exploratory and focus courses, and a creative practice course; creative writing honors thesis presentation for senior students
  • Other highlights: Private college, Nesbitt-Johnston Writing Center, research opportunities, reading series
  • Literary journal: Red Weather
  • Location: Clinton, NY
  • Alumni: Ezra Pound, Sarah J. Maas
John Hopkins University
  • Programs: BA in fiction and poetry with optional courses; MFA in either fiction or poetry; MA in Writing (part-time study)
  • Other highlights: Internships, reading series, Turnbull Lectures
  • Literary journals: The Hopkins Review, Zeniada Literary Magazine
  • Location: Baltimore, MD
  • Alumni: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Russell Baker
New York University
  • Programs: Undergraduate and graduate programs, and undergraduate summer writing programs and summer workshops
  • Other highlights: Located in Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House, Low-Residency MFA Writers Workshop in Paris, Departmental Fellowships, writing contests, reading series, faculty includes Zadie Smith
  • Literary journal: Washington Square Review, West 10th
  • Location: New York, NY
  • Alumni: J.D. Salinger, Suzanne Collins
Oberlin College
  • Programs: Undergraduate program with option to major; courses include poetry, fiction, nonfiction, drama, translation, and screenwriting
  • Other highlights: Emma Howell Memorial Poetry, readings
  • Literary journal: The Plum Creek Review
  • Location: Oberlin, OH
  • Alumni: Tracy Chevalier, Franz Wright
University of Iowa
  • Programs: MFA in English known informally as Iowa Writers’ Workshop, MFA in literary translation, MFA in Spanish creative writing
  • Other highlights: Dey House and Glenn Schaeffer Library and Archives, Frank Conroy Reading Room, readings, Iowa Short Fiction Award and John Simmons Short Fiction Award, Iowa Poetry Prize
  • Literary journal: The Iowa Review
  • Location: Iowa City, IA
  • Alumni: Tennessee Williams, Robert Hass
University of Michigan
  • Programs: Undergraduate writing program at the 100- and 200-level, Creative Writing sub-concentration, Helen Zell Writers’ Program (MFA)
  • Other highlights: Zell Visiting Writers Series, Edwards Readings, Webster Readings
  • Literary journals: Michigan Quarterly Review, Xylem
  • Location: Ann Arbor, MI
  • Alumni: Chris Van Allsburg, Susan Orlean
University of Texas
  • Programs: MFA in creative writing (New Writers Project), Creative Writing Certificate
  • Other highlights: Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, Endowed Presidential Scholarship, James F. Parker Excellence Awards
  • Literary journals: Bat City Review, Hothouse
  • Location: Austin, TX
  • Alumni: Ladan Osman, Willie Morris
University of Virginia
  • Programs: MFA, undergraduate program with concentrations in poetry and literary prose
  • Other highlights: Henfield Prize, MFA reading series
  • Literary journals: Virginia Quarterly Review, Meridian
  • Location: Charlottesville, VA
  • Alumni: Tina Fey, Claudia Emerson
Washington University
  • Programs: MFA degree in fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction
  • Other highlights: Hurst Professor events, Dorothy – a publishing project, MFA Alumni Prize for a Novel-in-Progress and other poetry prizes
  • Literary journal: Spires, The Spectacle
  • Location: St. Louis, MO
  • Alumni: Bill Dedman, John Gardner

These are some of the universities offering competitive and intensive writing programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. By understanding your writing needs and the outcomes you are looking for, you can choose the right program.