Creative Writing M.F.A. (Ithaca)

Field of Study

English Language and Literature

Program Description

The M.F.A. Program.

The Creative Writing program in the department of English Language and Literature offers an M.F.A. degree only, with concentrations in either poetry or fiction. Each year the department enrolls only eight students, four in each concentration. Our small size allows us to offer a generous financial support package, details of which are outlined on our department website. At the same time, we have a large and diverse graduate faculty with competence in a wide range of literary, theoretical, and cultural fields.

Students participate in a graduate writing workshop each semester and take 6 additional one-semester courses for credit, at least four of them in English or American literature, Comparative Literature, literature in the modern or classical languages, or cultural studies (typically two per semester during the first year and one per semester during the second year). First year students receive practical training by working as Editorial Assistants for Epoch, a periodical of prose and poetry published by the Creative Writing staff of the department. The most significant requirement of the M.F.A. degree is the completion of a book-length manuscript: a collection of poems, short stories, or a novel.

The Special Committee. Every student selects a Special Committee who will be responsible for providing the student with a great deal of individual attention. The University system of Special Committees allows students to design their own courses of study within a broad framework laid down by the department, and it encourages a close working relationship between professors and students, promoting freedom and flexibility in the pursuit of the graduate degree. The student's Special Committee guides and supervises all academic work and assesses progress through a series of meetings with the student.

Teaching. Teaching is considered an integral part of training for the profession. The Field requires a carefully supervised teaching experience as part of the training for the degree. The Department of English, in conjunction with the John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines, offers excellent training for beginning teachers and varied and interesting teaching within the university-wide First-Year Writing Program. Graduate students are assigned to writing courses under such general rubrics as "Portraits of the Self," "American Literature and Culture," "The Mystery in the Story," "Shakespeare," and "Cultural Studies," among others. Serving as a Teaching Assistant for a lecture course taught by a member of the Department of English faculty is another way graduate students participate in the teaching of undergraduates.

Contact Information

Phone: 607 255-7989

250 Goldwin Smith Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY  14853

Concentrations by Subject

  • creative writing



Application Requirements and Deadlines

Application Deadlines:

Dec. 15 (Fall term admission only)

Requirements Summary:

 (includes Graduate School Requirements)

 The application must be submitted online. Detailed requirement summaries for applicants are available for download from the graduate pages of the English Department website.

  • Application and fee
  • Academic Statement of Purpose
  • Critical Writing Sample
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Transcripts
  • TOEFL or IELTS (International applicants must demonstrate proficiency in the English language)

Learning Outcomes

The Cornell Department of English is committed to diversity in terms of critical and theoretical approaches to the study of English literature. The areas of expertise professed by its faculty and explored by its graduate students represent the full spectrum of professional sub-fields, and interdisciplinary affiliations further extend the department’s intellectual and creative engagement. A distinguishing feature of the Cornell PhD program in English is its reliance on a system of Special Committees, which allows students to develop their own courses of study within a broad framework established by the department. Graduate students work closely with faculty committees to determine a highly flexible course of study, to set individually devised qualifying exams, and to determine additional work in foreign languages. This system encourages a close working relationship between professors and students, promoting freedom and flexibility in the pursuit of the graduate degree. Students in the English PhD program also receive extensive teacher training. After the first year in the program, students typically teach seminars in the university-wide First-year Writing Program, an experience which prepares them to design and teach courses in creative writing, literature, and cultural studies to a range of students, including agriculture and engineering majors as well as students in the humanities and social sciences. The combination of an individualized curriculum and rich teaching experience positions our students to be extremely competitive on the job market, and qualifies them to pursue work in a variety of creative fields.