If you’ve worked with us, are working with us, or have read any of our sample college essays, you should know by now that we are big fans of creative writing. But if you’re thinking about majoring or minoring in creative writing in college, there are a few things that you should know first. Creative writing programs are competitive and sometimes cutthroat. Small workshops are the foundation of a positive creative writing experience, but that also means fewer seats are available - sometimes as few as 6 for a high-level course.
Many creative writing programs require students to apply for the courses by submitting thick manuscripts of creative work (i.e. not essays from other classes) for teachers to review before accepting you into their class. This also makes workshop admission subjective. You may not get in just because a teacher isn’t really vibing your style. It’s a tough process, and one where everyone starts at the bottom and has to fight all of the way through, but writing is a tough business. Taking critiques and handling rejection are at the core of a career as a writer, so you might as well start learning it in college, right?
If you’re passionate about writing, committed to honing your craft, and have the guts to keep going, read on for our top 10 undergraduate creative writing programs in the US, and then a few hidden gems that we think deserve an honorable mention.
Top 10 Creative Writing Programs
New York, NY
Acceptance Rate: 6%
Columbia University’s creative writing program comes with a reputation for excellence. It is one of the few creative writing programs in the country to have its own dedicated department and alumni of the university include multiple Pulitzer Prize winners, Poet Laureates, and people like Eudora Welty, Jack Kerouac, Langston Hughes, and Allen Ginsberg. The major is workshop and seminar-centric, with no requirements outside of writing intensive classes, and you can get through the whole major without taking a literature or English class outside of Columbia’s core curriculum. Students can submit to Quarto, the literary magazine which has featured greats such as J.D. Salinger, and the proximity to their top-ranked MFA program and the Journalism School means the faculty is always top-notch.
Acceptance Rate: 25%
Any list of the best undergraduate creative writing programs has Emory near the top. If it doesn’t, don’t trust the people who made it. Emory’s program is world-renowned and, at 26 years old, is well established within the university. A combination of workshop-style courses and traditional critical analysis and reading make for a diverse experience and students can focus in poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, playwriting, and even screenwriting.
Washington University in St. Louis
St. Louis, Missouri
Acceptance Rate: 16%
While the Washington University in St. Louis creative writing program is housed within the English department and is a concentration available within the English major, it’s strong enough to hang with the best of them. Teaching staff, including MFA Faculty, focus on helping students become better consumers of literature, as well as better producers of literature. There are numerous on-campus literary publications that undergraduate students can contribute to and brave writers can read their work at the biannual Pushmower Series.
Acceptance Rate: 6.5%
Princeton is a great school regardless of major, but their creative writing program is especially well-suited for those interested in short prose forms and poetry. Students take part in intimate workshops and select seniors get to work individually with faculty like Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon, Joyce Carol Oates, and Jeffrey Eugenides to create a thesis project. These projects are serious, and it’s not rare for a student to end up with a novel, screenplay, or book of poems. For students who don’t go the thesis route, there’s always Biennial Princeton Poetry Festival to look forward to.
Acceptance Rate: 19.7%
Housed within the English and American Literatures Major, Middlebury’s creative writing program offers more than 20 different courses each year. Instructors include award-winning authors Julia Alvarez and Jay Parini and all of the faculty are published writers working in the field. Uniquely, students start with an introductory workshop that is comprehensive, allowing them to try out poetry, fiction, and nonfiction in one course before committing to a specialization. Select students are able to attend the summer Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, but all are welcome to contribute to campus publications including The Campus, Artemis, and Otter Creek Journal, a journal focused on environmental writing.
Acceptance Rate: 49%
In addition to a Bachelor’s in Writing, Literature, and Publishing, Emerson offers undergraduates the opportunity to earn a BFA through their Creative Writing Program. Ending with a final thesis, the BFA offers truly ambitious writers the opportunity to work on a major project as part of their coursework. The Emerson creative writing faculty is stocked with fantastic talent and the campus is home to nationally-renowned publications Ploughshares and Redivider. If journalism is more your style, they’ve got that too.
Acceptance Rate: 14%
With alumni like Toni Morrison, E.B. White, and Kurt Vonnegut, it shouldn’t come as a shock that Cornell has a great writing program. A minor within the Department of English, students of creative writing develop their own course of study with their advisor, allowing for maximum flexibility to fit almost any interest. Cornell is focused on fiction and poetry, but they combine the study of literature with creative writing courses to create a holistic educational program for any passionate writer. Scholarships are available for writers who show special promise.
Acceptance Rate: 26%
Hamilton’s renowned writing center is home to a creative writing program that has produced alumni that have gone on to, among other things, head up the creative and communications arms of national companies, including a President of Scholastic Media. With concentrations in poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and playwriting, the Hamilton program focuses on cultivating the human imagination while emphasizing the beauty and complexity of language.
Acceptance Rate: 30%
Part of the Bucknell English Department, the creative writing program is especially known for it’s poetry focus, and the Stadler Center for Poetry ensures that they’ll remain heavyweights for a long time. The Annual Bucknell Seminar for Undergraduate Poets offers 10 Fellowships to current students who take part in a 3-week summer intensive, and the writers in residence program ensures that there are stellar minds and brilliant writers on campus throughout the year. The creative writing program at Bucknell may be most well-known for it’s poetry track, but their vocal emphasis on gaining exposure for a diverse set of voices also sets them apart.
Acceptance Rate: 26%
Creative writing classes at Kenyon are highly-selective and intro courses can be tough to get into, but students say that it’s worth the effort. English majors with an Emphasis in Creative Writing rave about the intimate workshops and engaged faculty. Students are able to submit The Kenyon Review, a world-class literary publication, and have access to the annual The Kenyon Review Young Writer’s Workshop, an 8-day intensive.
Acceptance Rate: 7%
We know, MIT for creative writing? We’re serious though. Your first thought when you hear MIT may be engineering, but this school is great at more than computer programming and robotics. In addition to the traditional options of fiction, poetry, or nonfiction prose, MIT offers majors in Science Writing, designed for those interested in science journalism, and Digital Media, which focuses on the interactive and nonlinear narrative structures that are made accessible through digital publication.
University of Virginia
Acceptance Rate: 27%
With two creative writing concentrations for English majors, poetry and prose (fiction and nonfiction), the University of Virginia creative writing program might not seem like much, but it’s strong link to the University’s MFA program and the accessibility of Charlottesville, a lively creative writing community, make it one of our favorite hidden gems. Students can also take part in independent studies, transforming their work into a ready-to-publish manuscript.
Colorado Springs, CO
Acceptance Rate: 15.8%
Colorado College is known for their block system, and that’s exactly why we think it’s a stellar place for creative writing students. The block program facilitates deep immersion and their multi-level program within the English major is designed to create strong and creative writers.
Johns Hopkins University
Acceptance Rate: 12%
If your goal is to follow-up an undergraduate degree with a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, Johns Hopkins may be the perfect place for you. Students who concentrate in creative writing through their Writing Seminars program can focus on fiction or poetry, and are expected to excel across disciplines. For example, requirements include competency in a foreign language. By the end of the program, students have created a portfolio of work that meets the standards for application to a top MFA program.
If you want to get into a top creative writing program drop us a line. We’ll help you get there.