Creative Writing


Taking Courses in the MFA Program

Transfer Credit
Directed Independent Study
Advice about Writing Workshops


All students must register via SeaNet, the online registration system. Just before the registration period begins (after fall break for the following spring semester, and after spring break for the following fall semester), you will receive notification instructing you to schedule an advising appointment with your academic advisor. Your academic advisor is a faculty member assigned to you upon entering the program. (Once your thesis committee is determined, your thesis director becomes your academic advisor.) Even if you don't need registration advice, you must still meet with your advisor to discuss your course line-up.

New incoming MFAs are advised via e-mail by the MFA coordinator regarding fall classes. If you have paid your tuition deposit (or have been granted a waiver if you have received a tuition remission) you will be able to register via SeaNet at that time.

The online Graduate Catalog can be found at: The catalogue includes general course descriptions for all graduate courses, as well as degree requirements for the graduate programs, policy statements, and a wealth of other useful information. Course topics vary; not all courses listed in the catalogue are offered each semester. More specific course descriptions are posted online on our webpage. Course day & time information is available on SeaNet.

Throughout your time in our program, you will undoubtedly have many questions about courses and requirements. On our department website, we have posted Frequently Asked Questions for Current MFA Students (under the MFA menu), which should help you with most of your registration-related questions.

In general, MFA students should consider the following issues and, if necessary, discuss them with the advisor:

  • The balance of hours between elective and writing courses.
  • The average number of hours per semester needed to graduate by the target date.
  • The status of the out-of-genre requirement.
  • Expected MFA examination and thesis defense dates.

The following courses count as electives: CRW 501, 503, 523, 524, 543, 545, 547, 560, 580, 581, 598; ENG 502, 504, 505, 506, 507, 508, 509, 511, 512, 513, 514, 552, 555, 560, 561, 563, 572, 580. Approved GLS courses will be announced during pre-registration via the MFA listserv. It is important to discuss the content (periods, authors) of the electives courses taken, thereby allowing the advisor to help plan a broad and deep overall course of study.

While we currently accept many ENG courses automatically for credit toward the MFA degree, ENG 501, 503, 554, 556, 558, and 559 can be taken only if the student demonstrates to the MFA coordinator that the course is valuable according to his/her individual plan of study. This allows us to monitor the balance of pedagogy and literature courses taken by MFA students.

The following courses count as writing workshops: CRW 530, 542, 544, 546, 548, 550. Occasionally a writing workshop is offered by another department (such as Graduate Liberal Studies), but only CRW writing workshops may be taken toward the MFA degree.

Students are expected to enroll in no more than 11 hours of coursework until all students have had the opportunity to register. At that point, students may register for additional hours at their discretion, in conjunction with faculty advisement.

Transfer Credit

If you have transferred from another graduate program but did not complete the degree, you may be able to transfer up to six credit hours of literature or writing courses. If you already hold a graduate degree, you will not be able to transfer any of the courses taken toward that degree. If you think you may be able to transfer some credit hours, see the MFA coordinator to determine your eligibility. Credit transfer should take place during the first year of your study here.

Directed Independent Study

MFA students are allowed to take up to six credit hours of CRW 591: Directed Individual Study (DIS) courses during the completion of their degree. The DIS is meant to give students an opportunity to tailor their coursework to fit their individual interests, while working under the supervision of a faculty member. A DIS should not be used to meet workshop requirements, and will not be approved if the proposed subject is offered by our department as a course; the DIS is intended to be utilized in instances where the subject and coursework proposed are highly specific and not covered by our curriculum.

Please consider it only when it is absolutely necessary for your course of study.

To sign up for a DIS, approach a faculty member with a fully conceived idea for your semester's work, including whether the project should count as writing or elective credit. If the faculty member agrees to work with you, he or she will need to print, fill out, and sign a graduate DIS form, downloadable from our department website. The DIS form is then forwarded to the MFA coordinator or department chair for approval. If it is approved, MÄ“gan will register you for the DIS (CRW 591). You cannot register for a DIS via SeaNet.

Advice about Writing Workshops

The workshop is an active and communal way of thinking about a piece of writing to learn something essential about how and why it works-to trace its process and to teach everybody in the room something about writing that they didn't know before. You're sharing your work with a smart, talented, thoughtful, energetic, critical, demanding, thorough, passionate, articulate audience-perhaps the best and most daunting you'll ever know.

No matter how often you hand out a piece for their consideration, it's hard to avoid anxiety on the day of the workshop. Remember that a workshop is not a jury and does not require consensus, let alone unanimity of response- indeed; consensus might be the enemy of great art. Part of the goal of workshop is for the writer to learn which of the many disparate voices to heed, which criticism is valid, and which is off the mark. The workshop is not a validation session; if there's no risk, maybe something is wrong. Whenever you find yourself in a roomful of writers who all agree, get out fast. Stay open, listen to the voices, consider them, and learn. You'll often acquire insights more readily from the consideration of other's work than of your own-it's easier to concentrate without the emotional investment, and for some reason, their mistakes and virtues will stand out as vividly as if they were written in different colors of ink. And always remember that the judgment of your instructor is based on years of experience, tens of thousands of pages of reading, countless hours of artful reflection, years of wrestling the right word onto the page, and decades of practice. Though it is carefully considered, sincere, honest, and valuable, it might quite possibly be wrong-even when it flatters you.