MFA Student FAQs

What are the overall course requirements for the MFA degree?

  • 21 hours of writing workshop (CRW 530, 542, 544, 546, 548, 550)
  • 21 hours of electives (anything that's not a writing workshop: e.g. forms, literature)
  • 6 thesis hours

*530 courses are always workshop; 580 courses are always elective.

What is the "out-of-genre" requirement? You must take 5 hours of writing workshops, or a combination of workshop and forms courses, outside your primary genre. Forms courses are CRW 543, 545, and 547. You may take a maximum of 9 hours of workshop outside your genre for credit. (In other words, you must take at least 12 hours of workshop in your primary genre.) Your required out-of-genre courses do not all need to be in the same “secondary” genre—for example, if your primary genre is poetry, you might take a 3-hour forms course in fiction and a 2-hour visiting writing workshop in nonfiction, and then you will have fulfilled your out-of-genre requirement. (The screenwriting course counts for this requirement!)

Can I take a course in another department? You may take up to 6 “interdisciplinary” hours for elective credit toward your degree. Interdisciplinary means courses other than CRW or ENG courses. Please note that ALL writing workshop credits must come from CRW workshops—not from other departments.

Can I take a GLS course as an elective? GLS courses are considered interdisciplinary courses (see preceding question), so you can only take a total of 6 hours toward your degree. Also, not all GLS courses will automatically count for credit—check with your advisor and/or the MFA Coordinator about any GLS course you wish to take. An announcement will be made each semester during pre-registration with a list of approved GLS courses for the coming semester.

Which English courses count towards the MFA degree? As listed in the Graduate Catalogue, you may choose from the following English courses for elective credits: ENG 502, 504, 505, 506, 507, 508, 509, 511, 512, 513, 514, 560, 561,563, 572, 580.

Is there a minimum or maximum number of credit hours I can take per semester? The MFA program does not have rules about minimum or maximum hours per semester, but in order to be considered full-time by the Graduate School you must take at least 9 hours in a semester (except in your final year when you are taking thesis hours, which automatically qualify you as full-time). The full-time or part-time designation may affect your financial aid; for example if you have a tuition remission, the remission only covers the hours for which you're registered (and won't cover more than 9 hours). Please contact the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid at finaid@uncw.edu, or at 910.962.3177, if you have questions about how the number of hours for which you are registered might affect your financial aid. Also, see the UNCW Academic Regulations section at the bottom of this page.

Seanet will allow you to sign up for up to 11 credit hours a semester. In order to enroll for more, you will need an override from the MFA Coordinator, Lavonne Adams.

Is there a minimum number of credit hours I must take per semester as a GTA? The only GTA enrollment minimum is that you must be enrolled for a graduate-level course for that semester in order to receive an assistantship. Having said that, there are other factors that need to be considered, such as being eligible for financial aid, or having loan deferment issues, or issues with private health insurance premiums. Students with a full-time TAship must enroll in 5 credit hours to keep full-time status.

Can I take two writing workshops in a semester? Yes, on a space-available basis (though not recommended for the first semester in the MFA program). However, you may not take two full-time (3-credit) workshops in the same genre in the same semester. For example, you may simultaneously take Clyde Edgerton's 3-credit fiction workshop and a visiting writer's 1- or 2-credit fiction workshop. You may not take Clyde Edgerton's 3-credit fiction workshop and Robert Siegel's 3-credit fiction workshop in the same semester. (Please note that preference for available workshop seats must be given to in-genre students, and to students closer to graduation.)

Who can take the Pedagogy course? CRW 503: Creative Writing Pedagogy is designed to assist those MFA students who are teaching CRW 201 in the same semester. Therefore, only teaching assistants or graduate students teaching CRW 201 as a DIS may take the Pedagogy course. Please see the bottom of this page for more information about the CRW 201 DIS.

How do I preregister for classes? Make an appointment to meet with your faculty advisor, who will have sign-up times (or at least office hours) posted on his or her office door. Print out your degree audit from SeaNet and bring it along to this meeting. You will have an assigned registration time ticket in SeaNet; at that time you can access the registration system and begin adding/dropping classes.

How do I see what courses are being offered? Course descriptions are generally posted on the department websites shortly before preregistration opens. You can also view course offerings via SeaNet. Once you're logged in, select "Student Services & Financial Aid." From there, click "Registration," and then "Look-up Classes to Add." Choose the term; select "creative writing" in the subject list and "graduate" in course level, then click "class search" at the bottom of the page. (You can ignore all other options, such as "credit range.") To see another department's course offerings, repeat the process by selecting another subject (English, for example) from the list.

How do I register for the visiting writers' courses? These courses are by permission only, meaning you will not be able to automatically get in on SeaNet. Instead, you will be alerted via email on the crwmfa listserv to sign up on a sheet in the main office. If you are on the class list, department administrator Megan Hubbard will set the SeaNet system to allow you to add the class. If a wait-list is necessary, that will be managed by the MFA Coordinator, who will contact you if a space opens up. Priority for visiting writers' workshops is given to students in the genre, and those who are graduating. However, there is always last-minute shuffling, so there is a decent chance that waitlisted students will get into these workshops.

What does the CRW 525 Special Topics course count as?
An elective

How do I register to take Writers Week (CRW 530, 1 credit)?
Sign up with the current Writers Week coordinator, Prof. David Gessner.

What are the general requirements of the Writers Week course? E-mail Prof. David Gessner for specific details. Generally, you will be expected to attend a manuscript conference, class, and reading with the visiting writer to whom you are assigned. You also must revise your conferenced manuscript and write a brief response to another event. You must attend one class meeting early in the semester with Prof. Cox, but there are no other meetings until Writers Week itself. All other CRW courses are cancelled during Writers Week, to avoid scheduling conflicts.

Does Writers Week count as an elective or a writing workshop?
A writing workshop

Can I take Writers Week as an out-of-genre workshop (i.e., work with a writer in a genre other than my primary one)? Yes, if space is available. On the sign-up sheet for Writers Week, you will note which genre you wish to work in. You will be required to fulfill all the work in the genre for which you sign up, i.e., the conference, workshop, craft talk, etc. You may attend other events, but in order to get credit you must meet all requirements in the genre for which you sign up.

I have questions about The Publishing Laboratory courses. Contact Prof. Emily Smith in The Publishing Laboratory for questions regarding editing and book-publishing courses, Pub Lab internships, and the Publishing Certificate. She can be reached at 910.962.7401.

I want to work on Ecotone. What is the Magazine Practicum class?
Contact Prof. David Gessner, 910.962.7489, for information.

How do I register for thesis hours (CRW 599)? You must register through the Graduate School under your thesis director's name; you cannot take thesis hours until you have a thesis director (assigned in spring of your second year). You cannot register for thesis hours via SeaNet. The only way to register for thesis hours is through the Graduate School site.

Can I take thesis hours during the summer? Yes, but you MUST notify your thesis director that you are doing so. Thesis hours are "graded" (S/U grades) and your thesis director must put in the "grade" at the end of the semester, even for summer hours, or else you won't get credit.

Can I take one thesis hour? Five thesis hours? Six thesis hours? Yes, you can take any number of thesis hours (6 total required) in any given semester. Again, though, you MUST notify your thesis director any time you sign up for thesis hours. Most directors do not require that you show them thesis work until your final semester, in which your defense takes place—the assumption is that you are working on your thesis throughout your time in the program. However, all faculty work differently. Check with your thesis director any time you sign up for thesis hours.

How should I submit my thesis? Once you have received format approval from the Graduate School, you'll need to email to Nancy Holland and Lisa Bertini an electronic copy of your thesis (.pdf file) for archival. Also, you will need to submit one hard copy on thesis paper with all approving signatures (including the Dean of the Graduate School) to Lisa Bertini, who will forward it to Adina Higgins in Archives at Randall Library. The Library will bind this copy for the Department of Creative Writing thesis archives. See the MFA Handbook for more information regarding thesis content requirements, and see the Graduate School's webpage for Current Students for thesis formatting.

How do I register for a DIS (Directed Independent Study, CRW 591)?
The professor directing your DIS must fill out the graduate DIS form, print it, sign it, and forward to the MFA Coordinator or Department Chair to sign. We then send the form to the Graduate School, who registers you for the DIS. The Graduate School must receive the signed form two days before the end of Drop-Add.

Where do I get the DIS form?
From the MFA pages of the Creative Writing site (under "Forms"). The professor directing your DIS is responsible for filling out and submitting the DIS form.

Is there a limit on how many DIS credits I can take? Yes. You may take a maximum of 6 DIS credits toward your degree. The purpose of a DIS is to serve as a course that the department does not otherwise offer. Faculty are discouraged from overseeing DIS's with students because a student can't fit a certain course into his or her schedule, or did not get into a course s/he wanted.

My DIS was supposed to count as an elective (i.e., literature) course but on my degree audit it's listed under "Writing Requirements." Why? All CRW 591s automatically are counted by the computer system as Writing Requirements; the system cannot distinguish. (We know; we've asked.) So if you've taking a “reading-based” DIS, which should count as an elective and not a writing course, your faculty advisor will need to fix this for you on your Application for Graduation, which is a form you file the semester before you graduate. You will simply have to let your faculty advisor know your DIS is showing up wrong – it will not be corrected automatically but must be adjusted individually in each case.

On my degree audit, some legitimate courses I've taken are listed under WORK NOT APPLICABLE TO THIS PROGRAM, or MEETS NO REQUIREMENTS. Help! Don't panic! This is just like an error message. Thanks to an obsolete feature in the university's computer system, it shows up on literally every MFA student's degree audit. We will quickly and easily correct any such problems on your degree audit when you file your Application for Graduation, the semester before you graduate. If you took a legitimate CRW, ENG, or GLS course and got a passing grade, we will make sure you get credit for it.

I did not or could not pay my bill, so I got dropped from all my courses, and now preregistration is closed. What should I do? Contact your professors individually and see if they will add you back to their courses. Professors: In such cases, you can ask Megan to lower the cap on your course by one (so that nobody else can take this student's place when registration via SeaNet reopens), and to give the student a registration override.

I didn't get into a course I want or need. Contact the professor directly, and ask to be put on the waitlist if there is one, or added if he or she is so inclined. (For visiting writers' courses, contact the MFA Coordinator.) Please note that in our MFA program—as in any MFA program—you are never guaranteed to get to work with a particular professor in a particular semester. Professors go on leave; scheduled classes are changed or cancelled, etc. The reality is that you will not get every course you want. However, we are committed to making sure you graduate on time and can meet all your course requirements. So, for example, if you are in your last semester and still need an out-of-genre workshop to graduate, but you don't get into any of these workshops on SeaNet, contact the MFA Coordinator. We will find a way to solve such emergencies. In addition, you are always guaranteed a workshop in your primary genre each semester, though it may not always be with your first choice of professor.

I want to withdraw with a "W" from a course. What do I need to do?
Please visit http://www.uncw.edu/gradschool/currentstudents/withdrawal.html.

I am not a TA but I want to gain teaching experience. Does the department offer a program whereby I can do that?
Yes. In your second or third year you may apply to be a group-leader in CRW 201, Introduction to Creative Writing, for DIS (Directed Independent Study) credit. The call to apply for this opportunity will come in spring semester, for the following fall. If we only have a limited number of CRW 201 group-leader positions available, we will give priority to third-year MFA students. Second-year MFAs can reapply the following year.

More details about the CRW 201 DIS:

  • Under the direction of the professor teaching CRW 201, and alongside the first-year TAs, you teach a small-group section of CRW 201 in fall semester only. CRW 201 meets Tuesday and Thursday, 12:30–1:45, and you must attend every class. On Thursdays you lead your group of ten students in workshop and on Tuesdays all sections all meet together for lectures by department writers.
  • CRW 201 covers fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. The professor sets the syllabus, schedule, policies, and general guidelines for assignments, and will provide you with a wealth of materials. You will, however, have leeway to bring in your own reading and writing assignments for your group of students. You are also responsible for grading all your students' assignments.
  • When you do a CRW 201 DIS, you are also required in the fall to take CRW 503, Creative Writing Pedagogy: Theory and Practice. The Pedagogy course provides you with support, teaching materials, and training, and serves, in effect, as the weekly staff meeting for all those teaching CRW 201. It is also a regular 3-credit course that counts as an elective toward your degree.
  • You don't get paid anything for doing a CRW 201 DIS.
  • Because you can only take 6 DIS credits total, if you've already used up your DIS credits you are no longer eligible for these positions. Also, you must be a currently enrolled MFA student to be eligible.
  • MFA students who have TAships are not eligible for these positions. If you have another campus job that's called an "assistantship," however, you are eligible.
    You do not need to have any teaching experience to get one of these positions. Your passion, interest, energy, and commitment qualify you.

The Academic Regulations section of the Graduate Catalogue is useful to read. It handles such topics as:

  • What constitutes full-time enrollment? What if I’m a TA?**
  • What if I’ve finished my coursework and thesis hours, but haven’t finished the thesis?
  • What is the grading scale for graduate students?
  • What is the Incomplete-grade policy?
  • What happens if I earn below a "B"?
  • How do I protest a grade?

**TAs who do not have either an MA or a teaching license must take a total of 18 hours in their first year in order to qualify to independently teach a course in their second and third years. The Pedagogy course counts towards the 18-hour requirement.


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