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 for MFA degree requirements, 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 you must be considered half-time and be enrolled in at least 4.5 hours in order to borrow graduate student loans. Please contact the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid at firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
You will be able to register for up to 11 credit hours a semester. In order to enroll for more, you will need to request permission for an override from the MFA Coordinator, Mark Cox.
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.
You will be able to register for up to 11 credit hours a semester. In order to enroll for more, you will need to request permission for an override from the MFA Coordinator, Mark Cox.
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. Click "search for courses"
and 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.) 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?
What are the general requirements of the Writers Week course? This one-credit intensive course was designed to accompany Writers’ Week. Students will meet at scheduled days from mid-September through October to familiarize themselves with the work of our visiting writers and to learn the ins and outs of organizing the week. As a group, we are responsible for keeping the week itself running smoothly. Class members will participate in the many facets of the week, from introducing the writers at readings to driving them around town. Students are expected to attend a total of 10 event-hours over the course of the symposium. E-mail the Writers Week coordinator (see above) for specific details.
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.
How many times can I repeat a forms course in the same genre? You may repeat the same forms course once (with a different professor) for credit.
I have questions about The Publishing Laboratory courses. See the special webpage at uncw.edu/writers/publab/mfaopps. 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.
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 uncw.edu/gradschool/currentstudents/withdrawal.html.
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 website.
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 many thesis hours must I take to be considered full-time? Students enrolled in at least 1 thesis hour are considered full-time for registration/financial aid purposes. See the Academic Regulations section below for more details.
If you wish to remain on the student health insurance plan in your final semesters when you’re taking less hours, here is some information you need to know about eligibility:
- Grad students need to be enrolled in at least 1 hour on-campus. Distance Ed classes are not eligible. GRC 600 is eligible: see uncw.edu/writers/mfa/faqcurrent.html#GRC600 for more details about what you need to do.
- From the Student Health Center: “We do let thesis students enroll as well but please have them let us know so we can charge them earlier in the semester instead of when we complete the auditing later in the semester.”
- Fees: uncw.edu/finaid/cost (Graduate, at bottom)
- The plan policy year runs from August 1, 2015 through July 31, 2016. For the fall: August 1 to December 31
For the spring: January 1 to July 31 (which covers summer sessions) (Graduates retain coverage through Dec/July 31st, but can't use the SHC after graduation)
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 HF Group for binding 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.
- GRC 600 Continuous Enrollment is for students who have finished all course work, including thesis hours, but have not finished exit requirements (comprehensive exam, oral exam [thesis reading], thesis, defense, etc.). Students who continue to use university resources in completing their degrees must enroll in and pay tuition and fees for one hour of continuous enrollment (GRC 600). This enrollment will be charged at the rate consistent with one credit hour of extension tuition and fees. These hours will not count toward the degree. Graduate students who need to register for GRC 600 must do so through the Graduate School (uncw.edu/gradschool/currentstudents/forms.html). Students may register for GRC 600 up to three times. Beyond that, students should complete a form to request permission to extend continuous enrollment (uncw.edu/gradschool/currentstudents/forms.html). All signatures requested on the form should be obtained before the form is sent to the Graduate School for final approval. (This information is found in the ‘Continuous Registration Policy’ in the Academic Regulations and Procedures section of the Graduate Catalogue.)
- Students enrolled in GRC 600 are considered full-time for financial aid purposes.
- As for student health insurance while registered in GRC 600, there is not a requirement to waive nor to enroll in the student health insurance. If you choose to enroll, the Student Health Center asks that you "contact us so that we can charge the student account correctly because this student category would not automatically populate for billing. If you do not want the insurance, then you would not need to take any action.” –Leigh Lane (email@example.com).
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.
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 simply 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 are automatically 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 you file online 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.
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. (Choose this year's Graduate Catalogue from the drop-down menu, then click the link to Academic Regulations in the left column.) 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.