Creative Writing

MFA Student FAQs

Please click on a question below to reveal the answer.

What are the overall course requirements for the MFA degree?

  • 21 hours of writing workshop (CRW 530, 540, 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.
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What is the "out-of-genre" requirement?

  • You must take a total of 6 hours of either writing workshops, or a combination of workshop and forms courses, outside your primary genre. You must include at least one 3-hour writing workshop (CRW 530, CRW 542CRW 544CRW 546CRW 548CRW 550). Forms courses are CRW 543, 545, and 547.
  • You may take a maximum of 9 hours of workshop outside your genre for credit. (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. A fiction writer may take a poetry workshop and a nonfiction forms course. Or, a poet may take a nonfiction workshop and a fiction workshop. Or three 1-hr workshops and a 3-hr workshop. The key is that the courses are outside your primary genre and that you have at least one 3-hour workshop in the six hours total required. (When offered, the CRW 530 screenwriting course counts for this requirement.)
  • The 1-cr Writers' Week course CRW 540 counts as an in-genre workshop.
  • ONLY workshop and forms courses count towards the out-of-genre requirement; other courses (special topics, publishing, etc.) are electives. (Your forms courses can be double-counted as both an elective towards the degree AND as counting towards the out-of-genre requirement.)
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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.
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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 —by request— during pre-registration with a list of approved GLS courses for the coming semester.
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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.
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Can I transfer-in graduate credits? You may not transfer-in coursework that has counted toward another degree. If you have taken graduate-level courses that did not count toward another degree, a maximum of six hours (—per our own Department requirements; other programs differ—) may be eligible to count as transfer credit. However, all requests regarding transfer credit must be made in person to our MFA coordinator. Be prepared to submit an official syllabus for the course(s) to the coordinator to determine the appropriate UNCW course equivalency. Be prepared also to submit proposed equivalent course(s) by presenting the UNCW catalogue course description for each course. Please see for more information and for the form. You will complete the form and submit it to the MFA coordinator for review. If the MFA coordinator signs approval, then the student will submit the form, along with an official transcript showing the satisfactory completion of courses offered for transfer credit, to the Graduate School for final determination.
**Please note that ALL writing workshop credits must come from UNCW CRW workshops—not from other departments/institutions.
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How can I apply for in-state residency after my first year in the program? There are a couple of paragraphs of important information you need to review at Be sure to read all of it very carefully, because there is language housed there that you need to be sure to represent in your application regarding your initial intent to move to NC.
Once you have lived in NC for one year (typically from the date your lease began), you’ll submit an application for residency determination into the RDS system for their review and decision. We strongly urge you to thoroughly read the entire Residency Guidelines provided: there is, for example, a list of supporting documents in the Initial Consideration section that will help strengthen your application.

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, 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.

What constitutes a credit hour (i.e., what is the expectation of work)? See the Registrar definition of a credit hour.

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.
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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.
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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.)
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Can extra writing workshops count for elective credit? Workshops will not be counted as electives, per the MFA coordinator. Please plan your schedule accordingly!
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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.
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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 their 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.
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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.
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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.
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What does the CRW 525 Special Topics course count as?
An elective
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How do I register to take Writers Week (CRW 540, 1 credit)?
Sign up via Seanet like any other course (course description).
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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 (listed with course description above) for specific details.
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Does Writers Week count as a literature/elective hour or a writing hour?
The Writers Week Symposium course is counted as an in-genre writing workshop, and counts towards the requirement for a minimum of 12 credit hours of writing workshop in the primary genre.
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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. You and the instructor will also need to inform the MFA Coordinator via email that you should receive secondary genre credit.

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. <Graduate Catalogue course descriptions> Note: there is no requirement to take forms classes, but it is assumed that writers will want to do this. It is strongly suggested.

  • CRW 543 - Forms of Poetry
  • CRW 545 - Forms of Creative Nonfiction
  • CRW 547 - Forms of Fiction

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How many times can I repeat a workshop in the same genre? You may take up to 18 hours of workshop in your primary genre. (Workshops are offered in 1-hr and 3-hr units.)  <Graduate Catalogue course descriptions>

  • CRW 542 - Poetry Writing Workshop
  • CRW 544 - Fiction Writing Workshop
  • CRW 546 - Workshop Writing the Long Form Narrative I
  • CRW 548 - Workshop in Writing the Long Form Narrative II
  • CRW 550 - Workshop in Creative Nonfiction

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I have questions about The Publishing Laboratory courses. See the special webpage at 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.
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I want to work on Ecotone. What is the Magazine Practicum class?
See the magazine link given and the course description. Contact Prof. Anna Lena Phillips Bell, 910.962.7489, for information.
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I want to work on Chautauqua. What is the Magazine Practicum class?
See the magazine link given and the course description. Contact Prof. Philip Gerard, 910.962.3329, for information.
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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.
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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.
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I want to withdraw with a "W" from a course. What do I need to do?
Please visit
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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.
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Can I take thesis hours during the summer? Yes, but you MUST request permission from thesis director to do so, according to their availability. 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. (Note that some directors aren't available during the summer, so you may not be able to register for summer thesis hours.)
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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 penultimate semester—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.
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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 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."
  • Insurance Fees: (Graduate, at bottom)
  • The plan policy year runs from August 1 through July 31. 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.)

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How should I submit my thesis? Once you have received format approval from the Graduate School, you'll need to email to and Lisa Bertini an electronic copy of your thesis (.pdf file) for archival. See the MFA Handbook for more information regarding thesis content requirements, and see the Graduate School's webpage for Current Students for thesis formatting.
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What is GRC 600 and how to I register for it? What about health insurance?

  • 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 (distance ed.) 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 ( Students may register for GRC 600 up to three times. Beyond that, students should complete a form to request permission to extend continuous enrollment (
  • Students enrolled in GRC 600 are considered full-time for financial aid purposes.
  • Graduate students registered for continuous enrollment (GRC‐600) credit that want access to the Student Recreation Center may pay $30.00 per month during the fall and spring semesters. For summer registration, the fee is $30.00 per summer session. If you are not registered for summer classes, you must be pre‐registered for fall to be eligible for summer access. For further information, please contact Susan Smith at
  • 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 (

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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.
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How do I register for a DIS (Directed Independent Study, CRW 591)?
The professor directing your DIS must fill out the graduate DIS form (591), 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.
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Can I take one DIS credit hour? Two? How do I choose? Yes, you can take any number (1-6) of DIS hours in any given semester, aligning with your needs as they relate to tuition costs and/or your personal course plan towards fulfilling degree requirements. (The standard is a minimum of 750 minutes of instructional time or the equivalent [comparable level of work and student learning] per credit hour.) You will establish with the faculty member an agreement for a work plan that satifies this requirement.

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 the student's schedule, or did not get into a particular desired course that semester.
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Is a DIS counted as "writing hours" or "elective hours"? In DegreeWorks, the audit system recognizes CRW 591 DIS as "other literature courses"—an elective. If you've taken a "reading-based" DIS, which should count as an elective and not a writing course, you should be fine. If you intend to take a "writing-based" DIS, the MFA coordinator will need to fix this for you on your audit once you apply for graduation. You will simply have to let the coordinator know your DIS is showing up incorrectly.

DIS writing hours will count toward your total (21) writing hours requirement, but do not count toward satisfying the 12 hour minimum workshop hours in your primary genre; nor will they count as the required 3-hr workshop in a secondary genre.

More details about the CRW 201 teaching 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.

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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.

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