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How to choose a writing sample for graduate school


If you’re serious about pursuing a post-bachelor’s degree, it’s never too early to start gathering all the materials you’ll need. Most programs will ask you to submit one of the following: an essay response to a prompt or a writing sample. If you’re in need of guidance on the latter, keep reading for advice on how to select and prepare an impressive writing sample for your graduate school application.

We gathered expert insight from Dr. James R. Martin, an associate professor and assistant director of interdisciplinary leadership at Creighton University. Dr. Martin has reviewed hundreds of applications throughout his career, so consider his advice about what makes a great graduate school writing sample. But first, it’s important to understand the purpose of this application element.

What is a writing sample for grad school and why is it important?

Writing samples are a key part of most grad school applications. They show the admissions committee the quality of your previous work and demonstrate interest and proficiency in your chosen field.

According to Dr. Martin, reviewers are generally evaluating samples for the following criteria:

  • Solid writing skills : Is all spelling and grammar accurate? Is it free of typos?
  • Organization and clarity : Is there a logical flow to the ideas presented? Is the purpose of the sample clearly identified and accomplished?
  • Critical thinking : Does it demonstrate a thorough understanding of the topic, including consideration of alternate theories or approaches? Are all claims backed by reliable research?
  • Consistent citations and references : Have sources been properly cited throughout the work? Do all citations have a corresponding reference?

How to choose a writing sample for grad school

Some schools don’t specifically state what kind of writing sample they are seeking. In that case, it’s best to err on the side of academic work. Some common writing sample examples include essays, dissertations, theses, journal articles, capstone projects or research papers. If possible, you want to submit a piece that demonstrates your proficiency in analyzing a topic in the same (or related) field as the program for which you are applying.

There are some professions and corresponding graduate school programs that accept work-related writing samples, such as white papers, policy briefs, news articles and grant applications. If you’re pursuing higher education in marketing, communications, public relations, public policy or other similar fields, these could be good writing sample ideas.

However, Dr. Martin cautions prospective students to vet their choices carefully. If you do send in materials you wrote for work, make sure you’re the only author — and write a secondary note explaining the context and authorship. After all, reviewers are evaluating you , not your team.

How long should a writing sample be?

There’s no simple answer for this question, as the target length depends on the program you’re applying for. The importance of reading and following all of the instructions carefully throughout your application cannot be overstated.

If your desired school doesn’t state specific requirements, Dr. Martin advises choosing an academic paper. Or better yet, you can take the initiative to reach out for clarification.

“Most departments have a director of graduate studies or admissions specialist who would be happy to have a conversation,” he says. “This interaction could end up working in your favor down the line.”

Components of a good graduate school writing sample

Now that you know how you will be evaluated and what kind of sample to submit, you need to make sure your work is as polished as possible. Whether you choose an academic paper or other professional work, apply these writing sample tips before submitting:

  • Have someone you trust read it and provide feedback that you can choose whether or not to implement. 
  • Run the entire paper through a spelling and grammar check multiple times. You could also consider using a free tool like the one available at Grammarly.com .
  • Make sure there are no typos, formatting discrepancies, comments or tracked changes, run-on sentences, repeated paragraphs, etc., in the final version.
  • Rename your document to include important information that will make it easier for busy admissions staff to find. (Try using the following example: Writing sample_Name of applicant_Title of paper or project.)
  • •Make sure your citation style is consistent and correct throughout the entire document.

Your writing sample format will vary depending on the type of sample you choose. But if you are submitting an academic paper, make sure it contains all of the following sections, at minimum:

  • Introduction
  • List of references

Craft a solid grad school application

With the tips stated above, you should have everything you need to begin choosing and refining your writing sample for graduate school. If you’re still not feeling confident, take the following advice to heart:

“Remember that the writing sample is just one piece of your application, and we evaluate it as a whole,” Dr. Martin shares. “As a Jesuit school we strive to meet people where they are. We want to help them succeed.” Now that you have some writing sample examples and advice, you can focus on other important elements of your application. Check out our article “ How to Secure the Best Letters of Recommendation for Grad School .”

If you’re looking for a high-quality and best value graduate school program, review the requirements for Creighton University by visiting our How to Apply page .

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Graduate application cheat sheet.

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Dear, As-Yet-Unmet Writer,

As you are considering graduate school in Creative Writing, here is some advice on how to save yourself time (for your writing), money (to support your writing), and energy (for your writing) as you assemble your application.

Here are the five component parts to our application. I list them in approximate order of relevance to this reader: 1) the writing samples, 2) the statement of purpose, 3) the recommendations, 4) the transcripts and test scores; 5) the stamp.

  • The writing samples. I don’t speak for every admissions reader here, but when I sit down it’s the creative sample that I want to see before learning anything about the candidate. What am I hoping for? A fresh impression. A glimpse of the writer’s talent and perception and intellect that gives the work a vivid, memorable quality. An original sensibility or means of expression, or subject. It might be the angle from which the writer looks at other people is unusual; it might be a lapidary sense for the facet and fit of words; it might be the energy or urgency to the storytelling coiled in the sentences and similes. But whatever it is, it is yours . I also hope to see a general appreciation for the art, showcased by technical competence (misspellings and poor punctuation are a poor sign). Satisfied that there is a there there, I turn to the essay (if you are applying for the PhD). This should be an exercise in clarity, well-reasoned argument and, hopefully, engaged with some aspect of the literary traditions or theories or writers you intend to study further.
  • The statement of purpose. The statement is an exercise in the use of cliché. Every writer likes books and writing. I take it as implicit that you do, too. Hence your application. What I want to learn about is your particular relation to your writing and why you wish to study here. This is a good time to show off some mastery of metaphor or even the thumbnail biographical sketch. Reveal yourself, your personality and sensibility, within the confines of the statement. Recalling the moment you began to write is a good place to begin your ruminations. How does it relate to your engagement with the world? To your aspirations? You have a page or two to make an impression; not so different from the opening few paragraphs of a book.
  • The recommendations. These are something of a screening mechanism, their hyperbole notwithstanding. We don’t want personalities in the workshop that are disruptive and contentious in the wrong way. We want to know that you will hold up your end of the bargain if you teach here. We want to know that you play well with others, that you have a track record of functioning like an adult, that you’ve worked jobs that have informed your character and professionalism. Recommendations from professors are welcome, but a supervisor who knows you well and cares to write more than a short paragraph is also worthwhile.
  • Transcripts and test scores. I scan these to see how many writing classes the applicant has taken—does it reveal anything about their growth? I’m also curious to know the fields and subfields you’ve explored. Do you hold a separate degree in microbiology? Did you assiduously pursue certification as a Doomsday prepper? Good to know. As for test scores, likely you will score high in verbal aptitude. Math, well, who knows. You need a GPA of 3.0 to teach, though in unusual instances we can appeal this. If you are pressed for time, use more of it on your creative writing samples rather than cramming for the GRE.

The process. We thoroughly read applications and record notes on scoring sheets that hold space for three readers’ comments. We score each application on a scale of 1-5, with 5 as the best. Generally you need to score a perfect 15 to be admitted, which is to say you impressed a minimum of three faculty members. After this, the other faculty will look at the highly scored finalists before meeting to debate the mix of the incoming class. And here it grows subjective. There are always more qualified applicants than we can accommodate or fund. Many many more. We try to balance our class wholistically. The style of the writing, the traditions it engages, the writers’ intellectual and aesthetic interests, personality types, regions, backgrounds. Our goal is to create a diverse classroom that will integrate well, exposing everyone to many differing perspectives. The only commonality should be excellence and a love for writing and literature.

Good luck, good fortune, favorable winds, et cetera. Write, write, write.

All the best,

Alex Parsons

creative writing samples for graduate school

How to Pick a Grad School Writing Sample

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If you’re looking to take your academic career to the next level, no doubt you know that a key factor in getting into grad school is showcasing your writing abilities. Writing samples are arguably the most important part of showing off just how talented and capable you really are – but knowing how to choose the best sample for those applications can feel like an impossible task!

Don’t worry; this guide will walk you through every step necessary so that when it comes time to send in those applications, you’ll have confidence knowing that each sample you put forward is your absolute best work.

What is the point of the grad school writing sample and why does it matter?

An integral factor of your graduate school application is often the writing samples you provide; they give evidence to the admissions committee of your potential and enthusiasm for your target field. This reflects not only on your academic aptitude but also on how well-versed you are in that particular subject matter.

A writing sample is also a great way for admissions committees to get an idea of how you can contribute to the graduate program. It demonstrates your capacity to engage with innovative concepts, present your research clearly and concisely, build upon current trends within the field, and articulate compelling arguments or theories. By assessing your academic writing and critical thinking proficiency, the faculty seeks to select candidates who possess the necessary abilities to thrive academically. Moreover, they want assurance that you can be properly mentored throughout your educational journey.

When assessing samples, reviewers usually consider the following criteria:

  • Structure and clarity : Is the essay’s structure sensible and cohesive? Does it clearly articulate its purpose and successfully achieve it?
  • Critical outlook : Does the work display in-depth insight into the subject, including analysis of other theories or methods? Are all assertions supported with reliable evidence and research?
  • Methodological apparatus: Have all sources been accurately cited throughout the paper? Are there corresponding references attached to each citation?
  • Writing skills : Is every single word spelled correctly and are all the sentences grammatically flawless? Are there any oversights when it comes to typos or missed words?

(If you are wondering if you have selected the right graduate program for you? Watch this quick video where I break down mistakes to avoid.)

creative writing samples for graduate school

How to pick the right grad school writing sample

Despite applying to several graduate programs within the same domain, various universities require different lengths when it comes to writing samples. Some may ask for as many as ten pages while others permit up to twenty. Before fine-tuning your writing samples and refining them, be sure that you have already carefully considered the places where you would like to apply. In certain cases, more than one sample may even be asked for. Put in the effort beforehand so you can save yourself time later! Taking the time to ensure you understand all of the expectations for your writing sample up front will save you loads of time down the line!

No need to write something new!

A writing sample for your application is usually taken from a paper or thesis you wrote and was evaluated by college professors, whether it be at the undergraduate or graduate level. Whether it is an excerpt from a master’s thesis or a senior capstone class, any publication that reflects thoughtful consideration of key concepts in the field and meets the maximum length requirement can make you stand out. If you earned a top grade for your paper, it is already in excellent shape and can be submitted as-is. However, to make the paper even better, you may want to incorporate feedback from your grader into its structure or answer any questions that were left unanswered. You should also take this opportunity to add new citations if necessary – just don’t go overboard with modifying the project!

Creating an entirely new writing sample specifically for your application can be a burden if you don’t have the luxury of getting feedback from a professor, or even worse – take away precious time that could otherwise be spent preparing other parts of your application like the statement of purpose. Therefore, it is best to avoid creating something from scratch unless absolutely necessary. As long as your paper is well-written (and graded accordingly), you can submit a piece from a different discipline or one with an out-of-date subject/conclusion. The selection committee’s primary focus is on evaluating your writing, research, and analytical capabilities rather than the topic of your upcoming degree program. Therefore, if your best paper fits this bill even if it doesn’t directly relate to what you’ll be studying – go ahead and send it in.

creative writing samples for graduate school

Pick a grad school writing sample that reflects the writing you will be required to do in your program

When a school fails to give clear instructions (and they often do!), it is advisable to present an academic writing sample such as an essay, dissertation, journal article, or research paper. The focus of your submission should be in line with the major you are applying for. Doing so will highlight your aptitude for analyzing and exploring ideas within that particular field.

If you want to be considered for a research-based graduate program, such as a Ph.D. or Master of Science, your writing sample should illustrate your aptitude for producing research papers. If you are applying for any program other than creative writing or journalism, you should demonstrate your academic abilities and engagement in ideas by submitting an appropriate piece of written work. Choose a paper that was assigned to you as part of coursework rather than essays, memoirs, blog posts, or newspaper articles. Consider the research you have done and your accomplishments in your field, then select an example that reveals how adeptly you can analyze a great deal of information as well as introduce innovative concepts.

Your writing sample should not simply reiterate the already established research. Instead, showcase your own ideas and arguments while maintaining awareness of where they fit in an existing conversation within your field. Provide sufficient context to show that you understand how academics can guide you as a researcher, writer, and scholar – but also demonstrate why you have what it takes to be an influential member of the research community.

For professional programs like an MBA or MPA degree , an ideal paper would demonstrate skills like crafting business case studies and policy analysis respectively. When submitting your application for a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, make sure to include the best creative writing sample you have. For those applying to Journalism programs, it would be most beneficial to send along a long-form journalistic article that accurately reflects the type of work expected during graduate studies; don’t submit anything that isn’t reflective of what will be taught and is required!

If you are seeking to obtain a graduate school degree in marketing, communications, public relations, public policy, or other related areas of study and have work-related writing samples such as white papers, policy briefs, news articles, and grant applications submitted then this could be an excellent option for you. However, exercise caution when creating your portfolio. If you choose to include content that was written for work purposes, ensure it is solely authored by you and accompany the piece with a separate explanation regarding its origin and authorship. Keep in mind that reviewers are judging and assessing you as an individual!

creative writing samples for graduate school

How long should my grad school writing sample be?

There’s no simple answer to the question, as the target length depends on the program you’re applying for. The importance of reading and following all of the instructions carefully throughout your application cannot be overstated.

If your institution doesn’t provide specific instructions, opt for a scholarly essay. Even better, get in touch with the department to ensure you’re on track! Most departments have experienced directors of graduate studies and admissions specialists who are more than willing to help guide you through this process. Moreover, this experience could prove an invaluable asset when you apply for the program later on.

Don’t exceed the maximum word limit

When submitting a writing sample as part of your graduate school application, it is important to respect the word limit specified by the institution. This is because admissions officers often have hundreds or even thousands of applications to read and evaluate. Sticking to the word limit demonstrates that you can follow instructions, work within constraints, and present yourself clearly and concisely – all important skills for success as a graduate student. Furthermore, if you go over the word count, this could make it difficult for someone who has limited time to review your entire piece. By respecting the word limit given and crafting a concise yet meaningful piece of writing, you are more likely to stand out in the minds of admissions committee members!

Which part of your honors thesis or master’s thesis should you send as a sample if you have a word limit?

When selecting a sample from a long piece of writing, such as a thesis, to send for graduate school admissions, it is important to carefully consider the kind of content you are sending. Your sample should reflect your writing abilities, research interests, and expertise in a specific field. Choose a section of your writing that you are particularly proud of and that demonstrates both your knowledge and writing skills in a meaningful way. It is also beneficial to include a short introduction that outlines the focus, purpose, and aims of your writing to help the admissions team gain a better understanding of the context and scope of your writing.

Depending on the program, you may want to select a part of your thesis that specifically pertains to the focus of the graduate school. For example, if you are applying to a program in literature, you may want to submit an analysis of a text or a comparison between two texts. When selecting the content, be sure to pick something that demonstrates your knowledge of the subject and your ability to think critically about it.

creative writing samples for graduate school

Tips Before Sending

Before submitting your work, whether it be an academic paper or other form of professional sample, make sure that you put in the necessary effort to ensure that your final result is as polished and perfected as possible. To do this effectively, follow these steps:

  • Invite a person you trust to review your work and offer their thoughts, which you can then choose whether or not to incorporate.
  • Thoroughly proofread your paper several times to ensure all spelling and grammar are correct.
  • To ensure your writing is flawless, check for any typos, formatting errors, comments or tracked changes, run-on sentences and duplicated paragraphs.
  • Optimize your document by renaming it with essential details that make it easier for busy admissions personnel to locate. For instance, you can use a format such as: Writing Sample_Name of applicant_Title of paper/project.
  • Ensure that you utilize a consistent and accurate citation style throughout your document for optimal results.

Ensure your academic paper is comprehensive by including all of the following sections as a minimum: an introduction that set the topic, a cohesive body, a clear conclusion, and references.

After taking the time to find the best grad school writing sample for grad school, you are now ready to take your next step and apply with confidence. You should feel incredibly proud of yourself for reaching this milestone. This process takes hard work, dedication, and a willingness to evolve and improve your writing. As you continue through this journey, remember that you are always capable of infinite growth– and often there is great comfort in seeking guidance from an expert who can provide valuable insight and direction. If you’re looking for supportive advice or a professional opinion on any part of the application process, consider signing up for a free consultation today. It’s never too late to take steps toward realizing your dreams; congratulations on embarking on this amazing journey!

With a Master’s from McGill University and a Ph.D. from New York University, Dr. Philippe Barr is the founder of The Admit Lab . As a tenure-track professor, Dr. Barr spent a decade teaching and serving on several graduate admission committees at UNC-Chapel Hill before turning to full-time consulting. With more than seven years of experience as a graduate school admissions consultant, Dr. Barr has stewarded the candidate journey across multiple master’s and Ph.D. programs and helped hundreds of students get admitted to top-tier graduate programs all over the world .

Follow me on Instagram and TikTok for tips and tricks on navigating the grad school application process and weekly live Q&A sessions!

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creative writing samples for graduate school

MFA Program in Creative Writing

The Creative Writing Program offers the MFA degree, with a concentration in either poetry or fiction. MFA students pursue intensive study with distinguished faculty committed to creative and intellectual achievement.

Each year the department enrolls only eight MFA students, four in each concentration. Our small size allows us to offer a generous financial support package that fully funds every student. We also offer a large and diverse graduate faculty with competence in a wide range of literary, theoretical and cultural fields. Every student chooses a special committee of two faculty members who work closely alongside the student to design a course of study within the broad framework established by the department.

Students participate in a graduate writing workshop each semester and take six additional one-semester courses for credit, at least four of them in English or American literature, comparative literature, literature in the modern or Classical languages or cultural studies (two per semester during the first year and one per semester during the second year). First-year students receive practical training as editorial assistants for  Epoch, a periodical of prose and poetry published by the creative writing program. Second-year students participate as teaching assistants for the university-wide first-year writing program. The most significant requirement of the MFA degree is the completion of a book-length manuscript: a collection of poems or short stories, or a novel, to be closely edited and refined with the assistance of the student’s special committee.

MFA program specifics can be viewed here: MFA Timeline Procedural Guide

Special Committee

Every graduate student selects a special committee of faculty advisors who works intensively with the student in selecting courses and preparing and revising the thesis. The committee is comprised of two Cornell creative writing faculty members: a chair and one minor member. An additional member may be added to represent an interdisciplinary field. The university system of special committees allows students to design their own courses of study within a broad framework established by the department, and it encourages a close working relationship between professors and students, promoting freedom and flexibility in the pursuit of the graduate degree. The special committee for each student guides and supervises all academic work and assesses progress in a series of meetings with the students.

At Cornell, teaching is considered an integral part of training for a career in writing. The field requires a carefully supervised teaching experience of at least one year for every MFA candidate as part of the program requirements. The Department of English, in conjunction with the First-Year Writing Program, offers excellent training for beginning teachers and varied and interesting teaching in this university-wide program. These are not conventional freshman composition courses, but full-fledged academic seminars, often designed by graduate students themselves. The courses are writing-intensive and may fall under such general rubrics as “Portraits of the Self,” “American Literature and Culture,” “Shakespeare” and “Cultural Studies,” among others. A graduate student may also serve as a teaching assistant for an undergraduate lecture course taught by a member of the Department of Literatures in English faculty.

All MFA degree candidates are guaranteed two years of funding (including a stipend , a full tuition fellowship and student health insurance).

  • Graduate Assistantship with EPOCH . Students read submissions, plan special issues and assume other editorial and administrative responsibilities.
  • Summer Teaching Assistantship, linked to a teachers' training program. Summer residency in Ithaca is required.
  • Teaching Assistantship
  • Summer Fellowship (made possible by the David L. Picket ’84 Fund and The James McConkey Master of Fine Arts Creative Writing Award for Summer Support, established by his enduringly grateful student, Len Edelstein ’59)

Optional MFA Lecturer Appointments Degree recipients who are actively seeking outside funding/employment are eligible to apply to teach for one or two years as a lecturer. These positions are made possible by an endowment established by the late Philip H. Freund ’29 and a bequest from the Truman Capote Literary Trust.

Admission & Application Procedures

The application for Fall 2024 admission will open on September 15, 2023 and will close on December 15, 2023 at 11:59pm EST. Please note that staff support is available M-F 9am-4pm.

Eligibility : Applicants must currently have, or expect to have, at least a BA or BS (or the equivalent) in any field before matriculation. International students, please verify degree equivalency here . Applicants are not required to take the GRE test or meet a specified GPA minimum.

To Apply:  All applications and supplemental materials must be submitted on-line through the Graduate School application system . While completing your application, you may save and edit your data. Once you click “submit,” your application will be closed for changes. Please proofread your materials carefully. Once you pay and click submit, you will not be able to make any changes or revisions.

DEADLINE: Dec. 15, 11:59 p.m. EST . This deadline is firm. No applications, additional materials or revisions will be accepted after the deadline.

MFA Program Application Requirements Checklist

  • Academic Statement of Purpose Please use the Academic Statement of Purpose to describe, within 1000 words: (1) your academic interests, (2) your academic background, preparation, and training, including any relevant professional experiences, (3) your reasons for pursuing graduate studies in this specific program, and (4) your professional goals.
  • Personal Statement Your Personal Statement should provide the admissions committee with a sense of you as a whole person, and you should use it to describe how your background and experiences influenced your decision to pursue a graduate degree. Additionally, it should provide insight into your potential to contribute to a community of inclusion, belonging, and respect where scholars representing diverse backgrounds, perspectives, abilities, and experiences can learn and work productively and positively together. Writing your Personal Statement provides you with an opportunity to share experiences that provide insights into how your personal, academic, and/or professional experiences demonstrate your ability to be both persistent and resilient, especially when navigating challenging circumstances. The statement also allows you to provide examples of how you engage with others and have facilitated and/or participated in productive collaborative endeavors. Additionally, it provides you with an opportunity to provide context around any perceived gaps or weaknesses in your academic record. Content in the Personal Statement should complement rather than duplicate the content contained within the Academic Statement of Purpose, which should focus explicitly on your academic interests, previous research experience, and intended area of research during your graduate studies. A complete writing prompt is available in the application portal.
  • Three Letters of Recommendation Please select three people who best know you and your work. Submitting additional letters will not enhance your application. In the recommendation section of the application, you must include the email address of each recommender. After you save the information (and before you pay/submit), the application system will automatically generate a recommendation request email to your recommender with instructions for submitting the letter electronically. If your letters are stored with a credential service such as Interfolio, please use their “online application delivery” feature and input the email address assigned to your stored document, rather than that of your recommender’s. The electronic files will be attached to your application when they are received and will not require the letter of recommendation cover page. Please do not postpone submitting your application while waiting for us to receive all three of your letters. We will accept recommendation letters until December 30,11:59pm EST . For more information please visit the Graduate School's page on preparing letters of recommendations .
  • Transcripts Scan transcripts from each institution you have attended, or are currently attending, and upload into the academic information section of the application. Be sure to remove your social security number from all documents prior to scanning. Please do not send paper copies of your transcripts. If you are subsequently admitted and accept, the graduate school will require an official paper transcript from your degree-awarding institution prior to matriculation.
  • English Language Proficiency Requirement All applicants must provide proof of English language proficiency. For more information, please view the  Graduate School’s English Language Requirement .
  • Fiction applicants:  Your sample must be between 6,000 and 10,000 words, typed, double-spaced, in a conventional 12- or 14-point font. It may be an excerpt from a larger work or a combination of several works.
  • Poetry applicants:  Your sample must be 10 pages in length and include a combination of several poems, where possible.

General Information for All Applicants

Application Fee: Visit the  Graduate School for information regarding application fees , payment options, and fee waivers . Please do not send inquires regarding fee waivers.

Document Identification: Please do not put your social security number on any documents.

Status Inquiries:  Once you submit your application, you will receive a confirmation email. You will also be able to check the completion status of your application in your account. If vital sections of your application are missing, we will notify you via email after the Dec. 15 deadline and allow you ample time to provide the missing materials. Please do not inquire about the status of your application.

Credential/Application Assessments:  The admission review committee members are unable to review application materials or applicant credentials prior to official application submission. Once the committee has reviewed the applications and made admissions decisions, they will not discuss the results or make any recommendations for improving the strength of an applicant’s credentials. Applicants looking for feedback are advised to consult with their undergraduate advisor or someone else who knows them and their work.

Review Process:  Application review begins after the submission deadline. Notification of admissions decisions will be made by email or by telephone by the end of February.

Connecting with Faculty and/or Students: Unfortunately, due to the volume of inquiries we receive, faculty and current students are not available to correspond with potential applicants prior to an offer of admission. Applicants who are offered admission will have the opportunity to meet faculty and students to have their questions answered prior to accepting. Staff and faculty are also not able to pre-assess potential applicant’s work outside of the formal application process. Please email [email protected] instead, if you have questions.

Visiting: The department does not offer pre-admission visits or interviews. Admitted applicants will be invited to visit the department, attend graduate seminars and meet with faculty and students before making the decision to enroll.

Transfer Credits: Transfer credits are not available toward the MFA program.

Admissions FAQ

For Further Information

Contact [email protected]

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Graduate School Application Essays

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Types of Essays

Regardless of the type of school you are applying to, you will be required to submit an admissions essay as part of the application process. Graduate programs want students with clear commitment to the field. Essay prompts typically ask applicants to discuss their previous experience, future professional goals, and how the program can help them in achieving those objectives. The essay gives the applicant the chance to articulate these goals and display strong writing skills. Remember to tailor your essay to each school and the faculty committee that reviews your application. But first, take note of what kind of essay is being requested of you. Here are the two main admission essays:

Personal Statement

A personal statement is a narrative piece describing how your character and experiences have formed you into someone who will contribute positively and effectively to not only the department but the academic discipline as a whole. This is often achieved by detailing social, educational, cultural, and economic obstacles you have overcome in your journey to get to where you are today and your future objectives. A personal statement is also an opportunity to highlight what is unique about you and how you will advance diversity within the institution.

Check out Personal Statement Resources for Graduate School Applications in the Resources section of Handshake for a brainstorming activity and essay samples that can help you get started on your personal statement.

Statement of Purpose

Interchangeably called a “research statement”, a statement of purpose will prompt you to describe your research interests and professional goals, how you plan to accomplish them, and why a specific program is best suited for you to do so. Be specific about your specialized interests within your major field. Be clear about the kind of program you expect to undertake, and explain how your study plan connects with your previous training and future goals.

Use the Outlining Your Statement of Purpose guide in the Resources section of Handshake to get started on your statement outline.

How to Write a Powerful Admission Essay

Whatever required format, your essay should be thoughtful, concise, compelling, and interesting. Remember, admissions officers read hundreds of personal essays. Below are some tips for your admissions essay writing process:

Before Writing

  • Read the question:  Be sure you are aware of all aspects of the prompt. Failing to pay attention to details in the prompt won’t reflect well on you as a potential candidate.
  • What is distinct, special, and/or impressive about me and my life story?
  • Have I overcome any particular hardships or obstacles?
  • When did I become interested in this field and what have I learned about it?
  • What are my career goals?
  • What personal traits, values, and skill sets do I have that would make me stand out from other applicants?
  • Create an outline:  You might have a lot that you want to say, but you will need to whittle down your many thoughts and experiences to a concrete thesis with a select number of examples to support it. Create an outline for your draft, not only to organize your points and examples, but to help tailor your essay for your readers.
  • Know your audience:  Consider how your narrative can best meet the expectations of admissions committee members. Will faculty be reading this? Administrators? Experts in the field? Knowing your audience ahead of time will assist you in addressing the prompt appropriately.

While Writing

  • Grab your reader’s attention:  Start your essay with something that will grab the reader’s attention such as a personal anecdote, questions, or engaging depiction of a scene. Avoid starting things off with common phrases such as “I was born in…” or “I have always wanted to…” Consider the experiences that have shaped you or your career decision, and delve into them with a creative hook.
  • Write well:  Your essay is a sample of your writing abilities, so it’s important to convey your thoughts clearly and effectively. Be succinct—you don’t need to write out your full autobiography or resume in prose. Exclude anything that doesn’t support your thesis. Gentle humor is okay, but don’t overdo it. Also, don’t make things up! Be honest about your experiences.
  • End strong:  End your essay with a conclusion that refers back to the lead and restates your thesis. This helps unify your essay as a whole, connecting your detailed experiences back to the reason you are writing this essay in the first place—to show your qualifications for your graduate program of choice.

Final Touches

  • Use resources: The MIT Communication Labs have a CommKit that collects all of the Comm Lab resources relevant to the grad application process , including recommendation letters & interviews
  • Revise:  Give yourself enough time to step away from your draft. Return with a fresh pair of eyes to make your edits. Be realistic with yourself, not your harshest critic. Make a few rounds of revisions if you need.
  • Ask for help:  Have your essay critiqued by friends, family, educators, and the  MIT Writing and Communication Center or our Career Services staff.
  • Proofread:  Read your essay out loud or even record yourself and listen to the recording, to help you catch mistakes or poor phrasing you may have missed when reading to yourself. Also, don’t rely exclusively on your computer to check your spelling.

Literary Arts

Admission is highly selective, and is based primarily on the quality of the applicant’s literary writing.

Your writing sample, therefore, is the most important part of your application . In putting your sample together, you should emphasize quality rather than length. Your writing sample should be in a single genre.

Writing Sample

Suggested length.

Writing samples may comprise a single work; an excerpt (or multiple excerpts) from a longer work; or multiple short works; or some other combination.

30 – 40 pages (double-spaced is typical; you may use an alternative format if integral to the work.)

15 – 20 pages (any format)

One or two electronic projects.

30 – 50 pages (any format)

Applying for Multiple Tracks

If you want to be considered in more than one track, you must complete two separate applications, including two separate application fees and two separate writing samples. Owing to the design of the online application system, you must use a different electronic mail address for each application (so if you only have one electronic mail account, you'll need to create a second account in order to submit the second application).

Applicants submit a writing sample in plain-text format (preferably as a PDF document) less than 5 megabytes in size as part of the online application. If your work cannot easily be sent in this format (i.e., it has sculptural elements that you do not feel you can document in any but three-dimensional models), send it by regular mail to: Graduate School, Brown University, Box 1867, Providence, RI 02912. You may also include web address links for works that are best read online.

Applicants’ writing samples are reviewed for admission by at least two members of the faculty. Because the Literary Arts Department receives a large number of applications, faculty members cannot provide critiques of individual samples. The Department does not grant interviews to prospective students.

Additional information

Application requirements, campus visits, international applicants.

Utah State University

Search Utah State University:

Application procedures.

Creative Writing Graduate Specialization

How to Apply

Master's students must apply for admission to the School of Graduate Studies. There is a $55 fee required with the application. The application deadline is January 15th.

The following are the steps in the application process (Instructions for steps 1-4 can be found on the   School of Graduate Studies' Apply page ).

  • Fill out the online application.
  • Pay the application fee.
  • Provide a copy of your transcript(s).
  • Provide 3 letters of recommendation from people who can address your readiness for graduate studies.

All supplemental items (steps 5-7 below) will be submitted online through the Graduate School's application system. Once you have created an account, filled out the online application, and paid the application fee, the Graduate School will email you with instructions for uploading the supplementary items (writing samples, statement of purpose, and curriculum vitae).

This statement should briefly describe their previous academic/creative work, identifying central themes, areas of interest, and skills acquired. Applicants should explain how these prior artistic/academic experiences have prepared and/or motivated them to enter a graduate program specializing in creative writing. The statement of purpose may also address any relevant professional experiences and explain how such experiences have prepared and/or motivated them to enter this graduate program. Within this statement, applicants should identify some of the specific topics or genres they would like to focus on for their graduate work. Applicants should also make an effort to show that they are familiar with the specific requirements and features of the Graduate Specialization in Creative Writing at USU.

All applicants will be considered for a Graduate Instructorship (GI-ship). To be most competitive for this opportunity, please include a paragraph that describes your interest in teaching as well as past experiences that might enhance your effectiveness in the classroom. All MA/MS applicants are considered for a Graduate Instructorship, which comes with a tuition waiver, benefits, and a salary of $15,000 for the 2024-2025 academic year, in exchange for teaching 1-2 sections of Introduction to Writing (ENGL 1010) or Intermediate Writing (ENGL 2010) and performing other teaching-related responsibilities.  USU provides excellent teacher training to students awarded Graduate Instructorships.

  • Writing Sample: Your 10-page writing sample should exhibit your best writing in the genre you intend to develop in graduate school.
  • Upload a current CV (curriculum vitae). This CV should include your academic and professional writing experience.

International Students

International students must complete additional requirements found on the the "International Student Requirements" tab on the   School of Graduate Studies' Apply page .

Lynne S McNeill

Lynne S McNeill

Associate Professor; Director of Graduate Studies (she/her/hers)

(435) 797-0264 Logan (RWST 301B) [email protected]

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Writing Samples for Graduate Schools

Most graduate schools will ask for at least 5-10 pages of writing samples. Writing samples show what kinds of documents you can produce and the strength of your writing.

If a graduate school asks for a specific kind of writing (such as analytical) or a specific kind of document (web content, journal articles, instruction set, etc.) make sure to include those kinds of documents within your writing samples. Many schools will ask you to submit writing that demonstrates your analytical or critical thinking skills.

You can also include other writing samples that relate to your field of interest or demonstrate your strongest skills. Include at least three documents so the graduate school can get an idea of the kinds of documents you can produce. Include a variety of documents rather than three of the same kind of document. If you have an online portfolio, it never hurts to include the link.

Writing samples can come from a number of different places and contexts. Documents you’ve created in class are perfectly acceptable to submit. If you have documents from a job or professional setting that you feel adequately show your strengths related to the graduate program, don’t hesitate to use them. You can also use documents you’ve created for clubs or organizations you’re involved in. Writing samples can come from any experience you’ve had, but make sure they relate to the program or show your writing skills and strengths.

Writing Sample Documents

  • Analytical reports
  • Website content
  • Journal articles
  • Published works
  • Instruction sets
  • Posters/flyers
  • Press releases
  • Campaign proposals

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10 Statement Of Purpose Examples: How To Wow The Admission Committees Of Fully-Funded MFA Programs With Your Personal Statement (Guide + Samples +Tips)

Have you been struggling to write your personal statement or sop reading some good statement of purpose examples and mfa personal statement samples can make your application season easier and less stressful. also, it helps to read practical advice by professors who have sat on mfa in creative writing admissions committees, particularly professors who know what makes a good mfa personal statement..

This article will take you through the process of writing an SOP. Attached, herein, are 10 statement of purpose examples (or 10 MFA Personal Statement examples, if you like), contributed by writers who gained admission into fully-funded MFA in Creative Writing programs. We’ve also shared tips from creative writing professors on how to write a personal statement. 

The purpose of this article is to help you write a personal statement that will wow the admission committee members in the English, Literature and Creative Writing programs you’re applying to. 

What is a Statement of Purpose or a Personal Statement?

A statement of purpose, in the context of applying to a graduate writing program, tells an admission committee about who you are, what your work focuses on, why you are applying to their program, and what you will do in the future.

Writing a statement of purpose is akin to attending an audition or an interview or a workshop . You need to stamp your suitability and prospects as best as you can.

Owing to this, a statement of purpose or personal statement should do more than what it is called. It has to show your purpose.

Before you start the process of writing your graduate school essay, take note of the following:

Focus on your Interest.

Know what you are interested in as a creative person, or what your work focuses on. For example, if you are interested in Memoir writing , Travel writing, or Speculative Fiction , or Historical fiction or Ancient Greek poetry , you should be able to write a few words regarding your approach to that area. 

creative writing samples for graduate school

Many writers cannot really point a finger to what they are interested in because of their fecundity. And that’s okay.

In fact, writing tutor, Daniel Galef, with his untrammeled imagination wrote in his SOP:

“It’s difficult to describe what kind of fiction I write, because I’m not sure there is a kind of fiction I write. No two stories I’ve written have been alike. One of them is alike, but none of the others are.”

Research the Programs you are Applying to.

Read widely about the programs you are applying to and note your findings systematically. There is no escaping from this exercise because you need to know about the schools of your interest. In turn, that knowledge needs to reflect on the pages of your SOP.   

This will tell the admission committee that you care about their creative writing program and that your SOP is not generic.

For instance,

  • Who is on the faculty of XYZ arts program?
  • What are their specializations?
  • Have the faculty members published any books or stories or poetry collections?
  • If yes, what works have they published?
  • What fascinates you about their English and creative writing program?
  • What are their acceptance rates of this MFA or PhD in Creative Writing Program?
  • How does their funding work? Does the MFA or PhD program provide full-funding for students who want to study creative writing? 
  • How many years will it take to complete the MFA program? Do they allow students to run an MFA and PhD joint program?
  • What is the workload like?
  • Where are they located?
  • What are your general thoughts of their Creative Writing program?

Knowing these will help you decide whether a grad school program is best for you.

This article has been broken into four parts with headings of no consequence.

(Note: The headings mean nothing. They are just to stimulate understanding. You should not break your SOP into headings. Very few, if any, creative writing programs will be impressed with a segmented statement of purpose or personal statement.)

We’ll Call The First Part ‘The Open Window’

The initial part of your SOP should make a commanding entry with the essence of your being. It should offer little windows into you, and reveal profoundly what you are about as a person, and as a creative, taking into consideration where you are from.

This is that place you afford the admission committee a brief uncensored moment about your ‘who’. It should be so transparent that they can look through it and see your world.

MFA Personal Statement Examples

One of the most transparent “window” statements I think I have heard about oneself is from Shane Patton in the movie ‘Lone Survivor’. At the tail end of his speech, Shane, while trying to join a band of war brothers, says with gusto,

example statement of purpose

Pardon the asterisks. Your SOP does not have to be Shane-Pattonesque. However, it has to have some art-mosphere. It must be written in a style and voice that are unique to you. However, your SOP should employ the ‘story approach’.

Important Questions These Statement Of Purpose Samples Address.

This guide will help you to address the following questions in your personal statement or letter of intent:

  • What kind of a storyteller or poet are you?
  • Where are you coming from?
  • How has your socialization/environment/formative years/job experience informed the way you view the world?
  • What are your motivations?
  • Also, what feeds your imaginations?
  • More importantly, what inspired you to start writing in the first place?
  • What has sustained it? 

Here, Okwudili Nebolisa gives us a perfect window statement in this sample statement of purpose. Here’s how he opens his grad school essay:

It’s one of the most insightful MFA personal statement examples I’ve read in a while.

statement of purpose graduate school sample essays

From the foregoing, Okwudili created a short background of himself and gave an idea why he had first chosen a path outside the art. It’s one detail many Creative Writing admission committees would be interested in.

He went further (though, not included in this article) to tell the committee how he found his way into the arms of poetry .

Here is another statement of purpose example that has a compelling window ‘personal’ statement:

Good statement of purpose example

Simply put, this MFA applicant talks about her approach to writing fiction , speaks of how it has become a tool in her hand against societal norms, mentions her writing influences, and states what draws her to them.

Note: You should be able to say who and what influences you, and clearly express the ways in which they do.

This sample statement of purpose opens with a vivid and memorable story.

examples statement of purpose grad school essay MFA Creative writing

Here’s another opening statement from another MFA personal statement example or letter of intent. It also exemplifies the important point I was trying to make. It says:

Statement of purpose sample for MFA creative writing English and Literature

We’ll call the second part ‘the Briefcase’

Here, you supply the gist of your educational experience. You may add your professional interest and inform the admission committee about relevant activities you have been engaged with recently.

Assuming you work as a content writer/creator , how has it helped your craft? The same thing applies if you work in any other endeavor outside the literary sphere.

For example, an applicant says in this MFA in creative writing personal statement sample:

PhD statement of purpose sample

Note: Non-writing related jobs and experiences are important. Think about the many ways they can give you insight about your craft. They are worth the mention in the sense that they set you apart because of the experience you must have had, and add to what your craft can gain.

Here’s how a teacher explained her experience in her MFA statement of purpose example. It can also work in a teaching statement:

sample teaching statement and SOP MFA

Going further, you may emphasize on your literary achievement and recognition here. Here’s another good example of a statement of purpose. Here’s how this MFAyer stated his/her literary achievement:

samples statement of purpose grad school MFA in Creative Writing

Note: you may say one or two things about your publishing history.

Let’s call the third part “the Knock”

You must exemplify clear-headedness here in talking about why you are seeking this degree now.

In one of the grad school statement of purpose examples we received , one MFA in Creative Writing applicant wrote:  

Letter of intent samples

Another sample statement of purpose for an MFA in Creative Writing Application put it this way:

How to write a statement of purpose examples

Write About Your Dreams, Hope and Intentions

Next is to inform the graduate committee on why you are knocking on their doors.

Are there members of the faculty you want to work with? If yes, state why. Is it something about their academic tradition or vision? Does the school’s location appeal to you? Or is it about their commitment to diversity?

You should end this part of the statement of purpose with an idea of the project you hope to write during your time on the program. This will inform the professors that you already have an idea of what kind of book your thesis will be.

It shows seriousness. Also it shows that you’re more likely to begin once you arrive. We have more statement of purpose examples to illustrate how this can be done in your MFA portfolio.

Note: Your intended project should contain the promise of presenting something fundamentally new and important to the literary world.

For example, in her statement of purpose, this MFA in Creative Writing applicant wrote:

Writing a statement of intent Grad school

Here’s an excerpt from another sample statement of purpose for a graduate school (MFA) application:

How to write a personal statement example

We’ll Call The Last Part The Telescope

Here you have to be futuristic. Talk about the big picture. What do you intend to do with the knowledge and network you would have acquired in the MFA program? 

Do you want to go on to teach creative writing professionally , (If yes, where do you have eyes one? ) Do you want to start a publishing outfit or a literary magazine ?

What other career plans do you have? Do you want to go back to your job? (If yes, how would the degree help in making you better at your job?)

Telescope phase of writing an SOP

Note: Ensure you close your grad school statement of purpose on a hopeful note. Show preparedness to start. Exude confidence. Express anticipation on getting in. 

Hopefully, these statement of purpose examples have given you a clear idea of what a successful personal statement looks like.

But that’s not all. Some MFA Admission Committee members have shared a couple of tips on Twitter. So we’ll share more of them alongside tips sent in by some generous past and current MFA students..

Tips For Writing A Good Statement of Purpose or Letter Of Intent .

If you’re applying to graduate creative writing programs, pay attention to your writing samples first. But also, craft your SOP with the following tips in mind.

There Are No Hard and Fast Rules To Writing An SOP.

There is no hard and fast rule in writing an SOP. Just ensure that yours is well-knit, with flowing ideas and a fantastic rhythm. Keep it organized and clear. Stick to the manuscript formatting guidelines. As with everything else, make your submissions error free.

Here’s what MFA Admission committee member has to say:

how to start a Personal statement examples MFA

Now, on to our next point.

Ensure That Your Writing Samples and SOPs Are Creative, Well-written and Workshopped.

Your writing sample largely pre-determines the success of your SOP. The admission committee may not open your SOP if your samples aren’t any good.

So, ensure your writing samples matter and are on the verge of saying new things. If you’re eligible, you can apply to get feedback from volunteer MFAyers at the MFA App Review .

And if you’re lucky, the MFA App Review might match you with a reviewer who will send you more unique statement of purpose examples.

More from Elizabeth McCracken who, if you don’t already know, has been a longstanding member of the admission committee at the University of Texas’ MFA in Creative Writing program.

creative writing samples for graduate school

Be Original.

Resist the temptation to copy other writers’ personal statements or statement of purpose examples and samples you might find online.

Trust your story, your style and voice. The adcoms can tell when everyone sounds the same. And they don’t like it. Here’s a quote from Elizabeth McCracken’s Twitter page:

creative writing samples for graduate school

Consider Starting With a Story 

“While your personal statement can’t be wildly creative, it is important to show your storytelling skills if you want to get into a creative writing program,” advises Elyse Hauser .

“One way to do this is to open with a story, giving you a chance to “show, not tell” your writing abilities. This also helps your personal statement stand out from the rest. [Also] admissions staff are likely to keep reading a statement of purpose that has a unique and exciting beginning.” 

Don’t Be Afraid To Assert Yourself. In Your Statement Of Purpose.

MFA programs are avant-garde compared with other university grad school and undergrad programs so feel free to assert yourself even if you feel you are without the “right” credential and publishing history.

Another tip from Matt Bell Of making your statement of purpose stellar.

creative writing samples for graduate school

What you think serve as your ‘shortcomings’ can work for you if you stir them properly. It matters so much that you have the right motive and that you show promise. Do not play small. Play confident. 

More from Matt Bell.

Statement of purpose sample for MFA in Creative Writing

Employ A Memorable Tone.

“The standard Personal Essay Voice, like the droning and soporific Poetry Reading Voice, is forgettable and undermines its own content,” says Daniel Galef. “Trying for a different tone is a gamble—nothing is so unfunny as someone trying to be funny and failing—but if you can pull it off it makes you stand out.”

Comply With The Creative Writing Program’s Submission Guidelines.

Check for specific information required by the English and creative writing program you are applying to and ensure you stay within the shores of their requirement.

Get Feedback From Current and Past Students.

It is important to get feedback from people who may be on writing programs or who have extensive knowledge of graduate school application processes.

A couple of MFA groups on Facebook offer beneficial company. For example, join the MFA Draft ’21 if you intend to apply this Fall. This Facebook group offers support and advice to anyone applying to get into a writing program next year.

Wrap Up On Statement of Purpose Examples, Samples and Tips:

At this point, you’re no longer asking questions like: what is a statement of purpose? How can I write a good MFA or PhD statement of purpose that will earn me a spot in that fully-funded Creative Writing program.

The aforementioned grad school statement of purpose examples will guide you in your journey. As one of the professors advised, take a deep breath. 

The next step is to start writing that personal statement or letter of intent, because quite frankly, it won’t write itself. You can always edit your SOP. 

Please edit it. Remember, the admission committee members are also accomplished writers and writing teachers. They’re primed for spotting and frowning at grammatical errors.

While writing and editing your personal statement, take note of the admission committee’s advice above. What are they often looking for in a good statement of purpose for graduate school? If in doubt, you can always return to the great statement of purpose examples we’ve published above.

Wondering if you need an MFA in Creative Writing to be a writer? Then you should definitely read our take on the topic . Also, we have more on writing scholarships here .

Have you written a successful statement of purpose for a creatIve writing program? Please leave a comment below. We are open to adding more tips and samples that readers might find helpful.

Authors’ Bios: 

Tega Oghenechovwen has published work in  Longreads, The Rumpus,  Black Sun Lit, Litro UK, and other venues. He tweets @tega­_chovwen.

Chioma Iwunze-Ibiam is a lecturer in Cornell University’s MFA in Creative Writing Program. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Mukana Press Anthology of African Writing, MTLS, Fiction 365, Asterix Journal and elsewhere. She tweets at @chiomaiwunze_

Interested in  writing for Creative Writing News ? See our  Write for Us page . We look forward to hearing from you.

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Situated in historic Lexington and surrounded by the awesomeness of thoroughbred horse farms and bourbon distilleries, the University enjoys a rich literary heritage dating back to 1947, when Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist A.B. Guthrie first offered courses in fiction. Graduates of the English Department include Gurney Norman, Frank X Walker, Bobbie Ann Mason, Rebecca Gayle Howell, Wendell Berry, Kayla Rae Whitaker, Maurice Manning, Bianca Spriggs, Patrick O’Keefe, Holly Goddard Jones, and James Baker Hall. The MFA Program in Creative Writing builds upon that rich history by offering students access to a diverse faculty in fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction.          

Master's Program Description

The MFA in Creative Writing is a two-year program with a flexible and interdisciplinary approach, combining a studio/research curriculum. The UK MFA in Creative Writing places equal emphasis on fostering the artistic process of the MFA student, as well as his or her literary study and related creative or scholarly work. 

Master's Application Requirements

  • The statement of purpose should discuss your creative interest, the specific genre(s) you would like to pursue, and how your interests and goals fit with the department. It should be 1-2 pages, single spaced.
  • ​The writing sample should be creative work, not analytical prose, 15-20 pages, double-spaced.
  • Three letters of recommendation

Assistantship application   (optional - you may upload a blank document, if you do not intend to apply for assistance)

The GRE is not required for admission to this program.

Applicants must meet the Graduate School admission requirements .

Application Deadlines

  • Fall: January 15

What to Know About Creative Writing Degrees

Many creative writing degree recipients pursue careers as authors while others work as copywriters or ghostwriters.

Tips on Creative Writing Degrees

A student sitting beside the bed in bedroom with her coffee cup and writing on the note pad.

Getty Images

Prospective writing students should think about their goals and figure out if a creative writing degree will help them achieve those goals.

Many people see something magical in a beautiful work of art, and artists of all kinds often take pride in their craftsmanship. Creative writers say they find fulfillment in the writing process.

"I believe that making art is a human need, and so to get to do that is amazing," says Andrea Lawlor, an author who this year received a Whiting Award – a national $50,000 prize that recognizes 10 excellent emerging authors each year – and who is also the Clara Willis Phillips Assistant Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts.

"We all are seeing more and more of the way that writing can help us understand perspectives we don't share," says Lawlor, whose recent novel "Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl" addresses the issue of gender identity.

"Writing can help us cope with hard situations," Lawlor says. "We can find people who we have something in common with even if there's nobody around us who shares our experience through writing. It's a really powerful tool for connection and social change and understanding."

Creative writing faculty, many of whom are acclaimed published authors, say that people are well-suited toward degrees in creative writing if they are highly verbal and enjoy expressing themselves.

"Creative imaginative types who have stories burning inside them and who gravitate toward stories and language might want to pursue a degree in creative writing," Jessica Bane Robert, who teaches Introduction to Creative Writing at Clark University in Massachusetts, wrote in an email. "Through formal study you will hone your voice, gain confidence, find a support system for what can otherwise be a lonely endeavor."

Read the guide below to gain more insight into what it means to pursue a creative writing education, how writing impacts society and whether it is prudent to invest in a creative writing degree. Learn about the difference between degree-based and non-degree creative writing programs, how to craft a solid application to a top-notch creative writing program and how to figure out which program is the best fit.

Why Creative Writing Matters and Reasons to Study It

Creative writers say a common misconception about their job is that their work is frivolous and impractical, but they emphasize that creative writing is an extremely effective way to convey messages that are hard to share in any other way.

Kelly Caldwell, dean of faculty at Gotham Writers Workshop in New York City, says prospective writing students are often discouraged from taking writing courses because of concerns about whether a writing life is somehow unattainable or "unrealistic."

Although creative writers are sometimes unable to financially support themselves entirely on the basis of their creative projects, Caldwell says, they often juggle that work with other types of jobs and lead successful careers.

She says that many students in her introductory creative writing class were previously forbidden by parents to study creative writing. "You have to give yourself permission for the simple reason that you want to do it," she suggests.

Creative writing faculty acknowledge that a formal academic credential in creative writing is not needed in order to get writing published. However, they suggest, creative writing programs help aspiring authors develop their writing skills and allow space and time to complete long-term writing projects.

Working writers often juggle multiple projects at once and sometimes have more than one gig, which can make it difficult to finish an especially ambitious undertaking such as a novel, a play for the screen or stage, or a well-assembled collection of poems, short stories or essays. Grants and fellowships for authors are often designed to ensure that those authors can afford to concentrate on their writing.

Samuel Ace, a published poet and a visiting lecturer in poetry at Mount Holyoke, says his goal is to show students how to write in an authentic way that conveys real feeling. "It helps students to become more direct, not to bury their thoughts under a cascade of academic language, to be more forthright," he says.

Tips on Choosing Between a Non-Degree or Degree-Based Creative Writing Program

Experts note that someone needs to be ready to get immersed in the writing process and devote significant time to writing projects before pursuing a creative writing degree. Prospective writing students should not sign up for a degree program until they have reached that sense of preparedness, warns Kim Todd, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts and director of its creative writing program.

She says prospective writing students need to think about their personal goals and figure out if a creative writing degree will help them achieve those goals.

Aspiring writers who are not ready to invest in a creative writing degree program may want to sign up for a one-off writing class or begin participating in an informal writing workshop so they can test their level of interest in the field, Todd suggests.

How to Choose and Apply to a Creative Writing Program

In many cases, the most important component of an application to a writing program is the writing portfolio, writing program experts say. Prospective writing students need to think about which pieces of writing they include in their portfolio and need to be especially mindful about which item they put at the beginning of their portfolio. They should have a trusted mentor critique the portfolio before they submit it, experts suggest.

Because creative writing often involves self-expression, it is important for aspiring writing students to find a program where they feel comfortable expressing their true identity.

This is particularly pertinent to aspiring authors who are members of minority groups, including people of color or LGBTQ individuals, says Lawlor, who identifies as queer, transgender and nonbinary.

How to Use a Creative Writing Degree

Creative writing program professors and alumni say creative writing programs cultivate a variety of in-demand skills, including the ability to communicate effectively.

"While yes, many creative writers are idealists and dreamers, these are also typically highly flexible and competent people with a range of personal strengths. And a good creative writing program helps them understand their particular strengths and marketability and translate these for potential employers, alongside the more traditional craft development work," Melissa Ridley Elmes, an assistant professor of English at Lindenwood University in Missouri, wrote in an email.

Elmes – an author who writes poetry, fiction and nonfiction – says creative writing programs force students to develop personal discipline because they have to consistently produce a significant amount of writing. In addition, participating in writing workshops requires writing students "to give and receive constructive feedback," Elmes says.

Cindy Childress, who has a Ph.D. in English from the University of Louisiana—Lafayatte and did a creative writing dissertation where she submitted poetry, says creative writing grads are well-equipped for good-paying positions as advertising and marketing copywriters, speechwriters, grant writers and ghostwriters.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual compensation for writers and authors was $63,200 as of May 2019.

"I think the Internet, and writing communities online and in social media, have been very helpful for debunking the idea that if you publish a New York Times Bestseller you will have 'made it' and can quit your day job and write full time," Elmes explains. "Unless you are independently wealthy, the odds are very much against you in this regard."

Childress emphasizes that creative writing degree recipients have "skills that are absolutely transferable to the real world." For example, the same storytelling techniques that copywriters use to shape public perceptions about a commercial brand are often taught in introductory creative writing courses, she says. The ability to tell a good story does not necessarily come easily to people who haven't been trained on how to do it, she explains.

Childress says she was able to translate her creative writing education into a lucrative career and start her own ghostwriting and book editing company, where she earns a six-figure salary. She says her background in poetry taught her how to be pithy.

"Anything that we want to write nowadays, particularly for social media, is going to have to be immediately understood, so there is a sense of immediacy," she says."The language has to be crisp and direct and exact, and really those are exactly the same kind of ways you would describe a successful poem."

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Florida State University

FSU | The English Department

The English Department

  • Graduate studies

For Prospective Students

About this Program  |  Application Information  |  Teaching Assistantships and Fellowships  |  Degree Requirements  |  Contacts

The online application portal for the 2024-2025 academic year opened Aug. 1, 2023 and the deadline for applications is Jan. 15, 2024. All MA/MFA applications should be for SUMMER 2024; all PhD applications should be for Fall 202 4 ; We will assume that all students want teaching assistantships unless they indicate otherwise . We do not require the GRE for any of our programs.

Click here to begin your application

About this Program

The FSU Graduate Program in English is organized into three programs: Literature, Media, and Culture , Rhetoric and Composition , and Creative Writing . 

Our Department

Faculty and Students: Our diverse, accomplished faculty are actively involved in mentoring students both during the program itself as well as the job placement process. There are currently 50 MA/MFA students and 125 PhD students enrolled in the program. Graduate classes, though, tend to be small, averaging fewer than 10 students.

Publications and Activities:  Faculty members edit such scholarly journals as Papers of the Bibliographic Society of America , Arthurian Literature , the Journal of Writing Assessment , and TheJUMP: The Journal for Undergraduate Media Projects . 

The department publishes the literary magazine, The Southeast Review , which is run by our graduate students. Creative Writing sponsors readings every week, featuring visiting writers, agents, and editors from all as well as our own faculty and graduate students. Rhetoric and Composition runs a Visiting Speakers series every semester and maintains the FSU Card Archive and the Museum of Everyday Writing . Literature, Media, and Culture’s Colloquium Series gives graduate students the opportunity to interact with visiting scholars at the cutting edge of literary and cultural studies.


... is probably not what you envision when you think about Florida. Picture live oaks, Spanish moss, rolling hills laced with lakes and streams. Not on the gulf, but we’re an easy couple hours or so from the prettiest beaches in the continental U.S.

As Florida’s capital, Tallahassee is an expanding metropolitan center with a population of about 200,000, yet it still holds many of the charms of a smaller university town. With its many cinemas, small theatres, museums, and musical events, it offers a particularly rich environment for those who care about literature and the arts.

Literary life? Our own Tuesday-night fiction and poetry series is held in a groovy bar/restaurant, just off campus, across from the Railroad Square Arts District. It’s augmented by other noteworthy literary events, including those at...

  • Word of South , a weekend-long, city-sponsored festival in beautiful Cascades Park that showcases nationally known writers and musicians
  • Midtown Reader , a cozy but first-rate independent bookstore in the thriving Midtown corridor

Like to run? Bike? Walk? Play tennis? Golf? Pickleball? Tallahassee's award-winning city parks system features an amazing trails system and other excellent facilities. The area around Tallahassee is also rich in natural beauty, with many state and national parks within an easy drive, including  Apalachicola National Forest ,  St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge ,  Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park , and  Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park .

A few of Tallahassee’s neighborhoods:  Downtown Tallahassee ,  Midtown Tallahassee ,  Railroad Square Art Districts .

The indie restaurant scene in Tallahassee is thriving. For a glimpse, visit Tallahassee Table and  Tallahassee Magazine . When you visit, or once you’re accepted, hit up Mark Winegardner (Associate Chair for Graduate Studies) for his indie restaurant guide.

Application Information

Back to the top

Application window: August 1, 2023 through January 15, 2024 ( for MA/MFA, apply for SUMMER 2024; for PhD, apply for FALL 2024 ).

Required Documents:

  • Statement of Purpose
  • Résumé/Curriculum Vitae
  • Writing Sample (see specifics below)
  • Three recommendation letters
  • Unofficial Transcripts (from every university attended)

Office of Graduate Admissions 222 South Copeland St Westcott Building Room 314 Tallahassee, FL 32306-1410

or electronically to [email protected]

Because the English Department is committed to inclusivity and diversity and recognizes and champions differences in learning styles and educational backgrounds, we do not require the GRE for applicants to any of our programs. Click here to begin your application. 

PLEASE NOTE: the system requires you to click "Submit Application" and pay the application fee BEFORE you can upload any supporting documents . It'll seem like you're submitting an incomplete application, but rest assured: after you submit the basic application, you will be able to upload your required documents.

Application FAQs

When will admissions decisions be made?

Admissions are NOT rolling. We make our decisions early each spring semester.

Is the GRE required?

Can the application fee be waived?

Unfortunately, the Office of Admissions cannot waive application fees for graduate applicants. We do our best to keep this fee as low as we can.

Is there a separate application for a teaching assistantship?

No, there is not a separate application for a teaching assistantship.

Does the program have a foreign language requirement?

Students must demonstrate proficiency in one foreign language. This requirement can be fulfilled in a variety of ways, including 12 hours at the undergraduate level. Should this cause any concern, we’d be happy to discuss more fully . Also, this requirement does NOT have to be completed prior to applying and does NOT apply to MFA students.

Are there additional requirements for international applications?

International applicants must also take the Test of English as Foreign Language (TOEFL) and should score at least 26+ on the TOEFL iBT Speaking section. Applicants with a score lower than 26+, or who don’t have TOEFL scores, will be required to take the SPEAK test during their first term of enrollment. Please visit http://admissions.fsu.edu/international/ for further questions; the International Student Coordinator for Incoming Students is Steven Niette ( [email protected] )

Required Documents

1. Statement of Purpose

  • a short essay describing the applicant’s academic and professional experience and goals (500-750 words will likely suffice; maximum is 1,000)
  • Students applying for the MFA or PhD in Creative Writing should specify intended genre (poetry, fiction, non-fiction) within their statement of purpose

2. Résumé/Curriculum Vita

3. Writing Sample

  • Applicants to the Literature, Media, and Culture program or Rhetoric and Composition program should submit a critical essay.
  • Applicants to the Creative Writing program/Poetry should submit up to 10 poems.
  • Applicants to the Creative Writing program/Fiction should submit a short story or two and/or a novel excerpt. No strict page limit—but generally, 20-40 pages will suffice; don’t sweat it if you’re a little under or over.
  • Applicants to the Creative Writing program/Nonfiction should submit one or two pieces and/or an excerpt from a book. No strict page limit—but generally, 20-40 pages will suffice; don’t sweat it if you’re a little under or over.
  • Applicants to the Creative Writing program are NOT required to submit a critical writing sample.

4. Unofficial Transcripts

Unofficial transcripts are sufficient for the application process and can be uploaded directly into the application portal. If admitted, official transcripts should be mailed directly to the Office of Admissions.

5. At least three letters of recommendation through the electronic application

  • The online recommendation system connected to our application is the preferred method for recommenders to use.
  • If they will not be using this system, applicants should enter their information and select “offline recommender.”
  • Our application software is not designed to accept submissions from Interfolio.

Teaching Assistantship & Fellowships

The majority of students in the Graduate English Program receive support in the form of a teaching assistantship. Teaching assistants are provided with a stipend, a tuition waiver, and a health-insurance subsidy. TAs are often invited to teach during the summer term for an additional stipend. Typically, MA students receive a two-year assistantship, MFA students receive a three-year assistantship. PhD students receive a four-year assistantship but are eligible to apply for a fifth year contingent on satisfactory progress through the degree program and availability of funds.

The English Department gives out several awards and scholarships, the most significant of which is the Kingsbury Writing Award . The FSU Graduate School also offers fellowships and awards including Legacy Fellowships, McKnight Doctoral Fellowships, and University Dissertation Fellowships. For more information, see below.

Assistantship FAQs 

Do I need to submit a separate application to be considered for an assistantship? 

No, a separate application for assistantships is not required.

What are the stipend amounts?

Currently, graduate stipends are $19,163 (plus a full tuition waiver, plus a healthcare subsidy). Students can augment this by teaching a 6-week, summer class, bringing their annual pay to $23,953.

Which teaching opportunities are available with an assistantship?

TAs may teach as part of the College Composition Program or courses in the undergraduate English major.

Are there opportunities for non-teaching assistantships?

Opportunities for non-teaching assistantships include:

  • An appointment to be assistant to the College Composition Director, Director of Graduate Studies, or Director of Undergraduate Studies
  • An appointment in the Reading Writing Center or Digital Studio
  • Computer Writing Classroom Coordinator
  • First Year Composition Mentor
  • An appointment as research assistant or a teaching assistant to a professor in the student’s discipline
  • An appointment to be the advisor to our undergrad literary journal

Fellowships & Scholarships

The FSU Graduate School offers several fellowships and awards :

  • Legacy Fellowships provide support for up to five years for newly admitted PhD students, 3 for newly admitted MFAs. The Fellowship is a $10,000 supplement to a 0.5 FTE assistantship (required) per academic year and provides an annual health-insurance subsidy. There is no application process for this highly selective fellowship; admitted students are automatically considered.
  • Wilson-Auzenne Assistantships for Minorities are available to new or currently enrolled minority graduate students. Nomination is through the department but competition is university-wise. Awards are a minimum of $5,000 per year plus tuition waivers and health-insurance subsidy.
  • PhD students at the dissertation stage are eligible to apply for a limited number of University Dissertation Fellowships, currently funded at $10,000 plus tuition waivers for three terms.
  • Many Black students in the program also hold McKnight Doctoral Fellowships, which provide up to five years of support to PhD students, with a stipend of $12,000 plus tuition waivers and health-insurance subsidy. These fellowships are administered by a state-wide foundation.
  • McNair Scholars Fellowships, a federally funded program that prepares first-generation for members underrepresented populations for doctoral studies. Fellowships are $16,000-$20,000 per calendar year (plus tuition waiver and health-insurance subsidy) for up to 5 years for PhD students and 3 for MFAs. Applicants MUST have been McNair Scholars at their previous institution.
  • Henderson Family Fellowships support Florida public school teachers pursuing an MA or MFA, covering the cost of tuition and fees in both the spring and fall semesters.
  • Eligible minority students may qualify for the FAMU Feeder Fellowship . This program, for students who graduated from Florida A&M University and completed the FAMU Feeder program. Awards of $7,250/semester plus health-insurance subsidy will be given for a maximum of four years for doctoral degree-seeking students, and two years for MA/MFA students.

Post-Graduate Teaching Appointments

Upon receiving the PhD in English, as part of their professional development and in tandem with the job search, graduates are often offered Visiting Assistant Professorships. These are salaried appointments with benefits.

Office of Graduate Fellowships and Awards

The Graduate School is the proprietary body for each graduate department, including English. Please check the link to their website for additional admission information as well as scholarship and fellowship information for incoming graduate students, particularly the Legacy, McKnight, and Wilson-Auzenne Fellowships: http://gradschool.fsu.edu/

Degree Requirements

If you want to get in the weeds of our program requirements, here’s our Graduate Handbook . What follows is an overview.

MA in Literature, Media, and Culture or Rhetoric and Composition        

  • 33 credit hours in approved courses as described
  • Satisfactorily complete a final requirement (either Capstone Essay or Thesis)
  • Gateway Theory Course
  • One course pre-1660
  • One additional course pre-1800
  • One additional course 1660-1900
  • Medieval and Early Modern British Literary and Cultural Studies (through 1600)
  • British and Irish Literary and Cultural Studies: 1660-1990
  • Post-1900 Literary and Cultural Studies (American, British, Irish)
  • American Literary and Cultural Studies to 1900
  • African-American Literary and Cultural Studies
  • History of Text Technologies
  • Feminism, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
  • Colonial, Postcolonial, and Transnational Literary and Cultural Studies
  • At least one literature course that focuses on race, class, gender, ability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.
  • Capstone Course in Professional Research and Writing.
  • 3 core courses: Rhetorical Theory and Practice, Theories of Composition, Research Methods in Rhetoric and Composition.
  • Teaching English in College
  • Issues in Literary and Cultural Studies
  • 12 additional hours of coursework in English
  • 6 hours of thesis credit or 3 hours of ePortfolio
  • Complete and defend a thesis or ePortfolio

MFA in Creative Writing

  • 45 credit hours as described below
  • Complete and defend a thesis in your genre
  • 12-15 hours of workshops
  • 9-12 thesis hours
  • 21-24 hours in literature and related courses

PhD in Literature, Media, and Culture; Rhetoric and Composition; or Creative Writing

  • Completion of 27 credit hours of course work and 24 dissertation hours.
  • History of Literary Genre
  • Rhetoric and Composition

... or another area approved by the Associate Chair of Graduate Studies. Students may apply 9 hours from the MA/MFA level toward these requirements.

  • Passing of a preliminary exam based on reading lists drawn from a major and minor Area of Concentration.
  • Students’ dissertations may be an extended essay, three or more essays related by subject, or an extended original work in fiction, poetry, or nonfiction.
  • For questions about the graduate program in general, broad questions about admissions, or questions about the admissions process:  [email protected]
  • For questions about the Creative Writing Program:  [email protected]
  • For questions about the Literature, Media, and Culture Program:  [email protected]
  • For questions about the Rhetoric and Composition Program:  [email protected]

English Department

405 Williams Building Tallahassee,

Florida 32306-1580

Phone: (850) 644-4230

Program Contacts

[email protected]

[email protected]

Follow the English Department


Free Resources

PrepScholar GRE Prep

Gre prep online guides and tips, 3 successful graduate school personal statement examples.

creative writing samples for graduate school

Looking for grad school personal statement examples? Look no further! In this total guide to graduate school personal statement examples, we’ll discuss why you need a personal statement for grad school and what makes a good one. Then we’ll provide three graduate school personal statement samples from our grad school experts. After that, we’ll do a deep dive on one of our personal statement for graduate school examples. Finally, we’ll wrap up with a list of other grad school personal statements you can find online.

Why Do You Need a Personal Statement?

A personal statement is a chance for admissions committees to get to know you: your goals and passions, what you’ll bring to the program, and what you’re hoping to get out of the program.  You need to sell the admissions committee on what makes you a worthwhile applicant. The personal statement is a good chance to highlight significant things about you that don’t appear elsewhere on your application.

A personal statement is slightly different from a statement of purpose (also known as a letter of intent). A statement of purpose/letter of intent tends to be more tightly focused on your academic or professional credentials and your future research and/or professional interests.

While a personal statement also addresses your academic experiences and goals, you have more leeway to be a little more, well, personal. In a personal statement, it’s often appropriate to include information on significant life experiences or challenges that aren’t necessarily directly relevant to your field of interest.

Some programs ask for both a personal statement and a statement of purpose/letter of intent. In this case, the personal statement is likely to be much more tightly focused on your life experience and personality assets while the statement of purpose will focus in much more on your academic/research experiences and goals.

However, there’s not always a hard-and-fast demarcation between a personal statement and a statement of purpose. The two statement types should address a lot of the same themes, especially as relates to your future goals and the valuable assets you bring to the program. Some programs will ask for a personal statement but the prompt will be focused primarily on your research and professional experiences and interests. Some will ask for a statement of purpose but the prompt will be more focused on your general life experiences.

When in doubt, give the program what they are asking for in the prompt and don’t get too hung up on whether they call it a personal statement or statement of purpose. You can always call the admissions office to get more clarification on what they want you to address in your admissions essay.

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What Makes a Good Grad School Personal Statement?

A great graduate school personal statement can come in many forms and styles. However, strong grad school personal statement examples all share the same following elements:

A Clear Narrative

Above all, a good personal statement communicates clear messages about what makes you a strong applicant who is likely to have success in graduate school. So to that extent, think about a couple of key points that you want to communicate about yourself and then drill down on how you can best communicate those points. (Your key points should of course be related to what you can bring to the field and to the program specifically).

You can also decide whether to address things like setbacks or gaps in your application as part of your narrative. Have a low GPA for a couple semesters due to a health issue? Been out of a job for a while taking care of a family member? If you do decide to explain an issue like this, make sure that the overall arc is more about demonstrating positive qualities like resilience and diligence than about providing excuses.

Specific Examples

A great statement of purpose uses specific examples to illustrate its key messages. This can include anecdotes that demonstrate particular traits or even references to scholars and works that have influenced your academic trajectory to show that you are familiar and insightful about the relevant literature in your field.

Just saying “I love plants,” is pretty vague. Describing how you worked in a plant lab during undergrad and then went home and carefully cultivated your own greenhouse where you cross-bred new flower colors by hand is much more specific and vivid, which makes for better evidence.

A strong personal statement will describe why you are a good fit for the program, and why the program is a good fit for you. It’s important to identify specific things about the program that appeal to you, and how you’ll take advantage of those opportunities. It’s also a good idea to talk about specific professors you might be interested in working with. This shows that you are informed about and genuinely invested in the program.

Strong Writing

Even quantitative and science disciplines typically require some writing, so it’s important that your personal statement shows strong writing skills. Make sure that you are communicating clearly and that you don’t have any grammar and spelling errors. It’s helpful to get other people to read your statement and provide feedback. Plan on going through multiple drafts.

Another important thing here is to avoid cliches and gimmicks. Don’t deploy overused phrases and openings like “ever since I was a child.” Don’t structure your statement in a gimmicky way (i.e., writing a faux legal brief about yourself for a law school statement of purpose). The first will make your writing banal; the second is likely to make you stand out in a bad way.

Appropriate Boundaries

While you can be more personal in a personal statement than in a statement of purpose, it’s important to maintain appropriate boundaries in your writing. Don’t overshare anything too personal about relationships, bodily functions, or illegal activities. Similarly, don’t share anything that makes it seem like you may be out of control, unstable, or an otherwise risky investment. The personal statement is not a confessional booth. If you share inappropriately, you may seem like you have bad judgment, which is a huge red flag to admissions committees.

You should also be careful with how you deploy humor and jokes. Your statement doesn’t have to be totally joyless and serious, but bear in mind that the person reading the statement may not have the same sense of humor as you do. When in doubt, err towards the side of being as inoffensive as possible.

Just as being too intimate in your statement can hurt you, it’s also important not to be overly formal or staid. You should be professional, but conversational.


Graduate School Personal Statement Examples

Our graduate school experts have been kind enough to provide some successful grad school personal statement examples. We’ll provide three examples here, along with brief analysis of what makes each one successful.

Sample Personal Statement for Graduate School 1

PDF of Sample Personal Statement 1 – Japanese Studies

For this Japanese Studies master’s degree, the applicant had to provide a statement of purpose outlining her academic goals and experience with Japanese and a separate personal statement describing her personal relationship with Japanese Studies and what led her to pursue a master’s degree.

Here’s what’s successful about this personal statement:

  • An attention-grabbing beginning: The applicant begins with the statement that Japanese has never come easily to her and that it’s a brutal language to learn. Seeing as how this is an application for a Japanese Studies program, this is an intriguing beginning that makes the reader want to keep going.
  • A compelling narrative: From this attention-grabbing beginning, the applicant builds a well-structured and dramatic narrative tracking her engagement with the Japanese language over time. The clear turning point is her experience studying abroad, leading to a resolution in which she has clarity about her plans. Seeing as how the applicant wants to be a translator of Japanese literature, the tight narrative structure here is a great way to show her writing skills.
  • Specific examples that show important traits: The applicant clearly communicates both a deep passion for Japanese through examples of her continued engagement with Japanese and her determination and work ethic by highlighting the challenges she’s faced (and overcome) in her study of the language. This gives the impression that she is an engaged and dedicated student.

Overall, this is a very strong statement both in terms of style and content. It flows well, is memorable, and communicates that the applicant would make the most of the graduate school experience.


Sample Personal Statement for Graduate School 2

PDF of Sample Graduate School Personal Statement 2 – Musical Composition

This personal statement for a Music Composition master’s degree discusses the factors that motivate the applicant to pursue graduate study.

Here’s what works well in this statement:

  • The applicant provides two clear reasons motivating the student to pursue graduate study: her experiences with music growing up, and her family’s musical history. She then supports those two reasons with examples and analysis.
  • The description of her ancestors’ engagement with music is very compelling and memorable. The applicant paints her own involvement with music as almost inevitable based on her family’s long history with musical pursuits.
  • The applicant gives thoughtful analysis of the advantages she has been afforded that have allowed her to study music so extensively. We get the sense that she is insightful and empathetic—qualities that would add greatly to any academic community.

This is a strong, serviceable personal statement. And in truth, given that this for a masters in music composition, other elements of the application (like work samples) are probably the most important.  However, here are two small changes I would make to improve it:

  • I would probably to split the massive second paragraph into 2-3 separate paragraphs. I might use one paragraph to orient the reader to the family’s musical history, one paragraph to discuss Giacomo and Antonio, and one paragraph to discuss how the family has influenced the applicant. As it stands, it’s a little unwieldy and the second paragraph doesn’t have a super-clear focus even though it’s all loosely related to the applicant’s family history with music.
  • I would also slightly shorten the anecdote about the applicant’s ancestors and expand more on how this family history has motivated the applicant’s interest in music. In what specific ways has her ancestors’ perseverance inspired her? Did she think about them during hard practice sessions? Is she interested in composing music in a style they might have played? More specific examples here would lend greater depth and clarity to the statement.


Sample Personal Statement for Graduate School 3

PDF of Sample Graduate School Personal Statement 3 – Public Health

This is my successful personal statement for Columbia’s Master’s program in Public Health. We’ll do a deep dive on this statement paragraph-by-paragraph in the next section, but I’ll highlight a couple of things that work in this statement here:

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  • This statement is clearly organized. Almost every paragraph has a distinct focus and message, and when I move on to a new idea, I move on to a new paragraph with a logical transitions.
  • This statement covers a lot of ground in a pretty short space. I discuss my family history, my goals, my educational background, and my professional background. But because the paragraphs are organized and I use specific examples, it doesn’t feel too vague or scattered.
  • In addition to including information about my personal motivations, like my family, I also include some analysis about tailoring health interventions with my example of the Zande. This is a good way to show off what kinds of insights I might bring to the program based on my academic background.


Grad School Personal Statement Example: Deep Dive

Now let’s do a deep dive, paragraph-by-paragraph, on one of these sample graduate school personal statements. We’ll use my personal statement that I used when I applied to Columbia’s public health program.

Paragraph One: For twenty-three years, my grandmother (a Veterinarian and an Epidemiologist) ran the Communicable Disease Department of a mid-sized urban public health department. The stories of Grandma Betty doggedly tracking down the named sexual partners of the infected are part of our family lore. Grandma Betty would persuade people to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases, encourage safer sexual practices, document the spread of infection and strive to contain and prevent it. Indeed, due to the large gay population in the city where she worked, Grandma Betty was at the forefront of the AIDS crises, and her analysis contributed greatly towards understanding how the disease was contracted and spread. My grandmother has always been a huge inspiration to me, and the reason why a career in public health was always on my radar.

This is an attention-grabbing opening anecdote that avoids most of the usual cliches about childhood dreams and proclivities. This story also subtly shows that I have a sense of public health history, given the significance of the AIDs crisis for public health as a field.

It’s good that I connect this family history to my own interests. However, if I were to revise this paragraph again, I might cut down on some of the detail because when it comes down to it, this story isn’t really about me. It’s important that even (sparingly used) anecdotes about other people ultimately reveal something about you in a personal statement.

Paragraph Two: Recent years have cemented that interest. In January 2012, my parents adopted my little brother Fred from China. Doctors in America subsequently diagnosed Fred with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). My parents were told that if Fred’s condition had been discovered in China, the (very poor) orphanage in which he spent the first 8+ years of his life would have recognized his DMD as a death sentence and denied him sustenance to hasten his demise.

Here’s another compelling anecdote to help explain my interest in public health. This is an appropriately personal detail for a personal statement—it’s a serious thing about my immediate family, but it doesn’t disclose anything that the admissions committee might find concerning or inappropriate.

If I were to take another pass through this paragraph, the main thing I would change is the last phrase. “Denied him sustenance to hasten his demise” is a little flowery. “Denied him food to hasten his death” is actually more powerful because it’s clearer and more direct.

Paragraph Three: It is not right that some people have access to the best doctors and treatment while others have no medical care. I want to pursue an MPH in Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia because studying social factors in health, with a particular focus on socio-health inequities, will prepare me to address these inequities. The interdisciplinary approach of the program appeals to me greatly as I believe interdisciplinary approaches are the most effective way to develop meaningful solutions to complex problems.

In this paragraph I make a neat and clear transition from discussing what sparked my interest in public health and health equity to what I am interested in about Columbia specifically: the interdisciplinary focus of the program, and how that focus will prepare me to solve complex health problems. This paragraph also serves as a good pivot point to start discussing my academic and professional background.

Paragraph Four: My undergraduate education has prepared me well for my chosen career. Understanding the underlying structure of a group’s culture is essential to successfully communicating with the group. In studying folklore and mythology, I’ve learned how to parse the unspoken structures of folk groups, and how those structures can be used to build bridges of understanding. For example, in a culture where most illnesses are believed to be caused by witchcraft, as is the case for the Zande people of central Africa, any successful health intervention or education program would of necessity take into account their very real belief in witchcraft.

In this paragraph, I link my undergraduate education and the skills I learned there to public health. The (very brief) analysis of tailoring health interventions to the Zande is a good way to show insight and show off the competencies I would bring to the program.

Paragraph Five: I now work in the healthcare industry for one of the largest providers of health benefits in the world. In addition to reigniting my passion for data and quantitative analytics, working for this company has immersed me in the business side of healthcare, a critical component of public health.

This brief paragraph highlights my relevant work experience in the healthcare industry. It also allows me to mention my work with data and quantitative analytics, which isn’t necessarily obvious from my academic background, which was primarily based in the social sciences.

Paragraph Six: I intend to pursue a PhD in order to become an expert in how social factors affect health, particularly as related to gender and sexuality. I intend to pursue a certificate in Sexuality, Sexual Health, and Reproduction. Working together with other experts to create effective interventions across cultures and societies, I want to help transform health landscapes both in America and abroad.

This final paragraph is about my future plans and intentions. Unfortunately, it’s a little disjointed, primarily because I discuss goals of pursuing a PhD before I talk about what certificate I want to pursue within the MPH program! Switching those two sentences and discussing my certificate goals within the MPH and then mentioning my PhD plans would make a lot more sense.

I also start two sentences in a row with “I intend,” which is repetitive.

The final sentence is a little bit generic; I might tailor it to specifically discuss a gender and sexual health issue, since that is the primary area of interest I’ve identified.

This was a successful personal statement; I got into (and attended!) the program. It has strong examples, clear organization, and outlines what interests me about the program (its interdisciplinary focus) and what competencies I would bring (a background in cultural analysis and experience with the business side of healthcare). However, a few slight tweaks would elevate this statement to the next level.


Graduate School Personal Statement Examples You Can Find Online

So you need more samples for your personal statement for graduate school? Examples are everywhere on the internet, but they aren’t all of equal quality.

Most of examples are posted as part of writing guides published online by educational institutions. We’ve rounded up some of the best ones here if you are looking for more personal statement examples for graduate school.

Penn State Personal Statement Examples for Graduate School

This selection of ten short personal statements for graduate school and fellowship programs offers an interesting mix of approaches. Some focus more on personal adversity while others focus more closely on professional work within the field.

The writing in some of these statements is a little dry, and most deploy at least a few cliches. However, these are generally strong, serviceable statements that communicate clearly why the student is interested in the field, their skills and competencies, and what about the specific program appeals to them.

Cal State Sample Graduate School Personal Statements

These are good examples of personal statements for graduate school where students deploy lots of very vivid imagery and illustrative anecdotes of life experiences. There are also helpful comments about what works in each of these essays.

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However, all of these statements are definitely pushing the boundaries of acceptable length, as all are above 1000 and one is almost 1500 words! Many programs limit you to 500 words; if you don’t have a limit, you should try to keep it to two single-spaced pages at most (which is about 1000 words).

University of Chicago Personal Statement for Graduate School Examples

These examples of successful essays to the University of Chicago law school cover a wide range of life experiences and topics. The writing in all is very vivid, and all communicate clear messages about the students’ strengths and competencies.

Note, however, that these are all essays that specifically worked for University of Chicago law school. That does not mean that they would work everywhere. In fact, one major thing to note is that many of these responses, while well-written and vivid, barely address the students’ interest in law school at all! This is something that might not work well for most graduate programs.

Wheaton College Personal Statement for Graduate School Sample 10

This successful essay for law school from a Wheaton College undergraduate does a great job tracking the student’s interest in the law in a compelling and personal way. Wheaton offers other graduate school personal statement examples, but this one offers the most persuasive case for the students’ competencies. The student accomplishes this by using clear, well-elaborated examples, showing strong and vivid writing, and highlighting positive qualities like an interest in justice and empathy without seeming grandiose or out of touch.

Wheaton College Personal Statement for Graduate School Sample 1

Based on the background information provided at the bottom of the essay, this essay was apparently successful for this applicant. However, I’ve actually included this essay because it demonstrates an extremely risky approach. While this personal statement is strikingly written and the story is very memorable, it could definitely communicate the wrong message to some admissions committees. The student’s decision not to report the drill sergeant may read incredibly poorly to some admissions committees. They may wonder if the student’s failure to report the sergeant’s violence will ultimately expose more soldiers-in-training to the same kinds of abuses. This incident perhaps reads especially poorly in light of the fact that the military has such a notable problem with violence against women being covered up and otherwise mishandled

It’s actually hard to get a complete picture of the student’s true motivations from this essay, and what we have might raise real questions about the student’s character to some admissions committees. This student took a risk and it paid off, but it could have just as easily backfired spectacularly.


Key Takeaways: Graduate School Personal Statement Examples

In this guide, we discussed why you need a personal statement and how it differs from a statement of purpose. (It’s more personal!)

We also discussed what you’ll find in a strong sample personal statement for graduate school:

  • A clear narrative about the applicant and why they are qualified for graduate study.
  • Specific examples to support that narrative.
  • Compelling reasons why the applicant and the program are a good fit for each other.
  • Strong writing, including clear organization and error-free, cliche-free language.
  • Appropriate boundaries—sharing without over-sharing.

Then, we provided three strong graduate school personal statement examples for different fields, along with analysis. We did a deep-dive on the third statement.

Finally, we provided a list of other sample grad school personal statements online.

What’s Next?

Want more advice on writing a personal statement ? See our guide.

Writing a graduate school statement of purpose? See our statement of purpose samples  and a nine-step process for writing the best statement of purpose possible .

If you’re writing a graduate school CV or resume, see our how-to guide to writing a CV , a how-to guide to writing a resume , our list of sample resumes and CVs , resume and CV templates , and a special guide for writing resume objectives .

Need stellar graduate school recommendation letters ? See our guide.

See our 29 tips for successfully applying to graduate school .

Ready to improve your GRE score by 7 points?

creative writing samples for graduate school

Author: Ellen McCammon

Ellen is a public health graduate student and education expert. She has extensive experience mentoring students of all ages to reach their goals and in-depth knowledge on a variety of health topics. View all posts by Ellen McCammon

creative writing samples for graduate school

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Hal Ackerman

Instructor, Writing for Stage & Screen [email protected]

  • Former co-chair of the Screenwriting Program at UCLA.
  • His play, Testosterone: How Prostate Cancer Made a Man of Me, received the William Saroyan Centennial Prize for Drama and won Best Script at the 2011 United Solo Festival.
  • He has sold material to all the broadcast networks and major studios.
  • His book Write Screenplays That Sell…The Ackerman Way is now in its third printing.

Khris Baxter

Instructor, Writing for Stage & Screen [email protected]

  • Screenwriter, producer, and the founder of Lost Mountain Entertainment.
  • Developed and financed a wide range of projects in partnership with Cross Creek Pictures and Echo Lake Entertainment.
  • Co-produced “Above the Shadows,” which won the Audience Award at the 2019 Brooklyn Film Festival.
  • Teaches Writing for Film & TV at Dickinson College.
  • Serves as a judge for the Virginia Film Office’s annual screenwriting competition.

Peter Behrens

Instructor, Writing for Stage & Screen [email protected]

  • Screenwriter, essayist, and fiction writer.
  • Author of four books of fiction, including “The Law of Dreams,” which won the Governor-General’s Award and has been published in nine languages.
  • His stories, essays, and reviews appear in The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, NPR’s All Things Considered, and many anthologies.
  • Former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and former fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

Cathy Smith Bowers

Instructor, Poetry [email protected]

  • Poet Laureate of North Carolina from 2010-2012.
  • Her poems appear widely in publications such as The Atlantic Monthly, The Georgia Review, Poetry, The Southern Review, and The Kenyon Review.
  • Author of five collections of poetry.

Morri Creech

Associate Professor, Poetry Writer in Residence, Queens University of Charlotte [email protected]

  • Author of four collections of poetry, one a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
  • His poems appear in Poetry, The New Criterion, The New Republic, The Southwest Review, The Hudson Review, Crazyhorse, Critical Quarterly, Sewanee Review, Southern Review, and  elsewhere. 
  • He has received the Stan and Tom Wick Award, a Ruth Lilly Fellowship, and a fellowship from The Louisiana  Division of the Arts.

David Christensen

Instructor, Writing for Stage & Screen [email protected]

  • Executive producer at the National Film Board of Canada where he oversees a slate of documentary, interactive, and animation productions made nationally and internationally.
  • Two Oscar-nominated films and multiple premiers at Berlin, Sundance, Toronto, and New York film festivals.

Ann Cummins

Instructor, Fiction [email protected]

  • Author of a story collection and novel.
  • Recipient of a Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship.
  • Stories appear in The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, Antioch Review, The Best American Short Stories, and The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories.

Jonathan Dee

Instructor, Fiction [email protected]

  • Author of eight novels.
  • His novel “The Privileges” was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize and winner of the 2011 Prix Fitzgerald and the St. Francis College Literary Prize.
  • A former contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, a senior editor of The Paris Review, and a National Magazine Award-nominated literary critic for Harper’s.
  • Received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation.

Kristin Dombek

Instructor, Nonfiction [email protected]

  • Author of “The Selfishness of Others: An Essay on the Fear of Narcissism,” which has been translated into multiple languages, and “How to Quit,” forthcoming soon.
  • Essays appear in The New Yorker, Vice, The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, London Review of Books, n+1, The Financial Times, The Paris Review, and Best American Essays.
  • Recipient of fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Rona Jaffe Foundation.
  • Has taught at Queens College/CUNY and Princeton.

Shelley Evans

Instructor, Writing for Stage & Screen [email protected]

  • Has written teleplays for ABC, CBS, Showtime, USA Network, Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, and Lifetime Television.

Elizabeth Gaffney

Instructor, Fiction [email protected]

  • Author of two novels.
  • Has also translated three novels and a memoir from German.
  • Resident artist at Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, and the Blue Mountain Center.
  • Former staff editor at The Paris Review, and currently serves as the editor-at-large of A Public Space.

Myla Goldberg

Instructor, Fiction [email protected]

  • Bestselling author of four novels, including “Bee Season,” which was a New York Times Notable Book and winner of the Borders New Voices Prize. It was adapted to film and widely translated.
  • Has also published an essay collection, a children’s book, and short stories that have appeared in Harper’s.
  • Teaches also in the fiction programs at Sarah Lawrence and NYU.

Emily Fox Gordon

Instructor, Nonfiction [email protected]

  • Author of a novel, a collection of personal essays, and two memoirs, one of which was a New York Times Notable Book.
  • Her work appears in Boulevard, Salmagundi, The American Scholar, and Southwest Review, and has been anthologized in the Anchor Essay Annual.
  • Has taught writing workshops at Rice University, the University of Houston, The New School, the University of Wyoming, and the MFA program at Rutgers/Camden.
  • Recipient of two Pushcart Prizes.

Trish Harnetiaux

Instructor, Writing for Stage & Screen [email protected]

  • Her play “Tin Cat Shoes” premiered in 2018 kicking off Clubbed Thumb’s Summerworks (Playwrights Horizons Superlab).
  • Three other plays have been published by Samuel French.
  • Executive producer on the off-beat comedy series “Driver Ed” which premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.
  • She has been a resident at MacDowell, Yaddo, The Millay Colony, and SPACE at Ryder Farm.

Marcus Jackson

Instructor, Poetry [email protected]

  • Author of two poetry collections.
  • His poems appear in The New Yorker, Harvard Review, The New York Times, and The Cincinnati Review.

Fred Leebron

Program Director, Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Instructor, Fiction [email protected]

  • Former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford and Fulbright Scholar.
  • Author of five books of fiction, including “Six Figures,” which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and became a feature-length film.
  • Co-editor of “Postmodern American Fiction: A Norton Anthology;” and co-author of “Creating Fiction: A Writer’s Companion.”
  • Recipient of an O. Henry Award, a Puschart Prize, a Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown Fellowship, and two fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

Instructor, Poetry

  • Author of six books of poetry, including “The Carrying,” which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry.
  • Her book “Bright Dead Things” was named a finalist for the National Book Award, a finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
  • Currently the Poet Laureate of the United States and a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellow.

Rebecca Lindenberg

Instructor, Poetry [email protected]

  • Author of two poetry collections, including the winner of the 2015 Utah Book Award.
  • Awarded an Amy Lowell Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Grant, a Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown Fellowship, and a residency grant from the MacDowell Arts Colony.
  • Her poetry, lyric essays, and criticism appear in The Believer, Poetry, McSweeney’s Quarterly, American Poetry Review, Conjunctions, and Iowa Review.

Rebecca McClanahan

Instructor, Poetry and Nonfiction [email protected]

  • Author of eleven books, most recently “In the Key of New York City: A Memoir in Essays” and a revised edition of “Word Painting: The Fine Art of Writing Descriptively,” which has sold nearly 50,000 copies.
  • Her work appears in Best American Essays, Best American Poetry, Kenyon Review, Georgia Review, and in anthologies published by Doubleday, Norton, and Penguin.
  • Recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, the Glasgow Award in nonfiction, and four fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the North Carolina Arts Council.

James McKean

Instructor, Poetry and Nonfiction [email protected]

  • Author of three books of poems and two books of essays.
  • His poetry and nonfiction appear in Poetry, The Atlantic Monthly, The Georgia Review, The Southern Review, The Pushcart Prize Anthology, The Best American Sports Writing, and Poetry Northwest, and have been featured in Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry.

Orlando Menes

Instructor, Poetry [email protected]

  • Author of five poetry collections.
  • His poems appear in Poetry, Ploughshares, Harvard Review, The Antioch Review, Hudson Review, Shenandoah, Callaloo, and The Southern Review.
  • Editor of “Renaming Ecstasy: Latino Writings on the Sacred.”
  • Has published translations of poetry in Spanish, including My Heart Flooded with Water: Selected Poems by Alfonsina Storni.

Daniel Mueller

Instructor, Fiction [email protected]

  • Author of three short story collections.
  • His work appears in The Missouri Review, The Iowa Review, Story Quarterly, Story, The Mississippi Review, Henfield Prize Stories, and Playboy.
  • He is the director of the Creative Writing program at the University of New Mexico.

Brighde Mullins

Instructor, Writing for Stage & Screen [email protected]

  • Her plays have been developed and produced in New York, Dallas, Salt Lake City, London, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
  • Recipient of an NEA Fellowship in Playwriting, a Whiting Foundation Award, a United States Artists Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.
  • She has held residencies at Lincoln Center, New York Stage and Film, MacDowell, and Yaddo. She is a Usual Suspect at New York Theatre Workshop and has been a Core Member of the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis.
  • Has taught at Harvard, Brown, and the University of Southern California.

Instructor, Fiction [email protected]

  • Author of three novels, including “The Perfect Man,” which won The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for the Best Book of Europe and South Asia.  His work has been translated into eight languages. 
  • Recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a PEN Beyond Margins Award. 
  • Has been a writer-in-residence at the University of Missouri, Western Michigan, and Northwestern University.

Jenny Offill

Instructor, Fiction [email protected]

  • Author of three novels, including “The Department of Speculation,” named one of the 10 Best Books of 2014 by the New York Times, and shortlisted for the Pen/Faulkner Award and the L.A. Times Fiction Award.
  • Co-editor of two anthologies: “The Friend Who Got Away” and “Money Changes Everything.”

David Payne

Instructor, Fiction [email protected]

  • NY Times Notable author of five novels and a memoir.
  • His work appears in The New York Times, Libération, The Washington Post, and The Oxford American.
  • Has taught at Bennington, Duke, and Hollins.

Susan Perabo

Instructor, Fiction [email protected]

  • Author of two story collections and two novels.
  • Her fiction appears in Best American Short Stories, Pushcart Prize Stories, New Stories from the South, One Story, The Iowa Review, The Missouri Review, and The Sun.
  • She is a Writer in Residence and professor of English at Dickinson College.

Instructor, Nonfiction and Poetry [email protected]

  • Author of multiple books of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction, two of which won the Library of Virginia Book of the Year Award.
  • He is a professor of English at William and Mary College in Virginia.

Robert Polito

Instructor, Poetry and Nonfiction [email protected]

  • Author of numerous books of poetry and nonfiction, including “Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson,” which received the National Book Critics Circle Award.
  • Editor of the Library of America volumes “Crime Novels: Noir of the 1930s & 1940s” and “Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1950s,” as well as “The Selected Poems of Kenneth Fearing.”
  • His poems and essays appear in The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, Best American Poetry, Beast American Essays, and Best American Film Writing.
  • Recently served as President of the Poetry Foundation.

Patricia Powell

Instructor, Fiction [email protected]

  • Author of three novels. 
  • The recipient of a PEN New England Discovery Award and a Lila-Wallace Readers Digest Writer’s Award.
  • Has taught at Harvard University, U-Mass, MIT, and Mills College.

Steven Rinehart

Instructor, Fiction [email protected]

  • Author of a story collection and a novel.
  • The recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the James Michener Center, and the Virginia Center for the Arts.
  • Writes and ghostwrites for a former US President, Fortune 100 CEOs, entrepreneurs, and social activists.
  • He teaches at the Gallatin School of NYU.

Instructor, Fiction [email protected]

  • Author of 12 books of fiction.
  • A two-time National Book Award Finalist, and an Edgar Award Nominee.

Elissa Schappell

Instructor, Fiction [email protected]

  • Author of two books of fiction, including “Use Me,” a runner-up for the PEN/Hemingway Award, a New York Times “Notable Book” and a Los Angeles Times “Best Book of the Year.”
  • Co-editor of two essay anthologies: “Money Changes Everything” and “The Friend Who Got Away”
  • Her fiction and nonfiction appear in One Story, McSweeney’s, BOMB, Interview, the KGB Bar Reader, The Paris Review, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Elle, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Real Simple.
  • She has taught at NYU, Texas State, and Columbia University.

Dana Spiotta

Instructor, Fiction [email protected]

  • Author of five novels, which have won the St. Francis College Literary Prize and have been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award.
  • Recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters John Updike Prize in Literature.
  • She also teaches at Syracuse University.

Maxine Swann

Instructor, Fiction [email protected]

  • Author of three books of fiction.
  • Awarded an O. Henry Prize, a Pushcart Prize, and her work has been included in The Best American Short Stories of 1998 and 2006.

Héctor Tobar

Instructor, Fiction and Nonfiction [email protected]

  • Author of five books of fiction and nonfiction, published in ten languages, including the New York Times bestseller “Deep Down Dark,” which was adapted into a feature film.
  • Work appears in Best American Short Stories, L.A. Noir, The New Yorker, and The Los Angeles Times, and he is currently a contributing writer for the New York Times opinion pages.
  • He is an associate professor at the University of California, Irvine.

Ashley Warlick

Instructor, Fiction [email protected]

  • Author of four novels.
  • Recipient of an NEA Fellowship and the Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship.
  • Her work appears in The Oxford American, McSweeney’s, Redbook, and Garden and Gun.
  • She is a partner at M. Judson, Booksellers and Storytellers in Greenville, SC.


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  1. How to Prepare a Creative Writing Sample for Graduate Programs

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  11. Admission

    Graduate Admission is highly selective, and is based primarily on the quality of the applicant's literary writing. Your writing sample, therefore, is the most important part of your application. In putting your sample together, you should emphasize quality rather than length. Your writing sample should be in a single genre. Writing Sample

  12. Best Creative Writing Graduate Programs & Schools

    Creative Writing Graduate Programs teach the art of language. You could develop your writing through study and practice. Classes might cover both general English topics, craft classes, and even courses about the publishing industry. Workshops offer the chance to hone your work. And of course, gain peer feedback to help improve that short story ...

  13. Creative Writing Graduate Admission Requirements

    Writing Sample: Your 10-page writing sample should exhibit your best writing in the genre you intend to develop in graduate school. Upload a current CV (curriculum vitae). This CV should include your academic and professional writing experience. International Students

  14. Writing Samples for Graduate Schools

    Writing Samples for Graduate Schools Most graduate schools will ask for at least 5-10 pages of writing samples. Writing samples show what kinds of documents you can produce and the strength of your writing.

  15. 10 Statement Of Purpose Examples: How To Wow ...

    Attached, herein, are 10 statement of purpose examples (or 10 MFA Personal Statement examples, if you like), contributed by writers who gained admission into fully-funded MFA in Creative Writing programs. We've also shared tips from creative writing professors on how to write a personal statement.

  16. Creative Writing

    The writing sample should be creative work, not analytical prose, 15-20 pages, double-spaced. Three letters of recommendation; Assistantship application (optional - you may upload a blank document, if you do not intend to apply for assistance) The GRE is not required for admission to this program. Applicants must meet the Graduate School ...

  17. What to Know About Creative Writing Degrees

    Many creative writing degree recipients pursue careers as authors while others work as copywriters or ghostwriters. Prospective writing students should think about their goals and figure out if a ...

  18. How to Choose a Writing Sample for Grad Applications

    The Secret Syllabus Mentorship Program: https://firstgenprof.com/MY BOOKS:Your Computer is on Fire: https://amzn.to/3pwGCLgThe Chinese Typewriter: https://am...

  19. For Prospective Students

    Résumé/Curriculum Vitae Writing Sample (see specifics below) Three recommendation letters Unofficial Transcripts (from every university attended) Official transcripts must be supplied if admitted, and should be sent to: Office of Graduate Admissions 222 South Copeland St Westcott Building Room 314 Tallahassee, FL 32306-1410 or electronically to

  20. English, Ph.D., Creative Writing Concentration

    [email protected] The Ph.D. program in English, Concentration in Creative Writing, is one of the top 15 in the U.S., as ranked by Poets & Writers. The program offers graduate students the opportunity to work closely with our award-winning faculty while living and writing in Atlanta, an international city with a vibrant literary culture.

  21. 3 Successful Graduate School Personal Statement Examples • Pr

    3 Successful Graduate School Personal Statement Examples • Pr PrepScholar GRE Prep GRE Prep Online Guides and Tips 3 Successful Graduate School Personal Statement Examples Ellen McCammon September 5, 2017 Grad School applying to grad school, personal statements Looking for grad school personal statement examples? Look no further!

  22. MFA in Creative Writing Faculty

    Hal Ackerman Instructor, Writing for Stage & [email protected] Former co-chair of the Screenwriting Program at UCLA. His play, Testosterone: How Prostate Cancer Made a Man of Me, received the William Saroyan Centennial Prize for Drama and won Best Script at the 2011 United Solo Festival. He has sold material to all the broadcast networks and