2023 Best Colleges for Creative Writing Undergrad Degrees
Creative Writing is a field where writers explore their imagination and express ideas through words. Creative Writing is an excellent degree for anyone interested in writing, regardless of whether your passion lies in fiction, poetry, screenwriting, playwriting, or nonfiction. This flexibility is one reason why creative writing degrees have become very popular over the years.
If you're here, you're probably wondering what college you should attend for writing. We've compiled an excellent lineup below highlighting colleges that offer an undergraduate degree in Creative Writing, colleges that offer English majors with an Emphasis in Creative Writing, as well as minors, certificates, and a smattering of MFA program shoutouts.
About the Best Creative Writing Degree Programs
The best creative writing programs are those that have been around for a while and have established themselves as leaders in the field. They also tend to be highly selective, which means they only accept students who are genuinely passionate about writing.
These programs are usually led and taught by distinguished professionals like award-winning novelists, short story writers, journalists, and poets. And they typically have thriving writing centers and options for students to enter writing competitions and grow alongside one another within their community.
But there's also a degree of subjectivity to any "best" list. So we recommend reading through the schools and programs below and asking yourself some essential questions as you narrow your list.
Self-evaluate undergraduate writing programs:
- Does the Program Have the Courses You Want?
- What Will You Learn? Will that help you build a career?
- Who Will Be Teaching Those Classes?
- Would you Feel at Home on the College Campus?
Common Questions About Creative Writing Programs
Before we jump into our extensive list- we can't help it. We love writing, and there are a lot of great schools and programs out there- we want to answer a few common questions we hear.
Is Creative Writing a BA, BFA, or BS Degree?
Generally, a creative writing degree is a BA degree. But occasionally, we've seen a few BFAs. In addition, technical writing programs sometimes offer BS degrees.
What is the Best Creative Writing Degree?
The answer to this question is it depends. It depends on what you want to do with your skills and experiences when you graduate. As you read through our list, you'll see that some degrees and programs tailored toward poetry or prose, while others would set you up nicely for a career in nonfiction writing.
We recommend evaluating any program and college, as mentioned above, to make your decision on the best degree.
How Much Does a Creative Writing Degree Cost?
Like any other degree program, the cost of tuition will vary wildly depending on the institution, location, and how much financial aid you're eligible for.
Tuition and cost information is readily available across the internet, but what a student's family actually pays is based on a variety of factors. Cappex offers personalized tuition and cost estimations based on information like expected family contribution, location, and GPA. Click here to create a free Cappex account and learn how much you'd pay for a creative writing degree at these schools.
Best Colleges for a Creative Writing Undergraduate Degree
Now for our list of best undergraduate programs for creative writing.
University of Iowa
The University of Iowa offers a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in English and Creative Writing and a Literary Publishing Track. You'll also be earning your degree in writing in a UNESCO City of Literature which hosts an annual Book Fest, as well as numerous other opportunities to get involved with the flourishing literary community in Iowa City.
Most widely known for the famous Iowa Writers' Workshop, it's less known that you don't have to be a graduate student to take advantage of the boatloads of experience in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. Better yet, this is one of the few public universities on the list.
Nestled within the English Department at Northwestern University, the Creative Writing Major is considered a concentration, but admission is very competitive. Students can study it as a major, minor, or sequence-only student. Benefits of majoring include one-on-ones with visiting writers, senior honors, and participation in the winter senior readings series.
Students can apply for admission no earlier than the spring semester of their sophomore year and must complete specific prerequisites to be considered. Accepted students will study with accomplished professors, and visiting writers from the Annual Writers' Festival held during the Evanston Literary Festival.
Columbia University in the City of New York offers an undergraduate Creative Writing program that combines intensive workshops with seminars to produce works of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction students can opt to major in a Single or Cross-Genre course of study. Students can also take workshops in dramatic writing and screenwriting.
The program is modeled after the graduate Writing Division of The School of the Arts, which offers a high-ranking MFA program. Any student may apply to join the program regardless of their major upon entering Columbia. Located in New York City, students also have the advantage of being close to the major publishing houses in the industry.
Celebrating its 29th birthday this year, the Emory University undergraduate Creative Writing Program encourages students to approach the study of literature creatively, including through their own personal interests in specific genres such as poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, playwriting, and screenwriting.
Every year, the Creative Writing Program sponsors the Creative Writing Reading Series, bringing four to six internationally renowned and prize-winning authors to Atlanta, GA, to discuss writing with Emory students.
Oberlin College's department of Creative Writing offers the program as both a major and a minor. With 57 courses and nine associated faculty, students can fully explore fiction, poetry, nonfiction, playwriting, and screenwriting. One of the standouts in this program versus others is the 5 Study Away program is the department collaborates with many Creative Writing programs that discourage students from heading abroad.
The program can be competitive, even once you've been accepted. Students must submit an application for all upper-level workshops with 12 pages of their best work. The students with the best applications will be rewarded with a seat in a classroom at the picturesque Peters Hall at this Ohio institution.
Named for the now-famous-thanks-to-Lin-Manuel-Miranda Alexander Hamilton, Hamilton College's Literature and Creative Writing Department offers a creative writing curriculum that emphasizes small classes to go along with the development of superior reading and writing skills.
Students can take advantage of research opportunities in writing, as well, and apply for the college's Emerson Grants program. Located in Clinton, NY, Hamilton, students are just over four hours away from the publishing industry.
The Creative Writing Program at Stanford University was founded by Wallace Stegner, a noted writer, and environmentalist, in 1946. For students earning an undergraduate degree, Stanford offers a major in English with an Emphasis on Creative Writing. A minor in Creative Writing is also offered for students taking majors outside of English, featuring tracks in prose and poetry.
The Stegner Fellowship is a major offered by the Creative Writing Program, accepting five fiction and five poetry fellows per year. While there's no degree attached to this, it functions as a writer-in-residence opportunity and receives the guidance of Stanford faculty.
The Literary Arts program at Brown University offers a concentration in Literary Arts within their English Department, but the primary focus is on MFA students. To complete the undergrad concentration, students need to take a mix of reading intensive and writing workshop classes. But as you'd expect from a liberal arts college with such a stellar reputation, an undergrad concentration in creative writing from Brown would be a worthwhile endeavor.
The University of Pittsburgh
The University of Pittsburgh Writing Program is one of the oldest in the nation and offers three tracks for students to pursue: fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Each track has three levels of classes and is topped off with a senior seminar capstone experience.
Undergraduate students are eligible for four writing awards at the University of Pittsburgh and can also participate in events such as the Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series. The institution also features an MFA program.
The University of Miami
The University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences features a Bachelor's in English with a Creative Writing Concentration. In addition, students can opt for a Thesis or non-thesis track. Still, both routes feature courses with a multilingual aspect, whether it's an entirely different language or an English vernacular from other communities. UM's MFA program is the only nationwide program with a broad, multilingual focus.
Mangrove, a national undergraduate literary magazine, allows students to get hands-on learning, and they can also utilize USpeak, UM's open mic night, to read original work aloud.
Located in Gabier, OH, and home to the Kenyon Review, Kenyon College features an English major with an Emphasis on Creative WritinIn addition, tenTen faculty members teach workshops in fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction.
While at Kenyon College, students can apply for internships with the Kenyon Review Student Associates Program, apply for the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, submit to The Kenyon Collegian, and more. Students can also take advantage of the Kenyon-Exeter program to study abroad.
Brandeis University also offers the whole enchilada: a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing. It's been taught at Brandeis since 1951 and became its own major in 2003, with classes offered entirely by established writers.
Workshops have a maximum of 14 students, and the program is very active, with sponsored reading series', student awards, panel discussions, publishing workshops, and journal and performance opportunities.
Home to the Stadler Center for Poetry and Literary Arts, Bucknell University's Creative Writing major, housed in the English department, gets support both on and off campus. Students can take workshops in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, participate in a lively reading series, internship opportunities, and garner knowledge from writers-in-residence.
Located in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, students study contemporary texts just three hours from the publishing capital, NYC.
Washington University in St. Louis
Students at Washington University in St. Louis can earn a Certificate in Creative Writing comprised of 16 units. Acceptance to the MFA program is highly competitive but comes with several perks.
UT-Austin offers a Certificate in Creative Writing and an Honors option addition, the The New Writers Project is a 3-year MFA program that offers concentrations in poetry and fiction.
Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins has a writing program that allows you to explore many different writing styles, including poetry, literature, and prose. But the program also weaves in philosophy, history, and music courses, including amusing-sounding classes like "Reintroduction to Writing: On Bullshit," and "Reintroduction to Writing: The Cost of Free Speech."
University of Michigan
When you join the creative writing program at the University of Michigan, you're walking in the same footsteps as well-known American writers such as Theodore Roethke, Arthur Miller, Marge Piercy, and Jane Kenyon.
According to their website, courses are designed to expose students to essential works from the past and innovative new works. In addition, the University of Michigan English Department is home to the Avery Hopwood Awards, one of the country's most famous student writing prizes. All students enrolled in writing courses are eligible to enter the contests.
University of Virginia
The University of Virginia offers a fully-funded 2-year MFA program that is highly competitive — it only admits five poets and five fiction writers per year. However, through the English program, undergraduates can major in English and choose a concentration in poetry or literary prose. Going in the poetry direction allows writers to pursue serious study of the craft of poetry writing and poetics. In contrast, literary prose writing or literary prose allows English majors to specialize in the art of narrative writing.
Honorable Creative Writing Program Mentions:
University of Rochester: The Department of English offers a track in Creative Writing. Students must apply to a specific Creative Writing advisor and receive written approval to pursue the concentration.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology: In the Comparative Media Studies department, students can major in Writing. MIT offers several different writing genres but has several unique classes in science writing in particular.
Colorado College: A track within the English major, students at Colorado College can complete 15 courses to get awarded the distinction of Creative Writing at graduation.
Colby College: The Creative Writing concentration at Colby College is provided for English majors. Students can earn an Honors designation, as well.
University of Texas-Austin: UT-Austin offers a Certificate in Creative Writing, as well as an Honors option. The New Writers Project is a 3-year MFA program that offers concentrations in poetry and fiction.
Paying for Your Creative Writing Degree
Now that you have a good idea of what's out there in terms of degree options, you'll want to be sure to connect with scholarship money and accurate degree program cost details. That's where Cappex comes in. Create a free Cappex account to compare costs and access scholarships and our $1,000 easy-apply scholarship we offer every month. There’s no essay or GPA required to apply. Click the button below to get started. Here’s to the easiest $1000 you'll earn for college!