The Columbia University MFA Writing Program is highly regarded for its rigorous approach to literary instruction and for its faculty of acclaimed writers and editors who are devoted and dedicated teachers. The faculty, the students, and the curriculum represent and foster a full range of artistic and literary diversity. Students are encouraged to make the most of their own artistic instincts and to realize as fully as possible, beyond any perceived limitations, their potential as writers.
At the core of the curriculum is the writing workshop. All workshops are small (7 to 12 students), ensuring that all students present work at least three times per semester. Students receive substantial written responses to their work from their professors and classmates; they also have regularly scheduled one-on-one conferences with faculty. The second-year thesis workshops (6 to 9 students) are dedicated to shaping each student’s work into book form.
The Columbia MFA is a two-year program requiring 60 credits of coursework to complete the degree and can take up to three years to complete the thesis. Students concentrate in fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction, and also have the option of pursuing a joint course of study in writing and literary translation. Most MFA programs require 48 credits or as few as 36 credits, but the Columbia Writing Program considers the study of literature from the practitioner's point of view—reading as a writer—essential to a writer's education. Every semester, students take a workshop and, on average, three craft-oriented seminars and/or lectures designed to illuminate, inform, clarify, augment, and inspire each student’s experience and practice as a writer. New seminars, lectures, and master classes are created every year.
Workshops, master classes, seminars, and lectures are created for writers by writers who discuss student work and examine literature from a practitioner's perspective, not that of a scholar or theorist. They draw fully on the cultural resources of Columbia University—its faculty, libraries, archives, scholarly centers, diverse students, and wealth of facilities. The other Programs of the School of the Arts—Film, Theatre, and Visual Arts—enrich the Program's opportunities for collaboration. The 28 departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences offer courses that provide incomparable opportunities for a developing writer. In addition, the Program offers its students the chance to edit, manage, and publish their own magazine, Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art.
The Program also draws on the cultural resources of New York City. As the publishing and arts center of the country, New York provides writers with experiences not available elsewhere. Editors, publishers, agents, and other literary professionals participate in our classes, panels, and informal discussions. Current students serve as interns at magazines such as The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and Parnassus, and at literary presses and organizations such as Archipelago Press, PEN, Poets & Writers, and the various poetry organizations listed under Poetry. We also offer our students opportunities to work as research assistants to writers who also serve as mentors, such as Alan Burdick, William Finnegan, Tim Weiner and Brenda Wineapple.
About Columbia University School of the Arts
Columbia University School of the Arts awards the MFA degree in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing and the Master of Arts degree in Film & Media Studies; it also offers an interdisciplinary program in Sound Art. The School is a thriving, diverse community of talented, visionary, and committed artists from around the world, and a faculty comprised of acclaimed and internationally renowned artists, film and theatre directors, writers of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, playwrights, producers, critics, and scholars. In 2015, the School marked the 50th Anniversary of its founding. In 2017, the School opened the Lenfest Center for the Arts, a multi-arts venue designed as a hub for the presentation and creation of art across disciplines on the University’s new Manhattanville campus. The Lenfest hosts exhibitions, performances, screenings, symposia, readings, and lectures that present new, global voices and perspectives, as well as an exciting, publicly accessible home for Columbia’s Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery.
The School is an innovative graduate professional school with a tradition of risk-taking, grounded in a deeply intellectual Ivy League university and energized by its location in New York City—one of the great cultural capitals of the world. The study and practice of art-making at the School is an immersive, constantly evolving process. Aspiring, emerging or established, our filmmakers, writers, theatre practitioners and visual artists grow individually through intensive engagement with their craft and lively, often profound exchanges of ideas and work.
From the Sundance Film Festival to the Venice Biennale, from the cover of the New York Times Book Review to Broadway, from America’s most established regional theaters to Europe and Asia’s renowned film and theatre festivals, the success of the School’s faculty and alumni has never before been as prominent and celebrated. Members of the faculty have received the highest recognition in their fields, including Academy Awards, Tony Awards, MacArthur Foundation Fellowships, Guggenheim Fellowships, Pulitzer Prizes, National Book Awards, and the Nobel Prize for Literature. Alumni also claim a record of astonishing success, measured not simply by awards and prizes, contracts and contacts, but by the quality and cultural significance of their artistic achievements.
Today, the School serves nearly 800 Master of Fine Arts students from 57 countries in the Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing programs, and 40 Master of Arts students in Film & Media Studies. The School’s faculty also teaches more than 1,627 undergraduate students in 120 courses offered each year.
Degrees & Awards
|Master's Degree Requirements||3 letters of recommendation, writing sample|
TOEFL Paper score: 600
TOEFL IBT score: 100
Tuition & Fees
|Financial award applicants must submit:||FAFSA|
|Application deadlines for financial awards||February 1|
|Types of financial support available||
Scholarship and/or loans
|Black or African American||6.09%|
|White or Caucasian||53%|
|American Indian or Alaska Native||0.58%|
|Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander||Not Reported|
|Two or more races||5.8%|