About our MFA Program

What makes us any different?

The UVA MFA Program

The University of Virginia's MFA in Creative Writing Program is a two-year graduate program that admits five poets and five fiction writers each academic year. Our program is full time and residency is required for both years of study.* All of our students receive the same financial support in both years of study. For full details on our level financial support, see our funding page, and to apply, our applications page.

What Makes UVA Unique?

Applicants often ask what makes UVA any different from other MFA programs. There are many possible answers, but among our favorites are:

  • We accept only five students in fiction, and five in poetry, each year. This keeps our classes small, and our faculty-to-student ratio very high.
  • All our students receive the same amount of funding (click here for details), and they do not have to re-compete for funding in their second year. We believe this promotes collegiality among our students and supportive, constructive workshops.
  • Our students do not teach in their first year, which preserves a significant amount of time for writing—one of the main reasons students go to MFA programs in the first place. 
  • Our students teach creative writing classes in fiction and poetry of their own design (they don't just run a discussion section of a larger course or do freshman comp).
  • Our program also offers great academic flexibility, enabling our MFA students to take graduate-level courses from faculty in other UVA departments and schools like studio art, politics, education, music, and drama, just to name a few.
  • We are one of only five graduate programs that awards an annual $10,000 Henfield Prize to a currently-enrolled student for outstanding work in fiction. See our Henfield Prize page for full details.
  • And we think our faculty is among the best in the nation. See our faculty page for a full listing and more details.

Rea Visiting Writers and Lecturers

Through the generosity of the Dungannon Foundation, our MFA students also study under Rea Visiting Writers and Lecturers. Rea Visiting Writers take residence at UVA for one week, offering a public reading of their work and conducting a craft talk. The Rea Writers receive manuscripts from our students in advance of their visit, and while at UVA, conduct intensive one-on-one tutorials with our MFA students. Rea Lecturers visit for a shorter duration, and do a reading and craft talk. Recent visiting Rea Writers and Lecturers have included Edwidge Danticat, Terrance Hayes, Nick Flynn, Naomi Shihab Nye, Jim Shepard, and Heidi Julavits. We host at least two Rea Writers each year (one in fiction, one in poetry) and as many Rea Lecturers as funding and time permits.

Kapnick Distinguished Writer-in-Residence

In addition to our permanent faculty, the University of Virginia is also home of the Kapnick Distinguished Writer-in-Residence, a new program in the tradition of William Faulkner’s legendary residencies at the University in 1957 and 1958. The program brings writers of international stature to Charlottesville for extended stays to teach and engage with the UVA student body, both at the graduate and undergraduate levels, and to leave a lasting mark on the literary community. We were so very fortunate to have our inaugural Kapnick Writer be James Salter, who was followed in 2015-2016 by Caryl Phillips. In 2016-2017, we are pleased to host Lydia Davis as a Kapnick Distinguished Writer-in-Residence in the fall, and Junot Díaz in the spring. Click here for details.

Academic Requirements

To receive the degree of Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, a student accepted into the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences must complete a two-year program at the University of Virginia. For details, see our requirements page.

MFA Thesis

Our students' final projects must comprise a substantial body of original writing a hundred pages of fiction (short stories or a novel), or a collection of approximately thirty poems. See our requirements page for full details

Meridian

Our MFA program is also the home of Meridian (Web site here), a semiannual literary magazine edited by our graduate students and distributed nationally. Meridian publishes twice a year, in January and May. The journal features outstanding fiction, poetry, and nonfiction from both emerging and established writers, and work from Meridian contributors has gone on for inclusion in Best American Poetry, Best American Essays, New Stories from the South, and the Pushcart anthology.

After Graduation

While what our students accomplish during their stay in Charlottesville is important to us, we're also very proud of what they've done afterward. Several writers from our recent graduating classes have distinguished themselves, our program, and the University of Virginia by winning important literary prizes including The Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets, Pushcart Prize selections, the Barnes & Noble Discover Award, the Yale Younger Poets Series Prize, the Barnard Women Poet's Prize, the Prix de Rome, and other awards. Our graduates continue to land major book contracts, even in a time of publishing turmoil. While many MFA programs advise you to read the work of their faculty before applying, we suggest another idea is to read the recent novels, poetry collections, memoirs, and short stories of our graduates. See our Alumni Books page for recent examples by UVA MFA alumni. Those same young writers have also gone on to become Stegner Fellows, Olive B. O'Connor Fellows, as well as becoming junior faculty members at colleges and universities across the nation.

* By "residency is required," we mean that we are a full time, traditional graduate program and expect our MFA students to live in/near Charlottesville and attend classes and program events.  We have had students live in nearby cities like Richmond or Lexington due to family or other needs, but we cannot alter academic class or teaching times to accommodate students who choose to commute.

More MFA Program Info

For more information on our Master of Fine Arts Program, select one of the buttons at right.