The MFA Program
The Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program at the University of Virginia 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.* Because the program is so small, our admissions process is extremely competitive. In the last four years, we have averaged over 690 applicants per year for our ten fellowships. We believe students apply to our program because of our consistent top rankings in Poets & Writers, the Atlantic, U.S. News and World Report, and elsewhere; our diverse creative writing faculty; the significant financial support all our MFA students receive; and the outstanding reputation of the University of Virginia, its libraries and special collections, and its renowned English Department.
The application system for 2021 admission will not open until October 1, 2020. Your application must be complete and submitted before 11 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on December 15, 2020 (of course, we advise submitting earlier in case of last-minute technical glitches). We do not have any rolling admissions or allow accepted students to defer to a subsequent year.
How to Apply
The full instructions for the online application appear on the Graduate School’s Admissions page. Your online application will include a digital version of your writing sample, basic biographical information, your academic history, a statement of purpose, college transcripts (which can be unofficial versions), two letters of recommendation, and an application fee.
Writing Samples: fiction samples may include one short story, several short stories, or a section of a novel, but must not exceed 25 pages in length using 12-point type and a standard font like Times New Roman, one-inch margins, and double-spacing. Poets should send a sheaf of poems of no more than 12 pages. Formatting is the same as fiction, except that poems can be single-spaced. Again, please keep your fonts conventional and at-or-above 12-points. Please do not exceed our page maximums, which could result in your application being denied.
- Applicants to the UVA MFA Program do not need to submit Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores. GRE scores are not part of our evaluation process. Please focus on your writing sample, statement of purpose, and recommendations.
- For the purposes of your application, unofficial transcripts are fine. You will only need to send official transcripts if you receive an admission offer and accept it.
- The online system accepts recommendation letters from Interfolio. It can also prompt your recommenders for individual uploads. All recommendation letters must be submitted online.
- The University of Virginia does not send notice of receipt of materials. The online system allows you to check the status of your application.
You can apply to our program in both fiction and poetry, but in the event of acceptance, you would be admitted to just one and will not have the option of enrolling in the other genre. Should you choose to apply to both genres, you only need to submit one online GSAS application with its associated fee. Due to the large volume of application materials received, the Creative Writing Program asks that applicants do not phone or email us to confirm receipt of a complete application. If there are missing materials we will contact you.
International students are welcome to apply (we have a long history of enrolling fiction writers and poets from abroad, and we have international students currently enrolled) but all international students applying should carefully review U.S. immigration and visa regulations. Our program's funding for international students is the exact same as it is for U.S. citizens. Some of our students seek outside employment in addition to their fellowship support, but educational visas limit most international students to on-grounds UVA employment only, even in summer months. Our program does not fund travel costs or allow for semesters abroad. International students with questions about TOEFL scores or other admissions requirements should contact the UVA Arts & Sciences Graduate Admission Office. As a graduate writing program, we make offers based on your writing sample, your statement of purpose, your online resume, and your references. Your actual eligibility to enroll at the University of Virginia is determined by the graduate school, so please contact them with questions about foreign degree programs, degree transfers, TOEFL, application fee waivers, etc.
Our optional third year can prove difficult financially for international students because they must document given income levels in that third year to maintain a student visa. Our current teaching loads do not always provide enough income, by themselves, to allow UVA to extend international student visas for a third year. Other sources of income can sometimes help international students remain in our program. We do our best to help international students who want to remain for a third year—but we cannot promise any extra funding in that optional third-year at admission. Please contact our program staff or the UVA International Studies Office for more information.
Pre-Offer Visits and Sessions
Applicants often ask if they can come visit our offices or if we can put them in contact with current students or faculty. With COVID-19, our university is not encouraging in-person visits, and we just do not have the resources to connect every applicant who asks with students or faculty. When we extend offers each spring, we provide prospective students with faculty and student emails to assist in their final decision making.
Decisions on admission into the Creative Writing Program will be announced by April 1 of each year, though we generally try to make our notifications several weeks before that date. If an applicant does not respond to their offer by 9 a.m. EST on 15 April, we will assume that the offer is being declined. There will be a waiting list. We do not allow students to defer admission. An admitted student who cannot enter in the coming fall semester will have to reapply the following year.
Our applicants include some of the strongest student writers in the country, and many are accepted by several writing programs. These programs sometimes ask for an early decision. According to the Council of Graduate Schools April 15 Resolution, no student accepted at any of its hundreds of member institutions should be under obligation to respond to an offer of financial support prior to April 15. For more information, the full text of this resolution appears on the Council of Graduate Schools website.
Additional work-study opportunities and student loans are administered by Student Financial Services, University of Virginia, P.O. Box 400204, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4204 and can be reached at (434) 982-6000, or by visiting their website. Please contact that office directly for application forms and information.
Please contact the UVA Arts & Sciences Graduate Admission Office with any questions about application fee waivers. As a program, we only evaluate your writing sample. The Graduate School makes all decisions on applicant eligibility and fees.
Our MFA students must remain in full-time graduate student status to receive fellowship support. We can only provide fellowship support for two academic years. Students who do not satisfactorily complete coursework and successfully defend their theses on time must finish their degrees at their own expense. Except in extreme circumstances, we cannot grant a leave of absence once a student is enrolled.
In accordance with federal law, the law of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the policies of the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia, the university does not discriminate in any of its programs, procedures, or practices against any person on the basis of age, citizenship, color, handicap, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or status as a disabled veteran or veteran of the Vietnam era. The University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.
* By "residency is required," we mean that we are a full time, traditional "in residence" 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.