MFA coursework is completed in two years of residency, usually followed by a third year of residency in which the student concentrates on completing his or her MFA thesis. During the three years, MFA students will also teach one undergraduate course per quarter. (Please see the section on Financial Support for more information on teaching.)


In each quarter of the two years of coursework, students are enrolled in either the fiction or poetry section of the Graduate Writers' Workshop, a course where students and faculty share in discussion and criticism of student writing. Each year there are approximately twelve students in the poetry workshop and twelve students in the fiction workshop, each of which is composed of both first and second-year MFA students from the Programs in Writing. The Graduate Writers’ Workshop will constitute two-thirds of the students’ coursework. The other third is devoted to graduate-level seminars offered by the Department of English, the Department of Comparative Literature, and other humanities graduate programs. Graduate seminars are made up of MFA and PhD students.


Students conclude the Programs in Writing by producing a thesis of professional quality. Examples of theses include a collection of poems or stories, a novel, or a novella. The thesis is typically submitted at the end of the student’s third year. Students may submit the thesis at the end of the second year of coursework and be awarded the MFA degree after two years; however, many students find the third year to be particularly valuable because they are able to work closely with MFA faculty in completion of a thesis that will become a substantial portion of their first published books.