Beyond the close attention we bring to student writing, our MFA program offers an intense, stimulating immersion in the many ways an author might shape, support and inform a 21st century writing life. Our faculty has distinguished itself in an array of genres and media, and we teach from our expertise in traditional and innovative genres and forms. As a program, our areas of special strength are global contemporary writing and its antecedents; translation practice and theory; US minority and immigrant writing; digital media; writing and social concerns; and literary careers and publications.

In addition to workshop and the preparation of a booklength thesis, our candidates choose from Notre Dame’s wide selection of graduate courses, including gender studies, art and art history, book arts, languages and literatures, film, television and theater. To complement their classes and writing projects, MFA candidates work on literary journals and presses, teach, facilitate outreach programs with our community partners, interact with visiting authors and artists, and conduct a reading series of their own. 

Complete details can be found in the Graduate Student Handbook  (MFA Section).

Plan of Study

The courses discussed below are to be taken over two academic years. The normal course of study is one writing seminar, one literature course, and one thesis preparation course per semester. During the final semester, the student may take a Special Studies course as well as thesis preparation.

By taking all of the elective courses in the English department, a student may complete in this two year program the equivalent of one year of study towards the Ph.D.; thus he or she may transfer into the Ph.D. if appropriate. Students planning to complete a joint Ph.D./M.F.A. should NOT apply to receive a Masters degree after the Ph.D. Candidacy Examination (see Handbook on Ph.D. Candidacy Examination).

Workshops & Literature Courses

Thirty-six hours of graduate course credit are required for the degree. Students must take three writing workshops in the first three semesters of residency (a fourth is encouraged in the final semester, either in the genre of the thesis or in another genre), four literature courses, four thesis preparation courses, and may take electives. Most courses are three credits. Thesis preparation will be supervised by the creative writing faculty.

Students must complete their first two writing workshops in the genre in which they were admitted, but they may, with the permission of the instructor, register for a workshop in the other genre. Students are not allowed to simultaneously take both the poetry and fiction workshops. A student who wishes to complete the thesis in a genre other than the one in which he or she was admitted must receive permission from the Director of Creative Writing.

Course Load

Fifteen hours of course credits per semester constitute the maximum load; nine hours constitute the minimum full-time load.


The student must achieve a final average of “B” in order to receive the degree. A student whose course work in the first semester falls below a “B” average will be informed that unless he or she achieves a “B” average for the year the student will not be considered for candidacy.


Students are discouraged from taking incompletes. A student is allowed no more than one incomplete per semester, and an incomplete may be assigned by an instructor only after the student has obtained written permission from the Director of Creative Writing. Students must complete all work for courses in which they take incompletes within six weeks (including holidays) after the end of the semester. If the work is not completed on time, the student will be put on academic probation and financial aid will be withdrawn.

Transfer Credit

With the permission of the Director of the Creative Writing Program and the Graduate School, the student may transfer up to six graduate credits in literature from another accredited college or university if the grade in each course to be transferred is at least a “B” and the request is accompanied by an official transcript from the college or university. Creative Writing students may not transfer credits for creative writing workshops taken at another college or university. Undergraduate credits in literature may not be transferred. With the permission of the Director of Creative Writing, the student may take for graduate credit two upper-level undergraduate courses, provided that he or she takes at least eighteen hours of graduate courses in English. Those who wish to use an undergraduate course for graduate credit may do so by enrolling in Special Studies with the course instructor, who agrees to augment the course in such a way as to make it commensurate with that of a graduate course.

Special Studies

With the permission of the Director of Creative Writing, the student may take up to three graduate credits of Special Studies. Directed independent readings and coursework and/or Special Studies may help satisfy the literature requirement, though they are not meant to replace regular course offerings and will only be granted for special cases.

Continuation & Leave

Continuation beyond the first year will require approval of the Creative Writing Review Committee.

Credit for any course is forfeited if the student’s program of studies is interrupted for five years.

Foreign Language Requirement
No foreign language is required for the creative writing degree.

Advisors and Thesis Directors

In the first year of residency, the student’s advisor will be the Director of Creative Writing, who will ensure that all requirements for the degree are met. Students must meet with the director before registering each semester.

Students must choose a thesis director by the end of their second semester. The thesis director will advise the student regarding progress on the thesis. The student is responsible for scheduling a meeting with the thesis director once each semester, or as necessary.


The thesis consists of a volume of the student’s work in a state acceptable for publication. This usually will be a novel, a collection of short stories, a volume of poetry, or a work of literary nonfiction.

By the end of the first year of resident study, the student must choose a thesis director and identify the genre of the thesis.

The thesis director indicates his or her final approval of the thesis and readiness for the readers when he or she signs the thesis. Two fair working copies of the thesis must then be submitted to the Creative Writing Program Office in sufficient time that it may be read before the date specified for submission of master’s theses in the Graduate School calendar. A schedule of due dates will be provided by the Director of Creative Writing.

The thesis will be read by two readers assigned by the Director of Creative Writing. Ordinarily, the readers will be drawn from the creative writing faculty. Students about to graduate will also participate in a public reading of their work, usually in the final weeks of their final semester.