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MA in Writing


Below is a list of requirements for admission into the Master of Arts in Writing program. 

Candidates for admission to the MA in Writing program must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution or its foreign equivalent and possess a strong academic record, preferably in English, writing or related fields. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is not required, although strong scores bolster an application.




The MA in Writing program is designed to be completed in two to three years of uninterrupted part-time study (one to two classes per quarter), although students are allowed five years to finish the program.

Application Checklist

Statement of Purpose

Applicants must submit a 300-word statement of purpose explaining how the degree program will help them meet their academic goals. Applicants who did not major in English or a closely related field should explain how other experiences, academic and nonacademic, have prepared them to undertake graduate study in creative writing.

Writing Sample

All applicants must submit a sample of writing for their application for admission. The portfolio should consist of one or more works totaling approximately 20 typed, double-spaced pages of prose, 15 to 20 pages of poetry, or the equivalent in published work. The quality of the writing portfolio is the primary (though not exclusive) basis on which admissions decisions are based.

Please review the requirements below for the genre of writing sample that should be submitted per the specialization selected in the application:

  • MA in Writing (fiction): Applicants must submit a sample of writing in the genre of literary fiction.
  • MA in Writing (nonfiction):  Applicants must submit a sample of writing in the genre of nonfiction.
  • MA in Writing (poetry): Applicants must submit a sample of writing in the genre of poetry.
  • MA in Writing (popular fiction): Applicants must submit a sample of writing in the genre of popular fiction. NOTE: A writing sample in literary fiction will suffice; applicants should address their interest in focusing on popular fiction in their statement of purpose.
  • MA in Writing (dual-genre): Applicants must submit two writing samples; one in each genre they are interested in pursuing (20 or so pages: 10-12 pages per genre if prose; if poetry is one of the genres, 15 pages for prose and 10-15 pages for poetry).
  • MA in Writing (publishing & professional development): Applicants must submit a sample of writing in the genre (literary fiction, popular fiction, nonfiction, or poetry) in which they wish to take workshops.

Analytical Essay

Applicants also must submit a brief analytical paper (5 to 10 pages) demonstrating the ability to critically evaluate and analyze literature.

 The analytical essay is used to evaluate one’s ability to critique literature using the tools of the trade. A strong essay will analyze themes used in the author's work, literary history, comparisons with additional literary pieces and any combination of these elements. Submissions should not be opinion based and should have citations.

  • If you choose to write a craft essay instead, it should outline how another author's short story, novel, poem or essay achieves its effects (what particular elements of the craft of writing does the author use in order to achieve its effect).

Supplemental Materials

Supplemental materials, with the exception of transcripts, must be uploaded to the online application. Official transcripts may be sent to our Admissions office at or mailed to our Chicago office. Please be sure to include the name of your intended program when addressing transcripts. Applicants will be notified once all materials have been received and the application is complete.

  • One sealed copy of official transcripts from ALL previously attended colleges and universities. Official transcripts must arrive in our office in the original sealed envelope issued by the institution. Northwestern University School of Professional Studies accepts electronic transcripts from U.S. institutions via secure electronic transcript providers. Consult with your institution to see if they are part of a secure e-delivery network. All electronic transcripts should be sent to Please note transcripts are not accepted by fax or email. If you are currently enrolled, please submit an official transcript showing courses in-progress. Applicants with international transcripts must request an official course-by-course evaluation of transcripts from a NACES member such as WES or ECE. A course-by-course evaluation will translate courses, degrees and grades to U.S. equivalency.
  • Two letters of recommendation focusing on academic achievement and ability
  • Statement of purpose
  • A 20-page writing portfolio in the selected genre of study
  • A brief (5-10 pages) critical essay on a major work of fiction, creative fiction or poetry
  • Current résumé or curriculum vitae
  • (optional) A separate written description of any additional study or experience in creative writing

Transcript mailing address:
MA/MFA Graduate Admissions
Northwestern University School of Professional Studies
Wieboldt Hall, Sixth floor
339 E. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, Illinois 60611-3008

Application Tips

Applications will be evaluated by a team of faculty and Admissions representatives. The following considerations will guide the Admissions Committee in reviewing your application:

  • The statement of purpose should reflect what you are currently reading, what authors inspire you and why; it should also include where the creative writing degree falls within your future career or personal goals.
  • Letters of recommendation should come from academia. If an academic recommender is not available, it is also acceptable to have a creative recommender who is in authority submit a letter.
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