Frequently Asked Questions About The MFA In Creative Writing At UCO

1. How many hours is the MFA?
2. What's the difference between an MFA and an MA?
3. What distinguishes the relationship between students and faculty members in the UCO MFA program?
4. I'm not interested in an academic career, but I'm very serious about my writing career. Is the MFA for me?
5. I intend to earn a PhD eventually. Should I get the MFA, or is the MA more appropriate?
6. I love to write, but publishing isn't my highest priority -- OR -- I don't really think of myself as a writer, but I have a story I'm compelled to tell and I want to learn to write in order to tell it. Should I apply for the MFA?
7. I love to write, but I don't read much and/or I'm not interested in the study of literature. Would the MFA be right for me?
8. If I'm currently working towards an MA in Creative Writing at UCO, and I am admitted to the MFA program, will any of the hours I have completed count towards the MFA?
9. Will teaching assistantships be available to MFA students?
10. I have completed an MA in Creative Writing at UCO and would like to apply to the MFA program. Will any of the hours I completed in my prior MA count towards the MFA?
11. I'm working on a novel. May I submit part of it for my writing sample or does the sample need to self-contained?


1. How many hours is the MFA?

The MFA requires 30 hours of coursework and six hours of thesis, for a total of 36 hours, compared to the MA, which requires 32 hours.

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2. What's the difference between an MFA and an MA?

Aside from the number of hours, there are two major differences:

First, an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) is considered a terminal degree, which means it is intended to represent the final step in an education, much like the PhD (Doctor of Philosophy). The MA (Master of Arts), on the other hand, is the transitional degree in the traditional academic track, which proceeds from the bachelor's degree to the master's degree, to the PhD. Therefore, holders of the MFA in Creative Writing are qualified to apply for full-time, tenure-track positions at most universities that offer Creative Writing degrees. The MA degree is not considered a qualification for these types of jobs, although people with MA's are often employed by universities as part-time instructors to teach first-year courses. (Exceptions to this rule occur when someone holding an MA has an excellent publishing record or is otherwise highly qualified to teach the subject for which he or she is hired.)

Second, an MFA in Creative Writing is intended for people who intend to write and publish professionally, which means that the thesis project will be held to a higher standard than the MA thesis, and that active publication during the degree process is key to an MFA graduate's success. Here, there is an instructive difference between the MFA and the PhD: while someone with a PhD may finish the degree with no or few publications and still have reasonable job prospects (although publishing is important for PhD's, too), someone finishing an MFA with no or few publications will be of far less interest to prospective employers. Why? Because the choice of the MFA over the PhD is understood to be a choice by the student to emphasize artistic work over scholarship. Therefore, this degree should be undertaken by people who are ready for the long haul with their writing, who are serious, and who intend to develop their writing and their publishing to professional levels.

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3. What distinguishes the relationship between students and faculty members in the UCO MFA program?

For the past forty years, UCO's Creative Writing faculty has sought to create strong mentoring relationships with students on a one-to-one basis. In addition to this mentorship, the UCO writing program offers students a chance to participate in a lively community of fellow writers and creative artists.

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4. I'm not interested in an academic career, but I'm very serious about my writing career. Is the MFA for me?

Yes, the MFA is an excellent choice for people solely interested in pursuing their writing. Why? Because the intensive workshop environment, the emphasis placed on learning about the publishing market, and the required completion of a thesis project, subject to rigorous standards, provide excellent training for anyone preparing for a writer's life.

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5. I intend to earn a PhD eventually. Should I get the MFA, or is the MA more appropriate?

While one does find people in PhD programs who hold MFAs, and an MFA is counted as a suitable prerequisite by most PhD programs, it is somewhat redundant to earn an MFA in preparation for a PhD, since both are terminal degrees and both involve lengthy programs of study. Exceptions to this rule often occur, however, in the cases of people who earn an MFA in creative writing and then go on to earn a PhD in a different area of English Studies (e.g., literature, or composition and rhetoric). The MA is traditionally considered the training ground for someone planning to pursue a PhD. Many students who have received their MA in the UCO English Department have gone on to earn PhD's, and the MA option with Creative Writing emphasis will continue to be available after the MFA program begins.

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6. I love to write, but publishing isn't my highest priority -- OR -- I don't really think of myself as a writer, but I have a story I'm compelled to tell and I want to learn to write in order to tell it. Should I apply for the MFA?

Probably not. In the cases above, the MA in Creative Writing would likely be a better match, because it allows students to explore and develop their creative writing interests in a stimulating and supportive environment that is less competitive and rigorous than that provided by an MFA program.

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7. I love to write, but I don't read much and/or I'm not interested in the study of literature. Would the MFA be right for me?

No. All writing classes at UCO are predicated on the time-proven notion that you are unlikely to write well if you do not read. The MA in Creative Writing and the MFA in Creative Writing are both housed within the Department of English because both degrees are predicated on the belief that writing and reading are inextricably bound together. Both degrees require a significant number of literature hours, and even the writing workshops require a considerable amount of reading, both of assigned texts and of fellow students' writing.

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8. If I'm currently working towards an MA in Creative Writing at UCO, and I am admitted to the MFA program, will any of the hours I have completed count towards the MFA?

Application to the MFA program will be open to any qualified student who wishes to apply and will be nationally competitive. In the cases of students admitted to the MFA who are currently enrolled in the MA program in Creative Writing, we will make every effort to accept relevant hours already completed by the student at UCO. The maximum number of transferable hours is nine. Any current MA students who plan to apply for the MFA program should study the degree guidelines for the MFA; should be advised by a member of the MFA's Steering, Assessment, and Curriculum Committee; and should then enroll this year in courses that would apply toward the MFA in the event they are accepted next year into the MFA program.

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9. Will teaching assistantships be available to MFA students?

Yes, a limited number of teaching assistantships will be available to students pursuing the MFA.

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10. I have completed an MA in Creative Writing at UCO and would like to apply to the MFA program. Will any of the hours I completed in my prior MA count towards the MFA?

While we encourage former MA students to apply for the MFA, university policy prohibits us from counting the same credit hours toward two different degrees. If, however, you completed courses in your previous degree program that did not count toward that degree, some of those courses might be counted towards the MFA if, in the judgment of the program advisor, they are relevant to the MFA.

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11. I'm working on a novel. May I submit part of it for my writing sample or does the sample need to self-contained?

Excerpts from longer works are fine. If you submit an excerpt, make every effort to chose a section that stands alone, or feel free to provide a brief synopsis (within the allotted number of pages) to bring the reader up to speed.

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For questions about specific admission requirements and a breakdown of degree requirements, see the accompanying forms.