Admission Requirements and Application

Western's Graduate Program in Creative Writing considers applications throughout the year on a rolling basis, but we prefer to see complete applications by June 1. Depending on openings in the Summer Intensive Residency, we do admit students later than this (up to July 1), or to begin in alternative semesters, at the discretion of the Concentration Directors and the Program Director. We make admissions decisions on all completed applications within one month. Students may be accepted, accepted with provisions (e.g. a requirement to finish their undergraduate degree before matriculating in the graduate program at Western), waitlisted (with a notification of a final decision by April 1), or rejected. Occasionally applicants who have been rejected have reapplied and been accepted in subsequent years.

Current Western undergraduates and all Western alumni applying to the Graduate Program in Creative Writing pay no application fee. Veterans and current active duty personnel also pay no application fee. Please enter the code “Mountaineer2017” when submitting your application.

Please inquire directly if you have any questions about dates and enrollment schedules: graduatestudies@western.edu

International students have some additional university-wide application requirements to those listed here. Please visit the international graduate students application page to learn more.

Western Graduate Program Application Forms

Checklist for Application to the M.F.A. and M.A.

As part of your application for admission, you will need to submit the following:  

  • An official transcript of the bachelor's degree, including grades of B- or above in at least four (4) undergraduate or graduate courses in literary and/or film studies (either in analytical or creative work). The baccalaureate-granting institution must send the transcript directly to the Western's Office of Graduate Studies at Crawford 118, 1 Western Way, Gunnison, CO 81231. If students do not have transcripted credit for the requisite four courses in literary and/or film studies, they may make the case to the Admissions Committee for sufficient familiarity with the field by presenting other evidence, e.g. publication, professional experience, or other forms of relevant study.
  • An 800- to 1,000-word personal statement describing your writing experience and commitment to writing. This statement should include a self-assessment of qualifications for admission to Western's Graduate Program in Creative Writing for the chosen degree and concentration.
  • A 20- to 30-page writing sample in the appropriate genre, double spaced and numbered, or properly formatted for the appropriate genre. The Fiction concentration sample should cap at 25 pages and ideally be from a single work. The Poetry concentration sample should include 20 pages of poetry and 10 pages of analytical prose in any genre. The Screenwriting concentration sample should include a complete scene or short.
  • At least two letters of professional recommendation from those capable of assessing the applicant's preparation to succeed in a low-residency program. All letters must be submitted on letterhead, must be originals, less than a year old and signed by the person giving the recommendation.
  • For Poetry Concentration only: Poetry applicants must have sufficient preparation in a foreign language (ancient or modern) to work on translation with aid of a dictionary and other supporting texts during second year of studies.

​​Western Graduate Program Application Forms

Checklist for Application to the Certificate in Publishing

  • An official transcript of the bachelor's degree, demonstrating evidence of literary and/or film studies of at least four (4) undergraduate or graduate courses. The baccalaureate-granting institution must send the transcript directly to the Office of Graduate Studies, Crawford 118, 1 Western Way, Gunnison, CO 81231.
  • A 3-4 page essay describing your interest in the publishing world and what benefits you expect to receive from the Certificate in Publishing Program. What aspects interest you the most, whether traditional publishing, book design, agenting, independent publishing, reviewing, or book marketing? After completing the Certificate in Publishing, what career path do you envision in the publishing world?
  • Imagine you are the editor of a commercial anthology of holiday-themed stories. All genres are acceptable. Read the attached submission from an author with a few minor credentials and write a one-page explanation of whether you would accept the story for the anthology, accept with revisions, or reject. This is not a trick question; there’s no correct answer. We want to hear your opinion and decision-making process, what you liked or disliked, why you think it does or does not fit with the anthology.
  • At least two letters of professional recommendation from those capable of assessing the applicant's preparation to succeed in a low-residency program. All letters must be submitted on letterhead, must be originals, less than a year old and signed by the person giving the recommendation.

Western Graduate Program Application Forms

Change of Application Status

Applicants who have not yet been admitted or who have been admitted but have not yet enrolled may change their degree and/or concentration application status under the following conditions:

Applicants who have not yet been admitted may change the degree status of their applications (e.g., MA to M.F.A.) by making a formal, written request and then changing the appropriate forms. There is no fee for such a change in degree application status, but applicants must submit all appropriate materials for the new degree (if any are required) in order to be considered. If admission has already been granted but the student has not yet enrolled, admission to a different degree must be approved by the admissions committee of the concentration and the Program Director.

Applicants who have not yet been admitted may change the concentration status of their applications (e.g. Genre Fiction to Screenwriting) by making a formal, written request to the Office of Graduate Studies  and then changing the appropriate forms. There is no fee for such a change in concentration application status, but applicants must submit all appropriate materials for the new concentration (if any are required) in order to be considered. If admission has already been granted but the student has not yet enrolled, admission to a different concentration must be approved by the admissions committee of that concentration and the Program Director.

Applicants who wish to change both the degree status and the concentration status of their applications (e.g. M.A. in Genre Fiction to M.F.A. in Poetry) may combine the requests in one document.

Western Graduate Program Application Forms

Change of Enrollment Status

After enrollment, students may transfer from one degree path and/or concentration to another with permission of the relevant Concentration Directors and the Program Director. Depending on the point at which students transfer, additional coursework may be required. M.F.A. students in good standing may also apply to add a second concentration to their degree.

MA students who wish to transfer to the M.F.A. track within their concentration must complete the M.F.A. transfer application process before the beginning of the second summer intensive. The application must be approved by the admissions committee of the concentration and the Program Director. Some additional coursework may be required.

Students may apply to transfer from one concentration to another, but must do so by the time they have earned no more than 15 credits in the program, with no further credits in progress at the time of the application. Depending on the point at which students transfer, additional coursework may be required to complete the full degree. The application must be approved by the admissions committee of the concentration into which the student wishes to transfer and the Program Director.

Students who wish to change both their degree status and concentration status (e.g. M.A. in Genre Fiction to M.F.A. in Poetry) may combine the requests in one process.

Students should know that a concentration or degree transfer may have implications for financial aid (e.g., a transfer from the M.A. or M.F.A. to the Certificate in Publishing makes the student ineligible for federal financial aid, as that degree is not funded by federal programs). It is up to the student to investigate options for financial aid throughout the process.

Adding a second concentration: M.F.A. candidates in good standing may apply to add a second concentration to their degree by increasing the duration of their program to six semesters and a fourth summer residency. Admission to the second concentration requires a letter of intent and depends on approval from the faculty in both concentrations.

Western Graduate Program Application Forms

Checklist for Application to Non-Matriculated Enrollment

Western allows anyone holding a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution to apply for non-matriculated status in the Graduate Program in Creative Writing. Students who are admitted to this status may take as many courses as they wish, at the discretion of the concentration directors. They may also subsequently apply for admission to degree-seeking status, but may only transfer up to nine credit-hours of non-matriculated 600-level graduate coursework for a degree.

Costs per credit/hour are the same as for matriculated students.

To apply to be a non-matriculated student, request graduate school application forms from Western's Graduate Office, Crawford 118, 1 Western Way, Gunnison, CO 81231, or email to Graduate Office (graduatestudies@western.edu):

  • One-page cover letter explaining your desire to take classes in one of the Graduate Program's three tracks (Genre Fiction, Poetry with an Emphasis on Versecraft, Screenwriting for Film and Television) or in the Certificate in Publishing.
  • 10 to 15-page writing sample in the appropriate genre, double spaced and numbered, or properly formatted for the appropriate genre. The Fiction concentration sample should cap at 15 pages and ideally be from a single work. The Poetry concentration sample should include 10 pages of poetry and 5-10 pages of analytical prose. The Screenwriting concentration sample should include a complete scene or short.
  • Unofficial transcripts documenting successfully completion of baccalaureate degree and other advanced degrees or coursework.
  • Two letters of recommendation.

Up to 9 non-matriculated credits (graded B or higher) may be applied to a graduate degree at Western upon admission and approval by the appropriate Concentration Director and the Director of the Graduate Programs in Creative Writing.

Admission to non-matriculated status is subject to approval by the Director of each concentration. Non-matriculated completion of graduate level courses does not constitute or imply admission in the graduate program, as the candidate must still apply to the program and meet the full program admission requirements – but it does provide the opportunity to sample the program before applying for admission into a degree program and fully committing.

Non-Matriculated Enrollment in Summer Intensives

Summer Intensives in Genre Fiction, Poetry, Screenwriting and Publishing are open to formally non-matriculated students depending on availability each year, and at the discretion of the instructor and concentration director. There is no auditing option for summer intensives; all students must either be admitted to the program or hold non-matriculated status per the application process described above.

In most years, the summer intensives available include CRWR 631, “Scansion Immersion,” taught by GPCW Program Director David J. Rothman, CRWR 632, "Public Performance for Poets," taught by Andrew Sellon, and CRWR 661, "Film History and Analysis," aka "Screenwriting Bootcamp," taught by Screenwriting Concentration Director JS Mayank.

Courses meet 1:00-4:00 pm for eight days in the second half of July.

Participation in a Summer Intensive includes all classes, readings, workshops, lectures and other special events throughout the entire summer program. Please note: tuition does not include housing, meals, travel and any other events that require extra fees. Summer Intensive registration also does not include registration for Writing the Rockies, our national conference that begins on the final day of the Summer Intensive and runs through the weekend (July 19 - 23, 2017). General registration for Writing the Rockies is $300 for all attendees. Scholarships are available.

Extended Studies Credit Options for the Writing the Rockies Conference

Undergraduate and graduate students who are not enrolled in Western's Graduate Program in Creative Writing may apply to earn credit for attendance at our summer conference, Writing the Rockies, through Western's Division of Extended Studies. Public school teachers can also earn Professional Development credits in a number of ways. Please note that this credit does not apply to degree completion in any program of the GPCW, and cannot be retroactively upgraded for credit towards any such degree.

Undergraduate Credit. Undergraduates can earn degree-seeking credit of 1 to 3 credits in "English 397: Special Topics / Writing the Rockies." Additional fees apply beyond the Writing the Rockies General Registration fee. Western assigns these credits as upper division electives and will record them on transcripts, but students enrolled in other institutions are responsible for determining whether their home institutions accept these credits.

Graduate Credit. Students with an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution can earn from 1 to 3 non-degree graduate-level credits in English 510, which is run through Western's Summer Teacher Institute, administered by Western's Extended Studies Office. Additional fees apply beyond the Writing the Rockies General Registration. Western will record the courses on transcripts, but students are responsible for determining whether their home institutions accept these credits. Cost: $125/credit. You can see the syllabus for ENG 510 here.

Public School Teachers. Certified public school teachers can earn professional development credits and make progress towards recertification in a number of ways at writing the Rockies.

ENG 510 Credit for Recertification and Professional Development. A teacher may take ENG 510 for either 1, 2 or 3 credits and then submit transcripted graduate credit to the Colorado Department of Education with the application for recertification. Cost: $125/credit. You can see the syllabus for ENG 510 here.

Certificate of Completion for Professional Development Credit within a District. Subject to district approval, a teacher seeking professional development credit within a school district may submit evidence of having attended Professional Development hours at Writing the Rockies. Western provides a Writing the Rockies Certificate of Completion that verifies the number of hours a teacher has spent in sessions. Teachers seeking Professional Development Credit must verify on their own that their district will accept Writing the Rockies for such credit. Western will then issue the Certificate after the conclusion of the conference. There is no additional work required to earn the Certificate, and there are no additional fees beyond standard fees for participation in Writing the Rockies.

For more information on all of these options contact Western's Extended Studies Program at or 1.800.876.5309 , ext. 7, or ExtendedStudies@western.edu. The instructor of record for all credit-bearing courses at Writing the Rockies and all Certificates of Completion for Professional Development is Conference Coordinator Mark Todd, who can be reached at 970.943.2016 or mtodd@western.edu.

Transfer Credits

Departmental representatives determine if graduate classes completed at other accredited institutions can be transferred to the respective Western graduate studies programs. Transfer credits must be listed and approved by the major advisor on the degree plan. Transferred graduate credits must be:

Earned at a regionally-accredited institution;

Numbered at the graduate level and accepted as part of a graduate degree program at the sending institution;

Passed by the student with a grade of B or above (courses with grades such as pass/fail or satisfactory/unsatisfactory are not acceptable);

Earned within the past five years unless a department specifies otherwise;

Account for no more than nine credits towards a Western degree.

Students must provide official transcripts, and request and receive permission in writing from Western to transfer coursework.

Western Graduate Program Application Forms