Questions and Answers
1. How can a low-residency format create a sense of community among students and faculty?
Education is a kind of conversation, and aspiring writers need all sorts of that conversation, from written comments to one-on-one critiques, to socializing. Sustaining all these kinds of conversation is crucial to our success and we take them all quite seriously, even in our low-residency program.
The intensity and vibrancy of both the summer residencies and the academic semester conversations among faculty and students create a strong sense of common purpose in our program. If you join us, you will discover a diverse, talented, and generous community dedicated to the writer's life. The residencies and semesters foster a non-competitive spirit. This spirit sparks conversations that build toward strong friendships. Our students and faculty come from diverse backgrounds, yet many stay very closely in touch during the academic year and after they graduate. there is no reason not to be idealistic about it: we are all pursuing a dream, an oft-deferred dream, in the face of multiple questions and challenges. Here, you can develop the skills and knowledge to make a lifelong commitment to your writing while realizing a supportive literary community that will continue to support and inspire your writing long after you receive your degree.
2. Who will be my classmates?
The students in our program come to us from across the United States. They range in age from their early 20s to their mid-50s. Each brings a wealth of unique experiences, lessons and motivations that enrich and inspire the program. From beatnik poets and activists to publishing agents and chemists, from cowboys to city slickers, bricklayers to bartenders and everyone in between, the diversity and scope of the program is its greatest strength. This richness generates a profound sense of unity and belonging that comes from being a part of a community of writers, that is, a community of individuals who have dedicated their lives to the art of writing.
3. Who will be my professors ?
Your relationship with your instructors is an integral part of your program. A low faculty-to-student ratio ensures your instructor's focus is where it belongs: on you and your writing. All of our faculty members are active writers with decades of combined experience living, working, and thriving in the worlds of poetry, fiction and film. The Screenwriting concentration is the only accredited creative writing graduate program taught entirely by current Hollywood screenwriters and producers. Both the poetry and mainstream fiction concentrations are taught by currently publishing authors.
4. What can I expect in the program's online component?
Expect a rigorous and challenging year of discussion, composition and growth. The school year is based on a studio-mentor format. You're partnered one-on-one with a faculty mentor within your concentration. You can expect to spend a minimum of 25 to 30 hours a week completing writing assignments, for which mentors provide weekly feedback. You participate in threaded, synchronous and asynchronous, online voice and discussion boards during each term with other students and mentors.
5. How intensive is the program?
In a word: very. It asks for nothing less than your best. The flexibility of the low-residency format is paired with the intensity and high expectations of a Master's degree program. The program insists on a high degree of commitment and excellence from its students.
6. Can I take classes in more than one 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.
7. Genre Fiction? Poetry with an Emphasis on Versecraft? Screenwriting for Film and Television? Why don't I see these concentrations usually offered in other creative writing graduate programs?
To quote the former program director Mark Todd, "There's a change on the horizon of M.F.A. programs, a transformation of interest and focus seen through isolated courses at universities, published comments from authors and critics, and various conferences that focus on and celebrate mainstream writing. The M.F.A. program and concentrations at Western were created in response to these changes. We wanted to offer something unique in the M.F.A. world, but something we also felt passionately about. Both these goals were brought together in a program that celebrates and supports writers who aspire to reach audiences beyond academic circles, writers who hope to reinvigorate poetry, film and fiction while pursuing excellence within their craft."
There are very few graduate programs that offer these concentrations. We've found that students are searching for a program to enable them to pursue a lifelong commitment to their writing. And that's exactly the kind of program we have created - a program that addresses the world of writing in a refreshing way, a program that enables students to develop their craft while realizing their dreams and passions.
8. What separates your program from the dozens of other graduate creative writing programs out there?
A rigorous and unique program of study, a low student to faculty ratio, and our commitment to you, to your writing and to your career as a writer. We strive to bring something different to the table, another option and a new perspective of what a creative writing graduate program can be. We invite you to explore our courses, and to enter a dialogue with our instructors, students and staff. You'll realize a shared passion for the art of writing and the audiences we write for. You'll discover an innovative program, and a supportive and inspired community committed to you and your ambitions.
9. Why would I enroll in the M.A. in Creative Writing program instead of the M.F.A. in Creative Writing program?
Western decided to add the additional M.A. graduate writing program to reach out to four primary demographic audiences:
1. Students who are already teachers and interested in earning a creative writing-specific graduate degree to advance their professional careers in public or private middle or high schools.
2. Students who wish to earn a graduate degree with the intent of community college teaching.
3. Students who wish to earn an additional graduate degree to enhance their marketability in the four-year college teaching market.
4. Students interested in pursuing professional careers in writing but willing or able to pursue only one year of studies (and one year of tuition expenses) in creative writing.
10. Can I transfer my application from one concentration or degree to another? Can I transfer from one degree or concentration to another once I have enrolled?
The short answer is "Yes" in all cases, but there is some work involved. The following information can also be viewed on the Admission Requirements and Application page.
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 to Extended Studies 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 Extended 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.
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.A. 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.
11. What happens if I don't complete my thesis by the time I complete all the formal coursework?
According to the Western Graduate Catalog, "Students have a maximum of five years for completion of a Master's degree from initial enrollment as a graduate degree seeking student." Further, "to maintain active status, graduate students must register in at least one graduate corse per academic year." Because some M.F.A. students may not be able to complete their theses by the end of their formal coursework in the program, the GPCW allows students to maintain matriculation and work with their thesis advisers by maintaining matriculation up to the five-year maximum. This is accomplished by enrolling in a two-credit version of CRWR 692, "Independent Study," a variable credit course, each fall and spring semester until the student completes the thesis. Students who do not enroll in this course do not receive instruction on the thesis, lose their active status and must complete a Graduate Application for Readmission form and submit it to the GPCW and the office of Graduate Studies. The cost of CRWR 692 is $700/credit ($1,400/semester for a two-credit course), which gives the student access to Western email and to MyWestern, along with instruction from the thesis adviser.