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Master of Fine Arts In English

SIU Creative Writing classroom

There are advantages to earning a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing degree that are difficult or time-consuming to achieve without the degree. In fact, one of the most important advantages to the M.F.A. is time — time to focus on your craft, and time saved by learning about writing, writing opportunities and the writing world on your own.

Our faculty are all well-known, respected authors and sought-after for readings, anthologies and awards. Our association with Southern Illinois University Press and our long-standing tradition of hosting various literary festivals and readings make our home community an active part of the greater writing community — and that means expanded opportunities for our graduate students.


Almost all MA, MFA, and PhD students hold graduate assistantships, which provide stipends for the academic year and full remission of tuition. The annual stipend, which comes with tuition remission, ranges from $13,000 to $14,500, depending on the degree. Assistantships are renewable to students in good standing: up to twenty-four months for MA students, up to thirty-two months for MFA, and forty-eight for PhD. Graduate students in good standing who have taught freshman English (ENGL 101 and 102) are also eligible to teach a variety of courses to broaden their teaching expertise, including literature courses, and to serve as tutors in the program’s Writing Center.

Most graduate assistants are assigned to the University’s first year writing program, in which they have full responsibility for two sections of composition each semester. An extensive series of pre-semester workshops, a semester-long seminar in the teaching of college composition, and a mentoring system complement graduate work and assist in professional development. Summer teaching is also available to a limited number of graduate students.

Our Format

First, the workshops. As is fairly standard in many writing programs, you’ll read your work and critique your peers work in a collegial environment led by our faculty.

You’ll also work one-on-one with our writing faculty. And you’ll produce a thesis of original work, for which you will work closely with your advisor.

You should expect to work in a variety of forms — in both poetry or fiction as your chosen focus. We introduce our writing students to a variety of styles and personalities, from traditional to experimental and even including new technology and non-traditional venues for publication and storytelling.

Our small program size provides an excellent student-teacher ratio, and encourages both formal and informal apprenticeship and tutorial relationships. While no academic program can promise to create writers, our M.F.A. program strives to provide committed, talented writers the guidance, instruction, support, and community that will help them produce their best work.

Compass IconView the requirements for each of these concentrations or view all English courses.

Center for Virtual Expression

Our fiction program focuses on professionalization regardless of subject matter or genre. Our fiction writers have found success in literary journals and at literary publishing houses, as well as at large commercial houses, with literary fiction, science fiction, fantasy fiction, slipstream fiction, horror fiction, and crime fiction.

The fiction program also supports podcasting, audiobook creation, game narrative, virtual reality narrative, 360-degree video-making, Twitter fiction, subreddit fiction, and other forms of technological narrative. You need not be versed in these new approaches to storytelling, but you'll need to be open-minded, given the wide opportunities available with these novel venues.

How to apply

The application deadline is January 1 for prospective students wanting the concentration of literary studies and rhetoric and composition. There is no deadline for applications for the English Studies concentration. However, to ensure full consideration for summer or fall admission, applicants should complete the Graduate School’s application by April 20. To ensure full consideration for spring admission, applicants should complete the application by November 15.

The application will ask you to submit a CV, statement of purpose, writing sample, and three letters of recommendation, in addition to transcripts and other basic academic information. Please consult the following documents for advice on application materials, statements of purpose, and writing samples.

While GRE scores (general or subject tests) are not required for admission to the MA, MFA, or PhD programs, students are still encouraged to submit these scores. The minimum GPA for admission to SIU Carbondale’s Graduate School is 2.7 (of 4.0).

Writing Sample for MFA Applicants

Please submit a sample of our best creative work. For fiction applicants: 15-30 pages of fiction. For poetry applicants: 10-15 pages of poetry.

Please submit a clean copy of your writing sample, one without teacher comments or grade.

Statement of Purpose Guidelines

All applicantsmust submit a detailed Statement of Purpose for admission to our programs. The statement consists of two or more double-spaced, typed pages (500-750 words) that address the questions below. These questions do not have to be answered in order or in equal detail. The Graduate Studies Committee views the statement of purpose as a chance for applicants to detail their future projects and intellectual interests as well as how department faculty can assist in developing these projects and interests. Although the committee is interested in applicants’ broader career goals, it is most interested in their specific literary, rhetorical, and creative interests.

  • In what aspect of literary or rhetorical studies are you interested? Do you have an interest in any specific literary period, critical or theoretical approach, or research topic? Do you have a research or creative project in mind? (MFA applicants: Also see the next section and direct your responses to reflect your creativewriting interests and goals) Will you be able to satisfy these interests with the
    current English curricula at SIU? What background (i.e., course training, professional or academic experience) prepares you to study English at the graduate level?
  • Additional questions for MFA applicants only: Why are you seeking a degree in creative writing? What do you hope to gain from such a degree program? Which poets or writers, beyond the writers you have studied with as an undergraduate student, do you cite as influences upon your own writing?
  • Why have you selected the English program at SIU? Do you, for instance, want to work with specific faculty? Are you attracted to specific programs or course offerings?
  • Please discuss any connections between your scholarly interests and teaching and/or any special interest in teaching that you might have. Do you have any experience or training in teaching? Do you envision a career in teaching, if so, at what level? How do you see your scholarly interests translating into a pedagogical setting?

Contact Information

Betsy Dougherty
Interim Graduate Studies Coordinator
Faner 2262
1000 Faner Dr
Carbondale, IL 62901

Fanner Hall on SIU campus
School of Literature, Writing, and Digital Humanities | College of Liberal Arts | 618-453-5321 |