Letter from the Director
Thank you for asking about our writing program. I’ll try in what follows to give you some idea of the way we work and respond to the questions most often posed by applicants. As you probably know, we are a small, intensive one-year MFA program. Each entering class has no more than ten fiction writers and ten poets. The course of study is, as you might imagine, a full one. For the MFA in creative writing, a student must complete eight classes–at least half of them in the workshops, with the remaining courses coming from the graduate curriculum within Boston University (though up to two courses may be transferred from other institutions—see more about that under Financial Aid). These courses may come from among the vast offerings of what is, after all, the fifth-largest private university in the country—from the English Department, or any other department that offers courses that are essentially literary in nature, including the superb Translation Seminar offered by the Department of Modern Languages and Comparative Literature.
A typical student’s load might look something like this: two workshops (meant to be complementary–for example, in fiction one might require work in revision, with the other asking for a finished story every three or four weeks), a class in, let us say, the contemporary novel, and one more, perhaps taught by Elie Wiesel or Christopher Ricks, for a total of no more than four courses per semester. I should add that because almost all of our students receive teaching fellowships, most will put off their last two scholarly courses until the summer or transfer them in.
May a student take a workshop in more than one genre, or add a workshop in place of a fourth academic course? The answer is yes–if the respective workshop leader has the room and approves your submitted material. In addition to completing the eight courses, the student must submit an MFA thesis–a portfolio of at least ninety pages of fiction or thirty-five pages of poetry. Lastly, there is a foreign language requirement, which will ask you to demonstrate moderate proficiency in one of the nationally-standardized SAT II qualifying language tests, or to have had two years of intermediate level coursework as an undergraduate, or to receive a passing grade in the Translation Seminar. (Students may also opt to take a special semester-long course on reading French, German, or Spanish; or take a one-hour translation exam, or engage in a dedicated project, though these are the least favored options.) Somehow or other, everyone passes this requirement.