MFA Degree Requirements

The Boston University Creative Writing Program offers a thirty-two credit terminal MFA degree, which can be earned in two-to-three semesters, in addition to some summer study. Courses taken by students include four workshops in their genre of study and four graduate-level literature courses. All students must also fulfill a world language requirement. After coursework is completed, each student must present a creative thesis in fiction or poetry. If granted Global Fellowships, students may embark on their trips upon completion of all academic work.


At least four of the courses taken must be workshops in fiction or poetry, depending on the genre in which the student is admitted. These workshops are part of a fixed program, taken in sequence, which all of the students admitted in each genre will complete as a cohort. The four remaining courses are normally graduate-level literature courses, some of which may be completed during the BU summer session(s); workshops may not. It is possible to take a course (or courses) in a subject or discipline other than literature, provided that these are demonstrably essential to the student’s creative work, and show a strong emphasis in reading literary, as distinct from purely scholarly or academic, texts.

If a student is admitted in fiction, s/he may apply to fulfill one of the literature courses by means of a workshop in poetry, and vice versa for a student admitted in poetry. A majority of admitted students teach in either the fall or spring semester, and so follow a schedule of taking four courses in the semester in which they do not teach, two in the semester in which they do teach, and two courses during the summer session(s).

All fiction and poetry workshops, both graduate and undergraduate, meet in Room 222 at 236 Bay State Road, the room in which poet Robert Lowell worked with Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton and in which fiction writer Leslie Epstein worked with Peter Ho Davies, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Ha Jin.


The MFA thesis consists of a minimum of ninety-five pages of fiction or forty pages of poetry. It must be approved by two readers — usually MFA faculty in the student’s genre — and submitted, correctly formatted, to the BU Graduate School of Arts and Sciences before a student departs for Global Fellowship travel.

World Language Requirement

Each student who has not previously completed at least two college courses of intermediate-level study in a non-English world language, or is not already multilingual, may fulfill the language requirement in one of the following ways:

  • Satisfactory completion of Boston University’s Translation Seminar, CAS TL 540 and its co-requisite CAS TL542. PLEASE NOTE: this course requires requires established proficiency as described above in the source language. Students who choose this option may first wish to consult the course instructor. The course will require students choose a mentor from the language department for the source language from which they are working; if working in a language not taught at BU, they may have to search outside of the Boston University community to find a mentor.
  • Satisfactory completion of a Boston University course in a non-English world language, usually taught in that language or a 500-level reading course in a world language (in which texts and instruction are usually in that language), subject to approval by the Creative Writing Program Director.
  • Passing GRS LF 621, GRS LG 621, GRS LI 621, or GRS LS 621 (these reading-knowledge-only courses are offered pass/fail for no academic credit, and enrollment is limited).
  • Passing a Translation Exam proctored by a Creative Writing Department administrator or faculty member and graded by an expert in the language being translated.

Transfer of Credit(s)

A student may transfer a maximum of two semester-length courses from another institution toward their degree. These must be graduate-level English literature courses and must not have been counted toward any other degree.


Students have the option to graduate within one year (August 25) or within a year and a half (January 25).

Global Fellowship

The Robert Pinsky Global Fellowships in Poetry and the Leslie Epstein Global Fellowships in Fiction make it possible for all BU MFA students to travel, write, and study for up to three months anywhere outside of the United States upon completion of all required coursework for the MFA degree.

Please note that, before leaving on Global Fellowship travel, students must complete all requirements for the MFA degree, including the thesis, which must be delivered, correctly formatted, to the Graduate School. While on their Global Fellowships, students are considered Traveling Scholars by BU and are thus eligible to receive university health insurance. Students are also required to have departed the United States for their Global Fellowship destination(s) before the date on which they wish to receive their degree.

In recent years, MFA students have travelled to Patagonia, Iran, Cuba, Bhutan, Greenland, and elsewhere. The Global Fellowship is not intended to fund individual or family vacations to standard tourist destinations, but rather to allow MFA students to explore a place, a culture, a language, or an author that is of immediate creative interest to them. Please explore the Global Fellows blog by clicking here.

The MFA at BU

About the Program

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The Global Fellowships

Our MFA students have the opportunity to live, write, and travel anywhere in the world

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The Translation Seminar

Read about BU's renowned Translation Seminar

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