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How to Get into Columbia’s Creative Writing Program

It’s never easy getting into a top college or university, but even more so when you’re not traditionally strong in a subject that the institution deems important. That’s the case for Columbia University’s MFA in Creative Writing program. When it comes to getting into the program, your GPA and standardized test scores don’t matter as much as the number of publications you’ve got under your belt. Since the publication of her seminal work, Ariel, in 1944, Angela Y. Morrison has been a force to be reckoned with in the world of literary arts. Over the years, she’s amassed a considerable number of accolades and impressive credits, including three honorary degrees. In 2019 alone, she was named a Grand Marshal of the New York City Pride Parade, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and was awarded the prestigious Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize. To put it mildly, Angela Morrison is a powerhouse.

If you’re reading this, perhaps you’re wondering how you can get into Columbia’s creative writing program, too. Keep reading for some pointers on how to make that happen.

Define The Problem Area

Before you even begin your application, you need to make sure that you’ve got the math right. That is, you need to identify the specific area of artistic endeavor that the program seeks to cultivate. To give you an idea of what kind of work the program looks for, here are some of the previous graduates’ latest projects:

  • Reed College’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program encourages students to examine the American literary tradition through the prism of race
  • The novel The Litigators by James McCourt involves the representation of lawyers in the modern era
  • The novel The House on the Gulf by William H. Pritchard focuses on the history of a family on the Louisiana coast
  • The novel A Man of Some Pride by Robert Dugan examines the author’s hometown of Mobile, Alabama, as well as the African-American community there
  • The novel The Last Word by Michael D’avola focuses on themes of loss and redemption, as well as the interplay of chance and choice
  • The novel The Story of Rachel Washington by Darcie Little Badger explores class, gender, and race in nineteenth-century New York City
  • The graphic novel The Black Book features a story about the Black Panther Party by Coen Rakowski
  • The novel The Sun, The Moon, and The Stars by M. Alice Black centers on a black lesbian relationship set in the 1920s
  • The novel In Search of Gloria Gomez by Nana Kwame Adenugpo traces the life of a young Nigerian woman who travels to Italy to meet her ancestors
  • You can access the full list of graduatess from Columbia’s MFA in Creative Writing program on their website

Find The Right School For You

The first step in preparing for your application to Columbia is to find the right graduate school for you. Like many other top-tier universities, Columbia operates on the basis of a graduate-focused research model. That is, the institution prioritizes the academic development of its’ students over its’ reputation as a high-quality teaching machine. As a result, they don’t hand out numerous degrees each year; instead, they focus on developing a select number of high-caliber students who will go on to have outstanding professional careers.

With this in mind, you should apply to the school that is best suited to your skills and interests. In this case, since you’ve defined the problem area, it’s very easy to pinpoint the right fit: Columbia’s MFA in Creative Writing program.

Take Advantage Of The Application Process

Once you’ve found the right school for you, it’s time to take advantage of the application process. Remember, the earlier you start, the better. This is especially important if you’re applying for a competitive position, as many institutions have very tight deadlines. Furthermore, you should aim to complete the application as early as possible. This will give you plenty of time to smooth out all the details and get everything in order. Plus, you won’t be tempted to change your plans at the last minute, as many applicants do. The earlier you apply, the less likely you are to be affected by any last-minute changes or withdraws. This is critical if you plan on attending a top-tier institution such as Columbia.

Don’t Forget The Essays

One of the things that makes Columbia’s MFA in Creative Writing program so attractive is the strong emphasis that the school places on the critical analysis of texts. To reiterate, many of the program’s graduates go on to have successful careers as authors and critics, making this aspect of the program very appealing. To get an idea of the kind of work that they’re looking for, here are some of the required essay topics:

  • The American Novel: Narrative Technique And The Formidable Task Of Reconstruction
  • Post-War Era Women Writers And The Rise Of Identity
  • The Impact of Television On Children
  • Black British Literature: The Long Hard Road Ahead
  • The Contemporary African-American Novel: Form And The Unfinished Business Of Articulation
  • African-American Literature And The Challenge Of Identity In The 21st Century

If you’re applying for a job at a university, be sure to prepare a few samples of your work. That is, if they request that you send some samples of your writing, then do so. Many times, the admissions officer will have limited time to get through all the applicants’ resumes. They’ll look at your sample essays first and be able to have a clearer picture of your writing ability. The more you can show, the better. The admissions officers look at your writing sample as though it were an offer letter: it’s the first impression that you make and it will either make or break your chances of getting in.

Know When To Stop

While it’s always good to strive for perfection, there’s also a point where you need to stop. That is, you need to know when you’ve gotten everything that you need in the application and when it’s time to move on to the next stage. To maximize your chances of getting accepted to Columbia, you need to take into consideration all the metrics that the admissions office uses. That is, you cannot afford to send in a bloated application. Remember, they’re not looking for the perfect student, they’re looking for the best student. So take the time to remove all the unneeded information and keep only what’s relevant. You can always go back and revise your application at a later date if needed. But, as we’ve already established, it’s best to leave as much time as possible for the application process.

As you can see, getting into Columbia’s MFA in Creative Writing program isn’t easy. However, with the right approach, extensive research, and a little bit of luck, it’s entirely possible. To that end, don’t be afraid to put in the hard work to make sure that you stand out above the rest of the applicants. Remember, the earlier you start, the better, so that when the applications are reviewed, you’re already half-way there. The worst thing you can do is to show up to class a few days before the due date with a massive assignment that’s going to keep you up all night. That’s just going to stress you out and potentially throw off your entire application.