MFA in Creative Writing - Admissions

Join Our Inclusive Community

Handycam shot of the early foliage at SMC.

Offering the Best of the Bay Area

The SMC MFA program is small by design. In a typical year, we accept six students in each genre—Poetry, Fiction and Creative Nonfiction—for a total of around 36 students in the entire program.

By keeping our classes small and our cohorts tight-knit, we hope to foster a supportive but challenging academic environment where every student has the opportunity to find their own voice.

Our new cohorts begin every year in Fall and applications for a 2024 start are open. Apply now before our Priority deadline using the following button and see more information about all of our deadlines and application requirements below!

Application Deadline
  • Priority/International Deadline: Friday, December 15th, 2023
  • General Deadline: Friday, February 2nd, 2024 
Application Checklist

A complete application to the SMC MFA program contains the following elements:

  • Online Application: The completed online application.
  • Writing Sample: A manuscript of your work in each genre you are applying: no more than 10 pages of poetry or 10-15 pages of creative nonfiction or fiction (fiction and creative nonfiction writing samples should be double-spaced. All writing samples should be in 12-point font).  Acceptable formats include .doc, .docx, or PDF.
  • Personal Statement: A personal statement should be at least two (2) but no more than five (5) double-spaced pages. In it, please describe in detail your background and current interests as a writer, as well as how you might contribute to our generative, inclusive community. If there is a particular faculty member you'd like to work with or if there is a specific reason you'd like to study at SMC, please also indicate this in your statement. If you're applying to two genres, please address your abilities and experiences with regard to both. If you would like to be considered for our Teaching Fellowships, our MARY Journal Managing Editor Fellowship, or one of our community partnerships, please express your general interest in your personal statement.
  • Letters of Recommendation: ​​We encourage students to submit a minimum of two (2) but no more than three (3) letters of recommendation from people who are familiar with you and your work. If you are applying to the Teaching Fellowship in Composition, at least one of your letters should address your desire to teach if possible. The online application will ask you to provide the names and contact information of the people who are recommending you—once this information is supplied, the online system contacts them directly with instructions about how to upload their recommendations.
  • Transcripts: Please submit one copy of unofficial transcripts from the colleges you have previously attended. Please upload unofficial copies of transcripts via the online application system in order to start the review process ASAP. (Please note on your application if the name on your transcript is different from your current name.) If your bachelor's degree is in-progress, send an unofficial transcript nowthen send the official transcript after your degree is posted.
    • Upon admittance, we also require one set of official transcripts from your degree-granting institution. You can submit them digitally to or have them mailed to:
      • Saint Mary's College of California
      • Office of Admissions
      • PMB 4800
      • Moraga, CA 94575-4800
  • Resume/CV
  • Teaching Fellowship Essay (Optional): An essay of up to 1,000 words to be considered for a Teaching Fellowship in Composition. The essay should include a reflection on why you want to teach first-year writing at Saint Mary's College, as well as describe your experience learning to write in college and how that experience may inform your own values and approaches to teaching academic writing. One of your letters of recommendation should address your desire to teach.
  • Application Fee: A $50 application fee is required alongside your online application. If needed, please contact our Director of Admissions for information regarding fee waivers.

Please note that the MFA Program does not require applicants to submit Graduate Records Examination (GRE) scores.

International Applicants

Saint Mary’s MFA in Creative Writing deeply values the intellectual and cultural diversity that International students bring to the classroom. As such, we strongly encourage International students to apply to our program.

Due to the federal requirements involved in providing our International students with educational visas, International applicants are strongly encouraged to submit their application materials as quickly as possible and before the Priority/International Deadline. International applicants will also be required to submit additional documents with their application. Please refer to Saint Mary's International Graduate Admissions page for more information.



A Letter from the Director: Small Program, Big Opportunities 

Thanks for your interest in the SMC MFA program. Even applying for MFA programs is a major commitment to your writing life, so congratulations. Whether you land at the SMC MFA program, or somewhere else, I hope you find a writing community where you feel empowered to make art that makes a difference. 

As you know by now, the SMC MFA program is small by design. We accept no more than six students per year in each genre—fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction—which means that our program is never larger than 36 students. Our faculty like it that way because it means we get to spend more time with each student. And our students like it that way because it means they develop deeper relationships with faculty—and with their classmates. 

Our close-knit community also means that we have unique opportunities to tailor our financial support to the needs and goals of individual students. Let me give you two examples. Last year, a very talented applicant had experience working in a museum at their undergraduate institution, so we arranged for that student to have a graduate assistantship at the Saint Mary's College Museum of Art that covers a significant portion of their tuition. Likewise, an excellent fiction writer applied who had experience working at their undergraduate college magazine, so we set that student up with a graduate assistantship as a reporter in our campus newsroom. 

In short, Saint Mary's is a small liberal arts college, and our MFA program is a small community of writers, so we are in the privileged position of being able to connect our students with cool opportunities on campus (and beyond!) that provide financial support and valuable training, as opposed to some larger programs that take a one-size-fits all approach to scholarships and assistantships. The earlier we receive your application, the more time we have to get to know your work and introduce you to our colleagues on campus as we hope to put together the best possible offers for our students. 

If you have any questions, we're hosting another round of info sessions in January. I hope you can join us to learn more!

Chris Feliciano Arnold - Director and Chair of Creative Writing Programs

Application FAQ

How many applicants are admitted each year?
We admit no more than eight new students in each genre (creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry) every year. The program is full-time and cohort based with no more than sixteen students in each genre.  

Is your application deadline hard and fast?
If you missed the deadlines, but are prepared to submit your application please contact the Assistant Director of Admissions and Recruitment as soon as possible. 

Do you allow students to enter in the spring as well as the fall?
Students are admitted in the Fall semester only.  

When are acceptances announced?
Acceptances are typically announced mid-February at the earliest. We strive to have all notifications sent by the national April 15th decision deadline.

I am an international student. How can I apply? 
International applicants must submit all the same application materials as national applicants. There are additional requirements for our international applicants. Please see the additional information above.

I am assembling my writing sample and wanted to gauge whether it was best to submit new work, published work or a mix?
Your writing sample is most important element of your application! We encourage applicants to send their best and most polished work. The admissions committee will not consider whether or not your sample has been published, whether it is new or old—they base their decision on the quality of your work.

Should my letters of recommendation be geared more toward my work as a writer, how I would be as a workshop participant, or how I am as a student?
Letters of recommendation typically address the applicant's creative work and your potential for success in a graduate creative writing program. Sometimes these types of letter writers are not available to an applicant or an applicant may want letters to address both their creative work and their professional capabilities (i.e., a letter written by a former employer). 

Would more than two letters of recommendation or publications help my chances?
We require a minimum of two (2) letters of recommendation and do not accept more than three (3). While it's always wonderful to know more about you, additional letters of recommendation will not affect your chances of admission.

What if I am interested in applying to more than one genre?
Applying to more than one genre is an option. You must submit one manuscript in each genre and clearly indicate on the manuscript itself which genre it pertains to (see online application).

Ideally, your personal statement also addresses your abilities and experiences with regard to both genres.  

For more information, please take a look at the Application Checklist above.

If I have an undergraduate or post graduate degree in economics, business or science, it is possible to apply to an MFA in creative writing?
Yes! We celebrate diversity and encourage applicants from all educational and professional backgrounds to apply.

How important is my undergraduate GPA?
The admissions committee will look at your transcripts to determine that you have completed an undergraduate degree and are in good academic standing. Unlike other graduate-level programs, the MFA in creative writing puts more importance on the writing sample and personal statement.   

Can you tell me more about the dual-concentration option?
If you are interested in deepening your study in another genre after completing two years in the program, you may consider applying to the dual-concentration. This is a unique opportunity afforded to very few students. Dual-concentration applicants will complete an additional, accelerated year of study in the second genre of their choosing. In one year they will complete a new thesis in that genre, as well as all relevant course work.  

Dual-concentration students will complete their degrees after the completion of their third year. They have the option to participate in graduation ceremonies upon completion of year two or three, but can participate in commencement only once.

How can I apply for the dual concentration?
There are two ways to apply for the dual-concentration:

1) In your initial online application by indicating your primary and secondary genre and submitting a manuscript in each. Your manuscript in each genre is reviewed separately--one does not affect the other. If accepted, you will be offered admission to the genre where you ranked higher. A very select number of applicants may be admitted to both genres whereby you enter a three-year program, spending the first two years in your primary genre and the third year in your secondary genre. 

2) Once an admitted student and in your third semester you will work with your academic adviser to submit a dual-concentration application. This is an abbreviated application process and all materials are due by the application deadline. Your application is considered with the entire applicant pool that year. You will be notified of your admission into the dual-concentration in your fourth semester. 

How can I waive my application fee?

We understand that the graduate school application process can be costly and prohibitive. Email our Assistant Director of Admissions and Recruitment to find out your options. 

All applicants are automatically considered for the Program's merit-based scholarships by way of their application materials. No additional materials are required. Every accepted applicant receives some scholarship award. 

When are scholarships announced?
We work year round to raise scholarship funds and do our best to announce scholarships in conjunction with acceptances.

What are my funding options?
Funding is always a crucial component to consider when applying to MFA's. While we are not a fully funded program, all of our students receive some form of tuition scholarship during their two years in the program. Additionally, every matriculated student is locked into their tuition rate for the two years they are enrolled full-time. 

Federal unsubsidized graduate student loans are available to all students. You'll want to be sure to complete a FAFSA alongside your Saint Mary's application for maximum financial aid options. You can find out more about federal graduate student loans on the financial aid website.

Additionally, there are many campus jobs, including the opportunity to work in our writing center, and other grants associated with the college at large and other outside funding opportunities that are available to our graduate students.  

How much is tuition?
$30,765 for the 2023-2024 academic year.

Does the typical time of day that Saint Mary's offers graduate classes usually enable people who work during the day to still keep their job?
The program holds classes on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday; we never hold classes on Monday or Friday. Typically, classes are held in the late afternoon (3 p.m. or 4:30 p.m. to around 4:30 p.m. or 7 p.m.). Workshop is held on Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. all four semesters. 

Many of our students hold down jobs and are able to maintain their academic, professional, and personal schedules while in the program.  

What are the program requirements? 
You can find out more about our curriculum on our Course of Study web page. You must earn 42 units to graduate and complete the following:

  • 4 Writing Workshops (including tutorial focus in the genre)
  • Writer in the World: Practical Perspectives on Writing
  • Contemporary Creative Nonfiction/or Fiction/or Poetry
  • 2 Craft Seminars in Creative Nonfiction/or Fiction/or Poetry
  • 2 Electives
  • 1 Thesis

Can a student concentrating in Fiction take a Poetry workshop or other Poetry course?
Yes, you may take craft courses outside of your genre. Unfortunately, students are not allowed to take workshops outside of their genre. Any craft course taken outside of your genre will satisfy one elective credit.  

How big are your classes?
Our class sizes are small that allow students and faculty have the time and attention to shape meaningful creative relationships. This is one of the very special aspects of our program. Class sizes will typically be no larger than sixteen students.

If I am accepted to the program, can I choose to defer my enrollment?
Accepted applicants who wish to defer their enrollment can do so for one academic year.

A deferred student does not have to reapply via the online application or submit an additional $50 application fee. The program will hold on to your current application materials.

A deferred student has the option to resubmit any portion of their application materials (manuscript, personal statement, letters of reference, teaching fellowship essay) for teaching fellowship consideration. The program would need to receive any updated materials by the application deadline, January 31st.

Deferred students must reconfirm their intention to apply and/or enroll as soon as possible.

Note, that by submitting your request to defer admissions you forfeit all awards, scholarships, fellowships, tuition rates, and dual-genre acceptances. 

What happens to my scholarships/fellowship if my petition to defer my enrollment is granted?
If your deferment is granted, you will forfeit any awarded scholarships and fellowships. A $400 tuition deposit is required, the deadline of which will be outlined in the official deferment letter. Students in deferment have the option to resubmit any portion of their application materials (manuscript, personal statement, letters of reference, teaching fellowship essay) for merit-based scholarship and teaching fellowship consideration for the following year. 

Is your student body diverse?
We welcome writers from all walks of life. We are diverse in terms of age, ethnic background, experience, aesthetic, and more. It is one of the wonderful aspects of our small program! Our students come from many different backgrounds, cultures, and disciplines with undergraduate degrees from English to Biology. They are from many parts of the world and range in age from 22 to 75!

I'm attracted to Saint Mary's because of its Lasallian tradition. Could you tell me about these opportunities?
The MFA Program is proud to keep with the Lasallian mission of the college. We invest in the student as a person and emphasize diversity, shared inquiry, and community engagement, and we pay a deep respect to unique ways of knowing.  

I am a Christian interested in your program.  Are all your faculty and students Christians?
One of the strengths of Saint Mary's is its intellectual and spiritual diversity. Not all of our teachers are Catholic; some are Jewish, Arab and Hindu. We have spiritual diversity. We don't require that all our students, faculty, staff be practicing Catholics, though some are.

We are grateful for the range of experience in the lives of our student body, faculty and staff, and we have no doubt that you would find your place in our community. 

How can I get a better feel for the Saint Mary's culture?
There are a number of ways to get a better feel for the Saint Mary's culture. If you are local we encourage to visit our campus and sit in on one of our classes. Please contact the Assistant Director of Admissions and Recruitment to make arrangements. You can attend one of our Creative Writing Reading Series events or Afternoon Craft Conversations to get a glimpse of the literary culture. Both are free, open to the public, and regularly attended by our current students, faculty, staff, and alumni. You can also take a virtual tour of our beautiful campus!

Questions left unanswered?
If you have any questions about the program or application process, please contact our Assistant Director of Admissions and Recruitment, Collin Skeen.

Upcoming MFA in Creative Writing Events

School and Department Information

Chris Feliciano Arnold
Director, MFA in Creative Writing

Collin Skeen
Assistant Director of Admissions and Recruitment