When it comes to creative writing, it’s mostly subjective. There are certain conventions and rules that “good” writers will usually follow, however the field is largely based on individual taste. You don’t have to go to college to learn how to be a great writer. Practice and reading can help you get your work where you’d like it to be.
But if you’re a student looking to gain a more concrete and focused education in creative writing, studying the subject in college is a fantastic place to start.
An undergraduate program in creative writing can teach you not only the foundational elements of storytelling but also the more obscure aspects of the craft — aspects that you’re unlikely to come across on your own.
Creative writing degrees also encourage collaboration. Writing may seem like a solitary activity, but any good writer knows that working with others will help you broaden your perspective and take your writing to the next level. A university setting allows students to work on their writing together through workshops and readings, which are designed to push students to be the best that they can be.
So whether you're looking to advance your writing, collaborate with others, or learn from the best of the best, check out a few of the best colleges for creative writing that we’ve compiled on this list.
What should you look for in a creative writing degree?
Because creative writing is so personal, what you should look for will depend greatly on your personal preferences. But there are a few areas that generally stay the same across most programs.
For example, think about the type of creative writing you’re interested in. Do you like creating long or short fiction? Creative nonfiction? Are you secretly (or not so secretly) a poet?
Each program will offer different tracks for creative writing students, usually in the form of workshops. These workshops generally fall in three categories: fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. In your degree, you’ll be asked to focus in one of these areas (at most universities).
It’s important to consider the area that your chosen school excels in. Is the university you’re interested in primarily focused on poetry or creative nonfiction?
It’s also worth noting that you should take some time to research the faculty at the colleges you’re interested in. Faculty are often just as important as the tracks that each school offers; faculty will have an instrumental role in shaping the type of writing that you produce, so you’ll want to make sure that you apply to schools where you respect the faculty and the published work that they have created.
What can you do with a creative writing degree?
Creative writing is one of those degrees that does not typically accompany a formal career path. It will largely be up to you to determine what type of career you pursue post-graduation.
When you consider what you want to do once you have your degree, think about how your education in writing can work in a versatile setting. Many employers find liberal arts majors to be attractive candidates because of their ability to communicate well.
Check out just a few career options for creative writing majors below:
- English teacher
- Communications specialist
- Public relations coordinator
- Academic advisor
- Ghost writer
The best colleges for creative writing:
The University of Iowa
In the middle of the midwest, the University of Iowa has a pretty impressive claim to fame: the school is home to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. This program is for students pursuing their MFA degree, and it is fiercely competitive. But, as undergraduate students studying creative writing, you will benefit from studying at Iowa as well.
As an undergraduate student, you can pursue a dual degree in English and Creative Writing at the University of Iowa. You’ll get a world-class education in the literary field through professors who instruct those just starting out as well as more seasoned writers the likes of whom flock to the Iowa Writers’ Program. You’ll also have the opportunity to study with teaching assistants who are currently in the graduate program, which will help you get a diverse understanding of the literary world from a variety of different angles.
At the University of Iowa, you’ll also have the opportunity to focus on a literary and publishing track, which will give you the skills and education you need in order to move forward with a career in literary publishing. In the literary world, skills are fluid, but experience is essential. If you study at the University of Iowa, you’ll graduate with four years of experience in the field that you love and will be ready to take your creative pursuits to new heights.
Creative writing courses are typically rolled into another major at most schools. You can expect to see a dual degree in English and Creative Writing at many major universities — and this is a great option for students who might want to broaden their area of study.
But for students who want to dive headfirst into the study of creative writing, Oberlin College is the place to go. Oberlin College offers students a creative writing major that is independent of any other degree. Students interested in this degree must take the required prerequisites before applying for admission into the degree in their upper-level years at the college. It might seem like a lot, but the competitive admission process at Oberlin is well worth the wait.
The program not only prepares students to enter the “real world” by helping them refine their work to be the best that it can be, but it also connects students with in-demand jobs and internships. This is highly unusual in creative writing programs, and many schools do not assist students in making a plan for post-graduation. So make sure to keep Oberlin College on your list of the best colleges for creative writing.
Many of the universities on this list offer students the option to major in creative writing. Amherst College is a little bit different.
The school believes in a diverse, liberal arts education for students. This means that students will interact with various departments throughout their time at the university instead of concentrating all of their time and energy on just one subject.
For those who are interested in gaining an education in creative writing, they will be directed to the Creative Writing Center, which provides students with opportunities to study fiction, poetry, and playwriting, among other writing pursuits.
While certainly not for everyone, Amherst College’s model of creative writing study is unique, and for many, the best way they can learn and study the subject of creative writing. The interdisciplinary approach that Amherst takes in its education of creative writing allows students to dip their toes into the field without having to commit to a degree that may not provide them with solid career prospects post-graduation.
Wellesley College is perfect for students who want to dip their toes into creative writing while getting a small university experience. At Wellesley, students can declare an English major that will give them the chance to concentrate in creative writing.
There are so many opportunities for creative writing students to explore their field at Wellesley. Students can submit to and participate in a variety of literary magazines, which is a great way to get involved with the literary world. Wellesley College also hosts the Ruhlman Conference, which showcases student work from a variety of different disciplines, including creative writing. When working in a creative field, it’s important to have the chance to receive feedback on your work, and at Wellesley, you will most certainly get that exposure.
If you venture down south to Atlanta, Georgia, you’ll find Emory University. In this sunny state that has phenomenal sweet tea, students can get a great education in creative writing.
Emory University offers many educational opportunities for its students who choose a creative writing major. For one, students must take five workshop classes instead of three or four, which is typical at many other universities. This focus on workshops helps lend the degree intensity, which might be appealing to some students who want to dive head-first into the world of creative writing.
For students who are interested in taking a few unconventional courses while studying for a degree in creative writing, Hamilton College may be just the place for you. Hamilton gives aspiring students the chance to study either creative writing or literature, and although both tracks have their own class requirements, they both allow students to take some pretty neat classes.
Some of those classes include, “Food in Literature,” “Finding Identity,” and our personal favorite, “American Ghosts,” which looks at the stories about supernatural beings in film and fiction. How cool is that? Not every college will allow you to take such unique courses for a degree.
And Hamilton’s variety of interesting classes speaks to a wider point: when looking for schools to get your degree in creative writing from, start small. State schools will certainly have a lot of great options for new writers, but liberal arts schools like Hamilton can give students a more concentrated education in the arts. You’ll be able to take classes that have more specificity (such as a class on ghosts in storytelling), and that’s not something you can easily find at a non-liberal arts school.
But whichever school you choose to go to for your creative writing degree, make sure it’s one that will put you and your writing first. Creative writing majors are often brushed aside at some universities in favor of other, seemingly more important degrees. Make it a priority to find a school where you and your creative pursuits will be respected and supported. The schools on this list are the best colleges for creative writing and will help you succeed in your writing ambitions.