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2012 MFA Rankings: The Top Fifty

 Frequently Asked Questions About the Rankings
Additional Rankings of Full-Residencies

Note: The following table appeared in the September/October 2011 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine. Our most recent coverage of MFA programs is available in the September/October 2012 issue, on newsstands now.

A combination of hard data from programs that release funding and admissions figures to the public and a vital survey of what the individuals comprising the next generation of U.S. poets and writers have to say about their own priorities in choosing a postgraduate program, here are the 2012 rankings of the nation's top fifty MFA programs.

Notes: The top-fifty and honorable-mentions rankings correspond to the most frequently applied-to programs for the 2010–2011 application cycle, as reported by 640 MFA applicants surveyed from April 16, 2010, to April 15, 2011. [star] (honorable mention); — (unranked); Nonfiction Rank: n/a (not applicable) indicates nonfiction track is not offered; Total-Funding Rank takes into account program duration; Selectivity Rank: n.d. (no data available); Size refers to total number of students per matriculating class: XS (2–9), S (10–19), M (20–31), L (32–49), XL (50+); Full Funding refers to the percentage of a matriculating class that receives full funding: Very Few (0–15), Few (16–29), Some (30–59), Most (60–89), Nearly All (90–99), All (100); Cost of Living is compared with Ann Arbor, Michigan; Teaching Load: n/a (not applicable) indicates too few teaching appointments to warrant inclusion in this category, n.d. (no data available) indicates teaching load is unknown, Light (an average of two courses or fewer to teach per academic year), Average (an average of three courses to teach per academic year), Heavy (an average of four courses or more to teach per academic year); GRE Required: * (GRE scores required of applicants with an undergraduate GPA below 3.0), ** (GRE subject test is also preferred or required), *** (scores required only from applicants seeking funding); Cross-genre: (genre availability may be limited by program). Read more information about the methodology used to determine the rankings and check out the rankings of the remaining eighty-one full-residency MFA programs.

Reader Comments

  • SmokeyJoe says...

    I suppose it shouldn't come as a surprise, given that this is the "Poets & Writers" site, but y'all are some wordy so-and-so's...

  • swlynch says...

    I have just wasted a bit of time reading all of the comments posted here, and for one reason really, I was fascinated as to why Caterina was so upset with Seth Abramson, and I think it doesn't have as much to do with this list of programs as it is a cry for attention. By the look of it, this woman is paranoid. I get her point that this list shouldn't be the end all be all for an applicant, but all she had to do was just leave it at that, which means that this person has ulterior motives in ranting against pw's methodology.

    I found the list helpful as a "springboard" as another commenter said. I am currently applying to mfa programs, and I don't think anyone should expect a serious applicant to just refer to this poll as a means for making a decision. Caterina accused Seth of being contentious, and also got upset for him calling her by her real name when she had been calling him by his first name throughout her posts. Caterina, you're not helping yourself or anyone else by barraging this article with comments. You should have just made your point that was extremely obvious in the first place and moved on. Also, I'm almost positive that Caterina made up the other user name to try and make herself seem more credible. That was hilarious, especially the part where she claimed that she knew a statistician through both usernames. 

    Anyway, the rankings are a bit arbitrary, but it's nothing to throw a fit about. Again, the list has been helpful for me in my application process. Thank you pw.

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