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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

  • The Masters Review says...

    Rankings are always debatable, but I'm happy to see exposure for such programs in any capacity. The work coming out of MFA, MA, and PhD programs speaks for itself, and I'm continually impressed.

    Our new journal showcases graduate-level writing and we hope to see work from ranked, un-ranked, and upcoming programs across the country in our next issue.

    We're now accepting submissions: www.masters-review.com. I invite you all to take a look... and submit!

  • A Bloody Period says...

    My dear friends,
    I've been following this interesting (to say the least) little argument for a few days and I find it humorous that there is "Youtube" like mudslinging going on. For me personally, I love the rankings as an aspiring applicant. Here is why,
    -If it wasn't for the dedication of Seth to compile such data and an attempt by him, to make it as fair and transparent as possible, us applicants would have little resources to turn to when it comes to looking for a program to be a potential suitor. There will always be dissatisfied spectators. Its part of the game. Every person has an opinion and is entitled to it. Also, so much money goes into these applications from each prospective MFA candidate that what Seth has done has allowed for each individual to look at the bigger picture and find a program that they could potentially enjoy.
    - As far as selectivity, prestige, location, funding: I can guarantee that a huge portion of the pool of applicants look for funding.
    -Personally, you couldn't pay me the world to go to the Iowa Writer's Workshop. Not because they aren't any good (They have an amazing faculty and competitive writers) but because of location. I lived in Iowa for four years. God bless those who can stand looking at corn as entertainment (a hyperbole I admit but Iowa is barren, all would admit. And with those winters, you have to have thick skin).
    -In the end, writers want the chance to hone their craft in an environment that they feel productive in. Location, prestige, funding all play a role and differ greatly between individuals. The "rankings" help. The larger scope of the population would agree. Whether there are a few people personally hurt because their alma mater is not up there on the list is a personal affair. A writer's talent, perseverance, and some luck will get their chance in whatever they pursue. The school they graduate from is just a small portion of their professional careers. McCarthy didn't even finish an undergrad at Tennessee. What's his excuse? To be offended by such a trivial ranking conflict is immature. Attending a high ranking institution does not guarantee success. Same as attending one that is not up there doesn't guarantee failure. You are what you make you make of it. Everyone should know that. So with that said, the back and forth from Caterina, is funny. Seth will defend (or rather clarify) something that he worked so hard on so to ask him not to respond is silly.

    People, the rankings help a great deal. And they allow for easier access to information that takes a hell of a long time to compile. The information is not incorrect. The list gives you so many options and names of university's. And it is up to the applicant who is investing the money, to find out information about each institution. The personal attacks are silly Caterina. Really? Calling out Seth's Harvard degree? What does that have to do with the discourse. As a third party point of view, its a childish act. I think both parties involved in this argument could use a little bit of humble pie.

    Lastly, writers have egos--which sometimes gets infused in their writing. I think the ego bubble on this thread is about to bust. I think one of the misinterpretation that Caterina is caught up on is the labeling of "ranking" opposed to it being called something else (i.e. an informal pole). My advice would be to get over it.

    What I dislike about the rankings is that programs that were under the radar such as South Carolina and Texas State broke into the top fifty and now that I am going to apply to them, they will likely be more applicants to those schools. But that's a personal matter which is also laughable. I still will apply, may the best candidate win. Plain and simple.

    A round of hugs should be attempted here. Writers at peace. Peace to the world.

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