Rankings

Why you don't want to pay too much attention to this list

Coming up with an objective ranking of creative writing programs is a fraught proposition. It's not like ranking sports teams where there is some sort of objective criteria that can be used. The rankings here make an attempt to determine rankings based on the principle that the primary benefit of attending a graduate creative writing program is to become a better writer, and that using appearances in five of the annual prize anthologies is a reasonable proxy for who the best writers are. The hope is that by not privileging prolificacy (having a single honorable mention counts just as much as being included in every anthology every year) and including all of the notable/honorable mention works in the total that the numbers will be large enough to smooth out rough edges. This does not, however measure other such outcomes, not limited to getting a tenure-track position teaching creative writing (perusing the biographies of the writers who appear on this site will reveal a wide range of "day jobs" beyond the classroom), producing writing outside the tastes of the five prize anthologies used here, producing book-length work, being named a Pulitzer Prize winner or a Nobel Laureate.

But that said, even if the selection of authors is valid, there is no guarantee that it was their graduate creative writing program that was responsible for their success. Some of the authors whose appearances in the anthologies have said that their MFA programs didn't contribute anything to the work that got them included in the statistics and there have been some cases of the anthologized work being accepted before the author began their graduate degree.

In addition, there is the potential for confusing correlation with causation. Is it the case that program X creates good authors or that good authors choose to go to program X for their graduate degree? A writer considering a graduate program should not automatically assume that because a school is at or near the top of the list that it is automatically the best program (let alone, the best for her). This methodology in particular penalizes newer programs where it may take years before a piece published by a student in their program to finally be listed in an anthology. Furthermore, because there is a tendency for the anthologies to be dominated by more established writers (the current median graduation year for an author appearing in one of the anthologies is 1991), this acts as a further tendency for older programs to crowd out opportunities for new programs to appear in the list.

Finally, definitions of success vary and every writer has her own reasons for choosing a program. Even if completely valid, these rankings cannot measure such qualities as the community that a program may provide (or fail to provide) and can only provide a partial picture of how programs compare.

For further and more detailed information on how the scores are generated see the methodology page.

The List

Program Overall score Fiction score Poetry score CNF score
Johns Hopkins University 13375 4500 4000 5250
University of Arizona 8166 2666 916 5083
Florida State University 8166 3666 4000 500
University of Virginia 8111 9500 7000 0
Iowa Writers Workshop 8069 9666 3684 1255
University of Iowa 7083 0 0 7083
Ohio State University 7000 1812 2375 3187
University of Houston 6937 3625 1937 2187
University of Texas, James Michener Center 6333 4916 1583 583
University of Wisconsin Madison 6000 4166 2000 166
Ohio University 5666 3000 3500 10500
Arizona State University 5375 3500 1875 1125
University of Pittsburgh 5222 1000 888 3333
University of Florida 4833 3166 1000 666
University of Minnesota 4818 6000 2666 5250
University of Michigan 4590 2681 1272 818
Syracuse University 4416 2416 1250 1000
Purdue University 4125 2250 1375 1125
Warren Wilson College 4076 4133 4000 0
University of Southern California 4000 2166 1833 0
University of New Mexico 4000 1500 750 1750
University of California Irvine 3833 2166 1166 500
Boston University 3833 2444 1166 333
Virginia Commonwealth University 3625 500 2375 750
Brown University 3307 2384 384 538
University of Cincinnati 3250 2000 1250 0
University of Idaho 3111 555 1111 1444
University of North Carolina Greensboro 3083 3166 3000 0
Northern Michigan University 3000 666 1333 1000
Cornell University 3000 1777 777 444
University of Nebraska Lincoln 2812 1250 750 1000
University of Mississippi 2750 500 1500 750
University of Washington 2600 400 1100 1100
University of Oregon 2500 1000 1500 0
Vanderbilt University 2500 1500 1000 0
Bennington College 2460 1000 60 1480
University of Utah 2458 666 1041 875
Hollins University 2333 1666 500 250
Notre Dame University 2111 0 1444 666
Iowa State University 2100 1300 500 1300
University of Massachusetts Amherst 2100 950 650 500
Southern Illinois University 2100 600 1500 0
Washington University St Louis 2066 533 1133 400
University of Montana 2045 863 500 681
University of Colorado 2000 1400 300 500
Virginia Tech 2000 0 0 2000
New York University 1933 733 866 366
Western Michigan University 1916 750 666 500
Florida International University 1916 666 416 833
Bowling Green State University 1900 1000 400 700
University of Maryland, College Park 1875 0 1125 750
University of South Carolina 1875 625 625 625
University of Texas Austin 1857 714 1142 0
Boise State University 1800 1800 0 0
Indiana University 1727 727 840 159
Vermont College of Fine Arts 1650 316 350 1100
Emerson College 1600 577 66 955
University of Wyoming 1555 1555 0 0
University of Alabama 1550 850 150 700
University of Missouri Columbia 1512 564 538 410
Columbia University 1503 807 400 340
Colorado State University 1500 416 166 916
University of Arkansas 1428 714 714 71
Brooklyn College 1366 1166 133 66
University of New Orleans 1366 600 266 500
Oregon State University 1357 714 0 642
Rutgers University Camden 1333 1833 0 1666
University of California Davis 1333 500 833 0
University of New Hampshire 1333 555 111 666
McNeese State University 1250 750 500 0
Rutgers University Newark 1250 937 312 0
University of North Carolina Wilmington 1227 227 227 772
West Virginia University 1200 0 400 800
University of Illinois 1166 1166 0 666
Fresno State University 1100 0 0 1100
Sarah Lawrence College 1046 492 261 292
Eastern Washington University 1000 1000 750 1500
Miami University 1000 500 0 500
Western Kentucky University 1000 0 0 1000
University of Southern Mississippi 1000 862 137 0
Texas Tech University 965 206 482 586
San Francisco State University 945 594 189 243
University of Southern Maine 944 0 111 833
University of California Riverside 944 555 222 166
University of Tennessee 933 533 400 0
Georgia State University 933 600 333 266
New Mexico State University 900 900 0 0
Louisiana State University 875 250 375 250
University of Alaska Fairbanks 857 285 0 571
American University 833 333 250 333
Butler University 833 0 1666 2500
Hunter College 833 388 0 444
University of Denver 827 517 206 310
Georgia College and State University 750 0 0 2000
George Mason University 657 236 0 421
SUNY Binghamton 655 103 551 103
Texas State University 650 500 0 150
New School University 631 157 200 273
University of California San Diego 625 625 0 0
North Carolina State University 615 230 384 0
University of Missouri St Louis 600 600 0 600
Seattle Pacific University 555 0 0 555
Western Washington University 555 277 0 277
University of Illinois at Chicago 533 366 33 133
University of San Francisco 529 176 0 352
Spalding University 525 125 75 325
School of the Art Institute of Chicago 520 200 0 320
Queens University of Charlotte 511 400 0 111
Sam Houston State University 500 0 500 0
California Institute of the Arts 500 100 100 300
University of South Florida 444 444 0 0
Antioch University 440 120 120 200
University of British Columbia 436 0 0 345
Pacific Lutheran University 425 200 100 125
Murray State University 400 0 0 400
Institute of American Indian Arts 400 0 0 400
Wichita State University 400 400 0 0
Northeast Ohio Consortium 400 200 0 200
Minnesota State University Mankato 388 222 0 166
Columbia College 388 166 0 222
Converse College 375 0 0 375
Hamline University 360 0 120 120
University of Miami 333 333 0 0
Pine Manor College 333 0 333 0
University of Alaska Anchorage 333 0 0 333
Goddard College 333 133 66 133
Queens College 333 0 333 333
University of North Texas 311 44 0 266
University of Georgia 310 310 0 0
Chicago State University 300 0 0 300
Pacific University 300 100 100 100
NYU Writers Workshop in Paris 300 300 0 0
Chatham University 296 363 666 400
University of Nevada Las Vegas 296 296 0 0
University of Saskatchewan 285 0 0 285
Northern Arizona University 285 0 0 1000
University of Wisconsin Milwaukee 280 60 120 100
Old Dominion University 272 600 1000 0
Goucher College 266 0 0 266
New England College 266 0 266 0
University of New Brunswick 241 241 0 0
Ashland University 240 0 0 240
Mills College 240 120 60 60
Portland State University 240 240 0 0
University of Kentucky 222 0 0 222
University of Louisiana Lafayette 206 0 0 206
Penn State University 206 137 0 68
Stanford University 206 137 68 0
New College of California 206 0 206 0
Sierra Nevada College 200 0 0 200
San Diego State University 200 100 100 0
Florida Atlantic University 200 200 0 0
Brigham Young University 200 0 0 200
Fairleigh Dickinson University 200 0 0 200
University of Toronto 172 0 0 172
Concordia University Montreal 172 172 0 0
Bard College 172 0 172 0
California State University San Bernardino 172 172 0 0
Northwest Institute of Literary Arts 172 0 0 172
Stonybrook University 160 160 0 0
Fairfield University 153 0 0 153
St Mary's College of California 142 142 0 0
City College of New York 137 78 58 0
Oklahoma State University 137 318 0 285
Mississippi State University 137 0 137 0
University of Central Oklahoma 133 0 0 133
California College of the Arts 133 133 0 0
National University 125 0 0 500
Rhode Island College 103 103 0 103
Naropa University 83 83 0 0
Michigan State University 68 68 0 68
University of Windsor 68 68 0 0
Chico State University 68 0 0 68
University of California Berkeley 68 0 68 0
Texas A&M 68 68 0 68
SUNY Buffalo 62 0 62 0
University of Tampa 40 40 0 0
Savannah College of Art and Design 33 0 0 33
Wilkes University 25 0 0 25
San Jose State University 0 0 0 0
University of Memphis 0 0 0 0
University of Hawaii 0 0 0 0
Middlebury College 0 0 0 0
Eastern Michigan University 0 0 0 0
University of Kansas 0 0 0 0
Temple University 0 0 0 0
SUNY Albany 0 0 0 0
Lesley University 0 0 0 0
University of Central Florida 0 0 0 0
SUNY Brockport 0 0 0 0
Lindenwood University 0 0 0 0
University of New Orleans Low Residency 0 0 0 0
University of Connecticut 0 0 0 0
Northwestern University 0 0 0 0
Creighton University 0 0 0 0
Drew University 0 0 0 0
University of Massachusetts Boston 0 0 0 0

Lists of authors without graduate creative writing degrees or whose degree status is unknown are available. Send questions, comments and corrections to info@creativewritingmfa.info.

Disclaimer: No endorsement of these ratings should be implied by the writers and writing programs listed on this site, or by the editors and publishers of Best American Short Stories, Best American Essays, Best American Poetry, The O. Henry Prize Stories and The Pushcart Prize Anthology.