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 1993), 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
University of Arizona 9083 2666 1416 5500
Florida State University 7916 4333 3666 1083
Ohio State University 7375 1000 2000 4375
University of Iowa 6833 583 0 6250
University of Texas, James Michener Center 6833 4250 1916 1833
Iowa Writers Workshop 6740 3540 1480 2100
Johns Hopkins University 6375 1500 2375 2875
University of Wisconsin Madison 6166 3333 1666 2000
University of Houston 6125 1750 2000 2375
Syracuse University 5916 2583 2000 1666
Arizona State University 5750 4000 1750 1250
University of Pittsburgh 5111 666 1000 3777
University of Virginia 4800 2800 1200 1000
University of California Irvine 4500 2833 1166 500
University of Florida 4333 2166 833 1333
University of North Carolina Greensboro 3916 1250 1250 1916
Cornell University 3777 2333 1277 166
University of Michigan 3772 1590 1727 681
Purdue University 3750 2375 1375 625
Boston University 3500 2277 1055 444
Brown University 3153 2307 384 461
University of Cincinnati 2916 1000 1416 500
Northern Michigan University 2833 1500 1333 0
Iowa State University 2800 2300 500 1000
Virginia Commonwealth University 2750 500 1500 750
Western Michigan University 2666 416 1250 1000
University of Maryland, College Park 2500 0 1750 750
Warren Wilson College 2500 933 833 866
Vanderbilt University 2500 2500 0 0
Bowling Green State University 2500 1100 500 1100
University of New Mexico 2500 1000 500 1000
Washington University St Louis 2466 1000 1266 533
University of Massachusetts Amherst 2450 300 1400 850
University of Minnesota 2416 1166 416 1250
University of Utah 2250 666 708 875
Louisiana State University 2250 625 750 875
University of Oregon 2200 400 1800 0
Bennington College 2180 640 60 1560
University of Southern California 2166 1000 1166 0
Rutgers University 2000 1166 416 416
University of Montana 1954 1045 318 590
New York University 1900 500 900 550
University of Nebraska Lincoln 1812 875 187 937
University of Idaho 1777 333 333 1444
Columbia University 1755 866 392 540
Vermont College of Fine Arts 1733 283 366 1166
University of Washington 1700 600 800 300
Southern Illinois University 1700 1000 700 0
Florida International University 1666 333 0 1333
University of Alabama 1650 400 0 1250
Emerson College 1533 488 155 888
Hunter College 1500 611 0 888
University of Arkansas 1500 428 857 214
University of Missouri Columbia 1487 461 512 512
Notre Dame University 1444 444 777 666
American University 1416 500 583 333
University of Illinois 1333 0 0 1333
University of California Davis 1333 500 833 0
Texas Tech University 1310 310 620 586
University of Texas Austin 1285 428 857 0
University of New Hampshire 1277 444 0 833
Indiana University 1272 568 500 204
University of South Carolina 1250 0 625 625
University of Colorado 1200 400 200 600
West Virginia University 1200 0 400 800
San Francisco State University 1162 648 243 270
University of New Orleans 1100 166 166 766
University of North Carolina Wilmington 1090 227 363 500
Hollins University 1083 416 500 250
University of Denver 1034 275 413 344
Sarah Lawrence College 1030 276 461 384
University of South Florida 1000 1000 0 555
Brooklyn College 1000 800 133 66
University of Mississippi 1000 500 0 500
Ohio University 966 0 66 900
School of the Art Institute of Chicago 960 480 280 360
Fresno State University 950 0 250 700
Colorado State University 916 333 166 416
University of Southern Maine 888 111 0 777
Georgia State University 866 333 333 200
Penn State University 793 344 137 310
Minnesota State University Mankato 777 222 0 555
Pacific Lutheran University 775 200 125 450
McNeese State University 750 750 0 0
Wichita State University 700 700 0 0
Eastern Washington University 666 300 100 266
University of Miami 666 333 333 0
University of Alaska Anchorage 666 0 0 666
University of Illinois at Chicago 666 400 166 100
Northern Arizona University 666 250 250 416
Georgia College and State University 642 214 0 428
University of Kansas 625 0 0 625
University of California San Diego 625 625 0 0
Boise State University 600 600 0 0
Goucher College 600 0 0 600
University of Alaska Fairbanks 571 285 0 285
Oregon State University 571 285 0 571
University of Wyoming 555 555 0 0
George Mason University 526 105 105 315
Old Dominion University 500 0 250 250
Queens University of Charlotte 488 377 0 244
University of Southern Mississippi 482 448 0 34
University of Wisconsin Milwaukee 480 0 240 240
Portland State University 480 240 0 240
New School University 473 63 157 252
University of Tennessee 466 266 200 266
Texas State University 450 200 100 150
Spalding University 450 0 0 450
Queens College 416 0 416 0
SUNY Binghamton 413 206 206 103
Butler University 400 0 400 0
Institute of American Indian Arts 400 0 0 400
University of Missouri St Louis 400 400 0 0
Oklahoma State University 400 400 0 0
California Institute of the Arts 400 100 100 200
Goddard College 400 133 266 0
University of Massachusetts Boston 400 0 0 400
Antioch University 380 120 60 200
Rutgers University Newark 375 375 0 0
Columbia College 361 222 0 138
University of East Anglia 344 68 0 275
Pine Manor College 333 0 333 0
Northwestern University 333 0 0 333
University of Georgia 310 310 0 0
NYU Writers Workshop in Paris 300 300 0 0
New Mexico State University 300 300 0 0
University of Saskatchewan 285 0 0 285
Drew University 266 0 266 0
Eastern Michigan University 250 0 250 0
Temple University 250 250 0 0
Chatham University 250 0 125 250
Northeast Ohio Consortium 250 250 0 0
University of New Brunswick 241 241 0 0
Mills College 240 120 60 60
North Carolina State University 230 230 0 0
University of Kentucky 222 0 0 222
University of British Columbia 218 0 0 109
University of Louisiana Lafayette 206 0 0 206
University of Toronto 206 0 0 206
California State University San Bernardino 206 206 0 0
Sierra Nevada College 200 0 0 200
Stonybrook University 200 200 0 0
Brigham Young University 200 0 0 200
Fairleigh Dickinson University 200 0 0 200
Northwest Institute of Literary Arts 172 0 0 172
Fairfield University 153 0 0 153
National University 150 0 0 150
University of Nevada Las Vegas 148 148 0 0
St Mary's College of California 142 142 0 0
Newcastle University 137 0 137 0
Stanford University 137 0 68 68
Mississippi State University 137 0 137 0
Lindenwood University 125 0 125 0
Seattle Pacific University 111 0 0 111
City College of New York 107 39 49 19
Royal Hollway University of London 103 103 0 0
Cardiff University 103 103 0 0
San Diego State University 100 0 100 0
University of North Texas 88 0 44 44
Naropa University 83 83 0 0
Michigan State University 68 68 0 68
Chico State University 68 0 0 68
Victoria University Wellington 68 0 0 68
University of California Berkeley 68 0 68 0
City University of Hong Kong 68 0 0 68
Concordia University Montreal 68 68 0 0
University of Connecticut 68 68 0 68
SUNY Buffalo 62 0 62 0
University of San Francisco 58 58 0 0
Pacific University 40 0 0 40
Hamline University 40 0 0 0
Lancaster University 33 0 0 33
Wilkes University 25 0 0 25
Chicago State University 0 0 0 0
San Jose State University 0 0 0 0
University of Cape Town 0 0 0 0
University of Memphis 0 0 0 0
University of Hawaii 0 0 0 0
Middlebury College 0 0 0 0
SUNY Albany 0 0 0 0
Lesley University 0 0 0 0
University of Central Florida 0 0 0 0
University of California Riverside 0 0 0 0
Bard College 0 0 0 0
SUNY Brockport 0 0 0 0
Virginia Tech 0 0 0 0
University of New Orleans Low Residency 0 0 0 0
University of Wales 0 0 0 0
Creighton University 0 0 0 0
New England College 0 0 0 0
New College of California 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.