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
Johns Hopkins University 9125 3625 2625 3250
University of Virginia 8800 4500 2300 2000
Florida State University 8750 3666 4666 1083
University of Arizona 8166 2416 1166 5083
Ohio State University 8062 1500 2562 4187
University of Iowa 7500 583 0 6916
University of Texas, James Michener Center 7166 4916 1583 1750
University of Houston 6687 2562 2000 2125
University of Wisconsin Madison 6666 3500 2000 1500
Iowa Writers Workshop 6360 3580 1340 1920
Syracuse University 5750 2416 1916 1500
Arizona State University 5625 3625 2000 1000
University of Pittsburgh 5000 666 888 3777
University of California Irvine 4583 2916 1166 500
University of Florida 4333 2333 833 1166
University of Michigan 3909 2000 1545 590
University of Cincinnati 3666 1833 1416 416
Purdue University 3625 2250 1375 625
University of New Mexico 3500 1125 625 1750
Boston University 3444 2388 888 277
Brown University 3384 2461 384 538
Cornell University 3333 2166 1166 0
University of North Carolina Greensboro 3000 1250 916 1000
Warren Wilson College 2866 1433 833 733
University of Minnesota 2833 1166 416 1666
Northern Michigan University 2833 1500 1333 0
Iowa State University 2800 2300 500 1000
University of Massachusetts Amherst 2750 750 1350 750
University of Southern California 2750 1333 1416 0
Virginia Commonwealth University 2750 500 1500 750
University of Utah 2541 750 666 1125
Bennington College 2540 940 60 1620
University of Oregon 2500 1000 1500 0
University of Maryland, College Park 2500 0 1750 750
Southern Illinois University 2500 1000 1500 0
University of Idaho 2222 0 1111 1111
Vanderbilt University 2166 2166 0 0
University of Montana 2136 909 454 772
New York University 2083 650 883 550
University of Colorado 2000 800 300 900
Bowling Green State University 2000 900 200 1100
University of South Carolina 1875 625 625 625
Rutgers University 1833 1333 500 0
University of Nebraska Lincoln 1812 1062 187 937
University of Washington 1800 700 800 300
University of Mississippi 1750 500 750 500
University of Alabama 1750 550 0 1200
Washington University St Louis 1733 533 1066 400
Hollins University 1666 1000 500 250
Vermont College of Fine Arts 1583 233 316 1116
Columbia University 1525 792 355 422
Emerson College 1511 533 66 911
Louisiana State University 1500 625 375 500
Hunter College 1500 611 0 888
Florida International University 1500 250 0 1250
Indiana University 1454 590 659 204
Notre Dame University 1444 444 777 666
University of Missouri Columbia 1435 538 487 512
Oregon State University 1357 714 0 1000
University of California Davis 1333 500 833 0
West Virginia University 1200 0 400 800
San Francisco State University 1189 702 243 243
American University 1166 250 583 333
University of Illinois 1166 0 0 1166
University of Arkansas 1142 428 642 71
Texas Tech University 1137 275 551 517
Sarah Lawrence College 1092 400 353 338
University of North Carolina Wilmington 1045 227 363 454
Brooklyn College 1033 833 133 66
University of New Orleans 1033 366 100 566
Western Michigan University 1000 0 500 500
Georgia State University 1000 600 266 133
Ohio University 966 0 66 900
School of the Art Institute of Chicago 920 480 280 320
University of South Florida 888 888 0 444
Penn State University 862 275 137 448
University of Southern Maine 777 0 0 777
Minnesota State University Mankato 777 222 0 555
University of Denver 758 206 241 310
McNeese State University 750 750 0 0
Pacific Lutheran University 750 200 100 450
Colorado State University 750 0 166 583
University of New Hampshire 722 222 0 500
Wichita State University 700 700 0 0
Fresno State University 700 0 0 700
University of Tennessee 666 266 400 266
University of Alaska Anchorage 666 0 0 666
Northern Arizona University 666 250 250 416
Georgia College and State University 642 214 0 428
Eastern Washington University 633 233 100 300
University of Illinois at Chicago 633 400 133 100
University of Kansas 625 0 0 625
Rutgers University Newark 625 625 0 0
University of California San Diego 625 625 0 0
University of Southern Mississippi 620 448 137 34
North Carolina State University 615 230 384 0
Boise State University 600 600 0 0
New Mexico State University 600 600 0 0
University of Texas Austin 571 285 285 0
University of Alaska Fairbanks 571 285 0 285
Goucher College 533 0 0 533
Old Dominion University 500 0 250 250
University of Wisconsin Milwaukee 480 0 240 240
Portland State University 480 240 0 240
Spalding University 475 0 75 400
New School University 452 94 147 210
Texas State University 450 200 100 150
University of Wyoming 444 444 0 0
Antioch University 440 120 120 200
Queens University of Charlotte 422 311 0 222
George Mason University 421 105 0 315
Institute of American Indian Arts 400 0 0 400
University of Missouri St Louis 400 400 0 0
Northeast Ohio Consortium 400 200 0 200
California Institute of the Arts 400 100 100 200
University of Massachusetts Boston 400 0 0 400
SUNY Binghamton 379 172 206 103
Goddard College 366 200 166 0
Columbia College 361 222 0 138
Butler University 333 0 333 0
University of Miami 333 333 0 0
Oklahoma State University 333 333 0 0
Pine Manor College 333 0 333 0
Queens College 333 0 333 0
University of East Anglia 310 68 0 241
University of Georgia 310 310 0 0
NYU Writers Workshop in Paris 300 300 0 0
University of Saskatchewan 285 0 0 285
St Mary's College of California 285 285 0 0
Northwestern University 266 0 0 266
Drew University 266 0 266 0
University of New Brunswick 241 241 0 0
Hamline University 240 0 120 0
Mills College 240 120 60 60
University of Kentucky 222 0 0 222
University of Louisiana Lafayette 206 0 0 206
Converse College 206 0 0 206
Stanford University 206 68 68 68
Sierra Nevada College 200 0 0 200
San Diego State University 200 100 100 0
Eastern Michigan University 200 0 200 0
Chatham University 200 0 100 200
Brigham Young University 200 0 0 200
Fairleigh Dickinson University 200 0 0 200
University of British Columbia 181 0 0 90
University of Toronto 172 0 0 172
California State University San Bernardino 172 172 0 0
Northwest Institute of Literary Arts 172 0 0 172
Western Washington University 172 0 0 172
City College of New York 166 78 58 29
Temple University 166 166 0 0
Stonybrook University 160 160 0 0
Fairfield University 153 0 0 153
University of Nevada Las Vegas 148 148 0 0
Newcastle University 137 0 137 0
Mississippi State University 137 0 137 0
University of North Texas 133 44 44 44
National University 125 0 0 125
Seattle Pacific University 111 0 0 111
University of California Riverside 111 111 0 0
Royal Hollway University of London 103 103 0 0
Sam Houston State University 103 0 103 0
Cardiff University 103 103 0 0
Rhode Island College 103 103 0 0
Lindenwood University 100 0 100 0
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
SUNY Buffalo 62 0 62 0
University of San Francisco 58 58 0 0
Pacific University 40 0 0 40
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
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 Connecticut 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.