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 9000 3625 2625 3125
University of Virginia 8800 4500 2300 2000
Florida State University 8416 3666 4666 750
University of Arizona 7916 2416 1166 4833
University of Iowa 7000 583 0 6416
University of Texas, James Michener Center 6916 5083 1583 1333
Ohio State University 6687 1500 2562 2812
University of Wisconsin Madison 6666 3500 2000 1500
University of Houston 6562 2562 2000 2250
Iowa Writers Workshop 6240 3720 1380 1480
University of Pittsburgh 6222 888 1000 4333
Arizona State University 5625 3625 2000 1000
Syracuse University 5250 2166 1916 1250
University of California Irvine 4583 2916 1166 500
University of Florida 4166 2333 833 1000
Northern Michigan University 3833 1500 1333 1000
University of Michigan 3636 1863 1409 590
Purdue University 3625 2250 1375 625
Virginia Commonwealth University 3625 500 2375 750
Brown University 3615 2692 384 538
Cornell University 3111 1944 1055 111
Boston University 3111 2388 722 111
University of Minnesota 3083 1166 416 1916
University of New Mexico 3000 625 625 1750
University of Cincinnati 2916 2000 916 0
University of Montana 2818 1000 772 1045
University of Southern California 2750 1333 1416 0
University of North Carolina Greensboro 2666 1250 916 666
Warren Wilson College 2633 1300 833 500
Iowa State University 2600 1800 500 1300
University of Massachusetts Amherst 2600 750 1350 600
University of Utah 2541 750 916 875
University of Oregon 2500 1000 1500 0
Southern Illinois University 2500 1000 1500 0
Bennington College 2420 1000 60 1440
University of Maryland, College Park 2125 0 1375 750
University of Nebraska Lincoln 2062 1062 437 937
New York University 2033 683 883 466
Hollins University 2000 1083 500 500
University of Washington 2000 400 800 800
University of Idaho 1888 0 1111 777
University of South Carolina 1875 625 625 625
Rutgers University 1833 1333 500 0
Bowling Green State University 1800 900 200 900
Notre Dame University 1777 444 1111 666
University of Mississippi 1750 500 750 500
Washington University St Louis 1733 533 1066 400
Columbia University 1644 903 422 348
Vermont College of Fine Arts 1550 316 316 1083
Vanderbilt University 1500 1500 0 0
Louisiana State University 1500 625 375 500
Florida International University 1500 250 0 1250
Colorado State University 1500 416 166 916
Indiana University 1454 590 659 204
Emerson College 1422 533 66 822
University of Colorado 1400 800 300 300
University of Alabama 1400 700 150 700
University of New Orleans 1366 600 266 500
University of Arkansas 1357 500 857 0
Oregon State University 1357 714 0 1000
University of California Davis 1333 500 833 0
Fresno State University 1300 0 0 1300
Hunter College 1277 611 0 666
University of Missouri Columbia 1230 538 487 307
University of North Carolina Wilmington 1227 227 227 772
West Virginia University 1200 0 400 800
Texas Tech University 1137 275 551 517
San Francisco State University 1081 621 243 216
Brooklyn College 1066 866 133 66
Sarah Lawrence College 1030 400 353 276
University of Missouri St Louis 1000 1000 0 600
Western Michigan University 1000 0 500 666
University of Southern Maine 944 0 111 833
Georgia State University 933 600 333 266
University of South Florida 888 888 0 444
Ohio University 866 0 66 800
University of Denver 862 310 241 310
American University 833 250 583 0
Texas State University 750 500 100 150
McNeese State University 750 750 0 0
Wichita State University 700 700 0 0
School of the Art Institute of Chicago 680 320 120 240
University of Illinois 666 0 0 666
University of Tennessee 666 266 400 0
Virginia Tech 666 0 0 666
Northern Arizona University 666 250 250 416
Pacific Lutheran University 650 200 100 350
Georgia College and State University 642 214 0 428
Eastern Washington University 633 233 100 300
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
University of California Riverside 611 222 222 166
Boise State University 600 600 0 0
New Mexico State University 600 600 0 0
George Mason University 578 105 0 473
University of Texas Austin 571 285 285 0
University of Alaska Fairbanks 571 285 0 285
Seattle Pacific University 555 0 0 555
University of Illinois at Chicago 533 400 133 0
University of New Hampshire 500 222 0 277
Minnesota State University Mankato 500 222 0 277
Penn State University 482 275 137 68
University of Wisconsin Milwaukee 480 0 240 240
Spalding University 475 0 75 400
Goddard College 466 200 133 133
New School University 463 63 189 210
University of Wyoming 444 444 0 0
Antioch University 440 120 120 200
Queens University of Charlotte 422 311 0 111
Institute of American Indian Arts 400 0 0 400
Northeast Ohio Consortium 400 200 0 200
California Institute of the Arts 400 100 100 200
SUNY Binghamton 379 172 206 103
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
University of Alaska Anchorage 333 0 0 333
Queens College 333 0 333 0
Columbia College 333 166 0 166
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
University of British Columbia 272 0 0 181
Goucher College 266 0 0 266
Northwestern University 266 0 0 266
Drew University 266 0 266 0
Old Dominion University 250 250 250 0
University of New Brunswick 241 241 0 0
Hamline University 240 0 120 0
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
Ashland University 206 0 0 206
Converse College 206 0 0 206
Missouri State University 206 0 0 206
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 Toronto 172 0 0 172
Concordia University Montreal 172 172 0 0
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
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
University of East Anglia 137 68 0 68
City College of New York 137 78 58 0
Newcastle University 137 0 137 0
Stanford University 137 68 68 0
Mississippi State University 137 0 137 0
University of North Texas 133 44 44 44
National University 125 0 0 125
University of San Francisco 117 58 0 58
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 0 103
New College of California 103 0 103 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
University of Louisville 68 0 0 68
City University of Hong Kong 68 0 0 68
Florida Atlantic University 68 68 0 0
SUNY Buffalo 62 0 62 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
Lindenwood University 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
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.