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 12875 4125 4125 5000
University of Virginia 8600 4300 2700 1600
Florida State University 8500 4333 4666 166
University of Arizona 7833 2750 916 4666
Iowa Writers Workshop 7420 4960 1560 1100
University of Texas, James Michener Center 7250 5250 2166 916
University of Houston 7062 3437 2250 2187
Ohio State University 6937 1312 2375 3625
University of Iowa 6750 0 0 6750
University of Wisconsin Madison 6000 4166 2000 166
University of Pittsburgh 5555 1000 1222 3333
Arizona State University 5250 3625 1625 1000
University of Florida 5000 3166 1000 833
University of Michigan 4409 2636 1409 772
University of California Irvine 4250 2583 1166 500
Syracuse University 4166 1416 2000 1000
Purdue University 4125 2250 1375 1125
University of Minnesota 4000 1583 666 1750
University of Southern California 4000 2166 1833 0
Northern Michigan University 3833 1500 1333 1000
Virginia Commonwealth University 3625 500 2375 750
Boston University 3555 2444 944 277
Cornell University 3444 2166 944 333
Brown University 3307 2384 384 538
University of Cincinnati 3250 2000 916 333
University of New Mexico 3000 625 625 1750
Warren Wilson College 2733 1833 900 0
University of Montana 2681 863 772 1045
University of North Carolina Greensboro 2666 1583 1083 0
Iowa State University 2600 1800 500 1300
University of Washington 2600 400 1100 1100
University of Nebraska Lincoln 2562 1125 500 1125
University of Idaho 2555 0 1111 1444
University of Oregon 2500 1000 1500 0
University of Utah 2500 583 1041 1000
University of Massachusetts Amherst 2500 750 1250 500
Southern Illinois University 2500 1000 1500 0
Bennington College 2400 1000 60 1420
University of Mississippi 2250 500 750 1000
Western Michigan University 2250 750 666 833
Notre Dame University 2111 444 1444 666
New York University 2050 766 833 450
Hollins University 2000 1083 500 500
Virginia Tech 2000 0 0 2000
University of Maryland, College Park 1875 0 1125 750
University of South Carolina 1875 625 625 625
Boise State University 1800 1800 0 0
Bowling Green State University 1800 1100 200 700
Washington University St Louis 1733 533 800 400
Vermont College of Fine Arts 1633 316 333 1100
Emerson College 1600 577 66 955
University of Wyoming 1555 1555 0 0
University of Alabama 1550 850 150 700
Columbia University 1540 844 400 340
Indiana University 1522 659 704 159
Vanderbilt University 1500 1500 0 0
Louisiana State University 1500 875 375 250
University of Arkansas 1500 642 714 142
Florida International University 1500 250 416 833
Colorado State University 1500 416 166 916
University of Colorado 1400 800 300 300
Brooklyn College 1366 1166 133 66
University of New Orleans 1366 600 266 500
Oregon State University 1357 714 0 642
University of Missouri Columbia 1333 538 487 410
Rutgers University Camden 1333 916 0 416
University of California Davis 1333 500 833 0
University of Texas Austin 1285 428 857 0
Texas Tech University 1275 344 655 586
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
Sarah Lawrence College 1184 492 400 292
University of Alaska Fairbanks 1142 571 0 571
Ohio University 1133 200 233 700
Fresno State University 1100 0 0 1100
Hunter College 1055 611 0 444
San Francisco State University 1027 621 189 297
University of Missouri St Louis 1000 1000 0 600
University of Southern Maine 944 0 111 833
University of Tennessee 933 533 400 0
Georgia State University 933 600 333 266
New Mexico State University 900 900 0 0
University of New Hampshire 888 222 0 666
University of Denver 862 310 241 310
American University 833 333 250 333
SUNY Binghamton 724 172 551 103
Wichita State University 700 700 0 0
University of East Anglia 689 689 0 0
University of Illinois 666 0 0 666
Northern Arizona University 666 250 250 416
George Mason University 657 236 0 421
Texas State University 650 500 0 150
Pacific Lutheran University 650 200 100 350
Georgia College and State University 642 214 0 428
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 California Riverside 611 222 222 166
University of Southern Mississippi 586 448 137 0
Seattle Pacific University 555 0 0 555
Western Washington University 555 277 0 277
Eastern Washington University 533 233 100 200
University of Illinois at Chicago 533 366 33 133
University of San Francisco 529 176 0 352
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
Oklahoma State University 466 333 0 133
University of South Florida 444 444 0 0
Antioch University 440 120 120 200
University of British Columbia 436 0 0 345
Murray State University 400 0 0 400
Institute of American Indian Arts 400 0 0 400
Northeast Ohio Consortium 400 200 0 200
Spalding University 400 0 75 325
Columbia College 388 166 0 222
Converse College 375 0 0 375
Hamline University 360 0 120 120
University of Wisconsin Milwaukee 360 0 220 140
Penn State University 344 137 137 68
Butler University 333 0 333 0
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
NYU Writers Workshop in Paris 300 300 0 0
University of Saskatchewan 285 0 0 285
Goucher College 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
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
Minnesota State University Mankato 222 222 0 0
University of Louisiana Lafayette 206 0 0 206
Sierra Nevada College 200 0 0 200
San Diego State University 200 100 100 0
Miami University 200 200 0 0
Chatham University 200 100 100 100
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
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
University of Nevada Las Vegas 148 148 0 0
St Mary's College of California 142 142 0 0
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 Central Oklahoma 133 0 0 133
California College of the Arts 133 133 0 0
National University 125 0 0 125
University of Cape Town 103 0 0 103
Royal Hollway University of London 103 103 0 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
Pacific University 80 40 0 40
Michigan State University 68 68 0 68
University of Windsor 68 68 0 0
Chico State University 68 0 0 68
Aberystwyth 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
Texas A&M 68 0 0 68
SUNY Buffalo 62 0 62 0
University of Tampa 40 40 0 0
Lancaster University 33 0 0 33
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
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
Northwestern University 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.