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Colleges for Writers, What Are the Best?

written by: Haley Drucker•edited by: Amanda Grove•updated: 5/18/2011

Many colleges don't have dedicated creative writing programs, so be sure to plan ahead and do plenty of research if you're thinking of specializing in this field. Here's a good place to start.

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    Can creative writing be taught? It’s a tough question, but based on the success of these ten schools the answer is at least partially yes. A good writing program exposes you to great writers and philosophies about writing, as well as training you in the skills you’ll need to take your own work to the next level. Writing professors are often published authors or poets, so they are valuable resources and role models.

    There are many schools across the US with great writing programs, but these are the top ten colleges for writers; the ones most highly ranked and respected in recent years. Each university was chosen for its highly competitive status and top-rated creative writing program, and because it is in general a great school with better-than-average academic rankings.

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    Colby College (Waterville, Maine)

    Colby College offers creative writing programs and classes geared towards both beginning and advanced writers. Their faculty includes many published writers, who are experienced in standard fields such as fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction as well as niche fields like environmental writing. The Colby College writing program also provides workshops and events that allow students to meet and learn from real writers in a variety of genres.

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    Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia)

    At Emory University, students have the chance to dual major in English and Creative Writing. This gives them the chance to study how the fields of literature and writing interrelate, and to apply what they learn from standard English classes directly to their writing. The coursework is flexible, and each student can design an individual course of study geared towards his or her interests. In addition, there are several creative writing workshops to choose from as well as the opportunity to participate in an internship.

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    Hamilton College (Clinton, New York)

    Hamilton College is well known not only for its high standards for creative writing faculty, but also for its writing center (considered one of the nation’s best). It offers a full major in creative writing, featuring standard English classes in addition to workshops in both fiction and poetry. There are courses in creative nonfiction as well, though no workshops. Each creative writing major composes a senior project in his or her last year—a significant text such as a novella or collection of poetry.

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    Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, Maryland)

    One of the first colleges with a writing program for undergraduates, Johns Hopkins University has a long history of producing well received and distinguished writers. Their programs focus on literary writing, and on using critical analysis and literature education to improve writing skills. The faculty includes many published writers, and courses are offered in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama, and more.

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    Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, Massachusetts)

    MIT offers writing programs that are intimately tied to the rest of their humanities programs, making the act of writing education an interdisciplinary experience. Courses range from introductory to advanced, and explore what it means to be a writer in today’s culture. Creative writers can choose to focus in fiction, nonfiction, or prose, and are encouraged to choose a sub discipline as well (humanities, arts, or social sciences). MIT also offers a range of other writing programs, such as science writing and digital media.

    Continue reading on the next page for the continuation of the top ten colleges for writers!

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    New York University (New York, New York)

    Located in Greenwich Village, the home of many great writers of the past and present, the New York University writing program emphasizes community and the sharing of work and ideas. The faculty includes both published poets and novelists, many of whom have recently received awards and fellowships. In addition to a range of coursework, this program offers intensive master classes, workshops, internships, readings, and other writing events. Summer writing programs are also available, spanning eight weeks and located both in New York and abroad.

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    Oberlin College (Oberlin, Ohio)

    The Oberlin College writing major is particularly extensive, offering coursework not only in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, but also in drama, screenwriting, and translation. Courses include both standard lectures and studio workshops, and emphasize connections between genres and fields. Independent projects are encouraged, as are workshops and real-world internships. There are also many on-campus publications that students can work for and/or get published in.

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    Smith College (Northampton, Massachusetts)

    Smith College offers a variety of creative writing classes in many genres, from poetry and short stories to memoirs, theater writing, and even songwriting. There are also interdisciplinary classes that focus on writing connected to such fields as American culture and journalism. Of particular note is Smith’s Poetry Center, a program that allows students to meet and learn from well-known and respected poets.

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    University of Miami (Coral Gables, Florida)

    The University of Miami runs a selective creative writing program that emphasizes exposure to many genres and writing practices. Many of the writing faculty are known on a national level, and they serve as both instructors and mentors. Undergraduates can opt for an English major with a creative writing concentration, in which they choose from a fiction or poetry track.

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    Washington University in St. Louis (St. Louis, Missouri)

    Anyone can take creative writing courses at Washington University, but for those wanting to specialize there is a special Certificate Program featuring only advanced-level classes. Students can choose from tracks in fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction, and take courses focused on writing mastery as well as literatures analysis and cross-genre experience. The final course in the program encourages analysis of the student’s chosen genre, and understanding of its characteristics and relationships to other genres.

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    Last Words

    Congratulations—you’ve made it to the end of the list. You are now acquainted with the top ten colleges for writers in the United States, and in a better position from which to choose your university. These are not the only good options, of course, but they are great bets for anyone considering a creative writing major. You’ll want to look at other schools too, and reserve lots of time to review the best colleges and make your decision. After all, you’ll be stuck with that decision for four years.


    Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges: 2011

    The Best 371 Colleges: 2010 Edition by The Princeton Review

    Fiske Guide to Colleges: 24th Edition by Edward B. Fiske

    Colby College:

    Emory University:

    Hamilton College:

    Johns Hopkins University:

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology:

    New York University:

    Oberlin College:

    Smith College:

    University of Miami:

    Washington University in St. Louis:

    Top Colleges for English Majors

    English is a broad and popular field of study, and there are a lot of competitive and highly respected colleges with excellent English programs. This series covers the top US colleges for majors in creative writing, literature, and English education.
    1. Want to Major in English? Here Are The Top University Choices
    2. Colleges for Writers, What Are the Best?
    3. The Ten Top Literary Colleges in the US