Students in the MFA in creative writing programs must satisfy the following requirements in order to earn their degrees.

To apply

Candidates will be accepted for fall semester admission only and must submit applications by the January 15 deadline. Applicants are required to submit for Department of English graduate committee approval:

  • A creative writing sample of 30 pages in fiction or 10 pages in poetry, demonstrating the student's strongest work in the genre of application
  • A scholarly writing sample approximately 15 pages in length, demonstrating readiness for graduate study in English
  • A 2-3 page statement of intent, including declaration of genre of study
  • Official transcripts
  • Three letters of recommendation

Time limit

All requirements must be satisfied during the six calendar years immediately preceding the granting of the degree.

Advisory committee

During the second year and consulting with the director of graduate studies, MFA candidates must choose one Department of English creative writing faculty member to serve as MFA committee chair and advisor, two additional department faculty (one from creative writing and one outside the student's declared course of study) to serve as committee members, and a fourth committee member from outside the Department of English chosen in consultation with the committee chair.


Students are strongly encouraged to complete their degree within six semesters. All MFA candidates must enroll in a minimum of six credits per semester during their first five semesters in the program and maintain graduate standing thereafter. It is assumed that students in their sixth semester will be completing their thesis projects and will likely be registered only for thesis credits and the comprehensive exam.

Continuous registration

Graduate School regulations require graduate students to maintain continuous registration of at least three credit hours per semester (summers excluded) to remain active.

Total credits

The MFA requires 60 credits, all of which must be taken at the graduate level.

Transfer credits

Students will only be allowed to transfer credits from previous graduate courses in exceptional circumstances, to be determined by the Department of English MFA committee and director of graduate studies. In most circumstances, no more than three graduate classes applicable to the approved program of study may be accepted from graduate courses taken at another institution and/or the University of Nevada, Reno. These courses must have been completed within the six-year time limit for the MFA degree and must be approved to count toward the degree by the MFA committee, the director of graduate studies and the Graduate School. No previous writing workshops will count for transfer credit.

Seminar requirement

MFA students are required to take all courses at the 700 level or above, with the exception of electives taken outside of the Department of English. The student may in unusual circumstances take a 600-level class in English, but only in consultation with his or her committee chair and the Director of Graduate Studies.

Comprehensive examination (written)

In order to register for 795 (the comprehensive exam), a student must have met the following requirements:

  • Filed a completed program of study with the Graduate School
  • Completed five semesters of study toward the degree
  • Met with the student's committee chair to work out plans for completing the written and oral portions of the exams
  • Returned the "approval to register for comprehensive exams" form completed to the Department of English office before the end of registration

Working closely with his or her advisory committee, at the beginning of his or her second year of study, the student will prepare a reading list of 30 works. As soon as is feasible, the student will turn in an annotated bibliography of this reading list to his or her committee. Before the end of his or her third year of study, the student will take a one-day written examination, prepared by the committee, focusing on ideas and concepts represented by the student's reading list and annotations. After the student has passed the written exam, the advisory committee will conduct an oral exam, not to last more than an hour and a half.


During their last semester of study, an MFA candidate must complete and defend a thesis: a book-length work of fiction or poetry of publishable quality, written and revised over the course of the student's studies. The student will plan and draft the thesis under the supervision of their thesis committee and chair. Before the end of the third year of study (by which time the student shall have registered for/completed 13 credits of thesis study), students will present a polished draft of the thesis to their committee for review, then (shortly after completing the comprehensive examination) defend the completed thesis before the full committee. The committee will then vote according to Department of English bylaws whether to confer the MFA degree.


To graduate in any given semester, the student must file an application for graduation by the dates specified for that semester in the University catalog and meet that semester's deadlines for submission of the notice of completion and (if on the thesis plan) the final copy of the thesis to the Graduate School. Students should be aware that graduation application dates at the University of Nevada, Reno are unusually early: the deadline is generally eight weeks prior to graduation. MFA candidates may be hooded during graduation, but must meet all notice of completion deadlines listed for MFA candidates in order to do so.


The student is responsible for knowing the degree requirements and for submitting all Graduate School forms on time. Early in their graduate careers, students should become familiar with the most important forms: the program of study, the notice of completion and the application for graduation. Most Graduate School forms are available online. The application for graduation is available on the Graduate School's website.

Please review the MFA creative writing checklist of degree requirements.