The Writing Program

The Columbia University MFA Writing Program is highly regarded for its rigorous approach to literary instruction and for its faculty of acclaimed writers and editors who are devoted and dedicated teachers. The faculty, the students, and the curriculum represent and foster a full range of artistic and literary diversity. Students are encouraged to make the most of their own artistic instincts and to realize as fully as possible, beyond any perceived limitations, their potential as writers.


At the core of the curriculum is the writing workshop. All workshops are small (7 to 12 students), ensuring that all students present work at least three times per semester. Students receive substantial written responses to their work from their professors and classmates; they also have regularly scheduled one-on-one conferences with faculty. The second-year thesis workshops (6 to 9 students) are dedicated to shaping each student’s work into book form.


The Columbia MFA is a two-year program requiring 60 credits of coursework to complete the degree and can take up to three years to complete the thesis. Students concentrate in fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction, and also have the option of pursuing a joint course of study in writing and literary translation. Most MFA programs require 48 credits or as few as 36 credits, but the Columbia Writing Program considers the study of literature from the practitioner's point of view—reading as a writer—essential to a writer's education. Every semester, students take a workshop and, on average, three craft-oriented seminars and/or lectures designed to illuminate, inform, clarify, augment and inspire each student’s experience and practice as a writer.  New seminars, lectures and master classes are created every year.



Wed November 1, 2017

Michael Kimmelman is the architecture critic for The New York Times and has focused on issues of public housing, public space, infrastructure, urbanism, environmentalism and community development.


Mon November 20, 2017

Orhan Pamuk reads from his new novel, The Red-Haired Woman, followed by a conversation with Bruce Robbins, English and Comparative Literature.


Writing News

Inaugural Max Ritvo Poetry Series Celebrates Beloved Poet, Alum

The spirit of Max Ritvo ’16 shined through his words during the Columbia University School of the Arts inaugural poetry series in his name Wednesday night at the Lenfest Center for the Arts.  

read more

Karen Malpede '71 Publishes Book of Plays

Karen Malpede ’71 has a new book, Plays In Time, a collection of four plays set during world conflicts ranging from the late twentieth century to the present.  

read more
Brian Young '18 Finds New Voice in New York Times Documentary

When current writing student Brian Young ’18 was asked to help direct and feature in a New York Times op-doc, he saw it as an opportunity for his culture to be accurately represented.  

read more

Writing and Film faculty Explore 'Passing' in Essays for New Anthology

Essays from professors Trey Ellis, associate professor in Film, and Margo Jefferson, professor of professional practice in Writing, are featured in the recently published anthology, We Wear The Mask: 15 True Stories of Passing in America.  

read more

Writing Roundup: Week of Oct. 9

Over the past couple of weeks, Writing Program students and alumni have been busy publishing new work. Read more in our biweekly roundup of news about Columbia writers. Julia Bosson

read more

Alumni Spotlight: Tracy K. Smith '97, New Poet Laureate

The Writing Spotlight series highlights the work of alumni, faculty and current MFA students, asking them to share thoughts on their craft and practice through a question-and-answer interview.  

read more