Writing Undergraduate Major


To study creative writing at Columbia University's School of the Arts, in New York City, is to join a distinguished group of writers who arrived at a prestigious university in the nation's literary capital to explore the deep artistic power of language. J.D. Salinger enrolled in a short story course here in 1939. Federico Garcia Lorca wrote Poet in New York while he was a student at Columbia. Carson McCullers worked odd jobs in the city to pay for her Columbia writing courses. Eudora Welty, Jack Kerouac, Langston Hughes, Allen Ginsberg, Paul Auster: these renowned writers and many others have left a legacy of originality and brilliance that charges the atmosphere at Columbia and lends genuine excitement to the prospect of literary creation on campus.

New York City is as vibrant as ever, home to writers from all over the world, and Columbia's literary legacy continues unabated. Home now to a top-ranked graduate MFA program in creative writing, an undergraduate program that allows students to pursue their craft under the diligent supervision of a world-class faculty, the Columbia literary experience includes rigorous writing workshops at all levels in fiction, literary nonfiction, poetry, dramatic writing, and screenwriting, and seminars designed exclusively for creative writing students.

Student writers not only have access to these provocative and rigorous courses, but they also can partake in the larger offerings of Columbia's thriving School of the Arts: the readings, lectures, performances, and plays that bring together the world's most gifted artists and writers, who come to Columbia to test their vision and explore the enormous power of literary art.

Welcome to the Creative Writing Program at Columbia University School of the Arts.

Deborah Paredez
Chair, MFA Writing Program, Columbia University School of the Arts

Anelise Chen
Assistant Professor, Director of Undergraduate Creative Writing

    About the Undergraduate program

    The creative writing program in The School of the Arts combines intensive writing workshops with seminars that study literature from a writer’s perspective. While students develop and hone their literary technique in workshops, the creative writing seminars (which explore literary technique as well as history) broaden their sense of possibility by exposing them to the various ways, historically, that language has been used to make art.  As a supplement to the workshops and seminars, related courses for the major can be drawn from departments such as English, Comp. Lit, Philosophy, History, and Anthropology, among others. Students will determine, in consultation with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, the related courses that will best inform their creative work.

    The writing workshop is the core element in the practice of creative writing, and it should be a selective and highly rigorous course. Students in the workshop produce original works of fiction, poetry, or nonfiction, and submit them to their classmates and professor for a close critical analysis.  Workshop critiques (which include a detailed written report, as well as thorough line-edits) assess the mechanics and merits of the piece of writing, while individual conferences with the professor distill the various critiques into a direct plan of action to improve the work. A student writer develops by practicing the craft under the diligent critical attention of his or her peers and professor. This dynamic is meant to continually assist the student writer toward new levels of creative endeavor.

    The creative writing seminars are modeled on the courses offered by the graduate Writing Division of The School of the Arts, and provide the intellectual ballast that informs and deepens the work of the creative writing student. Students in the creative writing seminars read a book each week and engage in round-table discussions about the artistic attributes of the texts, in order to better understand how literature might be made. By engaging in a deep analysis of outstanding and diverse works of literature, the creative writer can build the resources necessary to produce his or her own accomplished creative work.

    In addition to this core curriculum, we offer workshops in dramatic writing and screenwriting, as well as a seminar in the art of translation.

    Major Requirements

    We offer a Major in Creative Writing and do not offer a Concentration. Students may elect to complete the major in a Single Genre (Poetry, Fiction, or Nonfiction) or as a Cross-Genre (a combination of two genres) course of study for a total of 12 classes (36 points). Students can select courses in order to fulfill the following major requirements:

    Single Genre Major (Poetry, Fiction, or Nonfiction)

    5 semesters required to complete the major

    Required classes:

    • 5 workshops (4 in focus genre, 1 in another genre; 1 workshop per semester)
    • 4 seminars (you may take a total of 2 per semester)
    • 3 Related Courses

    Cross-Genre Major (Combination of Two Genres)

    5 semesters required to complete the major

    Required classes:

    • 5 workshops (3 in one genre, 2 in another genre; 1 workshop per semester)
    • 4 seminars (you may take a total of 2 per semester)
    • 3 Related Courses

    Counting Related Courses Towards the Major

    • Students may count up to two courses that also: 
      • a) count toward the college’s GLOBAL CORE requirement (with the exception of University Writing) or

      • b) count toward the fulfilling of another major towards their Related Courses requirement

    • Related Courses must be 3000 level or above, unless the course is a GLOBAL CORE requirement or in an arts-related field (e.g., Painting, Dance, or Theater)
    • Two classes may be transferred from another institution to fulfill the Related Courses requirement (Note: Please see the "Transfer Credit and Study Abroad" section below for more information.)
    • Related Courses must be approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies. For more information, refer to the Related Courses section in the FAQ.

    Transfer Credit and Study Abroad

    Students must obtain the approval of the Director of Undergraduate Studies to receive credit for courses taken elsewhere. Transfer students and students planning study abroad should bring relevant material—transcripts, course descriptions, syllabi—to the Director, who decides whether and how outside courses may be used for the major. No more than two courses taken elsewhere may be applied to the major and these courses cannot be used to fulfill seminar and workshop requirements. All seminars and workshops counted for the major must be taken within the department. 

    Majors are expected regularly to fill out the Creative Writing Major Worksheet, to be reviewed by the Director of Undergraduate Studies (or Advisor) and submitted, with any notes from Director, to the Undergraduate Coordinator, Dorla McIntosh, in the Creative Writing Program office, 609 Kent Hall.

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