Frequently Asked Questions

If you are considering the major…

There is no concentration in Creative Writing.

Creative Writing is a declared major. As of 2020, you no longer need approval to declare the major. Students can declare their major through the major declaration form during the major declaration period, usually in March.

We suggest that you take one of our beginning workshops or a seminar to get a sense of the kind of instruction the Creative Writing program offers. If you have taken several courses already and are still uncertain about whether to major, we suggest coming in to our office at 609 Kent to talk with the Program Assistant, Dorla McIntosh, or making an appointment with the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

With the exception of application-only workshops (any workshop that is not Beginning), all registration is done through the university registration system. Continue to look for openings online until the semester begins. Once classes commence, the Program Assistant, Dorla McIntosh, will leave the rosters open for two weeks to allow for add/drops. If you see an online opening at any time, contact the instructor immediately for a syllabus and any missed work. There’s a great deal of shuffling during the first two weeks of the semester; typically, students do end up with at least one of the classes they wanted to take, even if they start off on the waitlist. The most important thing is to let the instructor know of your interest and show up to the first weeks of class.

Every class in the Creative Writing Program is open to non-majors, though most workshops that are not in the Beginner Level are application-only, and preference is sometimes granted to majors.

Register for any Beginning Level workshop online when your registration period opens. Registration procedures for Intermediate, Advanced, and Senior level workshops are described in detail here.

No to both questions. While it makes the most sense to take the workshops as a sequence, it is not necessary. You may count two workshops at the same level toward your degree and you may take any level workshop in any order. 

Not always. It strengthens your application if you have taken a Beginning Level workshop so the faculty member who is vetting your application knows you have a good foundation in workshop conduct. While it strengthens your application, it is not a requirement to get into Intermediate or Advanced. For the time being, Intermediate and higher classes will require an application to get in. To apply, read the instructions and fill out the course application found here

Beginning Level workshops are designed for students who have had no prior workshop experience. Intermediate and Advanced workshops are designed for students who have had workshop before. Senior Workshop is designed for senior majors who are working toward a cumulative project such as a thesis portfolio or graduate school work samples. All instructors in all courses will try to accommodate your particular needs and interests, so don’t worry if you think you’re working at an “advanced” level and you end up in an “intermediate” workshop. The labels are there to help instructors organize and design their curriculum. The level of instruction will be excellent regardless of level. That said, for Advanced and Senior workshops, instructors almost always prioritize declared majors who are in their last years of study.

You might not have gotten in for a variety of reasons. The instructor may have had far more applications than available seats in the course. The instructor may think that you should take a Beginning or Intermediate workshop first, based on your work sample. The instructor is also looking for overall fit and dynamic of the entire classroom. The instructor might think that they are not the instructor for your project, so they might recommend you take the class with another instructor. If you don’t get into the workshop you applied for, you can also try to get into your second or third choices, provided there’s room. And never hesitate to apply again next semester.

Students can take only one Undergraduate Creative Writing workshop each semester.

Students can take up to two Undergraduate Creative Writing seminars each semester.


Independent Study (IS) will receive a maximum of one credit. According to university and state guidelines, one credit means 1 contact hour each week, with two hours of independent work (readings, writings, projects, etc) each week. You can do an Independent Study with a faculty member if they are a full-time faculty member. You will need to reach out to the faculty member directly and ask for their approval. It will strengthen your case if you have a clear idea what you would like to accomplish in the independent study, and why it needs to be done with that particular professor. If you can write out a vision plan or syllabus for this study, that will be even better.

Once You’re a Major…

After declaring, you will need to start tracking your courses to make sure you graduate on time.  If you would like advising on how to complete the major, you may fill out our Major Worksheet and request a meeting with the Director of Undergraduate Studies. You must fill out a form before you request advising.

You can do a self-check. To graduate as a major, you will need the following—

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).

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

If you have fulfilled these requirements and your courses are clearly shown on all relevant transcripts, you will be approved to graduate with the major.

A related course is a course you’ve taken that relates to your Creative Writing major in some way. These can be, for example, literature courses you’ve taken in other departments, or film courses, screenwriting courses, art practice courses, etc.

You can count two courses that—

  • Also counts toward the CORE requirement (except University Writing)
  • Also counts toward the fulfillment of another major’s related courses.

Related courses must be 3000 level or above, unless it’s a CORE requirement or in an art-related field, such as Painting, Dance, or Theater.

Two classes can be transferred from another institution as related course credit.

If your courses fulfill the above criteria, DUS will likely approve. For the courses you’re more unsure about, you will need to write a short paragraph about the rationale of each of your related courses. Before you make an appointment with the Director of Undergraduate Studies to gain approval, please fill out the Related Courses portion of the Major Worksheet.

Yes and No. You WILL be able to count workshops taken in another institution towards your Related Courses requirement. However, you will NOT be able to count them towards the Workshop requirement. Our program is built around our workshops and we think it is important for you to experience that here in our department.

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. 

Yes. Seminars and art-related courses taken in another institution can also count towards your Related Courses.

Again, 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. 

Master classes are offered for one credit.  You may count up to three Master Class credits as Seminar credits in your major.

You may petition if there is demonstrated need. If you are graduating with ample time left to fulfill your major requirements, the answer will be no. We have very high demand for our courses so this is a way to make sure as many students as possible have the opportunity to take one of our classes.

The Barnard Playwriting workshop may be counted as your out-of-genre workshop. It is best to clear this with an advisor before taking the workshop.

It is possible to complete the major with study abroad, but students should discuss this situation with an Undergraduate Creative Writing advisor as soon as possible in order to plan an appropriate program of study.

Yes, you may earn up to three Related Course or Seminar credits depending on your position with the magazine. Work on Quarto begins in October and continues through April; students register for credit in the spring term.

No, we don’t count internships for Independent Study credit or for any credit.

According to university and state guidelines, you should be completing the following hours of work:

Unfortunately, no. If you are interested in taking a creative writing course at Columbia, you may want to look into our summer school offerings that are administered through School of Professional Studies.

You can email the Program Assistant, Dorla McIntosh [email protected]

or the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Anelise Chen at [email protected]

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