Jul 07, 2022  
2020-2021 MFA Graduate Catalogue 
2020-2021 MFA Graduate Catalogue [ARCHIVED CATALOGUE]

General Requirements for Graduate Programs


General Requirements for Graduate Programs

The graduate degree requirements have been set by the Faculty. To be eligible to receive a Masters degree, students must:

  1. be admitted to degree candidacy by the Program Director. 

  2. file an application for graduation upon registration for the final thesis residency for M.F.A. students. By filing this application for graduation, students formally declare their desire to be graduated during that academic year and register how they wish their name to appear on their diploma. Once the student has applied for graduation, an official audit of all credits earned and in progress will be conducted by the Program Director. The Program Director will inform the student and their academic advisor/mentor(s) of the requirements to be completed. 

  3. complete all the requirements for their degree program and settle their financial obligations to the College. 

  4. be recommended by formal vote of the Faculty and approved by the Board of Trustees on the basis of their satisfactory academic achievement.

Master of Fine Arts Program Overview and Degree Requirements

The M.F.A. is the terminal degree for creative writing students; an M.F.A. is a studio degree, meaning that the primary focus is on an individual’s own work as a practicing writer. The program is a two-year, largely self-directed program designed for individuals who may not be able to commit to a full-time on-campus program. Students will be admitted year round, beginning their program with either a summer or winter residency.

M.F.A. candidates must earn 11 Cornell graduate credits (the equivalent of 44 semester hours). 

The required sequence of courses is:

Semester 1: CRW 5001, and CRW 5010

Semester 2: CRW 5002, and CRW 5011

Semester 3: CRW 5003, and one of the following: CRW 5012, 5013, 5014 or 5015

Semester 4: CRW 5004, and CRW 5016

Final Residency: CRW 5005


Students will be required to complete a practicum or applied studies project, a creative thesis of publishable quality fiction, non-fiction, or poetry, defend their thesis to a faculty committee, present a public lecture of their applied studies, and a public reading from their thesis. Students must work with at least two faculty mentors. At least three semesters must be completed at Cornell. Students commit to working at least 25 hours per week on their work during the semester. 

Each semester will begin on campus with a 9-day residency, during which students will attend workshops, panel discussions, lectures, and will develop, in conjunction with a mentor, a study plan for the semester’s work.

The semester’s work will consist of the student’s own creative work, reading in the tradition, and academic writing about literature. Students will respond to their reading in a variety of ways: annotations, book reviews, literary criticism and analysis. 

In the first and second semester, students will focus on drafting new material and expanding their knowledge of process and craft. Each semester, students will submit five packets of creative and critical work (roughly once a month). The first semester will focus in particular on the breadth of contemporary work and literary publishing. In the second semester, students will expand their reading in literary history and tradition. 

Third semesters students will complete an “applied studies” project, either a critical thesis focused on literary criticism, or a project geared toward one of three professional areas: teaching, literary publishing, or arts administration. Projects in teaching, publishing, or arts administration will most likely involve an internship with an external organization.

During the fourth, creative-thesis semester, students work closely with faculty mentors to revise their work to produce a book-length manuscript of publishable quality. The fifth and final residency will include a 60-minute presentation in the student’s specialized area developed in the third semester. Graduating students will also deliver a public reading and discussion from their creative thesis.

Students and faculty are required to submit thorough evaluations of the residency and the student semester project each semester. These evaluations become part of the student’s permanent record and determine whether credit is granted toward the degree. 

M.F.A. Academic Advisors (Mentors)

During each residency, the Program Director will assign graduate students a mentor (same as an academic advisor) to work with over the course of each semester. Students are encouraged to talk with the director, particularly for the final semesters, about professional and creative goals in order to make the most appropriate assignments.