Whether you’re debating about applying, weighing the relative merits of low-residency and residential MFA models, or trying to choose among multiple acceptances, the following information may prove helpful in your deliberations.
Despite similarities in structure or design, all programs are not the same, and it’s sometimes hard to uncover the differences that would matter most to you. We encourage you to ask these questions of any other programs you’re considering. What follows are the short answers.
Please consult other pages on our website for additional details.
- Tuition, Fees, and Financial Aid
- Faculty Interaction
- The Residency
- The Non-Resident Semester
- Other Questions
When are your deadlines?
Application deadlines are always March 1 for the July semester and September 1 for the January semester. Notifications of application results are typically received within a month.
When is the residency?
Our ten-day residencies are always held in early January and early July. The specific dates vary. The upcoming residency’s dates are always posted on our website.
How selective is your program?
Our program is quite selective. We accept generally 10-15% of our applicants; in some semesters the percentage has been considerably lower. We do not enroll to meet a certain quota; accepted applicants must meet our very high standards.
How many students do you admit? How many are enrolled in your program?
Our close-knit community is held steady at 70-75 students total. Enrollment in our two genres is roughly equal. The number admitted in any given round varies considerably, based on the number of openings.
What is the age range of your students?
Our students typically range in age from their mid-20s to their 60s. Our average age is the same as the average age across all low-residency MFA programs: 36. Our median age at present is 32.
What is the length of your program?
Students must successfully complete four semesters and five residencies to obtain their degree. More than half our students, however, elect to take “Extra” semesters, to benefit more fully from our program’s resources.
Tuition is $8,325 a semester and residency fees are $475. Those students attending a residency only (prior to a leave of absence, for example) pay a $1,500 fee. The fee for a leave of absence is $200. The Graduation Fee—which includes diploma and transcript—is $200, but no tuition is charged for a student’s final residency. No other fees are incurred unless a student misses a deadline. Our Holden Scholarship and Jaffe Fellowship cover all fees for those students; there are occasionally student internships available which are compensated through a waiver of fees.
What financial aid resources are available to me, and how are they allocated?
At Warren Wilson, all financial aid is based on need. Students interested in financial aid must complete a FAFSA by March 1 or September 1.
We offer a range of MFA grants for qualifying students, which can cover over 50% of the costs of tuition, as well as smaller supplemental grants (such as the Renate Wood and Larry Levis Scholarships). All of this support is renewable for four semesters, assuming eligibility continues. In any given year, between 1/3 to ½ of our students receive direct tuition reduction through these grants. The FAFSA also enables many of our students to finance remaining education costs through low-interest, deferred-payment, federally-supported loans. All students who demonstrate need are automatically considered for supplemental grants; there is no separate application process.
In addition, minority students may apply, on admission, for a Holden Minority Scholarship which covers full tuition and residency costs for four semesters of study. Entering female students who qualify for aid will be considered for the Rona Jaffe Graduate Fellowship. This fellowship covers tuition and fees for the first two semesters of the program and includes a $4,000 stipend.
Once matriculated, students may qualify for additional aid, such as the Lisel Mueller Scholarship for students with small children, and the Carol Houck Smith Scholarship for students entering a final semester. And our students continue successfully to locate substantial support from outside sources, such as the Elizabeth George Foundation and the Javits Scholarship.
Are teaching assistantships available? What training toward a teaching career would be available to me?
As we are together as a group for only ten days a semester, we do not offer teaching assistantships. Although all students must teach a one-hour class as part of their degree requirements, we don’t view that as in-service teaching training, but rather—like annotations and the degree essay—as an occasion and a lens for focused study and articulation of the critical inquiry.
Students do gain training toward a career in teaching, however, through the general excellence of the program’s instruction. Our faculty provide exemplary models; the design of our program is one our students are keen to perpetuate. Our alumni currently teach at NYU, Sarah Lawrence, Colby, University of Arizona, University of Michigan, University of Montana, Purdue, UC Berkeley, Emerson, and many other colleges and universities.
I’ve received a scholarship and a TAship to a residential program, but the low-residency model really appeals to me. What financial argument can I make for going to Warren Wilson?
Keep in mind that the low-residency format allows students to attend a writing program without moving or changing jobs, and to work—full-time, in many cases—while studying. Students will need to factor travel to and from residencies into their costs, of course, as well as books, postage, and other supplies. But in comparing the costs of graduate writing programs, one should recognize the absence of hidden costs such as moving or being required to live in a more costly area, and the advantage of maintaining income during the period.
We have over 55 veteran faculty members who actively teach with us, and we continue to add new faculty to the mix. Usually, about half the teaching staff for any given semester are writers with long experience in the Program—a "core" faculty group familiar with the Program format and standards, as well as the evolving work and development of current students. Another third of the staff may be writers who teach with us less regularly, and the remainder are new faculty. All of our faculty are considered “part-time” employees with us, who supervise no more than 5 and no fewer than 1 student project (the average is 3) and are hired a semester at a time. Each semester’s roster is usually announced on our website about three months prior to the residency. While we guarantee no greater than a 5-1 student-faculty ratio, the usual number is 3-1; that figure is not diluted by “guest” writers.
How will I be paired with my faculty mentor?
It’s important to the Program that every student work with a faculty member, each semester, who is enthusiastic about his/her work and feels able to make a contribution toward the pursuit of that student's particular goals and the development of his/her talent.
In advance of each residency, faculty members read the student work samples in their genre and arrive prepared to participate actively in the decisions that assign a supportive and helpful supervisor to each project. Assignments are pedagogical, not purely administrative, and seek to match the particular strengths, experience and enthusiasms of veteran teachers with the student’s goals for the semester, as briefly described on the Project Preference Forms. Faculty in each genre meet as a group on the first afternoon of the residency to review the statements carefully and make a collective judgment about appropriate mentor selection. Students may request specific faculty members, but if they choose to do so, they must name a minimum of three. It is also assumed that a student will be paired with a different supervisor each semester, unless there is some compelling pedagogical reason to do otherwise.
What access do I have to other faculty members during the residency periods?
During the residency, every faculty member offers a lecture, discussion class, or small seminar, which is open to any student in any genre. Except for the concurrent seminars, these are also attended by faculty colleagues, enabling on-going dialogue and exchange. The level of conversation in these presentations is extremely high: you can get of sense of that through the available CDs of lectures or in our six anthologies.
Workshops are led by rotating pairs of faculty members, so each workshop group (8-10 students) will hear work discussed by ten faculty members each residency. In addition, a student’s own fiction or poetry is always discussed in a workshop session led by faculty members who have not served as a previous supervisor or workshop leader; as a result, during a student’s tenure in the Program, he/she will have direct critical response from at least 8 faculty members in his/her genre in addition to the supervisor.
Each faculty member also presents a reading—usually from new work—which serves as another sort of introduction and exposure. And students and faculty have the opportunity to meet in informal social gatherings throughout the residency. Our low student-faculty ratio, which almost never exceeds 4-1 during the residency periods, is felt directly.
The Program design stresses variety and stimulation for the residency, balanced against in-depth mentorship during the semester. The exchange of ideas, and the individuality of voices, is also a crucial component for our community. During the residency, you’ll be paired with your faculty supervisor and will plan your semester’s course of study with him or her; you’ll learn from an astonishing series of craft-based lectures, classes, and seminars; and you’ll form abiding and supportive friendships. It’s an exhilarating and exhausting ten days which will fuel and inform your study in the months that follow.
How much individual response will I receive to my work, beyond group (workshop) hours?
At the residency you will have three conferences with your faculty advisor; each of these meetings are required to run at least 45 minutes, but are usually much longer. You may well have response to your work from faculty members other than your advisor as well as your fellow students. The director also meets individually during the residency with all students entering the essay and final semesters.
How are workshop assignments made?
Workshop at Warren Wilson is distinctive in that, while the small group remains constant for its five meetings, a different pair of faculty members facilitate discussion each day. This exposes the students to a range of aesthetics and approaches, and allows direct interaction with a large portion of the faculty over a student’s tenure in the Program.
Student assignments to a specific workshop group may be a result of a genre preference, as we offer a cross-genre workshop, and, when sufficient interest is present, a novel workshop, in addition to our poetry and fiction workshops. We always make sure that each small workshop (8-10 members) includes students at every point in their progress toward the degree; and that every residency a student receives direct response from two new sources.
One of the most pronounced differences between the low-residency and residential models is the amount and depth of individual response the student receives from his or her faculty supervisor over the course of six exchanges. Your faculty supervisor receives work from you every 3 weeks and responds with detailed critique/advice/direction within 3 days. What’s more: in a resident program, your faculty mentor may not be fully involved in your work for other classes, but at Warren Wilson, each “packet” exchange includes your responses to what you have been reading: for the semester project, all of your creative work is received within the context of your individually-designed curriculum, and attended to in this way by your faculty advisor.
A sense of community is important to me. How can a low-residency program supply that?
The distance that’s implicit in a low-residency program’s design as well as the nature of the student this model attracts—disciplined, dedicated, talented, mature, motivated—fosters, in fact, a remarkable sense of community. The vibrancy and intensity of the Warren Wilson residency and the rewarding depth and range of the semester dialogue with the faculty advisor create, in tandem, an abiding sense of belonging. Our students come from a wide variety of backgrounds and aesthetics, but they recognize each other as kindred spirits: they’re all pursuing a commitment to their writing—often realizing a long-deferred dream—in the face of multiple challenges.
The generous, noncompetitive spirit of our residencies results in enduring friendships; those friendships become essential support networks during the semester—and long after graduation. We also have a vital alumni organization which meets for annual conferences; our alumni gather regionally, as well. As our graduates will attest, the Warren Wilson MFA program not only teaches you lifelong practices for incorporating your art into the demands of daily life, but it provides you with a community of fellow writers who continue the conversation with you long after you receive your degree.
What portion of your Program is conducted online?
Warren Wilson follows a mentor-based studio-research model. When the residency concludes, instruction occurs only between the faculty advisor and the student, either through email, or through a combination of email and regular mail. There are no online classes or workshops in our program.
We offer courses of study in Poetry and Fiction. The quality and depth of our individual instruction provides each student with a firm foundation in craft which he or she may apply to any genre. A term of study in Creative Nonfiction or in the “other” genre is available through our “Additional Genre” Extra semester, however, available to students in their second year of study.
What is your policy for Leaves of Absence?
While attendance in the program is expected to be continuous (consecutive semesters from enrollment to graduation), our leave policy recognizes that our MFA students are all adults with various, sometimes unpredictable commitments. Thus, students may request and be granted up to two consecutive leaves of absence without jeopardizing their enrollment or their standing with the Program. Requests, in the form of a petition to the Board, must be received before the deadline for receipt of the Enrollment Agreement Form, approximately three months in advance of the leave semester; must cite in writing the reasons for the request; and must be accompanied by payment of the $200 Leave of Absence Fee.
Special accommodation is also possible for students who are able to pursue their studies only during alternate semesters,. Requests for this study option may be indicated on the application or made subsequently by petitioning the Academic Board.
How successful are your graduates in applying to PhD programs?
Because many of our students enter the program already employed quite successfully in other fields, and because many who receive our MFA and wish to teach do find positions without further degrees, we don’t have a high percentage of alumni who then pursue a doctorate in creative writing. We have had students go on to Houston, Utah, and other PhD programs, however, when they also had an appetite for serious scholarship. As our own faculty who teach in those doctoral programs can attest, a Warren Wilson MFA is a highly regarded qualification, and committees on admissions (and hiring) appreciate our narrative transcripts as well.
How can I contact current students and recent alumni about their experience?
Program staff are always available to talk with prospective students about the program prior to the application process. Because admission to our program is highly competitive, however, the MFA office arranges contact with current students and/or recent alumni only after an applicant has been offered admission. To speak with someone in the office, please call the Assistant to the Director at (828) 771-3715.