Graduate FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions: MFA Application

Please read these before contacting us: most common questions are answered here.

General Questions

When can I apply?

MFA (all programs except film): Applications open mid-October, with deadline in early January. Classes begin in September.
Joint MFA (Film Production & Screenwriting): mid-January deadline for September start.

How do I apply?

Application requires an online application and portfolio on this website, before the deadlines listed above, as well as an application to UBC Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies. Please look at our Grad Application page for complete instructions.

Can I apply to both the on-campus and optional-residency MFA?

Yes. You would have to apply twice online and pay two application fees to do so. Faculty reader committees for each program are separate. If you do apply twice and we make an admission offer you would have to chose which program to attend.

How much does the MFA Cost?

All fees are listed in Canadian funds for the 2018/19 academic year. The UBC Calendar has more information.

Optional-Residency MFA Tuition:
Canadian Students: $603.66 per credit.
US & International Students: $1,025.38 CDN per credit.

The MFA degree is awarded on the completion of 36 credits. Most courses are 6 credits each. Courses may be taken individually or as many as three in an academic year. Students are considered to be full-time if they are taking 12 credits in the fall/winter term (6 credits per term). Continuing tuition is not charged when no courses are being taken.

On-Campus MFA Tuition:
Canadian Students: $1,632.62 per term (three terms per year).
US & International Students: $2,868.22 CDN per term (three terms per year).

After the second year, if a student remains on continuing status to finish a thesis, domestic fees drop to the continuing fee, which is currently $745.89 per term for Canadian students. There is no change to US & International fees ($2,811.98 CDN per term).

Please note: this does not include any additional student fees; these are listed on the UBC website for on-campus students. Student fees are substantially lower for Optional-Residency MFA students as they do not use campus resources.

Do you have funding for students?

Yes, students in both the on-campus and Optional Residency program are eligible for several types of scholarships, including Graduate Support  Initiative, SSHRC funding for Canadian students and affiliated scholarships for international students. In 2018 our Graduate Students were awarded over $480,000 in scholarships and fellowships.

We also have internal scholarships, multiple Teaching Assistant positions and several work/learn job opportunities.

Students are fully eligible for Canadian federal and provincial loans and any applicable US educational loans (though please note that part-time students may not be eligible for all loans and please also note that Stafford Loans are NOT awarded to students studying in a non-US institution by telecommunications – so Optional Residency students cannot receive these loans). Taking two six credit courses per year is considered full-time study by many loan-granting bodies. See UBC’s Loans & Grants information for more.

Please see our Awards & Aid page for more information.

Are there teaching assistant (TA) positions available to graduate students?

Yes, we have numerous TA positions assisting faculty teaching large-enrolment undergraduate Creative Writing Courses. Please see the TA FAQ page for more information.

What are the academic requirements?

Please see the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website for UBC’s requirements for Graduate Study. Students must have a four year Bachelor’s degree or equivalent, with a B+ average in the last two years. Students apply to Graduate Studies online and apply to Creative Writing with a portfolio of writing. If the faculty agree that the student is acceptable for the program, then a formal request for acceptance is sent to UBC Graduate Studies. Acceptance by us does not guarantee acceptance by Graduate Studies.

Do I need to have an undergraduate degree in English or Creative Writing to apply?

No, the undergraduate degree may be in any discipline. Many of our successful applicants have had degrees in areas unrelated to writing; some have not taken writing courses before.

What if I have not yet finished my undergraduate degree?

If you expect to finish in the spring or summer immediately following the application deadline, you are eligible to apply. Transcripts showing marks for courses completed or in progress are acceptable. If accepted to the program and to UBC, Graduate Studies will grant an acceptance conditional on the successful completion of your undergraduate degree.

Do you accept transfer credit from other optional-residency or residential MFA programs?

No. Due to the difficulty in assessing transferrable credit in writing programs, and to the particular multi-genre, workshop-based nature of the MFA at UBC, we cannot accept credits earned at another institution.

What if I only have a 3 year undergraduate degree? What if I have a four year degree but my marks are not all in the B+ range?

3 year degrees from countries outside of North America where these are the norm are acceptable.  North American students with a 3 year degree may have to obtain sufficient credit in advanced level subjects before they qualify for application. Please see UBC Graduate Studies for the official requirements. For students with a 4 year degree but an average below the recommended B+, it is often possible to gain entrance if a rationale for the academic shortfalls can be given. In this case, we encourage you to apply; if our faculty accept your application based on your writing portfolio we will work with you to request a waiver of the grade requirement. We cannot guarantee Graduate Studies acceptance, but we are often successful.

What is the significance of stating your main genre in the application process? Will this affect my chances of acceptance if I’m mainly working in a popular genre such as fiction?

Knowing an applicant’s main genre helps us with the initial routing of the portfolio and also with planning for courses and faculty – we assume this is your strongest genre, though we do read all genres submitted. Knowing which genres potential students plan to specialize in helps us plan the number of courses and faculty we will need in future.

Is UBC an Accredited University?

The University of British Columbia (UBC) is a member of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. Incorporated in 1908 by an act of the provincial legislature, it operates under the authority of the University Act of the Province of British Columbia. Membership in AUCC and operation under the authority of the University Act is equivalent to accreditation in the US system.

More information about UBC’s accreditation is on the UBC website.

UBC is ranked as one of the top 20 public universities in the world and regularly places in the top 5 universities in Canada as ranked by Macleans magazine. More rankings here:

Students with degrees from UBC go on to further study and employment at universities across North America and around the world.

Is the MFA accepted as a qualification for teaching the US?

As stated above, a UBC degree will be acceptable as an academic qualification at any reputable university in the world. Although we cannot guarantee that any graduate will receive a teaching position as a result of gaining their MFA here, the reputation of UBC’s Creative Writing program is widely known in Canada, the US and abroad. We believe that this reputation, our cross-genre philosophy and our workshop focus will serve prospective teachers of creative writing well.

What can you tell me about the current students?

Our current students primarily come from Canada and the US, though we regularly have international students from the UK and as far away as Australia, India and Kenya. They are a group which is diverse in age, experience and sensibility; some have published widely, others have not yet seen print. Some have recently earned undergraduate degrees while others had been out of school for decades before coming to the program. There is no particular ‘type’ of student we are looking for, though we expect that not only will successful students be working at a high level of creative achievement, but that they will participate fully in the critical process at the heart of the writing workshop.

Who are the faculty?

Please see the people section of this site for an up-to-date list.

I’m primarily interested in poetry. Do I have to take courses in other areas?

Yes. Students are required to write in three separate genre areas during the course of their degree. This doesn’t mean you can’t focus on your primary genre – and indeed you only write a thesis in one genre – but our philosophy is that students will discover a fuller understanding of their capacities as writers in the “cross-training” component of the Program. This is one of the features of this degree which makes UBC’s program unique – some of our best-known graduates have ended up excelling in genres they had not previously worked in before coming to the program.

Are there assigned reading lists and critical essays?

As a studio program the concentration is on writing and critical discussion of this writing. This does not mean that instructors do not suggest material to each class for reading and discussion or suggest books to an individual student, but there is not a formal academic requirement for reading and associated critical essays.

Optional-Residency MFA Specific Questions

What is an optional-residency MFA?

It is a type of low-residency MFA in which the residency component is optional. As the name suggests, low-residency MFAs allow writers to complete an MFA degree without having to spend the academic year in residence at the university campus. Most other low-residency MFAs require attendance at two 10-day residencies each year and require full-time study.

What is different about UBC’s optional-residency MFA?

In addition to our unique cross-genre focus, we are much more flexible than other low-residency programs: we have one 10-day residency each year, which is optional. Students can maintain full-time status by taking as few as 12 credits a year. Students who require more time to complete their degrees may wish to study part-time, but will be ineligible for financial support.

Why does the optional-residency MFA have higher tuition than the on-campus MFA?

This is related to our special status at UBC as a professional program, which enables students to work part-time and to pay reduced student fees. Tuition is charged per-credit registered, not per academic term.

This expense is, however, offset by the absence of many of the hidden costs of taking an on-campus program, such as relocating to Vancouver. Optional-Residency students who study part-time are often able to continue to work during the course of their degree.

My computer is old / I have a slow Internet connection. Will I be able to take part in the online courses?

Yes. If you can read this page on your computer, you can participate in the workshops online. Our technical requirements are modest. The majority of courses will only require a word processor (MS Word is our standard) and access to the Internet. Students with newer computers and high-speed connections do report that these make participating more convenient, and we would recommend these, but they are not a requirement. There is also no requirement for a particular operating system.

Is the Optional-Residency MFA the same as the on-campus MFA?

The optional-residency MFA has separate fees, however, the degree granted is the same as the residential MFA. Application standards and thesis requirements are the same. Most faculty members teach in both the on-campus and online programs.

How do online classes work?

Most classes are offered as online workshops. Students submit and discuss their work regularly as part of a small group, using a web-based discussion forum and written commentary. Classes do not meet in ‘real time’ but rather students have a period of approximately a day and a half each week in which discussion is open, and may take part on their own schedule. A smaller number of classes, most specifically the thesis, may be taught taught using direct one-to-one correspondence between students and faculty members. We also hosting visiting virtual writers in residence and regularly present audio recordings of lectures and readings from the residential MFA program.

How much time does an online workshop take up?

We estimate that each online workshop takes a student roughly four to six hours per week in reading and participating in online discussion (depending to some degree on individual reading and typing speed). This does not include personal writing time, which varies from student to student.

In a fiction workshop, for example, students might be expected to produce four original pieces of work (chapters of a novel, or short stories) during the course of the academic year, or roughly one every six weeks. Other genres have different expectations, but the amount of writing time is comparable. Courses (other than the residency) follow the academic year (September through April), which provides for 26 workshop meetings.

Students who take a full-time load (three 6-credit workshops in the fall/winter term) find the workload can exclude other work or family commitments. As with the on-campus program, we assume that students studying full time will spend the majority of their time on school work.

What happens during the residency period(s)?

The residencies are held at the Vancouver campus of UBC each summer for approximately ten days. They consist primarily of writing workshops, supplemented by seminars and lectures on aspects of writing craft and business. Residencies are designed to foster creative and social links between students as well as to educate. Residencies are generally considered 3 credit courses, and cost the standard 3 credit course rate. There will not be any additional costs, other than applicable UBC student fees, the cost of transportation, meals and accommodation, which each student is responsible for.

I’m an international student: do I need a student visa for the online program?

You will require a study permit if you plan to attend the residencies in Canada (you do not require one to take any other courses, as they are by distance education). Please see the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website for details. We will provide assistance and appropriate documentation where necessary. The process is usually quite straightforward.

How important are the residency periods?

The residencies are an important part of the optional-residency MFA. We understand, however, that for some students, work, location or family issues make it very difficult or impossible to attend residencies. Therefore, though strongly recommended, we do not make residencies mandatory.