For international students, getting into school in the US already involves jumping through a lot of hoops. On top of that, many creative writing majors, minors, and concentrations also require their own separate applications! This article will help you make sense of the process and give you some tips so you can stand out from the pack.
College applications are a strenuous process for anybody. This is doubly true for international students coming to the US, adding the complications of student visas, long-distance applications, and more. In addition to all this fuss, creative writing degree programs generally have their own supplemental application requirements in addition to the requirements of the whole school. This is an unfortunate necessity of the field; to simultaneously ensure limited quantity of students (to keep class size down) and elite quality of students (to maintain the school’s reputation and the value of student-to-student feedback) the top creative writing degree programs simply must have some filtering process that gets rid of all but the best candidates. It’ll be hard work, but if you get started early on the application process for a degree in creative writing you’ll give yourself the best shot against the competition.
First, you should keep in mind that the beginning step of the application process for a degree in creative writing requires the same consideration as the general application. While creative writing degree programs very rarely have basic score requirements (for SAT, GPA, etc.) that are higher than those for the overarching school, international students going into creative writing may very well have to demonstrate a more advanced mastery of English than the school’s general population in the form of higher TOEFL scores or a verbal interview.
Of course, the application process for a degree in creative writing won’t always coincide with your application to the whole school. Many creative writing programs, especially those such as minors or concentrations, only begin in the upperclassman years and thus see student applications in their sophomore year. Because of these variations, it’s extremely important to know when to apply and what the deadlines are. If you’re a sophomore at a school with a two-year (junior and senior) creative writing program, for example, a missed deadline or bungled application can mean an unplanned extra year spent at the school as you try the application again next year. These non-four-year creative writing programs also come with no guarantee that you’ll be accepted into the program even if you attend the school, making them more of a risk and making it doubly important that you knock your application out of the park.
To ensure that stellar application, first scrutinize the application guidelines very closely. What exactly are they looking for? Almost all supplemental applications for creative writing degree programs will ask for at least one creative writing sample, though many ask for more than one. These samples may have to be base off a specific prompt in the application as well. In addition, some creative writing programs require more traditional application materials (personal statements, summaries of achievements) as they apply to your creative writing prowess specifically. Overall, the application process for a degree in creative writing can be a rude awakening, often asking for works of a different medium, format, or length than you’ve ever even considered writing. That’s why we get started early! Also make sure that you adhere exactly to whatever formatting details (font, spacing, margins, etc.) are requested; again, a simple mistake can throw a big monkey wrench in your creative writing education.
When it comes to actually producing the creative writing for the application, you generally have two options: start from scratch, or use something you’ve written. If you’re lucky, something you’ve already written will perfectly fit the application requirements. You may also get close and only need to modify an existing work of yours, editing it down to meet a length restriction or converting it from one medium to another (changing your short screenplay into the short story asked of you, for example). When using preexisting works, be wary of submitting material that’s too old. You want your application to show off your current writing ability and voice, not that of your eighth-grade self! If you are writing something completely new, don’t worry about writing what you think the school wants to see – just make sure you write in your own unique voice. This is the single most important factor that most creative writing degree programs are looking for.
With a great application, international students can be accepted and flourish in creative writing programs all across the US. Get started early, rigorously research each school’s application process, and produce some writing in your own voice and you’ll be in great shape.