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Department of English Language and Literature


FAQ

How long should my writing sample be and what should I include?

We are looking for about 20-30 double-spaced pages of prose (which can comprise two or more shorter pieces or an excerpt from a longer work) or a portfolio of 10-20 poems. We're not sticklers, so slightly shorter or longer samples are just fine, but please send us enough of your work to get a good sense of it without overwhelming us with pages.

Where do you stand on genre fiction?

Genre fiction has its place and its (often very large) audience, but, as you might expect from an MFA program housed in a strong English department, our focus is on literary fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction.

What should I include in my statement of purpose?

The statement of purpose should be the equivalent of 1-2 single-spaced pages. In it you might describe yourself as a writer, your plans for your writing over the next few years, your reading interests, and/or your reasons for wanting to pursue an MFA here. There's no winning formula, but gimmick-based approaches usually wear thin quickly. This is also a writing sample, so attend to your sentences, but it can be quite informal. We want a sense of who you are as a writer and reader.

Can I apply in more than one genre?

Yes, but admissions to fiction, poetry, and nonfiction are considered separately. You can only be admitted to one track. While many students take a workshop in a second genre, you cannot switch tracks without reapplying and your thesis is expected to be in the genre in which you are admitted.

Who should I get letters of recommendation from and can I submit more than two?

Please request at least two (but no more than four) letters of recommendation. Most applicants submit one or two letters from a writing professor they have studied with plus one letter from a literature or other professor familiar with their academic work. Some applicants request a letter from a writing conference workshop leader, a writer they know in some other capacity, or an employer (if relevant). It is much better to have a specific letter from someone who knows you as a writer and/or student than from a famous writer you have met only in passing. In other words, it is the content of the letter (and not the stature of the person who wrote it) that matters.

Do I really have to take the GRE to apply?

Sorry, but yes. While GRE scores are not a major consideration in our admissions decisions, you do have to have scores to be considered for admission as well as for certain funding opportunities. Having low scores (particularly a low quantitative score) will not by itself tank your application, and we can have university minimum requirements waived for talented writers. On the other hand, very high scores can sometimes qualify a student for additional funding opportunities through the university.

How can I get the application fee waived?

You probably can't. The fee is charged by the Graduate School and not the MFA program, and the MFA program is unable to waive the fee.

Can I sit in on a workshop?

Accepted applicants are welcome to visit and (if it can be arranged) to sit in on a workshop, reading, and/or other class. We apologize that we cannot accommodate prospective applicants in this way; it would be too disruptive to our workshops to do so.

When will I know if I have been accepted or not?

We typically email first-round acceptances by late February and send out additional acceptances on a rolling basis through April. Once the entire admissions process is complete (usually late April), our university notifies applicants who were not admitted. Like at most other MFA programs, admissions are really competitive. An unfortunate effect of our commitment to staying small and substantially funded is that we turn away many talented and deserving writers.

Do you abide by the April 15 decision deadline?

Yes. Applicants accepted prior to April 1 have until April 15 to commit. Those accepted later are granted additional time.

Can I apply for spring admission?

No. We only consider applications for fall admission.

What do I do if I have additional questions?

First, please check to make sure your question is not answered on our website or the Graduate School's website. If it isn't, you are welcome to email MFA coordinator Liz Countryman (countrym@mailbox.sc.edu).