If you want to become a great writer, you should study from the best. The top creative writing programs in the United States feature decorated faculty, small class sizes and rigorous workshops. Ranking services also weighed whether teachers are regularly published and the difficulty of the curriculum before placing these programs on their lists.
New York City
For its place at the center of the U.S. publishing industry, New York City schools deserve consideration separate from other Eastern programs. The undergraduate creative writing program at New York University features instructors of the caliber of Zadie Smith. The instructors have won Pulitzer Prizes, National Book and National Book Critics Circle awards, NEA and Guggenheim fellowships. Columbia University’s English program was ranked in the top 10 in 2013 by QS Top Universities. In the creative writing program, you’ll take workshops that subject your drafts to extreme scrutiny from classmates and faculty.
Poet luminary Ezra Pound attended Hamilton College, the third-oldest college in the state of New York -- located in Clinton -- and home to the Nesbitt-Johnston Writing Center, a crucible for peer-reviewed writing. Hamilton writing students have gone on to run the electronic publishing division for "Scientific American," take the helm of Scholastic Media and handle communications for IBM. National Book Award nominee Jim Shepard teaches at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Honors English majors at Williams must complete a creative writing thesis, a critical thesis and a critical specialization and maintain B+ grade averages to advance through the program.
The University of Iowa in Iowa City boasts the Writers’ Workshop, where Philip Roth, Kurt Vonnegut and John Cheever taught and Flannery O’Connor and John Irving studied. The school’s creative writing track forces young writers to try their hands at multiple genres that include prose poems, experimental essays, short stories and radio dramas. Creative writing courses at Washington University in St. Louis allow students to attack multiple genres; they include literary journalism and “Stories From the Suburbs.” The program has sent students on to elite Master of Fine Arts programs, set them up for jobs with literary journals and publishing houses and as writing teachers and allowed them to realize dreams of seeing their work published.
The U.S. poet laureate for 2012-14, Natasha Tretheway, teaches at Emory University in Atlanta. "USA Today" named Emory the best school for budding writers. Most English class sizes are 15 students or under, and they’re never larger than 25 students. Majors must complete five writing workshops. Sewanee, the University of the South, in Sewanee, Tennessee, is the home to the oldest literary magazine in the U.S., the "Sewanee Review." It also boasts the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and the student-run literary journal, "The Mountain Goat." You can earn a creative writing certificate by completing three writing seminars.
David Foster Wallace once taught at Pomona College in Claremont, California, and Johnathan Lethem taught there in 2014. The school offers a creative writing emphasis for your degree if you complete an advanced creative writing course, submit a senior portfolio and participate in a public reading during your senior year. The University of California at Berkeley ranks only behind Harvard among English programs in the U.S. in the QS Top Universities 2013 report. Undergraduates can opt for an interdisciplinary creative writing minor that can be paired with any of 30 disciplines, including studies focusing on African-Americans, Chicanos or gender issues.