Creative Writing Major FAQs

1. When should I declare the CW major?

As soon as you can, and no later than Autumn Quarter of your third year of study.  We encourage students to meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies to declare the major and chart a plan of study. Vu Tran, the Director of Undergraduate Studies for 2017-18, will be available for major declaration meetings starting in Spring 2017.

2. I will be a fourth-year in 2017-18. Can I join the major?

The major is not open to rising fourth-year students, but fourth-year English majors can still complete a creative BA in 2017-18 (see question 5). Rising third-years are encouraged to meet with the DUS declare as soon as possible.

3. How can I learn more about the major and stay up-to-date with new developments?

The 2017-2018 Catalog will list the official major requirements, along with sample plans of study. For updates and information on specific courses, please visit creativewriting.uchicago.edu/courses and sign up for this listserv: crwr-concentrators@lists.uchicago.edu

4. Creative writing classes are notoriously hard to get into.  What happens if I run into problems getting into the required classes for my major?

Once you declare the major, you will have priority in all the required classes for the major, including Advanced Workshops, Technical Seminars, and the Fundamentals in Creative Writing.  

5. If I’m an English major or plan to be one, will I still be able to write a creative thesis in my fourth year?

The Creative BA option in the English major will no longer be offered after 2017-2018. Students who are in their fourth year in 2017-2018 can complete the Creative BA in English as outlined by the department. After that, the Creative BA will be housed in the Creative Writing Major. There is the option to double-major in English and Creative Writing (please see summary of the major in our “Programs” section).

6. What kinds of courses can count toward the two Research Background Electives?  For example, can a Spanish course I’ve already taken count?

The electives requirement is pretty open—those courses just have to relate to your overall work/projects/intellectual concerns in some way. So, if taking Spanish has helped you to think about literature in a certain way, or incorporate issues of translation into your work, this could work, but it is ultimately up to the Director of Undergraduate Studies, whom you should meet with and discuss a plan for the major.

7. Must the research background electives be non-English-department classes?

No, students may take additional literature courses to count towards this requirement. All Research Background Electives must be approved by the DUS, however.

8. How do I know if a literature class fills a specific requirement?

Courses that are offered by English and other departments that fill the literature major requirements (Literary Genre and Literature) will be listed on a quarterly basis at creativewriting.uchicago.edu. A petition form will be available soon for students wishing to count a course that is not listed, including research background electives, towards the major.

9. What is the difference between the “Fundamentals of Fiction/Poetry/Nonfiction” course that I have already taken and “Fundamentals in Creative Writing”? Is there a difference?

Yes, these are different classes and previous “Fundamentals of…” classes will NOT count towards this requirement. The new Fundamentals in Creative Writing is a cross-genre class focused on issues and questions facing all contemporary writers. The “Fundamentals of...” courses of the past were beginning-level workshops—these will now be (appropriately) called “Beginning [Genre] Workshop.”

10. What about the Special Topics workshop(s) I've taken?

Students who are third years in 2017-18 will be able to count Special Topics workshops towards the Advanced Workshop requirement.

11. For workshop classes, do I need to submit a sample that is in the same genre as the course?

Yes. These samples can be excerpts from a longer work, and you can include a note that gives context for the piece.

12. When do I have to declare which genre I want to focus on?

Students should declare their primary genre when declaring the major, no later than Autumn Quarter of the third year of study.

13. Can I have two primary genres (fiction and nonfiction, for example)?

Though students are welcome to explore other genres when possible, given the time constraints on students in the College, it is not possible to have two primary genres. However, students may submit cross-genre theses if they have the approval of their thesis advisor.

14. Will I be able to change genres?

Students must take the thesis workshop and at least two other workshops in the primary genre, so late-program changes in genre may not be feasible. It is possible that workshops taken before a genre change will be able to count towards the Research Background Elective requirements, with DUS approval.

15. Will I be able to do a cross-genre thesis with visual art/performance studies?

Individual programs of study involving cross-disciplinary work should be discussed with the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Flexibility will depend on faculty resources and expertise.

16. Will I be able to take any courses during my study abroad? If I have to catch up afterwards will I get preference in applying for workshops?

It is likely that some literature courses offered abroad may be able to count towards the Literary Genre or Literature requirements by petition. Some courses offered through the English department’s London Program will count towards these requirements and will be listed on the Creative Writing website. Workshops taken at other institutions will not count towards the CRWR requirements.

All students who have officially declared the major get priority when applying for workshops.

17. How much help will I get in applying for an MFA program?

The program will host a faculty panel on MFA applications/choices each year in Autumn Quarter. Faculty advisors and the DUS will be able to advise students on applications during office hours. Students wishing to obtain letters of recommendation must approach faculty at least one month before application deadlines.

18. Do I get to choose my own thesis advisor?

Students will work with the instructor of their Winter Thesis/Major Projects workshop on the thesis. Students may indicate their preferred section of this course on the application form, but they are not guaranteed their first choice in workshop.

In some cases, students may petition to work with another faculty member within or outside of Creative Writing on the thesis. Visiting faculty are generally not available to advise theses, and instructors teaching a section of Thesis/Major Projects are not available to advise students who are not in their workshop. Students considering submitting a petition to work with another faculty member should meet with the DUS before Week Three of Autumn Quarter of the fourth year.

19. Are there options for screenwriting and playwriting?

Screenwriting and playwriting courses offered either by TAPS or CRWR may be able to count towards the major as Research Background electives or, in some cases, as the third workshop outside of the required two in a student’s primary genre. This is all based on DUS approval, and more information may be communicated before Autumn 2017 about how this will work. At this time, Creative Writing does not have the capacity to advise students working on a thesis outside of the genres of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, so a track or thesis in these genres is not currently available.