FAQ

Midway 102

Read on to find answers to questions about declaring a major/minor, meeting requirements, deciding on a genre of concentration, and continuing to pursue creative writing after graduation.

First Steps

When should I declare the Creative Writing major or minor?

As soon as you can, and no later than Autumn Quarter of your third year. To be officially declared as a major, you must not only communicate it to your college advisor but also meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, to discuss your plan of study.

Students must declare the minor before the end of Spring Quarter of the third year of study. Contact the Student Affairs Administrator to set up a meeting.

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

The College 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 our majors listserv: crwr-concentrators@lists.uchicago.edu

Can I minor in English and Creative Writing as an English major?

No. Students who are completing a major outside of the Department of English may pursue the minor, but as it is a joint minor between both programs students who are completing an English or Creative Writing major may not join the minor. It is possible to double major in English and Creative Writing.

    Meeting Requirements

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

    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. Minors get priority in Advanced Workshops, and second priority in Technical Seminars. MAPH students in the Creative Writing option get priority in Advanced Workshops.

    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 be non-CRWR courses and 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.

    Can English classes count towards the research background electives?

    Yes, but classes that count for your 4 literature requirements (e.g. literature (theory), literature (before 20th-century) may not double-count as Research Background Electives. 

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

    Courses that fulfill the literature major requirements are listed under "Literature Courses" in the "Courses" dropdown menu. If a course you are interested in is not listed, you can contact the DUS with a course description to inquire about its eligibility.

    Will I be able to take any courses during my study abroad? 

    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.

    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.”

    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.

    BA Thesis/Minor Portfolio

    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 3 of Autumn Quarter, Fourth Year.

    Do minors have to write a thesis?

    No, but minors will produce a portfolio of written work—either a revision of a piece they produced in a workshop or another piece of writing developed in the student's graduating year. Minors will not be assigned advisors, but will have a graduate student preceptor who workshops their writing throughout the Winter and Spring quarters of their fourth year.

    How long does the BA Thesis / Minor Portfolio have to be?

    For the BA Thesis:

    • Content: For fiction: 2-3 short stories or an excerpt from a longer work; for nonfiction: 2-3 essays or an excerpt from a longer work, for poetry: 10-15 poems depending on length  
    • Page limits:  refer to the guidelines discussed in your thesis/major projects workshops for page limits, but please do not exceed 30 pages if you are writing prose.

    Minors will write 1-2 short stories (fiction) or essays (nonfiction), or 10-15 poems. Works in prose should not exceed 20-25 pages.

    Both majors and minors should type and double-space their work (except for poetry), and can submit excerpts from a longer work. 

    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, however, to double-major in English and Creative Writing.

    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.

    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. 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. 

    Genre

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    Post-Grad Life

    What can I do with a Creative Writing degree?

    A number of our students have gone on to pursue writing full-time, whether through MFA programs or at media publications nationwide. Creative writing skills are essential to jobs in advertising, development, communications, tech, and beyond. Whatever career path they pursue, alumni find that the interpersonal skills they develop in our workshop settings—which train students to respectfully give and receive constructive criticism—are crucial to thriving in the workforce.   

    Will I get help in applying for an MFA program?

    The program will host a panel on MFA applications/choices each year. 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.