The chief reason for taking time off before applying is that the Writing Sample is of paramount importance. No matter where you went to college, what your GPA was, or how wonderful your recommenders say you are, if your writing doesn’t impress the admissions committee for the program you are applying to, you won’t get in. An M.F.A. is an art degree, and as such it is the art the writer produces that matters. Letters of recommendation and other aspects of your application may act as “tie-breakers” in the committee’s decision, but the quality of your writing is the chief factor.

It stands to reason then that you should submit the very strongest writing you are capable of, and its strength is likely to grow with time and with experience writing and reading widely. Hence, our advice to spend a few years working seriously and professionally at your writing before applying to a graduate program.

Have readers you trust read your writing sample, and then revise, revise, revise.

With hard work and talent, Carleton students have found places in top graduate programs in creative writing, including the University of Iowa, Johns Hopkins, the University of Michigan, Boston University, the University of Arizona.