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a top-10 low residency MFA program

Poets & Writers, year after year after year

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Thank you for your interest in Spalding University’s low residency MFA in Writing Program!

The deadline for application to the fall semester is August 1. The fall semester begins with the residency, November 14-23, in Louisville. For an extension to the deadline, email mfa@spalding.edu or call 800-896-8941 x 4400.

Complete information about the Spalding low residency MFA program is available on this website. This page tells you how to apply to the program. If you haven’t already seen our About Us page, you may want to begin there. The menu to the right offers other options for information. Our homepage is www.spalding.edu/mfa.

Admission to the Spalding low residency MFA in Writing Program is based primarily on the quality of the applicant’s original creative writing in one of the particular areas of fiction (short story and/or novel), creative nonfictionpoetrywriting for children and young adults (picture book, middle grade, or young adult), playwriting, and screenwriting. The quality of the writing, which must demonstrate a level of proficiency appropriate for the commencement of graduate work, is judged by a committee of MFA faculty members and the Program Director.

Our low residency MFA in Writing Program does not have an administrative mandate that requires us to fill a prearranged number of seats in workshop each semester. Our MFA directors and faculty only accept applicants we believe have the highest potential to write quality fiction, poems, creative nonfiction, young adult or middle grade novels, picture books, screenplays, and plays.

Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen, MFA alumna

“Our workshop leaders’ comment and critiques were always constructive and brought the students’ level of critique up a notch—like playing tennis with someone better than you. I was so inspired and fulfilled by the residency—I couldn’t wait to start working with my mentor.”
 –Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen, Wisconsin,
author of The Gardner, featured on Good Morning, America
and winner of the Ezra Jack Keats award

What are the requirements to apply?

A bachelor’s degree is required, but it need not have been with an English or writing major. Students, who have completed a significant number of undergraduate hours (around 90), may request an exception to the requirement of having already earned a bachelor’s degree. Contact the Program Director. The GRE is NOT required, and there is no language requirement.

Before beginning the program, students may transfer one semester from another low residency MFA in Writing Program if the semester was completed satisfactorily and fulfills the same requirements as Spalding’s first semester (ENG612 and ENG613). The program also accepts applications for one or two semesters of study (post-graduate semesters) from those who have already completed a graduate degree with a creative thesis.

How do I apply?

The formal application consists of

    • the Spalding University Application for Graduate Admission (applicants may apply online at http://www.spalding.edu/mfaonlineapp or the application may be printed from below) and $30 application fee. To pay your $30 application fee by credit card, you may call 800-896-8941 x 4189 or x 4231 or call 502-873-4189 or 502-873-4231. To pay by mail, send a check for $30 to Admissions, Spalding University, 851 S. Fourth St., Louisville, KY 40203.


  • institution-to-institution official transcripts from every college attended. Electronic transcripts can be emailed to registrar@spalding.edu or mail transcripts to  Admissions, Spalding University, 851 S Fourth St., Louisville, KY 40203.
  • a writing sample in the applicant’s chosen area(s) of concentration: prose (double-spaced, 17-25 pages), screenwriting or playwriting (standard script format, 17-25 pages); poetry (single-spaced, maximum 10 pages); writing for children and young adults (double-spaced, 17-25 pages of middle-grade or young-adult prose or 2-3 picture book stories). The sample is typed copy in 12 point, easy-to-read font such as Times New Roman with 1″ margins; include page numbers. Prospective students who wish to apply in more than one area of concentration send the appropriate writing samples in each area.
    Applicants put their name on a cover sheet and not within the writing sample. Along with the applicant’s name, identify the area of concentration on the cover sheet: fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, writing for children and young adults, screenwriting, or playwriting. The anonymous samples are read by a faculty committee.
  • two personal essays  First essay: Applicants write a 2-3 page commentary on a work they have admired. The commentary demonstrates critical thinking in the area in which the prospective student is applying. The subject of the essay may be a novel, a creative nonfiction book, a short story, an essay, a pair of poems, a script of a play or a screenplay. Applicants who apply in more than one area send only one 2-3 page commentary on a work in any one of the areas. Second essay: Applicants write a 2-3 page essay that summarizes their background in writing and shows their motivation to make a serious commitment to a demanding schedule of writing, revising, and critical reading. The essay addresses their ability to work independently and to meet deadlines. Applicants also discuss their openness to receiving instruction in creative writing and willingness to learn to critique the creative writing of other program members. If applicants have had publications or productions, this essay is the place to mention them, but previous publication or production is not a requirement to apply to the program, nor is it a guarantee to admission into the program. Screenwriters who have had their scripts turned into film (even a short piece) discuss that experience in this essay.
    Applicants should put their name and area(s) of concentration on a cover sheet, but not on the essay itself. The essays are typed copy (12 pt., easy-to-read font such as Times New Roman), double-spaced with 1″ margins and include page numbers. The anonymous essays are read by a faculty committee.


  • two letters of recommendation concerning the student’s ability to read literature and to write both creative and critical prose at a graduate level. Letters from former or current creative writing instructors are preferable; however, if this is not an option, applicants should ask another professor or someone who is familiar with their writing, love of writing and reading, ability to accept and give critiques, motivation to participate in the program, and/or ability to work independently and to meet deadlines.

To email writing samples and essays, attach the documents as a .doc, .docx, .rtf, or .pdf documents (for scriptwriters, Final Draft is acceptable), and email to mfa@spalding.edu. Emails should include the subject line “Documents for application of (applicant’s full name).”  Follow the instructions above for formatting of the documents.

Emailed letters of recommendation are acceptable if the from email address is identifiable as belonging to the sender. For example, a letter from Susan Sanders emailed from ssanders@xxxx.edu (or xxxx.com) is acceptable, while an email from an anonymous address, such as from writersnest@yahoo.com, is not.

If materials are mailed, send to  Admissions, Spalding University, 851 S. Fourth St., Louisville, KY 40203, and not to the MFA Office.

What is the deadline for admission?

Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis, so they may be submitted at any time; however, all of the application materials must be received to begin processing the application.

Students may begin work in the program in the spring, summer, or fall. The deadline for the fall semester is  August 1; the deadline for the spring and summer semesters are February 1. Prospective students who miss the deadline may inquire with the MFA Office about the possibility of late application.

When will I find out if I have been accepted?

Decisions are usually made four to six weeks after all application materials have been received; however, in some cases a decision may be delayed. Students accepted for admission for a particular semester may defer enrollment for one year with the permission of the Program Director.

If a student is denied admission, he or she is advised

  • to seek additional instruction at a local undergraduate program,
  • to take adult education courses in creative writing,
  • to seek instruction in a workshop-style writing class through a university course or writers’ conference,
  • to read contemporary literary magazines, available through a local bookstore or public library,
  • to keep a journal of ideas about improving one’s writing,
  • and/or to work privately with a publishing writer or writing group

and to reapply for admission to the program after such additional experience, submitting a new writing sample. If more than a year has passed since the original application, other items in the application process may need to be resubmitted.

Do you accept transfer credit or life experience as credit?

Before they begin the program, students in the Spalding low residency MFA in Writing program may transfer one semester (12-15 credit hours) from another low-residency Master of Fine Arts in Writing Program, if the semester was completed satisfactorily and fulfills the requirements of Spalding’s first semester (ENG612 and ENG613). Students may transfer one semester (12-15 hours) from a traditional Master of Fine Arts in Writing Program if the Program Director determines that the course work completed is equivalent to the work completed in a semester at Spalding and the application writing sample warrants the advanced placement. Work from MA programs or previous publication is not accepted for transfer credit. While the Program does not accept “life experience” as credit, students who have published a book or produced a play or screenplay may apply for acceleration in their second semester. For more information about acceleration, see our Special Features page.

Do you offer post-graduate semesters?

The low residency MFA in Writing Program accepts post-graduate degree students holding the PhD, MFA, or MA, who have written creative writing theses. Such students register for either English 612/613 or 622/623 for a Post-Graduate Semester(s) or, in some cases, English 652/653. Some post-graduate students may wish to use the semester to progress toward completing a book. Application procedure and tuition are the same as for any MFA student, except in the case of transcripts where the applicant need supply only the transcript verifying the graduate degree. The Post-Graduate Semester is also available for Spalding low residency MFA graduates who wish to study in an additional area of concentration or to receive additional instruction.

What about international students?

Spalding University welcomes international students and has a long history of having international students on campus; however, international students have a few more steps in the application process. For example, if the applicant’s bachelor’s degree is from an international university, the applicant must obtain verification that the actual degree is equivalent to a bachelor’s degree that is obtained from an US university.

The verification is obtained by the applicant from a foreign credentialing service (a degree-evaluating company). The University Registrar suggests www.wes.org; however, there are many out there and the applicant may choose another one. The evaluation only needs to address the equivalency of the international bachelor’s degree to a US bachelor’s degree; it does not need to evaluate individual courses on the international transcript. Have the evaluation sent to Registrar, Spalding University, 851 S. Fourth St., Louisville, KY 40203, and not to the MFA Office..

In addition, if accepted, international students are asked to provide a copy of their passport and a financial statement showing they have the ability to pay for one year of the MFA Program. The TOEFL may be required if the student does not have a proficiency in English. Other materials may be requested also.

Spalding has an international student specialist to help walk the student through any steps needed for a student visa.

Documents that may be of interest to you.

MFA Enrollment information (pdf to print)
MFA Paper application, if preferred to applying online
MFA Faculty List (pdf to print)
MFA FAQs (pdf to print)
Financial Aid FAQs (pdf to print)


Spalding University’s low residency MFA in Writing is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award the Master of Fine Arts in Writing. Spalding University’s low residency MFA in Writing is a member of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and the Playwrights’ Center.

Contact us:

MFA Office: (502) 873-4400 or (800) 896-8941, ext. 4400

MFA in Writing
Spalding University
851 South Fourth Street
Louisville, KY 40203

FAX: (502) 992-2409

Last updated 07-09-2014, information is subject to change without notice.