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BA/MA Graduate Program in Creative Writing

Photo of BAMA Students
BA/MA Class of 2019 after their final project reading and celebration.

Since 2013, the English Department has offered an integrated undergraduate/graduate degree in English with a creative writing concentration. Designed for highly motivated students to hone their skills in poetry or prose (fiction and creative nonfiction), this full-residency program is open to all Penn State students. Both degrees are completed in two years on the University Park campus: the student’s fourth year and the additional MA year.

All students complete 30 credits of course work at the 400 and 500 level in creative writing or literary study (up to 12 credits can be counted from the BA degree). During the fifth year, under the supervision of a creative writing faculty member, students take graduate-level workshops and complete a substantial creative project, due at the end of the MA year.

The fifth year is especially useful for writers who are polishing portfolios for eventual application to outside MFA programs, or for those who wish to gain experience in an internship or to learn how to teach writing.

Admission Requirements

The integrated BA/MA program is limited, and admission is highly selective. (Students may apply in more than one genre, provided they submit a full writing sample in each.)

Successful applicants:

  1. Must be enrolled in the English BA program.
  2. Must have completed 60 credits (typically 5 semesters).
  3. Should have a recommended overall GPA of at least 3.2 (on a 4.0 scale) in undergraduate coursework and a minimum GPA of 3.5 in all coursework completed for the English major. (Provisional admits are made on rare occasion, but the student must meet the minimum GPA within one semester.)
  4. Must submit a statement of purpose, a writing sample (10 pages of poetry and no more than 25 pages of prose), an academic transcript, and a resume in the on-line application form.
  5. Must be recommended by two faculty members familiar with the student’s writing and course work.

Tuition and Charges

Undergraduate tuition rates apply in the fourth year. Fifth-year students receive teaching assistantships that provide pedagogical training and college teaching experience in exchange for tuition remission, a stipend, and health insurance.

Application Deadline: The application deadline for the BA/MA Program is March 15.

Resources and Opportunities

In addition to teaching composition, students in the MA year may compete for special writing awards and apply for additional funding for travel and study abroad. BA/MA students have completed internships in the Digital English Studio, scholarly publications produced by the University Libraries, and other sites on campus and off.  

BA/MA students attend special meetings with distinguished writers who visit campus through the Mary Rolling Reading Series and The Emily Dickinson Lectureship in American Poetry (sponsored by George Kelly ’59 and Barbara Martino Kelly (’59). They have the additional opportunity of working privately with the Fisher Family Writer-in-Residence sponsored by Steven L. Fisher (’70) and family.

More than anything else, BA/MA students repeatedly praise the small size of the program, individualized attention, and most of all the sense of community that emerges as students work hard together in a supportive

Core Creative Writing Faculty

Our faculty writers have earned some of the most prestigious writing awards and honors, and they actively publish with both literary and popular journals and presses.

Current graduate faculty include prose writers Elizabeth Kadetsky, Samuel Kọ́láwọlé, and Toby Thompson, and poets Julia Spicher Kasdorf and Shara McCallum.

Meet our Core Creative Writing Faculty:

BA/MA Futures

BA/MA graduates have gone on to study in fully funded MFA or PhD programs. Other students opt to work as editors, business writers, journalists, social media and content creators, and teachers.

Notable Graduates

Writers who studied at Penn State include Diane Ackerman, Agha Shahid Ali, Sarah Blake, Kayleb Rae Candrilli, Jillian Cantor, Geffrey Davis, Katie Fallon, Cary Holladay, Ruth Ellen Kocher, Rachel Mennies, Cathleen Miller, Chinelo Okparanta, Carter Sickles, Rebecca Rasmussen, Sheila Squillante, Lyrae Van Clief Stefanon, Sunil Yapa, and William Kelley Woolfitt.

For more information, please contact:
Julia Kasdorf
Director of Creative Writing
Liberal Arts Professor of English
(814) 865-0025
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