The Master of Liberal Arts, Creative Writing and Literature degree field consists of 12 courses (48 credits). A one- or three-week, on-campus writer's residency is required.
12 Graduate Courses
The program is designed for creative writers interested in fiction, nonfiction, and dramatic writing. Poetry-related thesis topics cannot be supported because poetry is not a prominent element of the curriculum. Within these parameters, the degree is customizable. You choose the creative writing and literature courses that meet your learning goals.
- Advanced fiction writing
- 3 creative writing courses
- 1 general elective or creative writing independent study
- 2 literature courses
- EXPO 42a is a literature option
- On-campus summer writer's residency
- Thesis proposal tutorial
- Master’s Thesis (8 credits)
Admissions: Earn Your Way In
To begin the admission process, you simply register—no application needed—for the following two graduate-level degree courses (available online).
Courses for Admission
- HUMA 101 Proseminar: Elements of the Writer's Craft
- Before registering, you'll need to pass our online test of critical reading and writing skills or earn a B or higher in EXPO 42a Writing in the Humanities.
- You have two attempts to earn the minimum grade of B in the proseminar (a withdrawal grade counts as an attempt). The proseminar cannot be more than two years old at the time of application.
- Advanced fiction writing
While the two courses don't need to be taken in a particular order or in the same semester, we highly recommend that you start with the proseminar. Both courses must be completed with a grade of B or higher, without letting your overall Harvard cumulative GPA dip below 3.0.
Eligibility: Before you enroll in any degree-applicable courses, you must possess a four-year regionally accredited US bachelor's degree. You cannot already have or be in the process of earning a master's degree in Creative Writing or a related field. Foreign bachelor’s degrees must be evaluated, and the Admissions Office makes final determinations about eligibility. Refer to Admission Requirements for International Students for more information.
Applying to the Degree Program
During the semester of your second degree course, submit an official application to the program.
Don't delay! To achieve academic success and meet your expected graduation date, it is critical to prioritize the two degree courses for admission and apply before completing subsequent courses. By doing so, you’ll avoid the delayed application fee and gain access to exclusive degree candidate privileges.
If you submit a complete and timely application—which includes required Harvard courses, grades, and cumulative GPA—you will be admitted, after which you’ll have 10 more courses to take to earn the degree.
For more details about eligibility, the application process, and application fees, visit Admissions.
The Harvard On-Campus Experience
For the on-campus requirement, you have two summer course options: One-Week Writer's Residency with extended online sessions or One-Week Writer's Residency with extended on-campus sessions.
After completing 28 or more credits, you come to Harvard Summer School for a week-long master class taught by a notable instructor. An agents-and-editors weekend follows.
During the two weeks that follow this intensive week of on-campus instruction, you attend additional writing classes either online or on campus and submit a final piece of writing.
Three-week housing is available for the One-Week Writer's Residency with extended on-campus classes.
International Students Who Need a Student Visa
To meet the on-campus requirement, you can easily request an I-20 for the F-1 student visa through the Harvard Summer School, where you must choose the One-Week Writer's Residency with extended on-campus sessions (three weeks on campus). For more information, see the important visa information on the International Student Study Options page.
To Complete Your Degree
Maintain a Cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.0 or Higher
Earn a B or higher in each of the two degree courses required for admission and a B– or higher in each of the subsequent courses, but be sure to maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 (B) or higher. You are allowed to receive two withdrawal (WD) grades without them affecting your GPA. Any additional WD grades count as zero in your cumulative GPA. See Academic Standing.
Finish Your Coursework in Under Five Years
You have five years to complete your degree requirements. The five-year timeline begins at the end of the term in which you complete any two degree-applicable courses, regardless of whether or not you have been admitted to a degree program. Moreover, courses over 5 years old at the point of admission will not count toward the degree.
Potential degree candidates must plan accordingly and submit their applications to comply with the five-year course expiration policy or they risk losing degree credit for completed course work. Additionally, admission eligibility will be jeopardized if, at the point of application to the program, the five-year degree completion policy cannot be satisfied.
Graduate with Your Harvard Degree
When you have fulfilled all degree requirements, you will earn your Harvard University degree: Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) in Extension Studies, Field: Creative Writing and Literature. Degrees are awarded in November, March, and May, with the annual Harvard Commencement ceremony in May.
Degree Guidelines and Policies
For information about special academic opportunities, student privileges, and policies, see Completing Your Degree.