The growing popularity of graduate creative writing programs has made it more challenging than ever to win a coveted spot in one of the several prestigious MFA programs across the country. So what can you do to increase the odds that your application will stand out among the hundreds of applications received each year? It all comes down to one thing: the strength of your writing sample.

That’s where the Writers’ Program can help. With hundreds of courses to choose from, and with a solid roster of instructors who are graduates of MFA programs, would-be MFA students have much to gain by learning the tools they need to polish their work in a serious workshop environment such as the Writers’ Program.

“The UCLA Extension Writers’ Program is by far the largest, and best, feeder institution for MFA programs in this country,” says Writers’ Program instructor, Lou Mathews, who received his MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Literally hundreds of students have work-shopped their MFA submission pieces in Lou’s courses over the years, and he has had students accepted into every major program in the country. “Students who want to get into the top MFA programs need to understand that their writing sample is the most important part of the process. The best way to produce, hone and sharpen that writing sample is by taking classes at the Writers’ Program with instructors who are very familiar with what MFA programs are looking for and who can help you select and rewrite the story that will represent you best.”

The sentiment is echoed by Paul Mandelbaum, Writers’ Program instructor and graduate of the highly acclaimed Iowa Writers’ Workshop. “Since the writing sample is key, it only makes sense to submit work that’s withstood the critical reading of a peer group. I’ve worked with many Writers’ Program students who seemed every bit as talented as my old classmates at Iowa and who provided excellent feedback to one another. Writers’ Program classes are valuable not just for getting a writing sample in shape, but also for honing one’s workshop technique and etiquette.”

But don’t just take our instructors’ word for it. Former students who are now in MFA programs can vouch for their Writers’ Program experience as giving them a leg up in preparing for their MFA.

Rocco Samuele took the sequence of short story courses with Lou and now attends the University of Michigan, the second-rated program in the country. Comparing the workshop environment of his MFA program to his experience in the Writers’ Program, Rocco says, “The workshop format is almost identical.”

Cynthia Romanowski has taken Creative Writing: Short Story with instructor Steve Sohmer and Writing the Short Story: An Intermediate Workshop, with Edan Lepucki. Cynthia was accepted into the MFA program at the University of Riverside and said, “Everyone told me the same thing: The writing sample is the only part of the application that matters. So I really focused on one piece while studying at the Writers’ Program…putting most of my focus into the writing sample was probably the reason I got in.”

Elizabeth Kuelbs, who will be attending the Vermont College of Fine Arts, shares this: “Thanks to the Writers’ Program, I’ve improved my craft, published short fiction and made treasured friends. It’s been a joy to learn from exceptional, generous instructors like David Borofka and Alyx Dellamonica who are as passionate about teaching as they are about writing. I’m excited to pack my UCLA Extension toolkit off to Vermont this summer, though I’m sure I’ll be back for a Writers’ Program class now and then.”

There are plenty of winter courses available to help you get your MFA sample submission-worthy. Call our office anytime at (310) 825-9415 to speak with a creative writing advisor. We’re happy to help!

Mae Respicio is the Program Representative in Creative Writing (Onsite).

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