Undertaking a creative writing degree is a big decision and research is the first step. Whether you’re an aspiring writer or you’ve already published some work and are looking to expand your understanding of the craft, there are many things to consider, especially since you’ll be investing a lot into your degree. But how do you begin? Think about the following before applying for a creative writing degree…
Possibly the most important thing to consider is which course to choose. There are many potential degree programmes out there, so you should think carefully about what you want to gain from your time studying. Do you want to do a three-year-long undergraduate degree or a master’s degree? Are you interested in having the freedom to experiment? Or are you looking for a genre-focused degree, such as nonfiction prose writing? Finding the right course ensures that you make the most of your time and money.
Remember that some courses are exclusively in-person or online, whilst others provide the option for in-person or remote learning. In-person study gives you the opportunity to socialise and engage in discussions with your peers more directly, as well as to explore your university town or city. Online learning gives you the freedom and flexibility to incorporate your course into your everyday life. If you have accessibility issues, check whether the courses you’re interested in are able to accommodate your requirements.
If you choose the in-person option, where you will study matters. Our surrounding environment can greatly affect our productivity. Look for universities in areas that appeal to you; these might be places with strong writing communities, lively music scenes, or a number of museums or parks.
If you need quiet to focus on writing, opt for a university in a smaller town or outside a city centre. Conversely, if crowds and buzzing lifestyles inspire you, choose a bigger city to stimulate your imagination. You’ll be spending a lot of time in your university town, so it’s important to get it right.
Much like the course you choose, the department will have a significant impact on your work. Are there tutors at a specific university whose experience appeals to you? Do university league tables rank the department highly for teaching and student satisfaction? Are there any social events arranged by the department or related societies? Don’t hesitate to email the teaching body within the university to find out!
Research any events held by or around the university that are open to students or the public. If you have a keen interest in sociology, for example, check whether there are talks that you can attend throughout the year. You should use higher education as an opportunity to learn everywhere whilst undertaking your creative writing degree, not just in class—especially if the events help you network or are related to the topics you hope to write about.
The university as a whole won’t ensure that you get the best experience during your degree, so you don’t necessarily need to factor in its general reputation if your priority is developing and workshopping your writing, whether it be fiction, poetry, or screenwriting.
However, if you’re looking to publish nonfiction in the future, the university you attend can make a difference when submitting book proposals to agents. Nonfiction agents may be more likely to lean towards authors who have attended reputable, high-achieving universities. Although we wish this wasn’t the case—as it can lead to a very homogenous industry—it’s important that you’re aware of this before choosing where you want to study.
Prioritise: When I started looking into creative writing master’s degrees, I knew that the most important things to consider for my own growth as a writer would be the course and location. I wanted a reputable course that appealed to my development goals and I wanted to study in London.
Compromise: However, I found that the courses in London didn’t capture my interest as much as I’d hoped. With a little more research, I found that my alma mater ranked highly for creative writing courses, which turned out to be a fortunate coincidence—both the area and university were already familiar to me.
Balance: When prioritising my needs, the course ranked higher than location. So, I was able to extend my search and found a great option that suited my main requirement. Focus on what’s most important to you—whether it’s the general location, a specific university, or the department staff—and you’ll know what you are and aren’t willing to sacrifice to find the right course.
Good luck and happy writing!
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