BFA in Creative Writing: Prospective and Current Student FAQs

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Prospective Student FAQs
Current Student FAQs

Prospective Student FAQs

What’s the difference between a BA and a BFA?
How do you decide who to admit?
What kind of writing sample should I include?
Can I transfer courses from another program to apply to your degree requirements?
Is it useful to have taken writing classes before I apply to a BFA?
My GPA does not meet the minimum requirement. Can I still apply?

What’s the difference between a BA and a BFA?

The BFA represents a more focused and avowedly artistic practice in writing, with higher degree standards and the esprit d’corps of working among a dedicated group of fellow writers. The BFA offers a highly motivated cohort of creative writing students the opportunity for enriched and highly focused study though competitive admissions, and a more demanding set of degree requirement that include introductory work across all genres, tiered seminars within a genre, a thorough grounding in literary history, exploration across artistic forms in fine arts courses, and a final graduation portfolio.  

How do you decide on who to admit?

Your writing sample is the most important part of your application. We are looking for promise, which is not the same as polish. The other admissions requirements are then helpful in further gauging whether someone will be a good fit for the program.

What kind of writing sample should I include?

Send your best work within the genre, whether it's published or not. If you're applying for poetry, don't send us your fiction. If you have published an article, but you've got a much better piece that you've just written, send the better piece. While an interest across genres and a publication record are certainly worth noting to us, our primary concern is with the artistic ambition and intellectual curiosity displayed within your genre.

Can I transfer courses from another program to apply to your degree requirements?

Yes, depending on advisor approval, and/or university agreements with the previous institution. Please consult Transfer Admissions for more details.

Is it useful to have taken writing classes before I apply to an BFA?

The experience of being in a writing workshop is helpful in gaining an understanding of the critique process, in developing your writing sample, and in writing knowledgeably in your Statement of Purpose about your goals. However, it is not required.

My GPA does not meet the minimum requirement. Can I still apply?

While the BFA Program requires a cumulative 3.25 GPA, the committee can look at other factors including the writing sample, statement of purpose, and transcripts. If the committee feels that an applicant shows sufficient promise, they may offer conditional admission, allowing a student to demonstrate their capability to succeed at the graduate level.  Please note that admission is also dependent on admission to the university, which entails its own GPA requirements.


Current Students FAQ

What's the difference between a writing seminar and a workshop?
If I’m not sure about a course, how do I find out if it fulfills a degree requirement?
Can I change my primary genre after I’m admitted?
How do I create a Senior Portfolio?
What is the committee looking for in my portfolio?
What are the guidelines for the Statement of Artistic Intent?
How does the portfolio approval process work?

What's the difference between a writing seminar and a workshop?

While both a seminar and workshop can (and typically do) use a combination of readings, classroom discussion, writing and critique, a workshop places significantly greater emphasis on writing and peer critiques. 

If I’m not sure about a course, how do I find out if it fulfills a degree requirement? 

With advisor approval, and within the University and program guidelines, some courses not specifically noted in the BFA requirements might be applicable.  If your advisor is unsure of a course's applicability, they may need to first consult with the department's Creative Writing Director.

Can I change my primary genre after I’m admitted?

Yes; however, it requires a written approval sent to the department’s Program Coordinator by the Creative Writing Director and by a designated member of the core BFA faculty in your new genre. 

How do I create a Senior Portfolio?

The Senior Portfolio is submitted for approval in the first week of the quarter of graduation. This portfolio showcases the clean revised copy of your creative writing in your chosen genre (i.e. fiction, nonfiction, or poetry), and should contain: (a) An introductory statement of artistic intent. This statement should provide an overview and analysis of the development and revision of their portfolio work. (6 - 10 pages); and (b) Writing within a genre: 30 - 50 pages (fiction or nonfiction), or 20 - 30 pages (poetry).

Please submit your work to the Program Coordinator (grdstudy@pdx.edu) in a DOC or PDF format; it will then be forwarded to a departmental committee for review.

What is the committee looking for in my portfolio?

Your portfolio consists of four components: a Title Page, a Table of Contents, a Statement of Artistic Intent, and your Writing.  All pages must be proofread and properly formatted with 1 inch margins, and double-spaced in a readable standard 12 point font. (1.0 or 1.5 spacing is acceptable for poems.)   All pages except for the Title Page should be numbered.

  • Your title page must include your name, date, student ID #, email address, BFA genre (fiction, nonfiction, poetry), and identify itself as your BFA in Creative Writing Portfolio.  You may additionally title or subtitle the collection if you wish.
  • You Table of Contents must include page numbers, and titles for each piece in your Writing section.
  • Your Statement of Artistic Intent will address a set of question prompts described below.
  • Your Writing section may consist of a single or multiple works within your genre; they may be thematically connected, but this is not required. Pieces written within your courses may be used, and this is indeed encouraged, but they must be clean revised copies. Each piece within the Writing section should be numbered and titled.

Your work will not be judged by its subgenre or subject matter per se, or on its experimental or conventional nature; however, you will be expected to carefully analyze and contextualize your artistry in your Statement of Artistic Intent. Your Statement and Writing will be expected to meet a high standard of aesthetic achievement and writing craft, and to observe university standards of academic honesty.

What are the guidelines for the Statement of Artistic Intent?

Your Statement of Artist Intent is a formal statement of your goals and your craft, not a letter or a personal essay. It should supplement your selection of creative writing and be a critical assessment of your own work. Consider your work from artistic, intellectual, emotional, and critical perspectives by addressing each of the following prompts in succession:

  • Articulate your goals and intentions as a writer and discuss the craft decisions and textual strategies at work in relation to your artistic goals. This might include discussion on narrative structure, point of view, chronology, diction, syntax, pacing, rhythm, sound, dialogue, and other decisions you made as a writer. How do your choices about form, craft, and structure relate to your current goals as an artist and to the content of your work? Speak to the broader context of your work by describing some of the texts that influenced the writing selection in your portfolio: how do you see your work in conversation with these writers, and in what ways are their influences felt within your writing? Finally, in what ways do you see your work as distinct from that of the writers you read, and how does your work engage with your own sense of identity, philosophy, language, and/or the world around you?
  • Discuss the process by which you wrote the work in your portfolio: did your conception of the structure, content, or voice change significantly while you wrote it? How would you approach the research or writing process differently in the future?
  • Describe your plans for the work that youʼve submitted: Are you considering eventually editing or expanding it into a different form? What additional material would you want to generate, or what might you excerpt or edit out?

How does the portfolio approval process work?

Your portfolio will either be approved or returned without approval by the end of the 4th week of your quarter of graduation.  In the case of only minor corrections being necessary, a portfolio may be approved on the condition that those corrections will be undertaken by the student, but without necessarily requiring resubmission.  If more significant revisions are needed, your portfolio will be returned without approval; graduation that quarter will require resubmission of the revised portfolio by the end of the 6th week of the quarter, and subsequent approval by the departmental committee.