Literary Arts

Application Requirements

Admission is highly selective, and is based primarily on the quality of the applicant’s writing.

  • Graduate School application fee (or an approved fee waiver request)
  • Online application form
  • Personal statement
  • Supplemental essay
  • Writing sample (upload as one PDF file)
  • Transcripts (Upload a PDF file -- if you are accepted, you'll submit official transcripts at that stage)
  • Referee information (upload information for at least three letters of support)
  • TOEFL or IELTS results (for international students) - Brown code for TOEFL: 3094; Department code: leave blank. For IELTS, have score sent to Brown Graduate School, Box 1867, Providence RI 02912 USA.
  • FAFSA form. This should be filed in November, December or January by ALL U.S. applicants who seek departmental funding, even if you don't plan to take out a student loan.
  • GRE scores (subject or general) are not required (nor are they given consideration).

Download the Application Checklist (DOCX)


The online MFA application is available from mid-September through 15 December each year. Applications must be finalized and submitted electronically by 11:59 pm EST on the 15 December deadline. The online application system will no longer process new or incomplete applications after 11:59 pm EST on 15 December. If your application is pending but not sent by that deadline, it WILL NOT get processed.

While you must post the information by the deadline, the referees may submit their letters through the online system after the 15 December deadline has passed; we recommend that letters be submitted no later than 15 January.

No Late Applications

No late applications will be considered and no changes/updates to applications or writing samples will be accepted. We don’t have rolling admission, nor do we have spring admissions. If you miss the December 15 deadline, you will have to wait and apply next year.

Previous Advanced Degree

Applicants who have previously completed all or part of an advanced degree in creative writing at another university should include a separate letter explaining what special circumstances lead them to pursue an MFA at Brown (this should be uploaded with your personal statement – but should start on a new page, and carry a header of "Work toward a master's degree in a related field"). Without this explanatory letter, the faculty will not review the application. (The primary accepted basis for completing a second advanced degree in writing is the stated desire to pursue work in a different genre.)

Electronic Submission

All applications must be submitted electronically at the online application web site using one of the following browsers Firefox (within latest 2 versions); Microsoft Internet Explorer (8.0 and above); Chrome (within latest 2 versions); Safari (5.1.7+ or latest version).

Federal Financial Aid Form

During the months of November, December and January, applicants who are US citizens (or holders of permanent resident status from the US State Dept.) should complete the Federal Financial Aid Form, listing Brown as a school to which results should be sent. Not completing this process may jeopardize financial aid offers.

Frequently Asked Questions

In the past few years, the department has received between 900 and 1,050 applications. This year, the department anticipates offering admission to five fiction writers, five poets, and two candidates who apply to pursue work through the digital and cross-disciplinary track.

We’re sorry to say that the department is not in a position to critique an applicant’s manuscript, either before or after the application process takes place.

We suggest that you think of it as an introduction to your writing sample.  You can talk about yourself, your aesthetics, your past experiences, why you think Brown Literary Arts is a good fit for you, etc. While the Graduate School asks that your personal statement be no more than two pages, our Department recommends that your personal statement be 1-4 double-spaced pages.

You can manually enter your school information. Simply type the school's name directly onto the application form (this may require you to provide a few more details, such as city and country, but this should be relatively simple for you to do).

Under Select Your GPA Scoring Type, choose Non-Numerical. For Non-Numerical Grades, choose Descriptive Grade. This will yield three fields: your grade, highest possible grade and passing grade. You can type in these fields the information you wish to share. Please note that the GPA will not be a primary basis for determining entrance into our program.

No – you should upload your transcripts as a PDF file. If you have attended more than one institution, make the series of transcripts into one multi-page PDF file. If you are accepted to Brown, you’ll need to have original transcripts sent from your schools to Brown prior to enrolling.  

Yes. ALL  applicants who are U.S. citizens who are seeking departmental aid must complete the FAFSA.  This is true even if you don't plan to apply for student loans. You should complete the FAFSA in November, December or January.

International students do not need to complete the FAFSA.


Yes, you will need to reapply. You must complete a new application, submit a new application fee, and send in new supporting materials.

Letters of Recommendation

When completing the application, you may register your referees’ names and electronic mail addresses. The referees will receive email telling them that they’ve been registered and by whom, and will be provided with login information so that they can visit the site and upload the recommendations.  

Research whether or not the dossier service can upload letters on your behalf. If the service can do so, follow the directions provided by that service for completing this information on your Brown application.

If your dossier service cannot upload letters on your behalf, you may have them sent to the Graduate School in hard copy to: Brown University, Graduate School, Box 1867, Providence RI 02912.

While the Graduate School suggests that at least two letters come from instructors with whom you have worked, we encourage you to arrange for letters from any three people who can speak cogently about you as a writer, whether or not they have been your teacher.

If your application form, personal statement and writing sample have been received by the deadline, then your application will be reviewed, even if a letter of reference hasn’t yet arrived. Of course, letters that arrive on time may affect your candidacy. Letters must be received by 15 January at the latest in order to be reviewed along with the rest of your application; but letters may arrive after that in order to make your application complete.

Additional information

Some candidates find it useful to visit schools to get a feel for each particular program in advance of applying.
The Literary Arts Department welcomes applications from candidates from around the globe — in recent years, students from abroad have accounted for around 10 to 30% of the students enrolled in the MFA program.