Graduate Program: Frequently Asked Questions

Below are common questions asked by past applicants to the MFA Program.

Application Process / Writing Sample & Personal Statement / Academic HistoryRecommendations Transcripts  / Financial / Foreign Students / Contact Information

Online Application Process  
For questions regarding the electronic application process, please refer to Online Application on the Graduate School website.  

When can I apply? 
You may access Brown's online graduate application from mid-September until 11:59 pm EST on 15 December. 

What are my chances of getting in?  
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.

Can I get advice from a faculty member regarding my application?
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.

What is the suggested length for my writing sample? 
The suggested length of a writing sample is:

  • Fiction:  30 – 40 pages (double-spaced is typical; you may use an alternative format if integral to the work)
  • Poetry:  15 – 20 pages (any format)
  • Digital/Cross-Disciplinary:  One or two electronic projects, a portfolio, and/or 30 – 50 pages (any format)

How do I get the writing sample to you? 
Applicants submit a writing sample in plain-text format (preferably as a PDF document) less than 5 megabytes in size as part of the online application.  If your work cannot easily be sent in this format (i.e., it has sculptural elements that you do not feel you can document in any but three-dimensional models), send it by regular mail to: Graduate School, Brown University, Box 1867, Providence, RI 02912. You may also include web address links for works that are best read online.

I want to send three short stories, but can only upload one document. What should I do? 
Format your three stories into one document – start each story on its own page, and run the story title in a larger typeface than the rest of the text, so we can tell there are multiple texts.

I want to send my writing sample by hard copy, but apply through the online system.  What do I do when I come upon the electronic spaces for the writing sample on the electronic application? 
The electronic system will not let you submit your application without uploading something in the Writing Sample field.  If you want to submit this by hard copy, when you get to this part of the online application, you should upload a document that says “Writing sample is coming as hard copy” and another (if applicable), “Personal statement coming as hard copy.”  Once you have done so, you will be able to move forward and submit the electronic application.

I want to apply to the Digital/Cross-Disciplinary MFA track, but I can’t upload my paintings/sculptures/dance performance into the Online Application!  How should I go about submitting my materials?

Applicants to the Digital/Cross-Disciplinary track of the Literary Arts MFA, who need to submit materials from a secondary art form – paintings, sculpture, video, music, etc. – may submit their materials in a variety of ways.

1).  Upload a portfolio that includes both your writing and any images of  your other, relevant materials. Combine your writing and images into a single document; convert it to a .pdf, and then upload the .pdf into the “Writing Sample” field of the online application.

2).    Include, in your writing sample, a page containing links to websites where images of your non-writing work may be viewed (or, in the case of music, listened to).

3).  If absolutely necessary, you may send -- as a supplement -- physical artworks via snail mail.  Address your materials to the Brown University Graduate School, Box 1867, Providence, RI  02912. Be sure to include a cover letter specifying that you are applying to the MFA in Literary Arts – Digital/Cross-Disciplinary track. The hard copy materials should be in addition to some version of the materal shared in electronic form (see options above).

What should I say in my Personal Statement – and how long should it be? 
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.

When entering my educational history, after I type my school's name into the school finder, the finder cannot find my school. What should I do? 
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).

I went to a school that did not have a 4-point GPA system. I want Brown to understand my grades, but am not sure how best to do this. What do I 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.

If I am applying online, where do I get the recommendation forms for my referees? 
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.  

What if I am using a dossier service for my letters of reference? 
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.

Do my letters of recommendation have to be from my college professors? 
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.

What if a recommendation is sent after the 15 December deadline? 
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.

Do I need to submit original transcripts? 
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.  

Do I need to complete the FAFSA?  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.

I believe that I should be eligible for an application fee waiver. What should I do?  Your completed application must be submitted no later than 30 November – 14 days in advance of the program’s application deadline – in order to be considered for a fee waiver. Please choose the “Request a fee waiver” option as your method of payment when submitting the application.

For more information on waivers see Application Fee Waiver on the Graduate School website.

Is there a foreign language requirement/exam?  

I'm an international student. Do I have to submit TOEFL or IELTS results? 
Language proficiency exams are not required of those students who have earned a degree from a non-U.S. university where the primary language of instruction is English, or from a college or university in the United States, or in any of the following countries: Australia, Bahamas, Botswana, Cameroon, Canada (except Quebec), Ethiopia, Ghana, Ireland, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, New Zealand, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Tanzania, Gambia, Uganda, United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales), West Indies, Zambia. 

Once you have submitted your application through CollegeNET –  you may request the language test waiver by sending an electronic message to [email protected] 

Students with degrees from universities in countries not on this list should have their university Registrar or Dean provide an official letter to the student, referencing the applicant's name and proposed area of study, stating that English is the primary language of instruction for that institution. The applicant should submit a scanned copy of this letter along with the transcript when submitting the application.

Students attending or holding degrees from schools located abroad but run by an American institution of higher education may be eligible for a language proficiency exam waiver. You should request the waiver at the time you apply (waivers are not granted in advance).

If you are seeking a waiver, we recommend that you apply early (in late September or early October) so that you will know the outcome of the request for a waiver as early as possible). In this way, if the waiver is not granted, you should still have time to take the language proficiency test.

What are Brown's codes for reporting TOEFL or IELTS scores?  
For TOEFL results, the Brown code is 3094; the department code should be left blank. For IELTS results, ask that your score be sent to: Brown University, Graduate School, Box 1867, Providence RI 02912, USA.

Should you prefer to do so, you may self-report your scores when applying; should the Graduate School offer you admission, you would be required to provide the official scores at that time. If you provide self-reported scores rather than the official scores, your application file will carry the notation of "incomplete"; however, it will be given full review and consideration by the department and would be at no disadvantage when reviewed by our faculty.

What are the minimum scores for the TOEFL or IELTS scores?
For TOEFL, the minimum score for admission consideration is 577 on the paper-based test and 90 on the Internet-based test. For IELTS, the minimum overall band score is 7.Beyond meeting the minimum score requirement, performance on either test will have no more than a nominal role in the department's admission recommendation.

I am an international student, and I have a three-year B.A. Am I qualified to apply for Brown’s MFA program?                                     

Yes! Brown University accepts the three-year B.A. as qualification for the MFA in Literary Arts. 

I applied for entry to Brown’s Literary Arts Program last year and was not accepted.  Do I have to start over? 
Yes, you will need to reapply.  You must complete a new application, submit a new application fee, and send in new supporting materials.

What if I miss the December 15 deadline? 
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.

I just have to send my package by courier. Where do I send it?
We do not encourage you do this, as it may, in fact, slow down the processing of your application. However, if absolutely necessary, send to: Brown University, Graduate School, 47 George St., Providence, RI  02912.

Contact Information 
You may contact the Brown Graduate School at (401) 863–2600. To reach the Literary Arts Program, call us at (401) 863-3260, email us at [email protected], or snail mail us at Box 1923, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912.