IAIA - Institute of American Indian Arts

How to Apply to the MFA Program


The Graduate Application for the MFA in Creative Writing is available online here. Please note that the current system does not allow you to save and continue. If you find you need to submit additional materials, please email those documents to admissions@iaia.edu or mail them to the Admissions Office at the address below.

Your application will not be considered for admission until it is complete.

To process your application, we will need:

1. A completed and signed application (submitted electronically or with packet)

2. A $25, non-refundable, application fee

3. A sample of your creative work (see guidelines below)

4. An application essay (see guidelines below)

5. A sample craft or scholarly essay (see guidelines below)

6. Two letters of recommendation sent directly by recommenders to: Admissions Office, The Institute of American Indian Arts, 83 Avan Nu Po Road, Santa Fe, NM 87508 or emailed as attachments to: admissions@iaia.edu. Letters should address the applicant’s aptitude, determination, and ability to work within a community of writers.

7. College transcripts from all colleges attended sent directly to: Admissions Office, The Institute of American Indian Arts, 83 Avan Nu Po Road, Santa Fe, NM 87508. Links to electronic transcripts should be sent to admissions@iaia.edu.

Once we have received all of your application materials, your application will be reviewed. Materials must be received by 5 pm on February 1 for full consideration. Applications completed after 5 pm on February 1 will be considered for any remaining openings, wait-listed, or considered for the following year. At this time, we are only accepting students into the program in the fall semesters.

Admission will be competitive; we will be accepting only thirty students into the program each year. There is no separate application for the Institute of American Indian Arts’ Scholarships; students who apply before February 1 will be considered for all IAIA scholarships.

A bachelor’s degree is required, but it need not have been with an English or writing major. Students who have completed a significant number of undergraduate hours may request an exception to the bachelor’s degree requirement; however, given the competitive nature of the admissions process, such an exception will be granted rarely. Contact the MFA Director at jdavis@iaia.edu.

Several criteria are assessed when an applicant is being considered for a waiver. The criteria include:

  • the applicant’s submission of creative work must show extraordinary accomplishment and engagement with the world of creative writing and writers, comparing favorably with the work of the strongest applicants;
  • the applicant’s college level work, which should be roughly equivalent to two or more years, must demonstrate promise;
  • the applicant’s life experience or professional work should be analogous, in breadth and depth, to the intellectual engagement normally associated with a completed undergraduate education.

To apply for a waiver, please send a detailed letter to the MFA Director describing life experiences, describing college level work and explaining why the Bachelor’s degree was not attained, and addressing, in particular, creative writing experience, such as workshops, conferences, positions, and publications. In addition, include the writing sample (see guidelines) that you will submit with your application.

Should you be accepted into the program, you will need to pay a $200 deposit by March 15 to hold your place.

For questions about the application process, please contact: Jon Davis, Director at mfa@iaia.edu.

Creative Manuscript

Please submit examples of your work in one of these areas:

• poetry: a maximum of 10 pages (single-spaced, not more than one poem to a page)

• fiction: a maximum of 20 pages (double-spaced)

• creative nonfiction: a maximum of 20 pages (double-spaced)

• screenwriting: a maximum of 30 pages (industry-standard formatting)

You may apply in two genres, but a complete manuscript must be submitted for both genres in which you choose to apply. Each manuscript should be typewritten, single-sided, numbered in the lower-right hand corner, and set in 12 point Times Roman (or Courier for a screenplay). Please do not staple. Manuscripts will not be returned. Any pages beyond the maximum will not be read.

 Personal Essay

Please submit an essay (2-3 typed, double-spaced pages) in which you address the following questions:

• How long have you been writing seriously?

• What previous study have you done in writing and literature?

• Is there any additional experience that seems particularly relevant to your application?

• Are you prepared to hear direct criticism of your work and apply that criticism to revision?

• What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of your writing?

• Do you foresee anything that might prevent you from devoting 25 hours per week to your study or from corresponding consistently with your faculty advisor?

More than transcripts or letters of recommendation, the essay gives us some understanding of your experience with writing and criticism, your goals for work in the program, your readiness to work in the low-residency format, and the appropriateness of your admission.

Craft Essay

Please submit a writing sample (3-4 pages, double-spaced) that demonstrates your abilities as a reader and critical thinker. This sample may be something formal that you have written previously for a class, or you may write a short essay on a literary work you’ve recently read. The essay should in some way engage questions dealing with the writer’s craft and/or ways in which the writer’s work has served as a model for your own literary ambitions.

Admissions Procedure Checklist

__ Application completed and signed

__ Application fee $25 (non-refundable) included with the application

__ Application Essay enclosed

__ Creative Manuscript enclosed

__ Craft Essay enclosed

__ Official college transcipt(s) sent

__ Two letters of recommendation sent directly to the Admissions Office

Application should be submitted electronically or mailed with a $25 application fee (payable to The Institute of American Indian Arts) to:

Admissions Office

The Institute of American Indian Arts

83 Avan Nu Po Road

Santa Fe, NM 87508

To applicants who are reapplying: If you are reapplying to the IAIA MFA in Creative Writing Program within one year of your previous application, submit the following: 1) a new or revised creative manuscript, 2) a new or revised personal essay, 3) a new or revised craft essay, 4) a new application form, and the $25.00 application fee. Updated references and transcripts are optional.

Housing Application

Students who are accepted into the program will be e-mailed a housing application prior to the late July residency.