The Master of Liberal Arts, Creative Writing and Literature degree field is offered online with 1 course required on-campus. A one-week option is available for the on-campus requirement.
12 Graduate Courses (48 credits)
The program is designed for creative writers interested in fiction, nonfiction, and dramatic writing. You choose either a capstone or thesis track as well as the creative writing and literature courses that meet your learning goals.
The synchronous online format and small class size, ensures you’ll receive personal feedback on your writing and experience full engagement with instructors and peers.
- HUMA 101 Proseminar: Elements of the Writer’s Craft
- 1 advanced fiction writing course
- 3 creative writing courses
- 1 creative writing and literature elective or creative writing independent study
- 2 literature courses
- EXPO 42a Writing in the Humanities is a literature option
- On-campus summer writer’s residency
Thesis Track: Additional Courses
- Thesis proposal tutorial
- Master’s Thesis (8 credits)
The thesis is a 9-month independent research project where you work one-on-one in a tutorial setting with a thesis director.
Capstone Track: Additional Courses
- 1 additional literature course
- Precapstone: Building the World of the Book (fiction and nonfiction options)
- Capstone: Developing a Manuscript (fiction and nonfiction options)
In the precapstone, with support from your instructor and peers, you’ll engage in a series of structured writing exercises that make it possible to delve deeply into your characters—what they look like, what they want and need, and how they interact with the world in which they live—as you structure the world of your fiction or nonfiction.
In the capstone, with ongoing community support, you continue your work of in the precapstone and write two additional chapters or stories, or approximately 30 pages of new work. The capstone project in total should be about 50-60 pages—the equivalent of a thesis.
You enroll in the precapstone and capstone courses in back-to-back semesters (fall/spring) and in your final academic year. The capstone must be taken alone as your sole remaining degree requirement.
The Harvard On-Campus Experience (One-Week Writer’s Residency)
For the on-campus requirement, you have two summer course options:
- One-Week Writer’s Residency with extended online sessions
- One-Week Writer’s Residency with extended on-campus sessions
After completing 7 or more courses, you come to Harvard Summer School for a week-long master class taught by a notable instructor. An agents-and-editors weekend follows. Learn more about campus life at Harvard.
During the 2 weeks that follow this intensive week of on-campus instruction, you attend additional writing classes either online or on campus and submit a final piece of writing.
3-week housing is available for the One-Week Writer’s Residency with extended on-campus classes.
International Students Who Need a Student Visa
To meet the on-campus requirement, you study with us in the summer for a minimum of 3 weeks. You can easily request an I-20 for the F-1 student visa through Harvard Summer School. For more details, see International Student Study Options for important visa information.
In-Person Co-Curricular Events
Come to Cambridge for Convocation (fall) to celebrate your hard-earned admission, Harvard career fairs offered throughout the year, HES alumni networking events (here at Harvard and around the world), and, of course, Harvard University Commencement (May).
Below are our initial eligibility requirements and an overview of our unique admissions process to help get you started. Be sure to visit Degree Program Admissions for full details.
- Prior to enrolling in any degree-applicable courses, you must possess a 4-year regionally accredited US bachelor’s degree or its foreign equivalent. Foreign bachelor’s degrees must be evaluated for equivalency.
- You cannot already have or be in the process of earning a master’s degree in creative writing or a related field. Check your eligibility.
Earning Your Way In: Courses for Admission
The path to your degree begins before you apply to the program. To begin, you simply register—no application needed—for the following 2 graduate-level degree courses (available online):
- HUMA 101 Proseminar: Elements of the Writer’s Craft
- Before registering, you’ll need to pass our online test of critical reading and writing skills or earn a B or higher in EXPO 42a Writing in the Humanities.
- You have 2 attempts to earn the minimum grade of B in the proseminar (a withdrawal grade counts as an attempt). The proseminar cannot be more than 2 years old at the time of application.
- Advanced fiction writing
The courses above, including EXPO 42a, are investments in your studies and help ensure success in the program. They count toward your degree once you’re admitted; they are not additional courses.
Course sequencing and grading. While the 2 courses don’t need to be taken in a particular order or in the same semester, we recommend that you start with the proseminar. The 2 courses must be completed with a grade of B or higher, without letting your overall Harvard cumulative GPA dip below 3.0.
Search and Register for Courses
The Division of Continuing Education (DCE) offers degree courses all year round for accelerated degree completion.
- You can study in fall, January, and spring terms through Harvard Extension School (HES) and during the summer through Harvard Summer School (HSS).
- You can choose to enroll either full or part-time with many degree candidates, after qualifying for admission, choosing 2 courses per semester (fall/spring) and 1 in the January term as well as summer.
- Most fall and spring courses meet once a week for two hours, while January and summer courses meet more frequently in a condensed format.
Applying to the Degree Program
During the semester of your second degree course, submit an official application to the program.
Don’t delay! You must prioritize the 2 degree courses for admission and apply before completing subsequent courses. By doing so, you’ll:
- avoid the loss of credit due to expired course work or changes to admission and degree requirements.
- ensure your enrollment in critical and timely degree-candidate-only courses.
- pay the standard versus the delayed application fee.
- gain access to exclusive benefits (see bottom of page).
Eligible students who submit a complete and timely application will have 10 more courses after admission to earn the degree.
The Office of Predegree Advising & Admissions makes all final determinations about program eligibility. For details about full eligibility and the application process, visit Degree Program Admissions.
To Complete Your Degree
Required 3.0 GPA, 2 Withdrawal Grade Limit, Repeat Course Policy
GPA. You need to earn a B or higher in each of the 2 degree courses required for admission and a B– or higher in each of the subsequent courses. In addition, your cumulative GPA cannot dip below 3.0.
Withdrawal Grades. You are allowed to receive 2 withdrawal (WD) grades without them affecting your GPA. Any additional WD grades count as zero in your cumulative GPA. Please note that a WD grade from a two-credit course will count as 1 of your 2 allowed WD grades. See Academic Standing.
Repeat Courses. We advise you to review the ALM program’s strict policies about repeating courses. Generally speaking, you may not repeat a course to improve your GPA or to fulfill a degree requirement (if the minimum grade was not initially achieved). Nor can you repeat a course for graduate credit that you’ve previously completed at Harvard Extension School or Harvard Summer School at the undergraduate level.
Courses Expire: Apply on Time and Finish Your Coursework in Under 5 Years
Courses over 5 years old at the point of admission will not count toward the degree. As stated above, the proseminar cannot be more than 2 years old at the time of application.
Further, you have 5 years to complete your degree requirements. The 5-year timeline begins at the end of the term in which you complete any 2 degree-applicable courses, regardless of whether or not you have been admitted to a degree program.
Additionally, admission eligibility will be jeopardized if, at the point of application to the program, the 5-year degree completion policy cannot be satisfied (i.e., too many courses to complete in the time remaining).
Potential degree candidates must submit timely applications or they risk losing degree credit for completed course work.
Graduate with Your Harvard Degree
When you have fulfilled all degree requirements, you will earn your Harvard University degree: Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) in Extension Studies, Field: Creative Writing and Literature. Degrees are awarded in November, March, and May, with the annual Harvard Commencement ceremony in May.