MFA Funding, Fellowships, and Scholarships

Given our robust community, Mason Creative Writing is able to offer two paths of potential funding for MFA students: Graduate Teaching Assistantships and Graduate Professional Assistantships. Both GAs are funded with the same benefits and on equal terms.

Each year, the MFA Program receives about 130 applications. We admit roughly 50 of these writers and ultimately enroll 22-24 new graduate students each fall. So in any given year, the MFA community numbers about 65-70 students (50% fiction writers, 25% nonfiction writers, 25% poets).

Graduate assistantship opportunities are competitive; however, In recent years, we have fully funded each applicant who has been offered a graduate assistantship and enrolled. Both GTAs and GPAs work 20 hours/week for the nine-month academic year and receive: 

  • full tuition waiver (up to 18 credits per academic year equalling a nearly $34,000 value over the course of the program),
  • a stipend that might increase modestly each year, and
  • optional healthcare insurance. 

These graduate assistantships are renewable--as long as the recipient is enrolled full-time, remains in good academic standing, and performs duties as expected--for each of the 48-credit MFA degree program's three years.

The typical academic trajectory of a GA is to take 9 credits first fall semester, 9 credits first spring semester, 9 credits second fall, 9 credits second spring, 6 credits third fall, and 6 credits third (graduating) spring.

Note that this funding is directly from the Creative Writing Program at George Mason University and is not to be confused with federal financial aid or the various types of student loans, which might be other strategies that some students use to finance their graduate education. 

Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTA)

In their first year, GTAs tutor in Mason's Writing Center and take a course in Composition Pedagogy (ENGH 615 in the spring of their first year). With this experience, along with a thorough English Department support system, students are prepared to enter the classroom in the fall of their second year when they teach two sections of ENGH 101. In the spring of their second year, GTAs take a course in Literature Pedagogy (ENGH 610) while simultaneously teaching two sections of ENGH 201. Now, given any semester's enrollment patterns, GTAs may be assigned a support role in other, larger English courses where they still receive mentoring and opportunities to teach.  Finally, GTAs have opportunities to teach ENGH 396 Intro to Creative Writing in their third year or a genre-specific workshop in our BFA in Creative Writing program. 

With diverse academic evidence on their transcript and CV-building experience in the classroom, our GTAs graduate to become highly competitive applicants in the higher-education job marketplace as well as in other levels of education. 

Graduate Professional Assistantships (GPA)

Established in 2019, a limited number of GPA positions are available for students who may be interested in gaining other types of professional experience (publishing, editing, program presentation, literary arts administration, etc.). Created to support already active entities that grew out of the MFA program, these positions are now referred to as Watershed Lit GPAs that support the literary center's activities and those of its members (Fall for the Book, Stillhouse Press, Poetry Daily, Cheuse Center for International Writers, and the Northern Virginia Writing Project). The number and type of GPA positions available are flexible depending on program needs. For example, GPA positions have been created to support editorial and research initiatives with Poetry Daily, the management of Stillhouse Press, the administration of the Cheuse Center, and coordinating social media for the Creative Writing Program.

GPA assignments are made to address both current needs and individual students' aspirations. Our GPA graduates have landed employment with publishers, publicists, associations, nonprofits, and other organizations where communication and storytelling are in demand.

MFA Third-Year Thesis Fellowships

The MFA program offers fellowships that students apply for in the spring of their second year for third-year funding. These fellowships allow students to focus on their theses at the same level of support as GTAs/GPAs without the responsibility of working or teaching. So that includes full tuition waiver, a stipend at the going rate, and optional health insurance

Three "Thesis Fellowships" are awarded to two prose writers and one poet. The "Heritage Fellowship" is open to poets only. Eligible students must have 9-12 credit hours remaining in their degree program. Full-time student registration (6 credits) is required for the fall semester of their third year. Spring semester requires full-time registration unless a student has fewer than 9 credit hours to complete the degree program, in which case the student registers for the number of credits he or she needs in order to graduate.

GTAs/GPAs and non-GTAs/GPAs may apply. Students may not hold two positions; therefore, students holding GTAs/GPAs who are awarded a fellowship must resign their graduate assistantship. Learn more about the MFA Student Fellowships and the application process.

Annual MFA Scholarships

Robert Raymond Scholarship Fund for a first-year student self-identifying as a writer representing a marginalized voice (annual deadline October 1)

Michael and Robin Kelley Endowed Scholarship for a first- or second-year student whose work engages topics of social justice, access, equity, or any socially/culturally relevant topics (annual deadline April 1)

Anthony and G. Louise Otto Endowed Scholarship for support of a third-year student’s thesis (one award per genre, MFA thesis fellows are ineligible, annual deadline April 1)

Learn more about MFA scholarships, which are managed through the College of Humanities and Social Sciences' Academic Works platform (so the application links will not appear until the next opportunity round is posted by the college).

Cheuse Center Fellowships for International Research

Named for the late author, Mason professor, and critic Alan Cheuse, the Cheuse Center for International Writers hosts literary artists from around the world and collaborates with other organizations that share its global vision. The center also manages the Cheuse Fellows program, a competitive award that supports MFA students whose emerging work or thesis subject matter requires research abroad. Learn more about the Cheuse Center and past Cheuse Fellows. 

Provost Summer Research Fellowships

Rising third-year MFA students who are requesting their thesis directors are eligible for Provost Summer Research Fellowships. In addition to the application, students must have their Thesis Proposal Approval Sheet, thesis proposal statement, and representative creative material prepared (which is essentially the same material required for Third-Year Thesis Fellowship applications). Creative Writing Program administrative staff then assist in conveying to the Provost's Office this necessary material to complete each student's application. The deadline is typically in early February. Learn more about the Provost Summer Research Fellowships. 

Spring Writing Contests

Each spring, Mason Creative Writing manages several contests, some specifically for MFA students and some for the university-wide student population. Each contest, however, comes with a $500 prize and is judged by an accomplished writer of note. Therefore, winning a Spring Writing Contest award (and using a comment from the judge that accompanies the decision) can be a great boost for a student writer. Learn more about Spring Writing Contests and contest deadlines.