MFA Funding, Awards, and Research

Given our robust community, Mason is able to offer two paths of potential funding and several other opportunities for support during the MFA program.

At present, the program funds approximately 65% of its graduate students. The main forms of funding are Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTAs) and Graduate Professional Assistantships (GPAs). The GTA application process is a formal part of the program application; the newer GPA positions are managed by the Program Director. Both GTAs and GPAs work 20 hours/week and receive a stipend, full tuition waiver (up to 18 credits per academic year equalling a nearly $34,000 value over the course of the program), and optional healthcare coverage.

Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTA)

MFA candidates note on their applications whether they want to be considered for a GTA position and submit the required additional material. GTAs spend their first year tutoring in Mason's Writing Center and taking a course in Composition Pedagogy; together, along with a thorough support system, students are prepared to enter the classroom in their second year. GTAs teach two sections of ENGH 101 in the fall and, in the spring, can opt to take the Literature Pedagogy course while teaching ENGH 101 (comp) and/or ENGH 201 (literature). Based on need, MFA students may also have opportunities to teach ENGH 396 Intro to Creative Writing in their third year.   

Note: MFA applicants interested in a Graduate Teaching Assistantship for the Fall semester should apply by January 15. Required additional material includes a 1000-word nonfiction writing sample, preferably a literary analysis. Ideally, you should select an essay or sample of an essay that demonstrates your facility with undergraduate-level discourse about literature or a closely related field. Questions, email us at

Graduate Professional Assistantships (GPA)

Meanwhile, limited GPAs are available for students who may be interested in gaining other types of professional experience with the Creative Writing Program's publishing practice or literary citizenship efforts (Fall for the Book, Stillhouse Press, Poetry Daily, Cheuse Center for International Writers, etc.). 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.  For more information, email the Program Director (Gregg Wilhelm at

Once enrolled and part of the community at Mason, students may pursue other opportunities for support.

MFA Student Fellowships

The program offers four 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. Three "Thesis Fellowships" are awarded to two prose writers and one poet. The "Heritage Writer Fellowship in Poetry" is open to poets only.

Eligible students must have 9-12 credit-hours remaining in their degree program. Full-time student registration required for the fall semester. 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.

Again, the primary intent of the fellowships is to support students as they work on their theses, so the application process mirrors the thesis proposal process in that students submit a proposal and a writing sample, and the package represents the student’s proposed project for the coming year. 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 the assistantship.

Learn more about the MFA Student Fellowships and the application process.

Spring Writing Contests

Each spring, the Creative Writing Program manages a total of ten different writing contests. Some have restrictions, such as being open to MFA students only or poets only, but most are open to the entire Mason student community. 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.

International Research

Launched in 2016 by Creative Writing Program representatives and the family of the late Alan Cheuse—acclaimed writer, critic, and long-time Mason professor—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.