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How to Apply

All application materials, including letters of recommendation, are due by 11:59 PM, EST, on December 15, 2023. The online application portal will be available tentatively on August 23rd.

The application fee for United States citizens and those with permanent resident visa status is $75. The fee for non-U.S. citizens is $90. The application fee for current Rackham students, regardless of citizenship, is $10. This fee is non-refundable and subject to change.

Fee Waivers

A very limited number of application fee waivers are available for MFA applicants. 

Based on the following criteria, if you believe you qualify for an application fee waiver, contact In a brief e-mail, explain your qualifications for a fee waiver.  Fee waivers are limited and are reviewed on a rolling basis.

Application Fee Waiver Criteria:

1. You have a record of superior academic achievement (send unofficial transcript);

2. You are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident;

AND you must meet one or more of the following:

a) Come from an educational, cultural or geographic background that is underrepresented in a graduate study in your discipline in the United States or at the University of Michigan;

b) Have demonstrated a commitment to diversity in the academic, professional, or civic realm through your work experience, volunteer engagement, or leadership of student or community organizations. By diversity, we mean efforts to reduce social, educational or economic disparities based on race, ethnicity or gender, or to improve race relations in the U.S.;

c) Have experience financial hardship as a result of family economic circumstances;d) Are a first-generation U.S. citizen or first generation in your family to graduate from a four-year college. 

The Rackham Graduate School provides fee waivers for eligible MFA and PhD applicants, please review their webpage: Application Fee and Payment. Please contact Rackham,, if you have any questions.

Application and Admissions

Successful applicants will be admitted as writers of either poetry or fiction. 

Please note: Applicants will not be able to apply to both poetry and prose; applicants must choose one genre. Applicants must have a Baccalaureate degree by the time of expected enrollment. Although the degree need not be with a concentration in English, the applicant should demonstrate sufficient skill in undergraduate language and literature courses to enable him or her to enroll in graduate English literature courses. We do not accept Non-Candidate for Degree status applicants to our program. We do not offer online courses. The Helen Zell Writers' Program is a full-time full-residency program.

The GRE is not required for MFA applicants.

Admission decisions for Fall 2024 will be made and applicants will be notified in early March 2024. Admission decisions for Fall 2023 have been made and applicants have been notified.

Submitting your application

All application materials are submitted electronically as PDF Documents through the Online Application.
All materials must be received on-line by December 15th. We adhere to a strict deadline. This is not a postmark date. It is the applicant's responsibility to make sure that all materials are received by the Graduate English Office. Applications that remain incomplete after this date will not be considered.

Transcripts: A Hardcopy of your Offical Transcript(s) does not need to be sent to the Rackham Graduate School unless you have been accepted into our program. Please ignore the directions on the application that requests an official transcript.

An electronic unofficial transcript should be submitted via the online application on ApplyWeb. 


TOEFL: Applicants whose native language is not English must demonstrate English proficiency. Applicants are required to provide an official score report from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The minimum accepted TOEFL score is 620 on paper, 260 on the computer or 106 on the internet. The test date must be within two years of the application deadline. We do not accept any test other than the TOEFL.

  • Applicants who completed all of their Bachelor's or Master's/Doctoral degree are exempt from submitting an official English proficiency score if:
    • The degree was earned from an institution where the language of instruction is English, exclusively. This exception does not apply if some classes completed were taught in a language other than English. Verification from the school may be required.
    • The degree was earned from a country where the official language is English (United States of America, Australia, England, New Zealand).

Writing Sample: This is the most important part of your application. Your creative work.

  • Poetry applicants should submit 10 pages (max 15 pages). Each new poem must start on a new page. There is already a prompt in the Poetry application to upload the Poetry writing sample.

  • Prose applicants should submit a writing sample of sufficient length to allow us to judge the applicant's work not to exceed 40 pages, double spaced, of fiction (this submission may be part of a novel or several short stories).

Academic Statement of Purpose: Clearly labeled, concise, up to two pages in length, double spaced, about your academic and research background, your career goals, and how Michigan's graduate program will help you meet your career and educational objectives. Disregard the 500-word limit stated on the application.

Biographical Personal Statement: Clearly labeled, concise, up to two pages in length, double spaced, about how your personal background and life experiences, including social, cultural, familial, educational, or other opportunities or challenges, motivated your decision to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Michigan. This is not an academic Statement of Purpose, but a discussion of the personal journey that has led to your decision to seek a graduate degree. Disregard the 500-word limit stated on the application.

A curriculum vitae/resume: No page limit.

Admission Conduct Code: The Admission Conduct Code question is part of the online application process. You will be prompted to provide the necessary information and your response will be submitted electronically.

Three letters of recommendation: When you register your recommenders in the CollegeNet application, each recommender will receive an e-mail notification to complete the recommendation form through CollegeNet. We do not accept letters of recommendation through Interfolio or other equivalent platforms, and we do not accept them emailed directly to the program.


Please Note: When completing your application please be sure to select a sub-plan, either poetry or prose. All credentials submitted for admission consideration become the property of the University of Michigan and will not be returned in original or copy form. We do not archive applications. Therefore, any materials submitted in a previous application for the Helen Zell Writers' Program must be resubmitted. 

Immunizations for International Students

The University of Michigan does not require immunizations. However, it is recommended that students come to school fully immunized to protect their health. Immunizations are one of the most effective public health measures in preventing communicable diseases. Immunization recommendations can be found on the University Health Services website.