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Frequently Asked Questions


Due to the sheer volume of inquiries we receive during application season (September through December), we ask that you read through the following FAQ's before contacting the MFA Office. Note that all of these are questions that we are, quite literally, frequently asked.

*Please direct all TOEFL-related inquires to Rackham Graduate School, at


Is there a way to take HZWP classes part-time or long-distance?

No. The Helen Zell Writers' Program is a full-time, full-residency commitment of two years. Graduates of the program will also be eligible to apply for one of the six available spots for the additional third-year Zell Fellowship. In other words, you are applying for two years of fully-funded writing in Ann Arbor, Michigan (and six students will be in Ann Arbor for three years).

Are you really  fully-funded?

Yes. This is not an trick. This means that all accepted students receive full tuition remission (there is no other cost of attendance or "hidden fees") and a monthly stipend generous enough to cover a reasonable local rent and modest living expenses. This includes international students. For more details on funding, see: Funding.

Can I submit genre fiction (e.g. sci-fi, fantasy, romance, etc.) as my writing sample or does it have to be "literary" fiction?

You should submit your best writing, regardless of genre. The reason we tend to have relatively few dedicated genre writers in our program at any given moment is simple: we are most interested in vital, singular voices—writers producing work that only they could produce. Meanwhile, genre writing—by definition, at least in its most straightforward form— tends to adhere to clearly established tropes and conventions. That said, if you feel strongly that your genre piece is, in fact, a piece that only you could have written, by all means. Send it in. 

Does it matter that my undergraduate degree is not in English? 

No. Your undergraduate major has no bearing on your eligibility. We welcome applicants from all sorts of academic backgrounds—and, indeed, value diversity of all kinds.

Will my specific international undergraduate degree be accepted by the Program?

Academic admissions requirements are determined not by the Helen Zell Writers' Program but by Rackham Graduate School. Please click here for a detailed list of required academic credentials from non-U.S. institutions.

Do you offer a Nonfiction track?

No. We currently do not offer a creative nonfiction track. We do, however, offer frequent craft classes in nonfiction taught by both our award-winning faculty and by visiting writers—and many of our graduates (fiction writers and poets alike) have gone on to produce a great deal of highly-acclaimed literary nonfiction.

Can someone other than a creative writing teacher write a letter of recommendation for me?

Yes, you can ask a non-academic to provide a letter of recommendation for your file. It is best, however, if the person writing on your behalf is somehow qualified to assess your writing. And while we will accept recommendations from sources that are not academic or writerly, keep in mind that having a friend or family acquaintance (or even a well-known writer who has never actually read your work) extol your virtues doesn't help the program evaluate your strengths as a candidate. 

Can I visit a class or speak to a current student or recent alum about their experience in the program?

Due to the sheer volume of inquiries we receive, it is not possible to accommodate program visits or connect every applicant with a current student or alum. That said, once you are accepted, we will make every effort to provide you with whatever contact you feel you need to make an informed decision, be it in the form of individual email correspondence, phone calls, class visits, or beverages in various establishments around town.


For any specific, answerable questions that have not been covered here or addressed elsewhere on our program website, feel free to contact the English Department Office at