How do you know if you're ready?
Given the level of time and financial commitment involved, and the generally competitive nature of courses, you should not take the decision to enrol on a university course lightly. But how will you know if you’re ready?
Conditions of entry for BA students in terms of practical experience of writing are generally less stringent; prospective students will not need to demonstrate years of Creative Writing practice, but they will, however, need to show a real interest and passion.
If you are planning on enrolling on an MA degree, departments will request a representative sample of your work - this will be anywhere in the region of 5-10 poems or a few short stories or a piece of long fiction in the region of about 3,000 words. These should be examples taken from the last 3 years or so of your writing life. In addition, you will also be expected to write a statement in support of your application. This will generally entail comment on your writing life to date, any experience you may have had of workshops, and it should also place significant weight on your influences and interests in contemporary writing within your genre(s) - as well as what you hope to gain from the course. For MPhil and PhD study you will also need to provide an outline of the writing project that you wish to carry out during the course of your study.
It’s therefore a given for postgraduate study that you should have been writing in a fairly sustained, serious and enthusiastic manner for several years, and have a genuine, demonstrable understanding and appreciation of contemporary literature to be a compelling candidate – as well as strong independent working skills. Competition is high for places. Don’t be intimidated, however. Universities will certainly not require pages of publication credits (or any publication at all for that matter) or endorsement by your local literary celebrity. What they are definitely looking for is promise and a genuine desire to progress and learn. Your writing sample will not therefore be judged on whether it is the equal of a Man Booker or T S Eliot Prize winner, but rather on whether it shows evidence of an engagement with contemporary literature and a potential that can be tapped.