Prospective Student FAQ

Bennington Writing Seminars/MFA in Writing

What are the minimum requirements to apply?

Our faculty admissions readers are looking for the strength of writing on the page. They’re looking for talent, of course, and also voice, potential, teachability, humility, honesty, and promise.

The Writing Seminars does not require an associate or bachelor’s degree to apply, nor do we require students to even have a high school diploma. The strength of a writer is determined by their strength on the page. Their ability to succeed here must, however, be demonstrated by experience. Note: Receiving your MFA is not a replacement for an undergraduate degree or HS diploma.

Can you offer some application tips?

The application asks for a manuscript of your best work. For fiction and nonfiction applicants, that means up to but not exceeding 20 pages of fiction or nonfiction that is double-spaced and in a readable font such as 12 point Times New Roman.

For poetry applicants, 10 pages of poetry must be submitted.

Dual-genre applicants must submit a manuscript for each genre in which they are applying using the same formatting standards described above.

Whether you're submitting fiction or nonfiction, you may submit a combination of smaller pieces. If you are submitting work that is an excerpt, you may include a brief paragraph that describes what the reader needs to know about the work. You may submit fewer than 20 pages if you choose. 

We ask for a two- to three-page essay about your writing and reading life. This should also be double-spaced and have numbered pages. Here we want to get to know you, your literary influences, what you're curious about and who you're reading, for example. It would also be quite helpful to understand why you think Bennington is the right place for you. Be real and be honest.

What is the average age of your students?

Our students range in age from their late 20s to mid 70s and their average age is 45 years old. Many of our students have had successful, high-profile careers and want to now focus on their writing. The key to success as a student here is to be willing to learn, transform, and grow. We encourage vulnerability and honesty here, not competition and hierarchy.

Where are your students geographically in the world?

We attract students from across the country and around the world. We’ve had students come to Bennington from Japan, Hong Kong, Ireland, Spain, France, Italy, and beyond. In the U.S. students come from such varied places as California, North Carolina, the Pacific Northwest, Texas, Colorado, and throughout the Northeast.

Why a low-residency program?

The Bennington Writing Seminars MFA is one of the first of its kind in the country. Many programs model themselves after the Seminars because of the format’s success. A low-residency model means that you are not place-bound. Our students live and study all over the globe, spending their correspondence terms working intensively and one-on-one with their teacher on their work, whether that is a novel, short story or essay collection, memoir, book of poetry, or in our dual-genre program that blends disciplines.

We gather together at two on-campus residencies each year: in January and in June.

What is the advantage of a low-residency program?

You need not quit your job or disrupt your life to move to a new city or country in order to study here. Bennington is built for writers who are self-directed, curious, collaborative, and self-motivated. We offer individualized work, personal mentorship, and a community that will be with you well after you graduate.

How big is each class cohort?

Class size is strategically kept to around 25-35 students. At the residency there are between 100-150 students on campus at once. A class cohort comprises all genres—fiction, nonfiction, and poetry—so you'll get to know a range of peers. Classes typically become very close as a unit and we make every effort to house you together, but students move individually through the program and have access to other students from different terms in their workshops and elsewhere. 

What is your alumni network like?

Because we are one of the oldest low-residency programs, we have one of the largest, most robust, and well-connected alumni communities of a low-residency program in the country—numbering nearly 2,000. Students who enter the program join a community of writers that extends far beyond your time here. Our alumni manage, read for, and publish in the top literary journals in the country, so mentioning you’re a student/alumni at Bennington can be an advantage when you submit your work.

How are teachers chosen?

At Bennington, you have the opportunity to study with four (five if you’re dual-genre) faculty members who will bring different perspectives, practices, connections, and feedback to your work. Each teacher you work with represents fresh and diverse eyes on your manuscript. In your first term, you will be assigned your teacher. In subsequent terms, we offer you a chance to rank teachers with whom you want to work. While we don’t guarantee any particular placement, your writing will transform with any teacher you are paired with.

What differentiates Bennington from other low-residency MFA programs?

We value collaboration over competition. At Bennington, the only person you’re competing with is yourself on the page. Good literary citizenship is the rule, not the exception—please consider that when joining our community. The program is self-directed, your reading list is collaborative, and we like to say the pace is “a marathon at a sprinter’s pace.”

What is your approach to teaching the business of writing?

We’ve developed a series called the Professional Development Seminars and we bring agents, editors, residency directors, and other writers to our residency to talk honestly and openly about everything from finding and working with an agent, to the business of small presses, to how to write a residency application (among other things.) Our approach to this, as it is with everything we do, is egalitarian. These sessions are open to all and students can ask anything.

How do I move through the program term by term?

Sixteen credits are conferred per term, upon successful completion of all required work, and 64 credits are required for the MFA degree, 80 for the dual-genre option.

The Seminars are designed, over four terms and five residencies, to develop a steady engagement with the processes of composition of new work, revision, reading, and critical thinking. The Seminars aim, by stages, to prepare students to bring their work to readers and to the public through a final portfolio/thesis, a final critical essay, and a final reading of a student’s original work.

A full description of term-by-term requirements can be found on our Program Requirements page).

What happens at a residency?

Residency is exhilarating and exhausting all at once. We pack many activities into a 10 day period. The residency days and nights are jam-packed with workshops, craft classes, lectures, discussions, readings, activities, and visits from scholars, Alumni Fellows, and others. We encourage everyone to join all classes regardless of your genre, because you’ll likely always learn something new and useful.

You are required to attend your assigned workshops on most days of the residency. 

After-hours activities are where you'll have fun and meet people from across many terms. It's highly recommended you participate, volunteer, and have fun in these events since it's all part of the experience of a low-residency program. 

During your two years, students complete four (five for dual-genre) terms of one-on-one mentorship and attend a total of five (six for dual-genre) residencies, one per term (at the beginning), including a final graduate residency.

What is the process for seeking accommodations?

Reasonable accommodations are available to students who qualify, to help students meet the expectations of the program. That process begins once you have been enrolled. Once enrolled, students can request accommodations with the college’s Director of Student Accessibility Services. This process considers reasonable accommodations that reduce documented barriers, support access, and do not pose an undue burden or fundamentally alter the program or program expectations. 

What is there to do in Bennington, VT? 

The New York Times may be famous for their “36 Hours in [insert-great-destination]” articles, but we couldn’t cover our picturesque corner of Southwestern Vermont in fewer than 48.

This recommended itinerary highlights local points of interest and reveals the active, indulgent, and creative character of the locale. You will find breathtaking scenery, inspiration, live music, historical significance, fresh air, and good food around every corner. The running theme, we are proud to say, is delicious donuts! 

What happens in a workshop? How big are they?

Prior to attending the residencies, students will be asked to submit new work that will be workshopped at the residency. Our workshops are typically led by two faculty members and 10 students. Each teacher has no more than five students each (some have fewer). Some teachers opt to teach alone and in those workshops there is one teacher and five students. You are assigned a teacher when you receive your workshop packets prior to residency. Your workshop teacher is the teacher you’ll work with during your correspondence term. If your workshop has two teachers, the other faculty member will be working with their own five students.

As a student, you are required to read and comment on all the manuscripts in your workshop since you’ll be discussing this work throughout. We ask that you be kind, generous, and substantive with your feedback. You may print out the manuscripts and hand write comments or use track changes etc… whatever is most comfortable for you.

Workshops are a mandatory part of the residency and it is necessary for students to attend each one as a requirement for graduation.

How do you keep alumni engaged?

Each term, we bring back alumni who serve as Residency Assistants (RAs) and who plan a slate of after-hours activities that are fun and engaging, and that bring the classes together. We encourage everything from karaoke, to literary trivia, to dance parties, to movie nights, among other things. RAs receive a small stipend for their work and also receive room and board during the residency. In addition we select three emerging writers in each genre to return to campus to serve as Alumni Fellows. They gain valuable teaching experience, assist faculty members in workshops and also give a reading together one night. Lastly, we offer a Post-MFA opportunity to return and continue your studies in a non-credit format. You can see all our alumni offerings here.

Do you accept transfer students?

When evaluating credit for transfer, Bennington only reviews official transcripts from accredited colleges and universities. The student must be accepted into the Writing Seminars program before submitting a transcript from an accredited low-residency or traditional MFA program from which they have received credit. On occasion, the College may require supporting materials such as a college bulletin, course description, course work, or syllabus in order to evaluate credit for transfer. The Executive Director of the Writing Seminars and the Registrar must approve the credit transfer. If approved, Bennington will accept the transfer of one semester’s credits (16 credits of work).

All College decisions regarding transfer credit are final. Please see our complete transfer credit policy for more details.

Where can I find information for international students?

International Student Services (ISS) supports international students as they strive to achieve their educational, professional, and personal objectives. International Student Advisors provide advising services with respect to immigration and visa matters, work permission, orientation, cultural adjustment, and personal concerns as well as academic advising through Academic Services.

How much does the program cost?

A Bennington MFA remains an excellent value. Our tuition includes room and board and is quite competitive among other low-residency programs. We award 16 credits per term. Tuition and fees are listed on our Tuition and Fees page. Tuition bills typically go out by mid-April for summer term, with payment of the total balance (after financial aid and scholarships) due by May 22; winter term bills go out by mid-October with payment due in full by December 1.

What financial aid might I be eligible for?

As a Master of Fine Arts candidate, you may be eligible for funding through the Federal Direct Student Loan Program (if you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident). The application process requires that you complete a FAFSA (using the FAFSA-IRS data confirmation process, if possible). Writing Seminars aid applicants will receive a web ID from the Bennington College Financial Aid Office in order to complete the form. For more information on financial aid, please review Bennington's Financial Aid webpage or, with specific questions, contact Michelle Rodda ( or 802-440-4325).

What scholarships are available?

Our scholarships are given based on a combination of merit and need, and with awareness that it is good for our community to maintain an aesthetically and socially diverse community of literary artists. The committee prioritizes diversity, equity, and inclusion when making scholarship decisions.

All students are considered for merit-based scholarships and should check the box on the application if they'd like to be considered for a scholarship in a particular category. Awardees will be notified of their scholarship amount in their acceptance letter. Scholarships are applied across a student's four/five terms.

Not everyone receives scholarship support but most every student is at Bennington thanks to a combination of financial aid (loans) and scholarship support.

Do applicants need to complete a FAFSA in order to be considered for scholarships/grants?

Students are not required to complete a FAFSA and the Bennington Financial Aid application unless they need to borrow a federal unsubsidized loan.

All students are considered for merit-based scholarships and should check the box on the application if they'd like to be considered for a scholarship in a particular category. Awardees will be notified of their scholarship amount in their acceptance letter. Scholarships are applied across a student's four/five terms.

What are the dates of the upcoming residencies and terms?

Our 10-day residencies are held on the Bennington campus each January and June. The next two residencies will be held January 9-19, 2025 (Winter 2025 term runs January 9-May 31, 2025) and June 5-15, 2025 (Summer 2025 term runs June 5-November 30, 2025).

How do I apply and when?

Application deadlines are September 1 (for admission to the Winter term beginning with the January residency) and March 1 (for the Summer term beginning with the June residency.) Our faculty admissions readers work quickly after the application deadline, and we usually notify applicants within a month. You may apply here. We look forward to seeing your application.

When can I expect to hear whether I've been accepted or not?

Following the application deadlines (March 1 for Summer; September 1 for Winter), our faculty admissions readers work quickly, and we typically notify our applicants of our admission decisions with a month.

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Questions? We can help

You can find all manner of information on our webpages, and we encourage you to pay particular attention to the outcomes page and to the program requirements. If you’d like further information, please inquire here and one of our staff members will be in touch.