20 Best Small Colleges for Writing

As a student writer seeking the best colleges for skill development, it is important to consider English departments that provide a wide range of opportunities to grow and contribute both in and outside the classroom. In compiling this ranked list of 20 best colleges for writing, we selected academic communities with a net price comparatively lower than similar institutions of this size and curriculum focus. We awarded points based on the presence of degree options for writers of different specialties; extracurricular newspapers or literary journals; scholar-level faculty; multiple financial aid options; and any additional features that help writers best pursue their career path. The 20 colleges profiled here scored the highest among schools with maximum enrollment of 7,000 students and a net price (per College Navigator) of $32,000 USD or less.

The schools profiled below are ranked in order of points earned; in the event of a tie in points, the schools with the lower net price are ranked higher. The following serves as a guide for students seeking the best deal on small colleges for writing.

Ranking the Best Colleges for Writing--Smaller Schools

#20– New England College

Henniker, New Hampshire



Points: 10
Enrollment: 2,399
Net Price/Tuition: $27,994

Established in 1946 in a small town in New Hampshire, New England College is perfect for the student seeking a quaint academic learning environment. NEC’s English department offers a competitive degree in creative writing, and students on this track immerse themselves in a multi-disciplinary curriculum spanning most genres of literature and writing styles. This college is keen on encouraging students to become critical thinkers and original voices in the art of writing. NEC publishes a newspaper called The New Englander and an annual literary magazine called Henniker Review.

#19 – Manhattanville College

Purchase, New York



Points: 10
Enrollment: 2,865
Net Price/Tuition: $24,570

Found just north of New York City, Manhattanville College is a private liberal arts school with promising offerings to the growing writer. The writing classes at MC focus on building a strong narrative voice in any genre a student writer chooses to specialize. English writing courses are taught by current professional writers in the fields of playwriting, fiction, poetry, journalism, writing for media, and several others. Manhattanville additionally has an accelerated BA in English / MFA in Creative Writing program, to which students can apply for consideration.

#18 – Hamline University

St. Paul, Minnesota



Points: 10
Enrollment: 4,469
Net Price/Tuition: $21,849

Hamline University, a vibrant midwestern liberal arts school, is the oldest higher education institution in the state of Minnesota. The English major at Hamline offers student writers the option to specialize in either creative or professional writing. The curriculum for the English degree tracks cover a wide range of literature genres, and students are also encouraged to contribute to extracurricular opportunities outside the classroom. Some of these contribution opportunities for writers include the award-winning college newspaper (the Oracle) and the campus literary journal. Hamline offers a series of competitive scholarships to writers of exceptional skill level.

#17 – Bryn Mawr College

Plainfield, Vermont



Points: 11
Enrollment: 1,709
Net Price/Tuition: $31,285

Bryn Mawr College, of rural Vermont, is a quaint liberal arts school that celebrates the art of the written word. Creative writing students at this institution are encouraged to develop their skills in fiction, playwriting, screenwriting, nonfiction, poetry, and other genres at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Bryn Mawr is also home to several student-run literary magazines that lend publishing opportunities to interested writers and editors. This institution has also designed a range of literary contests that are open to all students of multiple writing disciplines.

#16 – Bradley University

Peoria, Illinois



Points: 11
Enrollment: 5,300
Net Price/Tuition: $27,451

Founded in 1897 in downtown Peoria, Illinois, Bradley University is a respected academic community with a student body of just over 5,000. Student writers at Bradley can major in English with either a creative or professional writing concentration. For over 25 years, Bradley’s English department has hosted a “Visiting Writers Series” which brings together established and emerging writers through workshops, public readings, and other engagement opportunities. This college also publishes a literary journal called Broadside, which is increasingly popular among writers seeking to have their work more widely recognized.

#15 – Goddard College

Plainfield, Vermont



Points: 11
Enrollment: 538
Net Price/Tuition: $24,562

Goddard College, a liberal arts institution in Plainfield, Vermont, has a student body of just over 500, lending to a highly personalized learning experience. The academics at Goddard include a BFA in creative writing, where students are pushed to experiment and broaden their skills in multiple genres of the field. The student writer also learns literary theory, editing, the ethics of becoming a writer, and other relevant topics to prepare a successful career. The creative writing BFA is additionally attainable through a low-residency model, where students can earn credits in a series of eight-day course intensives, rather than throughout the academic year.

#14 – Austin College

Sherman, Texas



Points: 11
Enrollment: 1,301
Net Price/Tuition: $21,875

Austin College, a private liberal arts college in Sherman, Texas is a small academic community with a student-to-faculty ratio of 12:1. This college encourages individualized learning, and writers seeking a specialized degree receive an interdisciplinary education that crosses paths with other departments. Austin College is home to two English department publications, one based in literature and the other based in the best of student academic research submissions. 70% of Austin graduates engage in international study, and 90% of faculty hold a Ph.D. or equivalent degrees in their field.

#13 – Macalester College

St. Paul, Minnesota



Points: 12
Enrollment: 2,073
Net Price/Tuition: $27,999

Macalester College, of the city of St. Paul, Minnesota, has a vibrant and diverse writer community on its campus. For the student in pursuit of a writing degree, the English department has a scholar-level, award-winning faculty that is eager to nurture aspiring writers of all disciplines. There are multiple writing contests throughout the academic year, encouraging submissions from poets, essayists, fiction authors, and others. The Macalester Academic Excellence Center (MAX) is a great resource for students seeking workshops, tutoring, and other tools to strengthen their writing skills, regardless of major.

#12 – Hamilton College

Clinton, NY



Points: 12
Enrollment: 44,784
Net Price/Tuition: $27,255

Hamilton College, a small liberal arts school in upstate New York, has a rich history of strong academics and a selective admissions process. For students seeking to hone their skills as writers, Hamilton’s literature and creative writing department offers extensive courses. Some of the writing course categories include history, genre, identity and difference, single author, and theory. This wide range of curriculum coverage ensures that all graduating writers have a versatile foundation. Hamilton College is also home to the Nesbitt-Johnston Writing Center, established to strengthen the writing skills of students in any course of study.

#11– Emory & Henry College

Emory, Virginia



Points: 12
Enrollment: 1,038
Net Price/Tuition: $18,661

Emory & Henry College of Virginia is a great choice for incoming students seeking a nurturing, small liberal arts academic environment. Writers have many options for their educational growth at this college, as E&H offers curriculum spanning all genres of writing disciplines. The college established what is known as the Lyceum series, where visiting creative writers reflect on their process, host discussions, and share professional wisdom with interested students. Emory & Henry has multiple grant and scholarship opportunities for students of all levels of financial need.

#10 – Albion College

Albion, Michigan



Points: 13
Enrollment: 1,268
Net Price/Tuition: $24,906

Recently ranked among U.S. News & World Report's top national liberal arts colleges, Albion College of Michigan consistently proves itself to be a competitive academic institution. For the aspiring writer, this college's professional writing program is a comprehensive major that prepares students in poetry, journalism, marketing, fiction, grant writing, and other potential careers. Albion’s English writing curriculum is structured to include diverse topics in the field. Writing majors learn to analyze literature, develop persuasive written arguments, and build a confident voice in the writing specialization of their choice.

#9 – Wofford College

Spartanburg, South Carolina



Points: 13
Enrollment: 1,658
Net Price/Tuition: $24,731

Founded in 1854 in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Wofford College has a rich history of strong liberal arts academics and tight-knit campus community. For students seeking a degree in writing, Wofford’s creative writing opportunities are especially recognized, with a widely circulated literary magazine, and the Ben Wofford Prize, which is a publishing opportunity for book-length writing endeavors. The award-winning faculty members of Wofford’s writing department are internationally published and are frequent recipients of fellowships. This college’s considerable financial resources allow for 91% of students to receive generous tuition assistance.

#8 – Beloit College

Beloit, Wisconsin



Points: 13
Enrollment: 1,303
Net Price/Tuition: $24,230

Beloit College of Wisconsin is a selective liberal arts school with promising options for student writers. The writing program at this college encourages an individualized approach to learning, recognizing that all students have different talents and strengths. All first-year students are required to take three designated writing courses related to the study area of their choice. The Lois Mackey Distinguished Writers Program is one of the highlights of Beloit, where established writers host a series of advanced-level courses, public readings, and other campus events.

#7 – Otterbein University

Westerville, Ohio



Points: 13
Enrollment: 2,791
Net Price/Tuition: $26,200

Consistently ranked among U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges”, Otterbein University is a small liberal arts college with strong options for incoming writers. The mission of this college’s English department is to inspire students to become imaginative, expressive, well-rounded writers. Otterbein’s curriculum encompasses both historic and contemporary literature, allowing students to find inspiration in many genres of writing. Additionally, the college sponsors visiting writers and literary scholars who lend their expertise to students seeking additional guidance for their work.

#6 – Bennington College

Bennington, Vermont



Points: 14
Enrollment: 755
Net Price/Tuition: $31,995

Bennington College, located on a scenic campus in Vermont, is a highly selective institution with a student body of only 755. This small community creates a personalized learning approach in the classroom. Writing majors at Bennington enjoy a well-rounded education that is focused on learning about playwrights, novelists, poets, essayists, and other genres in literature. For those seeking additional creative writing outlets, Bennington sponsors student-run publications including The Bennington Free Press, SILO, and an online student literary magazine called plain china.

#5 – Wesleyan University

MIddletown, Connecticut



Points: 14
Enrollment: 3,224
Net Price/Tuition: $24,156

Wesleyan University, a nationally respected institution in Connecticut, is a scholarly academic environment for growing writers. The campus is home to writing professionals including poets, journalists, fiction authors, essayists, and others. The writer community is both supportive and competitive, with a number of prizes awarded to those who display exceptional abilities in the craft. Wesleyan is also home to an annual writers conference, which includes a series of guest speakers, panel discussions, mentoring sessions, master classes, and other valuable opportunities for writers at all levels of their career.

#4 – Colorado College

Colorado Springs, Colorado



Points: 14
Enrollment: 2,067
Net Price/Tuition: $24,141

Colorado College of Colorado Springs is a small, competitive liberal arts college with a wider spectrum of academic options for the budding writer. The creative writing major has an especially rigorous degree track spanning topics such as poetry, literary theory, Greek Drama, Shakespeare, multicultural literature works, and several writing intensive workshops. Colorado College’s writing majors are regularly considered for awards of distinction in this field of work. This college makes a number of merit-based scholarships available to both incoming and current students.

#3 – Colby College

Waterville, Maine



Points: 14
Enrollment: 1,847
Net Price/Tuition: $18,477

Colby College, of Waterville, Maine, prides itself on developing strong graduates in a diverse range of academics. Colby considers writing to be a key component for students who wish to succeed in almost any career path. The mission of this college’s writing program is to provide the tools to communicate clearly and thoughtfully as students take on professional careers. Colby’s Farnham’s Writing Center is a world-class facility, staffed with faculty and peers who strengthen the writing skills of students of all backgrounds.

#2 – Brandeis University

Waltham, Massachusetts



Points: 15
Enrollment: 5,945
Net Price/Tuition: $26,367

Among the nation’s most prestigious institutions, Brandeis University is known for its academic excellence in a broad spectrum of study areas. Students of the writing department are invited to explore poetry, literature, independent studies, fiction, and other creative courses of study designed to help writers build a diverse foundation. The campus writing center also serves students of any major who wish to engage in one-to-one tutoring, grammar lessons, and other skill development resources. Brandeis is committed to tuition affordability, and all students are considered for fellowships, grants, and merit-based scholarships.

#1 – Dartmouth College

Hanover, New Hampshire



Points: 15
Enrollment: 6,298
Net Price/Tuition: $21,277

Dartmouth College of New Hampshire is a world-renowned academic community that is an excellent choice for the growing writer. This school engages all first-year students, regardless of choice in major, in an intensive seminar that teaches the many ways one can communicate effectively through writing. This program is designed to prepare students to feel confident in their writing skills as they pursue their specialized degrees. Dartmouth has a unique selection of elective writing courses including Writing with Media, Writing in the Workplace, Fiction Editing, and more.

The preceding is a ranked list of the 20 best deals on small colleges for writers.

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By Tracy Eisenberg
Published August 2016