Honors Program

The Creative Writing Honors Program, 2022-2023

Application deadline: Wednesday, September 14, 2022, 5pm
Final thesis submission deadline: Wednesday, April 5, 2023, 5pm

Each year, the Creative Writing Program gives a small group of students the opportunity to write a creative thesis for consideration of Honors in English. The goal is for students to envision and complete a substantial creative project that serves as the capstone of their creative writing careers at Penn. Students wishing to undertake a creative writing thesis apply the fall semester of their senior year with a robust and substantive proposal that includes a writing sample and supporting bibliography. The writing sample can be (but is not required to be) the beginnings of the final thesis project. Students then complete the thesis in consultation with an advisor during the spring semester of their senior year. The main body of the thesis consists of an extensive piece of creative writing: a novel or novel excerpt, collection of stories, collection of poems, long poem, play, screenplay, sequence of essays, long-form nonfiction, documentary nonfiction, photojournalism, creative monograph, etc. The thesis is prefaced by a substantive critical commentary of eight to ten pages that describes the intellectual, theoretical, and/or aesthetic context or background to the work and narrates the procedure or methodology used to create the thesis.

Admission to the Creative Writing Honors Program is selective, and successful thesis projects are conferred the distinction of Honors in English at graduation. Enrollment in the Honors Program does not guarantee that the final project will earn Honors. To merit this distinction, final theses must receive the enthusiastic approval of both the student’s thesis advisor and a second reader. 

To get a sense of project possibilities, watch a recording of our 2022 thesis reading here.


A student is eligible to apply if they a) will be a senior in fall 2022; b) are declared as an English major with a concentration in creative writing; c) have a 3.6 or higher GPA in the major; and d) have taken one, and preferably two, workshops in the genre of their projected thesis. Students outside the creative writing concentration and students with a creative writing or journalistic writing minor will be considered on a case by case basis. Completed applications are due Wednesday, September 14, 2022, 5pm, via email to Dr. Julia Bloch. Applications should include the following:

1. A completed Creative Writing Honors Program Application Form, which includes the name of your proposed thesis advisor [download here

In one single document:

2. A 500-word proposal outlining the scope and ambitions of the project 

3. A sample of writing of up to 15 pages in the genre of the proposed project 

4. A bibliography of at least 5 sources that inform your project: these can include primary text or media sources; secondary sources that provide historical, theoretical, or aesthetic context; or materials that otherwise inform your proposal, including literary and journalistic texts, films, artworks, performances, or other media

Candidates are responsible for confirming their own thesis advisors; you should send that faculty member a draft of your proposal in advance of the application deadline (by the end of the spring semester or very beginning of fall).

Candidates will be notified of their application status before spring semester advance registration.

Upon admission

In the spring semester, candidates whose applications are approved enroll in an Independent Study supervised by the thesis advisor. Candidates are required to attend an informational session in the fall with the Director of Creative Writing, at which we will discuss deadlines and tools for completing the thesis. So that they can pace themselves during the thesis writing term and meet the final April deadline, candidates should plan to send the beginnings of a draft to their advisors by the beginning of the spring semester.

The final draft of the Honors thesis is due Wednesday, April 5, 2023, 5pm. Each thesis is read by both the thesis advisor and at least one additional reader, both of whom must agree with the student's advisor before conferring Honors on the project.

The spring Independent Study is subject to the same terms as any other course, including the Drop and Withdrawal deadlines. Projects that do not receive Honors are still eligible for course credit.

If you would like to discuss your candidacy for Honors or have questions about your project, please contact Dr. Julia Bloch.

For information on writing a critical thesis in English, visit the English Department website.