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Application Deadline: February 1, 2021

Dear Prospective Applicant:  

Thank you for your interest in our program.  Applicants often ask us about the profile of a successful candidate. Like most competitive programs, we get more applicants than we can admit, and those we admit usually possess profiles that exceed the minimum criteria. Here are some things to consider as you decide whether our program is the right fit for you.  The application requirements are further below.

Our successful candidate is one who has an excellent proficiency in the source language; a deep and sustained passion for literature, literary study, and creative writing; a compelling portfolio that shows promise in the art of literary translation; and an abiding interest in international literature and global literary exchanges.  Many of our applicants have spent a semester or a year in a country where their source language is spoken. We welcome bi-lingual and multi-lingual applicants as well as those with a strong and active heritage language. We also admit international students who possess near-native proficiency in English. Alongside valuing creative writing and foreign language skills, we also value analytic and critical skills, as we hope to produce translators who can translate but also reflect and write about translation.

Because there is no formal undergraduate degree program in translation in the US, we make every effort to evaluate applicants holistically: some have attained bachelor’s degrees recently or some time ago, while others hold advanced degrees including the MA or MFA. We welcome graduates of world languages, comparative literature, creative writing, and literary studies, but also of programs in the social sciences, fine arts, and natural sciences so long as they demonstrate commitment to the literary arts.

About language matches: while the majority of our students translate from world languages in which we have faculty mentors, we also admit students translating from other languages, provided that they demonstrate excellent source language proficiency.    


Application Deadline: February 1, 2021

Please provide the following materials when seeking admission to Iowa's MFA in Literary Translation Program:

  1. UIOWA Graduate Program Application - electronically submitted. NOTE: Please select “Literary Translation” in the Graduate Program Application under "Department or Program."

  2. Portfolio of Writing - 8-10 pages of literary translations into English (along with source texts); 6-8 pages of original writing in English, critical or literary.

  3. Statement of Purpose - In a well-organized essay (600 words, written in English), describe why you are seeking admission to our MFA in Literary Translation program; how your current and past experiences have prepared you for graduate study in this field; your future academic and career plans; and any additional information that may aid in evaluating your candidacy. Include in your statement your address, telephone number, and e-mail address.

  4. Copies of Transcripts

  5. Three Letters of Recommendation - To be uploaded by the recommenders, these are signed letters on official letterhead to assist us in judging the applicant's potential for graduate study.  Letters should include the basis for the recommenders' judgment and, particularly, their assessment of the applicant's strengths and weaknesses, ability and motivation to succeed in graduate school.

  6. Supplemental MFA Application Form - Complete and upload it to your Admissions Profile.

  7. Official TOEFL or IELTS score is required for applicants whose native language is not English. The Graduate College minimum TOEFL score is:

  • Paper-based (PBT)  550
  • Internet-based (iBT)  81
  • DuoLingo (DET) 105
  • IELTS Overall score of 7 with no subscore less than 6

You should also provide evidence of advanced competence in the foreign language (normally three years or its equivalent  of college level work), and substantial preparation in English literature.

A further consideration is the availability of faculty in the applicant's source language and culture.

For questions, please email Aron Aji, program director,