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The west coast has Hollywood, but the east coast is home to some of the country’s top Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting programs, including several in another major entertainment hub, New York City.

If you’re considering an MFA in Screenwriting helps you develop your craft, build your professional portfolio, and make connections with others interested in telling a story. An MFA can prove to be a valuable tool to help propel you into a career as a screenwriter while growing a network of industry professionals.

Here are 6 of the top MFA in Screenwriting Programs on the East Coast.

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New York University – Tisch
New York City
  • 2 years, Master of Fine Arts in Dramatic Writing
  • $65,926 per year
Known as one of the top screenwriting programs in the country, the Rita and Burton Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing focuses on developing students to write in all areas of dramatic writing, including film, television, and playwriting. The faculty consists of working professionals with credits in areas like major Broadway productions, commercial and independent film, and popular television shows.

Ranked at No. 3 on Hollywood Reporter’s 2020 list of Top Film Schools, the program prides itself on its hands-on curriculum with students beginning to write in their first semester. While classes are largely workshop-oriented, students also take classes in textual analysis to help them fully grasp the art of filmmaking.

To apply to Tisch, prospective students are required to submit the NYU graduate application as well as include their resume, statement of intent outlining their personal and professional interest in the program, two letters of recommendation, official transcripts, and their creative portfolio. The most important part of the application is the quality of writing submitted by an applicant, which can be a full-length play or screenplay or up to two TV pilots.

Learn more about NYU Tisch’s application requirements here.

Columbia University's School of the Arts

Columbia University's School of the Arts

In 2022, Columbia University SOA was ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the no. 6 best global university. Its Bachelor of Arts in Film and Media Studies Program combines film studies with hands-on filmmaking laboratories. Alumni include director Anna Boden (Captain Marvel, Half Nelson) and...

Colombia – School of the Arts
New York City
  • 3-4 years, Master of Fine Arts in Film and Screenwriting
  • $62,912 per year
Colombia’s Ivy League MFA program in screenwriting/directing takes a holistic view at the film industry. Students in the program take all of their first year classes as well as some of their second year electives with those in the Creative Producing program where curriculum combines producing, directing, and writing. This creates a natural environment for students to network, collaborate, and form relationships and for screenwriters to pitch their scripts to producers. After two years of workshops and courses, students then spend one-to-two years working on their thesis project and research.

Faculty at Colombia includes veterans of the industry and students are encouraged to take advantage of being in New York City to create their projects. Admission to the program includes Colombia’s graduate application, official transcripts, three letters of recommendation, an autobiographical essay, a scene based on a prompt, a dramatic writing sample, and a feature film treatment.

Find more information on applying to Colombia here.

Boston University - College of Communication (M.F.A. Screenwriting)

Boston University - College of Communication (M.F.A. Screenwriting)

A well-rounded screenwriter is a more effective screenwriter. That’s why a well-rounded curriculum lies at the heart of Boston University’s ...

Boston University – College of Communications
  • 2 years, Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting
  • Tuition: $57,686/year
Boston University takes the approach of “a well-rounded screenwriting is a more effective screenwriter” in their MFA in Screenwriting program. Students explore writing for different genres and mediums, develop their own ideas and adaptions, create spec scripts for current television shows, and conceptualize their own pilot idea. They also learn the business side of the screenwriting industry.

A unique twist to Boston’s University’s screenwriting program is that students spend their final semester studying in Los Angeles while completing an internship. Throughout their two years, students are taught by award-winning faculty. The admission process includes an official application, transcripts, three recommendation letters, resume, written and videoed answers through BU’s online platform, a personal statement, and two writing samples.

Learn more about Boston University’s application process here.

Emerson College - MFA in Writing for Film and Television

Emerson College - MFA in Writing for Film and Television

To stay competitive in today’s market, film and television writers need to be able to work across platforms and genres.

Emerson College
Boston, Los Angeles, Online
  • 2 years, Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Film and Television
  • Tuition: $1,296 per credit
Emerson’s MFA in Writing for Film and Television program is a hybrid approach to becoming a screenwriter. The low residency program starts with a week-long residency at the start of each semester with fall sessions being held in Boston and spring sessions in Los Angeles. Students then take two online courses with all work being submitted electronically. Feedback will then be received through virtual or phone meetings.

Students in Emerson’s program will leave with a portfolio that includes short and feature screenplays, an original pilot, an additional script, and a critical essay. Faculty members work directly with students at the beginning of each semester to discuss their ideas and serve as mentors throughout the program.

Emerson requires an application, resume, transcripts, a personal essay answering several questions provided by Emerson, a writing sample that can be a screenplay, prose, or poetry, and two recommendation letters.

Learn more about how to apply to Emerson here.

Stony Brook University (SUNY)

Stony Brook University (SUNY)

The Stony Brook MFA in Film is the only graduate program in the SUNY system fiercely dedicated to independent filmmaking. Our approach is simple — roll up your sleeves and dive in. With today's technology, all you need is a well-crafted story, a realistic plan, and the drive to make it happen...

Stony Brook
New York City
  • 2 years, Master of Fine Arts in Film and Television
  • Tuition: $8,573.50 in-state/ $14,468.50 out-of-sate plus cost of attendance
Stony Brook’s MFA in Film and Television Writing takes a hands-on approach. While Stony Brook’s main campus is located in Long Island, this program takes place at the Stony Brook Manhattan Center for Creative Writing and Film in Manhattan, exposing students to New York’s bustling entertainment industry.

At Stony Brook, students are taught how to create a tightly woven story from concept to completion. Students choose a track in either television writing or screenwriting where their curriculum is highly specialized in their interests. Faculty members include working professionals and industry experts.

The application process at Stony Brook includes an application, three letters of recommendation, a resume, statement of purpose, a video pitch, a scene based on a prompt, a logline describing a project you want to create, and a writing sample.

Learn more about Stony Brook’s admission process here.

Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Brooklyn College is excellent for film school students interested in taking advantage of New York’s independent film scene while watching their budgets. The film school offers an interdisciplinary curriculum that combines intensive academic study with hands-on learning. Plus, the program...

Brooklyn College – Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema
  • 3 years, Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting
  • $10,567 in-state residents/ $15,282 out-of-state per semester
Brooklyn College’s MFA in Screenwriting program focuses on the art of storytelling and the ideas that inspire it. In addition to writing workshops, students take classes in cinema history as well as production and post-production to understand the broader goals of filmmaking and form connections. The last two semesters of the three-year program are a thesis sequence in which the student creates two feature screenplays.

The application process for Brooklyn College includes an application, transcripts, two letters of recommendation, a resume, a statement of purpose, a short script not exceeding 10 pages in length, and two one-page synopses for feature film scripts you intend to write in the future.

Learn more about applying to Brooklyn College here.

Interested in MFA programs on the west coast? Check our article, 10 Top MFA in Screenwriting Programs in California.

Want to know more about these and other MFA programs? Visit’s Film School Rankings and Reviews for reviews on programs by both current students and alumni.

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About author
Sarah is a first-year MFA student in LMU's Writing and Producing for Television program. When she's not developing pilots, she's drinking coffee or whiskey, playing with her dog, cheering on the Tennessee Vols, or doing all the above at the beach.


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