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The Creative Writing Program and the Department of English of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are pleased to announce the Thomas Wolfe Scholarship, which offers full four-year financial support to one incoming freshman per year.

The Thomas Wolfe Scholarship’s level of support is comparable to that of the University’s well-known Morehead Scholarships. Whereas the Morehead Scholarship places broad emphasis on a candidate’s exemplary leadership, community service, academic excellence, and physical vigor, the Thomas Wolfe Scholarship seeks to identify and reward students with exceptionally focused literary ability and promise.


Current Winner

Previous Winners

Application Information

The Thomas Wolfe Scholarship will accept applications for its 20th national search beginning September 1st, 2020.

Please note that our application process involves two separate steps and two different dates, and all applicants must take both steps and meet both deadlines, to wit: Thomas Wolfe Scholarship applicants must apply to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill by the University’s October 15th, 2020 EARLY admission deadline and must meet all academic requirements for EARLY admission; and 2) Scholarship applicants must also apply to The Thomas Wolfe Scholarship, with the deadline for submissions to the Scholarship being November 15th, 2020 (submissions must be electronically submitted by that date).  These are two distinct application processes and require different forms and separate online submissions.

The Thomas Wolfe Scholarship award, the first of its kind at UNC-Chapel Hill, will be based largely on written work submitted by candidates. Artistic merit is the chief criterion of selection. Students who write poetry, fiction, plays, literary non-fiction (personal narratives, memoir, travel and nature essays, literary journalism, belles-lettres) are eligible. Multiple genre submissions are also encouraged. Submissions are limited to one application per student.

The application process requires the submission of up to fifty (50) pages in prose, forty (40) pages in poetry, or sixty (60) in play writing, in English. Students submitting work in MULTIPLE GENRES should submit between 50-60 pages of original work. In addition to completing the application, candidates will submit a five-hundred-word personal essay entitled “Why I Write.”

The age of entering freshmen under The Thomas Wolfe Scholarship shall not exceed twenty-two (22) years. The scholarship is not available to undergraduate college students seeking to transfer to UNC-Chapel Hill from other institutions. All applicants shall be citizens of the United States of America.

The Board of Advisors of The Thomas Wolfe Scholarship may award the scholarship to a new recipient annually. However, the Board of Advisors may decide not to award the scholarship in any given year due to financial constraints, the quality of applicants, or other sufficient reason, in the Board’s sole discretion. The decision of the Board of Advisors will be final. The submission of an application will constitute assent to all conditions and stipulations expressed herein.

Preliminary screening will be completed in early February 2021, with final screening concluding in early March. A minimum of three outstanding candidates will then be brought to the UNC-Chapel Hill campus for interviews, and a final selection of the next Thomas Wolfe Scholar will be made in early April 2021.

Application Materials:

  • WRITING SAMPLE: Submit ON-LINE, a SINGLE WORD document, that includes:
  • Application for The Thomas Wolfe Scholarship completed and emailed with other materials.
  • A personal essay of no more than five hundred (500) words, in which the applicant introduces him or herself as a writer and reader, as someone who aspires toward the writing life, entitled “Why I Write.”
  • Three (3) letters of recommendation in sealed envelopes from people who are able to comment on aspects of your creativity and ambition, including ONE (1) from a teacher who is familiar with your writing and can verify the originality of your submission. (Letters of recommendation will be submitted separately, mailed [Att: Thomas Wolfe Scholarship, 203 Greenlaw Hall, CB #3520, UNC-CH, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3520], on letterhead stationary. They MUST be postmarked no later than NOVEMBER 15, 2020.)
  • WRITING SAMPLE: Submit ON-LINE, a SINGLE WORD document, that includes 1) A copy of the APPLICATION with your responses (application is provided on the TWS Web site); 2) Your 500-word “Why I Write” narrative; 3) A TABLE OF CONTENTS, indicating titles (and genres) of work submitted; 4) Your original work, in order listed by your table of contents. SUBMISSIONS DO NOT OPEN UNTIL SEPT. 1. Submit to
    • If you are submitting FICTION, 25 pages, double-spaced, minimum; 50 pages, double-spaced maximum. You may submit short stories, a novella, or chapters from a novel-in-progress. If submitting a longer work, please include a one-page synopsis of the project.
    • If you are submitting POETRY, 20 pages minimum; 40 pages maximum.
    • If you are submitting a DRAMATIC WORK, one full-length play, 40-60 pages, maximum OR two to three one-act plays, 40-60 pages combined maximum.
    • If you are submitting LITERARY JOURNALISM or CREATIVE NON-FICTION (personal narratives, travel or nature essays, book or film criticism, profiles, memoir, belles-lettres), 25 pages double-spaced minimum, 50 pages double-spaced maximum.
    • If you are submitting in MULTIPLE GENRES, 25 pages minimum, 60 pages maximum.
  • YOUR SUBMISSION MUST BE COMPLETE at the time you electronically submit it. Requests for additions, updates, revisions will not be honored. Incomplete submissions will automatically disqualify the applicant.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • If I am selected as the Thomas Wolfe Scholar, do I have to take creative writing classes at UNC?It is assumed by our Advisory Committee that only students who are deeply committed to the written word, the love of literature, the art of writing will apply for the Wolfe Scholarship. If students are applying for a scholarship that honors writing talent, it is also assumed that students will want to continue their study of writing at the college level. Students may choose to major in any discipline, but the Wolfe Scholar must agree to minor in Creative Writing.
  • What if I’ve started college elsewhere or taken classes after high school graduation that would count as college credit?To qualify as a candidate for the Wolfe Scholarship, you must plan to enter UNC-CH as a freshman. College credits accumulated elsewhere, if transferable, should not exceed six hours, exclusive of AP and IB credits. You will be required to take a minimum of 12 hours each semester and complete your degree in four years. Students must be no older than 22 years of age and a U.S. citizen.
  • I’m confused about the number of pages to send. If I am sending poems, for example, and one poem takes up half a page, should I begin the next poem on that same page, or should I write one poem per page?One poem per page is fine. If you are a prose writer and a story or essay ends half-way down a page, you may begin your next story or essay on a new page.
  • Is the Thomas Wolfe Scholarship judged separately from a regular UNC application?Yes. The Thomas Wolfe Scholarship Program is altogether separate from UNC’s Office of Admissions. Our committee works with Admissions and often shares application information when it is in a candidate’s best interest. Candidates for the Wolfe Scholarship should plan to submit applications to the Office of Admissions by their October 15th deadline. DO NOT send Admission materials along with your Wolfe application! Admissions packets should be sent under separate cover to the UNC Admissions Office.  Applications/submissions for the Scholarship itself should be sent to The Thomas Wolfe Scholarship by our November 15th deadline.
  • When will I be notified about the status of my application?This year’s deadline for materials is November 15 . Your application will be read by several preliminary readers. You will receive notice in mid-to-late February indicating whether or not you have advanced as a semi-finalist. From the semi-finalist list, the Advisory Committee will select approximately 3-5 finalists who will be notified in early March of their status and invited to campus for further interviews. The new Wolfe Scholar will be named by mid-April.
  • Am I at a disadvantage if I’ve never published anything or won a writing contest?No. Many high school students who are excellent writers have never published their work. Your application will be evaluated on the basis of your giving evidence of genuine artistry.
  • Should I send SAT scores and high school transcripts in my application?No. Although we expect Wolfe Scholars to make good grades, our primary interest is in evaluating your writing skills.
  • In my writing submission, are any subjects taboo?There are no restrictions whatsoever placed on content. Censorship of manuscripts is prohibited by the Advisory Board.
  • I have used profanity in some of my writing. When I apply, should I include or omit works that have “language”?Applicants should not feel inhibited by the fact that what they deem superior work contains profanity. We can tell when an author, in being true to his or her characters, is letting them speak in their own voices, however profane and/or unsettling those voices may be from time to time, and when, on the other hand, an author is using profanity merely for sensational effect, in a simplistic attempt to engage the reader with shock value, rather than real wit and literary style.

For more information:

Marianne Gingher or Bland Simpson, Co-Directors of The Thomas Wolfe Scholarship Program.

Please e-mail questions to or