College of Creative Studies Literature Program (founded by literary critic Marvin Mudrick in 1968)In response to "Students’ applications are often highly original" - originality is great of course, but I believe the key is that the application shows a strong enthusiasm for writing instead of just fulfilling writing assignments.
Students are admitted based on work in evidence of talent: poems, short stories, memoirs, and/or essays. Students’ applications are often highly original.
The curriculum concentrates on major literary figures in English and other literatures. There are no lecture, introductory or survey courses in writing or in literature. In English these major figures have always included Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton.
Depth rather than breadth distinguishes the seminars: Readings are close, intense, and ambitious, i.e., it is not unusual that many texts of a single author might be covered in a quarter.
Students approach literature as writers.
Through deep immersion in the works of a single author or a few authors, and instructor-guided close readings, the CCS Lit student refines his or her ability to respond to literature, builds the skills necessary for literary analysis, and gains the knowledge necessary to become an excellent writer.
The notion that the qualities that distinguish good writing are the same across genres—clarity, precision, suppleness of language, vitality of voice, freshness and passion—inform the curriculum and evaluation of student work. The flexible curriculum often includes contemporary or under-represented authors, and works in new genres.
CCS faculty include working poets or writers of fiction, able to serve as mentors to developing writers.
Creative writing courses—the writing of verse, the writing of narrative prose–build the skills of emerging writers in the program but also help students become better readers—more critical and more sensitive to language.
The CCS Literary Symposium offers students continued exposure to a wide range of working writers and is part of the curriculum: speakers have included U.S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan, Pulitzer prize-winning food writer, Jonathan Gold, novelist Maxine Hong-Kingston, playwright Eve Ensler, writer of fiction and documentary film maker Lisa Teasley, and writer of fiction Reyna Grande.
The writerly focus of CCS Lit serves the University as a whole and the English department in particular by nourishing young writers, by serving their literary point of view, and publishing them in Spectrum and Into the Teeth of the Wind.
CCS Lit has served its students well for over 45 years: Graduates have become novelists, poets, lawyers, journalists, playwrights, film and television writers, and scholars, and have been accepted into distinguished and highly selective graduate schools.
Also, it's likely that "The curriculum concentrates on major literary figures in English and other literatures" was accurate when these alumni were students, but a lot of my Literature classes were on specific movements or themes instead of specific authors.
And there are an increasing number of recent graduates who are technical writers and editors (like me), which is great and worth mentioning too.