Graduate School Plans

As my grand road trip adventure comes to a close (only 5 more days before we can move in to our new apartment!) my upcoming application season is heavy on my mind. Every graduate program has it’s own rules and secrets, and for every graduate degree out there, there are reasons not to get one. I have decided to pursue the Creative Writing field through a Master of Fine Arts.

DISCLOSURE: I applied to 9 highly competitive MFA programs this past year, with the hopes that I would be starting school this Fall 2012. I was denied to 8 programs and waitlisted to Louisiana State University’s program. Unfortunately they did not go to their waitlist, nor do I know how high up on their list I ranked. I failed, and there is no one to blame except myself. After a few tears and a lot of thinking/charts, I have decided to re-apply for the Fall of 2013 to 14 different programs. I have quit my job and am changing my life so that I may focus exclusively on writing stories for the applications, as well as making writing my career.

My current goal is to get into a respected, competitive, full time Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program. In general, students select from Poetry, Fiction, Screenwriting, or Creative Non-Fiction as their focuses. My chosen focus is Fiction, however I’m also interested in non-fiction and poetry. The way these applications work is that you apply directly to whatever you would like to focus on.

MFA programs, like many graduate degrees, come in all shapes and sizes. Creative Writing is considered a fine arts field, so the MFA is a terminal degree, or the highest degree that can be awarded for that field. This is confusing though, as there are a growing number of PhD’s in Creative Writing. There are many resources out there that can talk about the pros and cons of the PhD, and opinions on the lessening effect higher education has (ie “everyone” has a Master’s degree now/Bachelor’s degrees are the norm).

The most competitive MFA programs generally take a small number of students each year, waive tuition, and offer a living stipend (enough to cover rent). Some programs are 2 years, others are 3. Either way, one usually takes workshop classes (reading and evaluation your own writing as well as helping others with their work), teach English 101 to undergrads, and spends the final year creating a book length manuscript which will be what you shop around trying to get published.

Right now, I am leaning towards 3 year programs, with guaranteed (or close enough) full funding for all of their students. In other words, I’m not interested in paying  tuition if I don’t have to!

Here are the schools I plan to apply to for their MFA programs:

Iowa State University
Louisiana State University
McNeese State Lake Charles, LA
Ohio State
Purdue in Indiana
U Central Arkansas
U Florida Gainesville
U Mississippi in Oxford (Ole Miss)
U New Mexico
U New Orleans
U South Carolina in Columbia
Virginia Polytechnic Institute
Wichita State University

I will be posting updates with my application journey this time around, from writing my samples and personal essays to the decisions as they come in. Ideally, the majority of my writing samples should be done by August, then I will be able to start submitting applications October through January. Most of the decision letters will get mailed or emailed to me mid-March through the end of April. If you come across this and have any questions for me about the application process or what I went through last year I am happy to share. Wish me luck!

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