Friday, August 27, 2010

Pursuing the MFA, Part II

If you are thinking about getting an MFA degree in Writing (see my prior post), here are a few things to consider when researching programs, not necessarily in this order:
  1. Location:
    Are you willing to move across town or across the country? Or commute? Consider the school's and city's size, climate and culture. (I drive 60 miles each way 1-2 evenings per week, against rush hour traffic and across the lovely Golden Gate.)
  2. Genre:
    Do you want to learn with fiction or nonfiction writers, or poets? Do you want a program that includes screenplay writing or children's/YA writing? Cross-genre opportunites? (I'm on a nonfiction track, but I can try on fiction/poetry too.)
  3. Cost:
    Does the school offer teaching fellowships, scholarships, tuition waivers? A surprising number of schools  offer a tuition-free ride. (Since I chose to stay home instead of move somewhere like freezing Philadelphia, those options weren't available, but I was blessed with a $10,000 merit award. That still leaves me with a $25,500 subsidized student loan. Ouch.)
  4. Faculty:
    Read their books and check out their websites. Find people you'd like to work with. Attend a class, a panel, or orientation. Talk to at least one faculty member. Consider quality of instruction as important as writing. (Go USF!)
  5. Program structure: Low residency allows you to resume your life at home while you attend on-site classes during two annual week-long intensives, requiring online interactions. Not to mention travel schedules and costs. (I decided it was not for me.)
  6. Professional development:
    Look for internships at the literary journal, T.A.ships, research assistance positions. Does the school connect students with editors and agents? Does it alert students to contests and publishing opportunities? Is there a bridge to "life after the MFA"?
  7. Academic rigor:
    How competitive is the program? What is the defining criteria for applicants? (1 in 6 USF applicants were chosen this year for 46 slots.) 
  8. Course offerings:
    Check out the availability of courses, reading lists and graduate requirements. (Poring over a binder of nonfiction course syllabi sold me.)
For more resources on MFA programs, check out The MFA Weblog and The Creative Writing MFA Handbook.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...