This is the first of three posts counting down the months to application deadlines. Each post will help you structure your application process, and provide tips and reminders on the components of the application. Allowing yourself three months to prepare for MFA applications gives you enough time to fully prepare the items each MFA application will require:
- An online application
- A creative writing sample
- A statement (personal and/or teaching)
- Letters of recommendation
- A fee
Begin the month with some in-depth research on schools. Create a list of schools based on location, funding, faculty, length of schooling, school reputation or ranking, and program size. These priorities will be personal to you, and there is no right or wrong answer. See who you want to work with, and what special readings, programs, and events each school has to offer. Take notes on the programs and explore what appeals to you. The more you familiarize with a program, the easier it will be to write a personal statement.
Continue to write and revise throughout the entire three months. The creative writing sample accounts for 95%+ of the admission committee’s decision. Giving yourself enough time (months rather than weeks) will ensure that you are able to present a thoughtful and carefully crafted story, novel excerpt, or set of poems. Starting early will also allow you to walk away from the work to refresh, calmly problem-solve, and find a trustworthy reader or two to offer feedback on the writing before deadlines.
Now is also the time to save money. The average cost of a graduate application falls around $60-70. If you plan on applying to five schools, that’s a cost of $300-350. If you’re applying to ten, that’s a hefty $600+. Begin saving for the application fees, and note that there are waivers for low-income writers. These waivers are usually detailed on the application or financial pages of the school.