Bowling Green, Indiana University and Ohio State are now updated.
All Eastern MFA programs have been updated!
These updates are only possible with your help. Consider a donation of $10, $15 or $20 today.
3 worthwhile reasons to donate today:
- Directly fund the time and resources needed to update all schools (22 schools remaining; 13 schools updated as of now!)
- Hear directly from MFA directors, faculty and staff on info that you can’t find elsewhere (including what programs are looking for, and stipend and admission rates).
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Affording the MFA will be updating all school information this summer. Keep this blog free and open to all writers by pitching in! Continue reading “Your Help Needed!”
WIth six weeks left before the first round of deadlines falling around December 15, it’s time to put all things aside and focus on applications. Use Thanksgiving as a deadline to finish your personal statement and manuscript. This gives you 25 days starting now! Its also recommended that you take a peek or start online applications at least a few weeks in advance so that you’re familiar with the platform. And don’t forget to remind your recommenders about a month before applications are due if they haven’t submitted letters on your behalf.
Good luck, writers!
I am available to you for creative writing feedback (fiction only) and help with the personal statement all month. View my services at robintung.com and contact me at email@example.com.
Questions to Ask When You Write Your Cover Letter or Personal Statement
What faculty members do you want to work with (or share interests with)?
- Take time to familiarize yourself with faculty members, and then find a couple matches. This takes time, research, and intuition. For example, Michelle Herman at Ohio State works with teenage writers in addition to teaching in the MFA program, and she also has a background in chemistry. Amy Hempel at University of Florida is a known dog lover and has worked in rescues and written about working in a dog rescue. Cynthia Hogue at Arizona State University is currently working on a French translation of Joan Darc by Nathalie Quintaine. There may be an affinity here with a person or two on faculty. Maybe you also love translating French experimental poetry! Or maybe you’re writing a novel from the perspective of a teenage boy. Research the writer’s style, content, and interests, and this will help immensely with the statement and your personal understanding or feel of the school.
What additional literary opportunities does the school offer?
- Look at each school’s offerings. Almost all have a special reading series (name it specifically if you’re mentioning it in the cover letter). Others have public studios or programs where students can interact with the community, or literary reviews and journals through which writers can gain publishing experience.
Questions to Ask When You Are Admitted to School(s)
What other funding opportunities does the school offer?
- Some schools offer competitive scholarships in addition to the full funding. And there may be additional teaching opportunities, too. During my MFA studies, I taught winter intersession courses as well as summer sessions to make extra money. I also won a little money from a contest that the university library put on. You may not learn of some of these additional resources until you get there, but find out as much as you can.
What do current students and alumni think of the program and courses?
- Once you’re accepted, you can ask the administrator or faculty member for some student contacts. It can be extremely insightful to get a student’s take on who the best teachers are and why (great writers don’t always make the best or most organized teachers), how demanding the coursework is, how formal or casual workshops are, what teaching is like, what it’s like to live on the stipend, and where the best places to live are.
Do you have the means and time to visit before making a decision?
- Some writers may have the luxury of visiting one or more schools before choosing where to go. This will give you a feel for what it’s like in the program, and you’ll get a chance to meet faculty and students, and see the campus and surrounding environs.
In my experience with applicants, the question of how to choose schools often arises. The most important question to ask is really what is important to you. You may be open to any city in the United States, or you may be unwilling to live in a big city or a remote area. You may value school prestige over location or class size, and so on. For most writers, funding, faculty, and location are the primary criteria. I would also suggest investigating what styles of writing a school supports though it isn’t always evident.
Questions to Ask When You Select Schools
Where will you have the best funding?
- A school that offers $12K a year vs. a school that offers $20K a year makes a big difference. Select schools with great funding so you won’t feel pinched all year long. The location will matter, too, since $12K in Idaho will take you much farther than $12K in New York City.
- Consider additional funding through the department’s scholarship and summer or intersession teaching opportunities, too. These may be very helpful down the road.
How intimate do you want your experience to be?
- Cornell admits 8 students per year while Iowa’s Writers Workshop admits 25. Consider how much attention you want in workshops, and from faculty and other classmates.
How many classes do you want to take, or how much time do you want to write?
- Some schools require rigorous literature coursework in addition to workshops while other programs require very little coursework. Determine how academic you want your MFA career to be, and how much time you’ll want to spend writing. Some writers work well with a lot of structure, while others need lots of what I like to call “loafing” time. Figure out what you really need, and not what will be easiest.
What kind of writing is the school putting out?
- Take a look at faculty publications, and spend some time researching their interests. For instance, some schools lean more towards formalist poetry. You can find this out by Googling the writers and sampling their work, or by doing the same with alumni work. The school may be somewhat narrow in their style or they may be quite diverse, but knowing a little about the school’s aesthetic leanings can help not only in school selection but narrowing down who you want to work with when you write the personal statement.
How much does school prestige matter to you?
- A reputable school name looks good on a resume. In the outside world, if you decide to teach after the MFA, Cornell may speak louder than the University of Iowa. A department chair who has spent the last two decades immersed in medieval studies may not know much about MFA programs.
Where are you willing to live?
- Consider whether you’re willing to move to a rural area, a big city, a coast town, or the middle of the country. If you’re open to any location, then this won’t be a factor. Some writers are unwilling to relocate too far, or to opposite types of living environments. But in any case, it’s only for 1-3 years, and you’ll have holidays, winter breaks, and summers off to return home or travel, so you could also look at it as a short-term adventure.
What are your chances of getting in?
- Admission rates can range from .05% to about 10%. Apply to as many of your dream schools as you can afford, and apply to a couple with higher admission rates that you would be happy to accept if given the opportunity.
- You can find admission rates on Affording the MFA at the bottom of each school page. Sometimes schools also report their figures on their websites.