Monday, April 24, 2006

Comparing Apples and Oranges

Persistent State of Suspense writes with a number of questions. She breaks a lot of the rules in the MFA Blog Guidelines, but her situation is, I’m thinking, relevant to a number of readers out there. I think it makes for good reading for those of you exiting or entering the process:

I can't seem to get my schools down to twelve. Right now I'm at fifteen. Financially, that's OK - I have enough to cover the costs of applying since my folks will pay for that and my moving out and moving in expenses and for some furniture, but they won't pay for school (they are not rich people). Yeah, I think they're just trying to be rid of me. The point is, I need funding from my MFA school, but how many I apply to isn't such a problem. Here are my choices at this point (this is for fiction):
Indiana, UC-Irvine, Oregon, Florida, Notre Dame, Cornell, Michigan, Minnesota, Brown, Syracuse, Alabama, Texas, Washington U, Virginia, Houston.

Is that a good mix (enough largish schools and not too many "big name" for fiction schools)? Did I slip and insert a program that doesn't have good and equal funding? Why is twelve your limit? My CW instructor says I should apply to twelve to fifteen programs - I think he'll be more sick than me if I don't get in anywhere. Is it too early to be thinking, let alone worrying about this? Have you addressed the difference between Fiction and Poetry in the school's level of greatness in your MFA blog yet? It's not in the book. Some people say that there is a difference in the schools quality dependent on whether you're going for fiction or poetry or non-fiction.

Your book is like a smooth's really helping with the hives. This fall will be my first time applying to creative writing MFA's and I'm already a wreck. I'm a freak out artist in all areas of my life, but at least I have the Creative Writing MFA Handbook to help out in this area!

Well cool. We’re a smooth elixir. I like that.

1. I like your list of schools. A lot.
2. Why is twelve my limit? It’s not a limit. It’s just near the ceiling, to my mind, of what’s manageable. If you have the resources to apply to fifteen, by all means, apply to fifteen.
3. There can be definite disparities in the “level of greatness” between genres at a particular program. But my main point: It’s extremely difficult to measure this. It’s hard to quantify. I’ve tried to stick with criteria that is measurable: funding, teaching experience, location etc. and match that with some anecdotal evidence where it’s available. But the whole “level of greatness” measurement is primarily anecdotal. I think at least. And therefore, I don’t think it’s very reliable.

More importantly, as I say in the book, professors move from program to program, legislatures and donors cut funding or increase it, or a great or merely average group of students enters the program in a particular year. A lot can change in a few years. That said, the schools on your list have been very consistent over the years. So you’ve done a nice job compiling them.

Other comments would be much appreciated. Rock on, PSoS.


Anonymous said...

i can't really add to what Tom said, but you should definitely apply to as many as you can afford to. All it does is give you more chances to get in somewhere. Like buying more lottery tickets. Good luck

Anonymous said...

You might also want to consider UMass, as pretty much everyone in the graduate program who works get a tuition waiver. Good teaching + stipend opportunities available there, too, and their faculty is great. Easy to get to Boston and NYC on the bus or train (which runs straight into Amherst). Good luck!