Saturday, April 01, 2006

Mom In a Muddle: Low-Residency or Traffic Jams?

Mom in a Muddle is choosing between a Residency and a Low-Residency program. She wants my advice. Oh man, I am dreading this one. I almost always tick a Low Residency student off in these cases. Let’s see how I do this time. MiM writes…

Thanks for all the great advice and insights.
Here's my situation:
Got accepted by The New School (nonfiction). I live in commuting distance of the city. But I figured I would not get into TNS, so my other apps were to low res (acceptances from Lesley, Southern Maine (Stonecoast), and West.Ct.SU; waiting to hear from Goucher).

I'm thinking TNS will provide more of a community of writers, give me more structure and help me make more connections within literary circles and publishing in Manhattan. However, the scheduling (2-3 nights a week) presents a challenge -- train timetables, snow delays, outrageous parking rates if I have to drive. You also need to attend 5-7 other evening events (reading, panels, etc.) each semester -- a good thing, I know, but more commuting.

As a mom, low res make sense -- easier for my family to cope w/me being gone twice a year for 10 days, than running in and out of the city at rush hour several times a week for 2 years.

I don't know how to compare the two experiences. It's not as if you can compare the programs exactly; it's a whole other dimension.

So my questions are:
-- It is ever a good idea to turn down a "normal" program in favor of low res?
-- How to compare the programs of each school vs. the experience of low res/"normal"?

MiM, first of all, I think you’ve done a nice job of breaking down the advantages and disadvantages of each school. That said, I don’t know if a residency program will necessarily provide more structure than a low-residency program. It could, and in some cases it does, but the low-residency model has a structure of its own too. I’m man-facting here, but it just seems to me, based on what you’ve written, that the low-residency programs are a better fit for you. Who needs the traffic, right? And why put the strain on you and your family if the advantages are small? I’m obviously a fan of the Lesley Program, so if you’re asking for my opinion, I’d nudge you that way. Best of luck MiM.


Blu said...

Hi Mom in a Muddle,

I too am a mom writing non-fiction and, although there are no regular residency programs near me, would opt for low res if I were in your situation, as I did in my own.

I was accepted by Lesley also and, although I am not going, really respect and appreciate the program. I am familiar with some of the faculty there, and I think you'd be really happy.

I have gathered from people who have experience in both the regular and low residency programs that you get a comparable amount of support. In fact, one friend with experience in both arenas said he observed a great deal more access to mentor faculty in low res programs than to the faculty in the highly celebrated regular residency program he attended. I think, therefore, that you needn't worry that you'll get less from the low res program you may choose.

I'd look at what you're trying to get out of the experience. My most recent post in my own little blog,, details a lot of what I considered when looking at low res programs. There I discuss the differences between several programs. I shared it because I thought that, as people are sorting through programs themselves, it may help to hear some things someone else was considering. Through my research I learned that there are many variations to the programs, and that helped me to narrow my list of schools to just two. Maybe it will help you as you work your way down your list of acceptances.

(I'd go low.)


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