Monday, May 29, 2006

Part Time Student

Overthinking it Over writes...

I'm in the happy position of being on faculty (I teach
advertising) at a university with a small
up-and-coming MFA program. I'm 44, have taken scads of
workshops, have published a few pieces, and have spent
25 years (gah!) as a professional non-fiction writer.
Unless you count journalism and advertising as
fiction, which is understandable. Anyway, I've
considered low-res programs, but yeesh, I'm right
here, with a big fat foot in this particular door, and
a nice faculty tuition waiver of up to 6 credit hours
per semester... Catbird seat notwithstanding, I want
this; it's not a lark or a scheme to enhance my
academic credentials. I have a family and financial
responsibilities, so moving or giving up my job to go
full-time is not on the table.

So I'm wondering: If I apply as a part-time student to
the MFA program, will my application be taken as
seriously as those of full-time students seeking
assistantships? Will I appear only mildly committed by
comparison? Do residential programs expect/accept only
full-time students? Do I wait to get accepted, *then*
tell 'em I want to go part-time? Have I asked the
question twelve ways from Sunday?

Obviously, I can't predict what a particular selection committee will do. That said, I'd like to have someone with real world experience in my classroom, and I'd like the age diversity it would bring too. You'll have to check with the department if they accept part-time students.

My main advice: Make an appointment with the program director. Face to face. Ask about the possibility of attending part time. State what your goals are, as far as your writing goes. Most importantly, come across as a nice person with an interest in continued learning. My main fear if I was the program director: is this person going to be a know it all? Or will she dominate the classroom discussions? If you can alleviate that fear, you may be able to make a positive impression, and your application will be noted in the selection process.

I think the fact that you work at the university gives you the okay to ask for this type of meeting. Let us know how it goes.

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