Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Switching Programs

Jonesing in Janesville writes in...

How common is it to transfer from one MFA program to another? I'm slightly concerned about the funding situation at the program I'm attending in the fall. I chose it over several options offering better funding because the program is such a good fit for me and I just had that "gut feeling" that it was the right decision to make. It offers excellent assistance for the first year, then becomes a little less financially attractive for the duration of the program. As a back-up of sorts, I'm thinking about giving myself options at some of the schools I didn't have a chance to apply to in the last round because of money (I only applied four places because I was flat broke, but it ended up working out).

My questions:
1.) Is it tacky to apply to other programs when I haven't even begun attending my (ideal) school?
2.) Will word-of-mouth make it back to my program?
3.) Will a school look down on me for applying while recently enrolling at another school?

I think there is the slight possibility of more financial support to match the support in the first year, but I can't bank on that. I'm worried about debt. My worries might be premature, but I can't help feeling the need to make other plans in case these fall through...and when it really comes down to it, maybe there are other dream schools out there too if this one doesn't work.
Any thoughts?

JiJ, it's not common, but not unheard of either. I had a friend who went from UMass to Virginia, and she doesn't regret it. She liked UMass, but felt that Virginia was a better fit.

In answer to your questions: Since deadlines fall in January, you'll have a sense of the program, including the 2nd year financial info, for a few months. The odds are that this question won't be much in your head then. (But it's a good question nonetheless).

I don't think that word of mouth will make it back to your program. It's possible, but there are confidentiality rules. Word of mouth isn't supposed to happen in these circumstances.

Finally, the committee (at the second school) might be hesitant to take you. If I were on the committee, and you were neck and neck with someone else, I'd wonder if you were still keen on transfering. It's a question that would be in my head, so yes, there is that danger.

I'd be interested to hear from any transfers in the comments section.

Re: Funding at your school, JiJ. I really don't like that situation (funded first year, possibly not funded in the second). That sounds like the ol' bait and switch to me. Do ask around when you get there about that second year. I mean: ask current and former students. You'll want to inside scoop to put yourself in the right spot.


Nervous in L.A. said...

I'm in exactly the same situation as Jonesing. I may have to transfer if my husband cannot find a job in the area.

While transferring may hurt you in the eyes of some committees, I don't see any harm in trying. I doubt it would get back to your program, and if it did, I think most people in the writing profession understand that money is a major concern.

Anonymous said...

Do you actually have to tell school B that you're a first year at school A? Can you just send in those same rec letters from your undergrad profs and pretend like grad school never happened? And would they know?

Anonymous said...

Why would you want to lie about it? That's not particularly fair to the faculty reviewing your file. I think they have a right to know. Anyway, you would have to spend your entire graduate career denying that you spent a year in another MFA program -- why would you want to do that to yourself? It's always best to be honest, and frankly I don't think it's that big a deal. If they like your writing a lot, they'll take you on.

Anonymous said...

Many reasons. UT Austin's web page says they don't consider anyone with previous MFA or creative MA credits.

Historically, schools are bad about privacy; you wouldn't want school B contacting school A, especially if you end up staying put.

If school B knows you're changing schools, it'll make it harder to get accepted--administators might question whether you'll leave their program as well.

You're current program might be completely inept, but you really can't list that as a reason for leaving, just like you wouldn't malign a former employer in a job interview.

Worries! Horror!

Anonymous said...

Just to keep things straight -- UT Austin actually says:

Those who hold an MFA or PhD degree in creative writing, in any genre from any institution, or an MA in creative writing from UT Austin are not eligible for our MFA program. Those with MAs in creative writing from other institutions are considered on an ad hoc basis.

which doesn't seem in any way to preclude transfering after the first year of an MFA program.

Anonymous said...

Jonesing, I think you should wait and see the funding situation until you get there, rather than panic now and convince yourself that you NEED to transfer before you even give it a try. Does the school say that it's unlikely you will get funded, or very likely? Have you talked to other students about the situation (esp. people already in their second year)? Don't worry as much about it now until you know the facts.

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