Monday, October 16, 2006

Money Woes

Hi Tom,
Thanks so much for the blog. I wish that I had known
about it when I was applying for programs last year.

I am considering transferring to another MFA program.
The funding at my program is terrible, and because we
are in a very small town, my husband and I are having
problems finding work. We are living off of student
loan money, which is deteriorating rapidly. l love
everything else about my current program, but our
money problems are ruining it for me.

I would like to transfer to a program in a larger
city, but I'm wondering if I should mention the money
problems as the reason for the transfer. How can I
explain this to adcoms without looking like a flake?

I hope that my experience will serve as a warning to
your readers. Funding is the most important thing.

Sincerely,
Looking for Larger Pastures

---

That's definitely a problem, LLP. You don't want to come across in your letter like, "I'd like to come to your program primarily because you offer money."

I've listed a number of well-funded programs in the book and on this blog, so you'll know which ones those are. One downside: The programs in larger cities, genererally speaking, have less funding.

That's not painting a very rosy picture, is it? My overall advice for letters: I'd stick to what you want to do and learn as a writer, as well as your experience beforehand. And yes, since part of your experience beforehand is your current program, you've got to mention why you're looking for another place. Do mention the money situation, and yes, you can say "We want to be able to afford this experience." But just stay away from listing it as the main reason for attending this new program.

And of course: Don't worry over this too much. It's writing sample, writing sample, writing sample. Rock on.

5 comments:

Margaret_Murray said...

My SO is an engineer, so I'm trying to apply to programs in cities where he will be able to find a job. Here are some of my suggestions:

JHU has great funding, is located in Baltimore, and has (I think) a one hour commute to DC.

Michener has great funding and is located in Austin.

U Mich has great funding, is located in Ann Arbor, and has a one hour commute to Detroit.

You can also consider some non-traditional programs. For example, UM-St. Louis offers an MFA degree you can get part-time, so even though you have to pay for it, you could also have a job. I think UMSL also has a pretty large program (so probably a higher percent of applicants are accepted). You probably have to do a little extra research to find these kinds of programs.

If you did a Low-Res program, you could also hold down a job... the efficacy of this option depends on how employable you are.

Personally, I'm applying to a mix of these three kinds of programs. Unfortunately, applying to 12 schools is hard when money is tight.

If any other readers have ideas, I'd love to hear more about city programs with good funding. Or if anyone with a job-seeking SO wants to talk about his or her application strategy, that would be good too:o)

Anxious Latecomer said...

I have a question for LLPastures that might be helpful to other applicants: did your current program make it explicit from the outset that the funding would be lousy, or did they lure you with enthusiastic but vague impressions ("Funding doesn't come through for everybody but I'm sure something will come up and you'll work it out once you're here")?

If the latter was the case, I wonder whether you might want to blow the whistle on them (provided this won't have bad repercussions for you). Or perhaps you could mention the general area where the program is located?

Anyway, just an idea. I'm not really clear on the morality of whistle-blowing, but if there was some form of deceit, it seems pretty justified, right?

Anxious Latecomer said...

I have a question for LLPastures that might be helpful to other applicants: did your current program make it explicit from the outset that the funding would be lousy, or did they lure you with enthusiastic but vague impressions ("Funding doesn't come through for everybody but I'm sure something will come up and you'll work it out once you're here")?

If the latter was the case, I wonder whether you might want to blow the whistle on them (provided this won't have bad repercussions for you). Or perhaps you could mention the general area where the program is located?

Anyway, just an idea. I'm not really clear on the morality of whistle-blowing, but if there was some form of deceit, it seems pretty justified, right?

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