I'm ahead in my undergraduate studies so I may be graduating this summer instead of the spring of 2009. I just realized this, which brings me to my question. Should I start applying for MFAs, even though I haven't had the time to really polish off a certain piece of my work? Or should I wait it out?
Hmmm... this is really a very personal issue, so I think the decision's ultimately up to the writer. I'm an undergraduate too, and I'm taking at least a couple years off before going to grad school for the following reasons, in order of importance: (1) To build up my work/professional experience and be a much stronger candidate later on; (2) to give myself a break from studying; (3) to build up my bank funds in order to become capable of "paying" my way through at least some programs.
But OK, your case. First, you've got to ask if you're ready to commit yourself to grad school rather than doing something else. Are you ready to do it in the fall of 2008, or would you rather take a break and enter in the fall of 2009? That should be the question you ask yourself in order to decide whether to wait it out. As for that work you want to polish--your evaluation (and others' evaluations) of how "polished" it is bound to be very subjective. Who knows if an admissions committee would like it as is? Or whether they'd like it better after you worked on it for a year? Or whether you'll realize 5 years from now: "That would never have gotten me in anywhere?" I don't know how good your writing is, but you strike me as a serious writer. So maybe you can get in this year with that sample, maybe not. But I think the real question you (and I) need to ask ourselves is: when am I ready to go?