Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Applying in 2007 or 2008?

michael.whitaker writes:

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?


Bolivia Red said...

Anna has some really great points and I'll second them.

I'd also like to add that the application process itself is a huge time committment and will take away from school work and time needed to polish that writing portfolio. If you are ahead of your projected graduation date, I imagine it's because you've been taking heavy course loads. If that's the case, be careful not to jeopardise your coursework and GPA just to rush your application, especially if you feel your writing could benefit from more time and polish. The application process is also a monetary layout, and there's no point in wasting money on a "practice year" of applications.

Anna's also right on that whole taking a break from coursework thing. It's important to feed your brain (and writing) with other input than just school stuff.

On the practical side, jumping right into a fall 08 program after summer 08 graduation most likely won't leave you more than three or four weeks between graduation and the start of a new program. You'd be spending those few weeks packing, moving, probably doing teaching orientation, and somewhere in there finding an apartment. And don't forget all the bureaucratic hoops you'll be jumping through all summer just to graduate in the first place. I'm overwhelmed just thinking about it.

None of this is to discourage you but to point out a few possible challenges to the process.

Katherine said...

Again, everyone pretty much pointed out all the things one needs to consider before applying to MFA programs.

Are you ready for it personally/professionally? If you take a break, will you go back at all? And if you go back, will you attack your passion for writing with the same vigor you may have had you started grad school right away? I know after I applied to MFA programs, when I was waiting the few months to hear back from them, I was considering taking a few years off and join the peace corps because I was afraid that maybe I wasn't mature enough to produce the kind of work that would be expected of me.

I could go on forever. Really you just have to search yourself. And don't be afraid. Or rather, don't be afraid of fear :-)