Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Low-Residency Program Rankings

Felicity writes:
I'm sure you have already done this - could you direct me to a list of rankings for Low-Residency MFA programs?

DL here:

I'm wading in without knowledge of a list of rankings for low res anywhere, but here're some places to check out.

For a list of programs, I'd go to the AWP Book online and search there for available programs. You can narrow down the parametres to Low Res and such. How I wish this had been available two years ago. From the results listed, you can click on the info for particular programs. That will give you a nice view of what's out there.

I was looking for an easy way to search the labels or the blog for the topic. Go to the upper left hand corner of the blog page and type "Low Res" into the search box and click search. This will bring up a list of all the posts on low res programs, including a post by Tom that gives links to Erika Dreyfus' primer on low res and Anna Mendoza's blog (Anna we miss you!) which also discusses low res programs.

Anyone else with other sources and help for Felicity? (I don't think Seth covers it on his blog, but it's worth checking out.)


Seth Abramson said...

Hi Felicity,

In a post here, I discussed the recent Top 5 low-residency rankings done by The Atlantic, and wrote "If you've been following this site [The Suburban Ecstasies], you'll already know the top three low-residency programs [listed by The Atlantic], so the only additions here are Antioch and Pacific..."

...i.e., at various points, and via various measures (see the right-hand sidebar on my blog for guidance; also, however, I take my view from a lot of time spent on the P&W website [!]) I've identified the top low-res programs as (in no particular order), Warren Wilson, Bennington, and Vermont College, thought WW probably has the edge over the other two by a fairly evident margin. I think, from there on, The Atlantic is on the right track...

...though I've also heard good things about Queens University of Charlotte and maybe Goddard College...

Good luck,

Lizzy said...

The "Low Residency" section of PW.org's MFA discussion board is pretty active. Lots of good running commentary there from current, former and future Low-Rez peeps.

I'd check that out.

Felicity said...

Sweet. Thanks for all of that! You WILL be hearing from me again. : )

Jeannine said...

A quick vote for the Atlantic's listing of Pacific in the top five:
Pacific U is a newer MFA program but the faculty is terrific and very supportive and close (which I've heard isn't always the case at low-res programs.)I had a fantastic time with all four of my advisors and think, for poetry especially, it's definitely worth the time and price tag.

Erika D. said...

I don't think I've seen any ranking of low-res programs beyond that new Atlantic list. And I'm not sure there should be such a ranking, anyway.

With low-res, you're basically talking about 30-odd programs (currently) that in many cases are very distinct. Knowing that Warren Wilson is ranked so highly doesn't really help nonfiction writers (since WW offers poetry and fiction tracks only). Then there are single-genre programs (Hamline, Goucher, New England College), which offer still another type of experience. Some programs work with the "mentor-and-packet" model between residencies; others may be workshop-based. Very different models.

And considering the debate over the use of funding as criterion in ranking residential MFA programs, it seems worthwhile to point out the in-state and/or regional tuition differentials for those interested in Murray State or the University of Nebraska (for two examples).

The bottom line is that you really need to do your research and think about which programs' curricula, structure, "extra" offerings (internships, cross-disciplinary work, etc.), and other factors suit you. Rankings won't necessarily provide useful answers for everyone.

Seth Abramson said...


I think you're right about rankings; I've long said that they're one "tool" out of what should be--for an informed applicant--dozens and dozens regularly in use. I think the value of rankings, even with respect to low-residency programs, is to give some sense of which programs are perceived to be the most established, and (often related) have the best reputation among writers, publishers, and potential employers. If one is solely concerned about the experience itself, and has no other considerations in mind, rankings are basically useless and should not be referred to. If, however, reputation/history is one consideration for an applicant, rankings are probably as [as I said, only modestly] important for low-res applicants as for full-res applicants, perhaps moreso, because whereas the one hundredth full-res school in any ranking is still probably fairly established in the field, the nature of low-res programs--i.e., their only recent boom--is such that even the twentieth ranked such program may well have been started within the last twelve months, and thus have an uncertain future (it takes some time for programs to get up and running, and to pass that "nervous" phase where maybe the program won't "make it" to its five-year anniversary). Consequently, I think knowing that the preeminent low-res programs with both a lengthy history and significant regard in the field are WW, Bennington, and Vermont College is not entirely unhelpful. To the extent I've mentioned others, it's not so much because of either history or regard--I think only the three schools above have conclusively reached that plateau thus far--but rather for the sorts of reasons I think you're encouraging Felicity (and I am, too) to think about: namely, what people are saying about the experiences they've had in those programs (Pacific, Queens, Antioch, etcetera).


The Writing Life said...

Does anyone have any comments on Naropa university's low residency program?

The Writing Life said...

Does anyone have any experience with Naropa University?

The Homie G said...

All this talk about rankings is making me nervous. There is so little out there to rate programs, except for frequent mentions of the Big Three, I feel like I'm really flying in the dark. Can anyone tell me anything about their experiences with: Pacific University, Stonecoast (U of S Maine), Goddard, or the Palm Desert program and UC Riverside? That last is very new, but I took some classes with one of the faculty and liked him a lot.


Matt Greene said...

Any thoughts to which school has the better rep for screenwriting? Or in general?

Lesley or Goddard?

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Unknown said...

Fellow writers- I am a creative non-fiction writer and trying to decide between two low residency programs - Pacific University and Antioch. Any thoughts?