Thursday, December 06, 2007


And an anonymous reader sends in this question...


I'm wondering if you have any thoughts about Northwestern's MA
program. The faculty line-up looks impressive, but I can find almost
no information about the students, admissions statistics, et cetera.

I was recently admitted (for narrative nonfiction), and I want to get
some additional information before I write the check.

The blog is an incredible resource. Thank you for all of your hard work!


Jay G said...

I just finished my last class in the Northwestern MA program (it was with Aleksandar Hemon) and am beginning to work on my thesis next quarter.

The program is designed for people who need to work and want to go to school at night. I've been in it for about two and a half years and will graduate in May.

It's been immensely helpful for my writing - I can hardly recognize where I was when I began to where I am now.

It's a great program, it's only drawback is that it's a part time program, so I never felt like writing was my top priority because I worked and had a life as well. I'm now applying to full-time MFA programs for Fall 08 so I can concentrate on writing full-time. I can confidently say that I wouldn't have been prepared to be in a full-time program had I not done the MA first.

Also, NU is starting a part-time MFA program in Fall 08. If you have any other specific questions, let me know!

Zooey Glass said...


Thank you for the thoughtful comments!

I have a couple specific questions:

How would you assess the caliber of your fellow students?

What is the average age?

Do you know, on average, how many people apply to the program quarterly? How selective is admissions? In other words: is this a program that people are trying to get into, or is NU just taking what comes along?

I hope these questions don't come off the wrong way--I'm not so much concerned with repute as I am with the quality of the students in the program.

I've had a difficult time getting a solid read on the School of Continuing Studies in general, and the MCW in particular. Any thoughts you have would be warmly welcomed.

Again, thank you!

Jay G said...

Age is across the board. There are the people in their late twenties, people in their thirties and forties, and people in their fifties and sixties.

I don't know how many people apply quarterly, but I do know the directors are becoming more seletive each quarter and the MFA track will be the best of the best.

Assessing the students... It's hard to say. I mean because the program is larger than a full-time program there are people in it who are really excellent writers and then there are people in it who are writers with potential. It's hard to say because you never know where people are on their own writing journey, or when you see their work in a workshop, what kind of draft it is in. I guess I would say you will meet people you will be impressed with and learn a lot from, and you will meet people who will be impressed with you and who will be able to learn a lot from you.

I would say that more importantly than students in this program are the faculty. I've had the opportunity to work with Naeem Murr and Aleksandar Hemon, who are both true genuises and you can't really replace an experience like that.

Zooey Glass said...


Again, your comments have been very helpful. Thank you for taking the time to write!

Rambler said...

jay g--
Northwestern is for sure beginning a part-time MFA program Fall 08?
I had heard rumors to that effect, but didn't know for sure about its reality.
Are they already taking applications?

Jay G said...

The MFA is definitely happening, but the curriculumn is still being defined so the official announcements have not been made yet. I believe the application deadline for it will be in July of 08, so they will probably announce in the Spring quarter. When I know anything more, I will write into the blog and share!

Lizzy said...

Wait! Aleksandar Hemon teaches writing? Mr. "the MFA is a BS degree"? Wow. I guess he had spoken too soon.

Hey, it's a good thing. The man's put some interesting things down on paper.

Svendlor said...

I also took the class Jay G mentions, taught by Hemon at Northwestern. He announced either the 1st or 2nd class that he didn't think much of the MFA degree or the workshop process. His class was pretty great, not workshop-y, and I anxiously await his comments on the revised piece I submitted at the end of class.

Hemon teaches once every two years. Stuart Dybek is on faculty at the undergraduate level, and I imagine will also teach when the MFA program begins, although he hasn't taught an MCW class yet. I have had other, excellent classes with lesser names. Not really a bad class yet, although some are more inspiring than others.

You asked about diversity. Racially, it's not very diverse. By age, it's very diverse, and I really appreciate that. Older students are definitely wiser...

I don't know how to evaluate the quality of the student writing, except to say it's mostly way, way better than my undergraduate classes at a university with a very prestigious writing program. Most of us will not become superstars in the writing world, but most of us also have interesting points of view and some degree of talent. The director of the program has mentioned to me how she hates to turn down qualified students, so they're not taking everyone. It's not Iowa, though.

If you decide to do the MCW at Northwestern, I recommend getting a job there. Your tuition will be reduced 75% to about $500 per class. It's hard work, but a sweet deal, and you can still finish your degree in about a year and a half. I know people who have gone on to get jobs in academia (and two so far who have published books) with this degree.

Good luck with your decision!

EPAC said...

Hey! I just got accepted into the MFA program in Creative Nonfiction at Northwestern. Can any present students speak about the program? Classes, part-time experience, faculty, and any other overall thoughts would be enormously helpful. Thanks!

Izarka said...

Congrats, EPAC! I just got accepted too (creative nonfiction as well). I'm also looking for some information from current students. I did go to an info session as well as a reading by a writer and a current student last fall, and it seemed like a very good group of people who were happy to be there.

What are your thoughts? Are you considering other schools? I already live in Chicago and have a job I'm quite happy with, so I probably will go to Northwestern.

EPAC said...

Congrats to you too, Izarka! I don't live in Chicago yet, and am postponing my entrance till next fall. I'm waiting to hear from one more school, which of course doesn't offer any funding and is in NYC, so Northwestern is looking better and better everyday.

I'm really impressed with the faculty and love the idea of a night schedule-- time to write/work in the day.

Let me know if you learn anything else about the program!

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