Old Scribe of the Ozarks has some nice words for the blog, and we thank him for that. He also writes...
Like most members, I'll be applying to a variety of MFA programs around
the United States very soon. My current instructors believe it's
important to visit these schools before applying. Not only does this give
prospective students a chance to see where they may be living for the
next 2-4 years, it allows them to hopefully meet with those individuals
associated with the program (such as current instructors and department
heads). The problem I have is that this could be an immense undertaking
financially. Let's speak the truth here: it's not cheap to get around
anymore. Gas prices are on the move, of course, and it's not cheap to fly
anymore either. When you consider the cost of traveling all over the
nation added in with the expense of applying to graduate programs, it
could get out of hand really quick.
I suppose one solution is to wait and see what program(s) actually accept
me before traveling to the campus for a visit. But I'm concerned that
there won't be enough time. And even if there is, just traveling to
places like Iowa, Arizona, and Texas from the middle of the U.S. can get
expensive. What do most applicants suggest? What should I do to make the
best use of my time and money?
Ozark, this traveling plan sounds good in theory, but I think it's a waste of resources in practice. While yes, you may stumble across a program or a town/city that you fall in love with, what are the chances that you'll necessarily be accepted there?
You know, come to think of it, I actually did this before I applied. I checked out UMass and Brown, and NYU, and Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth. But I was taking that trip with my girlfriend anyways. I actually did learn a lot: The two faculty I met at Brown were snobbish, NYU seemed overwhelming to me. I liked UMass, and Virginia Commonwealth seemed underfunded.
So, I know this seems to contradict some of my own experience, but I'd save your money, do your research, and if your travels take you near a place, by all means, go and visit. Faculty and students are not likely to go out of their way to show you around etc. if you're only thinking about applying to the program, unless they know you through another person.
Apply to 8-12 programs, Ozark. See where you're accepted. Then do your visiting. Otherwise, to my mind, it's a little cart-before-the-wheel action. Rock on.