Wednesday, October 02, 2013

October MFA mailbag

Okay, it's not snowing much yet, but it is the month of Halloween. I love these USPS ghosts! They definitely delivered some very scary bills to me this last week.

Of course, October is also a ramp-up time for MFA applications. I've included a post earlier to Katie Cruel's FAQs, and that should cover a lot of things, and our own Top 7 FAQs also covers much of this ground.

But send on any new questions. I'll be traveling a lot in October, but I will check in as much as I can, and hopefully our collective knowledge and experience can help those of us wading through the spooky MFA landscape.


Schnezel said...

Hi all,

I'm interested in poetry. Which MFA programs are considered more experimental? I'm also really interested in the intersection of writing with visual arts. I've identified Arts Inst of Chicago, CalArts and other schools with liberal elective choices like Brown that would let me take art courses. Any other suggestions?

Thanks much!

PS. Your book has been really helpful Tom!

Tom Kealey said...

Thanks Angela. I'm so glad that the book has been helpful. I think it's generally acknowledged that Brown University leans toward the experimental side. So that would definitely be one to look at. Perhaps other people have suggestions too?

When I went to UMass-Amherst, I was able to take photography classes that counted towards my electives and degree. They were incredibly helpful to my writing. I'd encourage you to look for programs with open elective courses and perhaps check-in with the program administrator about your options. Best wishes!

yesjessica said...

Hello, I am looking apply to MFA fiction programs. I've been doing a lot of research online, but a lot of what's out there focuses on programs that appear to be very selective. I'll apply to some of those, sure, but I also want to make sure I get into at least one school! I suppose my question is, other that the HuffPost "underrated MFA program list" I found, is there any other way to find decent schools that provide funding but aren't in the top 50?

Also, to how many programs do most people apply?

Also, do people generally apply "cold," or is it customary to be in contact with faculty before applying? I have no clue if emailing faculty members could work to my advantage or come off as irritating. I know some schools get 1,000 applicants and if they all emailed faculty members that'd definitely be bothersome.

Finally, when guidelines say 20-30 pages of fiction, is this limited to one piece? I saw one program's website say it could be two short stories, but other sites don't specify and I don't want to send in two short stories and then be disqualified, or look like I'm incapable of writing something longer.

Thanks so much!

yesjessica said...

Ignore the second question. I see it was answered elsewhere on your site. Sorry.

Tom Kealey said...

Hi Jessica.

Thanks for your questions. I wouldn't call a program directly unless you can't get your question answered any other way. Those are busy people.

Two to three stories is just fine. I think two is rather perfect, because then the program gets two looks at what you can do.

Best wishes,

CopyCat62982 said...

The top three things I am looking for are location, funding, and teaching opportunities. I can't afford any more student loan debt so I'd prefer a program where I can teach and be fully funded. My husband isn't going to move just so I can do an MFA program someplace else, so I have to stay close to home.

Any thoughts on the University of Central Florida's MFA program? Will the fact that I'm already in a Master's program for education there make any difference? I'm planning on switching over if I get in.

Austin Translation said...


Poets and Writers also has 51-75 rankings, an additional list of honorable mentions, a searchable database of writing programs (can be filtered by state, etc.). I would look through those lists for schools in cities you wouldn't mind moving to, and then check the program websites for funding info, etc.

MFA Research Project (linked on the sidebar) also has a lot of great info on a ton of writing programs.


The best place to find funding information is on individual program websites. The full funding? column on P&Ws rankings doesn't always tell the whole story.

The MFA Research Project has a great page on funding levels at various schools, but it is also incomplete.

Try looking up some MA programs! They often have identical curricula to MFA programs, but fewer applicants and higher admission %s because it's not a terminal degree. It's not uncommon for people to do an MA, then an MFA, though some top MFA programs do not accept students who already hold an advanced degree in CW.

Some MA programs regularly fully fund their students!

Finally, it can actually be a huge help in your funding search to have expertise in some other academic subject. The creative writing program might not have a TA job for everyone, but at some schools its possible to TA for another dept to receive funding. A woman in my program taught freshman French last semester, and another student was offered a job in the Computer Science department.

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