Potential MFA Programs

(The Title of this post is Potential MFA programs, but for some reason my titles never seem to show up on my posts. I haven’t figured out why yet.)

Etchingham School 1946

Etchingham School 1946 (Photo credit: ttelyob)

Recently, I was looking at the Creative Writing MFA blog, and I was surprised to discover that some people apply to 18 to 20 programs. I think my jaw dropped. First off, when I was finishing my undergraduate (the first and the second time) the advice I often got was to go for seven, at least, if you can. You pick your top schools, you know the ones that are crazy long shots, but you’ll never know unless you try; you pick your other top ones, the ones you want to go to and have a chance; and ones that you’d go to but maybe they are not your first choice. Same as your undergraduate selection process. The reason my jaw dropped at the mention of people applying to 18 or 20- oh and let me interject here; good for them- but holy hell do ya’ll know how much money that is? When I was looking at schools the average cost of applications ranged from $50 to $60, and of course some schools are more, like Columbia and Brooklyn who happen to charge a ridiculous $125 and $150 dollars to prospective students that have about a 1 out of 300 chance of getting accepted. I, by the way, am not applying to Columbia or Brooklyn no matter what number they are on the list of the best MFA programs in the nation, and yes it is because of the money. I think it is elitist to request such a high application fee, especially when they don’t even offer funding if you do get chosen, and you’d be living in one of the most expensive cities in the nation. What a school like this says to me is that they only want people with money to apply, and while I have nothing against people with money (you go get it rich people) it isn’t very diverse. I want to be in a program with a wide range of people from wealth to poor that happen to want to be the greatest writers in the world so they want to go to schools that kick their asses on the page not in the pocket-book. A rich talented person can go anywhere they can afford, a poor talented person not so much. Schools that charge over $100 dollars to apply can suck it. Yes, yes I know, more room for you.

So where would I go and how many can I afford to apply to? By-the-way (another tangent here) if you applied to 20 schools at $50 each (and they are more than that) you’d spend $1000.00 just to apply.  I’ve found 10 potentials. If I could afford to apply to all schools that would be $570, and I don’t know if I can do that, but I think if I can stagger the applications I can afford $300, which may be about five schools.  My basic first round criteria was this (it’s very simplistic) I looked at the top schools and the best over looked schools along with going over some schools that people listed on the MFA blog. I looked for schools that offered a free ride or a mostly free ride. Then I looked at schools that offered teaching experience, because I want to teach and I want the experience. Then I looked at the application fee; is it under $100? Most were (hello Brooklyn and Columbia). Then I checked to see if you had to take the GRE. The GRE pisses me off about as much as the over $100 application fee. It cost money, it doesn’t give an accurate reflection on what type of student you will be or how intelligent you are, and it is an archaic way of determining student value. That GRE thing really helped me narrow down the selection. Seems that most colleges really like the archaic standardize way of charging to test people -surprise-surprise. So my grand list? Drum roll please….

Now the real research comes in to play. I need to ask myself why I want to go, what do I want out of a program, does the school have what I want, and could I live there. Since most applications are not due until the winter for the following fall, I have plenty of time, so I plan to take it seriously, since I may not be able to afford to apply in the future (who knows I may be unemployed). What I can say about my list is this: Iowa, of course, I mean, it’s Iowa. They have funding, the application fee is $60, they are the top school in the nation, big names teach there and come out of there (I got an offer for Iowa for their theatre grad program back in ’97. I didn’t go. I’m still kickin’ myself about that choice.) it is about a 1 in a 1000 shot, but I’ve got to try.

Brown, okay this is my dream school. I’ve always dreamed of going to an Ivy League college. I think it has to do with the idea that an Ivy League is unattainable to someone from my social class. This is of course not a reason to go, but I think that is part of my deep psyche. But, Brown isn’t just Ivy League, it’s a great school that (on paper) has the teaching philosophy that is right for me. Brown’s application is $75, and they offer funding, and they also offer cross-genre MFA’s which interests me. Last I checked they have four spaces for fiction writers and on average 800 to 900 people apply every year. I think I’ve got a shot.

Iowa and Brown are my dream schools. Now I need to find my top schools.

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