Poets and Writers - - Contents -

Our 12th an­nual spe­cial sec­tion on grad­u­ate pro­grams in cre­ative writ­ing.

IT SEEMS ev­ery­one has ad­vice for those con­sid­er­ing an MFA in cre­ative writ­ing, in­clud­ing us (you can find plenty of help­ful tips at But ad­vice is rarely uni­ver­sal, and the de­ci­sion to pur­sue a grad­u­ate de­gree is one that re­quires in­di­vid­u­al­ized at­ten­tion. One writer’s ex­pec­ta­tions for an MFA pro­gram might be rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent from those of an­other. So rather than spout plat­i­tudes about the uniquely per­sonal de­ci­sion you are fac­ing, we’d like to of­fer some sim­ple ques­tions that prospec­tive grad stu­dents might want to con­sider, start­ing with per­haps the most im­por­tant one. There are no wrong an­swers, but tak­ing the time to ex­plore your mo­ti­va­tions, pref­er­ences, goals, and pri­or­i­ties can be a help­ful first step in de­cid­ing what the right path is for you.

1. Why do you want an MFA?

2. Does the pro­gram of­fer fund­ing—and if so, how much?

3. Are there on-cam­pus jobs, work-study op­por­tu­ni­ties, or travel and re­search stipends avail­able that could off­set tuition and liv­ing costs?

4. Are you will­ing to carry some debt after you grad­u­ate?

5. Do you want to move some­where for at least two years (full-res­i­dency), or do you want to stay put and at­tend brief res­i­den­cies (low-res­i­dency)?

6. Do you want to live on the coast, in the moun­tains, or some­where in between?

7. Do you want to work with a small group of peers or a larger co­hort filled with a mul­ti­tude of voices?

8. Is the pro­gram cen­tered on work­shops, or is it more aca­dem­i­cally rig­or­ous?

9. Do you know any writ­ers who have at­tended the pro­gram and would be will­ing to share their opin­ions?

10. Do you know the work of the fac­ulty?

11. What have you heard about the teach­ing styles of the fac­ulty?

12. Will there be any fac­ulty mem­bers on sab­bat­i­cal dur­ing your res­i­dency?

13. Do you want to teach while in an MFA pro­gram—if so, does the pro­gram re­quire teach­ing or are there elec­tive teach­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able—or do you want your writ­ing to be your only fo­cus?

14. Do you want to work on the staff of a lit­er­ary jour­nal, small press, or univer­sity press while pur­su­ing your MFA—if so, does the pro­gram of­fer such op­por­tu­ni­ties?

15. Does the MFA pro­gram have a reg­u­lar read­ing se­ries or other ex­tracur­ric­u­lar pro­grams?

16. What have you heard about the pro­gram on so­cial me­dia, at writ­ing con­fer­ences and events, or out in the world?

17. Does the fac­ulty and re­cent alumni re­flect a di­verse com­mu­nity?

18. Can you visit the cam­pus and/or talk to a few cur­rent stu­dents and fac­ulty?

19. Does the pro­gram al­low you to take classes or work­shops in other gen­res?

20. What are the ap­pli­ca­tion re­quire­ments, e.g., GRE scores, per­sonal state­ment, writ­ing sam­ple?

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