Applying to an MFA program VIII: Who picks who?

Welcome to part VIII of our “Applying to a Creative Writing MFA program” series. Yesterday, we tried to find ways to make our time productive as we play the waiting game. Today, we examine how to choose the MFA program we want.

If you play your cards right, you’re going to end up being the one who gets to choose a program, instead of the other way around. Cast your net wide enough and you’re bound to catch a few fish.

And the odds are already stacked in your favor, as you control two choices in the matter while programs only have one choice. When you research programs, you’re factoring in positives and not-so-positives of each school until you whittle the list down to something that excites you. You finally apply (choose) to ten programs. Let’s say of those ten, at least four accept you’re application. Now the ball is back in your court, and you get to choose your own adventure.

A program is going to weigh your merits both in terms of how you stand alone and how you stand against other candidates. You should do the same when you get word back from programs interested in you. Decide what your most important factors are – is it cost? Location? Program content? All of the above (and then some)? For me, cost wasn’t a deciding factor because I knew I’d have to spend money to make money, but I knew which locations appealed to me and which weren’t on my radar screen, and I also found myself becoming much more interested in programs that supported screenwriting than those that didn’t.

It’s the same with getting an agent, by the way, if you’re at that stage already; many young writers are just so excited to get an agent they don’t realize they could potentially be picking from a crop of agents who want aboard the money train, if only they play their cards right (and that means research).

Today’s Action Item: Create a pro / con list!

List your top three grad school choices at the top of a sheet of paper, then draw lines so you have three separate columns. Now, separate the columns into two sections, one to list pros and one to list cons, for each grad school. Brainstorm as many pros and cons of attending those schools as you can. Think about the program concentrations, the costs, the city, if your favorite extra-curricular activity is available (I wanted an established improv community in the area), and so on. Give this exercise ten minutes of your time per school, and take a look at the results, side by side. Has anything changed your mind?

Tomorrow I write about my personal experience applying for and being accepted into a Creative Writing MFA program.

-nm

[tags]mfa application, creative writing mfa, grad school application[/tags]

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