With so many creative writing programs out there, it can be hard to decide which ones are right for you. A little soul searching will help you narrow the pool, and ensure that you end up at a program that’s right for you. Page one of this article will help you pinpoint your expectations for an MFA program. Page two provides questions to help you discover which programs will best fulfill your expectations.
What is it that you hope to get out of the program?
If you’re mostly looking for time to write, you may not want to attend a program that would require you to teach. On the other hand, if you’re worried about the degree’s impracticality, the teaching experience will help you find jobs afterward. If you’re interested in editing experience, you might look for a program with ties to a literary journal. Some people go to graduate school looking for a mentor. If that’s the case with you, then do extra research when it comes to faculty.
Are you willing to relocate?
What responsibilities do you have right now? Is moving an option for you? If not, are there decent programs in your area? If you are willing or interested in relocating, then you’ll also want to consider the kind of environment that would best support your work. Are you more comfortable in small towns, or would a big city best feed your writing? A graduate school program can be very insular, so you may want a town or city that offers communities beyond the university.
How much debt are you willing to incur?
Can you afford to take out loans if you aren’t offered a fellowship or stipend? Regardless of how funding is set up, be careful about going into debt for an MFA. While a master’s degree always looks good on a resume, an MFA in Creative Writing isn’t going to pay your rent (or your student loans) the way that a law degree or an MBA will.
What other options are available to you?
Would night or weekend classes fulfill many of your needs without putting you into debt or forcing you to relocate? Would you be satisfied with a low-residency program, such as those offered by Warren Wilson College or Bennington College? An increasing number of creative writing programs do supply full funding, however. If you’re willing to live frugally for a few years, these programs are excellent options for people seeking to spend time focusing on writing.