Sep 30, 2007, 8:53 PM
Post #73 of 172
Re: [ejdifili] Age of MFA students?
I am 26 right now and applying to MFA programs; I'll be 27 when I start.
I already knew I wanted to pursue an MFA when I was 20, but ultimately decided not to apply to programs right out of undergrad. One of the events that provoked this decision was that I lost an undergraduate writing contest at my university. So, I figured that if I couldn't even win that, then I probably wasn't going to get accepted by the Iowa Writers' Workshop or anywhere else remotely competitive. Another reason I decided not to apply was this: I realized how unlikely it would be that I'd finish my MFA and immediately, at age 24, publish an award-winning novel and land a tenure-track teaching position somewhere. In short, I knew I'd have to find some way of paying the bills after completing my degree, and I didn't see my BA in English lit helping out too much.
In the five years since I completed undergrad, I have held down two despised corporate office jobs, earned an MA in Spanish literature, taught 4 semesters of Spanish at the college level, traveled internationally, been engaged and un-engaged, become a certified educator in the state of Missouri, taught 2 years of Spanish at the high school level and lots more. During this time, I have learned a lot about life, people and also literature. When I was 22, most of my short stories were about artistic people in their early 20s getting stoned and having sex. Now, I have a much broader repertoire of experiences and material to work with.
I don't mean this to offend young people who are looking to pursue an MFA. In my case, I will be 30 years old when I complete the degree, and then it will probably be a few years beyond that before I embark upon any kind of academic career. I realize that this might get cumbersome if I want to have a family, so some people might feel like they are better off starting young.
I'm in the same boat -- 26 at present, will be 27 when/if I begin an MFA next year. From what I hear, 26-28 is the average age range at most programs.
I can second your thoughts on age and writing. For most, the early 20s are too soon. There's a sort of intangible intellectual maturation process that happens during the mid-20s (at least, it did with me). Not sure how to put it into words, but I suspect is has something to do with patience, discipline and a sense of balance. Vague enough for you? Ha! Though this is by no means a universal thing. Pynchon wrote V. when he was 21-22, a staggering literary achievement for an author of any age and a prime example of someone writing well beyond his years. Then again, Pynchon is a genius. Different rules apply.
I'm not sure why you let that contest get you down, though. Who knows what other talented writers happened to be attending the same university. You might have been competing with the next Franzen, Chabon or Wallace. And losing to one of them would have been nothing to scoff at. But it sounds like it turned out for the best, regardless.
Good luck with your applications!