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asneth


Oct 16, 2007, 10:19 AM

Post #101 of 172 (7628 views)
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Re: [alishein] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

I feel like I've responded to these posts before, but somehow this question always frustrates me.

I started my MFA (a 3-year nonfiction program) the week after I turned 22. I will graduate when I am 24 and then hope to transfer my attentions to a poetry MFA.

I was the youngest person in my program when I started, and in the incoming class this year (my second year in this degree), there is only one girl younger. But it doesn't really matter. We've all had interesting experiences and are all bringing so many different types of writing/style/content/criticism to the table. I never feel that anyone has marked me as being young, nor do I feel that I cannot offer the same level of conversation inside and outside of workshop to older students than I can to those in their 20's. Part of the program is appreciating and learning from the diversity of my peers, in background, age, lifestyle and commentary and preferance of work.

We should stop considering age as a number of years, but rather as a level of maturity. That's it.


mccrary


Jan 29, 2008, 4:06 PM

Post #102 of 172 (7499 views)
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Re: [jennatelesca] Age of MFA students Can't Post

i'm 21


malber


Jan 29, 2008, 11:47 PM

Post #103 of 172 (7414 views)
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Re: [idreamincursive] Age of MFA students Can't Post

doesn't matter. there's a 21 year old in my program right now. average age scares people... but listen: it's an average. if a school has two 21 year olds and two 35 year olds... guess what? the avg. age is still 28. in fact, this happens all the time.

the truth is, the real truth: you just need to write well and get lucky. if you write something good and you find a willing ear in the committee, you're in (that is, unless you don't meet the bare bones GPA/GRE minimum for the school's grad school). people need to stop obsessing about age, GPA, staple v. paper clip, et al and worry about writing better. yes, it's easier for me to say now that i'm in... but the best way to pass the time is to write more. write something you never wrote before in a way you never thought to write.

in fact, here's the best piece of advice given to me the first day of my workshop with Lee K. Abbott: he said there are two types of writers. writers who write and writers who talk. I have no patience with the latter.


augustmaria


Jan 30, 2008, 4:21 PM

Post #104 of 172 (7327 views)
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Re: [malber] Age of MFA students Can't Post

Yes. My MFA application was made up of two stories: One that I wrote at age 20, one at 19. Those writing got me accepted at several MFA programs and now I'm in my fourth semester at Indiana and I couldn't be happier. The age stuff is ridiculous. It's insulting to suggest to anyone that he/she is trying for an MFA at the wrong time. The age range in MFA programs is one of the most interesting aspects. I think the "is experience needed?" debate is best left to the politicians, anyway. (Go Obama!)


Raysen


Aug 11, 2008, 4:13 PM

Post #105 of 172 (7098 views)
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Too old for MFA? Can't Post

Do you think OLD age is a factor in the admission process? If so, how much of a factor is it?

I can understand that if you're in your early 20s, you might be too young to write substantive stories -- unless, of course, you are incredibly talented.

But what about applicants in their 40s or 50s?

Yes...I know it's all about the writing sample! But when they're trying to narrow down the list of applicants to the "best" 1-4%, are they more likely to take the younger (early 30s) writer over the older writer (40s or 50s), all other things being equal?


(This post was edited by Raysen on Aug 11, 2008, 4:14 PM)


silkentent
Margaret DeAngelis


Aug 11, 2008, 5:23 PM

Post #106 of 172 (7076 views)
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Re: [Raysen] Too old for MFA? Can't Post


In Reply To
Do you think OLD age is a factor in the admission process? If so, how much of a factor is it?

<snip>

Yes...I know it's all about the writing sample! But when they're trying to narrow down the list of applicants to the "best" 1-4%, are they more likely to take the younger (early 30s) writer over the older writer (40s or 50s), all other things being equal?



I will be 62 in March. I will be meeting with an MFA program director on my way home from Vermont at the end of the month. When he invited me for a sit-down, he said, "You have a strong background." (He's seen my CV and knows how old I am.) I told him this reminded me of my acceptance letter to a writers' group (not a class) sponsored by a college. The director wrote, "We think you will bring an interesting demographic to the table." This is code for "You are older than my mother."

I frequently drive I-78 from Harrisburg, PA (where I live) to the Allentown-Bethlehem area, and I have to take that same route to get to New England. I pass a series of billboards that urge self-confidence and self-esteem and a can-do spirit. "Live your dreams," or something. One shows "oldest college graduate," and notes that the woman pictured is 95.

My concern in applying at my age is that I won;t be seen as having a viable career in teaching or publishing (and I don't want one). That kind of precludes most assistantships.


Margaret DeAngelis
Markings: Days of Her Life
http://www.silkentent.com/Trees


Sugah


Aug 11, 2008, 9:32 PM

Post #107 of 172 (7039 views)
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Re: [silkentent] Too old for MFA? Can't Post

I turned forty last month. I didn't seriously begin my undergraduate work until I was thirty-six - so I'm a forty-year-old, freshly graduated MFA candidate (non-fiction) with an TAship, and no one could be more surprised by this than me. Were there strikes against me because of age? Tick marks in my 'pro' column because of it? No idea. I can tell you that my writing sample was composed of pieces on topics I could not have written about ten or fifteen years ago.

I know that I would not want to be a reader trying to decide between two equally good (technical) writers, one older and one who's fault is lack of life experience. That would be tough.

For the record, I have a couple of published essays (shades of another topic), but nothing in large or lofty markets, and I do intend to teach. Although it would be in poor taste to make a laundry list here, suffice it to say that I took my undergraduate work very seriously, so I didn't have any 'yeah-buts' for the 'deciders' to point out.

Peace!
Sugah


http://sugahsshack.blogspot.com


writerteacher


Aug 11, 2008, 9:55 PM

Post #108 of 172 (7032 views)
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Re: [Raysen] Too old for MFA? Can't Post


In Reply To
Do you think OLD age is a factor in the admission process?


No.


In Reply To
are they more likely to take the younger (early 30s) writer over the older writer (40s or 50s), all other things being equal?


No.

Schools strive for diversity; this includes age diversity.

It's unlikely an admissions committee will know how old you are until its members fall for your writing sample and want to make you an offer -- in which case they'll review your personal statement, academic and professional credentials, etc. At that point, "old age" (God, really? 40? 50?) is likely to work for you in terms of diversity. I can't think of an instance when it would be a detriment.

There are a lot of factors, but age is not among them.

Anecdotally, I'm 46, entering my second year of a three year residential program. Ages range from 22 to 65.

WT


silkfx2004


Aug 13, 2008, 10:46 AM

Post #109 of 172 (6950 views)
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Re: [writerteacher] Too old for MFA? Can't Post

As I posted upthread, I was 40 when I began my program. As far as I know I was the third-oldest person in my class. The two people above me were in their early 50s (actually, they were about a month apart in age).

Subsequent classes have each had a few 40-and-overs from what I've observed...but not many. The vast majority of students were in their 20s and 30s. But don't let that stop you...it really depends on the program and what their diversity goals are.


--------
Nobody but God gets it right the first time. Everybody else has to rewrite. --attributed to Stephen King


Zash
Zachary Ash

Aug 13, 2008, 6:04 PM

Post #110 of 172 (6893 views)
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Re: [writerteacher] Too old for MFA? Can't Post

This is encouraging. I'm in my mid-forties and will begin a residential MFA program in September. The director told me not to worrry, that there are people of all ages in the program.


medusashair


Aug 21, 2008, 4:37 PM

Post #111 of 172 (6799 views)
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Re: [Zash] Too old for MFA? Can't Post

Sugah and Silkentent-- My two cents... As a 39-yr old in a great MFA program, I encourage more of us "oldsters" to apply. I applied two years in a row (the first netted me an MA, long story) and I never encountered resistance from the people who make the applications decisions.

However, be prepared to feel kind of alone in class and at social events because in my experience MFAers are very young beings. I am older by about 15 years from my class mates. There are times I feel really lonely and left out (I have a thin skin I guess). Then I remember that I played out all the drama in my own twenties and try to feed the aloneness into my writing. I would have been overjoyed to see either of you in my programs.

That said, any place that encourages you to read, write, and study with generous teachers and writers-- rock it out. I'm living the dream. (knocks wood)


silkfx2004


Aug 22, 2008, 10:04 AM

Post #112 of 172 (6747 views)
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Re: [medusashair] Too old for MFA? Can't Post


In Reply To
However, be prepared to feel kind of alone in class and at social events because in my experience MFAers are very young beings. I am older by about 15 years from my class mates. There are times I feel really lonely and left out (I have a thin skin I guess). Then I remember that I played out all the drama in my own twenties and try to feed the aloneness into my writing. I would have been overjoyed to see either of you in my programs.

That said, any place that encourages you to read, write, and study with generous teachers and writers-- rock it out. I'm living the dream. (knocks wood)


Co-signing and I swear I'm going to stay out of this thread afterwards...

My "problem" is that I look young for my age. So some people made assumptions about me and my habits based on that. ("Um, no, I'm not usually closing down the bars...that's because I get up at 6:00 am most days...") However, once my real age was revealed, some people assumed I would be more of a mama figure. (The sentence "You don't act 40" is not always meant as a compliment.) Nothing wrong with being mama but I just don't have that degree of selflessness these days...and there's nothing wrong with being a young MFAer but I'm not trying to turn back the clock in that way.

Having said all that...I learned SO MUCH from my classmates. It's very important to not close yourself off to what they can teach you. I was guilty of doing that in the beginning but fortunately that didn't last long.

I may have said this before but I'll say it again: I would NEVER have appreciated the MFA experience in my 20s or 30s the way I did in my 40s. If you're lucky enough to be able to do this, to carve out this time for yourself and your writing, you should definitely go for it.


--------
Nobody but God gets it right the first time. Everybody else has to rewrite. --attributed to Stephen King


Arkinese


Aug 22, 2008, 10:14 AM

Post #113 of 172 (6744 views)
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Re: [Raysen] Too old for MFA? Can't Post

As others have said, I doubt age would ever work against you in a creative writing program, simply because no one is "too old" to be a writer. However, I will chime in on the other side of what medusashair said about feeling left out if you're older than the median age of the class/graduate students.

The majority of students in my department (including both MFA, MAs and dual-degrees) are in their late 20s and early 30s (I'm 28). But there are at least half a dozen students that I see on a regular basis who in their 40s or older. With the exception of two, they are extremely intelligent, witty, nice and give excellent feedback on the material whether in a lit or writing class. I quickly forget that they are "older" and enjoy their company. In fact, the only time I remember that they're older is when they say something about their teenage kids....

However, the "exceptional two" that I mentioned are both in their mid-to-late 50s and both somehow independently of one another seem to think that the "lowly twentysomething masses" are very inferior due to the lack of life experience we have.

While I am sure medusashair is nothing like this (when someone says they have a "thin skin," like I do, I figure they're probably a sensitive and thoughtful person), I can tell you that it's aggravating to a lot of the younger students when there's an older student who, for whatever reason, is condescending in the classroom. Not that I think you would ever be this way, Raysen or even that most older students are! It is just a classroom dynamic of the "age issue" in MFA programs that I have noticed.

But as a final note in the "never too old to be a writer" category: my mother teaches a creative writing class at a senior citizen center and one of her seventysomething students had, I think, his third book published recently. Since my mom is under 60, she's younger than almost all her students. :)


srohrbach
Shawn Rohrbach

Oct 22, 2008, 5:27 PM

Post #114 of 172 (6599 views)
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Re: [flatiron10] Age of MFA students Can't Post

I was accepted and enrolled when I turned 40. It was a good choice. I had a body of writing already, much of it of a very technical nature, but also a body of published articles and newspaper columns over the years and a collection of short stories and one complete novel that I could use as a baseline to apply some of the instruction to.


Shawn Rohrbach
www.shawnrohrbach.com



alamana
Jennifer Brown


Nov 22, 2008, 7:00 PM

Post #115 of 172 (6432 views)
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Re: [srohrbach] Age of MFA students Can't Post

I'm 38 and applying now so I'm glad to see I'm not the only one over 23.


Be regular and orderly in your life, that you may be violent and original in your work. -- Flaubert

http://www.jenniferkirkpatrickbrown.com


srohrbach
Shawn Rohrbach

Nov 22, 2008, 7:32 PM

Post #116 of 172 (6424 views)
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Re: [jkbrown] Age of MFA students Can't Post

good luck. I was living in Boulder at the time and was on a competitive cycling team as well as a very amateur ski racing team so I had like minded friends of all ages and didn't feel isolated by age. I ended up teaching rock clibming to Naropa undergrads so outside of the age chasm in the classroom, i had a lot of fun.


Shawn Rohrbach
www.shawnrohrbach.com



insertbrackets


Nov 29, 2008, 12:59 AM

Post #117 of 172 (6300 views)
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Re: [srohrbach] Age of MFA students Can't Post

This is an interesting topic which, on other forums and blogs I have taken up residence in, has elicited a tremendous amount of debate--some of it hurtful, shortsighted, and negative. I, myself, am twenty one in two short hours (I live in Los Angeles) and I hope my youngness does not count against me. If the selection process truly is based almost exclusively on the writing sample, then I don't think I will have too much to complain about. If anything, my age will work well against what I have written, because it isn't the stereotypical fodder one imagines someone my age should be writing. That is to say, no poems about drunken affairs and jitled dorm-mate lovers. I will say, though, that in my travels I have encountered a number of older applicants who have matter-of-factly stated that they would refuse to respect anyone below the age of thirty. In this whole application process, the thing that bothers me most is not my GRE scores or writing a teaching statement, it's contemplating the idea that, in the eyes of some of my classmates, my biological age (regardless of whatever my emotional or mental age is) will be a hindrance. I can't help being ready now. I've been deadset on applying to MFA's since I started college and found out there was a degree that accompanied what I wanted to be. Prolonging it any longer just seems unnatural.

(I hope this didn't come off as a caustic rant. I do not mean to offend and respect people on the basis and merit of who they are and not any quantifiable factors!)


Who told you I was a racist? Was it...a minority?
-T-Rex, qwantz.com Dinosaur Comics


srohrbach
Shawn Rohrbach

Nov 29, 2008, 10:51 AM

Post #118 of 172 (6275 views)
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Re: [insertbrackets] Age of MFA students Can't Post


In Reply To
This is an interesting topic which, on other forums and blogs I have taken up residence in, has elicited a tremendous amount of debate--some of it hurtful, shortsighted, and negative. I, myself, am twenty one in two short hours (I live in Los Angeles) and I hope my youngness does not count against me. If the selection process truly is based almost exclusively on the writing sample, then I don't think I will have too much to complain about. If anything, my age will work well against what I have written, because it isn't the stereotypical fodder one imagines someone my age should be writing. That is to say, no poems about drunken affairs and jitled dorm-mate lovers. I will say, though, that in my travels I have encountered a number of older applicants who have matter-of-factly stated that they would refuse to respect anyone below the age of thirty. In this whole application process, the thing that bothers me most is not my GRE scores or writing a teaching statement, it's contemplating the idea that, in the eyes of some of my classmates, my biological age (regardless of whatever my emotional or mental age is) will be a hindrance. I can't help being ready now. I've been deadset on applying to MFA's since I started college and found out there was a degree that accompanied what I wanted to be. Prolonging it any longer just seems unnatural.

(I hope this didn't come off as a caustic rant. I do not mean to offend and respect people on the basis and merit of who they are and not any quantifiable factors!)

In fairness, there are more students who are under thirty, mostly under26, in MFA programs and people ARE naturally selective about their companions and age is typcally a criteria. I found fairly harsh agiesm directed at me by the large body of the under 30 crowd. Yes, there were a few students my age who flaunted their middle age wealth and ate steak at fine restaurants while the younger students ate rama noodles and the older students refused to take the writings of the younger students seriously. Cutting to the chase here, ageism stinks, and I am not sure if there is anything that can be done to eliminate it. I was fortunate to make solid life long friends almost half my age who contnue to read my work. Good luck and hope you find a group of writers, no matter what age will encourage and challenge you.



Shawn Rohrbach
www.shawnrohrbach.com



grimson
Justin Bryant

Dec 2, 2008, 7:46 PM

Post #119 of 172 (6166 views)
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Re: [srohrbach] Age of MFA students Can't Post

I had a range of ages in my MFA program (NYU). I would say most were in their late 20s-early 30s, with a few coming right from undergrad, and few in their 50s. I was 39 when I went in. I would say for the most part, nobody's age mattered.


Sibella
Pam, that is.


Dec 8, 2008, 6:57 PM

Post #120 of 172 (6049 views)
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Re: [grimson] Age of MFA students Can't Post

This is an interesting discussion, especially since none of us are getting any younger.

I'm assuming that I'll meet a more diverse (in terms of age and other demographics) group of folks in the average low-res MFA program than in a "traditional" program. Am I correct?


"What I wanted to hear didn't exist, so it was necessary for me to go out and create it." --Richard Thompson


pongo
Buy this book!


Dec 8, 2008, 7:14 PM

Post #121 of 172 (6036 views)
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Re: [Sibella] Age of MFA students Can't Post

I'm not sure there is an average low-res program, but in my graduating class (Goddard, summer '98) we had students who ranged from 22 to seventy-something. (The youngest was actually getting his BA, but he took his last term with us, and I was never rude enough to ask Mara her age, but she was a retired university librarian getting her fourth advanced degree.)


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

Difficult Listening, Sundays from ten to noon (Central time), at http://www.radiofreenashville.org/.

http://home.comcast.net/~david.m.harris/site/


Sugah


Dec 8, 2008, 11:48 PM

Post #122 of 172 (5988 views)
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Re: [Sibella] Age of MFA students Can't Post

As far as more diversity in low-res programs, I don't know. I'm at Pitt (non-fiction), and the ages range from 22 to older than me by at least a few years (I'm 40). Our backgrounds are pretty diverse, too.


http://sugahsshack.blogspot.com


(This post was edited by Sugah on Dec 8, 2008, 11:49 PM)


Md23Rewls


Dec 29, 2008, 11:28 PM

Post #123 of 172 (5825 views)
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Re: [Sibella] Age of MFA students Can't Post

I am 22 and just graduated this month. I decided to apply for Fall 2009, though I wasn't sure if I wanted to at first. Pretty confident in that decision to start applying now that the ball's started to roll, though. I'm also sort of glad I had a December graduation, as I will get some time off (January to August) before going back to school. I know it's not the same as taking a few years off, but just getting those extra months should be gold.


Sibella
Pam, that is.


Dec 30, 2008, 9:28 AM

Post #124 of 172 (5793 views)
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Re: [Sugah] Age of MFA students Can't Post

Thank you all for the age info.

i've decided to go for it. I'm applying to Warren Wilson's low-res program. (At the suggestion of my husband, I'll probably go down there next week to check out some of the public events associated with the residency--see what I think of the lectures, etc.)

I might even finish before I'm 50!

In Reply To


"What I wanted to hear didn't exist, so it was necessary for me to go out and create it." --Richard Thompson


srohrbach
Shawn Rohrbach

Dec 30, 2008, 1:05 PM

Post #125 of 172 (5756 views)
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Re: [Sibella] Age of MFA students Can't Post

Sibella; good luck! I hope you get in and find the experience as rewarding as I did.


Shawn Rohrbach
www.shawnrohrbach.com


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