Sep 21, 2004, 12:16 PM
Post #8 of 213
Re: [creative8] UNDREGRAD PREPARATION FOR MFA
You write "What is a 'traditional' background? Is this a major in Literature or English?" Don't worry about this.
There's no "traditional" background for an MFA student that I'm aware of. George Saunders, for instance, is as fine of an American writer/MFA graduate that I can think of, and his undergrad degree was in engineering.
While there are some programs (Ohio State and Western Michigan come to mind) that require students to have an English lit background, I don't think you need to worry about which major your choose. Most MFA programs really don't care about your background, so choose a course of study that interests you. The undergraduate experience is like nothing else you'll encounter in life--you won't have another chance to indulge your intellectual curiosity like this ever again, so study whatever you want.
You write, "What is a profile of an English major grad?"
Your guess is as good as mine, buddy.
You write, "Some of the best writers or poets in literature as history proved don't have these backgrounds. I've read that majoring in English doesn't make you a great storyteller or being a major in Lit doesn't make one a great writer either."
Sounds like your instincts are correct. If you want to study art history or theater or physics or business, go right ahead.
You write, "For financial assistance, whose income are they looking into?"
This is an excellent question. Fortunately, "financial aid" for graduate school doesn't work the same way it does for undergraduate work.
Since you have a lot of time between now and when you intend to apply to graduate school, I encourage you to take a look at the ways different programs handle tuition and financial assistance. You may be surprised at how this works.
For starters, financial assistance in graduate school is nearly always merit based. Your income or your parents' income is never really part of the equation.
Different programs do things different ways.
Some programs offer full tuition remission and fellowship support for their students for each year of the program. These programs are typically small and selective, accepting only 10 writers a year. Fellowship can include a job as an editor on the program's literary journal, a T.A.ship, or graduate assistantship, and usually gives a student between 8,000 and 16,000 to live on for the year.
Some programs offer full tuition remission to all students but fellowship support to only some. Like the above example, these schools are typically small and selective.
Some programs offer tuition and fellowship awards to some students and not to others. These programs are larger than the above examples but are no less competitive. Iowa works this way. In such a program, incoming students are awarded support based on certain rubrics. These awards are granted from both the graduate college and the program itself, so criteria can vary. For example, a graduate college may award a student fellowship support based on a very high GRE score (think 1500 or above) or undergraduate GPA. The program itself, meanwhile, would never consider anything beyond the manuscript as a basis for award.
Anyway, in this model, it's possible for a non-English lit major with a sub-par GPA and poor GRE scores to get accepted to a program like Iowa (one of the finest in the nation) and receive no fellowship or tution support.
Finally, some programs offer little or no support at all. Schools like Columbia, Sarah Lawrence, and most of the low-res programs do not offer tuition remission or fellowship support for first-year students. These are also excellent programs.
You may ultimately elect to apply for traditional financial aid in the form of loans through the program that you intend for a number of reasons. Perhaps you only get a partial tution remission, or maybe your fellowship of 7,500 isn't enough to live on without having to get a job. If you play your cards right, though, you can skip this altogether.
Good luck to you.