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flatiron10


Mar 1, 2006, 8:39 PM

Post #1 of 172 (16557 views)
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Age of MFA students Can't Post

Not to pry, but I'm curious. How old are people that are getting accepted into these programs? Tom Kealey's book says the average age of a MFA student is 28 (I think low-res is substantially older). I just wonder about the range of age in programs.


(This post was edited by motet on Sep 30, 2007, 11:00 PM)


augustmaria


Mar 1, 2006, 9:02 PM

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Re: [jennatelesca] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

I'm twenty-one. Baby of the family.


HopperFu


Mar 1, 2006, 9:06 PM

Post #3 of 172 (16528 views)
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Re: [jennatelesca] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

I'm 32. I think that if I had gone to an MFA program earlier, I would not have gotten much out of it. And to be honest, I don't think I could have gotten in anywhere.


sayra


Mar 1, 2006, 9:13 PM

Post #4 of 172 (16520 views)
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Re: [augustmaria] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

twenty one here as well


sanssoleil
Chris

Mar 1, 2006, 9:17 PM

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Re: [jennatelesca] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

I'm 25. Glad I didn't apply to graduate school five years ago, right out of undergrad--I would have ended up studying film theory. I would have been miserable, I'm sure of it.


franz


Mar 1, 2006, 10:06 PM

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Re: [sayra] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

I'm 26-- I feel like I've waited just the right amount of time between undergrad and grad


Franz Knupfer, author of short stories and novels


Aubrie


Mar 1, 2006, 10:08 PM

Post #7 of 172 (16486 views)
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Re: [franz] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

26 here as well.


darredet
Darren A. Deth


Mar 1, 2006, 10:15 PM

Post #8 of 172 (16479 views)
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Re: [Aubrie] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

Why do I feel like I should have a cane and a hunched back? 38.

Darren


gussy


Mar 1, 2006, 10:30 PM

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Re: [darredet] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

Thanks, Darren. This is going to sound very selfish, but learning that you're 38 makes my upcoming 33 (I'll turn 33 --sigh-- by mid-April) look sort of OK. Man, we should say that we have the best of the two worlds, that is, we're experienced people, but still with the strength of youngish healthy males (yeah, the latter could be "truer" but what the hell... :))


ciaosamin


Mar 1, 2006, 10:40 PM

Post #10 of 172 (16462 views)
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Re: [gussy] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

i'm also 26. and i feel like this is the perfect time for me to go back to school. i'm finally ready.

now, if i'd only get an acceptance letter from somewhere....


ElRi


Mar 1, 2006, 10:43 PM

Post #11 of 172 (16456 views)
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Re: [darredet] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

Hang in there Darren. I"m 39.


knjay
Nick Kocz

Mar 1, 2006, 10:46 PM

Post #12 of 172 (16455 views)
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Re: [darredet] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

Darren-- I'm 41. If you're hobbling around with a crooked cane, I guess that means I'll be dragging myself into class with a dented steel walker. Or perhaps I need to get one of those sporty motorized wheelchairs.


sibyline


Mar 1, 2006, 11:19 PM

Post #13 of 172 (16430 views)
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Re: [knjay] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

i'm happily 30. i took virginia woolf's advice to heart.


bighark


Mar 1, 2006, 11:22 PM

Post #14 of 172 (16426 views)
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Re: [sibyline] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

I'm 30.


lavashlavash


Mar 1, 2006, 11:26 PM

Post #15 of 172 (16421 views)
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Re: [bighark] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

24. Worked at some interesting places, met some interesting people.


sibyline


Mar 1, 2006, 11:27 PM

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Re: [bighark] Age of MFA students? Can't Post


In Reply To
I'm 30.


and much more concise than me. i feel like such a rambly rambly rambler sometimes.... :)


gussy


Mar 1, 2006, 11:33 PM

Post #17 of 172 (16415 views)
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Re: [sibyline] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

What is V. W.'s advice? (Shame on me!)


ciaosamin


Mar 1, 2006, 11:37 PM

Post #18 of 172 (16409 views)
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Re: [lavashlavash] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

do tell, lavashlavash. give us a little peek into your interesting experiences to help us pass the time. please?


sibyline


Mar 1, 2006, 11:44 PM

Post #19 of 172 (16405 views)
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Re: [gussy] Age of MFA students? Can't Post


In Reply To
What is V. W.'s advice? (Shame on me!)


I don't remember the exact quote, but Woolf did not publish her first novel until she was 33, and had said that people shouldn't publish until they're at least 30.


orangegirl


Mar 1, 2006, 11:52 PM

Post #20 of 172 (16400 views)
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Re: [jennatelesca] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

i'm 28, unsure how i feel about being perfectly "average," and a refugee from the legal life. (umm, meaning lawyerdom, not on the lam from the law... yet.) i had a professor once who said that catherine mackinnon had been in graduate school for nine years (i have no idea if this is true or not) and he for eleven-- i (a) am apparently aiming for right between the two and (b) use that little tidbit to reassure myself all the time.


augustmaria


Mar 1, 2006, 11:57 PM

Post #21 of 172 (16395 views)
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Re: [sayra] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

Yay for the young ones!

I also look noticeably younger than twenty-one--more like seventeen/eighteen unless I make an effort to age myself. I'm vaguely worried about teaching because of this. I'm also 5'2", which doesn't help.


kcole7
Kristin

Mar 2, 2006, 12:34 AM

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I also look noticeably younger than twenty-one--more like seventeen/eighteen unless I make an effort to age myself. I'm vaguely worried about teaching because of this. I'm also 5'2", which doesn't help.

I'm 25, married with one child. I started college at 22, so I'm actually starting grad school right out of college.

I have the same problem, sayra. If I don't wear makeup, I look 15-16, although on one occasion, I was offered the kid's menu at a restaurant. With makeup, I look anywhere from 19-25. I'm also 5'4". To avoid any potential issues when teaching, I plan to dress professionally (business casual) and command their respect without being bitchy. Easier said than done, I know. If you assume an air of authority, then no one will question you after a few days. Just in case, though, I plan to be armed with makeup and tall shoes.

k.c.


gussy


Mar 2, 2006, 1:26 AM

Post #23 of 172 (16350 views)
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Re: [kcole7] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

FWIW, a couple of classmates of mine at the PhD program are around 24 but look 17 (seriously), and everything got taken care of when they dressed up rather formally, wore some make-up, and, as you say, assumed "an air of authority" which just meant being assertive when speaking, and not smiling that much. As you say, that is not tantamount to being bitchy, but it commands respect. And, believe me, if these friends of mine did it with these little savages we have here under the guise of college students, you will make it too.


brooklynpoet


Mar 2, 2006, 1:55 AM

Post #24 of 172 (16343 views)
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Re: [gussy] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

I turned 37 on February 8th. I'm not hobbling yet. Actually, I'm just thankful I'm still fertile. Presumably--I don't know for a fact.

Anybody know any cute, intellectually minded, financially secure, witty, literate 30- or 40-something single men interested in producing creatively gifted progeny with their female equivalent? (And who wouldn't mind that she's about to move to Gainesville or somewhere equally obscure, of course.)

Oh, and I get carded occasionally. On one memorable occasion, for cigarettes. And the clerk was serious. How's that for maintaining a youthful appearance?

(I went to grad school the first time at 21. The students in their mid-thirties spent copious amounts of time grumbling bitterly about feeling decrepit in comparison to the whippersnappers. I'm gonna try not to do that. Later.)

--brooklynpoet, who had already revealed she was female, and who is now publically proclaiming that she's aged, straight, and getting desperate


gussy


Mar 2, 2006, 2:37 AM

Post #25 of 172 (16332 views)
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Re: [brooklynpoet] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

"Anybody know any cute, intellectually minded, financially secure, witty, literate 30- or 40-something single men interested in producing creatively gifted progeny with their female equivalent?"

[With International Man of Mystery tone] That's me, baby. Behave !

I'm sorry; as part of the Comprehensive-Therapy-For-MFA-Sufferers -- I mean, applicants -- I just watched Austin Powers. And well, it's kind of catchy. (Or I should say "groovy"). Smashing, baby !!

(A more pathetic note -- yes, more pathetic than the above is possible: I used to hate Austin Powers. What is going on? What has this application process done to me????)

(Third, and last, note: of course, the "financially secure" part is certainly not true. And after watching Austin Powers, you probably think the "intellectually minded" and "witty" parts dropped, too :)

OK, I'm out of the closet: I like Nabokov and Austin Powers !! (And Liz Hurley, too, I should add, if you allow me a touch of depraved, drooling lewdness)


poetastin


Mar 2, 2006, 2:38 AM

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Re: [brooklynpoet] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

Hopefully, the program I choose will let me meet women who don't find it disgusting that I'm not, at 26, a doctor or lawyer like everyone else in my graduating class... (Damn you, private high school!)

Do I put that in my statement of purpose?


(This post was edited by poetastin on Mar 2, 2006, 2:41 AM)


RedFaerieGirl21


Mar 2, 2006, 3:35 AM

Post #27 of 172 (5627 views)
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Re: [augustmaria] Age of MFA students? Can't Post


In Reply To
Yay for the young ones!

I also look noticeably younger than twenty-one--more like seventeen/eighteen unless I make an effort to age myself. I'm vaguely worried about teaching because of this. I'm also 5'2", which doesn't help.



I know how you feel. I'm 21 as well, 5'2", and most people think I'm 18 when they first meet me. I'm currently a tutor for elementary school children and it's sad that I have a 6th grader who is taller than me (5'4"). I also used to be involved in this program where I dealt with junior high and high schoolers in a fairly large group, and I once had this teenage boy who thought he could hit on me just because he was bigger and figured I might like a 'younger man.'

But I have to say that overall, I've never had any real authority issues (at least not because I look young and am short), and it's true that as long as you do have an "air of authority," you should be fine. Heck, I wear jeans and casual shirts and I still have no problems (though I do, for the most part, wear heels to give me some height along with some eyeshadow and gloss.) I even joke, laugh, and have a 'friend-like' approach with my students, and yet I make it clear, when necessary, that I am in charge. You just have to be confident, and know you have the qualifications and ability to be in your position. Of course dealing with undergraduates will probably be different so...


darredet
Darren A. Deth


Mar 2, 2006, 5:47 AM

Post #28 of 172 (5617 views)
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Re: [knjay] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

When I went to Vermont College for a tour last year, I saw students of various ages, some of them in their sixties. I was relieved to see that age span. It lends to the experience of learning.


soulzenful


Mar 2, 2006, 10:54 AM

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Re: [jennatelesca] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

27. Just graduating with my undergrad. Glad I waited to go back to college because I appreciate school in a way I never would have if I hadn't spent time having horrible 9 to 5 jobs. Which makes getting into grad school even more insanely important to me, because I am not ready to give up the school life yet. (Ever.)


theapplepicker


Mar 2, 2006, 11:06 AM

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Re: [darredet] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

I'm very relieved to see people here of a variety of ages. I'm 27, and lately I've been feeling like I got started so late. (I was not focused during most of the years I spent in undergrad. Unlike a lot of writers who say they always wanted to be a writer, I wasn't sure what I wanted to be. I had always loved writing, and it seemed so natural--it felt like that was the only thing I could do, but I still kept looking: botanist, exercise physiologist, musician.)

It reminds me that as long as you're doing it, it doesn't matter when you get started.


stephkarto1
Stephanie Kartalopoulos

Mar 2, 2006, 11:33 AM

Post #31 of 172 (5547 views)
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Re: [jennatelesca] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

1. I turned 24 the summer I moved to Gainesville for UF's program. (Actually, it went like this: 1. I graduated from college, 2. 5 days later I turned 24, 3. 9 days after that I flew to Florida, 4. 2 months after that I began my MFA program). I graduated 1 month before my 26th birthda.

2. Right now I am 28 (I turn 29 in June for anyone in the Greater Boston area who wants to be included in my invite list for my bacchanalian fete), and I am hoping in my highest of hopes to return to school.

3. I graduated from a prestigious college and am not a lawyer, CEO, consultant at Bain, CFO, media planner, marketing exec, doctor, ETC ETC ETC, or MARRIED WOMAN like all of the people I graduated high school with. My parents, quite unfortunately, sent me ("scholarship girl") to some prissy, hoity-toity all-female Catholic high school. Every alumni newsletter is filled with notes on how such-and-such person just got married or just popped out larvae or just got another corporate job. It's not that I hate that--I mean live your life however you are happy--but every time that newsletter comes, there is mention of it and why am I not married? Why am I not a '21st century kind of woman who wants a nice car and a nice, safe, stable job,' as my mother told me when I chose to go to an MFA program?

4. Oh brother!

5. I look INCREDIBLY young. I am 4'11". I am more prone to jeans, sneakers, and hair shoved behind my ears and gallavanting around town with a messenger bag or backpack and my earbuds popped in than anything else.

6. My looking young was NOT a problem when I was a TA in Grad School, nor is it a problem now. Students in college can be quite cynical, yes, but there's an immediate acceptance that you are the teacher and they registered for your course. The school I went to was incredibly informal--dressing business casual was certainly fine, but you would've likely gotten laughed at if you wore a suit or anything really fitting of a corporate environment. Lots of people wore jeans and nice sneakers/decent shoes and a reasonable top or khakis or cargo pants or whatever for teaching.

7. Brooklynpoet--one of my friends who is a UF/MFA alum and a delightful poet lives in Tampa. I don't know if he's still single, but he is incredibly striking and young-looking for his 50-something age. He really looks more like 40. And he is hilarious and a great writer and a very delightful person.

8. Word to the wise: if you are in a small MFA program, it can get VERY incestuous. Be careful of that, especially if you find yourself really liking the sense of community that's built when everyone's buddies. If you are in a CRW program within an English department that seems pretty cohesive (either by nature or by the fact that you're in a huge university with five million undergrads and you need to know some people who are around your age and education level), it can also get incestuous, but with a twist. Be careful about department politics that tend to exist with the professors and whether or not, by professor influence and biases, this trickles down to the grad students and what they really think of each other. Many times people seem cool--you are who you are--but sometimes a situation can arise where you are your program/focus/major/discipline or you are considered an extension of your thesis advisor. That can get uncomfortable.

(I'm just sayin'...)

This is long and verbose. Procrastination time over!

:)
Steph.


kcole7
Kristin

Mar 2, 2006, 12:10 PM

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Re: [stephkarto1] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

    I would never show up in a suit - nice jeans or cargo pants sound fine to me - but I'm reminded of a TA I had freshman year. She was studying Renaissance lit. Although she was very smart, I always wondered what the professors thought about the way she dressed (like Britney Spears, except cheaper.) All the students noticed, so I doubt the professors were blind to it.

For those of you in your thirties, don't feel old. :) I'm 25, but my husband is 36, and I don't even notice the age difference. I doubt any of the 20-somethings will notice your age. If anything, they might be intimidated. I, for one, am relieved that I won't stand out too much because I have a kid. I get really sick of 18 year old girls chirping, "You have a kid?!?" and treating me like an alien.


flatiron10


Mar 2, 2006, 2:32 PM

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Re: [kcole7] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

Hey, I just asked about age to see if I had a chance of getting in at 23, or if I should wait a couple years. It seems pretty evenly split.

As for older people in workshops, I've had a wide range of ages just in my undergrad workshops. There is a 33 year old in my class with 21 year olds. No one cares about her age. She's probably my favorite person in the class too, because she's the most thorough and thoughtful with her comments on our stories. I've had 45-55 year olds in my lit classes too. Not weird at all, for anyone. As long as people are engaged in the class, it doesn't matter to fellow classmates how old or young they are.

I didn't mean to get people self conscious about their age!


HopperFu


Mar 2, 2006, 2:37 PM

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Re: [jennatelesca] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

Of course you can get in at 23. Getting in doesn't have anything to do with age, it has to do with writing samples. The real question is, are you ready for an MFA program now? Plenty of people are ready for MFA's out of undergrad, but just as many - and I'm a good example of this - would have wasted that opportunity.
For me, having some time out of undergrad has changed the way I approach things, and I know how incredible the opportunity is that I have. That's not something I would have recognized earlier.


flatiron10


Mar 2, 2006, 2:58 PM

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Re: [HopperFu] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

Hopperfu, you're very right about the question to ask myself. I'm already taking a year off next year to work, so I have some time to think about everything realistically. Thanks for your input.


bighark


Mar 2, 2006, 3:00 PM

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Re: [HopperFu] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

I don't think I would have made the best out of the MFA experience if I were to have been accepted straight from undergrad.

Now that I'm older, I think things will be different. If I'm lucky enough to get in some place, I think I'll be hyper-senstitive about not squandering the opportunity.


HopperFu


Mar 2, 2006, 3:11 PM

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Re: [bighark] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

Jennatelesca, I think that's a great idea to take that year off. And I apologize to anybody if it sounded like a lecturing email, 'cause it wasn't intended to be. You'd think that as a writer I'd be more concious of tone in emails and message boards.

Bighark: I hear you. I actually took some time off work and lived off savings when I was in my mid-twenties, trying to write. I wasted so so so so much time, it kills me now. I've got two young girls now though, and man, any second I get to write is precious. I try so hard to make the most of my writing time now. Not to mention that my writing when I was 22 pretty much sucked.


maanprophet


Mar 2, 2006, 3:25 PM

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Re: [HopperFu] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

Just to throw my 2 cents in, taking time off after college has allowed me to do the following:

1. Gain perspective on the academic world and why I do/don't want to be a part of it.
2. Learn to set my own writing schedule.
3. Read anything I want!
4. Interact with different people in different working environments.

This year has helped align me to the necessity of being driven and able to produce when there's no requirements, when you are truly and fully doing it for yourself (as opposed to for a professor, or a class, or an application, or whatever).

That's truly what I'd recommend figuring out--not just if you want to devote yourself to writing, but if you can. If you're not ready for such a commitment, wait till you are.

--Avimaan


kodi


Mar 2, 2006, 3:29 PM

Post #39 of 172 (5418 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] Age of MFA students? Can't Post


In Reply To
Jennatelesca, I think that's a great idea to take that year off. And I apologize to anybody if it sounded like a lecturing email, 'cause it wasn't intended to be. You'd think that as a writer I'd be more concious of tone in emails and message boards.

Bighark: I hear you. I actually took some time off work and lived off savings when I was in my mid-twenties, trying to write. I wasted so so so so much time, it kills me now. I've got two young girls now though, and man, any second I get to write is precious. I try so hard to make the most of my writing time now. Not to mention that my writing when I was 22 pretty much sucked.


I'm 23, and I hope to be enrolled in a program this fall. I've also done the 9 to 5 thing for almost two years now. I'm itching to go back to school and be surrounded by other writers--if anything, I think these two years will make me appreciate the (relative) luxury of grad school that much more.


brooklynpoet


Mar 3, 2006, 1:56 AM

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Re: [gussy] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

But you're 4 years younger than me. You got a thing for older women?

Financially secure because, of course, I'm not. But I suppose I could forgo that one requirement; I wouldn't want to be hypocritical. Exactly how cute are you?

BP


gussy


Mar 3, 2006, 2:17 AM

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Re: [brooklynpoet] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

Do you have a thing for younger men? :)

I have dated -- seriously dated -- women who were 10 years older than me, and (perhaps due to an obsessive, caliginous search for symmetry? :) ), also women who were 10 years younger than me. (Freak out not, ladies and gentlemen: for the most part, I date women in my age-range).

Exactly how cute I am? Immensely, incommensurably, overwhelmingly, intoxicatingly cute. Women flock to me like in those Axe commercials -- only I am cute, unlike the dude in the commercials.


Excerpt from my writing sample.


-----------------

(Do I need to add that I applied for fiction? :) )

------------------
OK, I gotta stay away from this forum for a while. It's not only driving me mad; it's driving me silly :)


[hotwax]


Mar 5, 2006, 10:50 AM

Post #42 of 172 (5249 views)
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Re: [jennatelesca] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

I happen to be 29 years old. Oh, dear.


pongo
Buy this book!


Mar 5, 2006, 11:51 AM

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In Reply To
I have dated -- seriously dated -- women who were 10 years older than me, and (perhaps due to an obsessive, caliginous search for symmetry? :) ), also women who were 10 years younger than me. (Freak out not, ladies and gentlemen: for the most part, I date women in my age-range).


At my age, from ten years older to ten years younger is women in my age range.

dmh


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/


gussy


Mar 5, 2006, 1:04 PM

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Re: [pongo] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

OK, I suggest that we officially accept RL as a replacement for the old LOL. (For those of you who, like me, just learned about these things, LOL is internetese for "laughing out loud."). And hereby RL stands for "Roaring laughter." Which is exactly what happened when I read Pongo's reply. Man, how old are you? :) The only context in which I can think that +/- 10 years is one's age range is when the person is, say, 113 years old. OK, not that much, but, let's say, 80. And picturing myself as being 80 is, well, science-fiction to me (of course, 33 was equally fictional to me not so long ago, alas :). Mind you, I don't have anything against people of different age-ranges getting into romantic relationships. Actually, one of my best friends is 35 and his wife is 24; they are the best couple I've ever seen. (I know, this sounds like "I don't have anything against [insert a minority]; actually, I have friends who are [same minority]. But, despite this funny (in a black-humorous way) resemblance, I mean it. Not only do I mean it, I did in fact date women +/- 10 years than me. And besides, I love Nabokov :)

OK, this is a long, irrelevant rant. All I meant to say is, Pongo, you made me laugh a lot with your witticism. And, in a cold, sunless, mail-less Sunday, that means a lot. Alright, following the example of someone else out in the forum, I decided I will try to write again -- isn't that what all this MFA thing was all about? I'm out.


lytonyawename



Mar 5, 2006, 4:15 PM

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Re: Age of MFA students? Can't Post

just 29 last month and trying to ignore that it makes me feel like i'm approaching a cliff. completely irrational. i swear i've started becoming paranoid about my heart rate even... i'm at the point where i'm suspicious because my heart rate is too SLOW considering i'm not in great shape (65/minute is normal for an athlete... it's what i had in highschool on cross country... but now? now way)... i have concluded, based on poor reading and presumptuous flights of fancy and webmd.com that i have an enlarged heart that will die from holding it's breath or blowing up.
the end. and why does this upset me? other than that i can't stand the idea of what that would do to my daughter... it means i wouldn't have a shot of becoming a great writer. neurotic? oh, yes, yes, please, some more.


motet
Dana Davis / Moderator

Mar 5, 2006, 7:41 PM

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Re: [gussy] Age of MFA students? Can't Post


Quote
The only context in which I can think that +/- 10 years is one's age range is when the person is, say, 113 years old. OK, not that much, but, let's say, 80.



Ah, thinkin' like a 30-something!

Just wait, sweetie, your turn will come and when it does may I suggest a side dish of humble pie with those words? ;)



poetastin


Mar 5, 2006, 9:03 PM

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In Reply To
i swear i've started becoming paranoid about my heart rate even...

Whoo! Thanks, lytonyawename! I don't feel like so much of a freak now. I developed the same paranoia a few months ago. I can happily tell you, from my internet research, that you should be worried about a resting heart rate over 74. 65 is expected. (In 8th grade, my tennis pro classmate had a jump-roping heartrate of about 65 per minute, so I'm sure you're fine). Isn't paranoia the mark of a true writer? One of the marks? Does it get us anything?


pollyannaglassy


Mar 13, 2006, 12:14 AM

Post #48 of 172 (5042 views)
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Re: [poetastin] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

haha age ain't nuthin' but a number


Windiciti



Mar 13, 2006, 6:33 AM

Post #49 of 172 (5014 views)
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Re: [pollyannaglassy] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

If you are always learning and open to new experiences that is true!

I do believe, however that I may be the oldest poster tring to get into a Writing Program for FICTION. This may matter as far as receiving funding.


rooblue


Mar 13, 2006, 8:09 AM

Post #50 of 172 (5001 views)
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Re: [Windiciti] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

sorry to disappoint, Windiciti, but in my time at WW so far there have been at least three people in their late -- I mean late -- 50's. Yes you're leaning toward one end of the demographic but you're not at the end of the curve, not yet anyway.


Windiciti



Mar 13, 2006, 8:35 AM

Post #51 of 172 (5856 views)
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Re: [rooblue] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

I didn't feel old, Rooblue, until I read about people obssessing about being too old in their twenties, thirties and forties!

I also like a mix of ages in my class. Although last summer at a workshop in Madison, the three grad students...years younger than the rest of us... asked me what I meant by the use of the expression "Boomer Generation" in one of my stories.

Needless to say, I was startled. I grew up hearing about previous gens. and THEIR characteristics, at least when I went to undergrad school.


ssd


Mar 13, 2006, 2:48 PM

Post #52 of 172 (5809 views)
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Re: [Windiciti] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

Just to jump in, I'm 27 and I feel almost too young to make the most of an MFA degree--more livin' for better writing, I think. But, having been accepted into 5 programs now (all low-res, so I think students will be older) and realizing how excited/nervous I am, I know I should take the plunge. I enjoy learning with/from people from a wide range of experiences/backgrounds/ages.

Speaking of, I've narrowed down my choices to Vermont College or a new program at Pine Manor (good director, affordable, horrible name, like a retirement home or a rehabilitation center!). Anyone have thoughts on either one?

ssd


darredet
Darren A. Deth


Mar 13, 2006, 5:13 PM

Post #53 of 172 (5766 views)
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Re: [ssd] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

Hi ssd:

What's your genre? Okay, that's a bad writer's come on line.

I am starting my MFA at Vermont College this June. I had a chance to visit the program last summer and impressed with what I saw and the conversations I had with students. I have also had the chance to work with Ellen Lesser at the Keene State College Writers' Conference, who is a faculty member at Vermont. Terrific person. She also runs a critiquing business with another faculty member from Vermont. The web site is www.greenmountainprose.com. The web site has a couple of examples at how she examines manuscripts.

Good luck making a decision.

Darren


Windiciti



Mar 13, 2006, 7:24 PM

Post #54 of 172 (5725 views)
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Re: [ssd] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

I just have to agree with you, ssd! Pine Manor does sound like a retirement home!
I have heard that Vermont is good and people seem to be happy there. Where else did you apply?


ssd


Mar 13, 2006, 7:39 PM

Post #55 of 172 (5709 views)
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Re: [Windiciti] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

Hey Windiciti,

Yeah, I know! I've been accepted to Vermont, Lesley, Queens University of Charlotte, and Goddard. Still waiting to hear from Warren Wilson. I'm leaning towards Vermont at the moment, but I seem to be going back and forth a lot. Ah, I will be so happy when this whole application process is over!

Best,
ssd


Windiciti



Mar 13, 2006, 10:31 PM

Post #56 of 172 (5678 views)
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Re: [ssd] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

hello,ssd:
I also applied to WWC, Sewanee, and Bennington. I don't think WWC will have any news for a couple of weeks.
They are still waiting for one of my recs, so I know they are still looking at apps. I spoke to a very pleasant lady last week...Debra Paget?
Anyway, good luck! You have quite a few to choose from...
Vermont sounds like the best to me too. I had limited time to apply, or I wd. have tried Vermont myself.


ssd


Mar 14, 2006, 9:19 AM

Post #57 of 172 (5623 views)
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Re: [Windiciti] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

Hi Windiciti,

I know--I've heard WW takes awhile. Still trying to figure out how to balance that out with the fact that Vermont wants an answer by the end of the month! Well, everyone in all of the programs has been very friendly and helpful--I think they will be flexible if I just explain the situation.

Good luck! Let me know what happens!

ssd


Windiciti



Mar 14, 2006, 11:10 AM

Post #58 of 172 (5592 views)
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Re: [ssd] Low REs MFA Programs Can't Post

ssd,
Not to worry...you have Vermont! I'm sure they will wait a few days, or you might contact the lady at WWC before the end of March ...NOT Amy Grimm, but Debra Padget to get a feeling about WHEN WWC will be letting you know.

Rooblue on this blog is at WWC, she loves it, and sounds like a kind, helpful person. You might ask her.

As far as the other schools...do any of them have funding for the students they admit? That wd. influence me somewhat in my choice. I thought, when I had already applied to all the others that Queens had funding. Do you know?

For everyone else who needs a low res school, University of New Orleans will take apps. until 4/15/06. The head is Bill Lavender, very nice man, will answer all your questions on the 'phone, if he can. Their residencies are in Europe:Spain, France and Italy for a month during the summer. It is an MFA program, 45 hrs. and not as costly as the others...only $2700 per semester, and about $3800 for the month in summer.

The new Sewanee School of Letters at the U of the South is also still taking apps. They are a brand new program, and they have a dazzling list of faculty for their summer residency. This is a great program for teachers, only meets 6 weeks in the summer. ie., tuition only comes due once a year, you can keep your job where you live, and the MFa can be completed in 4 summer, 5 if you need an extra one to complete thesis.

Good luck, everyone!


ssd


Mar 14, 2006, 11:19 AM

Post #59 of 172 (5586 views)
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Re: [Windiciti] Low REs MFA Programs Can't Post

Hi Windiciti,

No, Queens actually doesn't have any funding. Their tuition is a tad bit cheaper than a place like Vermont, but not significantly. My understanding is that most of these low-res places don't have much funding as most people will be keeping their job, which isn't always possible with a residential program. I'm a bit torn about Queens. They have a good faculty, the program director is awesome, but I really don't think their online workshopping method would work for me.

And UNO...yes, I applied there, too, but I haven't heard anything from them. I was mostly taken in by their European residencies (!), but come to think of it, I haven't heard anything about the actual quality of the program, so I don't think it's high on my list.

Thanks for the tip on WW. I'm actually going to Paris at the end of March, so I'd like have my decision made before I go away. Calling admissions offices on a vacation isn't the best!

Good luck!


motet
Dana Davis / Moderator

Mar 14, 2006, 12:15 PM

Post #60 of 172 (5570 views)
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Re: [Windiciti] Low REs MFA Programs Can't Post

Just a little reminder that there are several Low-Res threads here...let's try to keep things topical...

Thanks,
Dana


Windiciti



Mar 14, 2006, 12:31 PM

Post #61 of 172 (5556 views)
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Re: [motet] Low REs MFA Programs Can't Post

Ok, Sorry! Sometimes not quite sure how it works, especially if you want to address someone who wrote about another thread.


motet
Dana Davis / Moderator

Mar 15, 2006, 8:36 AM

Post #62 of 172 (5520 views)
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Re: [Windiciti] Low REs MFA Programs Can't Post


In Reply To
Windiciti said: Sometimes not quite sure how it works, especially if you want to address someone who wrote about another thread.



In the appropriate thread, just copy and paste the part of the post you're responding to and write a reply. Identify the original writer somewhere in the copy & paste (like I did above).

I can practically guarantee you that everyone posting in the MFA forum is reading every topic that has any information they consider pertinent. So, someone who is writing about low-res MFAs will more than likely read the topics about low-res MFA when they see a new post in one of them.

Make sense?

Dana


rapunzel1983
Marisa Lee

Mar 15, 2006, 6:22 PM

Post #63 of 172 (5472 views)
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Re: [motet] Low REs MFA Programs Can't Post

Back on the subject of age and MFA programs.

Will you feel strange if you're 22 at an MFA program? What is the social life like? I'm assuming people aren't as tight as they are during undergrad. Do people socialize in grad school? Or do they all have their own families and long-term sig others back at home... For some reason, I have a hard time imagining what life is going to be like.

I did stay with my sig other at his Yale Ph.D program a few weeks last year. And dormitory life was completely different from undergrad. When you walked through the halls, you couldn't hear music playing. People didn't have room parties or play drinking games.

I'm guessing that without sports teams and Greek life and campus cultural groups and a capella concerts, etc, that life is pretty quiet?

Hahaha--part of the reason I wanted to TA is because I thought it would be fun to socialize with the students you're teaching, but I guess that is not allowed. :-)


Jendago


Mar 15, 2006, 7:13 PM

Post #64 of 172 (5453 views)
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Re: [rapunzel1983] Low REs MFA Programs Can't Post

Rapunzel -
I'm also 22. Not sure if, by the heading of your post, you're planning to attend a low-res program, but, for what it's worth, here's my impression of a regular, full-time MFA environment. My mental image of the whole grad school lifestyle involves a tiny studio apartment and socializing with other writers at the local coffeehouse, where we all have stacks of freshman comp. papers and huge mugs of coffee on the table in front of us, and do readings there every week or so.

But that's just my little imaginary two-cents.

In terms of mingling with the students, I feel like there's more time and difference between us and the 18 year olds than we probably recognize. But hey, I took a year off after undergrad, so maybe it's all that "real world" nonsense that makes me feel apart from the college kids. In any case, I think it'll be neat, as TAs, to be working on the opposite side of the instructor's desk. We'll get to be in the professor's shoes, so to speak, as we're instructed by the experts - maybe, hopefully, we'll gain a new appreciation for both roles through that experience.

Anyway. Don't know if that helps, but there's my thought on the matter.


(This post was edited by Jendago on Mar 15, 2006, 7:42 PM)


rapunzel1983
Marisa Lee

Mar 15, 2006, 8:28 PM

Post #65 of 172 (5431 views)
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Re: [Jendago] Low REs MFA Programs Can't Post

You said:

"I'm also 22. Not sure if, by the heading of your post, you're planning to attend a low-res program, but, for what it's worth, here's my impression of a regular, full-time MFA environment. My mental image of the whole grad school lifestyle involves a tiny studio apartment and socializing with other writers at the local coffeehouse, where we all have stacks of freshman comp. papers and huge mugs of coffee on the table in front of us, and do readings there every week or so."

That sounds so much fun!! I hope that's what it's like.

I meant a regular, full-time MFA program.

Although I am thinking I might just want to be in a program for the rest of my life. :-) I know a lot of writers who just bounce here and there for as long as it takes to finish their first publishable manuscript.


sarandipidy


Mar 15, 2006, 11:47 PM

Post #66 of 172 (5390 views)
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Re: [jennatelesca] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

Twenty-one.


robbstl


Mar 16, 2006, 12:22 AM

Post #67 of 172 (5379 views)
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Re: [jennatelesca] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

I'm 24, finishing an MA this May, hoping to get funding for an MFA program for Fall...so that'd be 25...
It's youngish, I think...but there's still an enormous level of that need-to-publish-more-guilt...

It seems like no matter how much you get accomplished, how quickly, there's more that you need to do, more that needs written, more that needs done working for journals or teaching workshops and other courses...if you want to make a living at this, rather than drown as an adjunct or an editor (well, this one isn't so bad, it seems...so long as you're getting health insurance from someone) or doing some corporate job, it feels like you need to have a couple books and a prize under your belt by 30...or quit, get an MBA or go to law school...or work at Starbucks--they have good benefits...


bekih


Mar 16, 2006, 2:10 AM

Post #68 of 172 (5370 views)
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Re: [robbstl] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

Wow, the last half of your post depresses me, robbstl. Then again, I guess drowning as an editor would still be better than drowning as a student editor like I am now. :)

-----

I'm 21, will be 22 this summer just after graduating from undergrad. It sounds nice to say that people waiting to get an MFA for five or more years to gain experience, appreciation, etc. will be better off, and maybe it's true in many cases. Then again, I would be furious if I found out that an admissions committee didn't choose me based on my age rather than my work. Not only is age a poor indicator of talent, but I don't want to put off the rest of my life waiting around for schools to think I'm "mature" enough. From what I've been reading though, the portfolio is the only thing that will really make or break you. Here's hoping.

Acceptance letters are going out now, so good luck to everyone (both young and, er, less young).


wordrabbit


Aug 21, 2006, 3:46 PM

Post #69 of 172 (5256 views)
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Re: Age of MFA students? Can't Post

I know a lot of people attend mfa programs after taking time off, and this is often encouraged at many programs, but what about after the degree? Has anyone run into age discrimination after receiving their degree and looking for teaching positions?


bighark


Aug 21, 2006, 4:11 PM

Post #70 of 172 (5248 views)
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Re: [wordrabbit] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

An applicant for a creative writing faculty position would have to have one hell of a publications section on his or her resume before he or she could start making claims of age discrimination for not getting a job.


__________



Aug 21, 2006, 5:01 PM

Post #71 of 172 (5240 views)
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Re: [bighark] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

I think he's asking a practical question, not a legal one.


six five four three two one 0 ->


ejdifili
Emily

Sep 30, 2007, 8:09 PM

Post #72 of 172 (4991 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

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.


bennyprof


Sep 30, 2007, 8:53 PM

Post #73 of 172 (4983 views)
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Re: [ejdifili] Age of MFA students? Can't Post


In Reply To
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!

-B


rpc
ryan call

Sep 30, 2007, 10:45 PM

Post #74 of 172 (4963 views)
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Re: [ejdifili] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

i applied at 21
entered the program at 22
and i am 24 now, working on my thesis to graduate in the spring
i am happy i started so "young"
that only applies to me...


i dont think age matters
i dont think its a question of age

so ill say again, i think this is a silly topic;
the best we can do is compare notes on each of our experiences and see what everyone else is doing.

but i dont think we can say general things like "oh, its best if you wait to get life experience" or "young mfa students have the all advantages" or whatever

all that matters is your own writing and whats best for it

my opinion anyhow


<HTMLGIANT>


bennyprof


Sep 30, 2007, 11:01 PM

Post #75 of 172 (4961 views)
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Re: [rpc] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

Thus, my "for most" qualification. Congratulations on your early success. Some are ready at that age; some aren't. I'd still submit that you're in the minority. And I really don't see any danger in pointing out that most MFA'ers are in their late twenties.

If anything, it should be an encouragement to those who aren't accepted into any programs the first time around. I suspect it's not always a matter of talent. Sometimes it's simply a matter of development. But you're right, it's something that should be evaluated on a case by case basis.


(This post was edited by bennyprof on Sep 30, 2007, 11:03 PM)


rpc
ryan call

Oct 1, 2007, 1:08 AM

Post #76 of 172 (5691 views)
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Re: [bennyprof] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

yes bennyprof
i did not mean to sound cranky or sarcastic;
i did appreciate your "for most" qualification (though i didnt acknowledge it in my response: my apologies).

and while i dont see any danger in this kind of discussion about age, i just feel as though it should be very minor to any other concern a potential applicant might have, thats all.

sorry i keep repeating myself on this thread


<HTMLGIANT>


__________



Oct 1, 2007, 10:59 AM

Post #77 of 172 (5669 views)
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Re: [rpc] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

No one knows the average age of MFA students. The AWP doesn't keep track. That magical 28 number came from Tom Kealey, who simply asked a few buddies who said, "Yeah, I guess that seems about right."


six five four three two one 0 ->


Clench Million
Charles

Oct 1, 2007, 12:42 PM

Post #78 of 172 (5652 views)
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Re: [bennyprof] Age of MFA students? Can't Post


Quote

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.


You know, its funny, but I was talking the other night to some people (a few were MFA students, others were in the working world but had gone to other non-artistic grad programs) and those people seemed to think it is often the older students who are less mature.
Tending to talk down to peers, or view everything as competition, etc. So I'm not sure how accurate the stereotype of young students being more or less immature is. The stereotypes seem to be conflicting and both are probably wrong.

The individual should judge for themselves if they are ready to go to grad school or not.

(note: edited this to be more clear as I can see how it was offensive before. Apologies.)

Anyway, I'm also a little confused by the argument you are giving (which strikes me as the standard argument). If I follow it correctly, the argument seems to be saying that because young people are not mature enough/don't have enough experience they won't be able to write truly great works of art and thus they should wait to go into an MFA program.

Now, I think I can agree with the first two premises there. Certainly we can say young people don't have as much experience and most of the best work comes from writers in middle age and very few good books are published by people in their early 20s. However, I don't think this means you should wait to go to an MFA program. The MFA program is not there to make you publish a book. Very few people come out of an MFA program and publish a book a few months later. An MFA program is there to help you build the skill sets and understanding of craft to allow you to write good fiction for the rest of your life. Ideally the skills you learn at 22 will still be with you at 32 and 72.

So, in that sense, it seems to me actually preferable to go to an MFA program young. If you go in your early 20s you will have a few years gaining skills and having practice (and you will have less pressure to write a publishable book whiel there, allowing you to experiment widely) then graduate in your mid-20s. You will still be young and less burdened by the need to settle down into a career and you will be able to write and hone your craft over the next few years while hopefully publishing some work in magazines. Then by the time you are in your late 20s/early 30s you may have a great book or two ready to be published.

Seems like a good plan to me. This is of course not to say that one should be worried about going to an MFA program later in life. But given that the MFA program is normally viewed as being about giving you the skills that will last the rest of your life and that most students wait at least a few years to publish a book, I don't see the huge advantage in going in your late 20s or 30s. Go when your writing is ready.



(This post was edited by Clench Million on Oct 9, 2007, 7:16 PM)


bennyprof


Oct 1, 2007, 1:14 PM

Post #79 of 172 (5642 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Age of MFA students? Can't Post


Quote
Anyway, I'm also a little confused by the argument you are giving (which strikes me as the standard argument). If I follow it correctly, the argument seems to be saying that because young people are not mature enough/don't have enough experience they won't be able to write truly great works of art and thus they should wait to go into an MFA program.



Not what I'm saying at all. My use of the word 'maturity' was in reference to a sense of control and balance of thought that I, personally, didn't possess in my early 20s. It has nothing to do with behavior or attitude, and life experience isn't really the crux of it either. Again, I wasn't trying to make a sweeping generalization (although looking back on it I can see how it looks that way), I was merely pointing out that a lot of people might not be ready to produce publishable material yet... and I can't stress enough the yet in that statement.

Admittedly, my opinion is at least somewhat biased because of my experience in an undergraduate setting. I've gone back to school for my 2nd undergrad in English (the 1st was in business), and sitting through upper-level fiction workshops has probably colored my perception of writers of that age. Even with the most serious among them, their stories lack that intangible roundness and sense of control you find in good writing. The talent is there, without a doubt, but it simply hasn't matured quite yet. I'd hate for them to immediately apply to a dozen MFA programs only to be turned down by all of them, then inaccurately attribute that failure to a lack of talent when the true problem was one of development.

The more I think about it, though, the more I agree with rpc and yourself. If you're serious about your writing, go for it. What have you got to lose? People develop at different paces. One guy's 22 might be another guy's 40. There's no universal standard when it comes to these things.


Quote

Now, I think I can agree with the first two premises there. Certainly we can say young people don't have as much experience and most of the best work comes from writers in middle age and very few good books are published by people in their early 20s. However, I don't think this means you should wait to go to an MFA program. The MFA program is not there to make you publish a book. Very few people come out of an MFA program and publish a book a few months later. An MFA program is there to help you build the skill sets and understanding of craft to allow you to write good fiction for the rest of your life. Ideally the skills you learn at 22 will still be with you at 32 and 72.

So, in that sense, it seems to me actually preferable to go to an MFA program young. If you go in your early 20s you will have a few years gaining skills and having practice (and you will have less pressure to write a publishable book whiel there, allowing you to experiment widely) then graduate in your mid-20s. You will still be young and less burdened by the need to settle down into a career and you will be able to write and hone your craft over the next few years while hopefully publishing some work in magazines. Then by the time you are in your late 20s/early 30s you may have a great book or two ready to be published.

Seems like a good plan to me. This is of course not to say that one should be worried about going to an MFA program later in life. But given that the MFA program is normally viewed as being about giving you the skills that will last the rest of your life and that most students wait at least a few years to publish a book, I don't see the huge advantage in going in your late 20s or 30s. Go when your writing is ready.



All good points. "Go when your writing is ready." The discussion could simply be left at that. I couldn't agree more.



(This post was edited by bennyprof on Oct 1, 2007, 1:18 PM)


Clench Million
Charles

Oct 1, 2007, 1:29 PM

Post #80 of 172 (5635 views)
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Re: [bennyprof] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

I should have been a little more clear in my first paragraph. I knew that wasn't what you were talking about, I just thought it was funny that I'd literally been in a conversation about that two nights ago.

Anyway, I totally agree with what you are saying on the roundness, but I guess I still maintain that for most people the MFA program is time to experiment widely and gain new skills. Since it is a bit of an apprentice type thing, I don't see it mattering much if your projects and stories aren't fully realized. Hopefully the skills you gain there will stick with you for when you are ready to write rounder stuff.

Like I said, yes most people might not be ready to publish material yet... but most MFA students won't be doing so anyway. Most will be publishing their books years later.


jlgwriter
Jeanne Lyet Gassman

Oct 1, 2007, 2:05 PM

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Re: [Clench Million] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

As someone who is entering a low-res MFA program in Dec. and who is old enough to remember several Presidents before Bush and Clinton and Bush (again!), I would say there are multiple factors that contribute to "readiness" for an MFA. The decade of my mid-20s to mid-30s was one filled with personal crises and serious health issues. Intellectually, I could have handled the demands of an MFA without a problem; emotionally and physically, I was a mess.

So, to the statement: "Go when you're writing is ready."

I would add: Go when your life is ready.

Jeanne


http://www.jeannelyetgassman.com
http://jeannelyetgassman.blogspot.com


Clench Million
Charles

Oct 1, 2007, 4:43 PM

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Re: [jlgwriter] Age of MFA students? Can't Post


Quote

So, to the statement: "Go when you're writing is ready."

I would add: Go when your life is ready.

Yes. Totally. I definitly should have said that. Don't rush the MFA experience or push it back out of some fear of going to early or late. Go when your life is ready.

And I should also add that while I don't see anything wrong with going to an MFA while young, I will say that it is probably a good idea to take at least a year or two off between college and grad school, just to get yourself out of academia for a bit. They stick you in school as soon as you can crawl and you probably don't want to be in school from 6 till 24 without any breaks.



jacarty
Jessie Carty

Oct 1, 2007, 6:17 PM

Post #83 of 172 (5587 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Age of MFA students? Can't Post


In Reply To

Quote

So, to the statement: "Go when you're writing is ready."

I would add: Go when your life is ready.

Yes. Totally. I definitly should have said that. Don't rush the MFA experience or push it back out of some fear of going to early or late. Go when your life is ready.

And I should also add that while I don't see anything wrong with going to an MFA while young, I will say that it is probably a good idea to take at least a year or two off between college and grad school, just to get yourself out of academia for a bit. They stick you in school as soon as you can crawl and you probably don't want to be in school from 6 till 24 without any breaks.



The first quote is perfect

and the 2nd quote, I think is true too. As much as I wanted to do grad school right after undergrad I think it was better I worked in the "real world" first. i do wish i had gone back at like 25 or 26 instead of waiting till i was 31 but sometimes the decision is hard to make, and the committment.

everyone is different though, i spent a lot of time with a girl who was 22 and right out of her undergrad who totally was supposed to be in the program. and when i worked in a corp environment i had people in their 50's who never showed up to work on time so hey...age doesn't matter :)

--jessie


http://jessiecarty.com


silkfx2004


Oct 1, 2007, 8:01 PM

Post #84 of 172 (5577 views)
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Re: [jlgwriter] Age of MFA students? Can't Post


In Reply To
As someone who is entering a low-res MFA program in Dec. and who is old enough to remember several Presidents before Bush and Clinton and Bush (again!), I would say there are multiple factors that contribute to "readiness" for an MFA. The decade of my mid-20s to mid-30s was one filled with personal crises and serious health issues. Intellectually, I could have handled the demands of an MFA without a problem; emotionally and physically, I was a mess.

So, to the statement: "Go when you're writing is ready."

I would add: Go when your life is ready.

I couldn't agree with this more ...and I thought I'd chimed in on this topic the first time around, but I hadn't, so... I was 40 years, 2 months, and a little over a week old when I began my first semester. I had been thinking about getting an MFA since my late 20s. If I had gone in my 20s or even my early 30s, I would have drank / partied a LOT more, cared a LOT more about what my peers and teachers thought about me (not just my writing but about me as a person), and been a LOT more affected by their opinions. Physically and intellectually I was in fairly good shape, but emotionally...not so much. Now, I have a LOT (heh) of appreciation for the experience. No, it wasn't perfect, but then nothing is. And I was just telling a new student that, although I do try a little, I don't have a lot of tolerance for people who bitch (overly much) about the program. I'm always thinking: Well, you COULD be sitting in a cubicle somewhere...or commuting an hour and a half to work...or staying up nights with a sick kid. (I don't have kids, but there are people here who do, along with spouses. THEY'RE the ones I'm in awe of, regardless of their age.)


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

(This post was edited by silkfx2004 on Oct 1, 2007, 8:02 PM)


toadvine


Oct 2, 2007, 4:41 AM

Post #85 of 172 (5535 views)
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Re: [silkfx2004] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

Writing is a craft. The earlier you begin studying that craft, the better. Nobody would suggest that engineers wait five years out of undergrad before attending graduate school, in order to better attain "life experience," and therefore be better engineers. My experience has been that life experience is wildly overvalued by aspiring writers, which is one of the reasons why so many workshops are full of thinly veiled autobiographies in which an idealized version of the writer triumphs over oppressors real and imagined.

In other words, one of the advantages of going to grad school early is that you make your mistakes earlier. And I don't think life experience is as important as many tend to make it sound, unless we're talking about nonfiction. One of the biggest steps in maturing as a writer is realizing that your actual life is not that interesting to anybody else. You have to make it interesting, which is done via craft.


Yugao


Oct 2, 2007, 10:00 AM

Post #86 of 172 (5520 views)
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Re: [toadvine] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

I just turned 31, so if I get into a program this year, I will be almost 32 when I start. I'm not sure if there is really an ideal age. I know someone who completed an MFA program when she was in her early twenties, and she feels that she was not yet emotionally mature enough to handle the criticism her work received. But, that's her. Other people might be ready at that age, and my experience in workshops has shown that some people are never ready for constructive criticism.

I have been writing steadily since I was about 23, but I don't feel that my writing at 23 or 24 would have granted me admission into a competitive program. It perhaps showed some potential, but it would (I'm guessing) have been far less sophisticated than most of the writing samples in the pool. I feel I have come a great distance since that time and I'd like to go yet further, hence my desire to enter an MFA program.

My work is not autobiographical, except in the most oblique of ways. I don't discount life experience, but I'm not sure one has to attain a certain age to have enough perspective to write about life. Flannery O'Connor said, "Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days." The point is to draw insight from whatever experience one has.

I'm not sure the apprenticeship of writers and engineers can be compared. Writing is a much more subjective discipline. Yes, writing is a craft and there are types of writing that could objectively be called good or bad. Once past that level though, writing involves elements of taste. Writing requires intense observation of life, both broad and small insights. If becoming a good writer was merely a matter of amassing a large vocabulary and becoming expert on the rules of grammar, I could compare it to something as fact-based as engineering. But I think writing is something entirely different.


Amethyst


Oct 2, 2007, 4:26 PM

Post #87 of 172 (5485 views)
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Re: [bennyprof] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

As someone who is finishing an MFA at age 45, I must say that this topic really cracks me up.

I have to agree that age is irrelevant. What's critical is a willingness to learn.

All the best.

Amethyst


toadvine


Oct 2, 2007, 8:03 PM

Post #88 of 172 (5452 views)
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Re: [Yugao] Age of MFA students? Can't Post


In Reply To
I'm not sure the apprenticeship of writers and engineers can be compared. Writing is a much more subjective discipline. Yes, writing is a craft and there are types of writing that could objectively be called good or bad. Once past that level though, writing involves elements of taste. Writing requires intense observation of life, both broad and small insights. If becoming a good writer was merely a matter of amassing a large vocabulary and becoming expert on the rules of grammar, I could compare it to something as fact-based as engineering. But I think writing is something entirely different.

I can certainly see your point, and your post is well said. But when I spoke of craft, I meant a whole truckload more than vocabulary and grammar. Obviously, writing and engineering are different in a lot of ways, some of them fundamental, as you say, but I disagree that they're entirely different. I think young writers would be well served to treat their craft as young engineers do, rather than occupying themselves with the subjective and rarefied aspects of it. I just dislike this whole romanticism of writing as an ability you acquire by traipsing around the globe or raising kids or discovering some hidden and innate talent, as opposed to doing it simply by reading a hell of a lot and studying the craft and -- this part is, oddly, often overlooked -- actually writing! I think the other notions hamstring a lot of aspiring writers. I was one of them. Sometimes I wonder if I still am.

As everyone else has said, the best age is entirely relative. You seem like a great example of how taking some time before the MFA can benefit a person's writing going in. I entered an MFA at 23 and am now 28. I think I progressed as much in those two years of grad school as I would have in eight or ten years of figuring it out on my own. Now, three years out, I'm finally getting to the point where I think what I'm producing is consistently worthwhile. Of course there's no way of knowing, but I feel like I wouldn't be at this point yet if I hadn't done an MFA when I did.

I'm not sure there's really any wrong age at which to enter an MFA. An honest effort at a decent program should do wonders for anybody's writing.

Best of luck on your applications, Yugao.


boody


Oct 4, 2007, 1:15 PM

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Re: [Clench Million] Age of MFA students? Can't Post



You know, its funny, but I was talking the other night to some people (a few were MFA students, others were in the working world but had gone to other non-artistic grad programs) and everyone seemed to agree that within grad programs it is the older students who tend to be the most immature. The ones who brown nose the teachers, talk down to their peers, back stab, view everything as competition, etc. Of course, that's not talking about artistic skill, but just thought it was funny and interesting.


WOW! That *is* funny and interesting! And a helpful stereotype to boot. Thanks a mill. :)


ejdifili
Emily

Oct 4, 2007, 9:53 PM

Post #90 of 172 (5336 views)
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Re: [toadvine] Age of MFA students? Can't Post


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Nobody would suggest that engineers wait five years out of undergrad before attending graduate school, in order to better attain "life experience," and therefore be better engineers.


I see your point, but we have to remember that the arts constitute a unique situation.

The people I know who earned graduate degrees in engineering ended up earning $75K to over six figures almost imediately. On the other hand, I've known people who completed MFAs and then couldn't even get a decent job with benefits. Why? Because it's very difficult to get hired full-time on the skills of writing poems or short stories and maybe being able to discuss some 20th century American literature.

I know this sounds critical, but I speak from experience. I completed an MA in Spanish lit almost directly after undergrad (I took one year off) and then had to string various part-time jobs together for months before I landed any kind of stable employment. The reason for this was because my main qualifications were the ability to b.s. about literature and theory, and that was with the advantage of a second language. Having spent so much time in academia, I had almost no valid information about what was necessary to get a job in the outside world; I thought I could walk out with my MA and straight into an awesome, full-time teaching position somewhere. Ha! It has now taken me 2 years and lots of night school to earn educator certification and even hope to make a living wage, but at least I'll have something to fall back on after I do my MFA.

In summary (and I have posted this before), I would suggest to people who are seniors in college and contemplating going right into an MFA to consider how they will pay the bills afterword. If you have an undergraduate degree in something "marketable," then you will probably be ok. If not, then you might at least think about the possibility of taking some time off and exploring viable career options.

As someone else stated, grad school is not the real world. In grad school, everything you do is directed toward improving yourself and your own work. In the real world, everything you do is directed toward benefitting someone else: the company you work for; the students you teach; whoever. Having to hold down such a "selfless" job also teaches you higher standards of professionality and accountability, which can serve you well once you do go back to school. I have seen people go into all kinds of graduate programs just because it seems like a logical extension of undergrad, and it's easier to continue in academia than to venture into the unknown of the professional world. I think those who have spent some time working tend to have more appreciation for the graduate experience and may therefore get more out of it.

All this being said, I did in fact go into a grad program at age 23, so I'm not in a place to criticize the young people who plan to do the same. I'm only sharing my experience.


toadvine


Oct 5, 2007, 1:16 AM

Post #91 of 172 (5314 views)
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Re: [ejdifili] Age of MFA students? Can't Post


In Reply To

In Reply To
Nobody would suggest that engineers wait five years out of undergrad before attending graduate school, in order to better attain "life experience," and therefore be better engineers.


I see your point, but we have to remember that the arts constitute a unique situation.

The people I know who earned graduate degrees in engineering ended up earning $75K to over six figures almost imediately. On the other hand, I've known people who completed MFAs and then couldn't even get a decent job with benefits. Why? Because it's very difficult to get hired full-time on the skills of writing poems or short stories and maybe being able to discuss some 20th century American literature.

I know this sounds critical, but I speak from experience. I completed an MA in Spanish lit almost directly after undergrad (I took one year off) and then had to string various part-time jobs together for months before I landed any kind of stable employment. The reason for this was because my main qualifications were the ability to b.s. about literature and theory, and that was with the advantage of a second language. Having spent so much time in academia, I had almost no valid information about what was necessary to get a job in the outside world; I thought I could walk out with my MA and straight into an awesome, full-time teaching position somewhere. Ha! It has now taken me 2 years and lots of night school to earn educator certification and even hope to make a living wage, but at least I'll have something to fall back on after I do my MFA.

In summary (and I have posted this before), I would suggest to people who are seniors in college and contemplating going right into an MFA to consider how they will pay the bills afterword. If you have an undergraduate degree in something "marketable," then you will probably be ok. If not, then you might at least think about the possibility of taking some time off and exploring viable career options.

As someone else stated, grad school is not the real world. In grad school, everything you do is directed toward improving yourself and your own work. In the real world, everything you do is directed toward benefitting someone else: the company you work for; the students you teach; whoever. Having to hold down such a "selfless" job also teaches you higher standards of professionality and accountability, which can serve you well once you do go back to school. I have seen people go into all kinds of graduate programs just because it seems like a logical extension of undergrad, and it's easier to continue in academia than to venture into the unknown of the professional world. I think those who have spent some time working tend to have more appreciation for the graduate experience and may therefore get more out of it.

All this being said, I did in fact go into a grad program at age 23, so I'm not in a place to criticize the young people who plan to do the same. I'm only sharing my experience.


I see your point as well, and it's certainly a good one. But nowhere in my original post was I discussing job prospects -- I was speaking of the craft/talent issue.

The job prospects are another matter entirely. Although really, I doubt many people anymore apply to MFAs with the notion that they'll walk out and get a great job. If they do, then those people are delusional or naive. Every available resource, and there are many -- including this board, and even the MFA programs themselves -- will tell them that's not the case.

I think your take on grad school perhaps overstates its case. A lot of current MFA applicants will spend a lot of their time during graduate school as cheap labor for the universities they attend, teaching undergraduates for meager pay. It's far from two years of uninterrupted self-improvement. If you take your classwork and your writing seriously in an MFA -- and especially if you teach -- it feels a lot like a job. I think the patronizing "you haven't seen the real world" crowd tends to both mythologize the corporate job and to idealize the graduate experience. I did the cubicle bit after the MFA, and I didn't feel as if my life got a whole lot harder.


__________



Oct 7, 2007, 1:28 AM

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Re: [toadvine] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

I think it's kind of a false choice. Schools decide when you're ready. If you've got the chops, then you've got the chops. If not, it's not an issue.

My big writing regret is those few years of 'experience' -- I drank! I went to Europe! I slept with hookers! -- when I wasn't actually writing. At 21, I figured I'd improve by 'living' a little. Shockingly, though, I got better with practice. And the funny thing is that life still went on during this practice. It was the weirdest thing, I'm telling you.


six five four three two one 0 ->


rpc
ryan call

Oct 8, 2007, 10:11 PM

Post #93 of 172 (5221 views)
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Re: [toadvine] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

i think its funny that people say grad school isnt the real world.

what they really mean is that going to grad school is not like having a 9-5 job. this is kind of obvious, right?

point is, both of these experiences/"jobs" are a part of the real world.


<HTMLGIANT>


piratelizzy


Oct 9, 2007, 2:10 AM

Post #94 of 172 (5197 views)
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Re: [boody] Age of MFA students? Can't Post


Quote
within grad programs it is the older students who tend to be the most immature.


I don't know what to make of this. Is this like, mmm, Bizarro World we're talking about here?

I have a number of older friends and I have to pointedly disagree about age being a predictor of immaturity. Sheesh. I suppose it's not backstabbing to go online to trash one's older colleagues? Honestly...


'sup?!


mpagan


Oct 9, 2007, 1:18 PM

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Re: [piratelizzy] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

I agree - I find the tone this discussion has taken is sort of strange.

On the one hand it just airs a whole lot of insecurities people have about their careers as writers. On the other hand, it devolves in mean-spiritedness with innuendos about older students being venal or bitter.

None of that seems particularly helpful, or in the end interesting.

For anyone clicking into this forum, the best answer to the question is:
There is no real average age of MFA students. It varies widely. There is no real preference on the part of schools. If you're a young, 20-something, don't worry that you don't have anything vital to say, just say it and apply. If you’re over 30, don't worry that you’re working against a clock, or that you’re working at any disadvantage, or that you have an advantage because you've lived in the world longer.

Just apply and write. Write, write, and write.

The best age is the age when you decided to write for the rest of your life.


(This post was edited by mpagan on Oct 9, 2007, 1:28 PM)


HopperFu


Oct 9, 2007, 1:24 PM

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Re: [mpagan] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

I absolutely agree. There is an eighteen year range in the students in our program.
The one thing I would add (or subtract since it's a negative?) isn't necessarily about age, but do NOT go for an MFA program if you're doing it because you're not sure what else to do.


aiyamei


Oct 9, 2007, 4:08 PM

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Re: [HopperFu] Age of MFA students? Can't Post


In Reply To
do NOT go for an MFA program if you're doing it because you're not sure what else to do.


But isn't even this questionable? One of the purposes of education is to teach us about ourselves and our capabilities -- many people won't know whether they have it in themselves to be writers if they don't try out the MFA.

Secondly, writing is a form of seclusion, of deep thought. Attending an MFA program might be just the thing for someone who is in a life crisis and doesn't know what sort of life he/she wants to pursue -- the equivalent of going on an extended retreat.

I am speaking as a writer who does not have an MFA but is nevertheless committed to the novel-writing enterprise as a vocation, but who, a few years back just out of college, had one heck of a hard time orienting herself toward the future. I think an MFA might have helped.


bighark


Oct 9, 2007, 4:38 PM

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Re: [aiyamei] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

Bullpucky.This is art school, not therapy.


Clench Million
Charles

Oct 9, 2007, 6:53 PM

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Re: [piratelizzy] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

I guess I wasn't clear with my comment. I didn't mean to be endorsing that view, by saying it was funny that people on here were making claims about younger MFA students when I've heard people make the same about older MFA students, I meant that you should be ignoring all these kinds of comments and stereotypes. Often the stereotypes are completely untrue and people's stereotypes tend to be contradictory.

You shouldn't avoid going to grad school when you think you are ready because some people online like to claim young writers are too immature or that their writing isn't ready yet or what not.

You should ignore all that jazz.

Apply when you feel like your life and your work is ready. And go when the programs think your work is ready (ie, they accept you).


(This post was edited by Clench Million on Oct 9, 2007, 7:09 PM)


alishein


Oct 10, 2007, 1:35 PM

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Re: [bighark] Age of MFA students? Can't Post

I agree with Bighark. And to also add from personal experience - I just completed my MA in Fiction at a program designed for students who work full time. Throughout my two years there I was constantly frustrated by students in the program who were obviously not serious about it. I found that I was getting minimal written feedback from various students (most of my professors wanted a typed response to workshop stories rather than just relying on notes on the manuscript and discussion) or they would just never give me any written critique. Which, of course, was all very annoying to the serious students in the program because we made the time to read their work and to always have a thorough critique ready for them on time.

I also found myself reading the same unrevised stories in different semesters because people never bothered to write anything new. I always wondered why people bothered to waste the tuition.

And bullpucky is now my favorite word.

Ali


asneth


Oct 16, 2007, 10:19 AM

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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 (8676 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 (8591 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

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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

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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

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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 (8216 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 (8209 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 (8127 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 (8070 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 (7976 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 (7924 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 (7921 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 (7776 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 (7609 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 (7601 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 (7477 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 (7452 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 (7343 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 (7226 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 (7213 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 (7165 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 (7002 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 (6970 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 (6933 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



unsaid78


Dec 30, 2008, 1:41 PM

Post #126 of 172 (9291 views)
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Re: [Sibella] Age of MFA students Can't Post

Good for you, Sibella! I wish you the best!


www.mfachronicles.blogspot.com - Follow us as we begin our 1st years in MFA programs!


Sibella
Pam, that is.


Feb 10, 2009, 12:00 AM

Post #127 of 172 (9142 views)
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Re: [unsaid78] Age of MFA students Can't Post

Thanks for the good wishes. I'm partway into the application now. Got the poems pretty much ready, transcripts and references are on their way to Warren Wilson, and I'm losing sleep over the essays. :^)


knixxery


Mar 10, 2009, 8:44 PM

Post #128 of 172 (8947 views)
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Anyone over 40 accepted in top schools? Can't Post

Any over-40s getting accepted to residential programs this year? I know it's especially competitive now. I applied about ten years ago and was accepted into 2/3 top ten schools for fiction. This year, with what I think is stronger writing, and essentially the same package otherwise, I'm (so far) not getting any offers. I'm curious to hear about those of you who are over-40 and getting into schools. Which schools are accepting regardless of age?

It will help me decide whether or not to apply again, next year. Thanks!


writerteacher


Mar 11, 2009, 3:58 PM

Post #129 of 172 (8838 views)
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Re: [knixxery] Anyone over 40 accepted in top schools? Can't Post

I got in two years ago at age 44 (I know the landscape has changed). My experience is that:

* The MFA faculty doesn't even know the age of the applicants when reading mss.
* The SOP and/or transcripts may reveal age, but may not. (Not everyone graduates from university at 22.)
* Most schools actively seek diversity among students; diversity includes age.

Not sure what constitutes a top school in your mind, but I can't imagine why applicant age would be handled any differently at schools that receive more applications, as they all are this year. In general, "advanced" age does not work against an applicant, and may work in his or her favor in the final stages of the decision process. It's hard for me to imagine that it would ever, in any case, be a determining factor.

Hope that helps.
WT


Khalilah


Mar 11, 2009, 5:11 PM

Post #130 of 172 (8775 views)
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Re: [knixxery] Anyone over 40 accepted in top schools? Can't Post

Forgive me for speaking up because I know you asked for over 40 responses but I'm way past traditional student age although not 40. Anyway, I just think this is a tough year because of the number of applications and if you applied to the sames schools this time around that you did a decade ago, a different set of professors may have been on the admissions committees of those same schools and a lot of this process is about the professors on the admissions committee feeling a personal connection to the subject of your work as well as judging your talent to be great. I've heard stories since I began this journey to the MFA about people who applied 2 or three years before they were accepted by even one school. So applying again next year is a realistic decision. Also, the MFA is more popular now than it was a decade ago. Maybe ten years ago someone could bank on getting in just applying to "top ten" schools but competition is so strong now that most people who seriously want the MFA and not just a specific school, apply to 13-15 schools and spread their applications around Top Ten, Up and comers and some unranked programs. You may even want to throw in some unfunded or low funded programs.


Sugah


Mar 11, 2009, 5:38 PM

Post #131 of 172 (8755 views)
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Re: [knixxery] Anyone over 40 accepted in top schools? Can't Post

I began in the fall at 40. I know my age could not have worked against me--my writing sample gave it away.

I'm one of the oldest in my program, though those "fresh from undergrad" are definitely the minority.

Peace & Love,
Sugah


http://sugahsshack.blogspot.com


alamana
Jennifer Brown


Mar 11, 2009, 5:44 PM

Post #132 of 172 (8737 views)
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Re: [Sugah] Anyone over 40 accepted in top schools? Can't Post

Glad to know there are other old folks out there like me. . . I'm 38 and starting in the fall.


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

http://www.jenniferkirkpatrickbrown.com


Khalilah


Mar 11, 2009, 6:49 PM

Post #133 of 172 (8696 views)
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Re: [alamana] Anyone over 40 accepted in top schools? Can't Post

I knew that I would have more adults around me in grad school than I have had in finishing my BA but its so good to hear I'll be with more than a few people over the age of 25. When I go back for that PhD I'll be back in 20s ville. Lookin' forward to seeing the 35+ers.


EmilyMay


Mar 23, 2009, 2:44 PM

Post #134 of 172 (8576 views)
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Age of students Can't Post

I met four of the other MFAers accepted at my school this past weekend. At 31 I am the oldest. Another is 29, but will be 30 this spring. Another is 28. One is a couple years out of undergrad but I'm not sure his age, maybe 23-24? And the last is currently finishing up her undergrad, so I'm guessing 22.

We're a pretty mixed bag, geographically and in other ways, but all got along very well. I am excited to work with all of them!


v1ctorya


Mar 23, 2009, 4:49 PM

Post #135 of 172 (8525 views)
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Re: [EmilyMay] Age of students Can't Post

Emily, even though you won't be going to the same school as I, I'm so happy to see someone else here my age! There are times when it feels like everyone is so young. . .


unsaid78


Mar 23, 2009, 4:55 PM

Post #136 of 172 (8518 views)
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Re: [v1ctorya] Age of students Can't Post

I just turned 31 yesterday! Woo-hoo! lol Yeah, I was also comforted by Emily's age lol.


www.mfachronicles.blogspot.com - Follow us as we begin our 1st years in MFA programs!


rivera



Mar 23, 2009, 11:39 PM

Post #137 of 172 (8433 views)
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Re: [unsaid78] Age of students Can't Post

I'm 22, but I very much want to attend grad school with students older than me. In my undergrad workshop now we have a woman in her mid-late 20's I think, a woman in her 30's, and one man who's 50. I think everyone has so much to add to a workshop that diversity in age is crucial.


alamana
Jennifer Brown


Mar 24, 2009, 7:45 AM

Post #138 of 172 (8381 views)
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Re: [rivera] Age of students Can't Post

I'm going to an MFA program recruiting event today and I'm a little nervous because I'm afraid I'll feel old. . . and I'm only 38!


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

http://www.jenniferkirkpatrickbrown.com


Josh Fult


Mar 24, 2009, 9:24 AM

Post #139 of 172 (8367 views)
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Re: [alamana] Age of students Can't Post


In Reply To
I'm going to an MFA program recruiting event today and I'm a little nervous because I'm afraid I'll feel old. . . and I'm only 38!



Just so you know, a lot of twenty somethings probably think 38 year olds are pretty hot. Yes, I just made this board vaguely sexual, but anything for the comfort of an aspiring MFA student.


gcsumfa


May 12, 2009, 12:26 AM

Post #140 of 172 (8153 views)
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Re: [Khalilah] Anyone over 40 accepted in top schools? Can't Post


In Reply To
When I go back for that PhD I'll be back in 20s ville. Lookin' forward to seeing the 35+ers.


No you won't; at least not in English. In fact, you'll find more 20 somethings in MFA programs than PhD English programs.


argus


Jul 22, 2009, 1:39 AM

Post #141 of 172 (7793 views)
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Re: [rivera] Age of students Can't Post

I'm 49 and feel like I'm everyone's mom sitting in the classroom but I really enjoy the classes.

In Reply To



greenpenquills


Oct 15, 2009, 2:11 PM

Post #142 of 172 (6963 views)
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Re: Age of students Can't Post

Just wondering, for those nonfiction MFA students or perspective students, how old are you/were you when you started an MFA program? I'm almost 22, so I'd be starting the program around age 23. I'm only taking a semester off between undergrad and grad, but I've always been very mature for my age and writing a memoir has been a goal of mine since I was 10 or so, which is why I feel putting it off for a couple more years might not be right for me. I'm just wondering if I'd be one of the only younger students in the nonfiction department (assuming I'm admitted to one of the few programs I'm applying to).


lexielizabeth


Jan 4, 2010, 12:56 AM

Post #143 of 172 (6047 views)
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Re: [greenpenquills] Age of students Can't Post

I was wondering to all those who are in their young 20s, what did you write for your statement of purpose that proved that you were dedicated, even at your age? That's one thing I'm worried about, because as someone going to pursue an mfa at 20, I really don't know how to describe just how much it actually does mean to me to go to school right out of school.


meory


Jan 5, 2010, 4:18 PM

Post #144 of 172 (5900 views)
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Re: [lexielizabeth] Age of students Can't Post

Lexi,

I'm 21 and hoping to go into an MFA program straight from undergrad. In my SoP, I tried to strike a balance between emphasizing how serious I am about writing and how eager I am to learn more. I presented myself as committed to growing as a writer as much as possible. I wrote about what I've learned as an undergraduate English major taking creative writing workshops and what I hope to learn in an MFA program. I tried to come across as humble, devoted, and passionate. Also, I wrote briefly about how I feel that an academic environment is where I thrive the most, and my ultimate goals. I tried to connect my experiences as an undergrad (taking as many workshops as possible, attending & giving readings, attending conferences, working in the writing center, etc.) to what I hope to experience, learn, and achieve in grad school, and also used these experiences as examples to prove that I'm dedicated to writing.


kbritten


Jan 5, 2010, 4:36 PM

Post #145 of 172 (5892 views)
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Re: [meory] Age of students Can't Post

Meory, just out of curiosity, did you apply last year?


meory


Jan 5, 2010, 6:05 PM

Post #146 of 172 (5874 views)
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Re: [kbritten] Age of students Can't Post

No, I didn't -- I was only a junior in college last year and couldn't have applied. First time applying now, and hoping it'll be the only time!


kbritten


Jan 5, 2010, 6:32 PM

Post #147 of 172 (5862 views)
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Re: [meory] Age of students Can't Post

Cool, I probably should have just PM'd you that, but I thought your screename sounded familiar and that this was your second go around. I was going to ask about your experience last year, but now I won't :). Thanks!


meory


Jan 5, 2010, 7:28 PM

Post #148 of 172 (5846 views)
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Re: [kbritten] Age of students Can't Post

No problem. :) Sorry I can't be helpful!


ericweinstein
Eric Weinstein


Jan 14, 2010, 11:13 AM

Post #149 of 172 (5644 views)
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Re: [lexielizabeth] Age of students Can't Post


In Reply To
I was wondering to all those who are in their young 20s, what did you write for your statement of purpose that proved that you were dedicated, even at your age?



I talked about sticking to a regular reading, writing, and submission schedule in an attempt to prove that not only did I think I had the talent necessary for the degree, but also the discipline and the interest in seeing my work published.


Hans Landa: You'll be shot for this!
Aldo Raine: Nah, I don't think so. More like chewed out. I've been chewed out before.


Quixote


Aug 1, 2010, 10:23 PM

Post #150 of 172 (3657 views)
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Re: [ericweinstein] Age of students Can't Post

I appreciate this thread. I'm not what I would call "old" - 37 years. After many false starts and recovering from a few personal setbacks, I've been maneuvering my life into position to be able to take writing very seriously for the next year or two; this in order to get up a body of work that feels right and powerful to me (if it's in me at all, that is... which I plan to find out over the next stretch of time).

I've realized recently that I am just not going to make the January 2011 deadlines for the writing programs. I simply don't have the kind of work I want yet. I will keep going on it and possibly submit in January 2012, for a fall 2012 start. I feel like I need that time to try it on my own first, without the pressure of a program or deadlines. I'm not even sure if I want to enter a program yet, honestly. The cost and need of it, I doubt sometimes. But I also see how great it could be for someone starting out. I have known friends who went through programs; most loved it, of course. I'm definitely not anti-MFA. But I already have previous school debt. As well, as I said, I'd like to test myself out for a bit more, see what I can do alone first. I might not even want to go the MFA route by the end of that time.

So, my question is, does this make sense to anyone? If anyone has been in my particular shoes at my age, and has any constructive advice or insight, it'd be nice to hear it. I'm rather unsure right now about almost everything, except the feeling that I need to/have to do this, something which has long been present. The details about how to go about it are the only aspects that confuse me. Thanks beforehand for any help.


Glinda Bamboo


Aug 1, 2010, 10:34 PM

Post #151 of 172 (5565 views)
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Re: [Quixote] Age of students Can't Post

It does make sense and, frankly, if you do end up applying in 2012 after a period of self-study and practice, you will end up getting so much more out of the MFA program than if you entered now.

I applied for MFA programs about 4 years ago and didn't get into my top programs (I only applied to the super-competitive ones, like Iowa, Indiana, Virginia, etc.). I continued working hard on my own, even around a full-time job, and I now have multiple publications and also had success with contests. I didn't need an MFA program to accomplish this, and I believe learning to write and work on your own, as an adult around real-life obligations, is immensely valuable and is what MFA graduates are going to have to learn eventually, too. With that said, I think I may apply for MFA programs again this year, but now I'm secure in the knowledge that I'll do just fine even if I don't get in again.

As for the rest of your concerns, I'm guessing you have heard the often-repeated advice not to pay for an MFA degree. There are many fully funded programs out there. Of course, when you're 37 instead of 22, you also realize that taking a break from a real job to move to another city on a $10k stipend is going to end up costing you money anyway. It's just not as severe as having to take out loans to pay tuition, etc. This is what makes it tough for me -- I have a well-paying professional job and I'd have to quit it to enter an MFA program. But I figure this might also be the only time in my life I can take a 2-3 year break from the working world to have someone pay me a yearly stipend to write. To me, that's worth it.

Anyway, good luck. If your gut tells you to wait until 2012 to apply, then wait. An MFA really isn't necessary, even if it sometimes seems like every literary writer has one. It can be very helpful, and in some cases is a nice luxury, but it won't make or break you all by itself.


Quixote


Aug 1, 2010, 11:00 PM

Post #152 of 172 (5563 views)
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Re: [Glinda Bamboo] Age of students Can't Post

Thank you, Glinda.

That's what I was hoping to hear. And yes, as to the advice you mentioned, I have definitely believed that paying for an MFA, while not necessarily foolish or anything, is obviously not something I want to do if I don't have to. That's another factor in my decision to wait a bit - I'd like to get strong enough work up to earn a decent financial ride, if it is at all possible for me. I won't know if I'm good enough for that until I'm good enough for that, I suppose. I want to give myself time to get there.

Your story makes me rest a little easier. I too have a job that pays decently and I'm not keen on leaving it to stack on more debt, especially if my gut tells me I'm not completely ready while my age sometimes hollers, you'd better hurry up, my man. By the time I start a regular full-residency MFA program (if I am able or willing to do so), according to this plan I would be 39. That did bother me at one point, but increasingly it doesn't. The reasons you mentioned are what make me feel more assured - I'm reminded again and again by various situations of the cliche but easily forgettable thought that I'm more interested in creating work I feel good about than anything else, and therefore see any program as simply a boon to that cause when I'm good and ready. If I'm not more sure on my feet, it seems like an unnecessary, self-imposed hurdle, and one that puts you in danger of chasing or courting that group or mentor acceptance or validation (not that validation of some kind isn't necessary) before you've found out more about what you have to say alone in a room.

At this point, if I attend a program, it will be to polish, deepen the work, get good, constant feedback, possibly have a little "community" to share with, and maybe make some connections, etc. All of that is immensely important. I'm not at all diminishing how valuable that is. It's no small thing. But for myself, I can't see the point of attending a program to do what I know I need to do by myself - the initial heavy lifting of finding out what I can really produce if left to my own time table. As you said, I'd be doing that anyway, were I to be a full-time, publishing writer, hypothetically speaking.

Thanks for the feedback. It helps me think this through.


(This post was edited by Quixote on Aug 1, 2010, 11:04 PM)


alamana
Jennifer Brown


Aug 2, 2010, 8:05 AM

Post #153 of 172 (5543 views)
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Re: [Quixote] Age of students Can't Post

Hi Quixote--

I'm 39 and heading into my second year of a three-year MFA program. I quit being a lawyer to do this. It was the smartest thing I ever did. I felt like it was "now or never" time for me to get out of my career and focus on writing. If I hadn't made this commitment, my litigation career would have swallowed me and I never would have written much of anything. (But that is, of course, a personal problem. Many people, lawyers included, have great writing careers alongside of doing something else.)

I'm learning so much about writing, and learning it so much faster than I would have on my own. And I love being in a community of writers. There are people in my program who are younger, and people who are older, and we all decided the same thing--to put our writing first for at least three years (not that you can't do that outside of a program).

I do encourage you, as Glinda did, to wait a year and work on your own before applying to schools, since it sounds like that is what you want to do. This should give you a really deep sense of commitment before you start, and you will really beef up your writing sample for applications.

Best of luck! I am excited for you!


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

http://www.jenniferkirkpatrickbrown.com


Quixote


Aug 2, 2010, 9:55 AM

Post #154 of 172 (5536 views)
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Re: [alamana] Age of students Can't Post

That's all really good to hear, Alamana. If you see this and can answer... may I ask, how long did you work on your application stories before you started?

Law is definitely a time-chewer; I've had a few friends in the profession. I had a different career that ate up lots of time in a previous life. I left it for a job that doesn't eat emotion and energy and time like that, though it certainly isn't as lucrative as my former role. But the money is OK and it gives me space to really focus on writing; with the world economy the way it is, I'm just happy to have insurance and a paycheck, etc. So, in that way, I'm immensely lucky. Even though this job does allow me time and energy to write, I still do want to at some point seriously consider an MFA program. It sounds like you are having the kind of experience I'd probably enjoy. Maybe some day I'll be in the same boat. Thanks for your time in responding and good luck with the rest of your program, and your writing.


(This post was edited by Quixote on Aug 2, 2010, 10:00 AM)


alamana
Jennifer Brown


Aug 2, 2010, 10:56 AM

Post #155 of 172 (5527 views)
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Re: [Quixote] Age of students Can't Post

Hi Quixote--I began my stories about nine months before I turned them in with applications. Also, I workshopped them in online workshops (one with Gotham and one with the Writers Center in Bethesda, MD). This was very helpful. One of those workshops also resulted in a recommendation for MFA programs--and the teacher of the class offered without my even asking (something I will be forever grateful for).


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

http://www.jenniferkirkpatrickbrown.com


kghoerth



Aug 2, 2010, 12:46 PM

Post #156 of 172 (5508 views)
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Re: [Quixote] Age of students Can't Post

I think it is definately a good idea to wait until you feel ready to begin. I sure didn't!

Oh my goodness... I think I was 19 when I started working on my MFA. I was lost, horribly lost. And I 'wasted' about two years in the program not focusing on my writing, working full time (as a teacher! ahh!), taking classes but not taking them seriously enough. Two years into the program, I needed an intervention. It was either take it seriously, or give it up.

I was very fortunate to find an on campus job that paid a decent wage and allowed me enough time to focus on my writing. Granted, my mistakes have caused me to take longer with the MFA (year 4 here I come!) but now I feel that I'm actually being productive, producing a body of work worth being labeled thesis. I need the extra time. A chapbook and several journal publications later, I'm feeling more confident at assuming this role of writer. The MFA is what you make of it, and there are many people out there who wash through programs and end up with and MFA, sure, but if you haven't produced a body of work throughout the process, you don't have a heck of a lot to back up that piece of paper. That's what I am deathly afraid of.

So in retrospect, I certainly should have waited. You're doing the right thing, building up your application, writing, and mentally preparing. I was just so excited to go go go, and I thought I understood everything about the world. Ah, youth. :-P


paligal


Sep 16, 2010, 6:50 PM

Post #157 of 172 (5303 views)
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Re: [Quixote] Age of students Can't Post

Hi Quixote,

I just turned 38 and was in your shoes last year- really had this disillusionment with the direction my life was going, and thought, "It's now or never". I realized I was going to be 40 in a couple of years regardless, and I could be 40 with an MFA and new direction, or 40 and right where I was. So I applied to 9 MFA programs (Creative Nonfiction). 4 were mediocre programs on the west coast where I wanted to stay. The rest were top tier programs. I thought I would be lucky to get in anywhere. But I got into all the programs, with funding offers from those that had them. I'm now at U of Iowa in my first semester, still sort of stunned. There are 10 of us in the Nonfiction incoming class: 2 other people my age, about 4-5 that are early 30's, and the rest early to late 20's. I am taking a fiction class, and there is a woman in that class who is significantly older, probably late 50's or so. And I have met someone else who is in the Workshop who is in his 50's.

The benefit of the program is that it throws you in there with a lot of people focused on writing. You get feedback, you must produce, you are inspired. I would go for it.


kghoerth



Sep 17, 2010, 3:43 PM

Post #158 of 172 (5255 views)
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Re: [paligal] Age of students Can't Post

All ages in my program, too.

In my current workshop, I'd say the median must be in the mid 30's. I mean, there's a few fresh out of undergrads (ehm... me), but the majority are people that've returned after working for awhile or even some who already have their MAs in something else. So... all kinds :-) I think there's even a man who must be like in his late 50's. That's... older than my parents. LOL~

But you know what - the older folks tend to be better writers (from my own informal and naive observations)! So, I admire them a lot.


Quixote


Sep 19, 2010, 11:56 PM

Post #159 of 172 (5193 views)
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Re: [kghoerth] Age of students Can't Post

This is all good to hear.

I've thought about/been somewhat insecure about my regarding programs (not necessarily writing as an activity, obviously), but I definitely think that, had I got into an MFA program in my early years, it would have possibly been wasted on me, or at least I would not have known how to really own the process like I could do now, probably just because I'm older and less inclined to put up with my own past nonsense, laziness, lack of focus, etc.


Quixote


Sep 20, 2010, 12:12 AM

Post #160 of 172 (5189 views)
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Re: [Quixote] Age of students Can't Post

That's supposed to say:


In Reply To
This is all good to hear.

I've thought about/been somewhat insecure about my age regarding programs (not necessarily writing as an activity, obviously), but I definitely think that, had I got into an MFA program in my early years, it would have possibly been wasted on me, or at least I would not have known how to really own the process like I could do now, probably just because I'm older and less inclined to put up with my own past nonsense, laziness, lack of focus, etc.




jd-


Sep 20, 2010, 1:33 PM

Post #161 of 172 (5158 views)
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Re: [paligal] Age of students Can't Post

I am going back for an English Literature degree at (insert prestigious school) to work on my writing, get teacher references, and expand my literary horizons first. I have been working in IT(originally did information systems) so I'll be 31/32 when I am done and possibly entering MFA, I have about another year to research whether I will do it or not. Do I feel it is old? Do people think I am crazy for leaving a stable job? Yeah sure... but my old career is over with in my mind, and I want no part of it (I quit several jobs with good pay and benefits b/c I couldn't stand them, but something had to pay the bills.) I tried to like it, but it just isn't happening. I am an INFP so it just doesn't jive with me whatsoever (oh if only I would have taken some of this personality profiles earlier instead of trying to fit into a mold that wasn't me.) So, there is really no other option. I am driven and incredibly more focused than I was at 22...


bokmakierie



Sep 21, 2010, 3:15 AM

Post #162 of 172 (5128 views)
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Re: [jd-] Age of students Can't Post

I am 47, and applying to programmes for 2011. It's taken me all those years to find out that I am a writer, and what kind. I went to architecture school when I was 19 and imploded under the pressure to be CREATIVE, coming from an authoritarian school system and cloistered suburban family. I am much tougher now, and also much more flexible.

My view is that diversity is almost always beneficial in a group, including age diversity. I look forward to being challenged by the energy of people in their early 20s, and I know that my life experience will be of value to them. And hey! There are wise 20-somethings, and wildly naive middle-aged people. Being older in Western culture brings both disregard and authority. Being young, adulation and a lack of other kinds of power.

I have worried that selection committees will favour younger people, because of the trajectory into employment at universities. But I hear over and over and over again that it's all about your writing sample.


Glinda Bamboo


Sep 21, 2010, 9:38 AM

Post #163 of 172 (5116 views)
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Re: [Karen Martin] Age of students Can't Post

I really can't imagine MFA programs preferring younger students for any reason, really. All things considered, if your writing is equally as good as the 22-year-old fresh out of college, I'd imagine they'd prefer the student with more life experience. (It all depends, of course, and no two applicants are going to be identical except for their ages anyway.)

I never even thought that the selection committees would take their applicants' potential for teaching careers into consideration at all. Let's face it -- most MFA students are not exactly going to land on the fast track to a tenured position no matter what their age. There are just too many MFA grads and an extremely competitive academic environment for that to happen. What really counts in many cases is book publications anyway.

In any case, I think schools choose the writing they prefer. I'm not an expert in what programs are looking for, but I get the sense that most of them are happy to admit "older" students. You'll lend a different perspective to workshops. Application committees read through tons of applications from twenty-something writers; your age and your place in life is something that makes you stand out. Good luck.


jd-


Jan 9, 2011, 11:51 AM

Post #164 of 172 (4697 views)
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Re: [jd-] Age of students Can't Post

Just a bump on this...

Taking workshop courses still... And I still find it beneficial even though it isn't in an "MFA" program per se.

It might not be as effective, but ... it works for me and I'm not really interested in the degree itself more so than writing opportunities, I have no interest in teaching it for instance, plus I have a life, a partner, many things going on. Easier to be younger and just devote yourself to it.

I think right now, given the quality of the classes I am taking right now I might just keep on taking writing workshops a la carte at the university as it is a cheaper route than an MFA and also keeps me writing. I am scared the MFA program would be too inflexible and structured, I have been known to just fly out of the country for months at a time on a travel adventure... I stopped school at some point three times because of that.


(This post was edited by jd- on Jan 9, 2011, 11:55 AM)


299Broadway


Jan 13, 2011, 10:01 AM

Post #165 of 172 (4605 views)
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Re: [Glinda Bamboo] Age of students Can't Post

Sorry but I think it is naive to believe that age has nothing to do with the MFA selection process. Programs want reputation and to be economically viable, especially true with the market saturated with programs. A younger writer of equal skill is sure to be favored over an older one in most cases. Statistically they have a longer writing lifespan and, consequently, a higher chance of publication. As much as we would like to think differently, art is not immune to market forces.


cigarettes


Jan 13, 2011, 10:36 AM

Post #166 of 172 (4601 views)
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Re: [299Broadway] Age of students Can't Post

I hear, you, but I think that kind of strategic positioning doesn't really enter into decisions about individual applicants. (I'm the administrative assistant for an academic dept.--film, but prob. a similar dynamic.) Also, I know some people who teach in creative writing programs and have been on admissions committees. I truly believe that the people reading these applications are looking for talent first and a diverse and collegial atmosphere (a distant) second. They have to be around the people they admit for 2-3 years, after all. They don't particularly prefer to be around 22 year-olds--in fact, it's something I've heard people complain about: too many 22 year-olds. I DO suspect, though, because it is human nature, that admissions decisions will favor applicants who write more like the people doing the choosing.

In Reply To
Sorry but I think it is naive to believe that age has nothing to do with the MFA selection process. Programs want reputation and to be economically viable, especially true with the market saturated with programs. A younger writer of equal skill is sure to be favored over an older one in most cases. Statistically they have a longer writing lifespan and, consequently, a higher chance of publication. As much as we would like to think differently, art is not immune to market forces.



writerle


Jan 13, 2011, 11:20 AM

Post #167 of 172 (4595 views)
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Re: [299Broadway] Age of students Can't Post


In Reply To
Sorry but I think it is naive to believe that age has nothing to do with the MFA selection process. Programs want reputation and to be economically viable, especially true with the market saturated with programs. A younger writer of equal skill is sure to be favored over an older one in most cases. Statistically they have a longer writing lifespan and, consequently, a higher chance of publication. As much as we would like to think differently, art is not immune to market forces.


You're entitled to your opinion, of course, but the age range of students in my MFA program was 22 - 72 while I was there.


Mic
Mik Demeter

Mar 28, 2011, 12:22 AM

Post #168 of 172 (4256 views)
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Re: Age of students Can't Post

I'm 56 -- maybe too old.


jlgwriter
Jeanne Lyet Gassman

Mar 28, 2011, 1:03 AM

Post #169 of 172 (4253 views)
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Re: [Mic] Age of students Can't Post

I doubt it, Mic. I was 52 when I started my MFA. Nobody seemed to care about your age at my program. They only cared about your work.

Jeanne
http://www.jeannelyetgassman.com
http://jeannelyetgassman.blogspot.com


http://www.jeannelyetgassman.com
http://jeannelyetgassman.blogspot.com


Mic
Mik Demeter

Mar 28, 2011, 1:19 AM

Post #170 of 172 (4250 views)
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Re: [jlgwriter] Age of students Can't Post


In Reply To
I doubt it, Mic. I was 52 when I started my MFA. Nobody seemed to care about your age at my program. They only cared about your work.

Jeanne
http://www.jeannelyetgassman.com
http://jeannelyetgassman.blogspot.com


Thanks, Jeanne.

Due to my circumstances, I'll have to go with National U.'s 100% online MFA. I am trying to find some scholarship and grant money to help with the cost but not having much luck.


creolequeen09
Judith Lorenz-Crunk

Jun 19, 2011, 2:55 PM

Post #171 of 172 (3906 views)
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Re: [flatiron10] Age of MFA students Can't Post

That is the great thing about an MFA Program or for education period at this time. At Antioch the ages of the writers ranged from 22 up to 82 with more than 50% over 45. So much insight was gleaned from talking to individuals from all walks of life and various ages and in finding out how each of us arrived at this point in our lives. I will just say when I completed my MFA I was over the hill. :-) But I write my journey so my hill is the size I want it to be with numbers distributed as I say. That's the great thing about being a writer because you say when, you say where, you say how etc.


"Writing from the heart is creating a legacy one word at a time."


maybemd


Jul 27, 2011, 5:14 PM

Post #172 of 172 (3661 views)
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Re: [creolequeen09] Age of MFA students Can't Post

54 and currently a student in a low-res. program. This semester's incoming students ranged in age from ~22 to their late 60's.

I think there were three PhDs in the group; one is a medical researcher who runs his own university lab, another with a PhD teaches at a college. One has an MFA in poetry and has returned to enter the fiction program. A couple teach at the high school level. One ran a lit mag and has had a career as an editor, now free-lancing. The diversity of both the students and faculty -- who ranged in age from early 30s into their 70s -- made for wonderful classroom discussions and workshops. A couple of the faculty do not have MFAs, and apparently do not feel the need to pursue one.

If you're concerned about socializing, then write on your housing preference form "loud dorm please". Those dorms were filled with younger people, many of whom were interested in co-ed partying into the early morning.

If you'd rather chill, then write "prefer quiet dorm" on your form. My quiet women's dorm had predominantly older students. Most of us are in long-term relationships so although guys did get invited over, there was no tiresome flirting or romantic drama. We gathered every evening after readings for wine and snacks in the dorm's living area and did "homework", played instruments and sang, and discussed our different genre and mentors and every writers' issue in the world (we live all over the country, and one of us in the Middle East). Most have been published, some have teaching positions or successful careers in other fields.

Overall, the residencies are amazing experiences.

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