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dubious



Sep 8, 2005, 6:09 PM

Post #1 of 29 (5059 views)
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Basic MFA Question Can't Post

I have always thought that going for an MFA would be akin to spending years at Disneyland, not to put down the work involved or caliber of students, but it would be like a dream for me since I love studying writing and being in that environment.

My question is, what if you knew you could nail the GRE, and take some serious upper level courses in literature and intermediate/advanced writing and nail them (to prove your ability to get the grades in that area), and find some wonderful references...and of course a wonderful writing sample, and here is the BIG BUT...your grades have always been awful - you can't even guess how bad! I worked throughout school and never was motivated because I was trying to follow through on degrees (a BA and JD) for the wrong reasons, and never really went to class.

And I would have to assume that getting published would help here. Is there a realistic possiblity of getting into a great or even good school?

My second BIG question is about the cost. I assume it is high to staggering, as was my private law school, which I still have 60K left to pay off so many years later. What exactly are the costs, I mean in a ballpark figure, and are there scholarships and grants, or just more loans to forever pay off? And what of a teaching assistant position to assuage the cost or pay your living expenses? I assumed I would never be able to go, but my mind keeps saying what if year after year. And is there some prejudice against those in their 40's who still feel like kids?

dubious


pongo
Buy this book!

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Sep 8, 2005, 11:12 PM

Post #2 of 29 (5045 views)
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Re: [dubious] Basic MFA Question [In reply to] Can't Post

I had pretty poor grades as an undergrad -- I didn't get into any of the grad schools to which I applied in 1970 -- and didn't take the GRE at all, and I got into the one MFA program to which I applied. Now, some schools do require you to take the GRE, but they don't (as a rule; there may be exceptions) care what your score is on it. They care about your writing sample. It's nice if you can demonstrate the ability to take courses in literature, but most good MFA programs really only care about the writing sample.

As to cost, some schools offer substantial funding, including some very good ones (not necessarily the ones with the best-known names). The low-res school I attended cost me about $28K for the whole program. (Add travel costs.) Low-res schools are also very open to nontraditional students (which my current university defines as anyone over 24). My graduating class ranged from 26 to 68.

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/


silkfx2004


Sep 9, 2005, 9:44 AM

Post #3 of 29 (5033 views)
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Re: [dubious] Basic MFA Question [In reply to] Can't Post

Your post, not to mention your screen name, made me smile. :)

My stats prior to starting the application process:
- Lousy overall undergrad GPA (C average) due to the fact that I spent 3 of my 4 years majoring in engineering and math and doing fairly badly in my classes
- Great GPA (A average) in the major I changed to in my senior year, which was English (I was able to do this because I'd been minoring in English, writing concentration, up to that point)
- Probably the sorriest English major walking (in that my literature background was and is pretty poor compared to a lot of English majors)
- Only published 1 short story in my entire adult life (but this is also due to lack of trying and being far too much of a perfectionist)
- Worked primarily in technical writing and editing for much of my adult life (17 years)

Then I decided to apply.
- Did extremely well on the GRE (730 English, I think)
- Found three great references, two of whom were MFAs that I met via an informal writing workshop
- Explained, wherever possible, the discrepancy between my low overall GPA and my high English GPA (see above)
- Age 39 at the time I started to apply

I'm now starting my first year at Iowa, which doesn't have a huge literature requirement (as opposed to some of the other programs I looked at/applied to). I haven't noticed any ageism yet, but I have noticed that I'm definitely NOT the oldest MFA candidate here. I'm probably the oldest at some of the social functions I've attended, though. :) I don't consider myself a kid -- in fact, when I look at my students (I'm also teaching freshmen) I feel REALLY old. But it's all good (so far).

All of this is to say...go for it! Good luck!


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


dubious



Sep 9, 2005, 2:28 PM

Post #4 of 29 (5018 views)
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Re: [silkfx2004] Basic MFA Question [In reply to] Can't Post

Wow, these two posts give me such hope! At this point I am looking for a regular 9-5 job (while working other work nights and weekends) so that I can get out of my financial hole form previous degrees. Looking for something to combime my techy-tinkering interests, analysis, and my creative side (likely something digital/computer oriented - production assistant, likely). There's a lot of that in the San Francisco Bay Area, but it is also super competitive. I figure that I can take lit and writing courses on the side, for fun and learning and to prove I can do well in them during this time. Just need to find the right courses - most likely on the Internet it appears, so I can work around a job. I also have no fear of the GRE - the questions are so similar to LSAT and Mensa - I actually find them fun and look forward to the preparation, as long as I don't do too well on the math, which might make them question me. Having been a lawyer, the essay shouldn't be difficult, with some study of what they are looking for.

Anyway, I plan to get as published as I can, do well in many courses until then, do very well on the GRE, and distance myself from my treachorous past.

Iowa! Wow! You are my hero. Time for me to send out more stories! And soon the mailman will come...

Thanks to both of you!

dubious


Kaytie
Kaytie M. Lee

e-mail user

Sep 9, 2005, 2:31 PM

Post #5 of 29 (5018 views)
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Re: [dubious] Basic MFA Question [In reply to] Can't Post

Your writing samples will trump all.

GRE - Only important to get you accepted to the university if the U requires you be accepted both to the program and the general graduate program of the university. In other words, at some universities you could be accepted to your program and not the school, in which case you could be out of luck. Not all schools are like this.

Grades - probably won't matter too much. Again, if the school requires you meet certain threshholds, you may be accepted on probationary status if you get into their writing program. Probationary status means you could be kicked out if you don't get passing grades your first semester or year or whatever they need. Upon proving yourself, you can get off of probation.

The financial aid question varies by program. You ought to be able to defer your law school loans while you are in grad school, and it sounds like it's in your best interest to search for programs that offer TA positions that will give you tuition and a stipend, rather than programs that offer less or none.

I never saw any ageism in my workshops. It's one thing to feel like a kid and another to act like one, though. :)


Kaytie M. Lee Last Updated November 2008


Aubrie


Oct 8, 2005, 11:47 PM

Post #6 of 29 (5146 views)
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Completely Lost [In reply to] Can't Post

I know I just posted a reply to an old thread - but I'm really looking for some guidance here. I'm having a really hard time gauging where I stand competitively for schools. My gpa is right around a B average (but not the blessed 3.0 - okay fine it's a 2.85) and I feel I'm out of luck for school. I'm sure that I will break 700 on the Verbal GRE section, and I've got a good deal of real world exp. (Assistant Editor at NYC literary magazine, intern/copy editor at national art/literary mag.) and the National Book Foundation accepted me this summer to their writing workshop in Vermont (which was amazing and totally made up my mind about MFA), taking class with Gotham, etc. I believe that my writing sample is strong and my drive has become sooo strong since I finished school (4 years ago), but I'm nervous that I'd be wasting my money applying to Columbia & NYU.
Is there anyone out there who could offer any advice?
Anyone feeling as nervous and NOT confident as I?
Help!


pongo
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e-mail user

Oct 9, 2005, 2:49 AM

Post #7 of 29 (5144 views)
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Re: [Aubrie] Completely Lost [In reply to] Can't Post

Most MFA programs will pay nearly no attention to anything but your writing sample. Some will take the statement of purpose pretty seriously. There are rumors of a couple that care a rat's ass about your GPA or your GRE, but those rumors are not substantiated.

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/


shadowboxer


Oct 9, 2005, 12:15 PM

Post #8 of 29 (5137 views)
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Re: [pongo] Completely Lost [In reply to] Can't Post

Some schools have a minimum of 3.0, which is set by the graduate school itself. The MFA program does not have any leeway. If I were you, I would email the schools in question. The progam admin should be able to give you a direct answer.


wiswriter
Bob S.
e-mail user

Oct 9, 2005, 4:34 PM

Post #9 of 29 (5129 views)
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Re: [Aubrie] Completely Lost [In reply to] Can't Post

If your writing sample is strong, you're fine. Most programs don't care about your GPA or GRE and the ones that do tend to be the ones you want to avoid anyway. I didn't have a 3.0 (I majored in marijuana) and everyone told me not to think twice about it. A program director at a university that supposedly has a 3.0 requirement told me that if they want a sub-3.0 student they talk to the graduate school and make it happen. Some programs don't even care if you have a B.A. if your writing is there.

In short, this isn't regular graduate school. Free yourself from academic-think and spend your time/energy polishing your sample and your essay. That's what gets you in.


Texasfornow


Oct 10, 2005, 12:14 PM

Post #10 of 29 (5101 views)
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Re: [wiswriter] Completely Lost [In reply to] Can't Post

Writing sample is king. it's the only thing you should concerned about.

With regards to Columbia and NYU, NYU does offer money, though not much, and I've known people who've had to turn it down b/c of that. Columbia is infamous for not giving money. What is it, like 60k for two years, plus your living expenses. It's crazy, and if I may add, a bit contemptuous on the university's part for offering unfunded spots.

More and more schools are offering money now. Virginia, Michener Center (20k for all students), Iowa has started to find more money, Ole Miss with its Grisham cash, Irvine, etc. My advice is to not consider any school that has problems funding its students either through TA-ships, teaching positions or fellowships. Oh, don't forget Syracuse and Wisconsin, they both offer money too.


shadowboxer


Oct 10, 2005, 2:05 PM

Post #11 of 29 (5090 views)
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Re: [Texasfornow] Completely Lost [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Writing sample is king. it's the only thing you should concerned about.

With regards to Columbia and NYU, NYU does offer money, though not much, and I've known people who've had to turn it down b/c of that. Columbia is infamous for not giving money. What is it, like 60k for two years, plus your living expenses. It's crazy, and if I may add, a bit contemptuous on the university's part for offering unfunded spots.

More and more schools are offering money now. Virginia, Michener Center (20k for all students), Iowa has started to find more money, Ole Miss with its Grisham cash, Irvine, etc. My advice is to not consider any school that has problems funding its students either through TA-ships, teaching positions or fellowships. Oh, don't forget Syracuse and Wisconsin, they both offer money too.


Other schools that offer money are Cornell, Brown, Indiana, Houston, Florida, and Michigan. Like Texasfornow, I don't see the point of going into debt for an MFA.


mizrachi


Oct 10, 2005, 5:34 PM

Post #12 of 29 (5079 views)
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Re: [shadowboxer] Completely Lost [In reply to] Can't Post

Will third that. No way I'd pay for this degree, which is why I'm fully funded w/TAship at Florida State.


Aubrie


Oct 11, 2005, 1:01 AM

Post #13 of 29 (5059 views)
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Re: [mizrachi] Completely Lost [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks so much for the feedback. I emailed Columbia and NYU and both schools stated they had no minimum GPA requirement. I appreciate the warnings about both schools. I currently live and work in NYC and I don't plan on relocating, so I'm applying to NYC based programs only. To my understanding both schools are exceptionally competitive so I'm not expecting to think about their finances anyway. Just a pipe dream. I'll keep the boards updated...


C.bronco


Oct 12, 2005, 12:52 PM

Post #14 of 29 (5014 views)
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Re: [Aubrie] Completely Lost [In reply to] Can't Post

Don't write off Columbia completely. I have a co-worker who got her doctorate (in music) at Columbia & paid nothing. She had to teach, but paid nothing.

NYU just got a nod as one of the worst schools (undergraduate) for financial aid. I can't attest for their graduate funding.

Princeton's very well endowed & generous. I don't believe they have an MFA program, but I could be wrong.


http://cynthia-bronco.blogspot.com


shadowboxer


Oct 12, 2005, 1:38 PM

Post #15 of 29 (5009 views)
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Re: [C.bronco] Completely Lost [In reply to] Can't Post

I would write off Columbia completely. The funding for the MFA program is pretty bad. NYU has a better funding situation, but I wouldn't want to live on that stipend in New York. Princeton doesn't have a MFA program.

This may seem callous, but I think that the point of the MFA is to provide time and money to write. I know of many people who had to take on second jobs while at some of the New York schools, and it sort of defeats the purpose. If you're limited by geography, I would also look into some of the low residency options. Some of the schools have very good faculty, and it may be a better option then running up a bunch of debt at one of the NY schools. (This doesn't apply to you if you're independently wealthy)


willbell
Will

Oct 12, 2005, 3:58 PM

Post #16 of 29 (5000 views)
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Re: [shadowboxer] Completely Lost [In reply to] Can't Post

Low-Res options don't offer any funding besides the traditional gov't loans, but you, of course, can work full- or part-time while you complete the program. Low-res modesl don't give you free time to write...instead, you learn how to find time to write among the chaos of a working life. It's important to know how writing will fit into your life after you graduate. So many MFA graduates don't write or 'can't find time to write' once they are out of an academic setting and working full-time. If you're a motivated student, low-res programs help you budget your time and find what works for you. (There are many other benefits to Low-Res, but I just wanted to point that out...)


murasaki
Marie Mockett
e-mail user

Oct 12, 2005, 4:10 PM

Post #17 of 29 (4996 views)
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Re: [willbell] Completely Lost [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't have an MFA, and don't currently have plans to get one. But, I admit to being very attracted to the low res option. In particular, I'm attracted to Warren Wilson; I like the faculty and I like the fact that they ask you to read and write analyses of classic texts. A friend of mine who graduated from Warren Wilson pointed out what you have -- that the low res route most closely mirrors the every day writer's life. Most writers have to fit their writing in around other work, after all. I think that there is some money available for minority students. There are also probably some scholarships -- some funding from other organizations.


willbell
Will

Oct 12, 2005, 4:28 PM

Post #18 of 29 (4994 views)
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Re: [murasaki] Completely Lost [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm at Goddard. There are a few small scholarships that would be worth looking into...as I'm sure there are at Bennington, Warren Wilson, etc.

The faculty is great. The student/mentor model works well for me. The residency was inspiring and enlightening. My work has grown leaps and bounds during the packet process (new work, revision, annotations). All in all, the low-res model has worked for me.


Moonshade


Oct 15, 2005, 12:42 PM

Post #19 of 29 (4953 views)
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Re: [mizrachi] Completely Lost [In reply to] Can't Post

Mizrachi,

FSU is one of the schools I'm applying to. If you don't mind, I'd like to know what's your take on your experience? Good overall? Has your writing become more focused? Were you a "beginning" writer or already somewhat established (already written several stories, whether published or unpublished)? Is the program what you expected? What's your workload?


joysan


Dec 21, 2005, 4:32 AM

Post #20 of 29 (4872 views)
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transferring mfa programs? [In reply to] Can't Post

i'm beginning to doubt if i want to stay in this current mfa program. can anyone tell me about starting the transfer app process?

thanks! joysan


rooblue


Dec 21, 2005, 1:52 PM

Post #21 of 29 (4846 views)
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Re: [joysan] transferring mfa programs? [In reply to] Can't Post

Joysan,
I don't know about regular programs, but I know with low-res, there are no transfers. Regardless of previous education, everyone who shows up at Warren Wilson begins at the beginning. No credits from anywhere are accepted toward the degree. Sorry you don't like your current program, and good luck with your switch.


Kistulentz


Dec 22, 2005, 11:35 AM

Post #22 of 29 (4809 views)
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Helping You Become UN- Lost [In reply to] Can't Post

I guess since it is the holiday season I just wanted to pitch in a couple of thoughts.

Apply to as many places as you can afford. Go to the place that gives you the most money and the best amount of time to write.

GREs are used by people outside the writing program, such as the English department chair (usually a failed writer who is bitter) to stick you with teaching 2 sections of freshman composition at 8AM and 9AM.

The ONLY thing that matters is your manuscript.

Don't borrow money to go. A good stipend and if necessary an on-campus job (the library rocks, because you can disappear for hours and read books) should get you through.


Miss Otis
Patricia Sanders

Dec 25, 2005, 1:22 PM

Post #23 of 29 (4758 views)
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Application strategy question [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi there --

I'm graduating from my undergrad program (Arizona State) in December 2006. I definitely want to do an MFA next, and I'm pretty sure I want to do a low-res program -- I like the format, I am not too interested in teaching, I own a house here in AZ, and I am doing pretty well as a freelancer, so I'd keep at that.

But there are a very few, very competitive residential programs I would do *if* I got in and *if* I got a very good aid package -- if I could go and not have to work very much.

So I'm thinking of applying to the low-res programs in late summer. I would start with the winter residency right after I graduate here. However, I'd like to apply to those residential programs too -- but I would be applying after I've already begun the low-res program. If I got a good offer from a residential program, then I'd transfer.

Do you see any downside to this plan, other than the obvious -- that if I transferred I'd have paid for the winter residency unnecessarily? Should I hold off on starting the low-res program until the summer residency, after I've heard from the residential programs?

I am eager to get started with the MFA (I'm 39 and ready to do this!) and realistic/pessimistic about getting into a residential program with the kind of package I'd want. Guess I'm not sure how to balance those factors with the off-chance that I would get into, say, the Michener program or Iowa with a great aid package.

Thanks and happy holidays!

Patricia


edwriter



Dec 26, 2005, 10:37 AM

Post #24 of 29 (4727 views)
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Re: [rooblue] transferring mfa programs? [In reply to] Can't Post

Joysan:

My guess is that you'll have to check with each program that interests you about its transfer process.

I'm not sure, by the way, that all low-res programs have the same policy rooblue notes is in effect at Warren Wilson. Just one example--the Pacific Lutheran program's website says that candidates who already hold an M.A. may finish the (3-year) PLU program in less time. So again, be sure to check with each program.

Best,
Erika D.


Quiet Americans: Stories
http://www.erikadreifus.com



NemoBook



Oct 17, 2007, 12:49 PM

Post #25 of 29 (4549 views)
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Re: [libbyagain] Editorial/writing [In reply to] Can't Post

Not to derail the conversation from post-MFA job opportunities (I'm finishing my second year, and am about to be spewed out into this particularly unfriendly world) but a side question:

Does anyone know where I can find very basic statistical info on undergrad/MFA writing programs across the country (just basic stuff like enrollment, breakdown of poets vs. fiction writers, # of faculty, etc.)?


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