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sanssoleil
Chris
e-mail user

Mar 23, 2006, 11:36 PM

Post #51 of 764 (19914 views)
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Re: [fishy] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

This talk of ranking rankles.
I feel like I'm in one of those New Yorker cocktail party cartoons.
You know, characters splitting hairs to establish a hierarchy within an already elite cultural milieu.
I understand why one would care about prestige, but it seems antithetical to the production of good art.
Maybe I'm just a romantic.


jdurose
Julie
e-mail user

Mar 24, 2006, 9:03 AM

Post #52 of 764 (19870 views)
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Re: Rankings -- I'm feeling left out! [In reply to] Can't Post

That's it; I can't take it any longer. (This is my first post ever on P&W.) I must point out that very few of the so-called "best" writing programs in the country offer programs in nonfiction writing. I didn't realize this until I decided to apply to MFA programs back in December. There is a niche for a nonfiction Tom-Kealey-type to write a book just for us. (Or maybe a pamphlet?) Hey -- our numbers are growing!

For the record, the following programs DO NOT have a nonfiction track:

Cornell
Michigan
Brown
Michener
Boston
U Mass – Amherst (Perplexingly, one’s thesis may be a work of nonfiction.)
Houston
NYU
UC-Irvine
Arizona
University of Washington
University of Wisconsin
Syracuse
University of Virginia

These programs (among others not mentioned in this thread) DO have a nonfiction program:

Columbia
Montana
Iowa, but not in the Writer’s Workshop
John Hopkins, but an M.A.(not an MFA)

***Therefore, the "rankings" are even more irrelevant for those of us looking for nonfiction programs. Any nonfiction writers who would like to banter about MFA options are welcome to shoot me an email.


(This post was edited by jdurose on Mar 24, 2006, 9:07 AM)


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 24, 2006, 11:59 AM

Post #53 of 764 (19830 views)
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Re: [soulzenful] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote

Rankings are impossible, even with the best of criteria, because everyone's needs are different.


That all doesn't mean that rankings are impossible. It just means you need to understand WHAT the rankings are ranking.

For example, the US News rankings aren't measureing "what programs are best for you" they are measuring which programs have the best reputation amongst other creative writing faculty. (So a combination of the programs quality and prestige)

I could put out a ranking of programs based on what percent of the students they fund. That works fine, it isn't impossible. When reading the rankings (for anything) the reader just needs to keep in mind what is being judged (hint: It is never judging one individual readers best fit...)


(This post was edited by Clench Million on Mar 24, 2006, 12:48 PM)


lustra


Mar 24, 2006, 12:33 PM

Post #54 of 764 (19801 views)
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Re: [sibyline] What are your rankings? [In reply to] Can't Post

Where would you guys rank (or would you even rank them as good schools?) St Mary's College in CA, University of Utah, and San Francisco State?

l.


fishy


Mar 24, 2006, 12:46 PM

Post #55 of 764 (19785 views)
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Re: [lustra] What are your rankings? [In reply to] Can't Post

For poetry or fiction?

For poetry, Utah is the choice for me. Allen Grossman, I believe, is visiting there this year, and Craig Dworkin is a neat guy. He runs ubuweb.

St. Mary's has Brenda Hillman (if you like her stuff) and is in sunny California.

SFSU is in San Francisco. That's about it.


(This post was edited by fishy on Mar 24, 2006, 12:48 PM)


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 24, 2006, 12:49 PM

Post #56 of 764 (19779 views)
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Re: [lustra] What are your rankings? [In reply to] Can't Post

Along with lustra's questions, where would you all rank The New School?

I'm not sure if they even had a program when the US News thing came out...


lustra


Mar 24, 2006, 12:50 PM

Post #57 of 764 (19779 views)
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Re: [fishy] What are your rankings? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm a poet, so am interested in how these programs compare against other poetry programs, to the extent comparisons are possible.

l.


bighark


Mar 24, 2006, 12:51 PM

Post #58 of 764 (19778 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

There are two things about the US News list that bother people. The first, is the fact that it's nearly 10 years old and therefor almost useless to people who need to use it now.

The second thing about the US News list that bothers a lot of people is the fact that a nebulous criterion like reputation was one of the items that contributed to a program's score. Now don't get me wrong--reputation is not unimportant--but reputation does not exactly have a correlating scientific unit of measure.

When it came out, I think the US News list was pretty ok. In terms of listing the top 25 programs, it did what it was supposed to do: show the programs that are most highly regarded among creative writing instructors. You may squabble over who was placed where, but I think it did an acceptable job of listing the most prominent programs of the day.

Anywho, the US News is no longer valid. It's just not. A popularity contest from 10 years ago does not reflect the current state of affairs. It's kind of like going to your high school reunion. I mean, some of the people from 10 years ago are still well liked and successful, but you find out that the old homecoming king is already divorced and selling used cars and that some chick you never heard of was apparently in your homeroom and is now a recurring character on CSI Miami.

Things change. Grants are won. Budgets are pulled. Faculty retire. New stars are born.

---

I do agree with you, though, about your observation regarding rankings. They do a lousy job of determining which program would be the best fit for a particular applicant.


sanssoleil
Chris
e-mail user

Mar 24, 2006, 12:52 PM

Post #59 of 764 (19774 views)
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Re: [lustra] What are your rankings? [In reply to] Can't Post

I've heard SFSU has terrible funding. If you're a resident of California, this isn't much of an issue--tuition is cheap.
So if funding isn't an issue for you, I'd say that their faculty earns them a decent ranking, if you're interested in more experimental fiction.
You could do worse than Robert Gluck, that's for sure. I think he teaches both poetry and fiction.
I applied there. But then I'm not one to get in a dither over rankings.


mingram
Mike Ingram

Mar 24, 2006, 1:04 PM

Post #60 of 764 (19763 views)
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Re: [bighark] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

The difference between ranking MFA programs and ranking other grad programs is pretty simple, actually. Other grad programs are ranked by objectively measurable criteria -- law schools, for instance, are measured by selectivity (number applied vs. number admitted), faculty-to-student ratio, percentage of graduates who pass the bar, etc. This is much different than calling a bunch of writers/teachers on the phone and saying "What's the best program?"

Really, the US News list was put together in the same way people on this board decide which programs are "best" -- consensus of popular opinion. Not that this is completely meaningless, but that's all it is.

I read once (in some sort of nonfiction book, I don't remember what the book was actually about) that this guy told his son to go to an Ivy league college not because his education there would be better, but because then he wouldn't spend the rest of his life wondering if he could have gotten a better education and better career opportunities had he gone to an Ivy.

It seems like the same principle may apply to grad school. If you're the type of person who's going to wonder, fifteen years down the line -- would my books be getting published/reviewed/bought had I gone to Iowa/Columbia/Brown/wherever? -- and that speculation is going to drive you nuts or make you bitter -- than maybe considering "prestige" is something you should really do. And I don't mean to diminish that approach -- it definitely played into my selecting Iowa over a couple other programs that seemed to have a lot to offer (though it certainly wasn't the only reason I selected Iowa). And I can say that never once in my two years here have I heard anyone speculating about what goes on at other MFA programs, or whether they would have been better off elsewhere.

But let's be real here. We're not going to med school. At the end of the day, wherever you go, this all comes down to you sitting alone at your desk and writing. Go to whatever place is going to best facilitate that happening.


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 24, 2006, 1:16 PM

Post #61 of 764 (19752 views)
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Re: [mingram] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not sure I buy that mingram. Are you positive rankings for laws schools and such are purely based on those criteria (do things like faculty and reputation not come into play at all?) and even if they are done like that, you can't jusge the majority of programs by those kinds of criteria. How are Comp Lit programs, Spanish programs, history programs, etc. ranked?

I do not know, but I have to imagine in pretty much the same way MFA programs are ranked (alumni, faculty, etc.)

I think your Ivy league anecdote is a good point. You don't want to be looking back thinking "if only i'd picked Hopkins I could be publishing my books."

To be honest though, on some level I almost feel like prestige is more important for an MFA than a med school or something. As we all know, most people look down on arts degrees in general, and even in the literary community a fair number look down on MFAs for writing in particular (oddly in a way that other arts fields don't seem to...). MFAs don't gaurentee anything and at the current rate of MFA proliferation, almost anyone can get in somewhere. People might look down on MFAs, but they probably won't begrudge you too much for going to Iowa. OTOH, plenty of people might really look down on you for spending three years getting a somewhat pointless degree from a no-name school. So on some level I feel like it would be almost pointless to get an MFA from a no-name place.


fishy


Mar 24, 2006, 1:50 PM

Post #62 of 764 (19721 views)
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Re: [lustra] What are your rankings? [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, who do you like to read?


texasgurl
Stacy Patton Anderson

e-mail user

Mar 24, 2006, 1:55 PM

Post #63 of 764 (19718 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

Actually, Mike is pretty right on with the law school comparison. I worked for a law school for a little while, and the USNWR rankings play huge in their recruiting strategy--so I learned a bit about it. It's a very statistically-based ranking system, and a great deal of it has to do with how many students are employed within one year of graduation, where they are employed (judicial clerkships, big firms, how much money they're making), how many admitted versus applied, and other things. I don't recall that alumni and faculty play much of role.


Stacy Patton Anderson
http://family-of-five.com


sibyline


Mar 24, 2006, 2:04 PM

Post #64 of 764 (19713 views)
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Re: [mingram] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

I guess I don't really care about prestige for prestige's sake, at least not for writing MFA's. I do care about the quality of the feedback I get and the colleagues I have, and I feel that the more selective a school is, the more likely it is for me to be with a community of fellow grad students who can help me improve my work.

And yes, ranking schools in order when they are in many ways equivalent is probably a bad idea (I should have had ties on my original list), but I think having a sense of what programs people consider the best according to their own set of criteria, and making that collective knowledge, is not a bad thing.

Given new information, my current list is:

1. Iowa
2. Johns Hopkins
2. Irvine
4. Cornell
4. UVA
4. Michigan
7. Brown
7. Syracuse
9. Michener Center
10. Columbia

Hmmm.... I wonder if I should have applied to Irvine given how much people seem to like it. I really dislike the planned community environment there. But I would have definitely applied to Syracuse if I could do it over again.


sibyline


Mar 24, 2006, 2:15 PM

Post #65 of 764 (19698 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] What are your rankings? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Along with lustra's questions, where would you all rank The New School?

I'm not sure if they even had a program when the US News thing came out...


Well, they're not fully funded so that definitely puts them further down on the list for me. They have the advantage of being in New York and attracting good faculty, but Columbia and NYU already have pretty comparable and more selective programs. I would say somewhere between 20 and 30 maybe?


curiouskate


Mar 24, 2006, 2:20 PM

Post #66 of 764 (19693 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

I've read up on this board from time to time and this is my first time posting. I used to work for a top New York Agency. Here's the deal- what they look for is not so much an MFA degree, but if you are being published in literary journals, magazines, popular online sites, etc. An MFA from IOWA and no publishing track gets you less attention than someone with no MFA and a publishing track. So, if it's agents you are concerned with, you don't even need an MFA. If you are going to worry about what people think of you and your degree, you are not doing this for the right reasons. An MFA is for yourself- it is concentrated time to write and to develop yourself. It is the credentials for an adjunct teaching position. You can get these two things at any program. The agents don't care which one, as long as you are out there, getting published in the small journals. People on this forum need to justify to themselves why they are going to be spending 100,000 (or their parents- its OK to be a trust fund baby, just think before you speak) for a degree. Go anywhere you want- take on any debt that you want- have a great time and live life. The only way to be a good writer is to be honest with yourself, and you can't do this while being tangled up in "who has the best reputaion, i need to be in the ELITE. I AM ELITE!" game. Apply to as many schools as you can. See where you get in. Go where you think you will be the most comfortable. It doesnt matter if it's a state school or an Ivy- most people don't understand these art degrees and way of life anyway- so don't even think about them. Discover who you are. Learn about yourself. Try not to listen to the people who think they are oh-so important. Be motivated. Send your stuff out there to get published. If you don't get in anywhere- apply again. The schools like developed writing and real life experience anyway. My aunt told me, "the ones who don't make it are the one's who gave up" - this applies to anything in life. Don't worry about rankings. I repeat: I worked in a powerhouse agency. They don't care where you got your MFA. if you have one, great. If you're published, even better. If you can't stay true to yourself, you'll never make it. And another use for this board is to see what kind of personalities are going where. Do you really want to be in a program that attracts CM, or would you rather be in a program that attracts someone like the free thinking SS?


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 24, 2006, 2:31 PM

Post #67 of 764 (19680 views)
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Re: [texasgurl] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

texas: Well, I can believe that about a few select grad programs, like law or medicine, but I don't see how it could be true for most grad programs in general.


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 24, 2006, 2:34 PM

Post #68 of 764 (19673 views)
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Re: [sibyline] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm surprised to see Cornell and Michener so high on your list.
I honestly didn't hear much about either program when researching stuff and talking to old teachers last fall before coming to speakeasy and seeing everyone loving em.

If I could do it over again I'd do Syracuse as well (and probably Cornell).


Windiciti



Mar 24, 2006, 2:43 PM

Post #69 of 764 (19659 views)
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Re: [jdurose] Rankings -- I'm feeling left out! [In reply to] Can't Post

Also Northwestern University with campuses in Chicago an Evanston has an M.A. in Creative Non-fiction.


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 24, 2006, 2:43 PM

Post #70 of 764 (19659 views)
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Re: [curiouskate] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

curiousskate, I'm just thinking through issues which I feel a lot of ambiguity towards. You seem to have missed most of what I was actually saying, but there is no need to pretend I'm attracted to some type of ruthless programs others aren't. I'm sure I applied to most of the same programs everyone else did.

I just find it more rewarding and helpful to tackle these issues in a practical and honest way, instead of spouting a bunch of empty platitudes like "great art comes from being honest with yourself."

People should be less worried with the "attitudes" of potential classmates than with the quality. These are people whose work you are going to read and who are going to be critiquing and helping you along. If your fellow classmates don't have high quality work, a good part of your MFA experience has been a waste. I double majored in creative writing and something else undergrad. Most of my classmates couldn't critique or write. They didn't help me grow as a writer in the least (my teachers were another matter). If a bad MFA program is filled with similar students, I can't imagine it would be worth going.


(This post was edited by Clench Million on Mar 24, 2006, 2:58 PM)


Windiciti



Mar 24, 2006, 2:56 PM

Post #71 of 764 (19641 views)
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Re: [curiouskate] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

Enjoyed your post curiouskate!
People are still killing themselves to go to the "top" schools in the old USNews report. How many places can there be in these top schools?
Publication is everything.
Do you recommend literary contests (most have a fee!) or straight submissions to mags?
Do you have any ideas about which journals will be more likely publish a higher percentage of writing by new, unpublished writers?
I'd be most appreciative for your ideas and guidance on this. I'm driving myself crazy trying to figure out where my stuff can fit---short fiction.
Thanks.


sibyline


Mar 24, 2006, 3:00 PM

Post #72 of 764 (19637 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I'm surprised to see Cornell and Michener so high on your list.


Cornell and Michener have something a lot of the other programs don't have: excellent funding. They also have the possible drawback in Cornell's case of not having the kind of superstar faculty that other programs have, and Michener of not having permanent faculty at all.

I obviously know a lot about Cornell since I'm going there. The thing about them is that they tenure from within and they don't actively recruit big stars. They're happy with what they can offer, a super-small program with full funding for all students, and a guaranteed two-year lectureship after graduation. If working with big-name faculty is important to you, then Cornell may not be the way to go. However, in fiction, they have five full-time and two adjunct faculty members, as well as two retired faculty members who are still available and actively teaching, and eight fiction grad students at one time.

So that's nine faculty members for eight students, which is an amazing ratio. I'm not in the program yet and I'm already having a substantial e-mail exchange with one of the faculty members. And it's not like Helena Maria Viramontes, Maureen McCoy, Stephanie Vaughn, and Lamar Herrin aren't fantastic writers and, judging by what the students there say, amazing teachers. They just don't have the kind of profile that some professors in other programs do. But the program seems to inspire a kind of commitment that I find really inspiring. All the professors there seem really committed to their students and want to be teaching. I'm pretty sure I'm going to be really happy.


viviandarkbloom


Mar 24, 2006, 3:04 PM

Post #73 of 764 (19631 views)
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Re: [sibyline] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Hmmm.... I wonder if I should have applied to Irvine given how much people seem to like it. I really dislike the planned community environment there. But I would have definitely applied to Syracuse if I could do it over again.


Irvine is awful. The town, I mean, not the program. I'd still cut my toes off to go there, though. Palo Alto kinda sucks too, but I wouldn't turn down Stanford.


bighark


Mar 24, 2006, 3:18 PM

Post #74 of 764 (19611 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

Clench, that's a big disclosure there regarding your creative writing major. No wonder you feel like you do.


dtva


Mar 24, 2006, 3:44 PM

Post #75 of 764 (19591 views)
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rankings [In reply to] Can't Post

I haven't seen Ohio State in anyone's rankings, though people on other threads have noted the great funding, faculty, etc. Any thoughts? (if it isn't obvious, this is a program I'm seriously considering, though I've had offers from two other schools which might be considered more "prestigious." I'm trying to decide if I should care about the rankings factor as I make a decision.

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