So you’ve received your acceptance letter, and you’re beaming. I know I was. I put it on the refrigerator and called my mom. I was ecstatic.
And then it hit me. This is a HUGE decision.
And then I felt overwhelmed.
I’ve recently met with a few admitted students and emailed a few others, and believe me, you are not alone if you are feeling overwhelmed. Everyone is. And I’m sure you have questions. A. Lot. Of. Questions.
Some of the most frequently asked questions I receive are about financial aid, whether or not you can work while completing an MFA, and what the benefits of the GSI program are. I thought, to ease your mind, to lessen the feeling of being overwhelmed, that I would answer these questions.[flickr id=”8578017027″ thumbnail=”medium” overlay=”false” size=”original” group=”” align=”center”]
What about financial aid?
Financial Aid is awarded on a student-by-student basis, so I am hesitant to speak about it as a whole, as in, there is one way to answer this question. I usually refer students to the Student Financial Services website, where you can calculate the amount of money that tuition, living expenses, transportation, etc., will cost, and then calculate how much financial aid (loan money) that you will need to complete your time at Columbia. Additionally, you can see a complete list of scholarships and funding opportunities available to graduate students to help alleviate some of the cost of tuition and other expenses.[flickr id=”8579118272″ thumbnail=”medium” overlay=”false” size=”original” group=”” align=”center”]
Can I work while completing my MFA?
The answer to this is yes. Most of the students in the Creative Writing – Nonfiction MFA program work part-time. A lot of us are Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs) too, so we may work two jobs. I have three jobs. Some people have four. Others work full-time.
The amount of time that you can work while in the program is really based on you. My suggestion is to see what the course load is like during your first semester, before taking on too large of a workload outside of the program, if you are able to do so. You can always adjust your work and school schedule during the second semester and in later semesters, once you get the hang of everything.
Another nifty tip is that on-campus jobs offer more flexible hours than off-campus jobs. So, once you have accepted Columbia’s offer and received an OASIS ID number, you can begin searching for jobs on ColumbiaWorks, Columbia’s job list for both on- and off-campus jobs. I have had tremendous success with Columbia Works, and I know that some other students currently enrolled in the program have as well.[flickr id=”8578014893″ thumbnail=”medium” overlay=”false” size=”original” group=”” align=”center”]
What are the benefits of being a GSI?
There are SO MANY benefits, and being a part of the GSI program has been one of my favorite parts of my experience at Columbia. I have enjoyed teaching immensely, and I have a few extra lines on my CV when I graduate. Gaining teaching experience during your time in an MFA program is invaluable. Being a GSI is actually a topic that I blog about quite frequently. You can read more about the benefits and my experience as a GSI here, here, and here.
So, I hope this eases your mind a little bit. If you have other questions or still feel overwhelmed, check out some of my recent blog posts, click around a bit on the website, follow me on twitter @nonfictionmfa. And, as always, send me an email with your questions!