Every year, Columbia hosts a series of Graduate Admitted Student Days. Last Friday, students who were admitted to the Photography MFA program were invited to come in and see what a day at Columbia was like.
This event gives students an idea of the atmosphere they will be working in and introduces some of the faculty and students that they will be working with. For the Photography MFA Admitted Student Day, we do this on a Friday for one specific reason: Friday is our Graduate Seminar.
Graduate Seminar is the name we have for our crit day. You will often hear it referred to, both in my posts and while at Columbia, simply as crit. Crit runs the whole length of Friday (10-4). We consider it our most important class; therefore, it is the class that we invite admitted students into. This is where the bulk of students’ work is made over the first two years of the program.
The Photography MFA Admitted Student Day begins with crit. Admitted students spend time before lunch (around 2 hours) in crit. We are usually able to crit two people during this time, sometimes more, but this time only two. When we broke for lunch, the admitted students were off to have lunch with the faculty. This is a good chance for the students to meet the faculty and get to know them a little bit.
After their lunch, there is a Q&A session with the chairs of the grad program. A number of questions will be answered, but those questions seem to be a little more procedural. The more personal questions come later on.
Then there is a tour of the facilities. If you haven’t seen them yet, you will be astounded by the amount of money that has been spent on our digital printing facilities. There was also a tour of MoCP, something that was new this year. Allison Grant, a former MFA student here and curator at MoCP, took the students back into the vault to show them the collection.
Finally, the most important part of the day, the admitted students had a very early dinner with the current grads. We were done with crit by this time and went back to the grad room, our own personal work and print space. We had a spread from Flaco’s, a local favorite. This is a really important time because, as prospective grad students, you get to hear the unfiltered version of what working here is like. You will get to hear the positives and negatives and also get to know some of the other students. It’s not a lot of time but hopefully enough to let you know if you would get along with the other personalities in the room. While knowing the faculty is important in your decision, the current students are who you are going to be spending the majority of your time with and who hopefully will become your peers.
It is always a nice thing to attend if you can, and especially if you are unsure about your decision. I came to it when I was thinking about the school, and even though I already knew I would be attending at that time, it gave me a good idea about what my next three years were going to be like.