I got into school! Now what?


So, you made it into Columbia College Chicago’s MFA in Creative Writing – Fiction program. Congrats! You’re going to do a lot when here and you’ll have amazing opportunities. If you didn’t read my last blog, you’ll see that Columbia gave me the opportunity to speak at my first TEDxTalk! Above is a picture of my mom and me from that day.

Okay, anyway, I got in; now what? From a student perspective, there are a ton of things you need to do. I’ve created a list of things I would consider before moving to Chicago.

  1. If you’re out of state, you’ll need to find a place to live. When I moved here, I had to come up one weekend before I wanted to move. The best times to do this are the end of the month/beginning of the next. Apartments go fast here, so if you see something you like, you’ll want to snag it quickly. I used Hotpads to find my place when I first moved here. Neighborhoods I personally recommend are Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Andersonville, Edgewater, Logan Square, Wicker Park, and North Center. The Grad Office has also made a Relocation Guide which is helpful.
  2. You’ll want to read a lot this summer. Read everything—high literature, pop literature, magazines, essays, memoir, plays… Devour as much as possible. Notice choices the writers have made.
  3. Buy good journals and pens. Invest in Moleskins or something like them. You’ll write in your journal a lot, and investing in a good one is worth it. I suggest also getting stickers to make your journal more unique and “you.” I find band stickers for mine, usually. And, yes, I’m a 30-year-old man.
  4. Come in for a tour. If you haven’t checked out the school yet, call or email the Graduate Office (gradstudy@colum.edu). They’ll be happy to have someone show you around a little bit and answer your questions.
  5. Pick your classes as soon as you can. You should be getting an email from the Grad Office soon about this. Ask around about classes that you are interested in and see what people think about them. Check Rate My Professor for candid reviews of courses and professors.
  6. Write. Get in a lot of writing time. Like any tool, writing is only good if you use it and continuously hone it.
  7. Move to Chicago early. Try to get here a month before school starts (or more!) to get settled, find your favorite places to write and hang out, etc.
  8. Find an outlet. If you’re only working and going to school, you need to find some sort of social outlet. Chicago has amazing gyms and amateur sports leagues. I’ve played rugby and volleyball on different leagues since moving here. Trust me—you’ll need something outside of both work and school.

unnamed-3I could go on and on with other suggestions, but those are my big ones. I hope you found that helpful. If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments section!

(Note: Thanks to my buddy Chris Perardi for the awesome photos!)