How Will I Know?

How Will I Know?


I’m not the only one who was overwhelmed with college applications, right?

Is it just me or does October just seem like it’s the month of assessment and decisions?  It’s the middle of the semester, and so comes with the weight of midterms and progress check-ups.  But, it also has the personal burden of being the month before my birthday, the month where I contemplate most the direction my life is going in.  

Two years ago, those thoughts were joined by stressing over whether or not I wanted to pursue an MFA.

For some, there’s nothing much to consider beyond that.  Do I want to or not?  But for others, there’s a lot more to consider like How will this decision uproot my life?  Can I afford it?  What is my longterm goal?  How will this degree help me get there?  All good questions to have when making this decision.

No one should tell you where to apply. It’s really a personal decision.

Everyone’s considerations are different, which is why there’s no way to accurately answer this for anyone.  I will not begin to even attempt to give you sure-fire signs that this is the decision you should be making.

But, I will attempt, here, to assist your decision-making process.  Below are a few things to keep in mind and tips to remember when trying to figure it if the MFA in Creative Writing – Fiction is for you and if so, what program best meets your needs.  (**these are not ranked by level of importance**)

  1. Determine what your longterm goals are.  (These never have to ever be set in stone; but just a general idea is great!)
  2. Make sure you are able to separate the myth from reality of the MFA program.  Before you apply to a program, understand what it is that an MFA experience can offer.
  3. Remember that, though an MFA is terminal degree, it does not guarantee a collegiate teaching position — more and more positions require a book be published first.
  4. Research full and low residency programs and determine what best fits the structure of your life.
  5. Try to visit a few programs and speak to an academic counselor as well as a student currently enrolled in the program you’re interested in.  Compare and contrast the information they both provide.
  6. Determine what type of environment you’d like to live in: a big city, a small town?  Somewhere rural?  The north (be prepared for the cold), the south (bring on the heat).
  7. If you are considering a family (spouse, children, etc.) what are some necessities your program/location has to offer — like childcare, on-campus housing, an array of job opportunities in the field of your significant other, etc.?
  8. If you will need financial aid, research programs and/or companies who supply scholarships, grants, fellowships, assistantships, etc. to offset student loan debt.

Columbia College Chicago worked best for me.  It’s a big city but it’s neighborhoods have a small-town feel.  There’s always something fun and inexpensive to do in the city.  The program worked great with my full-time schedule.  The school offers work-study, scholarships, assistantships, and offer financial aid. And my fiance was also accepted into a school here too.  The icing on the cake came when we found out his job would also smoothly let him relocate to this city too.

But this was me.  It’s important to find what works for you.