It’s that time of the semester, when prospective students are assembling their graduate school applications, wrangling their professors for letters of recommendation, and writing a different statement of purpose for each of their different schools, because the MFA application process can never be easy. It’s also when schools like Columbia host open houses to meet said prospective students.
The Poetry MFA program had a pretty significant turnout for our open house, and I was excited to meet a handful of prospective students from the midwest. A few days afterward, one attendee emailed me with a few questions and asked if I could break down what a typical day in the life of a poetry grad student is like.
The short answer is that there is no typical day, nor is there a typical grad student.
There are members of my cohort who frequently wake up at or around noon and can be found writing late into the night. Others lead mostly “normal” hours aside from our evening workshops. I personally mix a little of each, burning the candle at both ends by staying up until around midnight or one and waking up between six and seven in the morning.
When I wrote about trying to juggle responsibilities as a grad student, writer, TA, and human being, I realized it could make it seem like grad school is an overwhelming experience. I feel like it would be a good idea to give another side to that. Thanksgiving is in the air after all, and I am quite grateful to be studying poetry here.
What am I thankful for as a student at Columbia College?
- I get paid to TA a class I would love to be a student in, learning about the history of Chicago, its museums and its monsters.
- I get to read and respond to poetry from my cohort, who do fun and interesting things with language and writing.
- As a member of the editorial board on Columbia Poetry Review, I’m one of the few people who gets to see some of the best modern poetry being produced by both established and emerging poets.
- I’m learning how to become a composition teacher from professionals in the field, working with other creative writing students to prepare to teach first-year writing.
- As ambassador for the Poetry MFA program, I’m actively encouraged to support current students and show prospective students what it is that makes Columbia so special.
- There are readings of visiting and current faculty as well as students and poets in the community, all within walking distance of campus.
My status as a creative writing student has also helped me pick up freelance writing jobs that pay my bills, letting me write from wherever I can find a table, a chair, and some Wi-Fi. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but it’s also easy to take stock of all of the incredible things that have entered my life since I started here as a grad student.
I didn’t explicitly mention the friends I’ve made at Columbia either, because we’re supposed to keep these things from going much beyond 500 words, and that would be impossible if I started talking about just one or two of the people I’ve met here.