As I head into my final year of grad school, I find myself reflecting on how much in my life and practice has changed over the last two years. I had no clue when I started school how profoundly transformative dedicating myself to this MFA program and my practice full time would be. It’s been a wild ride so far and thesis year hasn’t even started yet!
When people find out I’m getting my MFA, they often share their own desire to go grad school. I’ve noticed that most people have tons of questions about my experience and are eager to get my advice about whether or not they should take the leap. The truth is that I have no clue what they should do. Grad school only trains you to read one professors mind at a time—the general public is still a mystery! Facts.
As you research MFA programs you may be wondering which direction is right for you. Even though I don’t know the answer for you, I do know some good questions that might help you find your answer. Here are some of those questions to consider when deciding if you should take the leap into grad school.
- What is your goal? (to network, get the diploma, to prove you could do it, etc)
- How much money are you comfortable taking out in student loans?
- Is this degree required for the career you aspire to?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years personally and professionally?
- Does grad school support that vision?
- Do you love(or at least like) to write?
- How close do you want to live to campus/how long do you want your commute to be?
- Is there one specific faculty member who you’d like to be your mentor?
- What do you have to lose?
- Do the program requirements and length require that you overload semesters?
- Will any credits from other institutions transfer?
- What other departments/faculty members at the school peak your interest enough to reach out to?
- What are your deal breakers?
- Does the city where the program have a strong creative community?
- Are you willing to be vulnerable with your cohort and faculty about what you aim to communicate through your work?
- Is your family/partner/friend(s) supportive of your decision?
- Are campus facilities well maintained and offer tools/machines that would be out of reach to you otherwise?
- Are you prepared to expand your thinking and possibly abandon aspects of your current practice?
- Do you respect the work of artists that you may not agree with personally?
- Do you respect artists that create art that you may not agree with personally?
- Have you looked at your budget and determined if additional job(s) will be needed to cover things like health insurance?
- What do you have to gain?
There are no wrong answers.
For me, most(not all) of the answers to my questions pointed to grad school—so I took a chance! Columbia College Chicago’s MFA program was the most ideal fit to many of my answers. Grad school isn’t a final destination; rather, it’s an environment that helps you to grow as an artist while teaching you how to ask better questions.