Thanks to my beloved younger sibling who recently started her graduate program at George Washington, my own desires and nostalgic memories for the academic environment have returned full force.
I started looking into MFA programs as an ideal transition from my current job after moving back east. In doing so, I rediscovered that many if not most of the MFA programs in the United States are fully funded. Acceptance includes a tuition waiver, a living stipend, and health insurance. The programs range between two to three years, and some stipends are more or less generous depending on the cost of living.
Aside from funding, I’ve also had to consider the Faculty that are currently teaching and if the atmosphere would be supportive of my writing style. I am a fantasy novelist. Most programs focus on literature or poetry, but there are a few multi-discipline programs that also involve playwriting, studio art, and other fine arts. I know of at least one program that has a fantasy/fairytale writer as a faculty member (Virginia Commonwealth University, my brother’s alma mater)
So now you know where I’ve been for the past month and a half! During my research, I’ve come across a few resources that I thought would be helpful to anyone interested in an MFA. The most useful web site will be the page hosted by the school, but there are a few aggregate sites that help organize information:
Affording the MFA Blog by Robin Tung
I’ve also created a spreadsheet that compiles all the factors I found important. This information is listed on Poetry & Writers and of course on the MFA home pages for the individual schools, but I like being able to see my information collected in a spreadsheet for comparison.
The spreadsheet is highly specified to my interests: for example, if there were many faculty listed in the Creative Writing program, I often only listed those who were specifically categorized as Fiction or who included novels in their list of published works. This spreadsheet may be less helpful to poetry folk for that reason, but the rest of the information remains the same.
I also tried to include my impressions of what the program focuses on, based on Faculty and program description, but I would take this with a grain of salt. I mostly garnered my impressions based on my view of their web page, the language and writing style they used to discuss the program, and the features of the program, including presence of journals and faculty writing styles.
This list is also specific to the east coast, with a few outliers for other schools that I felt I should at least research, even if I didn’t intend to apply. I do not have anything on this list for the west coast. As a final note, this information was updated up to October 2017.
Prepare ye eyes for the data smack!
To all those who are thinking of applying to an MFA program, I hope this chart is useful to you. Everyone else can simply be impressed with my mad excel skills.
Right before publishing this blog, I did another research pass and noticed that Poetry & Writers have actually updated their MFA index for 2018 programs. This would have been exceptionally helpful three weeks ago. Even two weeks ago.