Latest Update on the MFA Degree Program

Whether it is a technologically intensive field like graphic design or film editing, getting a MFA Degree Program is a big win.

MFA Degree Program Application

An MFA degree signifies that a professional artist has completed a series of rigorous courses in his or her art form and signals that someone is adept at his or her chosen craft.

An MFA is a graduate-level credential, meaning that before you get an MFA, you typically need a college degree. “MFA Degree Program Application”

MFA degree recipients say their graduate school education allowed them to refine their artistic philosophy and creative techniques while elevating the quality of their art to make it more unique, polished and interesting.

In addition, MFA degree holders say having an MFA has given them the credentials necessary to teach courses in their art form at colleges and universities, and that it gives them sufficient knowledge of their art discipline to offer thoughtful critiques.

The MFA in Creative Writing

Many writers interested in continuing their study of Creative Writing beyond their bachelor’s degree pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree (MFA) in Creative Writing.

I design MFA programs to provide writers with the theoretical framework, practical skills, and critical community support to help them further hone their craft and develop the expertise needed to become published writers.

MFA programs, however, are very competitive, with only a small percentage of applicants getting into the programs of their choice each year.

Putting together a successful application takes considerable planning, research, focus, and time. “MFA Degree Program Application”

From conducting research on which program is right for you, to preparing the materials you need, to perfecting your creative writing sample and statement of purpose, to getting letters of recommendation from your favourite professors, to actually sending in your applications: all this can take from six months to a year from start to finish.

If gaining a Master of Fine Arts degree interests you, then this guide is a great place to start. Below are some tips on how to succeed in that process.

An Overview

You will be expected to do the following as part of applying to MFA programs

1. Plan the overall process and create a timeline

2. Research MFA programs / Decide where to apply

3. Assemble your application materials, including:

4. Creative Writing sample (10-20 pages of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, etc.)

5. Statement of Purpose

6. Letters of Recommendation from current or past professors (3 total)

7. Undergraduate transcripts

8. Curriculum Vitae or Resumé

9. GRE test scores (if required by any of the programs to which you plan to apply)

10.  Application fees

11. Submit your applications and required materials by the deadlines (see above)

Planning and Research

Planning and research is one criterion you need before applying for the MFA in creative writing. Below are a few steps or instructions you need to adhere to for a successful application:

1. Your Application Timeline.

The very first thing you’ll want to do is create a timeline for your application process. (See “Creating Your Timeline” below for some more specific info.)

Knowing that most application deadlines are between December 1st and February 1st (for students who want to begin in the fall semester).

You will want to get started on everything at least six months prior to the earliest deadlines: i.e. you’ll want to start the process in the spring of your junior year (assuming you plan to start an MFA in the fall after graduating.

If you think you might take a year off after graduation, then you can begin in the spring of your senior year.)

As part of your timeline, figure out when you need to start the various pieces of your completed application packet, and when you want to have them completed.

Additional Information

For instance, knowing that it will take time to revise the stories or poems you want to include as your Creative Writing Sample.

That as part of this process you’ll want to get feedback toward revision from a trusted friend and/or a willing (and generous) professor, plan to complete your first drafts of these no later than September, and possibly earlier.

Your friend or professor will need time to read and provide feedback for you. And then you will need time to revise, etc.

Similarly, knowing that your professors will need time to write your letters of recommendation and that there’s no guarantee that every professor you ask will do this, start asking your favourite professors for letters early in your process, perhaps in the spring semester of your junior year.

Make yourself a timeline, give yourself deadlines, and do your best to stick to these deadlines! “MFA Degree Program Application”

2. Research

After completing your timeline, your next step in some ways is the most difficult: doing research to decide where you want to apply.

Maybe you already have a program or two in mind. If so, that’s great. If not, our best advice is to start with a resource right here at UTEP: Your Creative Writing professors.

Who are your favourite current or past Creative Writing professors? Send each an email, or drop by their office hours.

Simply let them know that you’re interested in applying to MFA programs and that you would like their advice.

All of your professors here will have expert advice and can point you to programs that they admire, and/or in which they think you would be a good fit.

Of course, there are other factors you should think about aside from your professors’ recommendations. Here are a few things to consider as you’re looking at various MFA programs:

3. Genres

Does the program offer courses in all genres, or specialise in a few genres (poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, children’s lit, screenwriting, gaming, etc)?

Does it offer a variety of courses in the genre you’re interested in? Does the program have faculty who specialise in and/or publish in the genre (s) you want to study?

Faculty. Are you interested in writing by one or more members of the faculty in the program? (You may need to do some research to find and read some work by the program’s faculty.

Each faculty member’s bio or faculty page will list their most prominent or most recent work.) If you’re really intrigued, ask to be connected with faculty, if possible, to sit in on a class or for a one-on-one conversation about the program.

Conversely, are there writers (perhaps that you’ve encountered through your Creative Writing classes, or by reading contemporary poetry/fiction journals) that you really admire? Look them up and find out where they teach!

4. Location

Consider where the school is located. Is it somewhere you’d like to live? Is it affordable to live there? Is there a literary arts scene (or music scene, or performance scene, or visual arts scene)?

Do you have connections to anyone in this location, or will you need to form a new community upon joining the program? (Keep in mind that an MFA program is a great and easy place to form a new community!)

Is the program online or in-person? Do you want to move to a new city and start over, or would you like to be close to family and friends?

5. Finances

Does the program offer Teaching Assistantships or Fellowships (or some other kind of yearly stipend) to its MFA students? (It should.)

Does the program (and/or the University) offer grants/scholarships/tuition waivers to help defer the costs of graduate school?

All does not cover how much the above, and what is the remaining amount, considering tuition, fees, and cost of living, that you would have to cover out of pocket?

Are you willing to take out loans to cover the rest? How much aid will you receive from FAFSA? Contact the school’s Financial Aid office for more information and to learn about additional resources.


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