Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Getting Your MFA: Nine Deciding Factors

by Jacqueline Fauni

Should I get an MFA? It’s a big question many writers have asked themselves--a big question made up of many not-so-little ones (i.e. cost, time commitment, etc.). Last Sunday’s info session with Goddard College helped in giving us some answers to those questions, along with interesting insights into Goddard’s low-residency MFA program. Special thanks to Aimee Liu and everyone else who joined us that night!

If you’re thinking of getting an MFA in creative writing, here’s a checklist of factors you should consider:

     1. Do I need to get my MFA? 
    • Teaching: If you plan to teach creative writing, getting your MFA is often considered a prerequisite, especially if you’re seeking a job at a formal institution such as a university.
    • Structure: Enrolling in an MFA program may help in imposing some much-needed structure to your writing with regular deadlines, assignments, etc. Ask whether you'll graduate with a completed manuscript. Of course, you can design that structure on your own or through other means, but an MFA program necessitates a formal, precisely defined schedule. Goddard MFA students make regular progress on full-length manuscripts as they submit their work to advisors every three weeks or so.
    • Craft: Over the course of two (or more) years, MFA students complete rigorous workloads that help in developing and honing their craft. Goddard MFA students explore and develop a lot of different writing skills while completing a series of packets that include creative work, annotations, and critical responses to works on required reading lists.
     2. Where should I get my MFA?
    • Faculty: The relationships you develop while working with your advisors are essential. Be sure to research the faculties of each program and see who you might work with.  
    • Genres: Before you enroll in an MFA program, make sure they offer your genre. Consider whether fluidity between genres is important to you. Goddard’s MFA program allows students to study and explore many different genres and forms, including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, YA, screenwriting, playwriting, graphic novel writing, etc.
    • Schedule: One of the most crucial questions you need to ask yourself is whether you can commit the time it takes to get your MFA. Be sure to compare the curricula and residency schedules of different MFA programs and determine how each would fit into your own schedule. Besides the packets they complete about every three weeks, Goddard MFA students participate in two eight-day residencies per year. The program typically takes two years to complete.
    • Cost: Tuition can be pretty steep, and essentially the same for most low-residency MFA programs. Goddard’s MFA program fees amount to about $9000 per semester.
    •  Location: Even with a low-residency program, you’ll want to do your research and find an environment that is the most desirable, inspiring, and conducive to your writing. Goddard MFA students choose to spend their residencies at one of two site options: Plainfield, Vermont, and Port Townsend, Washington.
    • Diversity: A program with a diverse student body offers a diversity of life experiences you can be exposed to and learn from, and can potentially enrich your own experience and writing.
For more information about Goddard College’s low-residency MFA program in creative writing, please visit:

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