So You Want to Apply to MFA Programs...

  • Don't wait!
    These programs do not have a high-acceptance rate, and while you won't improve your chances by submitting your application early, you are more likely to put together a quality application if you are not rushing to get it done at the last minute.
  • Know the programs to which you are applying
    Take the time to research the programs to which you want to apply. First, this will save you from submitting applications to schools that will not be a good fit for you, but will also help you in the application process. If the school you are applying to is interested in a traditional approach to writing, you would do better to send such pieces in your writing sample as opposed to that new experimental poem you are working on.
  • Don't discount the letters of recommendation
    While not all programs ask for letters of recommendation, many do. Many students, however, do not select the "correct" people to write these letters. If possible, find people that are aware of your writing capabilities as well as work ethic, and choose people in fields involving writing where at all possible. Make sure these people know you well. If you still have time left before you apply, take the time to get to know three or four potential letter writers very well. It will pay off in the long run.
  • Take the GRE
    Again, not all schools require this exam, but you will limit your options severely if you do not take it. Even with this exam, the most important part of your application is your writing sample, so don't stress too much about your score (though doing well doesn't hurt).
  • Be creative when you look for funding
    Not all schools guarantee funding to their MFA students, but just because you don't receive it through the creative writing program doesn't mean that you are out of luck. Look for positions in writing centers or in the general English department. Look for positions that cater to your skill set on campus in other departments.
  • When in doubt, apply to another one
    These programs are very competitive, so apply to as many as you are able and interested in. An additional application fee is usually worth the improved chance of being accepted somewhere.
© 2006 Kathryn Houghton