All posts filed under: Interview

5 Frequently Asked Application Questions Answered By Current MFA Candidates

Photo Credit: Alfred Stieglitz, “The Steerage”  It’s mid-December, which means it’s high tide in application season. A year ago, we were exactly where you are now. We spent our free time navigating unintuitively designed web portals for universities, editing our statements of purpose to be personal for each program, and tallying all the money we spent on application fees. We all shouldered the nauseating uncertainty of it all, wondering if we were acting in vain. Somehow, we all managed to be admitted. So maybe we knew a little bit more about applications than we thought. This month, myself and 3 other first year MFA candidates decided to get together to reflect on how we got here. So, we decided to answer some of the most frequently asked application questions. Though we don’t always agree, we hope that our insight will provide some perspective to this year’s MFA contenders. These questions were answered by Stephanie Lane Sutton (Poetry, University of Miami), Carlos Alonso Chism (Fiction, University of Maryland), Craig Knox (Poetry, Rutgers-Camden), and Shakarean Hutchinson (Fiction, Cornell).  How …

An Inside Look With Kate Peterson, Eastern Washington University ’14

What was it like living in Cheney? How far does your stipend go there living wise? EWU’s main campus is in Cheney, so this is where the undergraduate classes are held (and where TAs teach classes) but the MFA program is housed on the satellite campus in Spokane. Almost all of the MFA candidates choose to live in Spokane since this is where all of our classes are held, and also where all of the internship and program/faculty offices are located. So, there have been some folks in the program who prefer the small-town feel of Cheney over Spokane, but most people live in Spokane and drive or take the free bus to Cheney (about a twenty five minute ride) when they teach. Spokane is a very livable city. When I came to the program I was just returning to the states after working abroad as an au pair, so I didn’t have a lot of money saved. I took out a small loan even though I had tuition remission and a stipend, because I …

Navigating the MFA Application Process: An Interview With Sarah Duncan

Image: AI_HikesAZ How many programs did you apply to? How did you narrow your list down? I applied to about 8 programs—one of which was not an MFA, but an MA in Expressive Arts Therapies. I could see myself taking a few different paths, so I wanted to see what the applications brought me before I made my decision. I narrowed my list down based on the programs themselves. I was looking for programs that didn’t seem too pretentious or too steeped in the white western cannon; I wanted programs that allowed for other study, like a minor or a dual focus; I wanted programs that allowed for multiple kinds of teaching opportunities; I did look at rank, but not very seriously; I looked at the way the programs presented themselves to students, and if they made it difficult or easy to apply. I also looked at only fully funded programs, because for an MFA I wasn’t looking to go into too much debt (though I don’t judge anyone who does!) How did you approach your …

Navigating the MFA Application Process: An Interview With A.A. Malina

Image: Pierre Wolfer How many programs did you apply to? How did you narrow your list down? I applied to seven MFA programs. I narrowed them down based on price and reputation. I looked for schools that weren’t very expensive, but would still give me a decent education. I made a spreadsheet comparing prose, cons, deadlines, and application fees. It also helped me keep track of which ones I’d submitted fees to, where I’d been accepted, etc. How did you approach your sample? Did you submit the same one to every program? For my sample, I simply compiled several stories that I’ve written. I used all of the stories that I’m most proud of having written, because I couldn’t imagine coming up with something new for the application. All of the pieces I used had been heavily workshopped by my undergrad classmates and writing peers, and heavily revised, far prior to me even deciding to go to grad school. I made the decision to go when I was already very close to all of the …

An Inside Look With Mary B. Sellers, Louisiana State University ’18

Image: Billy Metcalf What is it like living in Baton Rouge? How far does your stipend go there living wise? I have the advantage of growing up in the South, so I wasn’t too worried about any ‘cultural shock’. But Baton Rouge itself—it’s a nice city. It’s got that “Louisiana” texture to it which I find delightful—like: big, beautiful trees, too many shrimp poboy signs to count, shockingly lax liquor laws… But one of the best things about living here is the proximity to New Orleans. It’s about an hour South (depending on whether you’re more of the speed-demon or grandma driving type), which is an easy drive to do, even for a day trip. There’s also Mardi Gras, which is a life-changer. Really. I don’t think anyone should be allowed to leave this Earth without experiencing a true Louisiana Mardi Gras. Baton Rouge has its own parades, too, which are just as fun as the New Orleans ones, but more intimate (translation: better chance of getting beads). As for safety, it’s varied. There are safe …

An Inside Look With Kenny Stoneman, Kingston University ’15

Image: Barnyz A note from Kenny: There didn’t seem to be a natural place to mention it, but I attended the MFA program at Kingston University – London from September 2014 – September 2015.  Because I only finished the first year, I received an MA, rather than the full MFA.  Most schools in the UK work that way – the MA is the first year, while the MFA is the second. What was it like living in London? How did you navigate the cost of living there? Lesson #1 about living in London: it’s expensive. There is absolutely no way around that fact, although I don’t think it’ll come as a surprise to very many people. Be prepared to budget, and also be ready for exorbitant prices on just about everything. But there are a few things most Americans won’t realize about London until they get there. For thing, if you’re on a student visa, you are legally not allowed to work more than 20 hrs/wk, so unless you’re independently wealthy, you will need student loans to support yourself. I …

An Inside Look With Dan Calhoun, University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Image: Kent Kanouse What is it like living in Lafayette? How far does your stipend go there living wise? Lafayette is in an interesting area. One of the upsides is the rich Cajun culture. The food is fantastic (red beans and rice, boudin and sausage, etouffee and fresh seafood) there are tons of festivals, and the locals are friendly. Another plus is New Orleans is a pleasant two hour car ride away from Lafayette (and Baton Rouge is a one hour car ride away and Houston is a three car ride away). Lafayette has the essentials: a good mix of local stores and restaurants and chain stores and restaurants. And if you happen to love daiquiris, Lafayette is paradise. There are at least six different bars dedicated to daiquiris (Daiquiris Supreme is my personal favorite).  The downside to Lafayette is the heat (summer is brutal!) and the traffic. Why did you decide to pursue a PhD after graduating from Wichita State? I decided to pursue a PhD because I wanted a few more years to work …