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Saturday, August 6, 2011

...Oh, There Goes Gravity

Isn’t this blog supposed to be about applying to grad school?  Um, yes it is I simultaneously ask and answer myself.  Then what’s all this crap about job searching, and being poor, and feelings and junk?  Well self, for one I believe that all of those things are tied into the application life style and need to be addressed as much as the composition of statements of purpose.  And two, applying to grad school is a long and incredibly tedious process with not a whole heck of a lot to write about in a weekly blog, so get off my back, self! 

Truth is if you do your homework on selecting schools—researching, writing e-mails to program heads, etc.—the next steps are just making a plan and implementing it.  As this is my second wave of applications, much of that initial homework stage was completed last year and I’m not doing or talking about it much now.  I should probably look around for others schools that I didn’t apply to/ was rejected from last year—remember the definition of insanity?—but aside from being a glutton for punishment, I do have my reasons for returning to those that have hurt me so. 

who has two thumbs and can't get into grad school?

If you’re specifically applying to MFA programs in Creative Writing like me, then you need to grab a copy of The MFA Creative Writing Handbook by Tom Kealey.  It's your Bible.  You just don't know it yet.  Aside from giving you boss tips on applying to programs—like this guy over here does—it also gives you phat tips on deciding which grad schools to apply to based on your personal needs.  The reason that I’m reapplying to many, if not all, of the same schools that rejected me a scant few months ago is because of these points that old Tommy boy sites as most important to consider when selecting which grad schools to apply to;

1.)   Location—this might seem the most trivial component of applying to grad schools, but Kealey says it should be #1.  City or country, near or far from home, mountains or flatlands?  I don’t know about being the very first consideration, but I don’t think you can do well or be happy somewhere you hate.
2.)   Faculty/ Program—if you’re applying to a creative writing and environment program and you drive a Hummer, that may not be the program for you.  Research programs that you feel that you’ll fit into well.  I don’t think that always means finding faculty with similar styles., practices as you—diversity leads to new ideas—but it definitely doesn’t hurt.
3.)   Cost—this should probably be #1.  If you can’t get past this one, nothing else matters.  In my case, I started by researching schools that offered full rides and teaching assistantship stipends and went from there.  NYU and Columbia are great, I bet, but they never passed the financial aid test and I never even bothered to research them.
4.) Post Grad Opportunities - Will you get published while in school?  Is there a student literary magazine to do so?  What about finding agents, publishing contacts, teaching gigs afterwards.  All things I never considered whist strolling through my undergrad education that are now imperative to do.
5.) Creative Writing-y Stuff - visiting writers, library access, student reading, class size (actually, this is important to consider for any grad school).  There are a lot of little, yet vital, aspects of a creative writing program to mull over for aspiring MFA students, but too much to write here.

There are some more points on Tomo's hit parade, but I think these are some of the most crucial and general points when selecting which grad schools to apply to.   But if you don’t have any preferences on location, faculty, and have crap-tons of money, then you suck.  Don’t bring your impartial zombie-robotness into grad school.  Save the room for someone else, please?  

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