The season for MFA applications are upon us. I have nothing suitable to send out (right now) but luckily for me, my preferred school (The University of San Francisco) receives their applications early next year.
I’m more confident about my writing even though the same issues keep cropping up (show, don’t tell; abrupt tense changes; subpar endings) but the fact that I’m aware of my weaknesses means I’m on the right track. The focus is to remedy those weaknesses and tighten my strengths in my work.
A few words of advice to the newcomers applying:
Applying to obtain your MFA is daunting. MFA programs are competitive and extremely hard to get into (I would know; I applied to seven schools the first time around and was rejected by all of them). If this is something your heart desires and is super passionate about, don’t waste time dillydallying. Shoot for your dreams! There will be frustrating days. There will be days where you will doubt every word you write. But if this is what you want, you’ll love every moment.
The great thing about the GRE is you only have to take it once. The worst thing about the GRE is having to take it for those schools who want it. The best thing about the GRE is even after you take it, there are a large group of universities that don’t even need it. Research the schools you want and gauge whether your choices – if more schools want the scores than not, take it. If only one school wants it and the others don’t, opt out. It’s not that deep at the end of the day.
Recommendations. Be proactive, B-E proactive!
Use what you got. You have ties to a writer or instructor? Send your work and then ask for a rec. Just had a writing workshop? Ask the instructor for a rec! However, if there wasn’t friendly chemistry and you didn’t respect how the instructor facilitated the class, then seek elsewhere. Be creative as well. Think about those old professors or instructors from high school or college you trusted. Send them your work and go from there. It never hurts to ask at the end of the day. If no one comes to mind, take a writing workshop or join a writing meetup group and go from there.
Do not be afraid to reach out to your fellow writers/potential reading audience. Some of these writers can be trusted people you took a workshop with or a friend who reads actively. For example, I’m part of a book club and when we discuss stories, we not only talk about the content but also the writing as well. In short, preferrably show your work to someone who reads often, not a friend who’s a casual reader.
In short, be prepared for the good, the bad, and the ugly of this process. Seth Abramson’s MFA book is an amazing resource through all this. It should be your MFA bible. Good luck!