Saturday, September 27, 2014

Applying myself

Kid in a candy shop - click to "embiggen"
Making a decision to go to graduate school for a Creative Writing MFA isn't a trivial one, I've learned. There's a lot of planning to do, and a lot of work. Now that the idea is more concrete than is was a month ago, I've made some progress. I feel like I'm committed to this.
I've short-listed ten schools. Five of them are "for sure" choices; the other five are likely choices that I need to learn more about. I might narrow down the list. 

I've selected only schools that offer a concentration in non-fiction or allow students to work in multiple genres. I don't rule out working on fiction, or even poetry, but my strength is in non-fiction right now. It's my interest and my strongest work is non-fiction.

I've chosen three schools in Southern California. The other schools are out of state. When I first got the notion to do this, I limited myself to Southern California schools, but [The Man I Love] urged me to explore other places. "If you're going to do it, why not look at all the possibilities?" he said, and he's right. 

An MFA degree in Creative Writing is usually a two, sometimes a three year program. Living somewhere else for two or three years is not a hardship - in fact, I'm kind of excited by the idea. 

Expanding my horizon also lead me to thinking about the financial side of it. Many MFA programs provide full funding for the students they admit. Students work as teaching assistants or as editors for departmental journals, but tuition is covered and often there's a living stipend. Why shouldn't I compete for these positions? 

If I am offered a funded position at a distant school, naturally I will have to quit my job - which means I will take my retirement. That gives me a modest income, something that will supplement a graduate student stipend.

If I take an offer in Southern California, I can decide whether to quit my job or not; whether to drop to part-time, or even whether to go to school only part time and keep working. That's a bridge to cross in March, when the acceptance or rejection letters come in.

But before I can made any decisions, I have to complete the applications, and right now this makes me feel like a juggler spinning a dozen plates in the air.

All the schools I'm applying to have an online application process. But they're all different, and complicated, so I've created a spreadsheet to keep track of them. I need to coordinate letters of recommendation, and delivery of transcripts, and upload my CV and statements of purpose, and writing samples. 

Another big deal is the GRE, or Graduate Record Exam. Not all schools require it for the MFA degree, but two of the schools I'm very interested in do. So I have to take it. I took the GRE about 15 years ago, and did pretty well, but I need current scores. I'm reading study guides and taking practice tests, and hope to take the exam in mid-October.

It also costs money - each application fee is about $50. The GRE is $195. I'm trying to budget and plan out each fee.

The deadlines for application range from December 10 to January 15, and I feel I'm on track to meet that. 

This has given me quite a sense of purpose in my life, which feels really good, but I'm also scared and worried I'll blow it. I could use any advice or encouragement you all could give me. 


FelixInHollywood said...

What an exciting time! Blow it or not (which I can't imagine you will do), make sure to enjoy this journey. Too many people in our age group are content to start winding down, while you are choosing to gear up! Bravo!

Susan B said...

How exciting! Enjoy this new adventure. I think you'll do brilliantly.

smalltownme said...

Im so excited for you!

Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

This is so exciting! Wow! I'm really happy that you are sharing your process here.

Anonymous said...

I hope you find a program that fits you and your goals. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Aunt Snow, by virtue of your life experience and maturity you will have a huge advantage over younger students; at least , I found it so when undertaking an undergrad degree and post grad work in my 50's and 60's . Franinoz

Kizz at 117 Hudson said...

You're doing it! You're really doing! Even over here on the sidelines this is really exciting.


My daughter took a screenwriting program at UCLA and loved it. Her friend went on to the Masters program which my hopes to be able to take some day - just not this day. Good luck to you in following your passion. I look forward to charting your progress.


Dang. I thought I left a comment previously. I'll try again.

My daughter took several screenwriting classes at UCLA. I can't remember the name of the program; but she really enjoyed it. Her friend went on to the Masters program and is encouraging my daughter to take the leap.

I will enjoy following your progress.

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

This is exciting news!
(And now I understand the more recent GRE post... this is why reading back through blog posts isn't always such a good thing.)