The Beginning of the MFA Quest

Ah, the big bad MFA. Some people love it, some people hate it and a whole lot of people don’t really care one way or the other.

They are also cats.

But I know there a lot of people with questions about the MFA process. How do I know this? I am one of those people. It has been (so far)  an incredibly confusing and overwhelming quest. I am just now finding my footing and feeling a little in control of the situation. Though now I’m getting nervous because most of the deadlines are early January which is getting dangerously close.

There are hundreds of MFA programs. There’s full residency which is a ‘traditional’ program where you attend class on campus full-time. This option offers more options for fin aid. Low-Residency is where you usually have classes over the internet (or occasionally postal services, gasp!) and meet on very few occasions (usually once a semester for a weekend to a week depending on the program.) This is a great option for people with families or jobs that do not want/can not relocate for school, however there is usually less opportunity for funding since you cannot receive a teaching assistantships with the college.

I decided on looking at just Full-Residency programs. While there are some amazing Low-Residency programs out there I really want to find a school where I can a full-ride or as close to it as possible. So that cut out several schools to look at.

Next important factor for me is location. I want to stay roughly in the Southeast so that cut out a big number of MFA programs.

Next I began reviewing all of the programs that met these factors (yes, all of them, ugh, took forever!) I looked over what funding was available, the faculty, the program requirements, what makes it unique, what was this schools ranking in MFA programs and the general layout of the website.

Wait, what?

Yep, the layout of the website. I want a program that will be helpful, direct and easy to know what to expect. For me if the website is cluttered or confusing or unhelpful that says what I can anticipate from the program. It might be just something that matters to me but that says a lot about the program for me.

So, going by all of these criteria here are the schools (in no real order) I decided on and the reasons behind them:

McNeese University in Louisiana

Listed as one of the best but under rated programs. Nice website, no application fee (thus far), full funding available through teaching assistantships, also the chance to get an MA while getting your MFA.

University of Virginia in Virginia

One of the top rated programs, full funding available, amazing faculty, great small program, teaching assistantships available

Hollins University in Virginia

You can submit fiction, and poetry together in your writing portfolio to get into the program (very open to multi-genre studies), funding available, teaching assistantships, one of my advisor went there and highly recommended it.

NC State Raleigh in North Carolina

I love, love, love North Carolina. Full funding is available, I love the faculty, teaching assistantships available.

Florida Atlantic University in Florida

Another under rated university. Full funding, small program, teaching assistantships.

Ga State University in Georgia

Close to home, I adore Atlanta and the surrounding area. Great school, full funding available (either in teaching assistantships or other ways cause I’m awesome/sneaky)

And that is where I am. Frantically getting together GRE scores, transcripts, recommendations and writing samples. It’s crazy, but it’s also only the beginning. What I am most worried about is getting the letters of recommendation together. Eek!

Has anyone gone through this process? Going through it? Recommendations? What was your experience like?



  1. Eric Said:

    Just one question: What the heck is MFA?
    (OR a GRE for that matter!)

    • Judy Black Said:

      Silly spam filter again. An MFA is a Masters in Fine Arts which is more a creative focused Master’s degree. There are MFAs in all kinds of artistic fields like Art, Photography, Writing, etc. The GRE is a horrid computer based test known as the Graduate Record Examination. It costs lots of money to take and it stinks. Boo.

  2. Jaime Said:

    The NC program you mention is actually NC State, not a UNC school. 🙂

    • Judy Black Said:

      Hahaha oh man. You should be able to feel my embarrassment even through the internet. I’m going to go find a corner to hide in now…
      Thanks for the catch. I shall fix it when I am out of my shame corner. 🙂

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