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JuRat
12-16-2009, 07:05 PM
I'm curious of what some good colleges for writers are.

charlotte49ers
12-16-2009, 07:14 PM
I think at the University of Colorado, you can major in Creative Writing.

Momento Mori
12-16-2009, 07:16 PM
What are you looking for specifically, i.e. are you looking for colleges with good undergraduate courses in creative writing or are you looking for colleges with renowned graduate writing courses? Are you looking to specialise in screen writing, poetry, short stories, novels (and if novels, are you looking to work in a particular genre or general literary fiction?)

Where are you looking to study? British universities operate differently to US colleges (and both will operate differently to colleges/universities in other parts of the world).

Are you looking to relocate to a country/state to go to college or would you prefer a university/college that offered on-line tutorials?

MM

Phaeal
12-16-2009, 07:26 PM
For BFA or MFA programs? That I don't know. However, my opinion of a good writer's education follows:

You don't need a degree in writing to write, though it's probably necessary if you want to teach. Pursue instead a degree that will get you a steady day job, one that doesn't sap your creative juices. Meanwhile, teach yourself to write by:

-- Writing, writing, writing, writing.

-- Reading the kinds of books you want to write. Then studying the hell out of those books, as a writer would, not as a critic or scholar would. How does the author create character, setting? How does she write dialogue? How do the pieces of her story come together? Why did she use that word, not another? Why that punctuation? Yes, get that minute.

-- Reading books about the writing craft. Thousands of these are readily available.

-- Writing. Writing. Writing.

-- Finding other writers. Taking a formal course or two might help. Might hurt, too, if you fall into the wrong one, where your type of writing is not the accepted norm. Look for writer's groups. Learn to crit and be critted, with grace.

-- Learning about the publishing world. Start right here at AW. Branch out to the dozens of agent and editor blogs and to the pro publications, like Publishers Weekly.

-- Writing, writing, writing.

-- Submitting FINISHED (polished, well-edited and vetted) stories for publication.

-- Writing.

If you still want to get a BFA or MFA, check out an issue of Poets and Writers. In fact, the Nov/Dec issue features the top 50 MFA programs, looks like. At any time, PW is chock full of ads for such programs. You might also look at this magazine's guide to writing programs, which it advertises on its website:

http://www.pw.org/

That should get you started.

Shadow_Ferret
12-16-2009, 07:29 PM
Here's a list of The Atlantic's Best of the Best MFA creative writing programs. (http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200708/mfa-programs)

But I always heard the University of Iowa was top notch. At least it was back in the 80s when I was looking for such things.

JuRat
12-16-2009, 07:39 PM
actually looking for undergrad schools. Forgot to mention that, sorry!

Jamesaritchie
12-16-2009, 07:41 PM
Strictly for writing? It isn't so much the college as it is who the college brings in as a writing teacher. Look for colleges that have well-known, well-published professional writers as the primary teachers.

johnnysannie
12-16-2009, 07:58 PM
Strictly for writing? It isn't so much the college as it is who the college brings in as a writing teacher. Look for colleges that have well-known, well-published professional writers as the primary teachers.

I agree.

Also, if you have some skill and talent as a writer, it's not going to matter much where you went to school.

I went to a state university but I was encouraged by one of my professors who liked my work and thought I had promise. His exact words were something like - "You have the talent to become a working, self-supporting writer but whether or not you WILL is up to you."

And it has been.

DeleyanLee
12-16-2009, 08:14 PM
The advice I always got was to major in some subject other than writing that you are interested in and you feel will enrich your life (not necessarily monetarily) and, thus, the breathe and scope of what you choose to write about.

It also depends on what kind of writing you want to do. IIRC, most universities are focused on teaching literary writing. If you're interested in writing genre fiction, the options are slimmer, but expanding. A friend of mine took several genre writing classes in his Chicago college (sorry, don't remember the name, it's been 5 years) for his minor.

Sorry I couldn't be more helpful.

Richard White
12-16-2009, 08:48 PM
Personally, I find that my Bachelors degree in History (emphasis on Medieval/Rennaissance eras) has helped me with my fantasy writing immeasurably.

My military experience is helping out with my Military SF story I'm working on. (It's a lot easier to imagine a hover tank if you've ever ridden around in an M1A1 with the governor removed. 60+ mph in a tank on a tank trail will definitely rock your teeth.)

My criminal justice minor and listening to my brother's stories of being a deputy sherrif and then a Highway Patrolman help out a lot with writing a crime noir story (along with being a huge Humphrey Bogart/James Cagney movie//Sam Spade/Boston Blackie radio show fan).

Everyone's experience is going to be different, but that's how I applied my education and life experiences into my writing.

JuRat
12-16-2009, 09:09 PM
I'm just interested what colleges are famous for producing many writers or where many writers go to.

misslissy
12-16-2009, 09:14 PM
I think if you have the potential in you to be a good writer, any writing program you go to will help nourish your skill. I personally like the school I'm at now, even though it isn't very well known outside of my state, but all the professors know me and they are able to give me personal feedback on my writing and I've found that it really improves my writing a lot.

Also, point two - look for one that has workshops - I feel that my peers reviewing my work has been an invaluable help.

Sevvy
12-16-2009, 09:31 PM
I did my undergrad at the University of Utah, and my teachers there really inspired me to continue on and apply for my MFA. I hear Sarah Lawrence college is pretty good as well, but I don't have any first hand experience of that one.

misslissy
12-17-2009, 12:41 AM
I would hope Sarah Lawrence is at least good - they're the number one most expensive college to go to in the United States.

Lady Ice
12-17-2009, 01:17 AM
I'm just interested what colleges are famous for producing many writers or where many writers go to.

I think you should clarify whether you're looking for a US college or UK.

If you want UK, University of East Anglia's supposed to have a very good Creative Writing course (though they ask for three As)

blacbird
12-17-2009, 02:57 AM
I'm just interested what colleges are famous for producing many writers or where many writers go to.

You probably won't find any more impressive on this score than the U. of Iowa. A quick list of people I know either taught or studied there:

Kurt Vonnegut
John Irving
John Cheever
Angus Wilson
Raymond Carver
Anthony Burgess
Joe Haldeman
Tracy Kidder
Flannery O'Connor
Stanley Elkin
. . . it's a much longer list


Although famed for their M.F.A. program, they have also recently established an undergraduate workshop program as well.

caw

Medievalist
12-17-2009, 03:26 AM
I'd pick U. of Iowa, hands down. Good faculty, good program, good support. You graduate with genuine skills in writing, employable skills, not just the ability to wear a beret and sound bored.

AryaT92
12-17-2009, 03:30 AM
How much does having a book published help you get into top colleges? Could it take you anywhere?

blacbird
12-17-2009, 04:29 AM
You graduate with genuine skills in writing, employable skills, not just the ability to wear a beret and sound bored.

But the latter two skills are not to be underestimated, mind you.

caw

Medievalist
12-17-2009, 04:43 AM
How much does having a book published help you get into top colleges? Could it take you anywhere?

Not a lot; mostly they look at test scores, GPA, letters and your personal statement/essay.

It doesn't hurt mind, but in general, it's like other creative endeavors.

wannawrite
12-17-2009, 04:48 AM
Hard to beat the University of Iowa. They are the best. And I'm not just saying that because my daughter is a grad.

Medievalist
12-17-2009, 04:58 AM
But the latter two skills are not to be underestimated, mind you.

caw

*sob*

I can't wear a beret . . . I don't even smoke clove cigs.

I am DOOMED!

MissKris
12-17-2009, 04:59 AM
How much does having a book published help you get into top colleges? Could it take you anywhere?

Actually, that's the sort of thing that could potentially put you into the college of your choice. Having worked in admissions in a large state university I can tell you that there are any number of prospective students with high GPAs, good test scores and statements that *yawn* follow all the rules of essaying. But when we came across a prospective who had a particular experience - was a parent, spent more than a year in a foreign country for their own reasons not just because they had to go with mom and dad, had started their own company, was a professional level athlete, etc. - we were less likely to worry about GPAs and test scores. You might be surprised at how many "typical well-rounded" students there are, but how few really, truly show an inclination to be great, to take a risk. A student with a book published (by a reputable publisher, mind) would catch our eye.

AryaT92
12-17-2009, 05:25 AM
Not a lot; mostly they look at test scores, GPA, letters and your personal statement/essay.

It doesn't hurt mind, but in general, it's like other creative endeavors.

Have you worked in admissions or are you just stating what you think? Just wondering.

Logically, if athletes can get scholarships to the best colleges regardless of grades / SAT scores I don't see why a published author would have any trouble.. There are tons of student athletes, how many really have books published by reputable publishers?

MissKris: Thanks for the info:)

~*Kate*~
12-17-2009, 05:38 AM
Here's a list of The Atlantic's Best of the Best MFA creative writing programs. (http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200708/mfa-programs)

But I always heard the University of Iowa was top notch. At least it was back in the 80s when I was looking for such things.

Damnit, Ferret. My excuse for not getting an MFA was that the program here wasn't that good. But it's on the list.

*frantically thinks of new excuse to avoid grad school...*

Judg
12-17-2009, 05:49 AM
*sob*

I can't wear a beret . . . I don't even smoke clove cigs.

I am DOOMED!
If even the French don't wear berets anymore...

IceCreamEmpress
12-17-2009, 08:20 AM
Logically, if athletes can get scholarships to the best colleges regardless of grades / SAT scores I don't see why a published author would have any trouble.

Because athletes draw money to the school, in the form of people buying tickets to games and getting donations from alumni who follow their school's sports.

Writers don't bring the school anything but themselves as a student. Yes, having written and published a book by the time you finished high school is an unusual achievement, and one that shows initiative and drive and talent and all kinds of other good things, and that certainly stands out to admissions officers.

But it's an extra-curricular activity like music or dance or theater, or like creating a non-profit organization in your local community, or like working for a summer with an international relief agency. It's something that shows your dedication and initiative and focus, but not something that's a potential money-maker for the school like sports. A strong addition to your application packet, for sure, but not a magic key like being a high-school All-American in a major sport would be.

And athletes can't get scholarships to all of "the best colleges" in the US "regardless of grades and SAT scores." None of the Ivy League schools award athletic scholarships of any kind, and nor do top schools like University of Chicago, MIT, and Cal Tech.

AryaT92
12-17-2009, 08:26 AM
I see your point, but Ivy League schools let them in based on their athletic ability, paying tuition isn't much when you are granted acceptance.

Let's say they wouldn't give you a scholarship for a published book, would they accept you for it? What I'm trying to see is how much it really helps.

blacbird
12-17-2009, 08:34 AM
Let's say they wouldn't give you a scholarship for a published book, would they accept you for it? What I'm trying to see is how much it really helps.

It was a long time ago, but when I applied to the Iowa M.F.A. program, I had to submit a manuscript. Nobody asked if I had anything published. I'd guess it wouldn't hurt, but if you really want to know, you need to contact them and find out what they want now.

caw

blacbird
12-17-2009, 08:35 AM
If even the French don't wear berets anymore...

But U.S. soldiers do (in everyday non-combat situations).

caw

IceCreamEmpress
12-17-2009, 08:35 AM
I see your point, but Ivy League schools let them in based on their athletic ability

Actually, they don't, and that's one reason why Ivy League sports suck so horribly on the whole.

I went to Harvard, and later worked there for a while. I knew a lot of varsity athletes in different sports, and never met anyone whose grades or SATs weren't either just as high as non-athletes', full stop, or if slightly lower than the average non-athletes' grades/SATs, were any lower than the grades/SATs of non-athletes with outstanding extracurricular talents (painters who'd had shows or people who had acted professionally or competed in national music competitions or danced).

Did I see somewhere that you were a senior now yourself? Are you doing college apps for next year, or are you taking a year or two off between high school and college to write or pursue some other interest?

Medievalist
12-17-2009, 08:52 AM
I see your point, but Ivy League schools let them in based on their athletic ability, paying tuition isn't much when you are granted acceptance.

Let's say they wouldn't give you a scholarship for a published book, would they accept you for it? What I'm trying to see is how much it really helps.

Unless it's a stellar work with major reviews, not a lot frankly.

And "letting them in for athletic ability" is not really accurate; they have to meet the basic requirements everyone else does, especially in Ivy League schools--who aren't exactly known for their popular team sports.

Why not go look at Peterson's College guide and similar books at your library? Then look at at Web sites, and write away for some information from the schools you're really interested in.

Medievalist
12-17-2009, 08:55 AM
Have you worked in admissions or are you just stating what you think? Just wondering.

I've served on undergrad or grad admissions committees for three colleges in the Humanities.

I've also been the technical support person at one in terms of dealing with automated processing and reporting on status of admissions files, and rankings.

Medievalist
12-17-2009, 08:55 AM
Damnit, Ferret. My excuse for not getting an MFA was that the program here wasn't that good. But it's on the list.

*frantically thinks of new excuse to avoid grad school...*

Right now, if you've got a job, and are not a good candidate for a full ride, money is a darn good reason.

AryaT92
12-17-2009, 09:13 AM
Did I see somewhere that you were a senior now yourself? Are you doing college apps for next year, or are you taking a year or two off between high school and college to write or pursue some other interest?

Yes, I am currently a senior in high school and though I have options for schools I would be interested in applying to bigger reach schools. I was hoping a published book would allow that but I guess it's not as big a plus as I thought.

I am probably taking a year off, I don't know how hectic schedules become after you have a book published but I imagine book tours etc. are pretty time consuming.

~*Kate*~
12-17-2009, 09:38 AM
Right now, if you've got a job, and are not a good candidate for a full ride, money is a darn good reason.

Most definitely. Even with a full ride, the money I'd make with a TA position would barely cover childcare costs, if at all.

~*Kate*~
12-17-2009, 09:40 AM
Yes, I am currently a senior in high school and though I have options for schools I would be interested in applying to bigger reach schools. I was hoping a published book would allow that but I guess it's not as big a plus as I thought.

I am probably taking a year off, I don't know how hectic schedules become after you have a book published but I imagine book tours etc. are pretty time consuming.

You need to talk to the girls on here who are published and are high school/college students. If hopes of being published are your only reason for taking a year off, you should reconsider. Look up Blind_Writer and shady lane.

AryaT92
12-17-2009, 09:50 AM
I mean among other personal reasons. Is your reason for saying you should think about taking a year off because of the chance I don't end up published or for other reasons? I'm just curious. If I were to be published would it be reasonable to still attend a college or would that be ambitious and a heavy load?

misslissy
12-17-2009, 10:18 AM
I don't think it would be an ambitious or a heavy load at all. There are plenty of students who are very successful and graduate with what could be considered a heavy load. I'm a traditional sophomore right now taking 18 credits and working two part-time jobs and I am a RA not to mention everything I'm involved in. If you are a hard worker, I don't believe that it would be an overly ambitious or heavy load.

And I don't see why you shouldn't apply to your dream schools - sure, you may not get in, but you never know if you don't try.

~*Kate*~
12-17-2009, 10:37 AM
I mean among other personal reasons. Is your reason for saying you should think about taking a year off because of the chance I don't end up published or for other reasons? I'm just curious. If I were to be published would it be reasonable to still attend a college or would that be ambitious and a heavy load?

It would be extremely reasonable. The publishing process is slow. Even if you got an agent tomorrow and s/he sold your book the next day, your book wouldn't come out for at least a year, and more likely two. On top of that, book tours are increasingly rare and the chance of a debut author having a tour that would take up more than a few nights and weekends is slim.

A degree will always be valuable, no matter what happens with your writing career. Putting it off on the slim chance that you'll get published isn't a smart move. (Putting it off for other personal reasons may very well be a good choice, and obviously I can't speak to that.)

ETA: I see I misread your signature-- apparently you already have an agent? I'm sure s/he could answer your question better than me. :)

Medievalist
12-17-2009, 11:09 AM
Most definitely. Even with a full ride, the money I'd make with a TA position would barely cover childcare costs, if at all.

Keep in mind that a really good TA situation is roughly 20 hours a week, plus classes, plus study, . . . so yeah. Money is a huge issue.

And I have so many friends starting at the bottom of the rung, not even tenure track, with 70K or more in loan debt for a grad degree.

Medievalist
12-17-2009, 11:10 AM
I am probably taking a year off, I don't know how hectic schedules become after you have a book published but I imagine book tours etc. are pretty time consuming.

Beef up your SAT scores. It's huge.

Work on community volunteer activities.

Write a stellar personal statement, and get top recs from high school.

If you take a year off, take a couple of courses that will qualify for GE requirements, if you transfer. Do well in them. Make SURE that the credits will transfer.

~*Kate*~
12-17-2009, 11:13 AM
Keep in mind that a really good TA situation is roughly 20 hours a week, plus classes, plus study, . . . so yeah. Money is a huge issue.

And I have so many friends starting at the bottom of the rung, not even tenure track, with 70K or more in loan debt for a grad degree.

That's why I left my last grad program-- it was just accumulating debt for a degree that would basically qualify me for the job I already had. With the current economy, departments are having to cut back on TA's, too, so there's no job security even once you start some programs. :(

Medievalist
12-17-2009, 11:14 AM
I am probably taking a year off, I don't know how hectic schedules become after you have a book published but I imagine book tours etc. are pretty time consuming.

Beef up your SAT scores. It's huge. They're still used as a sort of crude minimum like the high school GPA.

Work on community volunteer activities.

Write a stellar personal statement, and get top recs from high school.

If you take a year off, take a couple of courses that will qualify for GE requirements, if you transfer. Do well in them. Make SURE that the credits will transfer.

Terie
12-17-2009, 12:14 PM
I mean among other personal reasons. Is your reason for saying you should think about taking a year off because of the chance I don't end up published or for other reasons? I'm just curious. If I were to be published would it be reasonable to still attend a college or would that be ambitious and a heavy load?

Arya, I think you need to seriously adjust your expectations. (I don't mean that in the snarky way it sounds...read it with a friendly smile on my face. Oh, here: :Hug2:) A book release is almost a non-event. I threw a party at a pub after work on the release day of my first book, and nothing for the other three in that series.

The memoir I co-ghostwrote, on the other hand, was a 'major media event' on the scale of book releases, and the subject's launch party was after work, too. (Just much more glam and paid for by her publisher instead of out of her pocket.) She did three or four newspaper interviews in advance (mostly over the phone), and between five and ten TV and radio interviews in the two weeks after the release date. That was it as far as book release-related events.

Her memoir established a platform for her on an important social issue (forced marriage), so she is invited to conferences a couple of times a year, but that's because of her involvement with anti-forced marriage programmes, not because of her book. She still has a day job and has never been on a book tour. And this book got enough media coverage that when an electrician came to the office where I work to bid on a job and saw a stack of the books on my desk, he recognised it.

My advice to you, and I hope this doesn't sound harsh but sometimes reality IS harsh, is not to plan whole chunks of your life around the event of getting published. Even if you were sent on a book tour (and for a debut author that's extraordinarily unlikely), it would only be for a week or two. Your life isn't going to suddenly become so hectic with book events that you can't do anything else.

Plan whole chunks of your life around WRITING, not around BEING PUBLISHED. :D

AryaT92
12-17-2009, 07:58 PM
ETA: I see I misread your signature-- apparently you already have an agent? I'm sure s/he could answer your question better than me. :)

Thanks for the advice everyone. Apparently my agent is a great one as James McDonald told me in another thread and so naturally I'm confident if he would spend his time with a 17 year old then it must have a good chance at being published. But yeah, I will probably end up taking the year off and taking courses at a local college to transfer later, maybe after a semester or two.

I'm expecting an answer back from the publishers mid January if not sooner, they had already acknowledged my agents proposal so hopefully it will be sooner but I know December is iffy.


You're with D4EO?

You'll be okay. He thinks your book is marketable, then it's marketable. Let him do his thing.

Meanwhile, write your next book.

Hopefully he's right! All I can do now is hope and wait. :)

IceCreamEmpress
12-17-2009, 09:33 PM
Yes, I am currently a senior in high school and though I have options for schools I would be interested in applying to bigger reach schools. I was hoping a published book would allow that but I guess it's not as big a plus as I thought.

Ah! Now I understand your anxiety about when you'll hear back.

The thing is that you aren't that likely to have a signed contract before college applications are due for this year--aren't they due at the end of January/beginning of February for most schools? Even if all goes well and you get an offer from the publisher in the next couple of weeks, the contract process takes a bit of time.


I am probably taking a year off, I don't know how hectic schedules become after you have a book published but I imagine book tours etc. are pretty time consuming.

If only book tours were time-consuming! Alas, they're usually just a few brief events now, even for best-selling authors. You could fit them in easily with a college schedule, even if your book's publication date was during semester time.

What will take up a bunch of your time over the next year is getting this book through the press. If all goes well and you get a contract in February, you'll have revisions to do over the next few months. The hectic time is before the book is published, not after.

I wish you nothing but good luck and I am looking forward to reading your book when it comes out!

Ken
12-17-2009, 09:58 PM
Because athletes draw money to the school, in the form of people buying tickets to games and getting donations from alumni who follow their school's sports.

Writers don't bring the school anything but themselves as a student. Yes, having written and published a book by the time you finished high school is an unusual achievement, and one that shows initiative and drive and talent and all kinds of other good things, and that certainly stands out to admissions officers.

But it's an extra-curricular activity like music or dance or theater, or like creating a non-profit organization in your local community, or like working for a summer with an international relief agency. It's something that shows your dedication and initiative and focus, but not something that's a potential money-maker for the school like sports. A strong addition to your application packet, for sure, but not a magic key like being a high-school All-American in a major sport would be.

And athletes can't get scholarships to all of "the best colleges" in the US "regardless of grades and SAT scores." None of the Ivy League schools award athletic scholarships of any kind, and nor do top schools like University of Chicago, MIT, and Cal Tech.

... makes sense. Now if the colleges acquired rights of publication to the books written by students who enrolled in their institutions that might be different ;-)

MissKris
12-17-2009, 10:26 PM
Arya, please don't take what I said out of context. I said that a prospective student with a published book under their belt would definitely cause us to take notice; I didn't say it would be a replacement for very poor grades. There are always exceptions to the average GAP/test scores, and always those are students who have done something remarkable. But a 1.7 GPA (for example) isn't going to get you in Harvard, regardless that published book.

ICE makes a great point about athletes drawing money into the schools and that's a big deal for some schools. Other schools don't have notable athletics programs.

Don't be afraid to take a year off between high school and college. It's becoming more and more common and it's a GREAT idea to take a few community college GE classes. You'll be paying thousands less for the class and the class sizes are way, way smaller than at the Universities. However, do work closely with your counselor to make sure the classes you take transfer to your school of choice.

In the end, if you can afford multiple $50+ application fees, do apply to the schools you really want. You never know what could happen.

AryaT92
12-17-2009, 10:35 PM
Ah! Now I understand your anxiety about when you'll hear back.

Deadline is January 25th and I don't know how much a reputable agents recommendation would do versus a published book so because of this among other personal reasons I will just take a year off, enroll in some transferable college courses and see how things play out. :) Glad you see why I'm so antsy.



I wish you nothing but good luck and I am looking forward to reading your book when it comes out!

Thanks, I appreciate it :)


Arya, please don't take what I said out of context. I said that a prospective student with a published book under their belt would definitely cause us to take notice; I didn't say it would be a replacement for very poor grades. There are always exceptions to the average GAP/test scores, and always those are students who have done something remarkable. But a 1.7 GPA isn't going to get you in Harvard, regardless that published book.

Now I understand, thanks for clearing it up.

misslissy
12-21-2009, 02:39 AM
Just to warn you, in my experience - there is often times less scholarship money for transfer students. So if that's a factor - keep that in mind.

aquacat
12-21-2009, 04:04 AM
I did my undergrad at the University of Utah, and my teachers there really inspired me to continue on and apply for my MFA. I hear Sarah Lawrence college is pretty good as well, but I don't have any first hand experience of that one.

I went to Sarah Lawrence - it's a great college for writers, theater types and visual artists in general. In terms of access to great professors and a very creative community, it's hard to beat.

Of course, with that community comes a lot of drug use and some really spoiled kids. On the positive side, though, they tend to look for more than just grades - they like well-rounded, interesting students.

Unless you're loaded or a really good student who can get scholarships (like I did), it's out of reach for a lot of people. But if you get accepted and they like you, they're really, really good about giving comprehensive scholarships. I got about 95% of my education paid for by the school.

CK Matthews
12-22-2009, 06:04 AM
Of course, University of Iowa is the best, especially if you want to work in academia. I think an MFA from UoI can get you a job pretty much anywhere. I'm also applying to the University of Oregon, which has a Top 10 program.

A lot of the decision should be based on your situation. If you have obligations, maybe a low-residency program is the answer. I think that U of Pacific is pretty nice. Small town and nice campus. I'm also applying to UNLV and U. of Denver.

Medievalist
12-22-2009, 06:20 AM
DO make a campus visit. Really. It's important. Go to the library. Go sit in on some classes. Talk to currently enrolled students--outside of the department, and not just the ones the program folk direct you towards.

Look at the textbooks for current classes at the bookstore. Check out the town in terms of being able to afford to live there, and to be happy.

IceCreamEmpress
12-22-2009, 11:13 PM
I think an MFA from UoI can get you a job pretty much anywhere.

Holy heaven, no.

There is no such thing as a "magic ticket" in academia. I have plenty of friends with MFAs from Iowa who have had horrible times finding work (just as I have plenty of friends with Ph.D.s from Harvard and MIT and CalTech who have had horrible times finding work).

If you're applying to an MFA program in the belief that it's easy to find a teaching job, I encourage you to think again.

Tedium
12-23-2009, 12:25 PM
Keep in mind what I am about to tell you is a combination of hearsay and opinion.

From what I have heard, your subject of undergraduate study is not as important as your area of study in post-graduate programs. So, I don't think it is imperative that you get a BFA, if that is what you are looking for. I think an English degree would suffice (if I'm wrong then I am currently wasting my time).

Any of the Ivy Leagues have good English departments. There are several good schools here in the south, UT, Austin; Vanderbilt; Uni. of Tenn., Knoxville; Sewanee; UNC, Chapel Hill, etc. Boulder is supposed to have a good program as well as Las Vegas and U of Arizona. Definitely seek out reputable instructors. As Adam Johnson says, find a writing mentor. See if any of the authors you admire are teaching and go there.

As for taking some time off, I say go for it. Take a little time to rest and re-prioritize, because those four years you are going to be in school are going to be taxing. If you take a break after high school you will be less likely to be overwhelmed when you begin college. And it is a lot harder for people to begin college, drop out, and then get back into it. Also, take some time to think about why you want the degree. Do you want to teach? Are you at a loss for what else to do? Are your parents forcing you? If you are able to go into college with an idea of your end goal, then it is a lot easier. You can use that reason to help keep you on track and maintain your momentum.

At any rate, good luck to you.

Medievalist
12-23-2009, 02:06 PM
Any of the Ivy Leagues have good English departments.

Tedium--I'm not attacking you, but I want to use this statement as a jumping off point.

• How are we defining good?

The things to look at include the record of the faculty (in terms of publishing and teaching evaluations) but also things like the size of the classes, and if you ever are likely to be in a mentor relationship with the faculty.

• There's a difference in a class with 70 students--or--300--or, Cthulu save us--700 students and a Big Name Faculty at a lectern.

• Who grades papers and exams?

• Are the classes taught by the faculty of record, or by T.A.s?

Personally, I'd rather have a small class with a supportive, engaged, actively mentoring faculty member than a class with 300 people where you mostly interact with a T.A.--who may have been in your seat a year or two ago.

Tedium
12-25-2009, 10:37 AM
Well, sure, the OP should take that into consideration also. No offense taken.

What I meant when I said the Ivies were good, is the incredible access to materials and information the students have.

In contrast, my little one horse town is striving to embody every stereotype about Louisiana.

A couple of weeks ago I did a search at the public library for Chaucer/Canterbury Tales and came up with a whopping two results. Emerson got me three; one being his essays, one being a Cliff Notes about Emerson, and the third was a fiction book that mentioned Emerson.

The University library is a little better, but they love to trim the budget for online journals to fund our terminally hopeless sports teams.

Do I prefer small class sizes and a more personal relationship with my instructors? Of course. But as I have to deal with TA's and non-PhD's as it is, I would much rather personal access to the information myself. There is little, in my experience, that a teacher can tell you that you can't find in a well-stocked library, at least in regards to literature.

Schools ultimately just teach you how to learn; it is the student's job to absorb and apply the information.

That's just my two cents, anyway.

ETA: That 300 and 700 student class size statement was exaggeration, right? I have heard of 150-200, but any more than that sounds insane.

LOG
12-25-2009, 11:07 AM
IMHO, when it comes to something like writing, your degree is one of the few things that matter.
For writers, college is mainly a place where you will re-learn spelling/grammar and citation rules. As well a place that will help you organize your thoughts. Writing is a much too personal and involved experience to expect someone to be able to teach it to you.

Sevvy
12-25-2009, 06:01 PM
ETA: That 300 and 700 student class size statement was exaggeration, right? I have heard of 150-200, but any more than that sounds insane.

Nope, though I've never been in an English class that size. My biology/chem lectures were easily 400 people on average. They got smaller once you started taking high-level electives though.

The thing that I really didn't enjoy about picking a school was that you get very little chance to try it out first. How do you really know it's going to be a good English program for you unless you've tried it out? I would take the initiative and try talking to some of these potential professors. E-mail them and find out how they teach their class. Go on the campus (if you can get there) and find some students to talk to about how they like their classes. Also, there are websites online (including facebook) where students evaluate their professors. Check these places out and see what other kids are saying who've actually taken classes there.

misslissy
12-25-2009, 08:29 PM
Nope, though I've never been in an English class that size. My biology/chem lectures were easily 400 people on average. They got smaller once you started taking high-level electives though.

The thing that I really didn't enjoy about picking a school was that you get very little chance to try it out first. How do you really know it's going to be a good English program for you unless you've tried it out? I would take the initiative and try talking to some of these potential professors. E-mail them and find out how they teach their class. Go on the campus (if you can get there) and find some students to talk to about how they like their classes. Also, there are websites online (including facebook) where students evaluate their professors. Check these places out and see what other kids are saying who've actually taken classes there.

You should be able to shadow a student from your department though to really see what the classes are like.

Again, I always have to say. It doesn't matter how good the name is, if the school is not a fit for you, you will be miserable. In my opinion, it's better to have a school with professors who are a little less known if that school works for you than to go to a school with the big names if that school would be awful for you.

Medievalist
12-25-2009, 08:36 PM
ETA: That 300 and 700 student class size statement was exaggeration, right? I have heard of 150-200, but any more than that sounds insane.

No. I have taught as (both a TA and a lecturer of record) English sophomore survey classes for majors with 300 and 700 students in them. They will have twenty or more TA sections.

Psychology classes were often so large that the lecture would be televised to a second lecture hall.

That's not what most people want from a university education.

JoshPatton
12-25-2009, 09:22 PM
This thread is full of some great info. I am a 30 year-old war vet and I am still working on my undergrad degree, and I plan to take my mental inner-tube down some of the canals of thought discussed in this thread.

I wanted to major in writing, journalism, or some such field, but unfortunately life can get in the way. I would suggest getting your under-grad in something that has a bit more diversity to it than writing: Philosophy, Psychology, et. al. I am majoring in Computer Information Systems now, simply because once I took a few online courses in the desert, I realized that I could teach myself. With the use of university resources, the internet, books, and places like AW - where one might find the "faculty" for your self-education -- I am able to diversify my learning. If you were to do something similar, once you have your undergraduate degree you can enter into an M.F.A. program. Just my advice and remember I am maybe 12 years older than you and in pretty much the same boat. Listen to these other folks.

JMP

Tedium
12-26-2009, 12:18 PM
I would suggest getting your under-grad in something that has a bit more diversity to it than writing: Philosophy, Psychology, et. al.

That's the great thing about Minors and electives; they allow you to expand your education beyond your Major field of study. My Major is English Lit. and my Minor is Philosophy. I might have double majored, but my school doesn't offer a philosophy major.

Also, I would like to point out to the OP that you can take CLEP or departmental exams to get your core requirements out of the way. This is a fast and relatively easy way to earn credits and/or save time and money.

Just make sure the university you choose will accept the credits, how many credits you'll receive for each exam(these often vary with institution), and see which classes each test will give you credit for.

Maybe someone with more knowledge of acceptance policies could chime in on how an admissions committee (under- or post-graduate) might look at an applicant who tests out of classes.

misslissy
12-26-2009, 08:08 PM
Maybe someone with more knowledge of acceptance policies could chime in on how an admissions committee (under- or post-graduate) might look at an applicant who tests out of classes.

I don't know if it matters. In one sense, it's usually less money for the college because they're giving you credit instead of you paying for it - I think. That's why they don't just let you test out without paying something. And in my case, I was accepted to every school I applied to without testing out of a single class, even though I had several opportunities too.

I don't believe in AP exams.

Sevvy
12-26-2009, 08:31 PM
I don't believe in AP exams.

I, on the other hand, saved myself a year of college by taking AP classes and tests. Other people did their degree in three without those tests. If you are taking the class and feel confident that you can pass the test with a high enough score to get credit and you can afford it, I personally would recommend it. But it isn't necessary to get admitted to a college, it might just save you some time with your general education requirements.

CK Matthews
12-26-2009, 09:43 PM
Holy heaven, no.

There is no such thing as a "magic ticket" in academia. I have plenty of friends with MFAs from Iowa who have had horrible times finding work (just as I have plenty of friends with Ph.D.s from Harvard and MIT and CalTech who have had horrible times finding work).

If you're applying to an MFA program in the belief that it's easy to find a teaching job, I encourage you to think again.

While I believe there is no such thing as a magic ticket, I do believe that the MFA will move you to the top of the list. A lot of higher education is about where you've come from and what you've worked on. An MFA from a smaller, unknown college is not the same as one from a more respected university. Academia is tough to break in. I understand that jobs are scarce.

An MFA from Iowa, or any reputable school, makes you more marketable. I wish I had plenty of friends who have MFAs from Iowa. You must have an awesome writing group.

Medievalist
12-26-2009, 10:57 PM
While I believe there is no such thing as a magic ticket, I do believe that the MFA will move you to the top of the list.

Go look right now at open listings for tenure track positions.

They aren't asking for M.F.A.s.

JoshPatton
12-27-2009, 02:42 AM
I worked in admissions for an online school and the CLEP classes were typically always transferable. It is always up to the receiving institution just how many transfer credits they will accept AND APPLY to the degree program. Many schools will accept all of your credits, but only a select group will actually apply toward the completion of your degree. The standard it seems is that at least 40% of the classes must come from the school awarding the degree. However contacting the Registrar of the school directly should be able to clear up all questions about this.

JMP

Ken
12-27-2009, 02:53 AM
... if I was paying all that loot for education and walked into a class with 300+ students in it I'd march straight to the admissions dept and demand my money back. An assembly line might be ideal for manufacturing cars, but not for manufacturing students.

blacbird
12-27-2009, 04:05 AM
... if I was paying all that loot for education and walked into a class with 300+ students in it I'd march straight to the admissions dept and demand my money back. An assembly line might be ideal for manufacturing cars, but not for manufacturing students.

If you enroll as an undergrad at a large state university, say Minnesota or Michigan or Texas or Ohio State, you know up front that you'll almost inevitably have some core-level lecture courses with 300 or more students in them. No one should be surprised.

caw

Ken
12-27-2009, 01:25 PM
... I'd be surprised, Blacbird. I knew some classes were large, but not that large. And it sure seems like a racket to me, even if it is a standard practice. Students are paying lots of money and going into debt and should get more individualized instruction. With classes that large I'm willing to bet the instructors don't even know all the students names till midway through the term, if that. Went to a city university, myself. Education wasn't the best. But at least classes were reasonably sized: 30-40 students on average. Only room with 300+ was the cafeteria.

misslissy
12-28-2009, 08:57 PM
... I'd be surprised, Blacbird. I knew some classes were large, but not that large. And it sure seems like a racket to me, even if it is a standard practice. Students are paying lots of money and going into debt and should get more individualized instruction. With classes that large I'm willing to bet the instructors don't even know all the students names till midway through the term, if that. Went to a city university, myself. Education wasn't the best. But at least classes were reasonably sized: 30-40 students on average. Only room with 300+ was the cafeteria.

Not necessarily on the name thing. That depends on the attitude of the professors. We had an adjunct this year who came from a much bigger school used to teaching lecture halls of hundreds of people. Never learned the name of a single student in our 25 person class that met three times a week. I think whether or not they learn your names depends on the attitude.