View Full Version : Decisions, decisions. Need help with grad school choice.

Wesley Scott
03-25-2008, 07:26 AM
So it appears that I will have two options next fall by the way things are going, but they are my backups (and not MFA programs like I wanted). I really need some advice on the two. I am not going to put names, but I will give the overall descriptions.

The two schools have good and bad things about both of them, and they don't get me an MFA in either case. I will be getting an MA in English Lit. (one with a Creative Writing Option). I am adamant about getting a degree at this point as I am floundering career-wise. I will have the chance to write at both schools (one more than the other) and will get a decent understanding of literature (again, one more than the other). I am looking at the schools as a jumping off point, whereby I can work on my fiction in the environment that best suits me so that I can reapply for an MFA at a later time. I will not have funding with either school, but I can apply for it next year.

School One is a tier 4 university located in a very small town which I don't like very much. The town has some things that will keep me occupied for the most part, but is severely lacking in the activities I like to do. It has almost no artistic or intellectual features (museums, theaters, art houses, planetariums, etc.). It has no mall and only one very small cinema. There are maybe four or five tiny bars/clubs in which to hang out. Though it is only one hour from a larger metro area. I will also only have access to one so-so friend over one hour away, so I will have to make all new ones. I also believe there are not many opportunities as far as academic clubs go. There is a very nice athletic center on campus and a terrific library. I really worry about this location as I tend to get depressed and I don't know if I will be able to get any writing done in the two years I attend this school.

As for my education, I will have a pretty lenient curriculum to follow so I can choose the classes I really enjoy. As this program has a creative writing option, I will also have the chance to take two fiction writing courses and complete a thesis with my advisor. Though, I believe there is only one graduate fiction instructor. The classes also seemed a bit more interesting than the other university when I checked out the schedules. The faculty members I spoke with already, however, seemed rude, abrupt, and abrasive. The students also seemed, for lack of a better term, stupid when I visited. Many thought they were born and raised in the ghetto (though they are farmer boys), and the spoke as such.

School Two is a tier 3 university that focuses on education and artistic programs. It is located in a very nice-size, wonderful city. I have been there before, and everyone seemed terrific. The city is a grand place to live—it fits right in with my ideological and aesthetic viewpoints. The people and students are fun, intellectual, and cheerful. The city also contains anything I could want to do at any time. A large portion of my good friends and buddies are also all within 45 minutes to one hour. There will be plenty of opportunities to make new friends and complete new activities along with old ones I haven’t been able to do in some time. I think I will have a blast living in the area.

The school seems to have a more traditional English Lit program, giving me only two electives. But I will be able to take those as creative writing workshops with the variety of instructors they have for those courses. I may be able to switch sometime in the year to the creative writing option (in which case I will have many more workshops and a thesis), but it would be just an English MA in Lit. for the time being. I will get to take a few classes in the subjects I really enjoy, but I will still have to take courses in periods I don't like as much (but did still seem more interesting than the ones I took as an undergrad in those eras). The faculty was top-notch every time I called as well. Everyone was helpful, pleasant to speak with, and really seemed to want to help any chance they could get. I also think this school will be better for me financially as they have a good job market in the area and I won't have to attend school before 5pm. It is also about $2,000 cheaper (though higher rent—but maybe not $100/month worth).

I am leaning toward the second school as I think I will be better off socially (and probably mentally), and I believe I will produce better work coming out of it. However, I do intend to get an MFA after and I think the relaxed curriculum and the guaranteed workshops/thesis is fairly appealing with the first school.

Any advice on which school I should pick (and why I should pick it) would be extremely helpful in this stressful decision.

03-25-2008, 08:00 AM
Sounds like you've already answered your own question, you know? Option two seems to have a lot more points in its favor. There's no point in going somewhere that you think you will be unhappy. If you have the opportunity to live in a city you like, near friends, and attend a school that feels like a good fit for you, then go for it. Those are important factors. Good luck, whatever you decide.

03-25-2008, 08:00 AM
The key to grad school is finding a faculty mentor.

I say this as someone with two M.A.s in English, preparing to defend my dissertation.

If you think you can find a faculty mentor, then go for it.

The M.F.A. itself doesn't mean that much; what is important is writing and revising. The M.F.A. won't do much in terms of you getting a job, either.

If you really want an M.F.A., check out Warren Wilson.

03-25-2008, 10:46 AM
Don't worry about not getting an MFA. The MA is better for your career. Plus, you can always apply for a creative PhD later (I think there are about 5 universities that offer creative writing). I definitely advise going somewhere that has a better social life--it improves your writing and sometimes motivates you more.

Good luck wherever you end up and keep writing.