MFA programs? Low res. Anyone with any experience?

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by Afterhours, Mar 26, 2015.

  1. Afterhours

    Afterhours Member

    If you hate MFA programs, this is probably not the place for you.

    If you like them, have completed one, or have information about them - :wavey: Hi!

    I am looking for a program that is NOT overly hard to get into or get out of, but has good professors and a flourishing artistic community.

    Along these lines, I've looked at Pine Manor College "Solstice" MFA and Wilkes University. A writer of whom I am a fan, teaches there. I was also looking at Antioch Midwest, which has an MA. I'd need to transfer to an MFA program.

    Any ideas, experience or suggestions?
  2. Koolcypher

    Koolcypher Member

    I'm currently in the Low-res MFA program at the University of Tampa, and so far so good. This is the link to the program. See this thread with regards to the program. This is what I said then, and still holds true today:

    The Good:

    The program has three concentrations Fiction/Poetry/Creative Non-Fiction. The faculty and visiting faculty are great, and the program has a very cozy feel, everyone is friendly, and the students and mentors do help each other a lot. The program assigns five students per faculty mentor, therefore, you get great personalized feedback to your work. The residency period is intense. Each residency (twice a year Jan/Jun) runs for ten days. The day starts at 9:00am and we finish at 5:00 pm. From 7:30PM - 9:00PM is the University of Tampa MFA Lectores Reading Series. The MFA program hosts visiting writers, screenwriters, singers and other artists to campus to give a public performance from their work.

    The Bad: The cost, each semester cost $8,500 and this includes all tuition, room and board fees.

    The Ugly: The market for newly minted MFA's is very limited. I do not recommend that you do these types of programs unless your are being funded by either: a school, your employer, military GI Bill, paid for by a rich relative and so on. I'm using my military benefits to pay for the program.

    Overall I love the program and really enjoyed the residency period. If you have any questions let me know and I will be more than happy to answer them.
  3. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

  4. Afterhours

    Afterhours Member

    Thanks to you both. This is kind of a lifelong dream thing. I can't put a price tag on it.

    Tampa was on my list.

    My main concern in letters of recommendation. I haven't attended college or published in over 20 years. People who know and like my writing delicate way to put this...dead.

    What do I do about that?

    Thanks for the link, Kismet!
  5. Afterhours

    Afterhours Member

    What I am having trouble finding is not a list of them, but a qualitative comparison and ranking of them. It doesn't exist.

    I have the Low Res handbook. It's dated and there is no ranking or information as to competitiveness or vibe.
  6. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    Write/publish some more. Just start. Most writers don't have MFAs, they just write.
  7. Afterhours

    Afterhours Member

    Why not just write? I do. Publish? A low res MFA will help me to network. I can also teach.

    Why get an advanced degree? Personal goal. I want one. Maybe several.
  8. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    Good for you. I love writing as well.

    I had a few short stories published in literary journals when I was in the Navy. Nothing fancy. I never had a desire to write a novel. But if you want to network, writing conferences are probably going to yield more positive networking results than an MFA program. For starters, conferences also have publishers and literary agents in attendance. Those are the people you want to meet in the course of networking.

    Well, in theory you can teach. There are very few jobs and an increasingly (there are literally more and more every year) MFAs who have the same idea. That doesn't mean you should give up on the goal because there is competition but you should be realistic with yourself as to the likelihood of landing anything other than an adjunct gig at a community college (even then, the CC where I work has people with PhDs in English Lit clamoring for more classes every semester. The odds on a new MFA breaking into the department seems unlikely).

    Cool! I'm the same way. If it's a personal goal then go for it. But saying that just any old MFA (as opposed to a top ranked MFA at a place like Stanford) will help you become a better writer is a lot like saying you're going to earn a Th.D. because it will help you be a better [member of religious group] and allow you to teach Sunday school. Sure, it might. But you can also accomplish both goals without a Th.D. That you, personally, might want a Th.D. is fine. But your personal preferences don't make the degree a more viable option for others in general.
  9. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    My point was that if you're writing, taking a writing course, belong to a writing group or otherwise engaging in activities that might fall into the realm of "a writer's life" then you should be able to parlay that into references. I never discourage people from attending school but your original post sounded like you were saying that you can't succeed as a writer without an MFA. Clearly that's not the case and clearly you understand that. Having said that, I'll add a few other opinions. First is that school ranking systems are all flawed and in the end are just marketing schemes to sell magazines, etc. Most of these programs are low-res and I'm assuming that you're not going to fly across the country to attend a week long residency. This by itself probably eliminates 75% of the programs out there. Some are remarkably expensive and I'm assuming that those are out the window as well. What you'll be left with is a relatively small grouping of schools and like most multiple choice situations, you can probably eliminate half of them with just a cursory run through their website. You'll be left with a handful of serious contenders to explore in more depth and, I'm guessing it will largely become a function of who the faculty members are at any given time. Best of luck with your search.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 27, 2015
  10. Afterhours

    Afterhours Member

    Why would I not want to go to a top ranked low res MFA? I write best when I am not pressured or in a very competitive atmosphere. I am not looking for a "bad" program - that would be strange. I am looking for a program that is nurturing and not cut-throat.

    Why did I post here? Because I am seeking recommendations from people who have experience or information with low res MFA programs.

    Why do I want an advanced degree in something that I could "do on my own"? Hmmm....well for starters, I can not teach at a community college or a small liberal arts college without at least an MA (MFA is preferred) and secondly, I enjoy learning and studying.

    Degree collecting is a bit of an obsession.

    So, back on track - has anyone else had any experience with low residency programs?

    I do not exactly live in a literary hot bed. There are no writing groups in my area. I have looked. None.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 27, 2015
  11. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    I just bumped into this program, a PhD in Creative Writing. I can't remember ever seeing one before so I thought I'd throw it out there and get it into the archives.

    Distance Learning | Lancaster University
  12. major56

    major56 Active Member

  13. starcherry

    starcherry New Member

    Hi Afterhours,
    I registered to post here and my computer ate my post. I'd be happy to talk via PM with more details and specifics about my program, etc, but I wanted to let you know that you should absolutely get an MFA if you are interested. I think many low-res MFA programs are less competitive than traditional MFAs because they admit nontraditional students. Many of the students that I have seen drop out of my program do so because they can't handle the workload. I'm not sure about standards, specifically, but I'm sure that all the students who leave the MFA come out better writers than they came in. I can't speak to the Boudinots of the world, but like some of the commenters said on his post, it's not up to a writer or any artist to figure something out in two years. Maybe it gels later, or earlier. To believe that outside of a narrow window there is no appreciable talent to be found in anyone is off-putting and indicative of a closed-mind, not an honest take.

    I applied to three programs initially and got into one (I decided to apply at the last minute). I was going to make that my first draft application, and follow up with a round of 6-8 applications in the fall. So the schools were looking for something different, but as long as your sample shows promise, they'll probably let you try to get the degree.

    Pros: flexible scheduling, affordable price compared to most master's programs, no need to relocate/disrupt your work and life, great experience at residency, great community, diverse community, intense relationships with advisors, ability to change advisors, ability to work in different genres or switch genres without having to switch programs, a good balance of exploration/learning and focused work on one manuscript/project, gifted faculty who are doing work in their field as they have more time to balance college teaching with other appointments and/or work, deadlines simulate actual real-world deadlines, focus on experiential learning, accommodations for work schedules, disabilities, etc. (my program has some teachers who only go in the fall semester when their workload is lighter), less jump through hoops BS than a traditional graduate school, none of the workshop pretentiousness I hear about in critiques of traditional MFA schools

    Cons: community experience outside of residency is mixed, residency is exhausting, a lot of low-res programs are in the middle of nowhere with serious travel concerns, self-directed sometimes means 'learn this on your own,' uneven advisor expectations or engagement levels, little help with how to make a living from writing (practical writing), focus on experiential learning without a balance on theoretical or structural learning, uneven expectations of faculty feedback deadlines or communication with students, no workshop experiences in creative writing so you might want to balance that with a writing group or workshop in your home community

    I'm in my final semester, and my thesis is due this week. I don't regret enrolling at all, even if I have to make a living in some other way and write what I want to on the side. I wish the program had covered more about publishing/agents/etc., but I can do that on my own. No matter what, writing is important in our digital era, and I've already had the chance to use my writing skills to do nontraditional things such as write messages for nonprofits, develop blog posts for companies, and work on website content. Getting an MFA was a conversation starter in those job/volunteer position interviews and it was, in general, the reason they hired me. I'm confident I can leverage my degree into some kind of work.


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