My writing program was a part-time Master of Arts Program and I’ve heard about low residency Master of Fine Arts programs in addition to the full-time programs. I think that I would have liked attending a full-time MFA program so I could focus all of my energy on writing but with two children in college, I decided that the most responsible thing to do (there’s my Scottish blood showing) would be to find an alternative if I could. I did at Johns Hopkins University. While I did have to suspend my social life while I was in the program, I had the advantage of not having to worry about stretching a stipend.
I imagine I would have cashed in my chips and enrolled in a full-time program if I hadn’t had to worry about my kids. Back then, I wasn’t even thinking about the fact that I’m a lot older than the average thirty-something students who enrolled in my evening program. I was relieved and also strangely disappointed to find an alternative that allowed me to meet my obligations to my family and work.
In the full-time program, students at Johns Hopkins enroll in a craft/literature class and a workshop each semester and finish the degree in two years. They also teach classes for the University in return for a tuition-free ride. In the MA program, a student can take from two to five years to finish their degree and a full load is two classes a semester.
Unlike the MFA program, we were required to take our two core courses before we took any workshops. I also took the Sentence Power class which focused on sentence level revision before I took a workshop. Another difference between the two types of programs I how much material must be included in the thesis – more about that later in the chapter on thesis preparation.
If you’re looking for a writing program, I’m not going to suggest what kind of program you should choose. There are several books on the market that I found when I was doing my research for this little book. Hey, but I should tell you that they didn’t talk much about the types of things that I would look for in a writing program like how their courses might prepare me to be a writer or most importantly, how many of their graduates were published writers.
One book that talked a great deal about location did have an amusing way of ranking the different writing programs which may have some basis in fact that I don’t know about. The other book I found about writing programs was more down to earth except that is was so clear that it was written from a teacher’s perspective and I’m not sure how valuable it could be for a student.
I’d shopped for schools with my children and the experience with them was still fresh in my mind before I started looking for programs. Most everyone knows what they would look for if they were looking for their first college today so that might help you decide what’s important to you.
No matter what criteria you choose, I do believe that like everything else in life, a writer’s success depends on how they react to the experience, not the particular school or workshops they attend. There are definitely problems that can be avoided and there are tips that I can give you to help enhance your experience. This book will show you what I experienced at Hopkins, good and bad.