Written by Maddie De Pree, Columnist
So far, my final year at Furman has been heavy on the fun and games. I’m underloading this semester, so I have less coursework than usual, and I’ve been enjoying my coveted upperclassman status both in and out of class. (Any time I talk to a freshman, I feel like a wise old sage.) Still, the semester is whipping by faster than I anticipated, and I have suddenly realized that October has begun. I can ignore it no longer; it’s time for me to stop messing around and start applying to graduate programs.
I will mention here that graduate school isn’t the natural path for most people, let alone right after undergrad—most of my friends who graduated last spring decided to take a gap year before applying to their programs of choice, and still more are forgoing grad school altogether. This makes a fair amount of sense—plenty of professions don’t require a doctorate or a Master’s, and there’s no point slaving away for a degree that you won’t actually use.
I’m applying to MFA programs for creative writing (shocking, I know), which are among the most expensive and least useful graduate programs, at least professionally speaking. That’s what all of my professors keep telling me, anyway. And they’re right—the point of an MFA program is not to add a credential to your resume, but to hone your craft and become better at your art. MFAs are also expensive, unless you get into one of the fully-funded ones, and it’s unwise to go into debt for a degree that most employers will consider superfluous at best.
Despite all this, getting into one of the top MFA programs for creative writing has been a longtime dream of mine. The problem with this is that thousands of other applicants share this dream, and the programs I’m eyeing are notoriously selective. In short, the pressure is officially on to beat the competition, which means writing an excellent personal statement to go with my writing portfolio.
I’m actually not too concerned about my portfolio—I’m confident in the material I’ve decided to send—but my personal statement has been causing me serious headaches. I only have about a page to tell the admissions committee who I am and why I write, and if I don’t catch their attention, they’ll move onto other applicants with better personal statements than mine. For some reason, it all feels so much more stressful than when I was applying to undergrad schools. The stakes feel higher, I suppose because they are—one of these programs could make the difference between becoming a well-known author or remaining in obscurity.
Anyway, if anyone has tips for grad school apps, I would appreciate your wisdom. (Or if you want to sit with me in the library while I stare at a blank document, that’s cool too.) Wish me luck—I’m going to need it.