Warning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.
Earning an MFA in creative writing comes with benefits that will last a lifetime. You’ll be qualified to teach college fiction-writing classes, much like buying a lottery ticket makes you qualified to win a million dollars. You’ll learn the craft of refining your craft. You’ll develop a network of peers you can seek out for advice and obsessively compare yourself to until you one day die in a fit of envy and alcohol poisoning. The more prestigious programs have career benefits as well; the day you graduate from the Iowa Writers Workshop, your unpublished short story collection will magically appear in hardcover on the shelves of Powell’s Books. Success, fame, and fortune are the easy part. The hard part is getting in. Here’s how you can.
Less selective institutions might have an acceptance rate as high as 20 percent. Those are lousy odds, but if numbers were your thing, you wouldn’t be applying to MFA programs.
Step 1: Research
To find the program that’s the best fit, you’ve got to do your homework on prospective schools.
- Look up their acceptance rate, which at some schools is so small that they can only be seen by microscope. Less selective institutions might have an acceptance rate as high as 20 percent, meaning your odds of failure are only four out of five! Those are lousy odds, but if numbers were your thing, you wouldn’t be applying to MFA programs.
- Do they have famous faculty or alumni? This is crucial for name-dropping purposes at cocktail parties.
- How much financial aid is available. Are there fellowships? Teaching assistantships? There are always student loans; as your MFA pays dividends the rest of your career, so too will you write checks to Nelnet for the rest of your miserable life.
- Map each campus’ proxmity to ponds, woods, mountains, or other writerly thinking spots for when you need to retreat from your three-year-long writing retreat.
- Create a detailed spreadsheet of local bars and coffee shops, including house blends, tap lists, Wi-Fi passwords, drink specials, jukebox content, and the condition of their respective foosball and shuffleboard tables.