I'm at a loss. …again…

23 September 2009

Damn it.  I thought I had this figured out.

I’m questioning my grad school decisions… yet again

I thought I had settled on Creative Writing.  But now that I’ve sat for long enough without completing an application*… I’m starting to wonder if what I want to do is indeed study writing.

I’ve got a lot of interests, and a lot of things I love doing.  How do I know which one to focus on for grad school?  Or, at least, which one do I choose first?  (Hey, I can get multiple Masters…)

One of the biggest issues, Columbia has a few degrees I’m interested in — and you can only apply to one of them.  This past year I applied for what I thought was my long shot, Film.  I was right.  But now I’m wondering if I want Creative Writing or Arts, Entertainment, and Media Management…  Why can’t I have both?  Even if I choose AEMM, which discipline do I choose, because you’ve got to have that figured out before you apply.  Media Management? Music Business Management? Performing Arts Management?  I’ve got interest in all three of those!  And each program only picks anywhere from 3-10 applicants every year.

DePaul is also in the picture.  They’ve got a Masters in Writing and Publishing, and it’s the latter part of that program that interests me.  I’ve really enjoyed working in publishing, and know I could make a good editor.  The idea of starting up a small press just sounds awesome.  But I don’t know much about the program and if it’d be worth my time (and money)…

Lastly, there’s the School of the Art Institute.  I’d be studying writing there.  They’ve got such a great program that really seems to be a good fit for me.  It’s a interdisciplinary approach to writing, incorporating other arts — and it’s one of the few programs in Chicago that has a comics/graphic course.

There are a lot of other schools in the city that I’m sure would have programs that I’d be interested in…. But those are the leading ones right now.  It’s mostly writing programs because that’s what I thought I wanted for the past however many months.  But AEMM has come back into the picture.

I want to teach about wildlife and conservation, write til my fingers fall off, publish new and great writers and illustrators, plan and coordinate events, work with bands I love, document anything and everything on film, get lost for hours writing and designing websites, operate sound and lighting equipment, be on the radio again….

Can’t I just do it all?

*I did apply to Roosevelt, but well, obviously didn’t get in.

  • Dani

    Just keep writing, girl! You won’t know if a writing grad degree is what you want/need until you’ve got pages and pages of edited writing under your belt. It’s a major time and $$ commitment, so figure out before you apply if you want to be writing, reading and editing for hours upon hours every week. Keep tabs on the MFA blog mailbags if you want to see how other folks are holding up under MFA application pressures. How’s fledgling going?

    • Indeed, I need to keep writing! I’ve been slacking a bunch.

      I’m pretty sure I’d be okay with the hours of editing and even writing… though the editing thing I’d probably enjoy editing others’ works rather than my own. (Why I sort of like the idea of DePaul’s publishing side of the program.)

      It’s sort of why I’m wondering if I should do the AEMM program first, keep writing in the mean time and then later do an MFA if that’s where I’m headed… or just keep writing without the degree…

      As for Fledgling… There are a few bugs in the new site that need to be worked out first… and then I just need to keep writing/drawing and start scanning.

  • pick a school with all these options, and start looking at their website. Find professors in each of the departments that look interesting, and call them at first. Ask questions.

    after that, actually go to the school and talk to the professors, and especially the grad students in each department and find out what it’s like. Find out what you’d be doing, what kind of classes you’d be taking (aka what they would have to teach you).

    once you have a focus picked, then start considering how different schools handle that focus.

  • That’s not an easy decision, I’m sure. The only reason I know what I want to study in grad school is because the nearest university only has one program I’m interested in, so it was easy to decide. But with so many choices before you, maybe you just have to look at them more closely and figure out which is the best fit.

    Make a pro/con list. Look at the financials. Look at a timeframe for completion. Look at the locations. Anything and everything that can help you decide. And even if you narrow it down to two or three, then apply and see what happens.

    • Thanks MinD and Kifer.

      It’s definitely going to take a lot of list making and talking and just hours of thinking.
      Chicago’s got a lot to offer… and for someone with so many interests, it’s awesome and terrible at the same time.

  • Dani

    Just keep plugging away, and you’ll make progress. It takes months of time and 20-30 pages of high-quality workshopped writing to get a good look from one of the competitive MA/MFA programs; you’re a good writer with some natural observational talent (which can’t be bought or trained), so if you put in some good, hard work editing and writing, you’ll be a competitive candidate. If you do aim for fiction, plan to complete 2-3 whole new stories, I’d say. For your next round of grad school apps, plan to put together a kickass portfolio – one that you’ve slaved over for hours and hours, weeks and weeks. If you find a less competitive program you’re cool with, awesome – but make sure you’re not settling. Better to wait a year or two and write your way into a great program you’re excited about than to jump into an easier program that won’t pay the same dividends/have the same community. I strongly believe that a good percentage of what makes grad school worth it is the cohort you go through the process with. Networking and community can be everything to a working artist.

    • I’d like to have something put together for this next batch of deadlines — in January and February.

      And with Columbia, I’d like to have a strong application ready in both writing and AEMM (I’m leaning towards their Music Business Management opposed to Media Management because there are more classes that interest me in that department)…

      I’m going to look at Loyola’s programs in writing and their MBA (as well at other schools). I should probably also look at Roosevelt again, and U. of Chicago and UIC. Though I still believe that Columbia or SAIC would be better programs for me. You can stay in your crazy intensive program at Northwestern, and I’ll look for my art schools.

      Hopefully I can get my family’s support, and they’ll help cover me until my applications are in. Which means I need to treat it like a full time job. I need to push myself to do 25-40 hours of writing and editing a week. Just until December, so I can get my letters of recommendation.

  • Dani

    I’d avoid U of C – they run their MA programs as cash cows. You should def be a good candidate for Roosevelt, even as a re-app, as long as you have all-new materials. I’ve heard good stuff about UIC. Northwestern’s program isn’t as hardcore as Columbia Chicago on a number levels, and I think Columbia would be a rad place for you, so if you aim for that, write your butt off, girl! Same with AI. Any app that’s writing-sample-based will be heavily weighted on the writing sample. The MFA blog gives a good picture of what applicants go through to get their apps in tip-top shape. Keep me posted as you put apps together – one of the big things is to have a very strong opening page. Adcomms won’t read every page for every applicant closely (can you imagine how much reading they must have to do?), but if you start strong, they’re more likely to stick with you.

    • Good to know.

      I’ve got a lot of short scenes, or at least that seems like what I’ve been able to write. Maybe I can do a MAJOR edit and re-write of that red riding hood piece… I’m also going to need to do some expository writing too. I might need help getting some focus for that.

      I’m going to finish that web design proposal, and if I get that, that should cover living costs for at least a month (more if they choose the larger package). And then next month I’m supposed to be designing a musician’s site… Knowing that I’m staying in the city will be the biggest factor in me finishing any application.

  • Dani

    word up. What a fiction program would often like to see in an app: 1) A piece 12-18 pages long with a strong voice and fully-fleshed-out beginning-middle-end; 2) pieces with strong potential in voice, tone, character. Adcomms will generally favor strength of voice over craft, because craft is what they can teach – they can’t teach someone to have interesting ideas or an arresting point of view. For Non-fic, they’ll want to see story – your ability to capture the narrative thread of a story worth telling. Reading some old New Yorkers or checking out some Kotlowitz should get you in the mood for that.

    • starting to lean towards “keep writing, writing, writing, and apply to the MBA program at Columbia in the meantime… then do an MFA afterward…”

  • Dani

    Columbia has an MBA? Do you have a link for that? I’d be curious to see what their focus is –

    • Arts, Entertainment, and Media Management: http://www.colum.edu/Academics/AEMM/index.php
      It’s actually an MAM… but when I went to their info session last spring a few faculty called it an MBA… (so that’s what’s always stuck in my head)

  • Dani

    Was at MJ’s wedding with someone who went to SAIC – she seemed to think it could be a good fit for you, because you can take classes all over in the diff programs they offer and be with lots of artists. She said the writing program is really big, which isn’t always a plus but might not bug you. And she also said that funding there isn’t great, so you’d have to really think about that, too.

    • They’re offering discounted fees right now too… through this month. No way I could be ready for that though. In fact, I’m starting to think that I won’t make the January deadlines… I just don’t think I’ll be able to have a decent portfolio by then.

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