25 August 2010

Part of my grad school application process involves writing 300 words to five pages of what is known as a Statement of Purpose.  Basically it’s the school’s way of asking what the hell makes you so special that we should admit you.  (Okay, so they’re also wondering why you chose their school over the others…)

So. Why the hell do I want to be a writer?  Why do I am an MFA?  What do I want to accomplish?

Honestly… I’m not sure.  I love writing.  It’s a part of who I am — just like blogging, doodling, and eating cupcakes.  The problem is, writing is a part of the hundreds of other people all fighting for very limited spots at these institutions of higher learning.  Hundreds of other people trying to explain in limited pixel space why they are the shit and why they should be picked over everyone else.

I know that getting my MFA is important to me right now.  That my main goal is returning to the world of academia, networking and collaborating with other writers and artists, and taking large steps forward to whatever this direction is.  Whether it’s towards a small press, a community education center, or a life of writing…  … a continued passion for learning is the root of this.  And that’s what I have to go on — and to try to use to scrounge up enough words to impress the admissions committees.

What’s your statement of purpose?  What are you trying to accomplish?

  • LovelyAnomaly

    I’m not trying to be rude when I say this.

    But why wait for an MFA to network, collaborate, and write? You don’t have to have a master’s to do those things. There are organizations in Chicago that you can join, and you can write for institutions (and for your own enjoyment) without an MFA. You already have a Bachelor’s in English.

    I’m not knocking your dream of obtaining a Master’s. It’s a valid dream. But there has to be something really deep within you that wants it–and it seems like maybe you are just touching the surface of what it might be. But you need to know why you want to go into graduate school, otherwise you will get sucked into the hard work and the low pay without much reward or a sense of accomplishment.

    Don’t wait for three little letters than you can attach to your name. Do it now.

    • LovelyAnomaly

      Aaaand clearly I meant to type “that” not “than”.

    • Erini

      I know if Dani reads this, she’ll be able to respond a lot better than I can….

      But you’re right, I don’t need an MFA to write or collaborate. However, MFA programs provide an amazing environment to do this. Also, it’s highly focused. I know I can write now, but without the institution of my peers holding me accountable, I won’t write. Nor will I have as great an access to such a community of writers and artists. I want to absorb all that I can from these professors. I was like a kid in a candy shop when I was attending readings and workshops at NU — where else could I get access to SL Wisenberg or Reg Gibbons or Stuart Dybek? And that’s just at one school.

      Maybe it is an escape from the “real world”… but it’s an escape that’s allowing me to pursue and live one of my passions — writing. I’m going to get to focus on it, improve on my craft by working with a variety of writers (both as professors and my peers). These grad schools will have opportunities available that would be far more challenging than if I was trying this on my own. Chances to study genres I’m unfamiliar with, publishing internships with places I couldn’t reach because they’ve got great relationships with universities, or just the in-house literary magazines and presses I’d get to be a part of.

      Going to grad school is saying I want to stake my claim in being a writer (a sentiment I’ll give Tom Kealey the credit for)…. I want that community of other like-minded people. And it’s a simple fact that I’m an academic junkie — I’d stay in school forever if I could, and it’s not because of any social reason. I love the structure that these academic institutions bring.

  • Writing a statement of purpose is a very daunting task. Trust me, I know what you are going through ’cause I wrote mine only seven months ago and seriously sweated over what I was going to say. I took the honesty approach — explained that my current career path was going to reach a dead end and I was determined to find another area of interest that could become my future. Whatever I said must’ve helped along because I was one of 12 accepted into the program this year out of 55.

    Smaller numbers than you’d think, right?

    Try not to stress too much. My advice is pour your heart and soul on the page as beautifully as you can. If you’re honest about your goals, your intentions, your purpose, it’ll go a long way.

    • Erini

      I’ve been spending the last couple weeks just thinking things out. How to get concrete thoughts on my goals and such…

      Some of these programs only take 10 students in each area. But I’m casting my net wide, I should end up with something…

  • Ah, the statement of purpose. I went through four drafts with one of my professors when I was a senior in college. As an English major who has a writing-based job, it’s amazing how many places won’t even consider you if you don’t have a higher degree of some kind. I got lucky with the job I got – my boss admired my “youthful pluck,” (whatever the hell THAT is) and the fact that I was PURSUING a master’s in English. I’d say that it’s a bit more important than Lovely Anomaly makes it out to be, but I’ll definitely agree with her that you really have to WANT it to make it worthwhile.

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