Choosing Grad School: here’s where I’m at in the process, and what schools are making the cut

Over the weekend, I attended a graduate school open house. It’s not my first choice program, but it was in Chicago, and according to their website, had a dual degree option in Fiction and Teaching of Writing. Abysmal funding, but you know, a slight possibility.

It was a fun day, and definitely got me excited about grad school. In terms of writing classes, there were a lot of things that I really want. I actually thought this could be the program for me — and best of all, I’d get to stay in Chicago. That is, until I found out that there is no practical teaching experience. Which has become a deal breaker for me. The more I talk to people about grad school, the more I realize that teaching is just as important to me as writing. So, based on this experience, I realized I need to really take a closer look at the graduate programs I’d been considering.

[OK. Sidenote: You know, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but as always writing and education are still at the top of my list. So I knew I needed to keep looking at MFAs as well as other options as well. Last thing I wanted to do was figure out 3 months from now that yes, an MFA is right for me, and to have missed the deadlines yet again.]

Arizona State University, aka what was my first choice school:
It’s got full funding available, including funding for international studies. One of their study abroad locations is in Chengdu, Sichuan, China. Which is where I was for my undergrad. The idea of going back to Chengdu is intoxicating. I like Arizona, and the more I looked into Tempe, the more I really was ok moving there. There’s even two Friends Meetings there. And of course, teaching opportunities.

But… when I looked at the classes, there were some interesting ones. I just didn’t get the same excitement from these offerings as I did my Chicago school. I mean, I’d love to learn Old Norse, but, um, it’s not really practical. So, a great environment, some cool opportunities, but I’d be missing that core writing classes that would really help me.

McNeese State University:
This school has sort of been my wild card. I couldn’t find out a whole lot about the program. Other than there’s 100% full funding. Also, instead of going through the standard application process, you only send in your writing sample and letter of intent. Based on that, they’ll ask you to apply if they think you’re a good fit.

Only… Through a bit more digging, I found out that the GRE is a requirement for enrollment. Which, for the time being, the GRE is a deal breaker. (No way to pass it by the time applications are due.)

University of Michigan:
It’s not too far from Chicago or family in Indiana. Michigan is really pretty, and I could survive the winters. There’s full funding available as well as a summer stipend. Teaching opportunities. The classes aren’t exactly what I’d want, but there’s enough there for me to get what I want.

For now, this is still a consideration.

Mills College:
I mean, California is a long way away from family, but I think I could deal with it. There’s funding, but only one full-funded fellowship each year. There’s community teaching opportunities. The classes are pretty standard… I’m not really decided yet with Mills.

Columbia College:
My Chicago school that I visited. Great classes. No funding. No teaching. Keeping this in my back pocket, but it’s sadly not likely that I’ll apply/attend.

Just based off my experience with Colum, I’m not sure I even want to bother with SAIC. I mean, at the very least, I know that there’s also no funding here either.

So all that above is why I’ve been going crazy about figuring out if an MFA is right for me. I know there are a whole lot more programs out there, and I’ll probably do another search again… But… Because education is also equally important to me, I’ve decided to start looking at M.Ed programs.

Now, I’ve not heard of any M.Ed programs with amazing funding. It’s mostly loans and, if you’re lucky, a few scholarships. (Which, yes, I’m willing to look at M.Ed programs without funding but not really MFA programs without funding.) But the positive side is there are a number of schools I can choose from. Right now I’m starting with DePaul, Loyola, and Northwestern. I’ve only just begun my research in this, so we’ll see how this develops.

The M.Ed programs do require more testing. Starting first with the TAP (Test of Academic Proficiency)… or, actually, I could retake the SAT. My scores would have qualified for the waiver, but they’re just past the 10-year deadline. (The SAT and ACT are both also cheaper than the TAP, so there’s that too.)

So. As it stands now… I would still really love to get an MFA in writing. But I’m starting to realize that an M.Ed in Secondary Education (English) will actually get me closer to some of my goals. I can always write regardless, even if I’m not getting paid to write & study writing.