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.

I'm at a loss. …again…

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.

damn my indecisive nature

So, I’m doing it again… over thinking and reconsidering my options for grad school.

I’m still very confident that I want to go to Columbia College.  I’m not questioning that.  It’s been more of figuring out which program would be best for me there.

My first thoughts have been the AEMM program.  With that, I thought I’d choose Media Management (MM) as my concentration.  I was happy.  I had made my decision.  And then I started thinking about it.  I wasn’t exactly sure what I could do with an MAM (Masters in Media Management) in MM.  I wasn’t quite sure what I knew of MM at all.  I just knew it was the business side to film, radio, tv, newspapers and magazines.  Well, that could be almost anything.

I also toyed around in AEMM with the thought of Music Business Management (MBM) and Preformance Arts Management (PAM)… MBM was simply because I love audio.  I love live sound, I loved working in the radio business… I just wanted to be with music.  But I couldn’t see myself getting completely passionate about that — at least, not in comparison to my other passion… and PAM, well, that was just because I was a decent stage manager and enjoyed it.

But no.  I know my true passion… and well, if I’m going to get anywhere, I should go with this.
Documentaries.  Wildlife documentaries to be more specific…
I have been an animal nut since I was born.  And, thanks to my dad a lot, I have a decent background in audio/visual which led me to film and broadcast for a while.  And well, I just can’t deny it… I just want to get back into film.  There’s just something about using film in an educational purpose.  I want to travel, to get into communities and work with them on creating educational pieces about their environments for their communities and for the greater population.  I’ve worked on various films and videos since my junior year of high school (2001)…. and in college I worked on two documentaries, one of which won an award (I was the Associate Producer).

Basically now… I’m tossing around between AEMM and Columbia’s Film program… Film school has always intimidated me.  And an old producer of mine adviced against it… but this is a spring board for me to get back into this.  A means for pushing me forward.  I don’t doubt my passion at all.  I just need to find the confidence to pursue this next step.

Associate Producing in South Africa (that day meant boom mic op)
Associate Producing in South Africa (that day meant boom mic op)