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Why You Should Consider Waiting to Pursue Your MFA

Should you go for your MFA now or later?

When I first graduated from college a year ago with my undergrad degree in creative writing, the last thing I wanted was to immediately jump into a master’s program. As months dragged by in my corporate nine to five gig, I began to miss the days of walking across campus, reading textbooks late into the night, and bonding over contemporary writers with my classmates.

I had a thirst for learning that I initially believed needed the structure of a master’s program to quench. After seeking out learning opportunities on my own, I realized that I can continue to grow and mature as a writer, all while enjoying the responsibility of my full time job.

I’d like to pursue my Master of Fine Arts in poetry in a few years (or five, or ten), but for now, I’m glad I decided to wait. Here’s why:

It takes time to hone your craft. I’m not naïve enough to think that I’ve truly found my voice as a writer. Not yet, anyway. This will take me years to develop, and I recognize that the only way to truly hone my craft is to write and read voraciously and passionately. Pursuing your MFA in creative writing provides you with a couple of years to truly focus on your art, learn from mentors, and build a community with your writer peers. While the experience sounds like a culmination of all the things I love, I realize that I’m simply not ready to turn my poems into a unified collection or write a novel right now.

If I keep plugging along poem by poem, I know I’ll get there someday. When that day comes, I’ll be ready to take full advantage of the opportunities a good masters program can provide. But for right now, the best thing I can do is continue to work hard during the day, and spend my evenings reading, writing, and pursuing literary opportunities.

You get valuable work (and life) experience in the meantime. College is a dream world. Granted, it’s a dream world full of unbearable roommates, endless homework, and the perils of cooking our own meals. But during those four years, the biggest thing we have to worry about is our grades. When we get out into the “real world,” we realize just how silly we were for spending so many sleepless nights fretting about our grade point average. Nowadays, I get to deal with office drama, student loan payments, and corporate outings.

I spend the majority of my time with people decades older than me, and while we don’t always see eye to eye, I’ve built meaningful relationships with people I can call my mentors. I continue to learn and grow by gaining their insight and expertise. The nine to five lifestyle is not the most glamorous or envious, but my experiences at work have allowed me to mature in ways that college never did, and I’m thankful for that.

Resources are out there for free. Soon after graduating, I realized that I had a thirst for structured learning. I missed getting reading recommendations from my professors and classmates, I missed being held accountable for submitting work, and I missed the sanctuary of my university’s library. I realized very quickly that the internet is a boundless resource for educating ourselves, and we can do so without leaving our homes or paying outrageous tuition fees. Resources like Open Yale Courses are great because they provide course materials online for free to anyone interested in using them.

By doing minimal research, you can find and utilize various free learning materials online. This includes MFA creative writing lists and assignments that are available on university websites. I’ve taken the liberty of compiling multiple lists into a large reading list that will keep me busy for years. What’s more, I joined a local writers group and applied for a Contributing Writer position at GenTwenty, both of which have provided me a greater sense of community. I’ve been able to attend to literary festivals and poetry readings, many of them for free at local universities. I’ve been able to talk with writers and gain their insights, all without lofty tuition fees.

I may not be studying with renowned contemporary writers or enjoying the benefits of writers workshops, but I’m still able to attend literary events, study meaningful texts, and most importantly, continue to work on my writing. Deciding when (and if) to pursue your MFA is a personal choice, and only you will know if it’s something that will truly benefit you. Just remember that there are endless resources (many of them free) for you to continue to learn even if you’re not ready for your MFA just yet.

About the Author

Dana Johnson

Dana graduated from Central Michigan University with her B.S. degree in English-Creative Writing and Broadcasting. She enjoys dancing around in her bedroom, reading and writing poetry, and going for long walks. She'd like to work in the publishing industry, and be surrounded by literature always.