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Tips Applicants Can Use During the MFA Admissions Process



By Chris Hassan
Posted February 17, 2013 10:00 AM

Tips for applicants to MFA programs.
Tips for applicants to MFA programs.

Many of those who possess a desire to work in the visual or performing arts understand that they are likely to encounter stiff competition on their way to achieving their professional goals. While earning a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) does not ensure an easier path to a successful career as a film director or author, it certainly doesn't hurt.

In a blog post for The Huffington Post, author Stephanie Vanderslice wrote that for writers in particular, enrolling in an MFA program is beneficial in many ways. As students work toward earning their master's degree, there is a chance they could make contacts in the publishing industry, while providing plenty of time to hone their craft. With so much to gain, applicants to MFA programs want to do what they can to increase their chances of being accepted. Fortunately, there are plenty of tips available to those who wish to pursue an MFA.

Be Yourself

During the MFA admissions process, prospective students may be tempted to pretend they have different interests or points of view, thinking this will increase their chances of being accepted. Author Brian Evenson, who is also a professor of literary arts at Brown University, advises against this, the Los Angeles Times reports. In some cases, people do not even know they are doing it.

"Most of you don't, and those of you who do don't do it maliciously, but just kind of slowly convince yourself into it as you write and rewrite your application," said Evenson, as quoted by the Times. "Look, it's easy to tell if you're faking. So don't fake." 

Provide a Sense of Who You Are Today

When it comes to an MFA program, it is a given that applicants might get creative when writing their personal statement. However, Evenson stresses the importance of showing admissions officials who they are right now.

" …If I go away with a better sense of how you were when you were in second grade (or whatever) than how you are now, that's not good," Evenson said.

Think Before Contacting a Program

While MFA program officials are happy to answer applicants' questions when they can, prospective students need to be careful what they ask and how they do it. In an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Elise Blackwell, an author and the director of the University of South Carolina's MFA program in creative writing, advised applicants not to email admissions officers a list of questions that can easily be answered with a visit to an institution's website.

Something else that is frowned upon is when applicants ask for special treatment. Admissions officials are unlikely to cross ethical boundaries simply because someone failed to meet a program's application deadline.

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