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UNLV, Notre Dame, Purdue, Washington -- Help me choose?


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(I'm really hoping that this post doesn't come off as braggy or obnoxious -- I know this is the first-worldiest of first world "problems.")

Guys, I applied to twenty schools this year -- some of them let me apply for free, I'm not completely insane, ha -- because, to be perfectly honest, I thought my chances of getting in anywhere were pretty shit. (Not only are MFA acceptance rates terrifying -- I actually applied last year and got five straight rejections lmao. (Though, in hindsight, I shouldn't have applied at all; I was a college senior who couldn't give her portfolio the attention/focus/time it needed. I applied with the exact same personal statement and pieces (and references!) this time -- they were just heavily revised.))

I somehow got into nine (???!!!) of these programs, though, and now ... I'm floundering. I have no idea what to do.* I'm hoping some of you can offer advice/perspectives/thoughts -- I'll take anything, haha.

(I took some of the schools out of the running, because I didn't like their location (the UK-based ones), their lack of funding (the NY-based ones, RIP my dreams of living in NYC), or their level of funding (NC State), but I'm still left with --)

1. UNLV: 3 year-program (extra time, yay) offering $15000 a year. Based in Las Vegas (, a happening city, yay)! Teaching opportunities guaranteed (yay). Strong international focus (that I love, as an international student myself + someone that's lived in six countries, travelled to dozens more, etc. etc). Faculty not familiar to me (boo). Not a well-known school** (boo).

2. Notre Dame: 2 year-program offering $15000 a year. Based in South Bend, IN (not a happening place, boo). Teaching opportunities not guaranteed (boo -- I'd love to teach in the future). Connection to faith, spirituality (that I love. I'm not Catholic, but I do believe in God and love the idea of being around other people of faith). Gorgeous campus, university (... which is important to me. I'm shallow, ha). Prestigious school (-- this is something that carries a lot of weight in the region I live in. There may be more job opportunities made available to me if I graduate from ND). 

3. Purdue: 3 year-program (extra time, yay) offering $18000 a year. Based in West Lafayette, IN (not a happening place, boo). Teaching opportunities guaranteed (yay). Impressive faculty (Roxane Gay, Kaveh Akbar, whoo).

4. Washington: 2 year-program offering $24000 a year (money money money, whoo)! Based in Seattle (, a happening place, yay)! Teaching opportunities guaranteed (yay). Faculty not familiar to me (boo). Not a well-known school** (boo).

Where would you go? Where would you -- decidedly, emphatically -- not go?

 

* I can't visit any of these programs/schools in person as I live in Spain. :wacko:

** Outside of the US, I mean. (ND and Purdue, in contrast, are relatively well-known/well-thought-of.)

Edited by samosasandsobaos
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All great schools. UNLV has a reputation as an exciting, up-and-coming program--and their PhD is well-regarded.

But, if you want to go into teaching--choose Notre Dame or Washington. They are better respected universities in general, and the people hiring for high schools will probably not know that UNLV has a great MFA program unless they did an MFA in creative writing themselves. 

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Just my two cents:

1. Depending on what kind of teaching you want to do, Notre Dame and Purdue are probably going to do the most good "name drop" wise, unless the department head is up to date on MFA reputations (so basically - only at schools that *have* an MFA program).

 

2. Keep cost of living in mind. Seattle is ridic expensive. Vegas and Purdue are average. South Bend is super cheap. So those amounts, in raw dollars, look different but I definitely recommend checking out a site like bestplaces.net to do an actual cost-of-living comparison (spoiler: $15k in South Bend is worth about $36k in Seattle). Don't want to rain on your parade, but cost of living is something a lot of people don't necessarily take into account when they should.

 

I hope this helps. Good luck with the decision!

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First off, congrats! Sounds like you have AMAZING offers there, and I don't think you'd go wrong with any of them. My gut says to take off Notre Dame (doesn't seem to have a lot of the things you are looking for in a program). Ultimately, what you get out of your time at any of these places is what will make it great. 

Purdue's faculty sounds unbeatable to me, honestly. 

Do you know what the teaching load is like at these schools? You want time to devote to your writing, as well. Have you spoken to current students? What are their takes? A student's happiness can reveal a lot to you. 

Anyway, can't go wrong. Congrats again! 

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I would rule out UW based on the finances. $24K is good but, as already suggested, you should use a cost of living calculator to see what that really means for you. In terms of location, there's a train you can take from South Bend to Chicago, plus I hear South Bend has a pretty vibrant arts and culture scene because ND is there. I've also heard good things about living in West Lafayette from folks who worked at Purdue. 

Have you talked to current students and/or recent alums of these programs about their experiences? Do you care what kind of teaching experience you'd be getting during your MFA? (There's a difference between getting to teach creative writing or a literature class and teaching Intro to Composition.) Do you have prior teaching experience? (Also, I'd ask current students about the teaching load and the effect that has on their ability to complete their own writing.)

From what you've written, it sounds like you want someone here to talk you into going to the more prestigious/well-known programs. But, if your heart lies elsewhere, follow your heart. That's the path to doing the best work you can do.

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On 3/25/2018 at 10:03 PM, heliogabalus said:

All great schools. UNLV has a reputation as an exciting, up-and-coming program--and their PhD is well-regarded.

But, if you want to go into teaching--choose Notre Dame or Washington. They are better respected universities in general, and the people hiring for high schools will probably not know that UNLV has a great MFA program unless they did an MFA in creative writing themselves. 

Yeah, I love(d?) the feel of UNLV's program, but the "meh" ranking / standing of the university itself has sort of put a damper on my enthusiasm.

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On 3/26/2018 at 3:34 AM, GallifreyGirl said:

Just my two cents:

1. Depending on what kind of teaching you want to do, Notre Dame and Purdue are probably going to do the most good "name drop" wise, unless the department head is up to date on MFA reputations (so basically - only at schools that *have* an MFA program).

 

2. Keep cost of living in mind. Seattle is ridic expensive. Vegas and Purdue are average. South Bend is super cheap. So those amounts, in raw dollars, look different but I definitely recommend checking out a site like bestplaces.net to do an actual cost-of-living comparison (spoiler: $15k in South Bend is worth about $36k in Seattle). Don't want to rain on your parade, but cost of living is something a lot of people don't necessarily take into account when they should.

 

I hope this helps. Good luck with the decision!

1. That's a really good point! 2. ... I hadn't even thought of comparing the amounts in that way. I mean, I figured Seattle'd be more expensive than small-town Indiana, of course, but the difference is more significant than I'd imagined. Hmm. Thank you! :D 

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On 3/26/2018 at 7:56 PM, Sallyj said:

First off, congrats! Sounds like you have AMAZING offers there, and I don't think you'd go wrong with any of them. My gut says to take off Notre Dame (doesn't seem to have a lot of the things you are looking for in a program). Ultimately, what you get out of your time at any of these places is what will make it great. 

Purdue's faculty sounds unbeatable to me, honestly. 

Do you know what the teaching load is like at these schools? You want time to devote to your writing, as well. Have you spoken to current students? What are their takes? A student's happiness can reveal a lot to you. 

Anyway, can't go wrong. Congrats again! 

Thank you so much! :D 

Haha, really? I am actually leaning towards ND ever-so-slightly at the moment (-- the one thing holding me back is the lack of certainty re: teaching positions).

Purdue's faculty is seriously unreal, though.

And, yeah, I've reached out to a couple of students, but they all seem 100% content with their (different) respective decisions, which has just confused me further! 

Edited by samosasandsobaos
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On 3/27/2018 at 4:32 AM, Ecce said:

Notre Dame is an incredible environment, I have to say that. I loved it a lot. incredible student body and faculty, and lots of money too. Being at a prestigious university grants you access to the best faculty, best materials, and best research. 

Man, I'd love to hear more about your experience at Notre Dame (if you'd be willing to share, that is)! Is there anything (important) you think they could've done / handled better? Is there anything you wish you'd known before attending?

Edited by samosasandsobaos
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4 hours ago, rising_star said:

I would rule out UW based on the finances. $24K is good but, as already suggested, you should use a cost of living calculator to see what that really means for you. In terms of location, there's a train you can take from South Bend to Chicago, plus I hear South Bend has a pretty vibrant arts and culture scene because ND is there. I've also heard good things about living in West Lafayette from folks who worked at Purdue. 

Have you talked to current students and/or recent alums of these programs about their experiences? Do you care what kind of teaching experience you'd be getting during your MFA? (There's a difference between getting to teach creative writing or a literature class and teaching Intro to Composition.) Do you have prior teaching experience? (Also, I'd ask current students about the teaching load and the effect that has on their ability to complete their own writing.)

From what you've written, it sounds like you want someone here to talk you into going to the more prestigious/well-known programs. But, if your heart lies elsewhere, follow your heart. That's the path to doing the best work you can do.

Yeah, I think I might have to take UW out of the running (for that very reason)... Ah, that's awesome; I'd no idea there was a train from South Bend to Chicago. And I'm glad that people have good things to say about (living in) West Lafayette, too!

Yes, I have, but they've all said that they wouldn't have changed a thing about their (different) respective decisions, which has just confused me further, haha. (Though I guess I now know I can't really go horribly wrong anywhere?)

I'm not too picky about the types of classes, to be honest. I was a TA for an Intro to Comp class as an undergrad and it was totally fine (though the other options do -- I'll admit -- sound a lot cooler).

And just the opposite, actually! I'm kind of leaning towards those two programs right now, but I'm worried that I'm interested in them for the wrong reasons... and I want anyone that picks up on that to call me out for it, lol.

Edited by samosasandsobaos
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2 hours ago, samosasandsobaos said:

Yes, I have, but they've all said that they wouldn't have changed a thing about their (different) respective decisions, which has just confused me further, haha. (Though I guess I now know I can't really go horribly wrong anywhere?)

You may not be asking the right questions then... or lots of reasons, people can be happy with their decisions. But, what should really be important to you is about what kind of training and experience they're having in classes, informally with colleagues, and in terms of professional development. My guess is that once you get into the details of the actual experience of being in each program, you'll have a better way to differentiate between the programs. (E.g., it doesn't matter if you're all in love with Purdue's faculty if those faculty are never around, don't teach, don't read student work, etc.)

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was not part of this program, so can't say much. But about ND in general: it's a great place, the people are awesome. Coast of life is really cheap and most grad students become homeowners and then sell. Make a profit instead of paying rent. There's always stuff going on on campus. Make some undegrad acquaintances. The undegrad life is amazing there, what you would expect from an elite college.

South Bend is way better than what people think, it's actaully pretty vibrant and it's upcoming since mayor Pete. Very liberal city too. Also, you're close to Chicago. 

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10 hours ago, Ecce said:

was not part of this program, so can't say much. But about ND in general: it's a great place, the people are awesome. Coast of life is really cheap and most grad students become homeowners and then sell. Make a profit instead of paying rent. There's always stuff going on on campus. Make some undegrad acquaintances. The undegrad life is amazing there, what you would expect from an elite college.

South Bend is way better than what people think, it's actaully pretty vibrant and it's upcoming since mayor Pete. Very liberal city too. Also, you're close to Chicago. 

Thank you so much for getting back to me, @Ecce! You make both ND itself and South Bend sound super rad (and I'm glad, haha, because I'm about 98% positive that their program's the best fit for me). :)

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