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blurryface

University of Utah MFA program?

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Hey there! I'm a sophomore right now and am hoping to apply for a couple of programs, but the one I've got my heart set on is the University of Utah Creative Writing PhD. program--or, if I don't get into that one as an undergrad, then their MFA in Creative Writing program. What are the admissions like for this program? What could I be doing now to make it more likely that I could get in?

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Generally speaking, MFA programs have more applicants than PHD programs in Creative Writing. I wouldn't consider MFA programs as a back-up by any means. Numbers don't necessarily indicate great applications though. An MFA and a PHD generally have different time commitments, different course expectations, different student responsibilities and even different end goals. What is your end goal?

The MFA at Utah requires nine courses plus a thesis defense. The PHD at Utah requires 10 courses plus colloquia plus qualifying exams and a prospectus and dissertation.

Most MFA programs tend to be 2-3 years. Some MFA programs offer a 4th year. Most PHD programs offer 5-6 years of funding, but the time to complete a program may take longer.

I think the statistics for Utah's PHD program is they receive 100 applications for 10 spots in their phd program. Of the 10 spots, 1-2 spots are given to Creative Writing. I'm not sure what the numbers are for the MFA but at a lot of schools, the MFA receives 2-4 times as many applicants as the English PHD does. Regardless, it is a very competitive process.

For now, I'd focus on making the best connections you can with your professors and writing great papers. CW programs tend to prefer letters from those with an MFA degree or at least someone who can attest to your creative writing abilities.

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@Warelin Thanks so much for replying so quickly! This is helpful--maybe backup wasn't the best word. I just noticed that if you don't get into their PhD. track, then they automatically consider you for the MFA track. Both are definitely not easy to get into! End goal is to be a Creative Writing professor and continue pursuing writing--the reason I like the idea of the U is because it is close to family and if the PHD program takes 5-6 years, it would be nice to spend it nearby. Also, I am impressed by their program and like the writers who have come out of it. I've also considered applying to low residency MFA programs for similar reasons of being able to live near family while studying. What would be the best way to prepare for that plan?

Okay, that makes sense. Freshman year, I took a Creative Nonfiction course (and creative nonfiction is what I hope to continue pursuing--if not that, then probably fiction). This semester, I took a Writing Fiction course and will need to take a couple more courses before completing the minor. Would those be the professors I would want to ask for letters of recommendations from? How could I work on making good connections with them? I like them and respect them a lot, but as an introvert, this is difficult for me. I would want the connections to be authentic and not just "hey there i need a recommend" but usually keep to myself. Is there anything else in addition to that which would help my application?

Edited by blurryface

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1 hour ago, blurryface said:

Okay, that makes sense. Freshman year, I took a Creative Nonfiction course (and creative nonfiction is what I hope to continue pursuing--if not that, then probably fiction). This semester, I took a Writing Fiction course and will need to take a couple more courses before completing the minor. Would those be the professors I would want to ask for letters of recommendations from? How could I work on making good connections with them? I like them and respect them a lot, but as an introvert, this is difficult for me. I would want the connections to be authentic and not just "hey there i need a recommend" but usually keep to myself. Is there anything else in addition to that which would help my application?

Yes, creative writing programs will want at least some of your letters to come from professors who are familiar with your creative work. Since you're planning for grad school a few years in advance, you have plenty of time to work on making strong connections with those people. As a fellow introvert, I can relate-- it used to be really difficult for me to even speak up in class, let alone have one-on-one meetings with professors, but I've found that the best way to overcome that anxiety is to just force myself to do it. If you've already taken some workshops and you know you're interested in grad school, I'd encourage you to meet with those professors (if you haven't already) to talk to them about your writing and your future plans. I went to a small school, so this was pretty easy for me; class sizes were small, so professors remembered me, and it was easy to reach out and talk to them about my research interests, my writing, and my grad school plans. Ideally, your letters of recommendation will come from people who know you well and can speak about your abilities and potential in specific ways. If you attend a bigger school, developing that sort of relationship may be more challenging, but again, you've given yourself plenty of time to do it. 

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Makes sense. I'll work on it. Glad to hear it's worked out for you. I really appreciate the advice. Also, as it happens, the U is my undergrad university... will that help or hurt my chances?

Edited by blurryface

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Not sure. Maybe some of your professors could shed some light on that? 

Hope it works out. Not sure how difficult it is to meet with professors individually and have them get to know you at a school that size, but I think that's the key with LORs-- reach out, ask for guidance, and have discussions about your writing, academic interests, etc. so that when you need to ask for letters a couple years from now, they'll know you better and have specific, substantive things to say about you as a student, writer, and person. The way I approached it is that as much as I might feel shy or awkward about initiating those conversations, it always seemed way more awkward to have to ask for LORs from people who didn't really know me or might not even remember me. 

 

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