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Partially Funded MFA vs Job Hunt


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I got accepted into the Creative Writing MFA at CalArts with partial funding and am not expecting any other offers. I'm debating if I should decline and try again, or take the offer and run.

Background: During my last semester of undergrad, I had a bad accident that abruptly cut off my career as I had to move back in with my parent's for treatment because I couldn't work.The doctors finally gave me the all clear last year right before application season and I applied to 5 programs. (Kind of, I was still using a cane when I started) Since then, I had to move twice and rents are so high in my area that I can no longer support myself with the freelance/part-time pr job that I did while I was bedridden. I'm basically couch-surfing now. All of my meager savings went to hospital bills.

So right now my choices are: go to the expensive school and take on a lot more debt as I figure out how to support myself, OR, continue couch-surfing/move to a new town as I look for a higher paying job that is by no means guaranteed and reapply to programs will more funding. Classic rock/hard place. Any advice?

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I'm sorry to hear about the challenges you've being going though. You sound like a very resilient person. Congrats on your offer!

If you are already having financial difficulties, possibly debt too for medical bills, and possibly have a long term or chronic health condition (I don't know, you didn't say), I'm not sure that adding additional financial burden to the mix is going to improve your situation. What do you think about it?

If you are worried about money when you're in school it could impact your performance and ability to fully immerse yourself in your research and studies, particularly if you're the worrying kind. Do you think you'd be able to handle that kind of pressure and still work at your peak performance at school?

If I had to choose, I'd try to find a survival job right now (receptionist, retail, waitress, shelving books in a library, live-in nanny, telemarketer, etc) just to get back on your feet. Maybe you could also do some volunteer work in your field as it could help you move into a paid position that's more relevant to your line of work. 

Fairly often, MFA degrees don't lead to high paying jobs so it would likely take quite a number of years to pay back your debt. Maybe you can get a better offer next year instead as you will be in a better position to network with people and search for programs that are a better fit and could offer you more funding.  

Edited by thelionking
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It's more like I have chronic bad luck. I graduated with a badly torn-up shoulder from an accident, then when that started to get better I got poisoned with a bad medication interaction that gave me heart palpitations, and once they figured that out and I recovered, I unknowingly dislocated my knee, which leads to me walking on it for a month and a half before getting treated. I'm also getting tested for MS which is a chronic health condition, so I really don't know. I'm already over 50k in debt from undergrad. 

I know what it's like to worry about money while I'm in school (see +50k debt) I think it's one reason I'm so sickly now. I'd go weeks without food or sleep and end up with what appeared to be seizures. I even had to go part-time one semester because I became so ill my professors begged me to drop their class. (Ambulances disrupt workshops) Somehow I still graduated magna cum laude with two BAs. I can do it because I've done it before, but it won't be pretty. It's also likely that a full-time job will put the same stress on my body. And that's the main problem. I don't have a long track record of doing anything full-time without major consequences. Professors, friends, and family are all worried that just looking at 40hrs of work will break me. 

Practically, I might hold off until it's confirmed that I don't have anything seriously wrong with me before I pursue an MFA. I don't want a repeat of undergrad. Lots of crying, lots of clinic and ER visits, and lots of debt. 

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Your situation sounds really complex. I hope you have access to a social worker or other social services for extra support while you figure out how to navigate your challenges. The thing with a job is that you can quit if needed or switch to part time. But when it comes to school it's a lot harder to do when it's mid-semester. You might also have a hard time putting the funding temporarily on hold if you need some time off and could lose it completely if this happens.

While you have been able to persevere for so long by pushing your body beyond its limits, you don't know if one day you just won't have it in you to do that and your body will need to take a break at a future time. You are not a machine and even you have limitations. Maybe having a part time job, if you could manage it, would be a good temporary solution to help cover some of your living costs and to give your body some much needed time to recover. If you qualify for social assistance due to your health problems and can afford to take some time off to rest, I'd encourage you to seek it to help cover the cost of food, cell phone, etc. Perhaps eventually moving to a cheaper city would be a good option when you are ready to work or go to school full time, in a location where you have some sort of support system or circle of friends. 

While you are recovering, I'd also encourage you to take care of your body in other ways by getting enough sleep, drinking lots of water, eating healthy, and getting fresh air and exercise. Meditation and mindfulness exercises are also very helpful to learn to quiet and calm the mind when you are overwhelmed and stressed.

Best of luck! 

Edited by thelionking
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