I am happy to announce that I have been accepted into Butler University's MFA program for Creative Writing (fiction).
I decided in early January to apply to Butler. While Indiana is blessed with several great MFA programs, I felt confident that Butler’s program was best suited for me. First of all, it’s local to me and I can go part-time and continue to work. I'm married and have a job, so frankly that was a big consideration. But convenience aside, Butler has a phenomenal faculty and one of the best visiting writers series in the country. I know people at each of the MFA programs in the Indiana and I have found that hands down, the Butler students are the most enthusiastic about their program.
The MFA Application Process
With the deadline set at the beginning of March, that gave me a little less than two months to complete my application. The short time span between deciding to apply and actually applying is not indicative of my interest level or dedication. Rather, I initially had planned on applying later this year for spring admittance. In January I simply had a "what are you waiting for?" type epiphany.
One of the requirements for my application was a resume. I always have an updated professional resume, so that was the easiest piece to check off my list. I did make a few modifications to add some of my writing related volunteer work that would not otherwise typically be relevant professionally (I work in healthcare policy).
I struggled a bit initially deciding which professors I wanted to ask to write a reference letter. It has been seven years since I graduated from undergraduate and I was not an English major. I did take quite a few elective English classes, but most of the professors I had were either no longer with the university or I did not feel they would remember me. Instead, I asked a political science professor from undergrad, a law professor from law school and a work colleague. Only two references are required for Butler, but I wanted to have a backup just in case one fell through. I sent all three my current resume and information on the program and let them take it from there.
The same weekend that I uploaded my resume and contacted my references I also wrote my personal statement. I did google "MFA personal statements" for ideas, but I found there to be few examples available online. I decided to go the route of crafting it like a professional cover letter. I wrote it in one sitting and had my husband check it only for grammar/spelling. After writing it I put it aside for about a week before spending a few hours revising it. In hindsight, I wish I had shown it to some writers I trust, but I honestly felt great about it and I really just wanted to move onto to my writing sample at that point.
From there I spent the reminder of my time ferociously editing and rewriting two short stories I had previously workshopped with two different writing groups. As I was working on my application I was also enrolled in one of Gotham’s online writing classes. I had the opportunity to present both short stories that ultimately ended up in my application. I found the critiques to be helpful, but I'm not sure that the cost of the class is worth it when there are other free workshop groups online. I also paid for a professional review of both pieces and found that particular service to be pretty worthless as both editors simply provided with me with glowing statements regarding my work. And believe me, I'm proud of my work, but these pieces were not (and are not) perfect.
I work full time, so I really spent minimal time during the week working on my application. I would print out and re-read and copy edit on paper during the week and make revisions on the weekends. I think what is most important to note is that I did not write these stories from scratch. Although they did go through several substantial revisions, I had the bulk of the stories flushed out. I would absolutely not recommend sending in completely new stories that you have not workshopped. I ended up with 19 pages with the application requesting no more than 30 pages. If I had more time I probably would have included another story, but everything I had that I felt good about would have put me above 30 pages.
I submitted my application on February 29th, one day before the deadline. I braced myself for a long, torturous wait. Needless to say, I was floored when I received my acceptance into the program via email on March 7th.
My application situation was unique in that I applied to one program. That being said, I am happy to discuss the process in more detail with anyone. Feel free to comment here, email me or get in touch on twitter @iamkellyflynn.