There are plenty of #advice articles on the internet about the #creative writing MFA application process: research schools, make outlines, ask for letters well in advance, etc. That advice is important, but I have a few more tips anxious people like me need to hear about the #mfa draft.

Stop looking for the perfect program

If you are anything like me, you will always think you missed the program. The hypothetical perfect program with the perfect funding, classes, and experience. This perfect program does not exist. I loved Lafayette College, and if I needed to choose again, I would choose Lafayette. That said, my alma mater had its flaws.

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If a program is always rainbows and sunshine, you won’t get the most out of it and you certainly won’t grow. Stop searching for the perfect program and look for a program you are excited about (and can afford).

Decide whether you can take the GRE, not if you want to

I didn’t take the GRE, and I refuse to take the GRE for my MFA. The GRE has a hefty $205 testing fee. If you can get a limited number of fee waivers, you pay $102.50. Sending out scores for the GRE are only free if you send them out on test day. If you decide on a new school (or if you took it early enough, any school), you have to pay an additional $27. I cannot afford those fees, much less practice tests. But even if I could, I wouldn’t want to spend $207+ on a single test.

That said, there are also plenty of programs that require it.

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There were a number of great programs I was in love with until I saw their application requirements. Instead of taking the GRE, I decided to not apply to those programs. That is my choice. If you decide to do the same, recognize the consequences.

Research, but not too much

It’s important to know when to stop researching schools. But don’t be stupid and look up 30 schools before calling it a day. I did that last MFA Draft.  Additional research would have shown that full funding for my accepted programs wasn't guaranteed. Find a balance. For this MFA Draft, I researched as much as I could during the summer. I checked every website and every list I saw. I made sure I knew what aspects of a program were important to me. But I stopped.

I know I didn’t see every program out there, but I chose to stop this month because the deadlines were creeping closer. Plus, I kept seeing the same programs over and over again. Are there better fitting programs I missed? Probably. The truth is, I survived one MFA Draft.

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If I am meant to go to that hypothetical better program, I’ll find it in the next MFA Draft or the one after that.

If you don’t get in, so what?

I know that the first time I applied to Creative Writing MFAs, I was terrified I wouldn’t get into any programs. Rejection is just hard in general, but I was more scared of what a rejection would mean. I was convinced the MFA was the only way for me to succeed, for me to be happy, and for me to get anywhere in life. Rejection meant I was and always would be a failure. I would be forced to work in retail for the rest of my life. I would die miserable because I didn’t get into any MFAs. Of course, I see that as ridiculous now, but I’m sure there is at least one person out there thinking the same thing.

To those people: rejection does not mean what you think it means. If you don’t get into any programs, apply to related jobs. Become a substitute teacher (that’s what I did). Try to ingrain yourself in the literary world if that’s really what you want to do, but also do some soul searching. Whether you are meant to be in the literary world or not is unimportant. Check to see if you want to be a part of that world.

And don’t be afraid to say no

I was accepted into two programs last MFA Draft, but I didn’t accept either offer. They simply didn’t give me enough money. I’m applying again this year. Don’t be afraid to say no to an offer that doesn’t work for you. There’s always next time.

Remember, you will survive this MFA draft, whether you start a program next semester or not.