ART HISTORY MINOR: How to pick a grad school for your MFA

Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Woodward Photography
The following is a chat between myself and a former student who is looking into grad school.  She's a hair older than most applicants, in her young thirties, and so these answers are for someone with a little more life experience than a recent BFA graduate.  Her name has been changed to protect her identity, as well as the identity of her ALMA MATER, COLLEGES 1, 2, 3 and 4.  

Rachel: Hi Lucas,‪ it's Rachel.‬

Me: ‪What's up?!

Rachel: ‪im trying to make a decision about grad school.. want to give your scholarly opinion?

Me: ‪Sure, what do you want to do?‬

Rachel: ‪Great question.  Ha ha‬.  I've been offered a full ride plus $9,600 stipend plus health insurance from (COLLEGE #1). They don't have great ventilation and I wasn't that impressed. But I have to choose by Monday. And I would be saving almost $60,000‬

Me: ‪Ooohhh... but is it the program you want?‬ Where else are you looking? And what's their offer?

Rachel: ‪(COLLEGE #1) makes (ALMA MATER) seem like a castle, but I think I will do fine any where. I have been accepted to 7 schools, but this is the only free one.‬

Me: ‪Well my Grandpa always said, "Anything free is worth saving up for."‬ Is this an MFA?

Rachel: Yeah, it's the same degree, an MFA. ‪(COLLEGE #2) offered me money, but still way too expensive. (COLLEGE #3) after living expenses will be about $50-60,000 for 3 years and (COLLEGE #4) is 3 years, same price as (COLLEGE #3) but I am next on the waiting list for 1/2 tuition making it after living expenses about $40,000‬

I already have $100,000 in undergrad (ALMA MATER).  so... even though I haven't been considering the school very much, now that I only have a few days left to choose...I can't stop considering it

Me: ‪So what is it you REALLY want from life?‬ What is your BIG goal?  It's not just the MFA, that's your means. What's the end?

Rachel: ‪To make art, to be fiscally responsible and debt free, to travel, to teach, to grow, to eat local, be sustainable and.. stay soft and joyful?‬  I don't know I just made that up.

Me: ‪Sounded true though.‬

Rachel: ‪I'd like to work in a community, a university setting, and teach art or travel conducting collaborations‬.  Wish I was at (COLLEGE #2) today.

Me: ‪Well an MFA is required to teach at most colleges/universities, so that would be a good start.‬ But it takes more than MFA to get a job. You need experiences and recommendations too.

I would say that you have great personal skills and life experience in your favor, which makes you a great candidate for a job. You would have the credential of MFA, which lends confidence that you know what you're talking about. All you'd need then is a good recommendation and a lead on an appropriate job.

Rachel: ‪I should go for the free ride right? Even if they aren't very happy and the ventilation isn't good? It's almost stupid not to take it?‬

Me: ‪Do you want the short answer or the long answer?‬

Rachel: ‪Short is fine‬

Me: ‪Short answer: Yes.‬

Rachel: ‪Thanks Lucas.‬

Me: ‪And the long answer: According to what you want (when I asked), fiscal responsibility is important to you, that's why I recommend going for the free ride. My only concern (not knowing (COLLEGE #1)) is that they give you a good connection/recommendation/lead for possible jobs when you get out.‬

Rachel: ‪Yeah, I would teach 2 classes a semester there my 2nd year, so I'm sure someone would give me a good recommendation, but that's a good thing to consider.‬

Me: ‪That's great - that's what you need.‬

Rachel: ‪Ok Lucas, well... Thanks for the consult. Much appreciated‬.

POSTSCRIPT: Do not blame me if you do what I said and end up not liking it.  I AM NOT A DOCTOR.