Is a Low-Residency MFA a Good Fit for a Recent College Grad?
Did you know? Alma College offers the first and only low residency Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program in the state of Michigan. A “low residency” model is one in which brief periods of in-person class time are sandwiched between much longer intervals of distance learning.
The low residency model of the Alma College MFA in Creative Writing makes the degree accessible for students long-established in, or even retired from, their careers. However, the format can also be a good option and a tremendous benefit for recent college graduates who wish to pursue the degree as their next step after completing their undergraduate studies.
Alma MFA faculty member Anna Clark did this when earning her own MFA, and program director Sophfronia Scott discussed it with her.
Sophfronia Scott: What did getting your MFA mean for you?
Anna Clark: It was life changing. I started my MFA program about six months after graduating from my undergraduate program, and it was the only one I applied to. I think I knew intuitively where I belonged. Most significantly, of course, it made me a better writer. I always loved writing. I knew it was what I wanted to do with my life, but I had kind of coasted on having some natural facility with language and knowing what a pretty sentence is and all that. What the program gave me was a chance to dig much deeper into thinking about structure and narrative voice and what it takes to write something of substance.
It also made me a better reader, certainly by introducing me to just an unbelievable array of writers of fiction and poetry and nonfiction– writers from all over the world and throughout history which was, of course, imaginatively very exciting and also gave me an opportunity to learn how to articulate how things work. I learned to be able to read in a way where I could understand how and why a certain effect was being created by the writer, or why the work was affecting me or wasn’t—why it didn’t work. All this helped me with my writing and made my reading more exciting.
And finally, my MFA just gave me a really amazing community. I knew I wanted to be in a low residency program because I wanted to be around a more diverse array of writers, people who are multigenerational. I’d just gotten my undergraduate degree. I didn’t want to be in the same kind of campus environment full time, and I also wanted to learn how to be a writer in my real life instead of in a cocoon, though that’s beautiful too. It was incredibly wonderful to connect with so many amazing, talented, exciting people who to this day more than a decade later are still part of my life. So being in a low residency program was a good bet and I have no regrets.
SS: I’m glad you mentioned when you started your MFA because so many of the students who do come to low residency programs are older students who’ve been doing other things already for several years. It’s good to know that students can come sooner, right out of their undergrad, and that it can work for them too.
AC: It was great for me because I was graduating college and there was a lot I wanted to do with my life, and doing a low residency program gave me a way to do multiple things. I moved to Boston. I was living and working in a kind of intentional community there and I was having a chance in my program to work on my fiction writing to become a better writer. I wasn’t the only younger one there, it was multigenerational which is what I was looking for. I wanted to be around different kinds of people with different kinds of lived experience.
SS: Thank you for that. I think it would be helpful for a lot of students who are seniors right now in their undergrad programs and thinking about what they want to learn next.
The Alma College Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing offers the opportunity to enter an artistic community in which you will read deeply, study and hone your writing craft, and participate in energetic discussions that will help you see your poems, stories, essays, and memoirs in the context of current issues and events. Learn more at alma.edu/mfa.