Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Grad School Search: Vanderbilt vs. Memphis

I've always wanted to live in Tennessee, so naturally I'm checking out schools with creative writing MFA programs there!

Vanderbilt University
Nashville, TN
Why I want to go: Can you say, dream school? Because this is mine. I've wanted to live in Nashville for years, and Vanderbilt is right in the heart of it. I would be able to hang out in my favorite city every day, which is huge for me. The program is super small, which means TONS of individual attention from the professors, which I need. Full funding is given to everyone in the program, and some people are even awarded a scholarship to extend their study into a third year of grad school.
Downsides: They only accept six people into the program a year: 3 fiction, 3 poetry. So my chances are slim to none. The writing program is relatively new, so I'm not quite sure of its quality in comparison to the well-established ones at other schools. Finding a place to live would probably be expensive, too. Plus, I would be far away from home, and I'm not sure how well I would do with that.
University of Memphis
Memphis, TN
Why I want to go: It's a well-respected program with amazing faculty. One of my favorite short story writers, Richard Bausch, taught there until this year. One day when I was in the Writers Institute at school, I heard two professors talking about how a student was going to turn down acceptance to Memphis to go to a less-established program, and they were both disappointed with him. Most of this springs from my desire to get to Tennessee, which probably isn't fair to myself as a writer who is looking for the best program.
Downsides: Distance from home is major. The Memphis website is super hard to navigate; the creative writing page redirects to a Facebook page with little information, so I don't have a ton to go on with this one. Looking at it now, this might be one of the programs I eliminate from my list unless I can get more information from one of my professors about it. The school's website just isn't user-friendly enough for me to get the information I need.

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