Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Grad School Search: Iowa vs. Johns Hopkins

It’s time for another edition of the Grad School Search. These are two of the top creative writing programs in the country, and I haven’t decided whether I’m applying to either of them or not.

University of Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa

Why I want to go: Iowa sounds like a completely random place to go to school, but it’s home to the Iowa Writers Workshop. Also known as the number one writing program in the country. Several of my professors at SU are graduates of the Iowa Writers Workshop, as are many of today’s successful writers. It’s the dream school for anyone who wants to be taken seriously as a writer. They have lots of prestigious visiting writers each year and top-notch faculty. I know I’d get an amazing education there.

Downsides: Competition. First of all, funding is super competitive. Full funding is awarded to the top 1/3 of each incoming MFA class, partial funding awarded to the second third, and the rest receive little to no funding. So competition is established even before you get there. There’s also the tiny matter of getting into the school, which gets several thousand applications each year. Also, Iowa is cold. And snowy. And far. Part of me wants to apply just so I can say that I did. And you never know…nothing’s impossible.

Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore, MD

Why I want to go: JHU has been referred to as the program that people who don’t get into Iowa go to. In other words, it’s good. It’s one of the top 10 best schools for a writing MFA. MFA students receive full funding in the form of teaching assistantships. In fact, teaching is required for the grad students, which I think I’d like. It’s also not too terribly far from home, though I’m not sure how crazy I am about Baltimore.

Downsides: It’s selective, only accepting 5 fiction writers a year. They also have a foreign language requirement, and it’s been a long time since I took Spanish. Also, the application fee is $75. I could buy five books with that money.

Just reading these over now, I can tell my enthusiasm isn't where it should be for either of these schools right now, mostly because of their attainability factor (which is not high). I'm debating whether or not to apply...both schools are at the top of every list I've seen, so I might give it a try just to see what happens.


  1. There's no hurt in applying, aside from the sanity in your soul with the cost of these applications! Although $75 isn't toooo bad. I know it's a lot, but compared others that I have heard it doesn't seem that unreasonable.

    I've been to Baltimore maybe two times. It's actually really nice once you figure it all out and get over the traffic. They have the water and all and I think you'd grow into loving it!

    I think you should apply at Iowa just to say you did and see if you could get in! There's nothing to lose, right?

    1. That's what I'm thinking, I really don't have anything to lose. I don't want to regret not applying later. I'm definitely going to have to narrow my list a little so my professors aren't writing a thousand recommendation letters, but I want to make sure my bases are covered.

      Aww Baltimore sounds nice (minus the traffic, of course!). I guess when I've thought of it, I get "Good Morning, Baltimore" stuck in my head, with the lyrics about rats on the street and flashers and bums, haha! Hairspray totally influences my everyday life. :p


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