Getting your Master of Fine Arts (MFA) is a life-changing moment. You might have prepared diligently for your studies, worked tirelessly to gain the necessary experience, and now you can finally call yourself an artist. But wait! Before you can really celebrate, you need to know what comes next.
While it can be exciting to find out which university you’ve been accepted to, this is not necessarily the end of your quest to become an artist. Deciding which program to apply for and then finding the time to apply are just some of the challenges you’re likely to face. Once you’ve graduated, it can take up to a year or more for your application to be evaluated and then approved or denied. During this time, you will not be paid and you will have to look for work placements and/or scholarships to make ends meet. So let’s examine how long it takes for your MFA to be decided.
Let’s begin at the very beginning. After you’ve done your research and you’ve found the right program for you, it’s time to apply. Congratulations! You’ve decided to pursue your MFA and everything is going according to plan. You’ve applied to the right university, found the right program, and have been accepted. Now, you need to deal with the administrative red tape and get your paperwork in order.
The first step will be to contact the admissions office and set up an appointment to meet with the department head or another academic staff member. During this initial meeting, you will need to sign a formal document accepting your admission to the university. You should have received this letter already, but just in case you missed it, here it is again.
Then, you will need to register for some courses. These are the fundamental building blocks of your MFA education. There are three types of courses you will need to take:
- Courses that you need for your major
- Courses that you need for the minor
- Auxillary courses that you need for the development of your craft
For example, you might need a painting course for your major and a photography course for your minor, but you might also want to take a literature course or a history course. It depends on what you want to study and what the university offers.
You will need to meet with the department head or another academic staff member to go over your schedule and find the right times for each course. This will be crucial for your studies and for any recommendations you make later in life. If you miss a class, you will not be able to make up the work at a later date. So take the time to plan your schedule carefully and attend all the classes you’re supposed to attend.
After you’ve taken the time to plan your schedule, it’s time to sit back and relax. You can now focus on your studies and knowing that you have everything you need. But wait! There’s more. Once you’ve completed your studies, you will need to find a job. But wait again! There’s more! Once you’ve found a job, you will need to look for a place to live. But wait again! There’s more! Wait, till you find a place to live, then you can look for a job that better suits your lifestyle. But what if you don’t find a job that you like? Then, you’re back to square one. Sounds like a stressful journey, right? Actually, it can be a very frustrating one.
After you’ve graduated, it can take up to a year before you hear back from the admissions office. During this time, you will not be paid and you will have to find work placements and/or scholarships to make ends meet. So remember, if you haven’t heard back from the admissions office in a year, call them again. But don’t be discouraged. Many students have found success after waiting multiple years for their MFA to be decided. But remember, the red tape does not disappear, it just moves to another office. And when it does, it probably means that you’ve fallen behind in your studies. This is a common and frustrating scenario. So be sure to keep your credentials up-to-date and be persistent. Also, if you’re planning to move away after you graduate, make sure to notify the admissions office in advance so they can make the necessary arrangements.
Now that you’re done with your studies, the administrative work is over and you can finally focus on your work. This is the part where you show off your new found knowledge and create something original and wonderful. So what do you do?
There are several options:
- Masters in Fine Arts show: This is the most common format for an MFA. You can choose to work on a specific project, such as a play or a novel, and put your skills to the test. If your work is accepted, you will then be assigned a professor who will work with you on developing your project. The advantage of this approach is that you will be able to tailor your studies to suit your existing skills. For example, if you’re a writer, you can take a Creative Writing course. If you’re an artist, you can take a Studio Art course. This way, you can ensure you get the most out of your studies. The disadvantage is that you might not be able to find the time to focus on your work. So if you want to be able to put your skills to the best use, you will have to set aside a lot of time for this pursuit. While there are no clear-cut rules, in general, it takes three to four years to complete an MFA program.
- Masters in Literature course: If your existing skills are in a different field, you might find it beneficial to study literature. For example, if you’ve studied economics and financial management, you might want to consider studying literature. There are several academic courses that you can take, such as:
- Critical Theory
- Comparative Literature
- Creative Writing
- Film Studies
- Interpretive Theory
The advantage of an MFA in literature is that it can lead to several different careers. If your studies are in a creative field, you can consider an MFA in theater or film. An MFA in film might also give you the opportunity to work in post-production or as an assistant director. If your existing skills are in a more academic field, you can choose to study literature, and once you’ve completed your studies, you can look for a job in an educational or governmental setting. The disadvantage is that this might not be the right choice for you if you want to work in a creative field. In this case, you will need to consider an MFA in visual art or design. An MFA in graphic design might also lead to a job in advertising or marketing, while an MFA in visual arts can be a stepping stone to several different creative positions.
Like with any new skill or hobby, practice makes perfect. While there are no specific guidelines on how to become a great writer, simply by reading a lot and writing everyday, you will improve your skills. If you still consider yourself a beginner a year after you’ve graduated, then perhaps it’s time to study a more specific field.
So what can you take away from this? Everything, actually. You can take away all the knowledge you need for your journey and even some you don’t. But regardless, you can take away something. You can take away the frustration of going through the administrative process and finding that the right program for you took even longer to get approved than you expected. You can take away that one year you spent studying and now you have a year of living expenses to look back on. And most importantly, you can take away that one year you spent finding the right program and preparing for studies. Now that you’re finally here, what are you going to do?