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MFA Applications 101: A free 10-day course on everything you need to know to apply to an MFA in creative writing

Do these sound familiar?

Maybe you’re losing sleep over whether to contact that prof for a letter of recommendation after eight years of radio silence. Maybe you’re baffled by the advice to submit your “best work” in your writing sample. Or stymied by messy program webpages, mismatched app requirements, and creeping deadlines.

The fact is that MFA applications are a slog, and dozens of top programs in the U.S. have acceptance rates lower than Harvard Law. If you’re finding the process stressful or overwhelming, you’re in great company.

We’d like to help—so we’ve compiled the most urgent questions from first-time MFA applicants to bring you MFA Applications 101. The course breaks down each element of your portfolio separately, and tackles the anxieties of the application process head-on, from the great MFA vs. NYC debate to financial planning to post-application blues. We’ve included a ton of links and recommendations for further reading, as well as free spreadsheet templates for researching schools and tracking your progress.

The course is broken up into bite-sized chunks, and lessons are emailed to you every day at 7AM (ET) sharp. We’re hoping that you’ll roll out of bed and read a lesson while you drink your morning coffee—and, at the end of ten days, come away armed with the know-how and resources to approach the application process with confidence.

MFA Applications 101 is led by Kenzie Allen. Kenzie is a poet, editor, educator, photographer, designer, and literary activist. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Michigan’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program (2014), where she received Hopwood Prizes in poetry and non-fiction. She is currently a PhD candidate in English and Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. She is the recipient of the 2014 Littoral Press Poetry Prize, a 2013 Aspen Summer Words Emerging Writers Fellowship from the Aspen Writers’ Foundation, and a Zell residency fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center.

Here's what a few people had to say about the course:

“This course is amazing. Most helpful thing I've found since beginning the process.” “Kenzie struck a great tone: at times funny and optimistic, but always efficient in the knowledge she provided.” “It was simple to read for five minutes before heading off to work every day, and the supplemental material was great.” “A clear and concise way to explain the MFA app process.” “It’s reassuring to receive advice from an organization and someone who’s been through the process.” “A solid overview in the emails with links to investigate more, if interested.” “Kenzie was great! Super honest and kind in her writing.” “I really enjoyed how it was broken down into digestible topics and the overall encouraging and understanding tone of the writing.” “I love that it's so conversational; it makes the advice even more valuable.” “Kenzie is a wonderful guide and respite from this self-loathing process.” “Thanks for the time and thought you put into this. Very helpful.”

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Sign up for MFA Applications 101

If you have any questions, feel free to shoot us an email at editors@literistic.com. You can also tweet at us: @literistic.


Who is this course for?

Applicants to Master of Fine Arts programs in creative writing in the United States and Canada.

Does the course cost anything?

Nope! It’s free for good, just like all our 101 email courses.

How can I provide feedback?

Just reply to one of our emails. It’ll go straight to us.

Who are you?

We’re a small team of writers who manage Literistic, an online service that curates a list of literary publications, contests and fellowships every month. You can subscribe to Literistic here, and you can read more about us here.

I have discovered a typo.

Oh no! Just shoot us an email at editors@literistic.com.

I have discovered a typo and I am going to be kinda shitty about it.

Just email us at not-our-email@not-a-real-inbox.com.

Any questions? Shoot us an email at editors@literistic.com, or send us a message on Facebook.