Poets & Writers Magazine recently published the 2011 list of the “Top 50 MFA Programs.” Criteria used include job placement, selectivity, fellowship availability, teaching loads, and popularity (based on a survey of prospective applicants who indicated where they planned to apply).
The rankings have come under fire by a large group of creative writing faculty across the country, who wrote an open letter to Poets & Writers claiming that the study used specious methodology, including placing too much emphasis on the schools’ ability to provide financial aid to their students. These faculty offered their own two cents to students considering pursuing MFA programs: “Do your research through the programs you’re considering. If you are able to visit those programs, ask to sit in on classes and for the contact information of current and recent students. Talk to people you respect about different programs. Read work by the instructors.”
If you are looking into an MFA program in writing or other creative arts, we recommend perusing rankings but focusing on the above advice. Try to connect with students and alums at your schools of interest to ask important questions regarding the climate and culture of their programs. Faculty may have some useful contacts, and you can always use Alenda Links to contact Davidson alumni who have MFAs for advice.
At the end of the day, after all, you want to find the graduate program that is right for you!