I’m starting my MFA in Photography this fall at Columbia College Chicago, but this time last year I was stressing about where I was going to go to graduate school and if I was going at all. I had spent the last three years looking up everything I could about this arduous process, and though I found some helpful tips, I found hardly nothing in the way of Photography and Visual Art MFA Programs. And, as helpful as tips for Creative Writing MFA applicants were, I went into this whole process blind, wishing I had some sort of help with the whole thing.
So, I’m going to do a series on how to get through the process in one piece, sanity and self-esteem intact
maybe. I’m going to tell you the things I wish I knew.
Now, this is just my experience. There are most likely other pieces of advice from others, and I may share some things that others might not have felt were necessary. Keep this in mind.
Well, here we go!
So, You Want to Go to Grad School
Pt. 1– Why Now?
I had decided my sophomore year of college that I wanted to be a professor of photography, and the only thing I knew beyond that was I needed an advanced degree. I figured because graduate school was a big deal, I would need to, y’know, be a big deal. I dived right in: I started reading and experimenting on my own, working on projects outside of my regular school work, and applying to exhibitions and competitions to build up my empty resume. While all of these things were good, and I’m really glad I did them, I missed a really important factor: my age.
What do you mean I’m not old enough?
I did not realize, until last fall, that most people take a break between undergrad and graduate school. I also discovered that a lot of programs prefer it this way. So, during my interviews, I was asked why grad school, and why now?
This is a very important question to ask yourself. Do you want to be a professor? If not, then you don’t really need the MFA. Are you going to graduate school because you’ve exhausted your personal resources, and you’re still feeling starved for knowledge? Or are you applying because you’re not sure what to do with yourself after undergrad?
Do you know this feel?
My ignorance on this topic actually helped me in the long run, because I was so adamant on going right away, I pushed myself to the limit, and I was ready to go. I felt I taught myself everything I could on my own, and I longed to be in an advanced and thoughtful art community, to take my work to the next level. I wanted to be a professor, and I wanted to be a damn good one, so it was time for me to keep pushing myself.
While you’re debating on going (or perhaps you’ve already decided,) ask yourself why it is you really want to go. Take a look at your portfolio and gauge your work– are you asking the right questions with your work? Are you trying to tackle contemporary ideas? Does your work feel “undergrad” in anyway?
It’s no easy decision, but I’m preaching to the choir.
I’m doing a series on the process of getting into an MFA program in Visual Arts and Photography, and I will be covering quite a few things, like what to expect on Graduate Portfolio Day (and why you NEED to go,) how to choose the right school for you, how to nail an interview, and how to decide, and anything else I remember from my hellish eight months of applying, waiting, interviewing, and choosing.
Right now, keep looking around the internet for help. You’ve probably stumbled across this post while looking for help, and I’m glad I can give some advice. Keep an eye on this blog, as I will be posting tips once a week. Good luck.
As always, Happy Shooting!