Low-Residency MFA Programs

I’ve written a little bit before about my experience in Seton Hill University’s MFA program. A low-residency degree is a good fit for me, due to my job and mortgage and family, but it’s not for everyone. If you like working independently, online learning, and intermittent travel, then a low-residency degree is a great option. However, if you need face-to-face contact and constant encouragement from classmates and faculty, a low-res design may be a poor fit. MFA programs—particularly in fiction—are uniquely well-suited to a low-residency model, but other types of degrees wouldn’t work this way. I’m extremely happy with my choice of SHU’s program. I’ve learned so much and worked with fabulous people, both faculty and students, and my graduating cohort is a tight-knit bunch full of encouragement and creativity. SHU’s degree specifically focuses on Writing Popular Fiction, which is perfect for the types of writing I do. Literary fiction or poetry writers should look elsewhere, but if it’s a sideline (and I do write a fair bit of literary fiction as well) this is still a good program. I can track the improvement of my writing over the course of the first half of the program, and my rate of publication acceptance has increased .5%.

If you’re considering a graduate degree in creative writing, decide whether you want to attend school traditionally or not. Furthermore, a low-residency MFA is not the same as an online degree program but should be seen more as a mixed-mode learning option with face-to-face class time compressed into several shorter blocks of time rather than spread out over an entire term. SHU’s MFA involves attending six week-long residencies, where you may wind up doing coursework or attending events that relate to your studies for up to sixty hours for each of those weeks. Thus to call it just an “online” program is super misleading, in my estimation.

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