Friday, September 6, 2013

Advice for Third Year MFA Students

1)    Make sure you have completed your Plan of Study. These are now online – go to MyFau and click on the “Graduate College” tab. The Plan of Study must be completed at least the semester before you plan on graduating (they should be completed after 18 credit hours for MFA students, and after 15 credit hours for MA students).

2)    Make an appointment with your advisor, me (!), to make sure everything is in order for your final year. Figure out which semester you are graduating. Review graduation deadlines. Don't forget to turn in your thesis topic approval form before registering for thesis hours. To register for thesis hours, please have your chair email me their permission. Don't forget to let me know how many you'd like to take.

3)    Meet with your thesis chair to go over graduation requirements and to set progress deadlines for your thesis project. In case you have misplaced their information, click here for faculty contact info.

4)    Take a look at your workshop stories, poems, and essays so far. Is there anything from among them that you can expand on or include within the thesis project?

5)    Start working on your CV or resume now. Ask peers, professors, and me for help.

6)    Head over to Career Development Services and see what help they have to offer for life after the MFA program.

7)    Read Khristian Mecom’s blog about publishing. Subscribe to the magazine Poets & Writers. Join the AWP while you still get the student rate. Consider going to the AWP Conference this year. See FAU's policy on graduate travel reimbursement - I know from experience that the sooner you get these requests in, the likelier it is you will receive funding.

8)    Begin looking into PhD programs or start browsing for jobs. Think about who you can ask for a letter of recommendation and ask them. Consider setting up an account with a Web site like Interfolio – they are an online database that will keep your CV, writing sample, letters of recommendation, and other employment application documents for you. They will also send them out to potential employers at your request. This costs about $20 for a year.

9)    Try not to freak out about graduating. Yes, it can seem overwhelming and scary, but then, so do all new experiences. Instead of becoming anxious, work on readying yourself for this next phase of your life. It might be beneficial to set up an appointment with FAU’s Counseling and Psychological Services - counseling is free for currently enrolled FAU students.

10)    This is your last year, so take full advantage of it. Create a writing group that meets every week or month. Set up a poetry reading for you and your peers. Attend all the readings you can. Wring out every last drop of the program. You’ll be happy you did. Start  by attending Oliver de la Paz's reading this Wednesday, 9/11! I hope to see you there.

Mary Sheffield is an alumna of FAU's MFA program, and the current English Graduate Advisor (contact her: Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Pank, The Florida Review, Monkey Bicycle, Fiction Southeast, and other publications.

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