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Frequently Asked Questions about the Program

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How does an MFA benefit a writer?

The MFA at Texas State will give you three years to experiment and grow as a writer. Your work will be carefully read and commented on by your peers, by a distinguished and widely published faculty, by a visiting Endowed Chair, and by a notable published author who will comment on your thesis manuscript. You will also have the chance to meet and study with 18 visiting writers––all of whom give two readings, hold a Q&A session, and teach a master class on poetry or fiction.

I've heard a lot about studio programs. What are these, and are they a better choice for young writers?

Studio programs primarily focus on workshop. At Texas State, our students take four workshops, but also take courses on literature and craft. We believe that in order to write literature, you have to read literature. Our program prepares you to be a better reader, a better writer and, if you apply for and are awarded a teaching fellowship, a better and more qualified teacher of literature and writing.

What about the argument that writing programs create a generic style?

Aesthetic diversity is a cornerstone of Texas State’s creative writing program. Faculty members teach and write in various modes, as do the students with whom you’ll workshop. We vary in age, ethnic and cultural identification, socioeconomic background, life experience, and taste in literature. You write whatever you choose to write. Your peers and teachers are there to help you achieve your own individual goals as an artist.

I didn't major in English as an undergraduate. Does this put me at a disadvantage?

No. Many of our students majored in other subjects and disciplines. Admission is based exclusively on the quality of your portfolio.

What are you looking for in the portfolio?

Your potential to develop as a writer.

Is there a separate application procedure for the Rose Fellowship?

No. All applicants are considered for all MFA scholarships. If you wish to receive a teaching assistantship, however, you’ll need to send a separate application packet to engassistantapp@txstate.edu.

Can I take both fiction and poetry workshops?

Unfortunately, no. Texas State requires that students specialize in one area. Students may take craft courses across genres, provided there is space available, but workshops are limited to those studying a specific genre. This allows the workshop to function at the highest possible level, both in the work put up for discussion and in the discussion itself. Our course in creative nonfiction, however, is open to fiction writers and poets in equal numbers. Fiction writers and poets also collaborate to produce our literary journal, Front Porch.

I write genre fiction. Is there a place for me at Texas State?

Our program does not focus on commercial genre fiction; we teach “literary” (character-driven) fiction, but have had many students produce work with a fantasty, magical realism, or science fiction bent. The delineation between “genre” and “literary” is not always clear, after all. Ultimately, the quality of your writing and your storytelling are what count. 

Are there a minimum number of classes I need to take each semester?

Students with assistantships must be enrolled full-time—that is, they must take a minimum of nine hours, or three classes, each semester and a total of eighteen hours, or six classes, each academic year. Each class counts for three hours of degree credit. Instructional assistants (IAs) must complete eighteen English credit hours in order to be promoted to a teaching assistant (TA) in the following year.

Students without assistantships may study part-time, taking one or two classes (three to six credits) per semester. Part-time students must complete the MFA degree in four years, rather than three.

I work in full-time in Austin. Is it possible to do the MFA part-time?

Yes, if you enroll part-time. Many of our students have held full-time jobs while pursuing their degree. 

I've heard about this study abroad program. Can I get credit toward my MFA by attending?

Yes. The English department at Texas State offers summer study in Ireland every year. Student participants will earn six credit hours abroad to go towards their degree.

If you are offered a teaching or instructional assistantship, we recommend that you meet with the department’s administrative assistant to discuss your degree plan and ensure that the summer session will not impact your full-time status during the academic year. That being said, many of our IA and TA students have studied in Ireland before, and it has not been a problem.

What best qualifies me for a teaching assistantship?

Applications for assistantships are very competitive. Please be as thorough as possible in providing all the material we request: university employment forms, transcripts from each four-year institution or program you attended, a resume or CV, three letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose.  Your statement of purpose, also called a teaching statement, is perhaps the most important document in your assistantship application. It should address your desire to teach, your qualifications to teach, and why you believe that you would be a superb freshman- and sophomore-level teacher. 

Is it possible to live on the assistantship stipend?

Living costs in San Marcos are reasonable for the area. It is possible to get a one-bedroom apartment for $800 a month or under; if you decide to live in San Marcos with a roommate, you might pay anywhere from $450-670 per month in rent. If you choose to live in Austin, your costs would be higher: one-bedroom apartments in South Austin range from $800-1,000, while a two-bedroom might cost $1,100-1,400 in total ($550-700 per roommate).

Many students work as instructional assistants during the summer to increase their income. (Summer work is not guaranteed, however.) Some students take out small student loans if they wish to live more comfortably. 

For more information on funding your graduate education, please see the website for the Financial Aid Office.

How much is tuition?

Click here to see tuition and fees for the upcoming semester. If you plan to enroll as a full-time student, please look under the column for “9” (i.e. nine hours); if you plan to enroll part-time, please look under the column for “3” or “6,” depending on whether you wish to take one or two classes per term.

If you are offered an assistantship or scholarship by the MFA program, you are eligible for the in-state tuition rate, which will be about 50% of the out-of-state rate.

What is the teaching load for the assistantship?

Instructional assistants (IAs) spend each semester helping an English professor with one of his or her survey classes, approximately 100-200 students. This may take the form of grading student essays, proctoring exams, assisting with classroom audiovisual equipment, or giving a lecture once each semester.

Teaching assistants (TAs) are instructors of record for their own freshman composition classes. They teach two classes of ENG 1310 in the fall semester and one class of ENG 1320 in the spring semester. Each class is limited to 21 students, and averages 19 students. 

Can you tell me more about your visiting writers series?

The Lindsey reading series brings eight writers annually.  Each writer gives a campus reading and signing, a public reading and signing, a closed-door Q&A with MFA students, and a master class in their genre (poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction). Our students have the chance to introduce authors at events, drive them around town, and even have dinner with the visiting writers. 

Why should I move to the Austin-San Marcos area?

San Marcos is an exciting, historic community in the heart of central Texas.  More than a college town, San Marcos is a close-knit community of independently owned restaurants, bars, coffee houses, and shops.  For nature enthusiasts, the San Marcos River—spring-fed, crystal clear, and accessible all throughout the city—is a recreational paradise for swimming, tubing, kayaking; the city also boasts Purgatory Creek, a gorgeous, widespread greenbelt for hikers.

Texas State is about half an hour south of Austin, where many of our students and faculty live. Austin has a reputation as a mecca of live music, quirky coffeeshops and bars, and festivals. The city is consistently ranked in among the top three to five cities in the country by any number of publications, for any number of reasons.  In August 2015, WalletHub ranked Austin as the best large city to live in within the U.S.  Check out other reasons why Austin is among the best places to live in the U.S.