My MFA: Would I Do It Again?

I have an MFA in Interdisciplinary Art from Goddard College.

Why Did I Get an MFA?

death holds an hour glass with a man stuck inside

I used to teach commercial web design classes in New York City. A student in one of my classes turned out to be a dean at a well known college in Manhattan. She liked my teaching style, and invited me to apply for an open position at her school.

I sent her my resume at her request, and then I was promptly rejected, because I had no college degree. Opportunities like that slipped out of my reach often, because I didn’t complete college. It made me see the value of earning a degree, and inspired me to action.

I was a college drop out who went back to school in my thirties. Skills open doors, but the degree is the key that unlocks the lock. I wanted an MFA because:

  1. I wanted to continue learning.
  2. I wanted to experience graduate education.
  3. I wanted to dedicate myself to a life in the arts.
  4. I wanted to be able to teach on the college level.
  5. I wanted a terminal degree in the arts.

You can do most of the 5 things listed above without an MFA.

  • You can always keep learning. Nothing is stopping you.
  • You can sort of experience graduate level education by attending continuing education courses or certificate programs. You might also be able to audit classes without getting college credit.
  • You can dedicate yourself to a life in the arts at any time in your life.
  • You can teach on the college level if you’re really good at what you do, or at least really known for what you do.
  • You can’t have a terminal degree in the arts without successfully graduating from a graduate program.

Would I Do It Again?

Yes, I would certainly get my MFA again, but I’d do it differently. Graduate school, for me, was more amazing in my expectations than it was in reality. That’s not to say I didn’t meet nice people or have a positive experience overall, but the adventure you want is rarely the one you’ll have. If I had it to do over, I’d have gone to a less expensive program, and focused on specific skills training (likely in applied music).

I Wouldn’t Pay for a Name.

An NYU alumni told me she got so little from NYU’s art program, because she felt it was disorganized and didn’t deliver what it promised. Her education wasn’t at all what she expected, yet she says people’s eyes still widen with positivity when they see NYU on her resume.

I Would Pay for Services.

If I could do it again, I would look for a school with outstanding student services—both while students are matriculated and after they’ve graduated. Job leads and an actively supportive alumni network really are worth their weight in gold. Universities and state schools often have an open door policy for graduates to return and access those services.

Would I Really Do It Again?

Honestly, I think I’d have been better off investing my MFA tuition money on a down payment for buying real estate. Owning property would have given me a place to live and work, and I could’ve sold it (likely for a profit) if I wanted or needed. Try as you might, you can’t live in an MFA.

Next: Types of Art School Student Loan Defaulters