MFA Applicant FAQ
What sort of funding opportunities are there at Mason?
Mason is able to offer two paths of potential funding: Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTAs) and Graduate Professional Assistantships (GPAs).
Students note on their applications whether they want to be considered for a GTA position and submit the required additional documentation. GTAs spend their first year tutoring in Mason's Writing Center and taking a course in Composition Pedagogy; together, along with a thorough support system, students are prepared to enter the classroom in their second year. GTAs teach two sections of 101 in the fall and, in the spring, can opt to take the Literature Pedagogy course while teaching 101 (comp) and/or 201 (lit). Based on need, MFA students may also have opportunities to teach 396 Intro to Creative Writing in their third year.
Meanwhile, limited GPAs are available for students who may be interested in gaining other types of professional experience by supporting the program's publishing practice or literary citizenship efforts. For example, GPA positions have been created to support editorial and research initiatives with Poetry Daily, the management of Stillhouse Press, the administration of the Cheuse Center, and coordinating social media for the Creative Writing Program. GPAs are a new feature and the actual opportunities/job descriptions may change from year to year. For more information, email the Creative Writing Program director.
Both GTAs and GPAs work 20 hours/week and receive a stipend, full tuition waiver (up to 18 credits per academic year equalling nearly $34,000 over the course of the program), and optional health care coverage. On average, about 65% of the program's students receive funding.
Another form of support is fellowships for rising third-year students. All MFA second-year students are eligible, but it is a competitive application process. They are intended to provide recipients time, "head" space, and support to focus on their thesis. Four such fellowships are granted: Fiction Thesis Fellowship, Nonfiction Thesis Fellowship, Poetry thesis Fellowship, and the Heritage Fellowship for Poetry.
Finally, the Cheuse Center provides support for students whose thesis research requires travel abroad. Information about recent Cheuse Center Fellows can be found here.
When will I hear something from Mason regarding my application to the MFA program?
Once Graduate Admissions receives an application packet, it is processed for basic eligibility (for example, to make sure applicant graduated from a four-year, accredited college) and completeness (for example, to make sure the all-important recommendation letters have been submitted). The Program Director is then informed when applicants are complete and ready for review; then, applications in each concentration are submitted to their respective review committees (fiction, poetry, or nonfiction). As you can imagine, this review period takes time, but applications that are submitted by the Priority Deadline are first in the pipeline.
Decisions may take several weeks depending on the volume of applications and the timing of decisions with regards to TAships. Obviously, meeting the priority deadline means that your application will receive priority review, and you'll hear from us relatively soon. The Program Director will send out an email of congratulations to those applicants who are accepted into the program. A second email will also be sent from the Office of Graduate Admissions. Then, depending on our review of TA requests, an offer of support may be made or an interview scheduled between the applicant and program administrators.
What is the next step once I hear I am accepted into the program?
As soon as you are admitted into the program, you can indicate your Intent to Enroll in the application system. If that decision is based on the outcome of funding decision, you may wait until that process unfolds, an offer is made, and you agree to the offer's terms. You may hear directly from the Program Director via email or phone, but any funding offer isn't official until it's been made through and documented in the application system. Otherwise, next steps and instructions are clearly stated on the application system and/or via communication from the Office of Graduate Studies.
When can I visit the campus and take a tour?
Can you? We highly recommend it and welcome you! The Office of Graduate Admissions conducts periodic Graduate Information Sessions, including a schedule that includes weekends, for applicants to learn more about Mason and take a tour. Their schedule can be found on the OGA website. However, please be in touch directly with the Program Director or the English Department's Graduate Admissions Coordinator to schedule a tour, sit in on a class, meet with faculty, and talk with current students. Graduate school is a serious decision that can impact professional, financial, and familial situations -- typically all three! -- and we take that decision-making process seriously. Visiting us can be one of the most important factors in making your decision.
Unfortunately we don't admit, waitlist and deny everyone at once. There may be a few waves of correspondence that go out to our applicants. Applicants should check their GMU account for updates regarding application status and decisions.
What employment opportunities are there at Mason for MFA students?
Beyond the GTA and GPA opportunities supported by the Creative Writing Program, other colleges, departments, and programs at Mason often look for teaching or research assistantships and open the search to MFA students. They may either be posted on our creative writing listserv, or advertised on our Human Resources site: jobs.gmu.edu. Many students also find employment or adjunct opportunities at our local community college, Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), with its various campuses. Click here for NOVA's HR site.
If I am not a TA candidate now, can I be considered for a TA position in the future?
Yes, you can apply for and be considered for a position in your second or third year. You will be applying along with other interested MFA applicants and students. For those TAs who desire to teach, you must complete the ENGH 615 pedagogy course and have completed 18 graduate credits before you can enter the classroom. However, taking the class and the 18 graduate hours will not guarantee a teaching slot.
Can I transfer credits that I earned at another institution?
Transfer of credit requests are completed after admission and matriculation to our program. Once you join Mason and settle in, contact our Graduate Academic Coordinator to discuss limits and also the reduction of credit for an earned masters degree. Up to 23 credits can be reduced based on the details of previously earned master's degrees.
Where can I find housing for the Fall? Are there housing options on campus for graduate students?
Access to the creative writing listserv is very important for new students as we occasionally post housing opportunities there. We also have on-campus graduate housing at Masonvale located on Mason's Fairfax campus. There are typically dozens of near-to-campus rental opportunities at any given time easily searchable through an app like Zillow. One tip is to follow the lines of Mason shuttle routes radiating out from campus for more affordable housing options that still make for an accessible commute. Shuttles serve areas south of campus to the VRE station in Burke, west to the Manassas Mall and Sci-Tech Campus, northeast to the Vienna metro terminus of the Orange Line, and northwest-ish to Fair Oaks Mall and Fair Oaks Center.