How to get into an MFA Program
Attempt to study for the LSAT. Fail all of your Logical Reasoning practice tests. Decide that your Reading Comprehension score is okay, but that your Analytical Reasoning score is pathetic. Don’t mention any of this when your parents ask how the studying is going. Tell them it’s going well, tell them you’re making progress. Don’t tell them you pushed back the exam date. Shove the thick practice books into a corner in your closet. What do they know, anyways? Watch the dust gather. Pray for a miracle.
Hurricane Irma will come crashing in on the weekend of your exam. Thank the universe, or God, or just thank Irma. And then, when you realize you’re being self-centered, apologize for saying “thank you.” Know that no number of exams could possibly justify the damage. Spend the weekend in a shelter, sleeping on an inflatable mattresses in a stairwell with your family. Watch from the shatter-proof windows as the trees rumble and shake. Watch the wind take everything in its wake. Then, when the power goes out, don’t watch anything at all.
Drive home with your family two days later, once it has passed. At home, flip on light switches before remembering Irma took your power; that it took all of the power in Florida.
When your long-distance boyfriend comes to save you, don’t fight it. Life is hard enough when you have AC and warm water to shower with. Drive away to Georgia with him, stay at his apartment until the power comes back on—it will take three weeks. Bring your little brother with you. Know that he couldn’t possibly handle not having power, either. Your parents will stay and make sure no one breaks into the house, that no one thinks it’s abandoned.
On the eight-hour drive to Georgia, your boyfriend will ask you this question: “What you would do with your life if you could do anything in the world, and money wasn’t a concern?”
Think about this a while. List your top 3: tour guide, flight attendant, creative writing professor.
Decide that law school is not for you. Thank Irma again, for making it possible to get a refund on the exam. Decide that you can do anything with your life. Decide that the money will come if you do something you love. Decide reading and writing is what you love, decide you want to spend your life surrounded by it. Research graduate school options, learn you want to attend an MFA program. Find a website that ranks schools. Jot down the names of schools offering an MFA in creative nonfiction. Make a list of requirements: two recommendation letters, statement of purpose, 20-page writing sample.
Realize you have a lot of writing to do. Panic. Then, when you recover, search old journals for stories worth telling. Type these stories out. Avoid feeling frustrated when you get off to a rough start. Breathe, walk away from your desk, go to the gym, come back to it later. Notice something magical happen when you do. Notice your stories actually start to sound good. Pat yourself on the back. Know any grad school would be lucky to have you.
Re-read your stories. Realize they’re dead. Make a note to yourself: lifeless. Panic. know you will never get accepted into a graduate program. Know you’ve wasted your time. Know it’s all over. Toss your journals into your closet, next to the pile of LSAT practice books.
Wake up and read your stories the next day. You’re getting really obsessive, your mom will say. Your Dad will notice you haven’t been eating dinner at the table. Don’t pay this too much attention. You don’t have much time left. Beg your kindest friends to read your stories. Breathe a sigh of relief when they marvel at them. Tell yourself there’s hope. Tell yourself to take it easy. Sleep like a baby that night.
Wake up the next day with doubt, again. Tell yourself your friends lied. Realize your stories suck, your friends were just being nice. Develop, out of sheer frustration, an all-consuming determination. Spend a month polishing your work. Reading it over and over again. Doubting it, loving it, doubting it again. Then ultimately, understand you’ve done all that you can do.
Close your eyes. Click submit.
Then, forget the applications. All eight of them. Forget the hundreds of dollars you spent on application fees. Forget the hours editing, re-reading, doubting. Tell yourself you don’t care. Pretend you don’t want it that badly. Pretend you won’t be crushed if you’re rejected.
Hold on to a sliver of hope, despite yourself.
Months later, wipe the grease off your fingers from the cheesy bread you’re eating so that you can answer the call from the unknown number. Scream a little when you hear the words, “You’re accepted.”