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Helpful Tips for your MFA Program


Tips for Completing Your Certificate

It seems easy enough: complete the required courses and then you can apply for the Certificate you’ve been working toward.


You may always, of course, take the courses for the enjoyment, challenge, and camaraderie of working with other writers. If, however, you’d like to take the quickest path to completing it, here are some tips I used. You’ll probably come up with some of your own.


First of all, each course is offered once a year. Only courses prefixed MFA or L are credited toward the certificates. The requirements for each certificate are listed under the Forum MFA Café. I suggest downloading the certificate checklists. I also kept a word-processing file with further information on the courses, because, for example, several certificates require x-number of Literature courses in a variety of genres, and having the information in a file was handier than looking it up again and again.


When you’ve completed a course, be sure to add it to your own Checklist. If you add them to your record (under Courses/Add Record), you’ll have a way of double-checking what you’ve completed. That way, you’ll know what you’ve done and what you still need to do.


There are two required courses that everyone needs to complete: MFA700, Narrative Design, which starts in January, and MFA110, Syntax, in February. If you possibly can fit it into your schedule, try to complete these two as soon as you can rather than putting them off.


I've noticed there are two categories of courses that tend to fall to the wayside in the excitement of taking courses: literature courses and the Advanced Workshops. The number of required literature courses varies by certificate. Some courses are a week long, and others will run from two to eight weeks. Each one requires commenting on the reading assignment. A few will also call for writing “in the style of” the story.


The second category is the Advanced Workshops. Depending on the certificate, you’ll need either 16 weeks or 48 weeks of these. Completing this part of the Certificate requirements can take a long time too because the workshops depend on how many stories have been submitted. And before you can even submit a story, you’ll need to have completed both of the required courses, MFA110 and MFA700, which is the reason for completing these two as early as possible.

Whether you’re focusing on Fiction or Nonfiction Certificates, you’ll be generating new stories or essays you can submit to the Advanced Workshops. Since each workshop requires an original piece, whether written at WVU or elsewhere, you’ll need to submit either two or eight stories. The workshop cannot begin until there are eight stories and that has meant these workshops run once or twice a year.


So when you have a complete story or essay, submit it—all the directions are under the MFA tab. Please indicate whether it’s fiction or nonfiction.


Another question that comes up is about the Independent Study. This slot is listed under Optional/Independent Study so you can fill this slot with either Core and Foundation courses, an Independent Study on any topic of your choice, or a combination of the two. My view is that Independent Studies need to be on a topic that’s really important to you. These need to be either eight or sixteen weeks long. You’ll need to design your study, post it for an okay to proceed, and then complete each week’s work on your own. The total word counts are 12,000 for the eight-week one or 24,000 for the sixteen-week one.


Here are some further points to remember in working toward your certificate:

You can take courses once for credit.

No courses completed before 2015 count.

The courses have to be taken when they’re offered. With the exception of the Independent Study, none of the courses can be self-studies.

You are responsible for keeping track of the MFA and L courses you’ve completed. WVU recommends keeping copies of all your coursework.


So now you may be thinking you’ve been taking courses at WVU for a few years and you’re wondering what courses you’ve taken and what you still need for your certificate. If you haven’t done so already, download the checklist and fill it in. This is the same form you’ll use when you apply for the actual MFA Certificate you can frame and hang on your wall so it would be a good idea to fill it in as you complete courses.


If it happens that you know you’ve completed x and y and z courses, but aren’t sure, or you don’t know what you still need to do, I'll be happy to help you put that together.


I hope these tips help. I wish you well in completing your Certificate.


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