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Need advice on choosing an MFA program

Discussion in 'Education and Career Development' started by Conner Jones, Feb 13, 2019.

  1. Conner Jones

    Conner Jones Member

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    hello all,

    So I have been lucky enough to be accepted by two awesome colleges and I am having the difficult task of choosing between them. A great problem to have... but still a hard choice.

    The two places are NIU and U of I. Both have a lot of merits to their curriculum and both promise to keep me busy doing real world productions. Both have classes on automated lighting and programming with them. Both have significant connections.

    However, at NIU I’m near enough to Chicago to start building a career there while in grad school. U of I is in a small town, but it connects me to the network of alumni’s that they have, which is significant and wide spread. Not sure where to go on this issue.

    Does anyone know these two schools or have any advice on what to look for?
     
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  2. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    I've been at both on several occasions, and actually have worked at both (small consulting projects) over the years. I don't know the reputation of the current faculty and staff. I'd say U of I (I assume you are talking Urbana Champaign) has better facilities. It is just 50 minutes less from NIU to Chicago, and there is good Amtrak service to UIUC.

    I think I would rather live in Urbana-Champaign than Dekalb for restaurants, culture, recreation, and so on. Much less of an agricultural community - though that might be attractive to some.

    I'm glad I long past that decision. Best wishes.
     
  3. gafftapegreenia

    gafftapegreenia CBMod CB Mods

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    Who’s giving you more money?
     
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  4. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    Which one is going to cost the least amount of money and time ?. In the long run, possibly the only reason for the MFA is to teach and simply having it at XX vs. YY isn't going to matter too much. If you can do a 2 year vs. a 3 year, do that with the time spent in year 3 actually working, which is more important long term.
     
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  5. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    I dont think I'd go that far. Some MFA programs open doors to production opportunities other than academia.

    And I neglected to ask the OP if this is focused on design and what area, tech, or other field. The decision should consider the individual faculty strengths. Not institution average.
     
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  6. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    This.....

    Added to that how much student loans are you ignoring over these 3 years. Personally, U of I would be my pick, Krannert is well worth it.... but you already knew that.

    Finally, the Chicago theatre scene is still pretty small and tight... and somehow still dominated by Yale alum....

    If I were to go to grad school I'd either push for Cal Arts or Yale and thats about it, and only do it for the Rolodex. The connections you make in your MFA are way way more valuable then anything you learn in a classroom.
     
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  7. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    YMMV but I learned a LOT spending a morning a week for three years with Ming Cho Lee and Michael Yeargan in a classroom. A lot. And that's just that class.
     
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  8. Colin

    Colin Well-Known Member

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    There's some truth to all the input so far, but like Bill I'd hesitate to characterize the degree program as ONLY a route to teaching or professional connections. People who treat it that way may wind up disappointed and jaded about their experience, because that's just not a great value considering you can take alternative routes into the profession that you don't have to sign loans for (even college teaching - I was full time, if lower salary, before I got my MFA). At the MFA level you will be (or else don't consider that school) working one-on-one or close to it with faculty mentors. You should know each other and be invested in each other as intimately as any colleagues possibly could be. The faculty should be interested in assisting you, personally, as you develop more skills in lighting, yes, but also as you develop a robust, independent capacity for research and self-criticism. This is not a level achieved in undergrad. It's really a completely different experience. The individuals you'll work with really matter - not just their own accomplishments and connections, but also their readiness and willingness to mentor you specifically. It's a really personal decision. So how well do you know the faculty at these two schools? Do you know (personally, not "know of") anyone they've mentored? You can't make an informed decision from a distance. Before you make your choice you should have conversations with them over phone if not in person. If the faculty are "meh..." about working with you or vice versa then their program is probably a poor choice for you even though it may be a great choice for others. And guess what else tends to go with a graduate faculty that really wants to work with you? A better financial package and more access to work opportunities.
     
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  9. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    No doubt about that... Ben Sammler too.
     
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  10. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    And a long list of others. I consider myself very, very fortunate to have been exposed and mentored by so many tops-in-their-field people. And also gratitude tomy undergraduate mentors - for doing so much and helping to prepare me for Yale. Lucky stars. I only hope that I have made a tiny bit of the same difference for others asa result of my work.
     
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