1. Treez77
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    Treez77 New Member

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    College

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Treez77, Mar 15, 2010.

    I have just realized how much I like to write, in fact I hope to make a career out of it. I really think going to college will help with that goal, but I am a little lost on how where I should go. Does anyone have any college recommendations. Any schools that you have found to be very good, and help in writing?
     
  2. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Do some research, find which writers are in residence/lecturing/workshopping and where. Most universities that offer creative writing programs have writers-in-residence, so find one you respect/want to learn from and aim for that. Otherwise, a creative writing class is a creative writing class, more or less, and there are plenty of threads outlining why it is/isn't a good idea to do them.
     
  3. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    This may sound silly, but MIT has an excellent writing program. (I think they decided that, hey, they're as good as any other school in science and technology, so why not go whole-hog in the humanities as well?) I mean, they have Sheriann Lewitt, Junot Diaz and Joe Haldeman as professors, and the writing classes I've taken there have been quite good.

    Also, where else can you go to get a Bachelor of Science in Creative Writing?

    'Course, I'm biased. But it really is a good school.
     
  4. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Wow, Junot Diaz. Go there. Seriously...
     
  5. Dante Dases
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    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'll offer you this piece of advice as a warning: a creative writing course will not help you make your way through to being a published, professional writer. If you want my opinion on those courses, they can be very interesting, but they act as little more than ways of exposing you to critique and new forms of writing. To a point, I'd say they're degrees to indulge in rather than offer you any real prospects.

    It is my opinion, though. I know plenty of people who are doing creative writing degrees and really enjoying them, and as degrees go they're as enjoyable a subject as I could hope to study. But in practical terms, they unfortunately count for very little. You'd be better off doing a standard English degree which will give you strong job prospects and writing on the side, rather than do a creative writing degree.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    College helps you become a more rounded person, and that will certainly help you as a writer. But it's a huge financial and time commitment, and recouping what you put into it is a long shot, particularly if your goal is to become a writer.

    Some professions demand a college degree. Writing does not, unless you are writing about a topic that demands credentials for your readers to pay any attention. That is rarely, if ever, te case with fiction.

    On a side note, I have to disagree with HeinleinFan about MIT. Granted, I probably was there quite a while before she was. The professor who taught the creative writing classes I attended was Peter Elbow, one of the principle proponents of the freewriting exercise. The classes were disorganized and virtually useless, I'm sorry to say. Participation was encouraged but not strongly, and the feedback from both students and instructors consisted solely of empty praise and at best hazy criticism.

    They were a fun classes, but not useful ones.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    as noted above, a college degree will not help you to become a published author... and most of the successful authors [both contemporary and throughout history] never took any writing courses at all...

    in the publishing world, a degree in writing/literature only helps if you want to be an editor...
     
  8. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    Interesting. The admins must have changed things between your time at MIT and my own -- the writing classes I've had there have been reasonably useful, in the sense of a) making students write a fair amount and b) teaching the craft. In the Autobiography class Bill Corbett teaches, for example, we were writing a focused piece every two weeks or so, if I recall correctly.

    *shrug* At any rate I enjoyed the classes, and thought some of them helpful, and I've heard good things about some of the other writing classes offered. But I can't deny that I've been writing for a while, so I am not rating the MIT writing classes as though they were "introductory" courses. Most of them seem to assume that you know something about writing already.
     
  9. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, the school of "write every day and read a lot". Tuition is free. You just have to come to the keyboard every day with self-discipline to stay put honing the craft of writing. No SAT or ACT scores need to be submitted.
     
  10. MsMyth71
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    MsMyth71 Senior Member

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    I grew in unfathomable ways as a writer in undergrad. But, I had a good GPA and full funding, so I wasn't left with much of a bill by the end (4k in student loans for 4 years).

    I went in with NO vocabulary for critique, no real writing instruction (save for an intro class from 10 years prior). Though I had experience in freelance, I hit a wall, needed instruction and got it. I was humble enough to admit when I'd gone as far as I could go w/o a mentor type situation.

    But . . . this doesn't always work for everyone. I've heard a LOT of horror stories from people about how terrible their "intro to creative writing" classes were. It broke them down and they gave up altogether until they found their own groove. There are a lot of bad teachers out there, failed writers who need to tear down students in order to build themselves up. It happens a lot. I had one such instructor and ended up dropping the course and trying again the next year (with much success).

    At the graduate level, you focus heavy on workshops and form/technique.

    I would absolutely check out schools that interest you. Please do your research. ratemyprofessor.com was invaluable to me in undergrad. I knew who to avoid by reading student commentary on professors. You learn to weed out the disgruntled students who were lazy and lame and find recurring flaws and merits on some of the teachers.

    Look up faculty, see what they've published. If you can read their work at the library, go for it. It could give you insight.

    But, also keep in mind that you'll be dealing with some egos. Some writers tend to get into a "know it all" mentality. "I know better than you about MY writing," and they never grow or take risks. They refuse to drift outside of their comfort zone and end up stagnant. If you're going to enter into a program, go for it with gusto. Fail miserably. Fall flat on your face. Pick yourself up again. Write write write.

    I enjoyed undergrad immensely. :)

    Good luck with whatever you decide!
     
  11. InkDream
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    InkDream Senior Member

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    Any college will help to some extent. The first two years are your basics (math, English, phys ed requirements). You get to the meat of your degree the last two years, this is when you work on your major (creative writing, English lit. or journalism, for instance). So start looking around for colleges with strong programs in those areas and you'll be well on your way. Don't be afraid to call and talk to their counselors/academic advisors with questions, that's what they're there for.

    Good for you. ;)
     
  12. MCWhite
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    MCWhite Contributing Member

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    I'll be blunt and say that going to college and paying 4 years of tuition for a creative writing degree is a massive mistake, in my opinion. You'd be better off going to school, getting a more practical degree in a field where you can actually earn a little money, and work on writing in your spare time. Everyone wants to make a career out of writing, few people actually do, in the same way that everyone believes they're the next Faulkner or King or whoever, and simply aren't. I'm not trying to discourage you: If you want to be a writer, be a writer, but prepare yourself so that in the event you don't succeed, you have a degree that will allow you to have a steady, stable career.
     
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  13. Reicheru
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    Reicheru Member

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    ^ I agree with this. ^
    I think it better to take something like English with creative writing courses as optional modules. It will stand you in better stead when you come out the other side and need a real job.
    Your writing career may take a long time to turn into something you can do full time. You want to be doing something relatively fulfilling (and not be stuck at McDonalds for the rest of your life) while you wait until that time may or may not come.
     
  14. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    And if despite our good advice (pat's self on the back, ha) you still want to do the creative writing in college thing, and assuming you have the grades/test scores/money/and Mojo, I'd recommend Bard College for the undergraduate degree and the Iowa Writers' Workshop (at U. of Iowa) for master's degree.
     
  15. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi Tree.
    There is some perfectly valid advice here about doing a practical course because of the difficulty in finding work (especially as a writer).

    However, don't be put off. If writing is your real love, and you have the money/time/intelligence/drive that being a committed student will take, go for it.

    My first degree was Social and Economic History. It didn't stop me taking a Master's degree in a different subject, or getting work as a journalist. Nor does it relate much to my work now. BUT it certainly was useful in more ways that I'll bore people with here. Interestingly enough, a recent survey in the UK done by The Times showed that there was a disproportionately high number of top managing directors in major UK companies who had degrees in history!

    Now I know everyone will wring their hands and say that times have changed, blah blah. But a student who loves his/her subject, gets a really good class of degree and makes the most of all the opportunities offered at that university (and I'm saying this as someone who is a university teacher, for my sins), will not need to worry as much as a student who is buckling under parental/economic/whatever pressure to study something that they FEEL NO AFFINITY with, IMO.

    For crying out loud, if you can't get enough money as a writer AT FIRST (because you've got this dream, right? These things take time, and you're entitled to have high ideals, you are young, presumably) there are still plenty of jobs in teaching, or you can SEE THE WORLD with a TESOL diploma added to your degree--how's that for fun? :)
     
  16. Reicheru
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    Reicheru Member

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    This is also very true. I said, somewhere above, take a more practical course but remember I don't know you! Nor does anyone else here. Never take a course just because someone else thinks it's a good idea/it's what your parents want etc. My friend only went to university because her dad made her and she had a major (couldn't be left alone in the house because she'd be too terrified to leave her room to even go to the bathroom) break down.

    It's not always practical moneywise but I'm a firm believer in going with your heart/gut instinct. Just make the most of every possible opportunity on the way through and I'm sure you'll come out the other side OK :)

    Good luck finding a course that suits you!
     
  17. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    Probably be a lot cheaper and a lot more effective to read books about writing and go to the school of life. Join the navy, work as a garbage man or in the sewers, become a nurse and work maternity and hospice, fall in and out of love, drink, fail, feel pain and curse God.
     
  18. MCWhite
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    MCWhite Contributing Member

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    It's true that you shouldn't go to college to acquire a degree you have no interest in. But everyone has at least a few interests, and there are related career paths for those interests. I've seen so many people here graduate with, forgive me, useless degrees in fields they love who are unable to find jobs and are now stuck working hourly jobs, with massive debt, and they're very unhappy. The truth is, everyone thinks they're the exception - that because they like to do something it will all work out, that they'll be spectacular at it, that it won't matter, the statistics won't pertain to them. Most writers keep chugging along thinking one day they'll break out and make it big and be the next critically-acclaimed author. I don't know you, but statistically, your chances of being a successful writer (by my definition, a person who can live comfortably off their writing career alone) are about the same as being recruited by the NFL. It's not pessimism, it's about being realistic. I write this knowing it's nearly impossible to be realistic about your passions, especially when you're young, but think about it. If you really love writing, why not explore a journalism degree, for instance? There's a billion options for you - choose the most practical.


    I especially like Forkfoot's advice - you'll never become a writer in a classroom, any classroom. I don't care where you go or who your professor is. They can only show you what you're doing wrong. Experience in life is the best teacher, the best inspiration. Read and write and live and always pay attention.
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    amen to that, forkfoot!
     
  20. MsMyth71
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    MsMyth71 Senior Member

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    It's not just like people say, "Oh! I pick Iowa!" and wham, they're there. :)

    Second, I've heard some pretty nasty stories from former undergrads who went through the BA program and refused to continue on to the graduate level. It seems to be built to break a writer down and they really play up the competitiveness among the writers. (But, this is secondhand info here, probably best to hear it from someone who's gone through the master's program there.)

    I'd honestly pick a smaller program with some clout and focus more on gathering up resources and contacts along the way. In the end, it won't matter what it says on the diploma as long as you feel you've gotten a good education and come away feeling like you've improved as a writer.

    Just my two cents, though. I avoided Iowa in my MFA process because I kept hearing very negative things about it. Well, I should amend--things that are negative to what I find conducive in a writing program. That doesn't mean that someone else will not flourish.
     
  21. MsMyth71
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    MsMyth71 Senior Member

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    (Like buttons this) :)
     
  22. Marcelo
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    Marcelo Contributing Member

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    Given the case that we're discussing colleges, I would like to know your opinion about studying animation. :rolleyes:
     
  23. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Bearing in mind that I know the opportunities for Europe better than the US, I say, if you have the right skills, go for it! (Perhaps there is more competition in the US, though, I don't know.)

    Actually, this has bearing on the topic of 'do I need to study writing to be a writer?' because preparing storyboards, writing scenarios, presenting scripts etc are usually covered as an important part of the course. It's hard to self-teach these things IMO, especially if you have no contacts or feedback from people who know something about the industry. I certainly think it broadens your options if these writing skills are included on the course--and, dare I say, also allows you to measure your skill against others and gets you used to the stress of deadlines.

    I don't know how specialised the degree courses available to you are. My daughter is going to take our university entrance exams this June. She wants to study at the uni where I work, Visual Communications Design (which includes graphic effects, console game design, web design, and animation--you specialise in the third year. Tuition is in English, you study Japanese as a second language, and it's a four year Honours degree).

    Fingers crossed, she stands a good chance of getting in, and she's already lined up a summer traineeship in Tokyo with Nintendo. The 14 students that graduated from our uni last summer ALL found jobs--well, one stayed on to do a Master's as a paid assistant, and one started up a graphics company. There are one or two companies in London and Paris we contacted who all said they took on undergraduates as trainees for work experience, and we noticed they were advertising a large number and variety of job vacancies.

    Since my daughter speaks fluent French we investigated Canada as well as France and found they were panting for French speakers to do Masters degrees there, which is another possibility because there is such a good tradition of animated film making there.

    We decided there was no way she could get such intensive quality training other than by doing a degree course. We've particularly investigated over the past three years becuase of my daughter's interest, or should I say obsession, with 'bande dessine', computer games, and CGI.

    The reason for this ramble (sorry to try your patience, Cogito!) is that I know it can seem sometimes that things these days are impossibly difficult for writers or artists of any leaning. Just remember, guys, that the economic troubles we are going through are not the first the world has ever seen, and they won't be the last. It was pretty bad in the mid-seventies, to my memory, and I left the UK in the mid-eighties because of government cuts and redundancies. LIFE GOES ON and WHERE THERE'S LIFE THERE'S HOPE ................... *insert your favourite cliche/morale-boosting rallying call on dotted line*
     
  24. Marcelo
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    Marcelo Contributing Member

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    Well, I live in Mexico, so I'll do college in the U.S. There's this university called 'The Art Center of Design College' (not to be confused with the one in Pasadena, California) in Tucson, which has some really good reviews. I want to study animation because that way I have more ways and means of doing what I enjoy the most: weaving and telling stories. :)
     
  25. Marcelo
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    Marcelo Contributing Member

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    Also, I prefer working on a job I actually like even if it means getting less money. And anyway, after finishing my degree in animation I'll do a masters in (I don't know the exact name for it in English, so I'll translate it literally) administration or economy & finances.
     

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