A few months ago, I was ready to explore M.F.A. programs more seriously. A couple of things became clear: There's no quick way to find out which programs specialize solely in writing for children and young adults. Nearly all the programs that focus on writing for children are a low-residency format, meaning you don't have to be away from home most of the time. All those conferences you've been attending and manuscripts you've been polishing will come in handy when applying. Above all, applying to these programs isn't as scary as it may seem.
So here's the nitty gritty cheat sheet for M.F.A. programs that specialize in writing for children and young adults.
Hollins University: Roanoke, Virginia
Hollins offers a summer M.F.A. program exclusively in the study and writing of children's literature. The program is a low-residency format, which requires students to live on campus for a 6-week summer term.
Degree completion requirements: 48 credits, or ten 4-credit courses and an 8-credit thesis. Four courses must be focused on the study of children’s literature.
Independent study: A student may complete up to eight Hollins credits in independent study and/or eight online credits outside the summer terms. At least 16 credits must be completed on campus.
Tuition: $705/credit hour, housing $975/summer term
The deadline to apply is February 15th to begin the summer term. More information on applying to these programs can be found here.
Vermont College of Fine Arts: Montpellier, Vermont
The Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA) MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults Program was the nation's first fully developed MFA program focusing on writing for young readers. Students travel to campus twice a year (10 days in July and 10 days in January) for what is akin to a writers’ retreat. After these brief on-campus stays, you return to your home to complete a semester of self-designed study in your own surroundings.
Degree completion requirements: The program is completed over the course of two years and a total of five low-residency visits to campus.
Independent study: From the VCFA website: “During your independent study project, you are closely supervised every step of the way and maintain a continual correspondence with faculty and peers, making the study quite collaborative. Throughout the four semesters, you will take an active role in shaping your own curricula and advancing your writing according to your personal vision and passion, while participating in a sustained dialogue with experienced writers of national reputation.”
Tuition: $8,783/6-month semester, $680 fee per residency
The deadline for the Winter 2013 term is September 1, 2012. More application information can be found here.
Hamline University: St. Paul, MinnesotaStudents complete this program over two years in a low-residency format. There are five on-campus stays throughout the program (twice a year for 11 days each). Categories of study include picture book, early reader, middle-grade and young-adult fiction, poetry, nonfiction, graphic novel, and comics.
Degree completion requirements: 52 credits are required to complete this program.
Curriculum: From Hamline’s website: “The curriculum is developed over the course of five residencies and four semesters. Each residency focuses on one of the five elements of the craft of writing; the residencies build students’ understanding of the craft, literature, and business of writing. This work is continued and deepened over the ensuing semester as students work closely with their faculty advisors on their creative and critical writing.”
Tuition: Total cost of $32,084, which includes $617/credit and fees for residency terms.
The application deadline is May 15 to begin during the summer term, or November 15 for the winter term.
Simmons College: Boston, MA
Simmons's Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children, like the Master of Arts in Children's Literature, has a strong theoretical focus and engages students in a rigorous and disciplined study of children's literature. This program requires full-time residency.
Curriculum: Students complete four academic courses and four writing courses to earn an M.F.A. in Writing for Children.
Tuition: $965/credit hour, room and board $7,360/semester
The application can be submitted any time due to the school’s rolling admission policy. The school advises for early application for maximum consideration for admission and financial aid. To meet priority application deadlines, completed application files should be submitted by May 1 for summer session, August 1 for the fall semester, and December 15 for the spring semester.
Spalding University: Louisville, Kentucky
The four-semester Spalding program stands alone in giving equal weight to audience considerations and serious study of craft. One or two semesters are spent on craft instruction in one of five focal areas: playwriting, fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, or screenwriting. This approach ensures that students learn to engage their young audiences with work of literary merit.
Independent study: Each semester begins with an intensive, invigorating residency, in which students and faculty work together for ten days of group instruction. After the residency, students return home for personalized instruction through one-on-one correspondence with a faculty mentor for the rest of the semester.
Tuition: $7,900 for a fall 2012 and spring/summer 2013, $250-900 for optional Louisville residency
Application deadlines are January 15 for the spring semester, February 1 for the summer semester, and July 1 for fall semester.
Additional programs to explore:
Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts offers an M.F.A. program with a concentration in Writing for Children and Young Adults.
Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts also offers an M.F.A. program with a concentration in Writing for Young People.
Did we miss any programs? Have you completed or enrolled in an M.F.A. program? We'd love to hear about your thoughts and experiences. Please post to comments.