Making Sense of the MFA Debate


We’re all familiar with the great MFA debate: Can an MFA program teach you how to write? Is it just a Ponzi scheme? Why should you enroll in one, or not?

Jia Tolentino, a University of Michigan MFA student, zooms out and takes a less het-up look at both sides of the argument. It’s super calm and super reasonable, and we should probably all chill out and listen to her. For example:

The MFA, as a concept, is a neutral entity—it does not automatically qualify you for anything, it does not fundamentally make you better or worse at what you do. The MFA system is a collection of greenhouses, and what occurs within them is for each program and writer to decide.

Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →