How to Prepare a Manuscript for Graduate School

Most graduate schools require you to submit at least 7-20 pages of poems. I will help you decide how to choose.

  • First narrow it down to 25 poems (if you only need 20) or 15 poems (if you only need 10.)
  • Make sure you have enough ink to print each poem.
  • Decide if you want to send the same poems to each school or if you want to pick and choose.
  • Take the poems to a mentor, poetry friend, or professor, and beg for help. Well, you probably don't need to beg-- asking politely should work too!
  • Once you have your 7-20 pages, make sure you format them appropriately (some schools require you to number them on the top left of the page, other schools require you to put your name and address on the top left corner, and some require you to put a table of contents stapled to the manuscript.) Make sure you do everything correctly.
  • Edit, edit, edit. Don't let a few typos screw you over. Make sure you edit for punctuation, grammar, and edit the poem appropriately. Cut where you need to cut, add where you need to add. Make sure the poems are the way you want them.
  • After you've edited your poems take them to your mentor, poetry friend, or professor and make sure they are cohesive.
  • Check and double check.
  • Make sure everything is perfect.
  • Check to make sure the font is 12 point Times New Roman
  • Make sure the Titles are the way you want them.
  • Send them out!

If you need help editing your poems, or getting your manuscript, hire an editor

Low-res vs. full-residency: How to Choose

Low-res programs Low-res MFA programs are just as good as full-residency programs but there are both good and bad things about low-res programs.

Low-res programs are good if:

  • You have to work/support a family
  • You have an established career
  • You don't want to move
  • You have enough money to spend (many times the funding for low-res programs is much lower tahn for full-res)

Low-res programs are bad if:

  • You want to teach (you don't get to teach at a low-res program and this could affect your chances of getting into a PhD program, or even getting a job after school. You have to take this into consideration when deciding whether or not you want a low-res or full-res program.)

What you need to remember is low-res programs are just as good, if not better, than full-res programs. Make your decision on whether or not you want a full-time school experience, or not. It's pretty much as simple as that. If you can afford it, and you'd rather keep your current job (or if you are already established in a career) then choose a low-res program. But if you want to be surrounded face-to-face with other writers with whom you can collaborate, if you really want that teaching time, or if you believe that being a full-time student will benefit your writing, then choose a full-res program.

Check out P&W top 10 low-residency programs

What to Pack for Graduate School

Moving across the country can be downright scary. If you are like me, you want to be prepared. So in between cleaning out my room at my parents' house and trying to pack a bag for graduate school, I'm getting mighty stressed. Here are some ideas for what (and how) to pack. 1. Declutter: one of the most important steps you can make in your life, both for your sanity and your suitcase, is to declutter. Go to your closet. Stare it in the eyes. Take everything out of the closet and put them in four piles.

  • Keep- these are clothes that reflect the way you want to dress. I know that you really want to keep that Saves the Day shirt from 10th grade, but...really? So only pick the things that you will want to wear now and in the future. Classic items are good.
  • Throw away- anything stained, unflattering, the shirt that your grandma's friend Rose gave you before she passed away. Sometimes it's hard to throw those sentimental items out but you will be happier for it in the long run.
  • Donate- these are items that you simply don't want any more but they aren't ruined. Someone will be very happy to have them.
  • Maybe- these are items that you just aren't sure about. Those shoes that you haven't worn in years but you love.

Keep all of your clothes in your closet and when you wear something make sure you flip the hanger over. After a year donate all of the items that you have not flipped over.

2. Decide what is important

I am sure we all have tons of items from our past that we want to keep. We are sentimental. But we have to remember that we can't take everything with us. Try to pair down these sentimental items down to 5 things. So if one of the items includes "papers" then just compile all of your papers into one box and label it. However you decide to do this, make sure you are only left with those things that you know are special to you. Don't save things just because.

3. Packing. It's hard to decide what to take, and if you are moving far away you have to decide if you want to hire a moving company, get a U-Haul, or pack things in a car. I am going with a car, so what I take is very limited. I can only take things I absolutely need. So if you are also taking a car, I'll break down my pack list for you.

Clothes- Only take items you know you will wear. For me this included: underwear, socks, stockings, trousers (6 work pants, 1 pair of jeans), 2 sets of pajamas, dress shirts (8), T-shirts (4), workout pants (1), casual shirts (2), coats (1) sweater (5)..Kansas gets cold!

Bathroom Supplies- I didn't pack too many of these because you can always buy them once you get there and it will save much needed space. So I took a compact hair dryer, and small packets of medicine)

Books- Since I pre-ordered my books for graduate school (stupid idea, I know! I was excited) I have to pack these (obviously.) And since I love books I am going to pack all of my books in one suitcase. My room has 4  bookshelves and I will pair those shelves down to 30 books. That includes the 12 books I need for school. So I am only taking the extremely beautiful, meaningful, can't-live-without, and Ram Daas books. (A girl's gotta meditate!)

Bags- I can't allow myself to take more than 2 bags. One briefcase/messenger bag and one purse. Okay maybe 2 purses. Eee. It's hard to say no!

Kitchen Supplies- My grandmother will kill me if I don't take my pizzelle maker. But that doesn't mean I have to shove every kitchen product into my suitcase. I figure that I can buy plastic dishes and cups when I get to school. But as for the bigger or more important things I will take: Tea pots (3) I have an addiction, Coffee/Tea Mug (1), Tea (can't leave it!), Crockpot. Everything else (pans and forks included) I'll have to buy!

Bedroom Stuff: I am going to purchase the bigger items but I might be able to fit my bed. So that is one less thing that I won't have to take. As for smaller things (room decorations, lights etc.) I am only taking the most important things. Pictures of my boyfriend, pictures of my friends. That's really about it. Think about whether what you have can be replaced easily and inexpensively. If the answer is yes, consider leaving some things behind.

Desk Stuff: I am leaving most of my desk stuff. Unless you are fortunate enough to take your desk with you, I would consider buying (or making) a new one! Only take the things you can't possibly live without. Very important papers. Are you working on your novel? Take the print-outs of your work. Besides that, try to pack as light as possible. Are you in love with your stapler? Take it. Otherwise, leave it behind! There are some things you can find and replace easily.

Remember: sometimes it is more expensive to take things with you than to replace them. Thing about the cost of taking things vs. buying them once you arrive. Deciding what you take really comes down to you. Is it more important to take those paper clips and the shirt that your boyfriend gave you 2 years ago that you will never ever wear, just because it is sentimental? Or is it better to free yourself of the objects that you don't really need or even want. Before you pack, really think about whether you need it. Will you miss it every day if you don't take it? If the answer is yes, take it. If the answer is anything but yes, leave it behind!

What are some things that you guys can't possibly leave behind?

For me, it's my typewriter.


I have decided to include my actual pack-list for school. Want to share your list?



1 pair of flip flops 1 pair of black boots 1 pair of blue flats buy: one pair of heels (small ones because…let's be real.)


-Most clothes in closet -Green Jacket -Underwear -ALL SCARVES -Leather bag -Small black leather bag -Bookbag

Desk Stuff:

-Desk (if possible) -Typewriter -2 old journals for ideas

-School books! -Folders with poems that I need to work on -Buy once there: notebooks, pens, calendar, random school supplies.


Random -Medicine -Bike

Technology -Computer (with cord and cover) -Phone (with charger) -Camera (with printer and charger)

What Jobs Can I Get With An MFA

This question has been asked many times. What type of jobs are out there for MFAs? Well the options are really limitless. Think of it this way: An MFA offers you 1-3 years where you get to focus on your writing. Only good can come of that. There are many jobs that you can get with an MFA that you might not have thought of. Of course, tenured positions at colleges are the ultimate goal for many people, but if you wanted to do something different, this may offer you some better ideas.

  • Adjunct or Full-Time Professor at a College or University: (sometimes you need to have a PhD to get a tenured track position but there are some schools that will allow you to get a job with an MFA.) For listings check out

  • Non-Profit Work: Non profits want their employees to be well-spoken and well-written. If you have an MFA, that usually means you are eloquent and it sometimes means that you are persuasive. So if you are good at grant writing, you can check out some non-profit jobs.

  • Starting Writing Workshops: Although this may take determination, starting a writing workshop in your community might be able to make you a little extra money but more importantly, it will allow you to give back! And who doesn't love to give back?

  • High School Teacher: Some states will allow you to work at a high school without a teaching degree. So if you love teaching but can't find work at a college, you can look for openings at high schools.

  • Editing: If you have experience working with literary journals, you may be able to get work as an editor for a publishing house or literary magazine.

  • Freelance: Working in your pajamas? Always a plus! As a freelance writer, you may be able to make a decent living. Check out local listings on Cragislist or for people looking to hire writers. Or, if you are really creative you can start your own business selling creative writing for weddings, anniversaries or birthdays.

  • Bank Jobs: Uh. You may be thinking WTF? But many banks want to hire people who have excellent communication skills so your MFA might come in handy.

  • Video Teaching: You can create a start-up business by creating online videos in which you teach people writing skills. Or the history of the English language. Or how to build a wooden model ship. Or anything!

So don't worry about finding a job (well...don't worry TOO much) if you are creative, there is always work for you!

MFA Programs How Do I Choose?

There are a gabillion of MFA programs to choose from. So how do you know which one is the best for you? Well, you can do what I did which is scour the internet for information, or you can check out this link to PW's MFA information. Poets and Writers has great ranking information.  



To make my search easier I first found 20 schools I liked based on

  • Location
  • Program Offerings (2 year vs. 3 time etc.)
  • Professors
  • Cost
  • Funding Options

Then I created an excel sheet that was split into categories titled "School Name" "Application Fee" "Application Date" "Full Funding Y/N" "Location" and so on. This made it so much easier to narrow my choices. I was able to get my list down to 13 and then I applied. In my opinion, it's a good idea to start with location first and then go from there!