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The Best Low Residency Master of Fine Arts School

There has been an increase in online and distance education options in the past five years. One of these options, especially designed to meet the writer’s life is the Low Residency Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programs. While the twice yearly residencies give artists a chance to connect and communicate with other writers and mentors, students can pursue their MFA mainly from home while their life continues. Warren Wilson College, Vermont College of Fine Arts and Pacific University were ranked first, second, and third in the Poets and Writers Guide Popularity Survey of 2013. While these schools are competitive to enter, the degree they offer is top quality.

Warren Wilson College is nestled in a 1,100 acre valley surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains. MFA’s in fiction and poetry are offered. The rural setting of Warren Wilson gives an excellent atmosphere for the twice yearly residencies. These 10 day periods are encouraging times filled with conferences, counseling, workshops, instructional classes and more. During the rest of the semester, students work closely with award winning, published authors and faculty to hone their writing and literary skills, all from the comfort of their home. Warren Wilson offers a number of financial aid options, including loans, grants, fellowships and scholarships. Getting accepted to their MFA program is competitive, acceptance rates hovering around 10-15% or lower, but because of this they are able to maintain a close-knit community and a non-competitive environment of highly qualified teachers and exceptional students. 

Vermont College of Fine Arts sits atop a hill overlooking beautiful Montpelier, Vermont, a setting that naturally encourages creative work during the residencies. The school (as seen in photo 1) offers six low residency MFA programs (Film, Graphic Design, Music Composition, Visual Art, Writing, and Writing for Children and Young Adults). These programs use an apprenticeship-mentorship model to encourage emerging and established authors to further their work and make a difference in the world. Like Warren Wilson’s program, Vermont College’s MFA programs are competitive to get into, but once acceptance is achieved, brilliant instruction and mentorship help students hone their craft and create quality bodies of work. Need-based and merit-based scholarships are available. Because of Vermont College’s pure focus on the arts, they have become one of the top ranked low residency art programs in the country.

Pacific University was founded in 1849 and now has several small campuses across Oregon. Their MFA program meets for two short residencies each year, one on their Forest Grove campus and one on the alluring Oregon coast in Seaside. Pacific University (as seen in photo 2) demands a lot from its writing students, with a highly competitive application process and challenging residencies, but the growth and artistic development seen by students are exceptional.  Award winning authors work closely with students in three concentrations, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, sharing their passion and helping the students fine-tune their creative processes. Habits built during pursuit of Pacific’s challenging MFA help writers grow their careers for the rest of the lives.  

Without these low-residency options, many writers would have to watch their dream of further education fade into the distance. Many of us simply cannot take the time away from our families and jobs. As more low-residency MFA programs are offered across the country and around the world, we’ll continue to see greater opportunities for those of us who have chosen to pursue life as well as art!

Photo Credits

Photo 1: Courtesy of Wikimedia Vermont College of Fine Arts

Photo 2: Courtesy of Wikimedia Pacific University