When I first visited Chapman University at the ripe age of sixteen, I have to admit that the number one thing that attracted me to the school was its proximity to Disneyland. As a kid from Oregon who frequently made PowerPoints (complete with airfare options, hotel prices, rental car coupons, and MapQuest directions) to convince my parents to take me to The Happiest Place on Earth, the prospect of attending college a mere two miles from the park was a once-upon-a-dream situation.
Although I did not attend Chapman for my undergraduate degree, when I decided to apply to graduate school, Chapman was at the top of my list. This time, my desire to attend Chapman University did not stem from the school’s proximity to Mickey Mouse, but for its unique dual MFA/MA program.
As an English major who did not take a creative writing class until my senior year of college, my initial graduate program searches focused solely on English Master’s and PhD programs. When I discovered Chapman’s unique dual MFA/MA degree option, I was intrigued by the prospect of continuing to grow my creative writing skills alongside my desire to study literature at the graduate level. At Chapman, I am learning to analyze literature through the lens of a writer and also gaining a deeper appreciation for the craft of writing itself.
The dual-degree option at Chapman made the program stand out in my mind during the application process. However, talking to my peers revealed that there are many different reasons why the dual-degree option is appealing. A fellow classmate, Megan Friess, explains, “I chose to attend Chapman for my MFA program because the program is individualistic and interdisciplinary. It allows students to focus on what they want to explore, learn, and write about. This is also shown by the fact that I am able to simultaneously work on a Master’s degree in English through the dual program.”
Aside from the dual degree, some of my peers cite the multi-genre element as high on their list of why the MFA in Creative Writing program at Chapman is so desirable. Deborah Paquin, another first-year MFA student, says that she was very attracted to the variety of interesting course selections. During the application process, Paquin recognized that this MFA program “is one of the few programs that had nonfiction AND nonfiction as personal memoir, yet the program allows you to take courses in the other disciplines like fiction, poetry, and literature.”
Matt Goldman is in his final year of the dual-degree program and also notes the unique multi-genre opportunities here at Chapman. Though Goldman initially entered the MFA program as a fiction writer, taking classes across different genres allowed him to stretch himself as a writer and find a new calling. Goldman explains, “I don’t even write fiction anymore. I found my calling in nonfiction and recently fell in love with poetry. I wouldn’t have had the freedom to experiment outside of fiction in another program.”
Another aspect of the Chapman MFA experience that Goldman appreciates is the amazing support students receive from faculty. “I’ve made every project I envisioned come to life and Chapman’s faculty—including upper administration—have treated me with the highest level of respect. I feel known and valued and appreciated.” Personally, I’ve only been at Chapman for a semester, but I have to agree with Goldman that the close collaboration between students and faculty is a critical part of what makes the program so special.
Applying to grad school is scary. A year ago when I was applying to various graduate programs, I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of obligation to get it right, to find the “perfect fit.” I made an Excel spreadsheet with the names of schools, approximate costs, fellowship opportunities, testing requirements, etc. While that nerdy spreadsheet was helpful to an extent, no number of columns or amount of color-coding could express what I was really looking for in a program—a sense of community. I wanted mentors that stretched me to try new things. I wanted peers that both accepted and challenged my ideas and viewpoints. And though I am still adjusting to life as a grad student and no community is perfect, I think Chapman is pretty close to that “perfect fit” for me.
When it comes to graduate school, people have different things that they are looking for in a program. From the location, to the dual-degree opportunity, to classes in multiple genres, the MFA program at Chapman has a lot to offer a variety of different kinds of students. I won’t lie—I am thrilled to be able to ride Space Mountain and attend a fiction workshop all in the same afternoon. But besides fulfilling my childhood fantasies, earning my two Master’s degrees at Chapman allows me to grow as a writer and scholar through the support of my amazing faculty and peers. And that’s something that doesn’t require a Disney FastPass.