Applying for an MFA in Writing

A blog reader recently contacted me about applying to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts Dramatic Writing Department since I went there for my BFA and MFA in dramatic writing. I’ll preface this by saying that I graduated 10 years ago so I don’t exactly have a handle on exactly what they are looking for in terms of applications. (I applied back when SAT scores were still sent over on paper.) The advice I give is strictly what I think and in no way is endorsed by NYU or the Dramatic Writing Department.

I’ll share a portion of my reader’s question and part of my answer. I hope my answer applies to more than just NYU but all writing programs.

Reader Question: I liked your response to the concerned parent of a student focused on television writing [SEE ORIGINAL POST HERE] and was wondering if you could share some of your experiences on the DWP application and admissions process. Could you provide some insight on what types of materials submitted for your app and, if you were called for an interview, how did it go? Also, do you think it would be unwise to email someone like Charlie Rubin to get some more information about the program?

My Answer:
What I can advise you is the most important part of your application is your writing sample. Hands down. Yes, good grades, transcripts, scores, etc. are important too, but since it’s a writing school, the writing sample is king. Make sure that the writing sample is the best writing you’ve got. Have other friends read it (people you trust to read your work) and go with what you think are your best pieces. All I can stress is that it should be your best work. Don’t send in a TV writing sample, even if that’s what you want to concentrate in, if it’s not the BEST work you have. I say this because they are looking at how you write a story, is it dramatic, can you write characters. If you can do that, then you can learn TV writing, screenwriting, playwriting. Don’t email Charlie directly, unless you know him personally. They have tons of applicants to the program and are busy working writers so don’t email him.

And when you get into the department (and I hope that you do), my best advice is that while you’re at NYU write your butt off and enjoy every minute. Don’t expect to graduate and have a full-time TV writing job (though some of my friends did) but what you can expect is that you’ll meet great writers, have amazing professors, and be exposed to the arts in one of the best cities in the world. Break a leg!

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