Advice for MFA Students



As you work towards getting your degree, chances are you are wondering about what happens next.

How will you get your career started?

What will your life be like?

Here are 5 things you can do right now that will help you get started, make you feel better and won’t cost you more tuition:


1. Get out more

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In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. John Muir

Get out of the classroom, get out on your feet and go somewhere.  See somebody else’s work, go to a museum, take a long walk in a new direction.  Physical activity is the body moving against gravity.  If you keep moving, you will be healthier, happier and run circles around gravity. Creative activity is your soul moving against a different kind of gravity.  If you keep practicing, you will build up your artistic muscle and rise above gravity.  Let your feet and your eyes open up new experiences, and unexpected opportunities, for you.

2. Find a few friends to cook for


Cooking for six people every day is like having a cafe. Linda McCartney
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Learning a simple dish or two is a great way to save money and eat well.  If you can gather some friends to cook for, it is a nice way to spend time together, show work, talk about your projects, and your ability to cook can help really help you couchsurf when you need to. Look up some Youtube videos (try Tasty Videos ) or check out some cookbooks for beginners in the library like these Five Best Beginning Cookbooks recommended by LifeHacker. Here’s tip: One pot dinners like one pot cajun shrimp and pasta are super easy!  You will be feeding your stomach and your soul.

3. Be part of something




The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have.

Norman Vincent Peale

The secret about success is that it isn’t about how talented or artistic you are, but what you have to share with people – your ideas, your personal posse, your willingness to be helpful.  Forget about everything you have accomplished and think more about how you can contribute and help grow the group of people around you. A subtle but powerful psychological shift happens when you stop asking what other people can do for you and you ask what you can do for them.  You begin attracting the success you wanted in the first place.

4. Share something everyday

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“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” ~Vincent Van Gogh

How do some artists have these tremendous audiences for their work?  If you think success came overnight, you are wrong – and right.  Creating a substantial body of work happens over a lifetime.  If you are like me, that amount of years and months just overwhelms me.  Try working with 24 hours, one day at a time.  At some point during the day, stop whatever you are working on, where ever you are in your process and share a small piece of that with the world. Maybe that is a preliminary sketch of your finished piece, or an early color study, it could even be about the tools you choose to use and why.  These small daily pieces are like scenes from a dress rehearsal or the director’s commentary while the show is being created.  People love to “look over the artist’s shoulder” for a chance to see the creative process in action.  A little every day, and overnight, can become big.

5. Talk about yourself

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“So, what do you do?”

If you answer, “I’m an artist,” the next question will probably be, “Do you actually make a living from your art?”

Consider these questions as an opportunity to redirect people from focusing on what’s on your name tag and your income bracket to telling them what your passion is, who it is for and why – a much more interesting conversation.

Here’s a quick fill-in-the-blanks sentence to help you get started:

I do WHAT for WHO so WHY.

For example, the one I use is this:

I write & illustrate picture books

for children of diverse backgrounds

so they can see themselves reflected in American literature.

You never know, you may be talking to someone who may want to buy your work or introduce you to a friend who runs a gallery.

Keep it short and intriguing.


OK, now what?

  • Finish school
  • Have a dinner party with your friends and colleagues to share what you are working on, encourage each other and try out that awesome shrimp and pasta recipe
  • Post something you’re working on
  • Take a long walk
  • Talk about yourself







About the Author: HoongYee Lee Krakauer helps artists & creative people grow their careers with great grant writing strategies & mindsets she has developed over 15 years as an veteran grant panelist, grant maker & grant writer. Get her FREE Master Grant Strategy Worksheet and a weekly dose of insights from a grant reviewer’s point of view.

One thought on “Advice for MFA Students

  1. Hello ma, thanks for the tips. I learn how to kill stress and loneliness. And how to make use of my time wisely during the day with others. I love such living its healthy. Thanks . Regards Oni.