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Writing for Young People Q&A: Application Process

Writing for Young People Q&A: Application Process

It’s a well-documented fact that I love the Master of Arts in Writing for Young People program at Bath Spa University (geez, that’s a mouthful). Since posting my 5 Questions to Ask Before You Get a Master’s in Creative Writing entry, I’ve had a steady stream of perspective students reach out with questions about the course. I love chatting with these guys and I’m always excited to get a new email!

A few particularly inquisitive students graciously gave me permission to share part of our exchange in a sort of Q&A for other perspective students out there. It got quite intense, so I’ve broken the post into five sections. (Find them under the Q&A tag as they go live!) Feel free to read below the cut if any of these topics interest you!

As always, you can reach out with more questions by contacting me at: alyssamhollingsworh [at] gmail [dot] com

A thousand disclaimers: I only have my experience of the Writing for Young People course to draw from (class of 2014). I’m not a member of staff and can never hope to be as informed as the infallible Julia Green. Everything is my own opinion and may or may not be influenced by my personal preferences, the amount of candy I’ve had today, or the number of likes my latest corgi video got on Facebook.

Q&A – Application Process:

1. Should I do part-time or full-time?
2. As a full-time student, I will still have to work part-time. Do you think that’s doable?
3. What should I send as my submission?
4. They say ‘no more than twenty pages.’ What are the specs for that?
5. Can I send excerpts from two different pieces?
6. How brief should the synopsis be?
7. What should I expect during the interview?

1. Should I do part-time or full-time?


There are pros and cons to both options. However, I would say go full time if you can. Though having a longer period on the course as a part-timer comes with some benefits, I found the level of intensity in the full-time course helped prepare me for the one/two book a year lifestyle of a writer. But I am also very biased!

(Maybe a part-time alumnus will leave a comment about their opinion? EDIT: We’ve got some great advice down there now! Check it out to hear the pros on the other side.)

2. As a full-time student, I will still have to work part-time. Do you think that’s doable?

Yes! One of my friends (Sarah Driver) worked part-time as a nurse through the whole course. Sometimes it was difficult, but for the most part she made it work and did wonderfully. Though I didn’t have a job during the fall/spring terms (I decided not to, as I had just come from completing my undergraduate degree while working three jobs), I think I could have handled it just fine.

So… it mostly depends on you and what you feel comfortable with. But I will say, normally we’re capable of doing more than we think.

3. What should I send as my Writing for Young People submission?


For my application, I chose one of the most tense and self-contained chapters from the novel I was writing at the time. I spent about a month polishing it up before I included it as my writing sample. Others I talked to on the course did basically the same thing – just picked their favorite bit from something they’d written. Mostly the Writing for Young People folk want an example of your voice and writing level. The actual content is slightly less important.

4. They say ‘no more than twenty pages.’ What are the specs for that?

Format it like you would an official manuscript: Include a cover page, A4 size pages, double spaced, 12 pt font, Times New Roman (if you want to be super classic).

5. Can I send excerpts from two different pieces?

That should be fine! Just make sure they both stand well on their own. Perhaps do one read-through/edit specifically examining the voice of your two characters to make sure they’re distinct. I love using this resource for character voice – you might enjoy it, too.

6. How brief should the synopsis be?

I included a one page synopsis with my excerpt. If you are submitting excerpts from two different projects and don’t want to take up a whole page on a synopsis for both, you could do shorter synopses for each.

7. What should I expect during the interview?

First of all, congrats on submitting everything and getting to the interview stage!

A big part of the course’s focus is community, so you’ll probably be getting a few questions about workshops and how you would offer/take critiques. You might think about how to verbalize your critiquing process, whatever it is. I believe a few of the questions will be about your writing sample specifically, which should be pretty easy to answer. It’s normally very informal, and more of a friendly chat than a high-stakes quiz.

Tune in for more soon! Feel free to leave a comment with a question about the application process for BSU’s Writing for Young People program (or, if you’re an alumnus, dispute my claims!).

4 Comments 689 Views

4 Comments

  1. Hi Alyssa! I started out doing BSU’s WfYP’s sister course Creative Writing, which is a full time only course. During my 1st two modules, I realised that I was not just writing about the transition between childhood and adulthood, I was writing for the teens who are going through that change. It quickly became apparent that my CW tutors weren’t equipped to help me, so I made the switch to WfYP. There were other factors at play; the pace of the full time course was way too fast for me (I process things very slowly). So I also switched to part time. As an alumnus who has experience of both full time and part time (albeit FT on a slightly different course) I’d recommend going part time if you take a long time to process things. I had a lot to learn, and I just couldn’t absorb it all at the fast pace of the full time course. Once I’d switched to part time, my writing improved dramatically. I also had more time to get involved in extra-curricular activities – I gatecrashed lectures from courses that sounded interesting outside of writing (mostly at the art campus, Sion Hill). For me part time was a million times better than full time. But I think if you start out being as good a writer as Alyssa, you perhaps already have some of the skills I didn’t have at the start, and you’ll be ready to take on the pace of a professional writer’s schedule.
    great tips, Alyssa.

    1. Thanks for weighing in, Jennifer! I forgot that you made that switch. This is great info for someone trying to decide.

      (Also pffft I’m not skilled so much as insane.)

  2. Hi
    I’m currently coming to the end of my second year part-time on the MA Writing for Young People. Like Jennifer, I process slowly so that was a consideration in my choice. Also, I took on board advice from Julia Green at the open day: if you have kids, part-time may be more practical. This has proved to be wise advice in my own personal situation, although I know others who have managed a family and full-time study. If you are coming straight from a full-time undergrad course you are probably all geared up to do the MA full time; if you last did this kind of study a few decades ago (ahem) part-time may be preferable! One other thing – as I understand it part-time is only available to UK students. I think International students only have the full-time option.
    Hope that’s helpful.
    Kathryn Clark

    1. I think you’re write about international students! I’d forgotten about that. Thanks for adding to the discussion!

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