I'm graduating from Seton Hill University's Writing Popular Fiction MFA program this January with a polished, market-ready middle-grade science fiction novel, and I have to say the program is definitely one of the best things I've ever done. If you're serious about writing popular novels (or other forms of popular fiction) and want to turn it into a career, I can't recommend the program enough. The writer I entered the program as is a mere shell compared to the one I am now.
Writing is, of course, a lifelong calling and journey, and there's no guarantee any novel you write will get published, including one that's gone through an MFA program. But I have to say that when it comes to Seton Hill's Writing Popular Fiction program, I must've shaved off at least ten years of toiling with writing on my own. There's really nothing like the hands-on expertise of mentors (published authors) in the field you write in, who not only tell you what you need to improve on, but literally help you achieve it in your actual manuscript. The program was also fantastic in the networking department. I have met some fine writers who have also become dear friends, and I hope to continue to both keep up and work with them beyond the program.
Overall, the program has been a mindblowing experience, and I can't imagine having not done it. For me, it was the big-picture stuff, such as building and applying a fleshed-out world and effectively developing characters' (especially the protagonist's) internal growth that I really needed to work on. It's funny how difficult big-picture stuff can be to see until somebody who knows what they're talking about points it to you. But, really, I had such a blast with this program and I know it's one whopping, important step in my journey as a writer. I wanted to make this post because I know lots of writers out there wonder if an MFA program is really worth it, since so many writers learn the craft on their own, so to speak, but I just wanted to add in my own two-cent experience: it was more than worth it. At least the program at Seton Hill University was.
And now back to what I try to do best: writing.