Aug 5, 2008, 3:02 PM
Post #149 of 347
Re: [daleth] Fiction Acceptance Rates?
I'm afraid you've made your point only by changing the terms of the question. The original question--or, rather, the original point--was made by Raysen, and it was that "most [MFA applicants] can't write to save their lives," and that therefore the practical acceptance rate for a writer with any kind of talent whatsoever is much higher than the listed rate. Specifically, Raysen said that, in any given applicant pool, "roughly 50% to 66% are terrible writers with no potential or hope for improvement. That increases your odds....so, if you can write and write fairly well (but not perfect), don't worry about your prospects [of getting in]." It was that comment I was responding to, by way of pointing out that because, in fact, most applicants are actually able to write "fairly well," no such discounting of acceptance rate can be hypothesized. You, in contrast, agreed with Melos--and therefore, by extension, Raysen--who proposed that it was "easy to whittle it down" from 900 applicants to 100 for the very reasons Raysen had put forward.
But now, with your last post, you've agreed with my assessment instead: "Sure, 75-80% may be competent or even pretty good..." Now, if the question originally on the table was simply whether or not it was "easy to whittle down" 900 applicants to 100, we could say, sure, even if 75-80% of applicants are "competent" or "pretty good" (your words), a unanimous faculty vote at the average MFA program will separate the wheat from the chaff pretty quickly, and reveal "pretty good" as being "not good enough" for the top programs.
But that wasn't, actually, the original issue. The original issue was how sanguine a writer who can "write fairly well" should be about getting in--i.e., whether they're competing against 100 other applicants, or, as I proposed, 700. As to that, I think you and I are in agreement. We're only in disagreement if you change the phrase "fairly well"/"pretty good" to the new word you've used, "phenomenal," as if to say that any writer whose work is "phenomenal" need not worry about competing against 900 others. Well, that's true also. But it's likewise true that, out of 900 writers, less than 10 are phenomenal, which means that, of the 900 people reading this thread and wondering whether it is (per Raysen and Melos) easy to dump in the bin the work of most of the other 899 applicants they'll be competing against, only 10 of those 900 can answer "yes." Which would make Raysen's entire point pretty minimal in its application or relevance to this or any other audience. The point was only interesting if it was true as applied to those who write "fairly well." Now that you've changed the terms of the discussion, of course it's relatively easy to make the point.
Two other thoughts: one, every program (that I know of) requires a unanimous faculty vote for admission, because every school (with the exception of about five or ten) accepts few enough people that it's altogether reasonable to expect the faculty can all agree on every member of an entering class. Second, at some places, like Iowa, there are readers other than the faculty, so yes, in fact, there are enough readers to give every manuscript--apart from the 200 or so (out of 900) in the "definite no" category--"serious consideration." But it would be a mistake to think that the "faculty unanimity" phase comes before each and every applicant must individually impress at least one (usually two) individual readers. And since pleasing one person is much easier than pleasing (say) eight or nine, a lot of writers will actually move on to the "faculty unanimity" phase which, in your vision, are instead weeded out immediately. That's incorrect. Which, once again, emphasizes why Raysen's view, and math, are likewise incorrect.
(This post was edited by umass76 on Aug 5, 2008, 3:03 PM)