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Miriam Terron-Elder

Aug 23, 2005, 10:16 AM

Post #1 of 3 (2579 views)
The Order of Things Can't Post

Hello! I'm starting to get my applications, writing sample, etc. together and I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the pieces of information that must be submitted. When I start to work on my writing sample, I feel like I should also be working on my personal statement, and then I feel like I should be calling the people who are writing recommendations for me to make sure they are doing that. By the time all is said and done I feel like screaming! :) Not to mention studying for the GRE (which is annoying!!)

Can anyone share a system that worked for them to keeping on schedule, doing all the things that needed to be done, and not losing one's mind?

Thank you!


Aug 23, 2005, 12:07 PM

Post #2 of 3 (2571 views)
Re: [wonder01] The Order of Things Can't Post

I can only assume that you're applying for admission in the Fall of 2006, which means your applications, in general, will be due between mid-December and mid-January.

If that's the case, here's the plan I would adopt.

Writing Sample: This is the most important part of your application. If you don't have a number of pieces already written, then you need to concentrate your efforts here. Everything else can go on back-burner status until you are satisfied, creatively, with the portfolio you will submit.

Nobody will take so much as sideways glance at the rest of your application unless your creative writing sample piques their interest, so put as much time as possible into this most important component of your application.

The creative writing sample trumps everything else in your application. A good writing sample beats unimpressive (or just plain shitty) undergraduate grades. A good writing sample beats a low GRE score. A good writing sample beats lukewarm recommendations (and late recommendations and recommendations that never arrive at all). A good writing sample is paramount.


Personal Statement: Most schools ask for about 500 words. Your statement won't be read at all unless your writing sample shows promise, so don't worry about this short statment until after you're satsified with your writing sample.

Ideally, you should give yourself enough time to write something well ahead of the application deadline so you can have it read and reviewed by another person.

(The Applying to Grad School community on will be happy to review your statement once you have it written)


GRE: The GRE is not an important component of the creative writing MFA application, and just about anybody you ask (current and former students, faculty, etc.) will tell you the same. Consider the following from the University of Iowa's website:

Admission to the Workshop is based on your writing sample and not your GRE scores. However, the General GRE's are a Graduate College Requirement and since we are a graduate program it is required that you take them.

If I were you, I'd plan on taking the GRE one month from today's date. Buy one (and only one) GRE prep book and study for one (and only one) hour a day during a time that you wouldn't be writing (your lunch break, when you're doing laundry, etc.)

Letters of Recommendation: If you've already secured three people to write letters for you, then you're way ahead of the game. If you haven't, you should probably ask around mid-October at the latest (this is to give your recommender more than enough time to write the 200-300 words that will comprise your letter of rec).

Depending on the schools you're looking at, the letters of rec can be submitted one of three ways:

1. Electronically. Electronic applications are great, because you can see when your recommender has sumitted his or her letter. You can also press a button to send a reminder notice if you're a few days away from the deadline and don't see anything yet.

2. Sealed letter sent with your application. Some programs want you to submit your letters of rec within your application packet. If this is the method you have to use, your recommenders must mail their letters to you so you can submit them.

3. US Post direct from recommender. Some programs want recommenders to send their letters directly to the program. If this is the case, you should provide your recommender a pre-addressed stamped envelope to accompany any letters that you write.

Anyway, the only thing you need to worry about with letters of recommendation is asking for the recommendation. After that, the work is out of your hands. Don't waste any time worrying about someone else's job.

Letters of recommendation routinely arrive late or not at all, and creative writing programs expect this. Don't worry!


Aug 23, 2005, 11:00 PM

Post #3 of 3 (2540 views)
Re: [wonder01] The Order of Things Can't Post

While the GRE certainly pales in comparison to your creative writing submission, personal statement, and recommendations, I have known folks that have been happily accepted into their masters programs, and not into the actual school, so take a practice test and see how your score matches up to your desired school's "typical" graduate student's score. Also, I've heard that for programs with large applicant numbers, GRE scores and undergraduate grades are occasionally consulted to help trim down the number of applications to pore over or to help make a decision in a close call. Good luck!


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