Jan 19, 2010, 12:40 PM
Post #53 of 59
A couple of things I've picked up along the way.
Re: [lily_lee] What Have You Learned From the Application Process?
Writing Sample (Fiction)
1) Use the same writing sample for every school. Don't edit bits to fit page requirements. Don't mix pieces because you think they may fare better at a certain school or schools. Using the same sample eliminates a lot of the questions that may pop up at the end of the process when you're accepted at some places and not at others.
2) Unless a school states a specific minimum page length, donít worry about using a smaller sample. Itís perfectly fine to send 14 pages when a school says its limit is 25 or 30.
3) Donít sweat going over page limits by a few pages. If your two best stories come in at 32 pages, go ahead and send them to the 30-page limit places. If youíre me, you send them to 25-page limit places, too.
4) One strong story > One strong story and one OK story, but two strong stories > one strong story. Donít freak out if you donít have two strong stories, though.
5) Send your best work, and donít over-think the details. If your best story is a few years old, for example, donít worry that someone is going to look it up and ask why you havenít done anything more recent.
1) Keep your personal statement to one page. This is an important document, and if you write it well, it can serve you in the future for things like residencies and fellowships. Shoot for a length of 350 words. Yes, thatís hard. Brevity, as they say, is the soul of wit.
2) Prepare a teaching statement just in case. Your schools may not require them, but having a teaching statement ready can save you some time if you decide to add a new school or find a place in an application where that content could be used.
Letters of Recommendation
1) Donít be shy about asking a recommender if he or she is willing to write you a strong recommendation.
2) If you want to ask a former professor for a letter after youíve been out of school for a while, take a few moments to write a summary of who you are (including what youíve done since school) and what you did in that professorís class. Be brief. Two or three paragraphs should be enough to jog a memory.
3) Take care of your letter requests early. Try to line up your recommenders before the end of October, and tell them that they need to have their letters ready by December 1.
4) Itís an extra expense, but Iíve been really happy with using Interfolio for my letters of recommendation. Your recommenders write one letter one time (although they can write personalized letters for particular programs if they wish) and then you take care of everything else. It makes things easy on the recommenders, and you only have to keep track of the letters in one place instead of a dozen (as would be the case if you use the online recommendation forms offered by most schools). If Interfolio is appealing to you, budget about $100 for the typical list of 10-14 schools.
5) I never did this, but I have heard from faculty that it doesnít hurt to have more than the required number of letters for your file. If a school asks for three, itís ok to send four or five. In any case, I can see the value in having back-up recommendations at the ready in case someone flakes out.
1) The GRE is worth taking if only to open yourself up to more possibilities in terms of schools.
2) Sit for the GRE as early as you can. Most schools will accept late-arriving material like GRE scores, transcripts, and LORs, but some donít, and you donít want to waste your application fees. Before November is best.
3) If you have to choose between studying for the GRE and working on your writing sample, work on your writing sample. Creative writing programs do not accept students on the strength of their GRE scores.
4) Some schools make money available to students with exceptional GRE scores. Think above the 1500 mark. Understand, though, that this money comes from the parent institution, not the creative writing program. Creative writing programs donít care about your GRE scores, and any funding they have to offer has nothing to do with your performance on this silly test.
1) Order a set of transcripts for your personal use. Some schools offer ďunofficial transcripts,Ē which are free. Having your transcripts is useful when applications require you to fill out GPA forms and the like.