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joysan


Dec 11, 2004, 6:37 PM

Post #1 of 333 (18029 views)
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Recommendations and reference letters Can't Post

I only studied with one poet during undergrad and haven't done anything official since. This particular recommender has decided he doesn't want to recommend me anymore despite having recommended me in the past. I'm a bit flustered as what to do :(.

/joy


(This post was edited by motet on Mar 11, 2006, 10:56 AM)


freeverses
James Hall
e-mail user

Dec 11, 2004, 7:43 PM

Post #2 of 333 (18017 views)
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Re: [joysan] Recommendation Runaround [In reply to] Can't Post

Dear Joy,

Wow, that's a real bummer. But such are the ways of the fickle heart. Did s/he give you any reason?

In any event, it looks like you'll have to ask other professors who know your writing to recommend you. Did you take any literature classes that focused on poetry? Maybe that professor wouldn't mind also taking a look at some of your poems?

Good luck with this snafu -- must not be easy.

Yours,
James


sharonlouise


Jan 4, 2005, 12:25 PM

Post #3 of 333 (17955 views)
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letters of rec from non-professors [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi--I've been out of school for a long time--I don't have any profs I can ask for a recommendation. Asked a friend of my father's, a lawyer-turned-published crime novelist, to write me one, he said yes....but we're not quite sure what to put.

was wondering--anyone else out there get letters of rec fom a non-teacher? & if so, how did you (or the recommendor) approach it?


bighark


Jan 4, 2005, 12:46 PM

Post #4 of 333 (17953 views)
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Re: [sharonlouise] letters of rec from non-professors [In reply to] Can't Post

Actually, for writing programs, I don't think that non-professor recommendations are a big deal. Two of my three recommenders are former supervisors, and I'm sure that there are lots of MFA applicants (particularly those who are a few years removed from their undergraduate degrees) that have done the same.

Anyway, your crime novelist friend should write a recommendation that speaks of your abilities as a writer. If you haven't done so by now, you should definitely send this person a few of your stories so he can get an idea of your style and ablities.

But you still need other recommendations, right?

I don't know how long it's been since you were last in school, but it wouldn't hurt to look up some of your old professors to see if they're still at your alma mater. Writing letters of recommendation for formers students is part of a professor's job, so don't worry about asking for such things.

I only have one former professor as a letter writer, but I didn't have a problem getting him to write for me. Even though I haven't seen this guy in ten years, he was happy to write my letters, and only asked that I help fill him in on what I've been doing since we last met.

If asking a former professor is absolutely out of the question, then your next best bet is professional writers and editors. Do not try to get friends or family to write for you--that's definitely frowned upon, and there are some places that go so far as to explicitly prohibit such letters. If you don't have any writers beyond the crime novelist (don't forget about any instructors you may have had at workshops, continuing education classes, or retreats), then go for bosses and supervisors. These people won't be able to comment on your writing, but they can write a letter that speaks of your ability to succeed in graduate studies.

Oh, one last thing---what are the deadlines for the places where you want to apply? You should give your letter writers plenty of notice so they can plan some time to write for you. If you're trying to apply for a Fall 2005 enrollment, you better start asking about those letters right now. It's only fair to give your recommenders plenty of time (about 4 weeks at least), so you need to get hopping.

Good luck!


sharonlouise


Jan 4, 2005, 12:57 PM

Post #5 of 333 (17949 views)
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Re: [bighark] letters of rec from non-professors [In reply to] Can't Post

thanks!! feel MUCH better. I can definitely get a supervisor to write one, and maybe (big maybe) an old prof....

Yeah, my deadlines aren't till Feb & March.
Was talking with the crime novelist (he's got some of my writing)... yeah, we don't want to say "friend of her dad's" for obvious reasons. But, I wonder how we should otherwise present our relationship? any ideas most welcome....


darredet
Darren A. Deth


Jan 4, 2005, 1:04 PM

Post #6 of 333 (17943 views)
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Re: [sharonlouise] letters of rec from non-professors [In reply to] Can't Post

Is the lawyer published? If so, I would say he/she is a published writing acquaintance.


pongo
Buy this book!

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Jan 4, 2005, 1:46 PM

Post #7 of 333 (17941 views)
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Re: [darredet] letters of rec from non-professors [In reply to] Can't Post

Most of my professors were dead or retired when I applied to grad school, so I didn't even think about asking them for recommendations. I went to two writers with reasonable track records (one of them as a teacher and critic) and asked them. They knew me as a person, but not particularly as a writer, and did a lovely (and successful) job.

dmh


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

Difficult Listening, Sundays from ten to noon (Central time), at http://www.radiofreenashville.org/.

http://home.comcast.net/~david.m.harris/site/


elli
Ellen Meeropol

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Jan 4, 2005, 1:56 PM

Post #8 of 333 (17938 views)
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Re: [pongo] letters of rec from non-professors [In reply to] Can't Post

For one of my letters, I used a colleague from my writing group. We had been writing together for several years, and while her publication history (like mine) was small, she could speak to my commitment to writing, to my ability to critique and discuss craft, as well as to my writing. I think that in combination with two teachers' recommendations, it was acceptable.


Ellen

www.ellenmeeropol.com


sharonlouise


Jan 4, 2005, 3:08 PM

Post #9 of 333 (17933 views)
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Re: [elli] letters of rec from non-professors [In reply to] Can't Post

thanks for all the words of wisdom

was also wondering: are there any examples anywhere on the web of well-done letters of rec, or some kind of example like that?


libbyagain


Jan 4, 2005, 5:27 PM

Post #10 of 333 (17919 views)
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Re: [sharonlouise] letters of rec from non-professors [In reply to] Can't Post

Two things: 1. absolutely do NOT hesitate to ask old professors for a letter. If shyness and/or avoidance are issues for you (they are for me--big time) then please just take a deep breath, dive in and call during office hours. Students call quite regularly for letters from me, I do think it's part of my job, and I actually really enjoy the blast from the past. 2. In case an old professor refuses to write one, bear in mind what I wish I had when I myself asked, one year out of grad school, and said fellow responded "I don't feel I know your work anymore, and though I thought it was first-rate then, really now it's the merit of your publications that should speak for your candidacy. . . " I was embarrassed, sheepish, angry, hurt--and retracted like a hermit crab into a shell. I wish someone had mentioned then what I've found to be true since: professors who do that are piles of poo. I've had plenty of experience in those shoes since (being asked) and I can say without reservation: were I to respond in the way he did I would be a pile of poo or/and would need extensive therapy for whatever impulse made me respond that way.

Elizabeth


Wilding


Feb 15, 2005, 12:05 PM

Post #11 of 333 (17850 views)
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Re: letters of rec: Make it Easy for Them [In reply to] Can't Post

Don't contact anyone for a letter until you are prepared. You should have your own essay/s and publishing/professional updates ready to go. Some faculty will ask you to write your own letter that they will then edit themselves. While that may seem shocking it is not uncommon. You should have waiver forms and labels ready to go so that you don't bother them by follow up emails and letters. Keep it simple and make it easy for them to endorse your work by being organized and responsible. Send them a handwritten thank you afterwards and if you are accepted into a program thank them again for their support and time.


shadowboxer


Mar 7, 2005, 6:36 PM

Post #12 of 333 (17992 views)
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writing your own rec letter [In reply to] Can't Post

I asked a faculty member to write a rec letter, and he told me to write it myself. The letter is for an application for a travel fellowship. What are things that should be included? Any pitfalls to avoid?


mingram
Mike Ingram

Mar 8, 2005, 1:48 AM

Post #13 of 333 (17961 views)
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Re: [shadowboxer] writing your own rec letter [In reply to] Can't Post

That strikes me as a bit weird. This person doesn't have time to do it him/herself? Maybe this kind of thing happens all the time, and I'm just not aware of it. But is there perhaps someone else you could ask for a recommendation? Of course, my only basis of comparison is rec letters for graduate school, so maybe this is an entirely different ball of wax.


murasaki
Marie Mockett
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Mar 8, 2005, 10:05 AM

Post #14 of 333 (17937 views)
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Re: [shadowboxer] writing your own rec letter [In reply to] Can't Post

Unfortunately, this is not unusual either in the academic world, or the corporate world. Think of this letter as a writing exercise in which you get to inhabit your teacher's mind. Explain how you know each other; point out any special/commendable work you may have done for him. Talk about why you think the travel would be a good opportunity for your growth. Make it clear that the funders will not be wasting their money. Good luck.


missnorao


Mar 8, 2005, 10:43 AM

Post #15 of 333 (17926 views)
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Re: [shadowboxer] writing your own rec letter [In reply to] Can't Post

One thing I would recommend if you are struggling with writing about yourself is to have a friend do it for you then spruce it up yourself. I've done this for friends in your position and I think it's easier because you won't be as hesitant about patting yourself on the back. If you have a writer friend or someone who is familiar with MFA programs, even better. Usually the professor will add things and make it his or her own as well.


Wilding


Mar 16, 2005, 6:25 PM

Post #16 of 333 (17862 views)
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Re: [mingram] writing your own rec letter [In reply to] Can't Post

This is a fairly standard request. Your former faculty member will review and edit it entirely to their taste but it gives you the opportunity to present yourself once again to them and call to attention to the points you want stressed. Generally speaking, choose three specific attributes and address them in context. What makes you stand out among other applicants? What are your strengths? Make sure you send the signed waiver form (if applicable) and pre-addressed labels (for the schools) to them. Their letters must be sent directly to the school, not with your application packet.

You should not approach anyone with a letter of rec request until you have written your own essay and can provide a draft for their letter, labels, etc. Make it as simple and easy for them as possible and thank them directly afterwards.


curbludgeon


Sep 18, 2005, 6:35 PM

Post #17 of 333 (18225 views)
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Letters of reference, fear and panic. [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey. This is my first post, though I've been lurking for awhile.

Some background- I'm preparing to apply for fall '06. I'm 80% settled on which programs I'm interested in. I have a tentative portfolio, and I've been polishing it furiously. I've taken the GREs- and even was satisfied with the results. Most recently, I've started work on my Statements of Purpose.

In short, this is something that I know I want to do, and I've been putting effort into the process. But, I seem to have a fear of reference letters. Part of my problem is just that fear, which I guess I should overcome by doing, et cetera; but also, I'm not sure to whom it'd be best to turn. So, I have questions. Like:

Is an MFA student an acceptable reference, if you've taken a workshop they ran?

What about a professor who instructed a workshop outside of your genre, who probably would have a good-but-not-great opinion of your work?

...An instructor with whom you're taking a workshop, during the semester when you're sending out applications? ("Hi, we've been acquainted for a month and one of my pieces has been workshopped; please write how great I am"?)

...Literature professors?

Any feedback would be helpful. I feel like there are too many ways I could shoot myself in the foot here.


pongo
Buy this book!

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Sep 18, 2005, 6:56 PM

Post #18 of 333 (18220 views)
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Re: [curbludgeon] Letters of reference, fear and panic. [In reply to] Can't Post

Anyone who is familiar with you or your work is an acceptable reference, but factor in how much clout the recommender is likely to carry (a professor will have more than a student, an award-winning author will have more than someone who hasn't gotten published, and so on), how well the person knows you (the more she knows, the more she can say), and how well the person knows your work. Writing teachers are better than lit. teachers. They're talking about your potential as a writer, after all.

And I'm not sure how much the recommendation really matters. I had two people who barely knew my work, but knew me reasonably well, and got in the one program to which I applied. All that really matters in most cases is your writing sample, and maybe the statement of purpose.

dmh


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

Difficult Listening, Sundays from ten to noon (Central time), at http://www.radiofreenashville.org/.

http://home.comcast.net/~david.m.harris/site/


darredet
Darren A. Deth


Sep 19, 2005, 10:50 AM

Post #19 of 333 (18206 views)
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Re: [curbludgeon] Letters of reference, fear and panic. [In reply to] Can't Post

I had references from two professors from two different MFA programs, whom I met through a writing workshop, give me letters of reference, as well as one I took an online course with as part of gearing up for the MFA.

Darren


Kelsie


Sep 20, 2005, 11:34 PM

Post #20 of 333 (18170 views)
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Re: [darredet] Letters of reference, fear and panic. [In reply to] Can't Post

And I had a well-published poet (workshop professor), a relatively obscure fiction writer (mentor), and my orchestra director (who knew nothing of my writing but could go on at great length regarding my work ethic/character) write my letters for me and got into 3 of the 4 programs I applied to.

In short?

Don't sweat it too much if you're confident about your portfolio!


hapworth


Sep 26, 2005, 7:41 PM

Post #21 of 333 (18111 views)
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Re: [curbludgeon] Letters of reference, fear and panic. [In reply to] Can't Post

Others have said it, but your work will be the biggest determiner. I doubt that high-profile recs would count much if your work was lousy. On the other hand, the combination of strong work and strong recs never hurt. I'd do the best that you can. Find people who can speak well about your skills. Work on that statement of purpose and the drafts of your creative writing. GRE scores don't mean much for MFAs (unless the English Dept. demands a certain minimum), but if you are happy with your GRE results, that's just icing, man. Sounds like your apps appear solid. Remember that admissions people take the whole view into consideration, not just any one part. You'll probably be fine. When I first applied to MFA programs (I eventually finished an MA and am now applying to doctoral programs), I had two community college professors and one okay four-year-college level poet/fiction writer/professor write my recs. I got into Bama.

Best of luck,

Hapworth


(This post was edited by hapworth on Sep 26, 2005, 7:43 PM)


curbludgeon


Sep 27, 2005, 12:11 AM

Post #22 of 333 (18101 views)
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Re: [hapworth] Letters of reference, fear and panic. [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the responses (you and all.) In my mental list of to-dos, I think "overcome initial panic about rec letters" has been checked off. All systems go, vroom.


clarabow


Mar 10, 2006, 7:55 PM

Post #23 of 333 (17955 views)
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Two Questions About Letters of Reference [In reply to] Can't Post

1. One of my referees, apparently, didn't send out all my letters. She's really old and I think she just had a bit of a careless moment. Do you think programs will hold it against me that I'm a letter short?

2. I want to send my referees a thank you gift, but am not sure what is appropriate (especially for professors). Suggestions re: thank-you gift etiquette would be appreciated.


andfw


Mar 11, 2006, 2:15 PM

Post #24 of 333 (17898 views)
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Re: [clarabow] Two Questions About Letters of Reference [In reply to] Can't Post

They might. I had a similar situation with my New Hampshire application, and was told that my application would be considered "less competitive" because they hadn't received one of my recs. It was way too late in the game to get another rec written and sent, so I told them not to consider my application, and not to cash my app. fee. Their secretary got surprisingly snarky about it, and I wound up in a somewhat heated exchange with her. Suffice to say, I wasn't surprised when I got my rejection letter.


In Reply To
1. One of my referees, apparently, didn't send out all my letters. She's really old and I think she just had a bit of a careless moment. Do you think programs will hold it against me that I'm a letter short?



clarabow


Mar 11, 2006, 8:34 PM

Post #25 of 333 (17859 views)
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Re: [jstgerma] Two Questions About Letters of Reference [In reply to] Can't Post

Hmm.

Did you send your recommenders thank you cards or gifts?


rocky_fona


Mar 14, 2006, 9:50 AM

Post #26 of 333 (7031 views)
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Re: [clarabow] Two Questions About Letters of Reference [In reply to] Can't Post

I decided to wait until after the process is over. I don't know if that is right or not. I was just going to send thank-you cards, but now you have me wondering if I ought to do more.


simplythat


Aug 24, 2006, 2:05 AM

Post #27 of 333 (6875 views)
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Questions About Letters of Reference [In reply to] Can't Post

I graduated with a BA in English (Creative Writing) in 2005, from a decent school for CW (in the top 50 of the rankings, for whatever that is worth). Though I always did well in my classes, I wasn't overly active in the program and I didn't know my instructors very well. This has led me to be a little frightened of asking them for LoRs. I'm worried about whether or not they'll remember me, and if they do, if they'll remember my work.

Is it okay to attach an assignment I did in their class to the e-mail in which I ask them to be a recommender? Or should I just offer to send a sample if they want to see one?

On one hand, I think it may help jog their memory or at least make them interested in helping me out. On the other hand, they may just be annoyed that I'm clogging their inbox.


pongo
Buy this book!

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Aug 24, 2006, 1:14 PM

Post #28 of 333 (6850 views)
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Re: [simplythat] Questions About Letters of Reference [In reply to] Can't Post

How big were the classes? If they weren't too big (say, fifteen or fewer), there's a good chance that your teachers remember you. How well you did is a factor, too. I remember my good students from eight years ago, when I started teaching, but I've forgotten a lot of the bad ones.

dmh


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

Difficult Listening, Sundays from ten to noon (Central time), at http://www.radiofreenashville.org/.

http://home.comcast.net/~david.m.harris/site/


simplythat


Aug 24, 2006, 7:52 PM

Post #29 of 333 (6821 views)
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Re: [pongo] Questions About Letters of Reference [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, the way my school worked is that often the main classes were big, and we would have a lecture/writing assignement with the instructor, and then we would break off into smaller workshop groups which were each led by MFA or MA students. The instructor would usually alternate weeks when coming around to the groups to observe, but all work had to be turned into the insturctor and the grad student.

So, I had interaction with the instructors, especially during weeks when they were present in workshop. They also always read all of my pieces and made comments....but they wouldn't know me as well as the grad students i worked with. With an exception of one person, I don't know where my grad students went...they've long graduated. I was just thinking that perhaps, since these teachers did read my work and comment on it, I might be more memorable in text given our program format.

I did reasonably well in all of my classes. In the class of one instructor I want to ask, I got an A. In another case, I took two courses, once with a grade of B...the other was a C, but only because she had an attendance requirement, and due to my job, I missed one extra class. She loved my work, but it was a policy thing, and she had to drop me a letter grade. In any case, I don't think the teachers will think of me and think about what a horrid student I was...I'm just worried that I blended in too much to be remembered without something to jog their memories.


(This post was edited by simplythat on Aug 24, 2006, 7:55 PM)


pongo
Buy this book!

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Aug 24, 2006, 8:30 PM

Post #30 of 333 (6813 views)
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Re: [simplythat] Questions About Letters of Reference [In reply to] Can't Post

In that case, go to someone other than a teacher for a recommendation.

dmh


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

Difficult Listening, Sundays from ten to noon (Central time), at http://www.radiofreenashville.org/.

http://home.comcast.net/~david.m.harris/site/


Fear&Loathing


Aug 31, 2006, 7:44 PM

Post #31 of 333 (6740 views)
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Re: [pongo] Questions About Letters of Reference [In reply to] Can't Post

Do programs open up a file immediately when recommendations are received (even if they are before you submit anything else? The obvious answer is yes. I expect some will start arriving before I've even opened an application in any other way.


__________



Aug 31, 2006, 8:43 PM

Post #32 of 333 (6737 views)
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Re: [Fear&Loathing] Questions About Letters of Reference [In reply to] Can't Post

Here's something I've been wondering about: will a program to hold onto your rec letters after you've been declined?

It's so difficult to get into the good schools, I wonder what those tenacious applicants, such as Adam Haslett, who had to apply to Iowa a few times, did about rec letters. I don't really want to suffer the humiliation of asking my profs to write another fifteen letters each year. Is it unheard of to simply ask a school to reuse them? Or should I ask my profs for a batch of letters dated for next year? It sounds comical, but hey...


six five four three two one 0 ->

(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Aug 31, 2006, 8:48 PM)


bighark


Aug 31, 2006, 8:58 PM

Post #33 of 333 (6732 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Questions About Letters of Reference [In reply to] Can't Post

I'll be asking for my fourth round of recommendation letters this fall. You get over it.


bastedos


Oct 14, 2006, 5:44 PM

Post #34 of 333 (6631 views)
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Not completely positive LoR [In reply to] Can't Post

I got an email back from a prof stating that she will write me a LoR, but it can't be entirely positive. She said it won't be negative, but that she needs to be honest and state that I need improvement in some areas. She said she has good things to say about me as as student as well.

I already have three letters that will be very positve (two from senior-level English profs and one from an introductory writing instructor). She wants me to decide if I still want her to go ahead. I need opinions on this circumstance.


Elika619


Oct 14, 2006, 6:09 PM

Post #35 of 333 (6629 views)
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Re: [bastedos] Not completely positive LoR [In reply to] Can't Post

Bastedos,

This is just my two cents, but I would say if you already have 3 positive LoRs, I would just leave it at that. From what I know, most schools only require 3 letters. And while some give you the option of 4, if you don't think her letter would be 100% positive, I would just leave it out.

However, if I misread your post and you only have two letters (and need her for a third), I would say there's nothing wrong with constructive criticism.

Good luck! :)

Elika


bastedos


Oct 14, 2006, 6:34 PM

Post #36 of 333 (6624 views)
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Re: [Elika619] Not completely positive LoR [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks, I will go with the three I already have. I don't believe that I made a good connection with this prof anyway. We didn't see eye-to-eye on writing. The writing she likes seems very ostentatious and melodramatic to me, where the writing I prefer is too outlandish for her.


In Reply To
Bastedos,

This is just my two cents, but I would say if you already have 3 positive LoRs, I would just leave it at that. From what I know, most schools only require 3 letters. And while some give you the option of 4, if you don't think her letter would be 100% positive, I would just leave it out.

However, if I misread your post and you only have two letters (and need her for a third), I would say there's nothing wrong with constructive criticism.

Good luck! :)

Elika



HopperFu


Oct 14, 2006, 6:44 PM

Post #37 of 333 (6621 views)
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Re: [bastedos] Not completely positive LoR [In reply to] Can't Post

I'd have to agree. I mean, gosh, if you already have three that you think are positive, why on earth would you use a fourth that is mixed?


cekroh
Clayton Kroh

e-mail user

Nov 14, 2006, 1:28 AM

Post #38 of 333 (6518 views)
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Re: Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

The book and online resources on MFA applications I've looked into generally recommend you send out 8 to 12 applications. But I've run into an issue with this: Isn't that an emormous imposition on your recommenders? Even assuming they write just one letter and cut-and-paste the content into separate letters, and you've done all the envelope pre-addressing with postage to make it easy, there are still recommendation forms many schools want filled out.

I don't have a lot of people to ask for recommendations. I asked one of my recommenders about the number of applications; his response was I should have no more than 5.

So...do I just cut my number of school choices in half (and likewise my chances of being accepted to at least one program)? I can't really send this gentleman more than 5 now. I don't really have anyone else I can ask--I've been out of school for some time. And is springing this many letters of rec on my other two recommenders terribly presumptuous?

Has anyone else run into this problem? How'd you deal with it?


Glinda Bamboo


Nov 14, 2006, 12:24 PM

Post #39 of 333 (6491 views)
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Re: [cekroh] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

I think it was crappy of him to tell you that he only wants to send off 5 recommendations for you. Really, I don't see how doing 12 recs is so much more work than 5. Yes, they have to cut and paste and fill out forms, but most of those forms are brief and can't take more than a minute to fill out.

If you have 10-12 schools you actually would be interested in attending, you should definitely apply and not limit your options because of a lousy recommender. Maybe you can find another person to pick up the slack where this one recommender is cutting you short.

I feel like a major pain asking anyone for recommendations, but I didn't feel guilty at all about sending info for 10 schools. After they write the letter, the hard work is done. Plus, I figure it they are agreeing to the somewhat annoying task of recommending me in the first place, then they won't object to actually sending recs to all the places I'm applying.

I haven't heard of any other recommenders complaining about this, but I'm all ears if it has happened.


gblackwe

e-mail user

Nov 14, 2006, 10:55 PM

Post #40 of 333 (6442 views)
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Re: [cekroh] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, likely it is more of an imposition to fill out 10-12 recommendation forms than 4 or 5. On the other hand, if you don't get in to any of those 4 or 5 schools, it will be yet more work for your recommenders to fill out all-new letters next year. I think that the advice (which I only came upon this year, unfortunately) to apply to ~10 schools is solid, and your recommenders will hopefully appreciate that improving your chances of furthering your education outweighs the annoyance of five more silly forms. Don't feel shy about asking now while you've got everything together, especially if you have the other recommendations in hand (or good as). Also, if you are really worried (or if your recommender is) about the number of forms s/he will have to fill out, call admissions offices and find out how badly they want their forms. The letter itself (which can easily be duplicated) is the most important thing, and that only has to be written once. Schools that are really strict about forms get them, and the others should be happy with a copy of the original letter. Honestly, if they like your writing, they should all be happy with a copy of the letter, as it will be the last thing they see before making their decision, and the one least likely to influence that decision.


laughingman


Nov 15, 2006, 2:27 AM

Post #41 of 333 (6429 views)
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Re: [cekroh] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

...I've heard of instructors just putting a single, diagonal line across the whole form and writing "see letter."

The forms, I'm sure, are much less important than the letters and probably only useful as far as putting your name/soc/DoB in the same envelope as the letter itself for identification purposes.

Ask the guy to make extra copies of the letter for you, give him the forms and envelopes, and tell him you really appreciate it.

Then worry about your writing sample.

Good luck,

laugher


Art
Arthur J. Stewart
e-mail user

Nov 16, 2006, 7:21 PM

Post #42 of 333 (6362 views)
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Re: [Glinda Bamboo] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

Maybe he was just saying, it is better to send in applications to five places than to 12 places; it COULD be that he doesn't mind writing 12 letters, but rather, is just trying to offer good advice. I'd make the same recommendation, BTW. The "why" is, if you do your homework well in applying to five places, each of the five is more likely to be well-targeted and well prepared. IMHO, if you're strung out sending materials in to a dozen places, you're (a) shucking out copious amounts of cash in application fees and (b) more likely than not, depending on the shotgun strategy for getting in somewhere, somehow. The dozen-application approach does not give me warm fuzzies about the likelihood of application quality. Although, I am sure there are many notable exceptions....


Art
Arthur J. Stewart
e-mail user

Nov 16, 2006, 7:23 PM

Post #43 of 333 (6362 views)
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Re: [laughingman] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

" ...I've heard of instructors just putting a single, diagonal line across the whole form and writing "see letter."

Yep. I've done that. Letters are much much more useful than check-box forms.



libbyagain


Nov 16, 2006, 7:48 PM

Post #44 of 333 (6358 views)
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Re: [Art] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

I probably shouldn't generalize about professors and strategies for handling them, but I am one and know many and therefore I'll hazard a try.

It's really not the job of the applicant to make the professor's job any easier re. letters. I think the whole process is onerous, and that grad schools ought to adapt--for instance, somehow simply adapting to the application services that most schools offer, when they send a file containing transcripts and letters (and in that light, anyone applying should contact her/his last school attended and sign up for that service there, since most schools will do this for alums, no matter how out-of-date they are).

The professors put under stress by many requests can do several things, as far as I am concerned. 1. They can short-cut by crossing out tiresome forms and saying "see letter." I've done that, at times, and I think it falls under the category of t.t.w.t.b.b. (that's the way the ball bounces). 2. They can suck it up and devote several days to this task each semester, instead of, oh, say, abusing yet more grad student slaves and whomping up yet one more useless conference paper (sorry--I'm a tad pissed off at certain of my colleagues here in Singapore, who seem to make a career of doing mainly this, instead of teaching) 3. They can form a groundswell of protest that will cause MFA programs to streamline/alter/whatever their process to suit "overworked" profs.

My 2 cents.

Elizabeth


allisonbarrett


Nov 17, 2006, 8:53 AM

Post #45 of 333 (6320 views)
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wisconsin [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey, is anyone applying to Wisconsin (Madison)? It seems like you have to apply online first, and then they'll send a link to recommenders to submit letters online. The problem is that you have to submit your SOP online with the app, and mine isn't ready yet. I want to get this link to my recommenders though; I gave them the materials for all of the other schools. The deadline for Wisconsin is Dec. 15. Is anyone else having a problem with this? Is there some way to get the link for my recommenders before I submit the app?


bighark


Nov 17, 2006, 10:46 AM

Post #46 of 333 (6307 views)
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Re: [allisonbarrett] wisconsin [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Allison,

I don't recall having this problem when I applied to Wisconsin last year. If I remember correctly, the recommenders get an email as soon as you register them in the electronic application--the process is not tied to when you pay or submit.


allisonbarrett


Nov 17, 2006, 10:56 AM

Post #47 of 333 (6306 views)
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Re: [bighark] wisconsin [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks so much! That's exactly what I needed to know!


sarae


Dec 7, 2006, 8:47 PM

Post #48 of 333 (6186 views)
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Re: [libbyagain] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
I think the whole process is onerous, and that grad schools ought to adapt--for instance, somehow simply adapting to the application services that most schools offer, when they send a file containing transcripts and letters (and in that light, anyone applying should contact her/his last school attended and sign up for that service there, since most schools will do this for alums, no matter how out-of-date they are).


Regarding the service some colleges offer where they keep a file of letters of recommendation for you:

I have signed up for this service with my school, and so far have one letter on file. I'm wondering if MFA programs will be okay with receiving my letters from this service, instead of from me or from the recommender directly. Does anyone know? If it will be okay, then I will get my other recommenders to just send to my college as well, and things will be so much easier.


curban14


Dec 14, 2006, 10:41 AM

Post #49 of 333 (6089 views)
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Re: [sarae] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

hi, does anyone know or remember off hand where to submit the following letters of recs, a.k.a. Online or Snail Mail? iowa, michigan, syracuse, columbia, notre dame, texas (michner), johnny hop hop ?

I haven't had time to check yet but i'm thinking only about half are Online, which sucks.


ecphraticknolls


Dec 14, 2006, 11:27 AM

Post #50 of 333 (6083 views)
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Re: [curban14] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, I don't have all of those--since I'm not applying to all of them--but here are the ones I do have from my own research.

Iowa Writer's Workshop
January 3

The Writers' Workshop
102 Dey House
507 N. Clinton St.
Iowa City, IA 52242

University of Texas--Michener Program
January 15 is the received-by deadline
Form

UT Michener Center for Writers
702 East Dean Keeton St.
Austin, TX 78705-3201

University of Michigan
January 1, 2007 is the received-by deadline
Form

English Language and Literature--Creative Writing
3187 Angell Hall
435 S State
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1003


hamholio


Dec 24, 2006, 4:35 PM

Post #51 of 333 (6898 views)
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Post deleted by hamholio [In reply to]

 


bighark


Dec 24, 2006, 5:18 PM

Post #52 of 333 (6888 views)
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Re: [hamholio] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

Don't sweat the seal.

Send the unsigned letter along with the others.


sibyline


Dec 24, 2006, 7:33 PM

Post #53 of 333 (6875 views)
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Re: [hamholio] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

contact your recommender and let him or her know that you're signing the letter. if the school checks, then your recommender can explain what happened. i wouldn't send it unsigned.... they may not take it.


__________



Jan 3, 2007, 2:48 PM

Post #54 of 333 (6754 views)
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Re: [sibyline] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

Let's say you've maybe decided to apply by the end of January, instead of in the spring.

WTF do you about recommenders? Huh? Ah! Ah!


six five four three two one 0 ->


mares


Jan 15, 2007, 3:08 PM

Post #55 of 333 (6672 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

i just found out that one of my rec letters got to a school TWO WEEKS after the deadline. this freaks me out. when i get rejection letters, i want to know it's on the basis of my writing, not due to something i couldn't control.

So, what do you guys think? Are late rec letters a deal breaker?


i don't think i've properly introduced myself on the board, yet! Sorry! I'm applying for poetry to:

Hollins
UWisconsin
Cornell
Michener
FSU
UF
UVA
Bowling Green
Ohio State
Notre Dame
Western Michigan
Southern Illinois


...and i'm nearly finished with the apps, finally.


bighark


Jan 15, 2007, 3:28 PM

Post #56 of 333 (6665 views)
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Re: [mares] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Mares, welcome to the board.

Late arriving LORs, GREs, and transcripts are pretty common. Because you don't really have any control over these items, most programs will cut you some slack.

You could call the program and ask if you're ok, but I think you'll be fine. As long as your writing sample and application fee arrived on time, you should be in the clear.

Good luck!


Arkinese


Jan 18, 2007, 2:34 AM

Post #57 of 333 (6570 views)
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Re: [bighark] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey, thanks bighark. That's what I thought and that's good to hear someone else echoing that. One of my former profs flaked on me and I literally cannot get in touch with her. She's just disappeared. So I'll probably end up getting someone else to write a rec letter for the schools that need three (like all of them) and then begging the schools to take pity on me. I just want to be done and I was so close until this happened!


ecphraticknolls


Jan 18, 2007, 7:07 AM

Post #58 of 333 (6553 views)
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Re: [Arkinese] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

The same thing happened to me, actually… well, not exactly the same. One of my recommendations (I think) forgot about writing the recs, or at least forgot about the deadlines. I think that he started writing it on the 9th, and they didn’t go out until Tues. or Wed. of this week. I e-mailed most of the schools I thought might have a problem with it, and most have contacted me saying that it would be fine as long as it got there by the end of the month.

I haven’t heard back from Michigan, though… and it was the school that I was primarily worried about. (There website is all like “MAKE SURE ALLLLLL MATERIALS ARE HERE BY THE DEADLINE!!!!!!!!!!”) pfft.

I suppose I’ll just find a couple more schools to apply to, just to keep the number of my applications a secure-feeling number.

(This post was edited by ecphraticknolls on Jan 18, 2007, 7:10 AM)


lucasbuffalo


Jan 19, 2007, 11:11 AM

Post #59 of 333 (6468 views)
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UWashington-Seattle problems [In reply to] Can't Post

Has anyone else received an e-mail from Judy at the U. of Washington asking for materials? She claims she hasn't received my GRE scores (which I took in October) and a rec. letter that was going to be sent directly by a prof. She also says my creative personal statement is missing, which I'm positive I wouldn't have allowed to happen. I have to say, from the outdated website (which neglects to mention a huge endownment they just got) to this, they don't seem all that organized.


Glinda Bamboo


Jan 19, 2007, 11:32 AM

Post #60 of 333 (6460 views)
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Re: [lucasbuffalo] UWashington-Seattle problems [In reply to] Can't Post

Wow, lucas, that's a lot for them to be missing. I hope it's straightened out for you ASAP.

I got an email yesterday from Kathy at WUSTL telling me my application materials were all there. When I first glanced at the email, though, I thought was a super fast rejection. It said my application was "complete" and she wished me the best as I search for the best program.

Anyway, it's good they give you the chance to straighten everything out (whether it's their disorganization or what have you) instead of deciding your app is incomplete and discarding it.


Glinda Bamboo


Jan 19, 2007, 11:41 AM

Post #61 of 333 (6452 views)
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Re: [lucasbuffalo] UWashington-Seattle problems [In reply to] Can't Post

Dude, sorry. We're totally talking about different schools. I just saw the Washington and immediately thought of WUSTL, especially since I just got an email from them. I'm sure anyone affiliated with a school with "Washington" in its name gets annoyed by those mistakes.

Next time, I'll try to read every word in a subject line instead of picking just one favorite. :)


ecphraticknolls


Jan 19, 2007, 11:42 AM

Post #62 of 333 (6451 views)
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Re: [lucasbuffalo] UWashington-Seattle problems [In reply to] Can't Post

Yeah, I got one from Judy as well. It said I was missing the rec. letter that hadn’t been sent out yet. Well, it should get there soon.

After I inquired with Iowa, they also said that ALL of my rec. letters were missing. But, they also said that they had a huge mail pile to deal with… so I’m hoping that they are in there somewhere. I hope!?!


Glinda Bamboo


Jan 19, 2007, 11:44 AM

Post #63 of 333 (6449 views)
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Re: [Glinda Bamboo] silly LOR mistakes [In reply to] Can't Post

By the way, I thought I'd share that one of my recommenders spelled my name wrong. He let me read the letter, even though I didn't ask. I'd actually rather not see these recommendation letters...they kind of embarrass me.

It was a very positive and specific recommendation, but he spelled my name wrong the entire way through. I don't understand why. My name appeared about a million times on all the materials I sent him. (He used a common misspelling by adding an extra letter. But still. That's not my last name.) I didn't say anything to him because he was marvelously efficient throughout this process, and I didn't want to either ask him redo it or make him feel horrible. I figure it's not a big deal, though I guess this makes it seem like he doesn't really know me. I think the content of the letter, however, has enough specific info that it shouldn't matter.

I hope I get in this year. I'd hate to have to ask some of these same recommenders to do the whole thing for me again.


ecphraticknolls


Jan 19, 2007, 11:46 AM

Post #64 of 333 (6448 views)
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Re: [Glinda Bamboo] UWashington-Seattle problems [In reply to] Can't Post

Hah, I actually applied to both… and I was somewhat worried about getting the application materials for the each of them mixed up. I ended up compartmentalizing the application efforts into time-slots (doing one a day or whatever), so there was no way for me to shuffle the various masses of papers together.


muttonfish


Jan 19, 2007, 12:04 PM

Post #65 of 333 (6438 views)
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Re: [Glinda Bamboo] silly LOR mistakes [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
By the way, I thought I'd share that one of my recommenders spelled my name wrong. He let me read the letter, even though I didn't ask. I'd actually rather not see these recommendation letters...they kind of embarrass me.

It was a very positive and specific recommendation, but he spelled my name wrong the entire way through. I don't understand why. My name appeared about a million times on all the materials I sent him. (He used a common misspelling by adding an extra letter. But still. That's not my last name.) I didn't say anything to him because he was marvelously efficient throughout this process, and I didn't want to either ask him redo it or make him feel horrible. I figure it's not a big deal, though I guess this makes it seem like he doesn't really know me. I think the content of the letter, however, has enough specific info that it shouldn't matter.

I hope I get in this year. I'd hate to have to ask some of these same recommenders to do the whole thing for me again.


That part cracked me up. It's funny, I work with this attorney that always adds an "e" to the end of my name in e-mails, and my name is a fairly common one at that. But like you, I dont want to make her "feel horrible." Seriously though, everytime I sign a reply e-mail back to her, amazingly, no "e."


LateApplicant


Jan 19, 2007, 12:37 PM

Post #66 of 333 (6423 views)
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Re: [ecphraticknolls] UWashington-Seattle problems [In reply to] Can't Post

I wouldn't worry about a misspelling or a rec. letter that arrives late or something like that. If you read threads from previous years, you'll see that this has happened before, and it didn't prevent people from getting accepted.

Ecphratick: don't worry about Michigan. In some other thread (this year's) someone said she got all her application materials late, including those for Michigan. And not only was her appl. considered, she was waitlisted. Of course, if you send them everything around March, you're toast, but a few days won't matter, provided you've paid the app. fee on time. (My guess is that if you pay on time, they are kind of morally obligated to go over your stuff :)).

Glinda: Well, come on, it's easy to add an extra "o" to "Bamboo" :) No, serious: they won't care about your misspelled name. Again, I've heard this same thing happening before.


ecphraticknolls


Jan 19, 2007, 1:03 PM

Post #67 of 333 (6404 views)
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Re: [LateApplicant] UWashington-Seattle problems [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks, good to know. Well, I ended up putting together an application for a lower-tier school that I was considering applying to anyway, and since it is already done, I might as well send it off. I also forgot to send off the rec. form to Notre Dame… So I have to send that to my recs anyway—making it no big deal to request one more letter.


jargreen

e-mail user

Jan 19, 2007, 3:03 PM

Post #68 of 333 (6374 views)
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Recommendation forms? How stupid. [In reply to] Can't Post

I had my profs send their letters off 2-3 weeks before I completed the online applications, where I learned several of my schools had a recommendation form, which they will not be receiving, and that's okay with me, because I'm done with this madness, at least until next year, unless I get in somewhere, which is beginning to look like a long shot, but I could be wrong about that, only time will tell.


binthepoint


Jan 19, 2007, 3:03 PM

Post #69 of 333 (6373 views)
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Oregon [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey Kids,

Question for ya...

Anyone out there applying to Oregon? Have any luck getting in touch with them recently? Is your application status stuff all up to date?

It says I'm missing two recs (which were sent' separately) and I haven't been able to get word from anyone (phone or e-mail) about how much I should be worrying right now/whether my professors need to resend recs.

Thanks!



(This post was edited by binthepoint on Jan 19, 2007, 3:13 PM)


Markers54


Jan 19, 2007, 4:07 PM

Post #70 of 333 (6334 views)
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Post deleted by Ytsur82 [In reply to]

 


hamholio


Jan 19, 2007, 7:31 PM

Post #71 of 333 (6294 views)
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Re: [Ytsur82] Recommendation forms? How stupid. [In reply to] Can't Post

I also had the worst time looking for the U. Iowa form -- when I found it, long after all my recommendations were returned to me, I sent it out to the three of them with SASEs and paperclipped them to the sealed envelopes.

Two of my recommenders did not use letterhead -- one is an adjunct professor at the U. Iowa, I thought he would have known better! The other isn't in a professional teaching position, so I mostly expected it from him. It'll be something good to blame getting rejected on. ;-)


v1ctorya


Jan 19, 2007, 10:43 PM

Post #72 of 333 (6262 views)
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Re: [Glinda Bamboo] silly LOR mistakes [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
By the way, I thought I'd share that one of my recommenders spelled my name wrong. He let me read the letter, even though I didn't ask. I'd actually rather not see these recommendation letters...they kind of embarrass me.

It was a very positive and specific recommendation, but he spelled my name wrong the entire way through. I don't understand why. My name appeared about a million times on all the materials I sent him. (He used a common misspelling by adding an extra letter. But still. That's not my last name.) I didn't say anything to him because he was marvelously efficient throughout this process, and I didn't want to either ask him redo it or make him feel horrible. I figure it's not a big deal, though I guess this makes it seem like he doesn't really know me. I think the content of the letter, however, has enough specific info that it shouldn't matter.

I hope I get in this year. I'd hate to have to ask some of these same recommenders to do the whole thing for me again.



I had one do that! Not only did she misspell my name, but there were numerous errors throughout and it was a horrid letter. I sent an e-mail apologizing for not realizing how incredibly busy she must be, and attached a letter I wrote that she could modify. She did, then left them for her secretary. I got there as her secretary was tearing apart the old letters, to find out she had put the wrong letters with all the forms (such as, she put the alabama, virginia, and Indiana waiver in with a Cornell rec letter) and it was a huge mess. I was SOOO glad I caught it. I figured it would have made us both look bad. She was slightly put off, but in the end - I just won't ask her again next year. I found it kind of suspect, as she tends to mention how hard my position is to fill (adult high level ESL basically, even though it's supposed to be a different typ of english course) and I've been there a couple years.


mares


Jan 21, 2007, 2:57 PM

Post #73 of 333 (6189 views)
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Re: [jargreen] Recommendation forms? How stupid. [In reply to] Can't Post

jargreen, i did the same thing with at least 3 applications. i put off doing the actual online apps until the last minute. then of course I got there and found new requirements that it was too late to do anything about...such as rec forms.

But i feel the same way. Just breathing a sigh of relief that the bulk of my apps are done.


Arkinese


Jan 22, 2007, 10:06 AM

Post #74 of 333 (6120 views)
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Re: [jargreen] Recommendation forms? How stupid. [In reply to] Can't Post

That was what I did too. Talked to my profs in October about rec letters, gave them all the information I thought they needed, and then in late November, I had to keep emailing them: "I'm sending another form for blah-blah school because I didn't realize they had a recommendation form..." I wish I was still at my undergrad school and not 300 miles away because then I wouldn't have had to mail all that stuff!

My favorite was Notre Dame where the form consisted of my name, my signature, the date, the recommender's name, their signature and the date. But it had to be IN INK and the committee would kill me where I stood if they didn't have this form with my recommendation letters. So I had to mail them a form to literally sign and date and mail back.

I really, really, really, really wish schools would just make it very simple to find the application checklist and have the links to the rec forms, cover sheets, etc. right there in the list. I don't care if they have anything else on their website. I just want The List with the forms.


hamholio


Jan 22, 2007, 11:38 AM

Post #75 of 333 (6094 views)
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Re: [Arkinese] Recommendation forms? How stupid. [In reply to] Can't Post

ND also wanted two copies of the letters, which I didn't realize until long after my recs. had sent them out -- I never did anything about it. My application will be stuck because they only got one copy of each of my LORs. :-D


Arkinese


Jan 22, 2007, 11:51 AM

Post #76 of 333 (7007 views)
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Re: [hamholio] Recommendation forms? How stupid. [In reply to] Can't Post

I bet they'd let it slide if you promised to say 20 Hail Marys -- 10 for the sin and 20 because it was supposed to be in duplicate (I come from a "recovering" Catholic family).


Aubrie


Jan 22, 2007, 12:04 PM

Post #77 of 333 (6995 views)
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Re: [hamholio] Recommendation forms? How stupid. [In reply to] Can't Post

I have no idea whether or not my writers sent two copies of their letters to ND, or the waiver form that had to go along with the reference forms. Oh well. What can you do. I didn't really want to start a Masters this year, anyway.


jaywalke


Jan 22, 2007, 12:25 PM

Post #78 of 333 (6986 views)
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Re: [hamholio] Recommendation forms? How stupid. [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
ND also wanted two copies of the letters, which I didn't realize until long after my recs. had sent them out -- I never did anything about it. My application will be stuck because they only got one copy of each of my LORs. :-D


Call the administrative assistant and BE NICE. Phrases like: "I know you must be terribly busy. I apologize for being a pain. Is there anything I can do now to help fix this?" will go a long way. Speaking from experience: a) the admins hold the power when it comes to paperwork, and b) there are very few rules that a good admin cannot circumvent for you if they truly want to.

The flip side of that, of course, is that it is simply amazing how things get lost/delayed/shredded when you pitch attitude (especially as a student) to an admin assistant.


jargreen

e-mail user

Jan 22, 2007, 1:06 PM

Post #79 of 333 (6963 views)
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Re: [Arkinese] Recommendation forms? How stupid. [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree 100%, Arkinese. I think these schools make the application process exceptionally difficult, and they don't seem to be doing it on purpose. It just looks like some schools are very sloppy with their information, and that reflects very badly on them, if you ask me. Any one of us, I'm sure, could be hired to come in and revamp their websites to include all the specific, concise details that WE need.

By the by, I called UMass and told them that my rec letters would be arriving sans rec form, and they said it was fine, the form wasn't required. So I'm just assuming that's the case at the other 4 or 5 schools that also screwed me on the rec form. If they really need it, I mean really need it, they can write me. (Yes, I've reached that point in the process when I just don't give a ...)

R


Arkinese


Jan 22, 2007, 1:49 PM

Post #80 of 333 (6945 views)
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Re: [jargreen] Recommendation forms? How stupid. [In reply to] Can't Post

Arizona and Iowa WW had the best lists of the 14 schools I applied to, as seen here: http://english.web.arizona.edu/...id=151&preview=1
http://www.uiowa.edu/...ore_requirements.htm

Just in case, any creative writing professors happen to be reading, here's what I would love to have on the homepage of each creative writing program's website (is there a message board for these application wish lists?):
Bold edits credited to Jargreen

At the top would be the words: MAIL ALL APPLICATION MATERIALS HERE in ONE BIG ENVELOPE followed by the USPS-accepted address (there should only be one) in big bold letters.
Then it would say: "Please mail envelope delivery confirmation so you can be sure of its receipt" (no more worrying about postcards)
Then each requirement would be numbered as follows:


1. Manuscripts required with number of works, number of pages, formatting reqs, any other info
2. Manuscript cover sheet with link (I think every school needs one of these. I feel weird submitting something with no intro since all applications are online now)
3. Number of copies of transcripts
4. GRE scores required with school code and department code
5. Letters of recommendation — number required, who from, with link to any forms
6. Personal statement requirements—something like: "Statement should highlight these three things about blah blah blah" plus word limit and/or page limit, so it's just not this vague goobaleegawk of buzzwords.
7. Fellowship, etc. forms with links
8. Application fee amount
9. "Apply online here" (link)
10. "Questions? Email this person, who holds this title, at this address"

Then in big bold letters: All above materials must be postmarked by [date] for those seeking fellowships/assistantships. Materials must be postmarked by [other date] for all other applicants.

The end.

Oh, and since every program would use my handy 1-10 numbering system, if a school didn't require GREs, for example, they would write at #4: We do not require the GREs.
Easy peasy lemon squeezy, right?


(This post was edited by Arkinese on Jan 22, 2007, 5:00 PM)


jargreen

e-mail user

Jan 22, 2007, 2:48 PM

Post #81 of 333 (6930 views)
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Re: [Arkinese] Recommendation forms? How stupid. [In reply to] Can't Post

Great list. You might add GRE department code, any suggestions they might have for formatting the manuscript, whether the due date is a postmark date or received-by date, and specific address where the materials go to (which is, inexplicably, vague with some programs).


plumagemour


Jan 22, 2007, 2:58 PM

Post #82 of 333 (6924 views)
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Re: [Arkinese] Recommendation forms? How stupid. [In reply to] Can't Post

is it really going to matter if the professors didn't use the forms?
i had the same problem with alabama, and i'd be really bummed if i was rejected on those terms.


Arkinese


Jan 22, 2007, 3:19 PM

Post #83 of 333 (6912 views)
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Re: [jargreen] Recommendation forms? How stupid. [In reply to] Can't Post

Great additions. Can't believe I forgot the postmark bit! I've emailed 90% of my schools about that one. On topic: Schools should also add with the letters of recommendation that the recommender must seal the envelope and sign across the flap. If someone doesn't know that in general, they can screw up all their letters by not having their recommenders do that. I don't even remember how I learned that but I think it was from one school's website and I just applied it to the others.


bighark


Jan 22, 2007, 3:46 PM

Post #84 of 333 (6901 views)
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Re: [Arkinese] Recommendation forms? How stupid. [In reply to] Can't Post

Here's my personal top five worst MFA program websites:

1) Columbia Chicago (So bad it influenced my decision not to apply)
2) School of the Art Institute of Chicago
3) Bowling Green State University
4) University of Notre Dame
5) Purdue University


Arkinese


Jan 22, 2007, 4:53 PM

Post #85 of 333 (6878 views)
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Re: [bighark] Recommendation forms? How stupid. [In reply to] Can't Post

Yeah, the designs for the top two are terrible (I went and checked them out just to see the atrocities). I actually thought Notre Dame had a good list of requirements but the website design seems a little off now that you mention it. I didn't particularly care for Indiana-Bloomington or UNC-Greensboro because they were both too vague. When I emailed UNC though, they were extremely nice and said, "personal statements make students sound pompous and pretentious so we don't require them. Writing samples and rec letters give us all the information we need." Instantly, they were my favorite.

I wonder if we can carry this discussion over to a separate thread? Like "Best and Worst Application Processes"?


vronsky


Feb 21, 2007, 8:36 AM

Post #86 of 333 (6788 views)
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Re: [Arkinese] Recommendation forms? How stupid. [In reply to] Can't Post

Note to applicants of the future: When you ask for your LOR's, ask the recommender-to-be if s/he feels comfortable writing you an EXCELLENT letter. Chances are, the professor will say yes. If not, you'll have saved yourself a lot of worry. I can't believe some of the things I'm hearing in the other threads. Please. Don't be that guy. Don't be that guy with the crappy letters. Make sure you're getting letters from reliable people who will say EXCELLENT things about you. For the love of god.


(This post was edited by maggiekate on Feb 21, 2007, 8:38 AM)


minna pratt


Feb 21, 2007, 7:01 PM

Post #87 of 333 (6721 views)
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Re: [maggiekate] Recommendation letter advice [In reply to] Can't Post

I'll second that and I'd like to add:

Seriously consider asking four people to write you letters, instead of three (or three instead of two, depending on what schools you apply to). I hated having to ask three people to begin with -- like most people, I hate to ask people for favors that involve singing my praises -- but if I had forced myself to ask one more person it would have saved me a lot of trouble (and worry) tracking my third professor down over the course of the month of January. Professors can occasionally be scatter-brained procrasinators too, and it is no fun whatsoever to politely nag or pester someone to follow through with doing you a favor (even if it does fall under a professor's job requirements to write LORs).

I don't think schools care if they get an extra LOR but it can definitely delay the process or possibly even disqualify you if you don't have the required number of LORs in your application. Some schools will be nice enough to inform you and ask you to get that last LOR in, others will not be so kind. Also, be aware of the general LOR etiquette. Ask professors well in advance -- like October or maybe November. I asked mine in late November and felt bad for asking them so late. Make things as easy as possible on your recommenders (signed stamped envelopes etc.)


tenderloner
Geary'n Hyde

Feb 22, 2007, 1:39 AM

Post #88 of 333 (6655 views)
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Re: [minna pratt] Recommendation letter advice [In reply to] Can't Post

For a variety of reasons I didn't have enough profs for recommenders, but if you can ask 4 or even 5, all the better, especially if you, like me, take Tom Kealy's advice to heart and apply to 8+ schools. I thought they would just do one letter and make all the copies at once and be done (as my recommender who works a day job does), but the 2 instructors each forgot to write some letters and then got upset with me when I asked (politely, graciously, but trying to convey the time limit). If you have enough profs who can speak to your abilities, get them lined up early and use a dossier service, if available at your alma mater and accepted by your target schools.

That said, having applied to law school a while back, this was such a more complicted and daunting process. The law school application process spoiled me with the single set of LORs, transcripts and scores all in one report. Come to think of it, they charged $15, the same as for a GRE and could be ordered online. Really would be useful to have such a thing for grad school!


razmatazmilfoil
Sara

Feb 22, 2007, 2:51 PM

Post #89 of 333 (6591 views)
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letters of rec and dossier service [In reply to] Can't Post

One of my recommenders insisted on using a dossier service (www.interfolio.com). Although at first I was reluctant and annoyed to pay the $15 yearly fee, it ended up making things a lot easier. I was informed when he had submitted the letter to my file, and I was the one who addressed it to my schools. Also, if I had wanted to add a school at the last minute, I could have done so without re-involving my professors. If I have to do this again (I hope not) I'll use it for my entire application packet. You can upload and mail all of the pieces of the application: official transcripts, official GRE Scores, letters of rec, sops, mss, resume, etc. Asking a professor to update one pre-existing letter the next year is easier than asking her to write eleven more!

One disadvantage to a service like interfolio.com is that you won't be able to use the individual rec. forms. However, although many schools prefer the forms, the letter is what matters most. Brown specifically says that they accept letters from dossier services.

Another disadvantage involves asking techo-phobic English professors to set up an account with the dossier service. In the long run it makes things easier for everybody.


tenderloner
Geary'n Hyde

Feb 23, 2007, 7:15 PM

Post #90 of 333 (6516 views)
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Re: [razmatazmilfoil] letters of rec and dossier service [In reply to] Can't Post

I remember Brown would take dossier service letters, but how did other schools respond? Did any reject them?


jargreen

e-mail user

Feb 23, 2007, 8:41 PM

Post #91 of 333 (6477 views)
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Re: [bighark] Recommendation forms? How stupid. [In reply to] Can't Post

Bighark, I'd like to add a few to your Worst Program Websites list:

Western Michigan's is just plain awful. It's ugly, and it's extremely difficult to navigate.

As discussed elsewhere, the UMass website (though beautiful) seemed to leave out quite a lot of information about the application process that would have come in handy before submitting the online app!

Illinois's website looks nice, but it's not the most enlightening either.

UNC Greensboro doesn't really have a website; they just have a page on which they've put a link to their program's brochure.

And I'm sure there are many more to add.


razmatazmilfoil
Sara

Feb 23, 2007, 9:04 PM

Post #92 of 333 (6468 views)
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Re: [tenderloner] letters of rec and dossier service [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, these schools accepted it:

Washington
Oregon
UC-Irvine
Iowa
Montana
Michigan
Houston
Cornell
Brown
Johns Hopkins
Virginia

That said, I had two traditional letters in addition to the dossier service letter. I have yet to hear word from any of my schools regarding acceptances (or otherwise), but my applications are considered "complete." I think I already said this, but if I have to do this again, I'll check with the schools to see if I can submit the entire application via dossier service.


tenderloner
Geary'n Hyde

Feb 23, 2007, 9:23 PM

Post #93 of 333 (6458 views)
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Re: [razmatazmilfoil] letters of rec and dossier service [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the tip. Heaven forbid I should need to go through this process all over again!

Also, many of these schools accept applications via Project 1000, which has an online application, statement and collects LORs. Some schools don't accept it for their Arts school (Columbia was one I remember). You need to apply at least a month before the program deadline, however. You're also supposed to be a minority and I think first generation college student, but not sure if/how they verifty that.

We've applied to 4 of the same schools. Maybe we'll end up in the same place.


razmatazmilfoil
Sara

Feb 23, 2007, 9:32 PM

Post #94 of 333 (6455 views)
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Re: [tenderloner] letters of rec and dossier service [In reply to] Can't Post

Also a great tip about Project 1000. Do you just write one catch-all statement of purpose? I hope neither of us has to go through this process again next year. Where do we overlap?

Cheers!
Sara


tenderloner
Geary'n Hyde

Feb 23, 2007, 10:22 PM

Post #95 of 333 (6432 views)
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Re: [razmatazmilfoil] letters of rec and dossier service [In reply to] Can't Post

I think you had the option to do the catch all or personalize, but it's been months since I looked at it.

Brown, Cornell, Iowa and Irvine, fingers crossed!


vronsky


Feb 25, 2007, 10:45 AM

Post #96 of 333 (6371 views)
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Re: [razmatazmilfoil] letters of rec and dossier service [In reply to] Can't Post

This is what I did:

First, I wrote Irvine's monstrous four-page SOP.

Second, I wrote Cornell's short SOP.

Then, thoughout the following month, I chopped & screwed those essays to make up the remainder of my SOP's. Things were much easier after that. This was my basic template for most of my SOP's:

1) Thumbnail sketch of my career so far (people I've worked with, etc)...
2) ...leading into a paragraph about why I want to pursue an MFA...
3) ...leading into a paragraph about why school X is right for me (this is the part I had to personalize for each school)...
4) ...then I'd either end the essay (if it's a 1-2 pager) (see step 6 if you'd like to end the essay now) or I'd go on for another two paragraphs, starting with a paragraph about the state of my writing at the moment...
5) ...shifting into a paragraph about writers I like...
6) ...and concluding with a paragraph about how I'd love for them to make me a part of their program, etc, etc.

So you see there's quite a bit of room for overlap. You could write one essay for Michigan & reuse that essay by chopping out the 3rd paragraph and personalizing it for each school. I know it seems like the essays at some schools sound tricky (UVA says you should talk about your "interests"), but after you've done a couple SOP's you'll get a feel for what the schools are looking for. (That is, they want to know about your background & they want to know what your "purpose" is in applying for an MFA. That's it. Nothing fancy.)

Just a word of warning: when reusing your essays, BE SURE TO CALL SCHOOL X "SCHOOL X", NOT "SCHOOL Y". That is, if you're using an SOP you wrote for Ohio State to slap together an SOP for Michigan, MAKE SURE you remove ALL INSTANCES of "Ohio State" from the original. I made a mistake like this and almost had a heart attack. The school in question let me fax a new copy of the SOP (typo-free), so it all turned out okay (I think I was an exception to the rule) Please exercise caution when reusing SOP's, kids.

Hope this is helpful. You can bank on working a hell of a lot on these applications, even if you reuse SOP's. I applied to eleven schools, which added up to about four hours of work per night (after working in a cubicle for nine hours!) for about three weeks.


tenderloner
Geary'n Hyde

Feb 25, 2007, 1:31 PM

Post #97 of 333 (6331 views)
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Re: [maggiekate] letters of rec and dossier service [In reply to] Can't Post

Maggiekate, you're giving me flashbacks. I feel like I didn't write most of the right things. I wrote about my life experience, what inspired me to finish my BA in my 30s, how engaged I was in workshops, how my life experience helped me be a better workshopper, the themes that recur in my writing & photography and what I want to work on as an MFA student.

I also wrote about how I broke out of my shell in undergrad by being very involved in activities -- student council, literary magazine, planned a thesis reading -- and how I hope to use that experience to contribute to the programs at which I'm applying. Of course, that was edited as applicable for each program (teaching, lit journal, etc.). I talked about books that made me a writer and recent favorites that spoke to me about identity and transformation.

I think my Iowa essay was the best of the lot, I wove all the pieces together better. But the shorter ones feel choppy to me, alas.


vronsky


Feb 25, 2007, 3:56 PM

Post #98 of 333 (6296 views)
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Re: [tenderloner] letters of rec and dossier service [In reply to] Can't Post

Those are great things to write about! Sounds like your SOP's were really good. There's a ton of ways you can approach the SOP. I didn't mean to imply that my way was THE WAY. Besides, I feel like mine were somewhat stiff and businessey...I hate writing stuff like this, I guess. That's why I tried to break it up into a step-by-step process...

(Step by step! Ooh babaaay! Gonna get with you giiiirrrrlll...)

(Step one! We can have lots of fun!
Step two! There's so much we can doooo!)

(okay, I'll stop...)


tenderloner
Geary'n Hyde

Feb 25, 2007, 6:24 PM

Post #99 of 333 (6241 views)
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Re: [maggiekate] letters of rec and dossier service [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks MK, some essays were better than others because I could develop the ideas more fully. My concern is that it wasn't literary enough. I tested out of a couple of years of lit in high school and college (in order to make room for more math, damn gifted program!), so I am not as well read as I would like. Although I did write about different experiences being "lenses," which was surprisingly literary of me.

I also worry that my writing sample itself isn't literary enough. Regular people read my writing and are touched by it. I guess the goal is to read more and work on structure/story arc. I already have the emotion, dialogue and experience to create full, realistic worlds.


dunnkc


Jul 4, 2007, 11:46 PM

Post #100 of 333 (6115 views)
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Re: a question regarding recommendation etiquette [In reply to] Can't Post

I was wondering if anyone could help me with this.

I am hoping to apply to MFA programs for fiction again in the fall, after being rejected the past two years. I'm trying to come up with people to write letters of recommendation for this year, and I don't know a lot of fiction writers. Actually, just two. Fiction Writer A taught a workshop in the continuing studies department at a nearby university. He is very nice, not well-known, but he was kind enough to write me a letter last year. Fiction Writer B is a fairly well-known novelist, and I am currently in a weekly private workshop that he leads in his home.

Here is the issue. Fiction writer B, the well-known novelist, has announced that he will not be leading any more sessions of the workshop because he has sold the first book of his trilogy and has to finish the second over the next year. He is not teaching any classes at the university where he is a professor. He is just writing. This was a surprise to the rest of the people in the workshop, who I think have been in these workshops for the past year or two. I just joined, though it turned out this was the last six-week session. He has indicated that he will be very busy over the next year, and even after that.... this is a trilogy, after all.

So my dilemma-- I had hoped to ask him for a recommendation during a later session in the fall. Should I ask him now, or, as I fear, is one six week workshop that meets once a week not nearly enough for him to be able to comment on me as a candidate, since he really still barely knows me. I'm also afraid that if I ask him, he will tell me what I am kind of thinking myself, which is that I need to spend some more time working on my writing, maybe another year or two, before I try applying again. So, should I ask him or not? I'm afraid he will be offended because he indicated he would be so busy, and he barely knows me, and besides, the other people in the workshop have known him so much longer, he should write them letters of recommendation long before he writes me one.

Or at least do you think it would be okay to ask him to sign a copy of one of his books? Would that be a faux pas? Pardon me if I'm a little clueless, this is only my second workshop ever.


HopperFu


Jul 5, 2007, 7:44 AM

Post #101 of 333 (6595 views)
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Re: [dunnkc] a question regarding recommendation etiquette [In reply to] Can't Post

last question first: yes, ask him to sign a copy of his book. If anything, that's actually considered polite (it indicates that a) you bought a copy, and b) you might like it.
As for the letter, go ahead and ask him. What do you have to lose? So he says no. But if he says yes, then you get a nice letter from somebody who is - at least somewhat - familiar with your work.
Seriously, what do you have to lose other than a little dignity?


easter


Jul 6, 2007, 8:01 PM

Post #102 of 333 (6539 views)
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Re: [dunnkc] a question regarding recommendation etiquette [In reply to] Can't Post

While I tend to agree that you really don't have anything to lose in simply asking for a letter of recommendation, part of me disagrees. A solid letter of recommendation comes from those who are familiar with both your work and your character. Asking someone, in particular, simply because they may be distinguished in the industry doesn't necessarily help your cause. Even though admission committees may be impressed by a big name, I think, for the most part, they are looking for confirmation that you take direction and criticism well, and that you respect the writing and technique of your peers. If you're sure you have what MFA programs are looking for, both in your work and your character, help yourself out by getting those who know you best to write letters for you.


In Reply To
I was wondering if anyone could help me with this.
...



dunnkc


Jul 6, 2007, 8:36 PM

Post #103 of 333 (6533 views)
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Re: [easter] a question regarding recommendation etiquette [In reply to] Can't Post

I think maybe you are right. He doesn't know me well enough, I don't think. He is not familiar enough with my character, even though he has read a little of my work. (He had to approve my writing sample before he let me in the class.) But I don't really know anyone else who is familiar with my work, except this one other teacher. But I'm going to need more letters than that. If I just go find another writer to take a class from, then I guess he or she wouldn't really have enough time to get familiar with me and my work to the extent that it would be possible to make really good comments on these things before applications will be due, either.

Maybe you are right and I should spend some time thinking about whether or not I am right for an MFA. It is definitely something I ought to spend a year or two thinking about. It's not right for everyone, I guess.

Thanks for your help


dunnkc


Jul 6, 2007, 8:38 PM

Post #104 of 333 (6532 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] a question regarding recommendation etiquette [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the advice. I am definitely getting that signed copy at the last meeting.


easter


Jul 7, 2007, 12:28 AM

Post #105 of 333 (6521 views)
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Re: [dunnkc] a question regarding recommendation etiquette [In reply to] Can't Post

I wouldn't start doubting whether or not you're right for an MFA - writers deal with enough self doubt as it is. If it's something you want to pursue, by all means do it. Just don't get bogged down with the letters of recommendation; they're important, but ultimately, it's your writing sample that will get you through the door. I guess another workshop wouldn't be a bad idea--another candidate for letters, and, of course, further practice for your writing--but there is still plenty of time to make the next application process.


bennyprof


Jul 7, 2007, 1:04 AM

Post #106 of 333 (6517 views)
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Re: [dunnkc] a question regarding recommendation etiquette [In reply to] Can't Post

I've got to agree with easter on this one. Getting an MFA isn't like getting married... you shouldn't need a year or two to think it over. You either want to go, or you don't. Sure, an MFA isn't a prereq for becoming a writer, but where else are you going to get the opportunity to set aside 2-3 years to focus solely on writing, and under the mentorship of some very talented, published authors?

A lot can happen in a year or two, and putting things off temporarily can turn permanent real quick. So I guess what I'm saying is that if you want to write, and think an MFA program will be worth the time for you, then go for it. If it means cramming in a few workshops (which you'll get something out of anyway) so you can earn yourself a few more recommendation letters, so be it! And like easter said, the letters aren't the meat of the application; they're just a requirement. Your writing sample is what will make or break you. I think I actually read somewhere that, at one school, they don't even open the letters until after they've made their decisions, and then it's mainly as a kind of reward, to pat themselves on the back for making the right choices.


HopperFu


Jul 7, 2007, 7:59 AM

Post #107 of 333 (6501 views)
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Re: [dunnkc] a question regarding recommendation etiquette [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I think maybe you are right. He doesn't know me well enough, I don't think.


My three letters of rec were from:
1) a writer I worked with for one week at a summer conference
2) a fellow student at that conference who I had kept in touch with
3) another fellow student from a different conference.
I met all of them in the summer before I applied.

If you ask him and he says 'no,' well, that's the sign that he doesn't feel like he can write you a letter....


dunnkc


Jul 7, 2007, 2:20 PM

Post #108 of 333 (6474 views)
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Re: [easter] a question regarding recommendation etiquette [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
If it's something you want to pursue, by all means do it


Thanks, but it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me to pursue it just because I want to. I ought to have some kind of talent or ability to improve my writing, which I don't think I have done these past two years. This is sufficiently evident in the fact that I had a worse track record for being waitlisted this year than I had the year before. (I applied to a lot of the same schools.)

Thanks for everyone's help, but I think it is just time to move on.


(This post was edited by dunnkc on Jul 7, 2007, 2:33 PM)


Rambler


Jul 7, 2007, 3:29 PM

Post #109 of 333 (6459 views)
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Re: [dunnkc] a question regarding recommendation etiquette [In reply to] Can't Post

dunnkc,

Your last post made me feel so sad inside. If you want to apply, go for it. Don't overthink this. Follow your heart. How many famous authors faced rejection, multiple times? Somebody on this site applied to Iowa like 5 times and just got in this time. I applaud that. And if you've been waitlisted, you're ahead of a lot of the rest of us.

We writers are a fragile breed. If you want to get an MFA, keep trying. I know good writing takes a lot of time, and time is the number one enemy of a writer. But do your best, get your letters from whoever you think best, and go for it.

Just because you've been waitlisted doesn't mean you're not up to snuff as a writer. There are a lot of other factors at play in the selection process...


Dewey

e-mail user

Jul 7, 2007, 7:19 PM

Post #110 of 333 (6434 views)
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Re: [Rambler] a question regarding recommendation etiquette [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey, dunnkc, George Saunders makes a great point in Kealey's MFA Handbook, here it is:
Tom Kealey: "What if a student is not accepted anywhere? What advice would you offer? Should a student apply again next year?"
George Saunders: "Yes, I'd say you definitely apply again. Not necessarily to the same programs. To some different ones, and maybe the two or three that you really wanted to go to. I look at my own writing in my twenties, when one year I was writing very poorly and the next year I got suddenly, mysteriously better. Progress seems to happen in surges. You have to shake things up...My feeling is, acceptance to an M.F.A. program is not diagnostic in either direction. People who turn out to be great writers could be rejected, and people who turn out to be poor writers could be accepted...Teachers should be unsure of their own powers of selection, and writers should be humble, and hopeful, about their ability to transform their own work, suddenly, unexpectedly...If you've been rejected, one way to shake things up is to question your reading list. Find a writer that is new to you. Two or three writers that you're really excited about. Follow their linage back. Know everything about them. Immerse yourself in those writers..."
You're probably right, just wanting to go to an MFA is not enough, but wanting to be a writer is. I'm like Saunders; I started out as a not so good writer, kept at it though, then after a good while I "suddenly, mysteriously" got a lot better. But that's never gonna happen if you don't keep trying. I'd follow Saunders' advice. And...Who’s telling you you're not good enough? Seems to me like it might be you. You need an outside opinion, other than an MFA acceptance board, some one who gets what you're trying to do. But no matter what anyone says, if you want and love to write and you like, maybe even love to read, then you'll improve through persistent effort.
Good luck!


jujubee


Sep 26, 2007, 11:42 PM

Post #111 of 333 (6338 views)
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A technical question regarding asking for recommendations [In reply to] Can't Post

Hello, everyone!

Like many others on this forum, I am planning on applying to MFA programs this winter for Fall 2008 admission. I am currently in the midst of getting all elements of my application packets in order (more or less) and realized that there are only a limited number of people from whom I can ask for recommendations from.

What would be the best way to get all recs to all schools without having my poor writing instructor/writing buddy fill out recs for all 10 schools that I plan on applying to? Would it be appropriate to just have the person make copies of a rec and just stick in sealed envelopes? Is it even appropriate to ask someone to make 10 copies of the rec?!

And, how damaging do you think it would be if I didn't send in recommendations on the school-approved recommedation forms?

Sorry for the onslaught of questions! With the deadlines looming in a matter of months, all sorts of things need to be untangled, it seems.

Thanks so much for your help!

jules


bighark


Sep 27, 2007, 6:40 PM

Post #112 of 333 (6282 views)
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Re: [jujubee] A technical question regarding asking for recommendations [In reply to] Can't Post

Jules,

You'll need three letters of recommendation for each school. Your LORs don’t have to be all from professors, but you should strive to have at least one former instructor writing on your behalf. The other letters should be from people who are familiar with your writing. These people should be writers or editors with publication credits.

If you’ve been out of school for a number of years, you could probably get away with one former professor, one writer, and one former boss or supervisor. If you’re still an undergrad or have graduated within the past five years or so, you should strive to get three letters from instructors or writers or both.

The process of writing LORs, for professors at least, is a routine part of the job. Don’t worry about the volume of LORs you are requesting. You won’t be the first student to ask for a bunch of letters, and you certainly won’t be the last. Your LOR writer has written dozens of these kinds of letters over the years and could probably compose one for you in minutes. If you’re an especially talented student, he or she may even write something original J Regardless, the LOR writer will most likely use the same letter (swapping out names when necessary) for all of your schools.

You can make things easier for your LOR writers by doing all of the administrative work for them. For each letter, you should provide a list of directions. These directions should include at least the following:

Program’s LOR deadline
The date by which you’d like letter in the mail (It’s ok to say “The letter is due by December 15. If you could have it to them by November 30, I’d really appreciate it)
Delivery method requested by the school (Mail directly to the program, mail to you so you can include it in your application, or fill out online)
Any other special directions (Sign over the envelope’s back flap, fill out an extra form, etc.)

Be sure to include a self-addressed stamped envelope for any LOR that must be mailed. If there are extra forms, you can go ahead and fill in as much of the objective information (names, addresses, graduation years, etc) as you can so the LOR writer doesn’t have to waste time filling out the same information over and over.

Also, many programs (the majority, I believe) offer online delivery of letters of recommendation. Definitely take this route whenever you can! It’s easier for you, the school, and the LOR writers.

Good luck!


(This post was edited by bighark on Sep 27, 2007, 6:42 PM)


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Sep 27, 2007, 11:29 PM

Post #113 of 333 (6247 views)
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Re: [bighark] A technical question regarding asking for recommendations [In reply to] Can't Post

 
Say, bighark, thanks for the helpful tips.


Raignn



Sep 28, 2007, 9:34 AM

Post #114 of 333 (6225 views)
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Re: [bighark] A technical question regarding asking for recommendations [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you very much for this response! I was actually wondering all the same questions and was going to pick the brain of one of my peers this weekend. Thanks for saving her the trouble!


jujubee


Sep 28, 2007, 12:12 PM

Post #115 of 333 (6208 views)
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Re: [Raignn] A technical question regarding asking for recommendations [In reply to] Can't Post

  
bighark,

Thanks so very much for your insight! If only everything in life can be answered with such swiftness and accuracy!

I definitely will take your advice on making the process as easy as possible for the people who will be writing my recommendations. Surely, the online forms will help tremendously with that as well.

jules


(This post was edited by jujubee on Sep 28, 2007, 12:20 PM)


forthedogs


Sep 28, 2007, 12:24 PM

Post #116 of 333 (6200 views)
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Re: [bighark] A technical question regarding asking for recommendations [In reply to] Can't Post

first post here, but i've been lurking and reading for a long time. i'm applying this winter for next fall too. just wanted to say: Thanks for this, Bighark! this is a great resource.


hamlet3145


Sep 28, 2007, 12:56 PM

Post #117 of 333 (6196 views)
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Re: [JWhelan] A technical question regarding asking for recommendations [In reply to] Can't Post

One thing that made my application process much MUCH easier was that Grinnell College (my undergrad institution) maintains a credential file for their graduates. Basically, you ask your recommenders to write one letter each which are then kept on file at the college. When you need them to be sent to a program you just let alumni services (or whoever maintains it) know and then mail then out for you. I was able to do this even for those programs which have their own recommendation forms. (I flat out asked Michigan if I could just send letters from my credential file and they said yes).

So it might be worth it to check and see if your undergrad institution offers such a service. Saved me so much time and I didn't feel like an ass for asking my profs to mail out 12 letters each.


forthedogs


Sep 29, 2007, 4:24 AM

Post #118 of 333 (6152 views)
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Re: [Hamlet3145] A technical question regarding asking for recommendations [In reply to] Can't Post

this sounds incredibly convenient! i wish my undergrad insitution had this. i'm just finishing up at stockholm university, though, they don't have this sort of system set up. it's not all that common that people go to grad school in the US, from here (this, I suspect, is changing with the bologna accords, though), so they haven't set up this kind of a great service. i doubt they will, to tell the truth. the student services office is pretty notorious for being difficult to work with. getting transcripts is also a pain.

i'll just have to ask my recommenders the old fashioned way.

J


Yugao


Oct 1, 2007, 10:48 PM

Post #119 of 333 (6085 views)
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Re: [JWhelan] A technical question regarding asking for recommendations [In reply to] Can't Post

I graduated from college over nine years ago, and though I had good relationships with my professors when I was a student, I am no longer in touch with any of them. One, who wrote me a recommendation letter for something else, has died. Others have moved, or seem to have disappeared into the ether. I am also in the very unusual situation of having attended a small art school that has now been taken over by a larger art school. So, in a sense, my alma mater doesn't exist at all anymore. There is not a support system for former students, credential file, or anything like that.

Additionally, I have changed a lot since my late teens/early twenties, and do not feel that my former professors could write a letter of recommendation that is reflective of who I am now. My writing has matured. I have matured. A letter detailing who I was at nineteen strikes me as rather useless.

So, instead of going the former professor route, I have asked people who have knowledge of my current work to recommend me. One recommender is a novelist who is very familiar with my work, and who I have completed two workshops with. My second recommender is the chair of the English department at our local community college. I have taken her creative writing courses, and also given presentations to her students. My third recommendation will probably come from an editor I have worked with for several years, or from a long-time workshop/critique partner.

Is this acceptable? I started filling out applications this weekend and noticed that most of the forms assumed that all of the recommendations would be coming from professors. A few of the sites were adamant that recommendations must come from professors, and one insisted that at least two of the recommendations must come from professors at the last college/university attended. I know the application forms are boilerplates intended for every type of grad student but these dictates are causing my Type-A craziness to flare up. Will my recommendations be trashed if they don't come from professors who haven't seen me in a decade? Should I be moving heaven and earth to contact old professors for out-of-date recommendations to fulfill the letter of the law?

(Please excuse my neurotic questions.)


(This post was edited by Yugao on Oct 1, 2007, 10:50 PM)


hamlet3145


Oct 1, 2007, 11:11 PM

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Re: [Yugao] A technical question regarding asking for recommendations [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Is this acceptable?



Absolutely. Those sound like great recommendations.

(And for what it is worth, recs aren't that important to MFA applications).



bighark


Oct 2, 2007, 12:10 AM

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Re: [Yugao] A technical question regarding asking for recommendations [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree. Those sound like damned fine letter writers to me.

Frankly, I think it would be even more odd if you were to get your LORs from former instructors. As someone who’s been out of school for a number of years, you’d think you’d have made new relationships and contacts.
And look at you—you have!
Good luck.


jlgwriter
Jeanne Lyet Gassman
e-mail user

Oct 2, 2007, 12:34 AM

Post #122 of 333 (6063 views)
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Re: [Yugao] A technical question regarding asking for recommendations [In reply to] Can't Post

Those are exactly the kind of recommendations I had (a couple of writers familiar with my work, an editor, and a recent workshop instructor). They worked just fine. Go for it.

Jeanne


http://www.jeannelyetgassman.com
http://jeannelyetgassman.blogspot.com


HopperFu


Oct 2, 2007, 8:14 AM

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Re: [Yugao] A technical question regarding asking for recommendations [In reply to] Can't Post

My recs came from a novelist I did a one-week summer workshop with, and two writers, both of whom I met during one-week summer workshops.


Yugao


Oct 2, 2007, 8:16 AM

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Re: [HopperFu] A technical question regarding asking for recommendations [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for putting my mind at ease.


edwriter



Oct 4, 2007, 7:48 PM

Post #125 of 333 (5993 views)
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recommendations (resource) [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi, everyone:

I stumbled on an interesting resource today and thought it was worth posting about here.

It's a guide on "How to Get Great Recommendations," written by Vince Gotera, who teaches at the University of Northern Iowa (and edits poetry for North American Review). It's not specifically tailored to MFA programs, but given Gotera's background, I think it has lots of relevance. You'll find it here.

Best,
Erika D.


Quiet Americans: Stories
http://www.erikadreifus.com



__________



Oct 15, 2007, 9:55 PM

Post #126 of 333 (6920 views)
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Re: [edwriter] recommendations (resource) [In reply to] Can't Post

Dilemma 914:

I'm applying to fiction programs. My best recommendation would have come from an outstanding poet who likes my stuff, who knows my work/revision ethic. I've taken his workshop twice. But. The last time, I had a big family crisis, didn't turn in a final portfolio, skipped town, made a 'C'. Was so embarrassed I haven't talked to him since. And now, of course, I'm really hard up for rec letters.

Do I even ask?


six five four three two one 0 ->


HopperFu


Oct 16, 2007, 8:06 AM

Post #127 of 333 (6893 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] recommendations (resource) [In reply to] Can't Post

Uh, my immediate reaction is 'no,' but I guess that depends. Will he answer you honestly if you ask him if he can write a good rec for you? Some profs will not write recs unless they can give a very good rec, but others will write letters that make it clear they are only half-hearted about their endorsement. There's a whole coded speech in rec letters.
I guess you can ask him if - despite what happened - if he can write you a letter that is supportive and helpful.

The thing is, though, is that LOR are mostly used to make sure that you are not crazy or a fuck up. I suppose it would be helpful if Thomas Pynchon wrote you a letter, but other than that, I'm not sure if who writes you a letter is as important as that they know you and can essentially vouch for your work ethic, etc. By the time a committee has read your LOR they have already made a decision on your talent.


__________



Oct 16, 2007, 5:12 PM

Post #128 of 333 (6862 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] recommendations (resource) [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks, AZ.

I feel like I should be paying you by now.


six five four three two one 0 ->


mr.shankly


Nov 6, 2007, 12:58 PM

Post #129 of 333 (6784 views)
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Indiana, U Mass Amherst, UC Irvine [In reply to] Can't Post

Two questions.

Does anyone know the specifics for the LORs for Indiana and U Mass Amherst? The websites only indicate that letters should be sent, but they do not state whether or not the recommenders need to send them directly or submit online, etc. I know 3 are needed for Indiana, 2 for U Mass. That's about it.


To which address should I be sending letters to Irvine? I think the following is right but want to make sure.

Graduate Program Administrator
MFA Programs in Writing
Univ. of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697


Thanks.


mpagan


Nov 6, 2007, 2:32 PM

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Re: [mr.shankly] Indiana, U Mass Amherst, UC Irvine [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm applying to Indiana as well - They want the letters sent to the program directly - or uploaded through the online application process.

Since I am sending mine via mail - the address is

Creative Writing
Ballantine Hall 442A
1020 Kirkwood Ave
Bloomington Indiana 47405

Also - you can find the rec form when you download or view the application - print this out and send to the address above - I called and that's what they confirmed


(This post was edited by mpagan on Nov 6, 2007, 2:36 PM)


forthedogs


Nov 6, 2007, 5:24 PM

Post #131 of 333 (6738 views)
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Re: [mr.shankly] Indiana, U Mass Amherst, UC Irvine [In reply to] Can't Post

according to my files (the big crazy mess of spreadsheets i have about this stuff) UMass wants letters mailed directly from the letter writers to the grad school.

but: i just went to check and i can't seem to find anything on their website either. maybe it's just late and i'm blinded by my neurosis.

but again: ok, in the app itself it says to fill out this form (http://www.umass.edu/...endation%20Form.html) give it to you LORWs and have them use it as a cover letter. they return it directly to the grad school. here's the address:
Graduate Admissions Office
530 Goodell Building
University of Massachusetts
140
Hicks Way
Amherst, MA 01003-9333



mr.shankly


Nov 6, 2007, 9:05 PM

Post #132 of 333 (6707 views)
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Re: [JWhelan] Indiana, U Mass Amherst, UC Irvine [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks. I have no idea where you found that information. I'm still a bit unsure of where they need to be mailing the letters, because on the website it says, "Please be sure to send your Writing Program application along with your other MFA application materials directly to the MFA Program, address above." The address given is for the MFA program, not the overall grad school, but the form you sent a link to has the grad school address. Looks as if I need to just make a call in the morning. I'll let you know what I find out.


forthedogs


Nov 7, 2007, 2:28 AM

Post #133 of 333 (6672 views)
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Re: [mr.shankly] Indiana, U Mass Amherst, UC Irvine [In reply to] Can't Post

yeah, see, now i'm unsure too. i found the stuff about letters in the actual online app which you access by following the link on the grad school site via the mfa site.

please do let me know what you find out. i've thoroughly confused myself.

i remember having trouble finding this out when i was making my lists, but i guess for some reason i thought i had resolved it. now i can't seem to find anything that confirms what i have.

let me know.


mr.shankly


Nov 7, 2007, 11:46 AM

Post #134 of 333 (6632 views)
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Re: [JWhelan] Indiana, U Mass Amherst, UC Irvine [In reply to] Can't Post

You were right, they need to be sent to the admission office first and from there will be forwarded to the MFA program. The address you've got is correct. The lady on the phone said it doesn't matter if the letters come with your full package or separate, but since the site says the other materials should go to the MFA program, I'll have my professors send them separately. Good luck!

For anyone out there with similar questions as mine concerning UC Irivine -- the letters can be sent with the package (signed on the flap and sealed) with the form (download it off their site).

Here's the address:

435 Humanities Instructional Building
Irvine, CA 92697-2650
Attn: MFA Program


forthedogs


Nov 7, 2007, 12:13 PM

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Re: [mr.shankly] Indiana, U Mass Amherst, UC Irvine [In reply to] Can't Post

thanks, mr. shankly. i have no idea how i got that right. anyway, i'm doing like you, i think. letters to the program office.

thanks for calling.

j


mpagan


Nov 7, 2007, 4:31 PM

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Re: Letters getting there before apps [In reply to] Can't Post

Is it bad or confusing if your letters of recommendation arrive at the school your applying to before your application does?

I contacted my references early and one of them just informed me they sent out the letters today - but I don't plan to file the application until next week - when I am finally done writing personal statements.

Will this cause any problems - or will the department just file them somewhere until the app comes through?


HopperFu


Nov 7, 2007, 4:36 PM

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Re: [mpagan] Letters getting there before apps [In reply to] Can't Post

don't worry. they'll start a file for you.


jlgwriter
Jeanne Lyet Gassman
e-mail user

Nov 7, 2007, 5:08 PM

Post #138 of 333 (6584 views)
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Re: [mpagan] Letters getting there before apps [In reply to] Can't Post

It shouldn't be a problem. Admissions departments are accustomed to receiving things out of order. As Alexi said, they'll just start a file for you.

Jeanne


http://www.jeannelyetgassman.com
http://jeannelyetgassman.blogspot.com


Zash
Zachary Ash

Nov 7, 2007, 7:22 PM

Post #139 of 333 (6573 views)
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Re: [jlgwriter] Letters getting there before apps [In reply to] Can't Post

What's the deal with Minnesota? I can't fathom how they want the letters. And it looks like they just changed - for the worse - their MFA info page, the one that outlines the application process. This is quite confusing and somewhat alarming. Hope the content's the same.


(This post was edited by Zash on Nov 7, 2007, 7:24 PM)


ajholtz


Nov 12, 2007, 11:57 AM

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Re: [Zash] Letters getting there before apps [In reply to] Can't Post

totally agree about minnesota, i'm from there and can't imagine why they need to act like they've got a big stick up their bum all the time...good program...but it's not the program ordained by god or anything. that page is the most confusing convoluted thing i've come across.
i'm struggling to figure out if schools want 6 recommendations - i wasn't worried about it before, but now i'm going back to all the pages and they're making it sound like you submit three with the online app, and three to the mfa program - is this right? or am i hyperventilating without reason?
the ones i'm talking about will be mn, oregon, montana, indiana
has anyone else had this problem? or is it in my head?


forthedogs


Nov 12, 2007, 12:07 PM

Post #141 of 333 (6479 views)
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Re: [ajholtz] Letters getting there before apps [In reply to] Can't Post

i agree that it's confusing. i encounter some reason to freak out almost everyday! i think for the most part, though, in fact, i think like 99% of the time, schools want one or the other. online or in the mail. I haven't run across a school that wants the letters online and in the mail. They don't want 6 copies either. Just three letters. (Actually, I think Notre Dame wants 2 copies of each letter, which would be 6, but that seems to be the exception rather than the rule.)

montana and minnesota want letters mailed to them via post. oregon does too. don't know about indiana.

i don't know off the top of my head where they want them sent, to the grad school or the program or whatever, or who sends them you in your packet or your LORWs.

anyway, i keep just telling myself it's soon over. i'm almost to the point where i want to get in just so i don't hav to go through the application process again.


Zash
Zachary Ash

Nov 12, 2007, 4:56 PM

Post #142 of 333 (6445 views)
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Re: [JWhelan] Letters getting there before apps [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks guys. I guess we're turning into the home stretch, with a month left, a mad dash to the wire. Hope I don't pull up lame. What I hate is writing about myself in a direct and persuasive manner, so the statement of purpose is torture. I've never been good at spin or self-promotion. All I want to do is write stories.


__________



Nov 13, 2007, 1:18 PM

Post #143 of 333 (6397 views)
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Re: [Zash] Letters getting there before apps [In reply to] Can't Post

What do you guys think about an LOR from a student I've tutored? Too risky? (Others: one lit professor, one creative writing instructor).


six five four three two one 0 ->


bennyprof


Nov 13, 2007, 1:32 PM

Post #144 of 333 (6390 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Letters getting there before apps [In reply to] Can't Post

Not sure I'd take a chance on that, personally. (Though I can see the potential upside from a TA app standpoint.) Seems the whole point of the LORs is to gather opinions on the applicant's potential, ideally from someone who's been around the block, seen a lot of up-and-comers and knows what to look for. They might view the opinion of a student as less legitimate than that of a professor, based solely on his or her knowledge and experience. Not many other (if any) applicants will be taking this approach, so it'll likely make you stand out somewhat. The question, of course, is whether it'll make you stand out in a positive or negative way.


(This post was edited by bennyprof on Nov 13, 2007, 1:34 PM)


jlgwriter
Jeanne Lyet Gassman
e-mail user

Nov 13, 2007, 1:45 PM

Post #145 of 333 (6383 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Letters getting there before apps [In reply to] Can't Post

Mmm...I'd be a little "iffy" on that idea. Do you have any critique partners, friends in writing workshops (online or in person), former employers (who might have made use of your leadership/writing skills)? Since I was so long out of school, I used critique partners and an editor for my references. That seemed to work fine.


http://www.jeannelyetgassman.com
http://jeannelyetgassman.blogspot.com


mr.shankly


Nov 13, 2007, 9:12 PM

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Re: [mpagan] Indiana, U Mass Amherst, UC Irvine [In reply to] Can't Post

I thought I'd come back to you to ask this, since you've already been in touch with Indiana. (Their website has been the least helpful so far.) Do they want transcripts sent directly to the program as well? I'm assuming so, since there is no other info on the site. Thanks.


This question is for anyone who can answer -- Most places say to send official transcripts from ALL universities. I took one Calculus class at a Community College in my home town while I was still in high school. The remainder of my credits came from one university. So, do I need to request transcripts from the community college? Or will the one from my university be fine?


Zash
Zachary Ash

Nov 14, 2007, 1:14 AM

Post #147 of 333 (6318 views)
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Re: [mr.shankly] Indiana, U Mass Amherst, UC Irvine [In reply to] Can't Post

Transcripts are only required, I think, if you earned more than 3 units (one class). That's what I read somewhere.


HopperFu


Nov 14, 2007, 9:21 AM

Post #148 of 333 (6290 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Letters getting there before apps [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
What do you guys think about an LOR from a student I've tutored? Too risky? (Others: one lit professor, one creative writing instructor).


I think it's a horrible idea. Someone who is your teacher, boss, etc., can say 'no,' but a student can't really.


mpagan


Nov 14, 2007, 12:08 PM

Post #149 of 333 (6266 views)
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Re: [mr.shankly] Indiana, U Mass Amherst, UC Irvine [In reply to] Can't Post

That is correct - send the transcripts - and your writing samples to the program. If you are mailing recs - send them to the program. Otherwise - application and personal statements (including teaching statement) online.


MissEsquire



Dec 6, 2007, 5:24 PM

Post #150 of 333 (6155 views)
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A sticky situation [In reply to] Can't Post

Dear speakeasy posters,

Help! I really need some advice on a sticky situation:

What do you do if your recommender(s) are very slow in getting things done? Two of my three recommenders finished their letters months ago, and one still hasn't completed hers. My first application is due in less than ten days. I emailed her with a friendly deadline reminder, and she emailed me back saying she'd try to get it done by the beginning of the week. That was last week. It's the end of the week now; should I email her again? How can I do that without pestering her? Needless to say, I'm getting nervous about this, especially after putting so much work into my applications. I also don't want to upset this professor before she writes my letter. What would you do?


bennyprof


Dec 6, 2007, 6:05 PM

Post #151 of 333 (6832 views)
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Re: [MissEsquire] A sticky situation [In reply to] Can't Post

Send a friendly note asking if she's had a chance to finish the letters yet. Reiterate to her that the first application (including rec. letters) is due in less than ten days. I understand you not wanting to upset her, but this is about you, not her. If she agreed to write the letters for you (assuming you gave her plenty of time) she should stick with her obligation. Unless she's the temperamental sort, I don't think she'll be pestered by it at all.


aluminum


Dec 6, 2007, 6:20 PM

Post #152 of 333 (6825 views)
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Re: [MissEsquire] A sticky situation [In reply to] Can't Post

How annoying.

Personally, I would guise my concern in the form of a thank you email.
Eg. "Thank you so much! I know you are busy and I really appreciate the fact that you are following my deadlines so closely. If there is anything I can do, let me know!"


MissEsquire



Dec 6, 2007, 10:22 PM

Post #153 of 333 (6808 views)
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Re: [bennyprof] A sticky situation [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks, bennyprof and aluminium, for your advice. I sent her a friendly email and also requested that, if she thinks she can't get the thing done in time, she let me know a.s.a.p. so I might be able to line up another rec. I hope she can, though; can't imagine that a recommendation written at the last minute would look or sound too good.


bighark


Dec 7, 2007, 8:00 AM

Post #154 of 333 (6772 views)
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Re: [MissEsquire] A sticky situation [In reply to] Can't Post

This sucks for you, I know, but don't stress out too much.

LOR writers routinely flake out on their promises, and the graduate schools and programs know this. As long as you submit the things that you can control (your application, your writing sample, your fee) on time, you should be fine.

Also, you should know that your December applications won't touch then hands of a decision maker until some time in January, possibly even February. This usually allows enough time for late arriving LORs and GRE scores to make it safely into your files.

You did the right thing by sending the reminder email. If the woman you asked is a professor, she should be keenly aware of the importance of this letter and its deadline, and your reminder would have been a graceful way of lighting a fire under her ass.

Good luck!


(This post was edited by bighark on Dec 7, 2007, 9:15 AM)


HopperFu


Dec 7, 2007, 8:54 AM

Post #155 of 333 (6767 views)
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Re: [bighark] A sticky situation [In reply to] Can't Post

I think this is all really good advice.
I might add that you could think about trying to line up a replacement recommender, just in case.


MissEsquire



Dec 8, 2007, 10:39 AM

Post #156 of 333 (6711 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] A sticky situation [In reply to] Can't Post

After I sent her the email, she wrote back and sent the recs. Now I can breathe again. Thanks, everyone, for your excellent advice.


bennyprof


Dec 8, 2007, 3:56 PM

Post #157 of 333 (6669 views)
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Re: [MissEsquire] A sticky situation [In reply to] Can't Post

Good to hear. Good luck!


Glyph


Dec 9, 2007, 9:05 AM

Post #158 of 333 (6618 views)
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Signature on back of recommendation letters? [In reply to] Can't Post

Are signatures across the back flap of the reference letter required by grad programs? I was under the impression that it was the standard, but when one of my recommenders mailed my reference letters back to me without a signature across the seal, I mailed them back to her with the request that she sign the back of each envelope. She seemed to get upset that I mailed them back, saying that putting signatures on the back of reference letters isn't a big deal anymore. I asked her to sign them anyway, just in case. She is a professor who currently holds a high level administrative position at my alma mater. Is she right about this?


bennyprof


Dec 9, 2007, 10:46 AM

Post #159 of 333 (6604 views)
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Re: [adoten] Signature on back of recommendation letters? [In reply to] Can't Post

No, she's not. The majority of the MFA programs I'm applying to require the signature.


(This post was edited by bennyprof on Dec 9, 2007, 10:47 AM)


bighark


Dec 9, 2007, 12:34 PM

Post #160 of 333 (6587 views)
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Re: [adoten] Signature on back of recommendation letters? [In reply to] Can't Post

It's not that big of a deal, and I can see what she was annoyed. If there's any doubt about the letter's authenticity, the program can follow up directly with her.

Don't worry about it now that you've done it. Just remember that the most important thing in your application is your writing sample. The only thing that will make or break your application is your fiction or poetry.

Good luck.


bennyprof


Dec 9, 2007, 12:41 PM

Post #161 of 333 (6583 views)
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Re: [bighark] Signature on back of recommendation letters? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm probably just paranoid about the little things nowadays. I think a few of the websites mention that if a seal is broken or missing a signature they might throw the application out. Which might be a bluff, but you never know.


Glyph


Dec 9, 2007, 1:05 PM

Post #162 of 333 (6577 views)
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Re: [bighark] Signature on back of recommendation letters? [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, I know that the writing sample is the most important thing. Perhaps I was hasty in sending the letters back to her. I just get nervous about things like this because the application process is so extremely labor-intensive (not to mention expensive!), and I don't want to take any chances with any aspect of it. I'm upset that I seem to have offended her, because that certainly wasn't my intention, and I will be paying for her to ship the signed letters back to me. I guess she reacted that way because she thought I was telling her how to do her job...

Thanks to both of you for your input. It is much appreciated!


bedefan


Dec 12, 2007, 8:38 PM

Post #163 of 333 (6485 views)
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Schools wanting different things in rec's [In reply to] Can't Post

Hello all. I've been lurking for a while, and like many other people, am applying to a zillion programs right now. Poetry. Solidarity, poets. Anyway.

Question. Arkansas and Kansas both request that recommenders speak to my teaching abilities. I just found these suggestions buried deep in the bowels of each school's application instructions. I sent my recommenders their instructions a while ago, and I haven't taught for any of these people before. To be honest, my recommenders are all nice people and are very busy with grading, etc. right now so I don't want to bug them and tell them to insert a paragraph about how they think I would do as a teacher. What I want to do is say to myself, "Kansas and Arkansas, I love you, but you've just got to understand that my recommenders are writing like 50 rec's each for me, and they can't touch on everything. You'll just have to deal."

But my question is, is the collective wisdom that I'll be frozen out of TAships because of this lack on my recommenders' part (assuming I even get in)? I have taught before, and am mentioning this in separate statements of teaching philosophy (short ones) that I'm sending to these two schools, and I'm listing the chair of a department I used to TA for as a reference in those statements. What do you all think? Will this cut the mustard? Or should I go to my recommenders and ask one if he could doctor his Kansas and Arkansas recommendations before they get sent?

Thanks.


bennyprof


Dec 12, 2007, 9:32 PM

Post #164 of 333 (6478 views)
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Re: [bedefan] Schools wanting different things in rec's [In reply to] Can't Post

It might not matter a whole lot either way, but yeah, I'd ask your rec. writers to modify those two apps. Another few sentences isn't too much to ask, I don't think. Especially if the programs explicitely request comments re: teaching. Better to err on the side of safety.


Glyph


Dec 14, 2007, 1:22 PM

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Thank you gift? [In reply to] Can't Post

Is it appropriate to give small thank you gifts to recommenders? If so, any ideas on what to give them? (Should be tasteful but inexpensive - I've already gone into debt with all the application fees, postage, etc.!)


bennyprof


Dec 14, 2007, 1:29 PM

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Re: [adoten] Thank you gift? [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't know, a gift might be taking it a bit too far. Then again, it depends on the person and their relationship to you. Still, I think a simple thank you note might be more appropriate.

Not sure, though. I'd be interested to hear what other people think.


jaywalke


Dec 14, 2007, 2:01 PM

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Re: [adoten] Thank you gift? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Is it appropriate to give small thank you gifts to recommenders? If so, any ideas on what to give them? (Should be tasteful but inexpensive - I've already gone into debt with all the application fees, postage, etc.!)


I think it's entirely appropriate. After being accepted, I sent small gifts along with the news. I gave one a potted plant for her office window and the other a book from his Amazon wishlist.


Aubrie


Dec 14, 2007, 2:02 PM

Post #168 of 333 (6380 views)
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Re: [jaywalke] Thank you gift? [In reply to] Can't Post

Last year I sent bottles of wine which went over quite well - though you have to know a little about their taste!


DMiller


Dec 14, 2007, 2:51 PM

Post #169 of 333 (6366 views)
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Re: [Aubrie] Thank you gift? [In reply to] Can't Post

Any thoughts on how much to spend on wine? I was also considering this route, but then I thought... too little, and I'll look cheap, and too much, and well, I don't really have too much to begin with.


jlgwriter
Jeanne Lyet Gassman
e-mail user

Dec 14, 2007, 5:06 PM

Post #170 of 333 (6344 views)
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Re: [DMiller] Thank you gift? [In reply to] Can't Post

Wow, now I'm feeling a little Scroogey! All I sent were thank you notes. Bottles of wine, huh? Really? I have no idea if my recommenders even drink wine.

Jeanne


http://www.jeannelyetgassman.com
http://jeannelyetgassman.blogspot.com


bedefan


Dec 15, 2007, 1:21 PM

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Re: [bennyprof] Schools wanting different things in rec's [In reply to] Can't Post

bennyprof,

I suppose you're right. I asked the one recommender who hadn't finished yet if he could fit something in, and he said yes but seemed a little peeved. Probably because I wasn't very organized at getting him his instructions in the first place, and am now asking for a last-second change... Oh well. He's a good man.

And I WILL be getting him a gift now as well.


bedefan


Dec 15, 2007, 1:26 PM

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Need to wait for online rec's before submitting? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hello all, I know this question might probably best be directed to administrative assistants in admissions or the departments I'm applying to... BUT it might be this is obvious and I don't know. So: for my (many) online applications, do I need to wait until the recommenders upload their recommendations before I pay the fee/submit/finalize the application? Or can I go ahead and pay/submit/finalize, assuming that as those final rec's come rolling in they'll just be appended? I'm getting a little paranoid about all this and just don't want recommendations to get frozen out or something. But I also don't want to be on my computer at 11:59 on january 4th waiting for a last-second rec to be submitted. Thoughts?


bennyprof


Dec 15, 2007, 1:46 PM

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Re: [bedefan] Need to wait for online rec's before submitting? [In reply to] Can't Post

I had that same question about a week ago re: Wisconsin. I called the program, and the secretary told me I could go ahead and submit with no problem. My electronic application would remain available for recommenders to upload their letters. I'm assuming most schools use the same basic type of online system to handle their apps, so I think it's a pretty safe bet they all do it this way.


(This post was edited by bennyprof on Dec 15, 2007, 1:47 PM)


Glyph


Dec 15, 2007, 11:57 PM

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Thanks to all for your suggestions!


Sibella
Pam, that is.


Mar 7, 2008, 2:48 PM

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Strategies for picking recommenders, timing [In reply to] Can't Post

Greetings.

I know I'm out of sync with most of you; I'm working toward an application for Warren Wilson's low-res program (poetry) for a Sept. 1 deadline.

Looks like I need two letters. All other things being equal (which I realize they're not), how would you rank the best letter-writing choices from this list?

A. Writing professor I studied with in college 30 years ago, as well as recently in three classes in a non-credit program. Fairly renowned poet/educator. Just recommended me for a reading. Seems willing, albeit busy and potentially a little scatterbrained (I might have to lean on him, and that makes me a little uncomfortable).

B. Editor at a magazine where I've written (nonfiction) and proofread for nearly 20 years. Has seen me fluff deadlines and experience a few personal crises. Hasn't seen my poetry and might not quite be inclined to "get it." Nevertheless, will do a good letter in a timely fashion, I believe--though I don't know whether she'll mention the negative bits. Is someone I consider a friend, though I think she can manage the personal/professional distinction for this purpose.

C. Singer/songwriter who taught me in a couple of workshops (in singing and "creative process") at a music-oriented weeklong program last summer. Relatively famous name in her field, which probably won't impress Wilson either way. Has known me since I was a music critic and wrote favorably of her work (conflict of interest?). Has seen a few of my poems and a good bit of my nonfiction and "creative process." Was extremely enthusiastic about writing a letter for me when I asked, informally, a while back. In the middle of some serious personal complications that might make her a deadline-meeting risk.

D. Fellow workshop student who is about to graduate from the Wilson MFA program (not sure exactly when); consequently, she's very busy, but she's been very helpful. Has seen my work and will undoubtedly be positive about it. I don't know whether the fact that she's a student at the school to which I'm applying will help me or hurt me.

E. Another instructor from the non-credit program where A taught and D was a fellow student. Likes what he's seen of my work, though he hasn't seen much of it. Like C, he's someone I initially met when I was in journalism, and I wrote favorably about him and his book back then, so I have some misgivings about conflict of interest-type stuff. Doesn't have the clout of A, and I fear that two recommenders from the same program might not show enough "variety," though I have no basis for this.



Also, would it hurt to line up three (or even more) of these people to send letters, just in case one of them doesn't follow through? Or will this piss off the school?

And would it be crazy to get these letters going, seriously, right now, even though I haven't sent Wilson anything else resembling an application? (I'm a little worried about being too early, since Wilson's previous deadline was March 1 and they'll be in the middle of reviewing stuff that came in for that deadline.)

Thanks in advance.

- - -


"What I wanted to hear didn't exist, so it was necessary for me to go out and create it." --Richard Thompson


dunnkc


Mar 7, 2008, 2:57 PM

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Re: [Sibella] Strategies for picking recommenders, timing [In reply to] Can't Post

Here are my thoughts, Sibella:

I applied to Warren Wilson recently, for the March 1 deadline. I applied in fiction.

I can't exactly say which of your recommenders would be best, but I had letters sent from an English professor from my B.A. (which I received in '04) and two workshop instructors. I did have three letters sent, just in case somebody flaked out. It remains to be seen whether it "pissed off the school," but they didn't say anything about it when I called to check up on the receipt of my materials. I assume they'll either read two and disregard the third or go ahead and read them all.

The recommendation letters and transcripts were also sent months before I sent the rest of my application, and it seems everything worked out okay, because it all ended up in my file. I did this because I applied to programs that had December and January deadlines, and I figured the recommenders would rather do everything at once. Same for the registrar -- easier to send everything at once. Warren Wilson sorted it out just fine. I guess they kept the materials together in a file, waiting for the rest of the application. I think they do this a lot, especially since they indicate that they will hang onto transcripts and recommendations for the next application deadline, if you decide to apply a second time.

Good luck to you. I say, get started early, because you may have to remind your recommenders more than once to get it all done on time. I know I did.


Raysen


Aug 18, 2008, 11:44 PM

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gifts [In reply to] Can't Post

I may have anywhere from 15-20 applications and hence, 15-20 letters of recommendations from each of the three recommenders. I'm thinking that a Thank You note would be an insult. Does anyone have any suggestions on what would be an appropriate gift?

$100 gift card? $50 gift card? A fruit/cracker/wine basket?


symmetrical


Aug 19, 2008, 12:32 AM

Post #178 of 333 (7487 views)
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Re: [Raysen] gifts [In reply to] Can't Post

I was thinking about this too, but my recommender(s) told me that it's basically the same letter, excepting instances where one of the schools is there alma mater or they know a faculty member personally. I think it all depends on your financial means and how close you are to your recommenders.


spamela


Aug 20, 2008, 6:38 PM

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Re: [Raysen] gifts [In reply to] Can't Post

My hometown is Iowa City, so last year I gave my recommenders t-shirts from the famed Prairie Lights bookstore. I think something local and/or writerly like that is good. I was pretty broke at the time, so I couldn't do anything fancy, but even if I'd had money, I don't think an expensive gift is necessary. Writing recommendations is part of the job of being a writing mentor and teacher (I'm assuming here that your letter writers are academics, but even if they aren't, they're probably not writing recommendations in order to get something back from you).

I think a gift is nice because it shows appreciation, but something very expensive has the potential to feel awkward or inappropriate, depending on your relationship with your recommenders.


HopperFu


Aug 21, 2008, 9:52 AM

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Re: [Raysen] gifts [In reply to] Can't Post

You'd be surprised at how few people do stuff like this. Honestly, even a card simply saying 'thanks' would be nice. Nothing more expensive than a decent bottle of wine ($15) if you want to do a gift.
Remember that if they are your professors, that writing recs is actually part of their job.


moomoocow42


Sep 17, 2008, 2:20 AM

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Okay, in an effort to reduce myself into a paranoid wreck, I'm in the middle of cobbling materials together for my recommenders and I've noticed that for the online submissions, emails will be sent to them. For some reason, I can't stop worrying about the emails being caught by spam filters -- after all, I'll be probably sending close to 6-8 emails to three recommenders each. Has anyone else who has used the online submission process for their references had (or not had) this problem? Or am I just psyching myself out?

Also, and I know this has been asked before: if/when I send materials to a school, any school (GRE score, transcript, letter of recommendation) they'll simply make a folder for me, right? No need to worry about that? Sorry for the repeat question, I just want to make sure.

Thanks in advance!


My MFA Blog -- Watch me slowly lose my sanity.


HopperFu


Sep 17, 2008, 7:35 AM

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Re: [moomoocow42] Question [In reply to] Can't Post

With the spam question, you can check the status of your letters through most online systems, which should help with some of the uneasiness. Assuming your referees know the emails are coming, it shouldn't be an issue.
And yes, schools will make a folder as soon as they get any material and then put anything that comes in into the folders.


SevenFreckles


Oct 11, 2008, 2:33 PM

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I'm thinking about using InterFolio, a credential file service, for my letters of recommendation. Has anyone on here ever used anything like this before? My biggest concern figuring out if doing things this way means that I don't need a customized letter for each school from my recomenders. I've tried looking at Interfolio's website, but I find it a little confusing. I suppose I'll just have to wait until Monday to call them... but I was wondering if anyone here has had any experience with this approach. Thanks!


bighark


Oct 11, 2008, 10:24 PM

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Re: [SevenFreckles] Question [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't know, Freckles. I think you should just keep your money.

Most applications ask for electronic LORs nowadays, so services like InterFolio don't make a lot of sense--at least not for MFA applicants.

Because the electronic submission methods allow you to see when your recommenders actually submit their letters, I don't know why you'd want to put one more step between your letters and their final destination.


unsaid78


Oct 11, 2008, 10:48 PM

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As far as gifts for recommenders go, I took classes recently with each of my recommenders so I'm getting them something that is related to the class and hopefully useful.

For example, we read Bastard Out of Carolina in one of my recommender's classes. She mentioned that she'd never seen the movie. She showed movies of other books we read. I'm giving her the DVD of the movie as a gift so hopefully she can use it in future classes.

My British Lit professor loved to use supplemental multimedia things in class. So I'm getting her something like that. A CD of maps or something. No more than $15-20 either.

My third recommender is getting a scarf because she wore the best scarves, so I'd think she'd appreciate a snazzy new scarf...from Target. Again $15-20.

I didn't have to put much thought into these ideas, they were just observations I made during class. It's always nice to add a personal touch when gift giving if you can (and now I sound like Martha Stewart).

Just some ideas.


www.mfachronicles.blogspot.com - Follow us as we begin our 1st years in MFA programs!


Tabby


e-mail user

Oct 13, 2008, 3:01 PM

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Re: [sharonlouise] letters of rec from non-professors [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey,

I had been out of school for fifteen years. I had a college prof who remembered me, then I had an editor write a rec, and then...my yoga instructor. I asked her to attest to my ability to focus, attend to a practice everyday and to improve. Believe it or not, I still got in a few programs. Really, (again) it's the writing sample. From what I can tell recs are mostly there to satisfy Grad School requirements, and because if people can't find three relatively sane, literate people to relay a few nice words...then you have to wonder. My profs told me maybe once in a while a rec had some sway, but rarely. One fellow MFAer of mine didn't even send IN recs, but they loved her writing sample so they let her in, and then she (literally) had someone she babysat for write off a letter. Okay, granted he was an Oscar winning filmmaker, but he had never read word one of her writing. I'm not saying I recommend this practice...but it shows how much the sample is the thing.


http://www.kellykathleenferguson.com


HappyCianci



Oct 13, 2008, 3:37 PM

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return address [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm sending my recommenders a packet of stamped envelopes addressed to my schools- should I put a return address on them?

Should it be their return address or mine?

If it's theirs, should I write my name on the envelope somewhere else, so the people at the graduate office can file my letters without opening them?

Last year I did all this stuff online, so I'm a little bit lost.

Thanks!


moomoocow42


Oct 13, 2008, 4:16 PM

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Hey HappyCianci, I can't speak for the people who've gone through this before -- they'd probably know better than me -- but I'm about to send off my packet of envelopes for my recommenders, and I'm definitely putting the return addresses as mine. I figure that if there's any problems, I'd like to be the first one to know, and I'd especially like to make the process as painless as possible for my recommenders; don't want them to get those letters back if something goes wrong! Though I'm also a bit of a control freak... I'm sending a big packet to my recommenders, and having them mail the letters, sealed and signed, back to me in another packet, just to make sure I have full control over the distribution and receipt of every single letter. I even have a spiffy checklist. So I'm a little crazy.

But I am also very curious about your last question too. My envelopes currently just have the program addresses and my return address on them... should there be any kind of identifying print on it, like "Recommendation One"?


My MFA Blog -- Watch me slowly lose my sanity.


wcpoole


Oct 31, 2008, 6:13 PM

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Re: [MissEsquire] A sticky situation [In reply to] Can't Post

Does anyone know if an application will not be processed if there are only two instead of three letters of recommendation? I've had some trouble getting hold of one of my old professors who provided me with a letter last year. With less than two months until my first application deadline, I'm a little worried about finding another person to submit a letter of recommendation in time.


HopperFu


Nov 1, 2008, 8:44 AM

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Re: [wcpoole] A sticky situation [In reply to] Can't Post

If you make it to the point where they look at letters of rec, many schools will contact you to ask where your third letter is.
There will be some schools who won't even look at your application until it is "complete," however, so you need to start working on that third letter from a different person. Friends who write? Other former profs?


srohrbach
Shawn Rohrbach
e-mail user

Nov 12, 2008, 5:48 PM

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Re: [HopperFu] A sticky situation [In reply to] Can't Post

HopperFu's remarks here are good. As for gifts, as a former Associate Dean, I felt it was a conflict of interest to accept them because I would choose to either write a letter or not depending on the kind of academic career the former student chose to have in my insitution. Ask the prof ahead of the gift if there is a conflict. I would gladly write letters for students who took their studies seriously and who contributed in some positive way to the academic community. If the request came from a C average student with no history of involvement, I would kindly decline the offer to write a letter. Someone in this thread wrote that it is part of the prof's job to write the letter. I disagree. As their boss, I advised profs to write letters for those former students they felt were going to make good use of the advanced education. In my MFA program, there were three students who had come with flagship, five star academic and artistic letters and would routinely miss assignment deadlines, give paltry and useless critiques on peer work and in fact one of them had to leave because of a substandard GPA. My other caution to profs was to choose their opportunities to recommend carefully and to know the student well before writing them.


Shawn Rohrbach
www.shawnrohrbach.com



unsaid78


Dec 2, 2008, 4:19 PM

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Re: [wcpoole] A sticky situation [In reply to] Can't Post

I just had to send a gentle reminder to my last recommender. I let her know that I want to send the letters out with my application materials by Dec. 9th at the latest. I also let her know that another professor wrote me one letter on letterhead and had me color copy it, stuff the envelopes, then return them to her to sign the seals. I told her that I'd be available to assist her in any way. I hope that was gentle enough lol.

Yeah, so, I'm freaking out.


www.mfachronicles.blogspot.com - Follow us as we begin our 1st years in MFA programs!


Mae Fields



Dec 2, 2008, 8:28 PM

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Don't worry, you're not the only one. I'm also still waiting for one rec.!

<<fingers crossed>> Tomorrow, I hope!


SevenFreckles


Dec 2, 2008, 8:41 PM

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Gah, these letters of rec have definitely been the most stressful part of this experience for me. I feel like I have no control over something that's hugely important. Right now I only have one letter. My second recommender has said that the letter is done, but has since disappeared and I still don't have the letter. And then to top it off my third recommender (a college professor who I've been really close to for the last three years) has completely fallen off the face of the planet. He won't return any emails and the last I heard from him was that he was doing pretty poorly health-wise. I'm not in the same state even as any of these people so there's no way I can conventionally stalk them. And I have the slightly strange circumstance of my undergraduate college closing the year after I graduated, so I really don't have any resources left to tap. I'm sure I can get my employer to write me a letter, but it will be nowhere near as helpful as someone who knows my writing. Sigh... there's got to be a limit to how much it is smart to pester someone who is writing on your behalf. I guess I'm going to have to find out what it is.


germericanqt


Dec 3, 2008, 12:04 PM

Post #195 of 333 (6446 views)
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Re: [SevenFreckles] A sticky situation [In reply to] Can't Post

Last year, one of my recommenders didn't respond at all until January. After I had sent him several increasingly frantic e-mails and talked to all of the schools, he finally got back to me. Turns out his mother had died. I had to turn down my urgency quite a bit. His letter missed all of the school deadlines, but it wasn't a problem. Lesson: don't stress too much. Let the schools know what's going on; they know it's often out of your hands.

This year I had one recommender who was a little behind schedule. I happened to catch her while out running by her house (not intentional, I swear!) and she had the letters to me within three days. I just thought of that when you said "conventionally stalk" and it made me laugh.


Raysen


Dec 3, 2008, 4:23 PM

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Re: [SevenFreckles] A sticky situation [In reply to] Can't Post

This past summer, I worried so much about the reliability of recommenders, I came up with a plan to make sure all my bases were covered. I dug up three former college professors, two former writing group buddies, and two former creative writing teachers. I also took two creative writing courses at the local college so that I could get two more potential recommenders in my pocket. Out of these nine people, I asked three to write recommendations for me -- they agreed. Just in case, I schmoozed with the others and let them know my MFA plans. If any of my main recommenders died or couldn't be relied upon, I already had backup people. It was a lot of effort to maintain the social connection but, better safe than sorry.


silkentent
Margaret DeAngelis

e-mail user

Dec 3, 2008, 5:25 PM

Post #197 of 333 (6377 views)
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In Reply To
Last year, one of my recommenders didn't respond at all until January. <snip> This year I had one recommender who was a little behind schedule.

OK, what really intrigues me in the MFA application threads is all the references to "last year I did this" but "this year I did this." Is being an MFA applicant a lifestyle???


Margaret DeAngelis
Markings: Days of Her Life
http://www.silkentent.com/Trees


flobelle


Dec 3, 2008, 5:34 PM

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Apparently, for some.


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Dec 3, 2008, 5:41 PM

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Re: [flobelle] A sticky situation [In reply to] Can't Post

I feel left out. I was only an applicant for about five weeks. (Rolling admissions, only one application.)


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

Difficult Listening, Sundays from ten to noon (Central time), at http://www.radiofreenashville.org/.

http://home.comcast.net/~david.m.harris/site/


HopperFu


Dec 3, 2008, 6:02 PM

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In Reply To
OK, what really intrigues me in the MFA application threads is all the references to "last year I did this" but "this year I did this." Is being an MFA applicant a lifestyle???


While it is easier to get into an MFA program than it is to get accepted for publication at most journals, it is still quite difficult, and it is not unusual for writers to need to apply more than once. I only applied to one program my first year, and I found myself applying to programs again the following year.


__________



Dec 3, 2008, 6:36 PM

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Re: [HopperFu] A sticky situation [In reply to] Can't Post

Superstar Adam Haslett was rejected a few times from Iowa...and reports he's glad to have stuck with it.

On a smaller scale, my next round of apps will mark my third go of it -- because I am super-neurotic about where I might end up. It kind of feels like dating did in high school; You're like, Yes! Someone likes me! ...followed by Wait -- do I really want to spend my time with this person, or do I just like them because they like me? Decisions! Decisions!


six five four three two one 0 ->


aiyamei

e-mail user

Dec 3, 2008, 6:55 PM

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Re: [Junior Maas] A sticky situation [In reply to] Can't Post

I dig your new avatar, Junior.


__________



Dec 3, 2008, 7:04 PM

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Re: [aiyamei] A sticky situation [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks. Someone was mourning furlough the cat, so...


six five four three two one 0 ->


jlgwriter
Jeanne Lyet Gassman
e-mail user

Dec 3, 2008, 7:10 PM

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In Reply To

Quote
Thanks. Someone was mourning furlough the cat, so...


Ah, that was me. I like your cat, though. Very cute! :)

Jeanne
http://www.jeannelyetgassman.com
http://jeannelyetgassman.blogspot.com



http://www.jeannelyetgassman.com
http://jeannelyetgassman.blogspot.com


HappyCianci



Dec 3, 2008, 8:07 PM

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Quote
OK, what really intrigues me in the MFA application threads is all the references to "last year I did this" but "this year I did this." Is being an MFA applicant a lifestyle???


I applied to seven schools last year and I'm applying to fourteen this year.

Last year, I got into Notre Dame but decided not to go. You only get to do your MFA once- in my opinion, it's totally worth waiting another year for the chance to find the right match.


(This post was edited by HappyCianci on Dec 3, 2008, 8:10 PM)


germericanqt


Dec 3, 2008, 8:10 PM

Post #206 of 333 (6791 views)
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Yeah, I only applied to four schools last year, all of them with less than 3% acceptance rates. With twelve apps out there this year, I'm pretty sure my lifestyle as an MFA applicant will soon be over. If nothing else, I can't really afford to go through this process again.


Raysen


Dec 3, 2008, 9:38 PM

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Call me petty but I hate Notre Dame football with such passion that I don't know if I can muster the energy and enthusiasm to apply there. I know, it's stupid. But it's a mental block I can't quite get over.


bighark


Dec 3, 2008, 9:41 PM

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I hate Notre Dame football right now, too, but for a different reason.

Bighark, ND class of 98


unsaid78


Dec 4, 2008, 3:38 PM

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Some good news on the thread! [In reply to] Can't Post

I decided to add some good news on this thread lol. My recommendation woes are over as my final recommender just contacted me to say she's working on the letters right now and will finish them today. I am so ready to gift her and go on my way lol. I don't feel like being creative so she's getting a Barnes & Noble gift card. YAY!


www.mfachronicles.blogspot.com - Follow us as we begin our 1st years in MFA programs!


v1ctorya


Dec 4, 2008, 3:43 PM

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In Reply To

Quote
OK, what really intrigues me in the MFA application threads is all the references to "last year I did this" but "this year I did this." Is being an MFA applicant a lifestyle???


I applied to seven schools last year and I'm applying to fourteen this year.

Last year, I got into Notre Dame but decided not to go. You only get to do your MFA once- in my opinion, it's totally worth waiting another year for the chance to find the right match.



I'm with ya! I applied 2 years ago, got into Alabama, and decided I'd take a year to write more and then figure it out.

I hope I figured it out this year :)

Also, still waiting on 1 rec. who said he mailed them. I had 4 people who said they'd do it, one backed out, but without telling me she did, but that's why I asked 6, and had 4 say yes.


NickMcRae
Nick McRae

e-mail user

Dec 4, 2008, 6:23 PM

Post #211 of 333 (6641 views)
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One of my recommenders is in India right now on a Fulbright. Travel restrictions caused by the recent terrorist attack in Mumbai plus her computer burning out randomly does not bode well for rec letters. Obviously I'm more concerned about her safety, but I am a little nervous about the letters nonetheless. So I can commiserate. Yikes.

NM


"You got a song, man, sing it. / You got a bell, man, ring it." - Robert Creeley

Nick McRae
nmcrae1@gmail.com
http://nickmcrae.com/


bpattersonweber



Dec 7, 2008, 7:18 PM

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where oh where do I find recommenders? [In reply to] Can't Post

One thing I'm excellent at is worrying. Right now, I'm getting worked up about finding recommenders for the applications I intend to send out next fall for 2010 admission. I've been out of college for quite some time and haven't maintained any ties with professors (I moved 3000 miles away and started a career in a field completely unrelated to my degree in linguistics). I just have people I know from the last couple of jobs I've had in the last ten years, but I don't think I can come up with three who are capable of writing a recommendation letter (let alone the 10 I'll need for applications). What do I do? I'm living in a new country now and I'm not confident that I can befriend someone here who could potentially be a recommender (and wouldn't that be kind of, I don't know, sleazy of me?). Also, I can't ask anyone I currently work with because I would probably lose my job or at least have my job made very difficult for me once word got out that I don't intend to work there forever. Yay, cut-throat corporations!

What do I do? I don't want the fact that I've been moving all over the place since college to hurt my chances of getting into an MFA program.

Britt


bighark


Dec 7, 2008, 9:27 PM

Post #213 of 333 (6495 views)
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Brit,

I had similar LOR issues when I was applying. I ended up using one former professor, one fellow writer, and one coworker who I trusted.

Because I hadn't spoken with the professor in over ten years, I was careful to re-introduce myself when I contacted him to request the LOR. Basically, I provided him with a brief summary of our relationship ("I took such and such classes with you at Big U between year and year and earned grade and grade") and explained what I had been up to since we last spoke. Also, since I knew that writing LORs was something this professor regularly does as part of his job (for students who he feels are qualified, of course), I explained why I wanted an MFA and why I was considering the programs that I was applying to (I spoke in general terms, mostly. I didn't outline each of the more than 12 schools).

The writer was a playwright I happen to know. We were never particularly close or anything. I had asked him to read a story I once wrote, and I occasionally see his new plays. I mention him because our relationship is maybe a notch above the acquantaince category. We barely know eachother apart from our writing. Anyway, I didn't feel like I needed to provide him with any additonal instruction after I asked for the LOR.

Because the coworker was not an academic or fiction writer or editor, I asked him to focus his letter on the things he could comment on in a professional sense. He spoke about my work ethic, my creativity, and my ability to work constructively in a group.

I wouldn't stress out too much about getting these LORs. You have plenty of time between now and next year's application deadlines.

Start by contacting your former professors, and don't be afraid to use a colleague or former boss.

Good luck!


writerteacher


Dec 7, 2008, 10:23 PM

Post #214 of 333 (6481 views)
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Hey, Britt --

Everything bighark said, yes.

Also, it's not sleazy to seek out other writers with the aim of giving you feedback on your work; that's pretty much what an MFA is all about!

One of the advantages of being a worrier (I prefer to think of myself as a planner) is that you're leaving yourself plenty of time to figure this out. I know you're in a new country, but perhaps there's a writer's group you could join, so you can get some of your application pieces workshopped and make contacts. Check with libraries, bookstores, and colleges or universities near you.

You can also find online workshops where you can meet, read, and get your work critiqued by top-notch writers. I met one of my recommenders (and a best friend) this way. Try the Virtual Studios at www.zoetrope.com for a start.

Good luck,
WT


bpattersonweber



Dec 7, 2008, 10:56 PM

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WT & Bighark,

Thank you for your speedy advice! It helps. I'm just terrible at asking people for things, so I've been choosing not to think about that option...plus the one professor I would go to wrote a great grad school LOR for me when I was an undergrad -- I got into the school and was offered a fellowship, but I chose not to go, so for whatever reason, I feel weird about going back to him. As for reaching out and making local connections now, I don't know how feasible that is -- I live on a tiny Caribbean island without any universities, only two bookstores, and no artist community to speak of (everything here is catered to tourists and bankers). I try -- I work 60 hours a week but hang out at the bookstore as often as I can.

Thank you again!

Britt


havana5am



Dec 11, 2008, 12:26 AM

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Question about # of Recommendation Letters [In reply to] Can't Post

Three professors are willing to write letters for me. Some of the schools I'm applying to require only two. Can I send three instead of two or will they get annoyed?


"Let them think what they liked, but I didn't mean to drown myself. I meant to swim till I sank - but that's not the same thing." -- Joseph Conrad


jaywalke


Dec 11, 2008, 2:02 AM

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In Reply To
Three professors are willing to write letters for me. Some of the schools I'm applying to require only two. Can I send three instead of two or will they get annoyed?


Would you accept someone who appears to be unable to count?


jaywalke


Dec 11, 2008, 7:25 AM

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In Reply To
Would you accept someone who appears to be unable to count?


Let me expand on my knee-jerk (emphasis on jerk) reaction.

A lot of the questions on here seem to be along the lines of "I know the instructions say X, but does that really apply to little old me?"

The answer is yes. Someone wrote those directions for a reason.

I administer some internal research money at a U. I don't make the decisions on who gets it, but I help write the application directions, collect the apps, send them to the panel of scientists who make the call on who gets funded, set up accounts, etc. It's a sweet little program, and we've given out half a mil just this year for some real gee-whiz stuff.

Inevitably, applicants fail to read the instructions. If I know them and like them, I occasionally will cover for them. I don't change any wording, of course, but if the directions say "do not include letters of support" and they include 11 of them, I might trim the fat. Sometimes I don't have the time or inclination to do that, and I pass along the incorrect app to the panel.

The panel knows what the instructions say, and they get a bit torqued when supposedly smart people can't follow simple guidelines. They are even more torqued when they have to read extra pages. The apps that are incorrect don't get funded.

The moral of my story is: follow the directions. They apply to everyone.


(This post was edited by jaywalke on Dec 11, 2008, 7:34 AM)


germericanqt


Dec 11, 2008, 1:11 PM

Post #219 of 333 (6307 views)
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Yikes... that seems harsh. Most schools require 3 letters, not 2. If your school is one of the oddballs that require only 2 letters, why should you be annoyed that you got 3 instead? It's an easy mistake to make, especially for those of us who are applying to 10+ different schools and up to our necks in a billion different instructions on everything from personal statements to manuscript lengths to deadlines. I'm worried now because I think one of the 12 I applied to did ask for 2, not 3... and I sent 3 everywhere. I was paying much more attention to the exact specifications on manuscripts and statements of purpose.


HopperFu


Dec 11, 2008, 1:29 PM

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I can't imagine that sending three letters instead of two will be a problem (unless the third one calls you a cat-eating squirrel-hater or some other such slur).


havana5am



Dec 11, 2008, 1:43 PM

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In Reply To

In Reply To
Would you accept someone who appears to be unable to count?


Let me expand on my knee-jerk (emphasis on jerk) reaction.

A lot of the questions on here seem to be along the lines of "I know the instructions say X, but does that really apply to little old me?"

The answer is yes. Someone wrote those directions for a reason.

I administer some internal research money at a U. I don't make the decisions on who gets it, but I help write the application directions, collect the apps, send them to the panel of scientists who make the call on who gets funded, set up accounts, etc. It's a sweet little program, and we've given out half a mil just this year for some real gee-whiz stuff.

Inevitably, applicants fail to read the instructions. If I know them and like them, I occasionally will cover for them. I don't change any wording, of course, but if the directions say "do not include letters of support" and they include 11 of them, I might trim the fat. Sometimes I don't have the time or inclination to do that, and I pass along the incorrect app to the panel.

The panel knows what the instructions say, and they get a bit torqued when supposedly smart people can't follow simple guidelines. They are even more torqued when they have to read extra pages. The apps that are incorrect don't get funded.

The moral of my story is: follow the directions. They apply to everyone.



Your answer didn't apply to me, but thanks anyway. I think I'll go ahead and send all three. It's only one extra (not 11) and some schools even say "at least" two.


"Let them think what they liked, but I didn't mean to drown myself. I meant to swim till I sank - but that's not the same thing." -- Joseph Conrad


libbyagain


Dec 12, 2008, 11:48 AM

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I've been on screening committees, though not re. this venue, and the number of letters makes a difference when the competition is close. Thing is, usually not all letters are equally positive. Invariably, committee members favoring X candidate with Wrong Number of letters look hard at the BEST letters. Committee members NOT favoring X candidate look hard at the letters NOT-so-good. Then, the issue must be argued in committee. "These letters are STRONG!" "Yes, but this one isn't AS much!" "Yes--but s/he has MORE letters than the minimum! That's good!" "No it's not! It's bad!" Then, someone always says, "Aw what the fuck--does it MATTER how many letters there are?" causing others who are more heated to get whooped up and also to feel very officious, which NO one likes to feel, and hard words ensue.

This has happened twice on committees I've served on. I'd say, it's best to send out the number they ask for not because of being rejected for not knowing how to count, but for the above reasons.


taraberyl



Jun 22, 2009, 3:48 PM

Post #223 of 333 (6033 views)
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Re: [joysan] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

Okay I am going to revive this thread with a question.

It seems like more and more schools just want me to provide them with my recommenders' contact information - chiefly, their email address. Then what happens? Are they prompted, via email, to fill out some form on a link?

It all seems very annoying and invasive for them. Especially because many professors are not so technologically deft.
I miss the good old days when you gave them a package of stamped and addressed envelopes and all they had to do was stuff it. Some schools still do it that way, which is doubly annoying since that means recommenders will have to follow two sets of instructions.

Can anyone enlighten me as to the process our recommenders have to go through for those schools that require the recommendation be sent online?


moomoocow42


Jun 22, 2009, 5:11 PM

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Hi taraberyl, because I'm rather neurotic, I did all of the recommendation letters by hand rather than electronically last fall. It was a ton of work, but worth it, in my personal opinion for peace of mind. Like you, my primary fear doing everything via email was the technological requirements needed by the recommendors, as well as general worries about spam filters, etc. I recall reading one warning on the email recommendation link for one of the schools I applied to last year telling me that some email accounts may place the automated email in a spam folder, so the user would have to do some techno thingamajiggery to get it to work. That made me crazy with fear. Not to mention what you said about recommendors potentially having to fill out two different kinds of recommendations for the dozen schools you apply to -- by hand and by email. So I kept it simple (for my recommendors) did everything by hand. I included stamped envelopes for my recommendors to seal, all the forms required for each school, with as much obvious information filled out as possible. I basically tried to do as much as I could so all they would have to do is print out their letter, and put it in the right envelope. I also included a big SASE so they could mail me back the materials when they were done, so I could mail the sealed recommendations myself to the schools.

But in defense of email recommendations, there are a lot of people, including recommendors themselves, who swear by the electronic method. And, let's be honest, my method was a ton of work. But if you really want to do it the hard way for peace of mind, I'd say you should definitely go for it. And every school will allow you to send the hard copy of the letter, even if they say they want it electronically. There was one school that requested that on my list last year, and I basically disregarded it, and didn't have any problems. Good luck!


My MFA Blog -- Watch me slowly lose my sanity.


alamana
Jennifer Brown


Jun 25, 2009, 11:25 AM

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I did exactly what moomoocow did. So that makes two of us who clung to the old ways. . .


Be regular and orderly in your life, that you may be violent and original in your work. -- Flaubert

http://www.jenniferkirkpatrickbrown.com


bighark


Jun 25, 2009, 8:55 PM

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Re: [moomoocow42] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

Actually, for peace of mind, I was a big fan of the electronic method. The electronic recommendation forms let you know when, exactly, a recommender has submitted his or her letters. You also know that the letters will be delivered and not misfiled or lost in the deluge of holiday mail that happens concurrently with most application deadlines.

If you have traditonal snail mail letters, though, use moomoocow's thoughtful method of sending SASEs.


OldScribe2000


Jun 26, 2009, 5:16 PM

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Re: [bighark] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

Some of my English professors are so old and set in their ways, they don't know (and don't care to learn) how to turn on a computer.


silkentent
Margaret DeAngelis

e-mail user

Jun 26, 2009, 5:37 PM

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In Reply To
Some of my English professors are so old and set in their ways, they don't know (and don't care to learn) how to turn on a computer.



I got my bachelor's degree in 1969, my first master's in 1974, my second in 1996. My professors are not just retired, they're dead. (Correction: the undergrad professor I hated the most is still at work. A young friend who had her in 2006 reports that she hasn't changed a bit.) I think about this when I consider getting into this MFA application lifestyle.


Margaret DeAngelis
Markings: Days of Her Life
http://www.silkentent.com/Trees


VesperGloaming


Aug 6, 2009, 3:19 PM

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I went to UT Austin as an undergrad and one of the schools I'm applying to is the Michener Center for Writers (at UT Austin). I wanted to ask my creative writing professors for letters of recommendations, but they are also on staff at the Center. Is it a good idea to ask them or will they turn me down because they already know me, thus making the application process bias?


bighark


Aug 6, 2009, 3:33 PM

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Re: [VesperGloaming] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

I can't see why your former professors would turn you down. They may counsel you to expand your applications beyond just UT, though.


kbritten

e-mail user

Aug 30, 2009, 11:38 AM

Post #231 of 333 (6799 views)
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Re: [bighark] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi, I have an odd question to ask about recommendations. When I applied for the M.A., I had trouble finding professors to give me recommendations, since most of them had either left the school or didn't know me well enough to write a quality recommendation. For the M.F.A., I'm going a different route. Two recommendations are from talented writers/teachers with advanced degrees, who know my work. The third recommendation is my problem. I teach at a Catholic school right now, and I wanted a recommendation from an ex-teacher there, but he's a brother (as in Sistercian monk :) ). He's incredibly intelligent and educated with a degree from UCLA, he's fluent in five languages, and he has read some of my critical work and can attest to my "intellectual capabilities". He's also non-judgmental, tolerant, etc... My questions is: would an admissions officer see that one of my recommendations is from a monk and think that I'm some kind of religious nut? I actually consider myself a cultural Catholic deist and I don't want any "left-leaning" people in academia to think that I'm some kind of uber religious, pushy conservative zealot who will try to convert them. I can't think of anyone else that knows my writing/critical work aside from a professor in college that gave me a recommendation when I applied for the M.A. But I don't feel comfortable asking him to fill out 13 recommendations, and I don't think he'd be supportive of my getting an art's degree (he's a philosophy man).

Sorry for the long-winded question...


alamana
Jennifer Brown


Aug 30, 2009, 11:46 AM

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I don't think anyone will think twice about your recommender being a monk. Go ahead and use him.


Be regular and orderly in your life, that you may be violent and original in your work. -- Flaubert

http://www.jenniferkirkpatrickbrown.com


potshot


Aug 30, 2009, 2:57 PM

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Re: [kbritten] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

Not only do I think it wouldn't be a problem, it actually seems really cool. A letter of rec is a letter of rec, but I don't think many admissions folks get letters from monks. It might make you stick out from the pack, you never know.


kbritten

e-mail user

Aug 30, 2009, 3:01 PM

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Thank God, this recommendation thing is more stressful than the writing sample! I'm glad to hear that it won't be a problem. I mean, I know that recommendations don't mean that much anyway, unless it is the difference between one candidate and another. But, I would like to have as good of an application packet as possible. Thanks for your responses guys!


WanderingTree


Sep 11, 2009, 11:48 AM

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Re: [kbritten] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

Freaking out a little. I've sent one of my recommenders two emails and she has not responded yet. Should I call? Wait? It's only been a couple of days. She gave me a rec last year. Thoughts?


bighark


Sep 11, 2009, 11:54 AM

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Re: [WanderingTree] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

You've got plenty of time. It's September, and school's just starting. Give her some time to respond.


CMQ
Chelsea


Sep 18, 2009, 8:59 AM

Post #237 of 333 (6515 views)
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Re: [bighark] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

So I recently sent out the "heads up" e-mails to my three preferred recommendors...heard back from 2 out of the 3. One of my which, my undergrad advisor, suggested something a little weird.

He says he's quite busy helping his elderly aunt move into a new place but is interested in writing a letter for me. He's suggested I write the "first draft" of my own recommendation letter and he'll "supe" it up thereafter. He insists it'll be a great exercise for me...

The whole thing has me a bit confused. I'm not quite comfortable doing this per say but I also need the recommendation letter and he's a writer who's seen my work evolve over 4 years.

Any thoughts from anyone? Anyone else ever have a request like this? HELP haha


unsaid78


Sep 18, 2009, 9:16 AM

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Re: [CMQ] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

The first time I asked for a recommendation from a professor, though she knew my writing well, she requested that I write her a cover letter and give her a writing resume so that she could write a really good recommendation. I would approach your professor's request that way. Write a letter about your writing experience and qualifications for the MFA program. If you can throw together a quick writing resume for him to reference that would help too. It actually is a good exercise!

The rec letter I got from this professor was the best of my batch. I never read it, but a few schools that took me mentioned it specifically.

There's nothing unethical about his request. The more you give your professor to work with, the better. Good luck to you!


www.mfachronicles.blogspot.com - Follow us as we begin our 1st years in MFA programs!


Peaquah

e-mail user

Sep 18, 2009, 9:17 AM

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I did this once for a Japanese teacher who said she didn't really know how to phrase everything in English. It feels weird at first, but it's not a bad thing to do in my opinion. It also gives you a chance to "fill in the gaps" of things that you've done outside of school that the professor may or may not know about. As a former teacher, I appreciated it when students took the time to give me an outline of what they've been up to, what awards they've won, and what their goals are for the future.

If you're uncomfortable with it, I'd suggest to him that you'll write three basic paragraphs about how you're a good student, dedicated, etc.--but say you're not comfortable writing the fourth about your writing abilities. Might be a good compromise.

Hope this helps.


alamana
Jennifer Brown


Sep 18, 2009, 10:21 AM

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I don't think that this is that unusual. In the professional world (my experience is law) they always have you do a first draft of a recommendation letter or even yearly review.


Be regular and orderly in your life, that you may be violent and original in your work. -- Flaubert

http://www.jenniferkirkpatrickbrown.com


CMQ
Chelsea


Sep 18, 2009, 11:32 AM

Post #241 of 333 (6481 views)
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Re: [unsaid78] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

I didn't realize his request wasn't all that unusual. Thanks for the suggestions; they've helped ease a bit of my anxiety regarding talking about myself, my abilities specifically...

I wasn't sure if my writing the draft made the letter any less legitimate but the feeling I'm getting from everyone is that's not the case.

Again, thank you!


kbritten

e-mail user

Sep 27, 2009, 10:12 AM

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Re: [CMQ] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi, I could have sworn that I saw this in this very thread but I can't seem to find it anywhere. Can someone explain how a dossier service works and why it's better than the alternatives. I'd also appreciate any recommendations for dossier services. Thanks!


WanderingTree


Sep 27, 2009, 12:42 PM

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Re: [kbritten] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

I hear a lot about Interfolio, but you also should check with your college alumni or registrar office b/c many colleges offer this service to graduates. Essentially a dossier service collects the letters of your recommenders and sends them out to the colleges you are applying to. I will say this: I really don't see the point in using a dossier service if recommenders will be submitting their rec letters online (esp. if it's a third party service and not one provided by your alma mater). It's a professor's job to write these letters (it's actually just one letter) and uploading/pasting in a few letters doesn't require a whole lot. I know some professors who are actually hesitant about using these services and would rather do it the "normal" way. So, it's probably a good idea to check that 1) your university has such a service and 2) your professor's are open to using third party dossier services.

(This post was edited by WanderingTree on Sep 27, 2009, 12:43 PM)


SevenFreckles


Sep 28, 2009, 12:48 AM

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Re: [WanderingTree] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

I used Interfolio last year for my applications and just want to point out two things that I liked about it-- first of all, I had complete control over when my letters were sent (once my recommenders uploaded them... which was umm a bit of a struggle, but that's kind of beside the point). I really liked knowing exactly when the letter was sent out and knowing that I could send another letter if I needed to without bothering the professor for another copy. When I ended up adding a school to my list at the very last second there was no need to rush about for a recommendation.

I do realize that professors are expected to write LORs, but in some cases it is easy to feel like you're being a bother or burden-- for example, none of my recommenders were professors who were currently teaching. If felt like this was lightning the load considering I applied to 15 or so schools.

I suppose this wouldn't work out as well for schools that only accept online recommendations, but I used Interfolio for all of my schools and checked ahead to make sure it was okay when they required forms or online recommendations. All the schools I ended up applying were very accommodating about using a dossier service.

The only real downside is that it isn't a free service-- I found the price reasonable for what I was getting, but some people might not see it that way. I think it all depends on what you're looking for... for some, including me, Interfolio was a great option.


kbritten

e-mail user

Sep 28, 2009, 10:58 AM

Post #245 of 333 (6258 views)
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Re: [SevenFreckles] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

SF - thank you for your help. I've actually already sent out packets to my recommenders, but since I haven't received anything back I'm wondering how far they are in the process and if they might appreciate using the service instead of stuffing a bunch of envelopes. Just to clarify though, I'm getting my recommendations from teachers not affiliated with my undergrad, the dossier service can be used for them? Thanks!


SevenFreckles


Sep 28, 2009, 6:28 PM

Post #246 of 333 (6231 views)
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Re: [kbritten] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, definitely. I almost think that's the ideal time to use it, just because folks not affiliated with a university might have less practice doing LORs and it does make it so much simpler. All they have to do it upload it (or they can mail it in to Interfolio, if they prefer.) But uploading it makes it so amazingly simple. :) I used it for two retired professors, a workshop instructor that wasn't afliated with a university I attended, and someone I worked for.


kbritten

e-mail user

Sep 29, 2009, 7:26 AM

Post #247 of 333 (6192 views)
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Re: [kbritten] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

I have one more question. What about the forms that some schools require for letters of recommendation? Does the dossier service take care of that, too? Just curious.


SevenFreckles


Sep 29, 2009, 8:47 AM

Post #248 of 333 (6182 views)
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Re: [kbritten] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

That's a good question... my approach to the various forms was emailing the school and telling them I was using a dossier service. Every school that I asked (and it was around 15 schools) said it was fine to forgo the forms. I think as long as they have the letter they're generally okay with it. I had a massively difficult time actually getting the letters from my recommenders (even just to upload, I shudder to think how horrible the process would have been if I wasn't using a dossier service) and I made it pretty clear to the schools that I didn't have an option. So, basically, I think you can work around it, but it does take sending a few emails. :)


kbritten

e-mail user

Sep 30, 2009, 11:25 AM

Post #249 of 333 (6111 views)
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Re: [SevenFreckles] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi SF, I just wanted to say thank you for your post. I think I'm going to stick to the old fashioned method, though. I emailed a bunch of my schools and it seems like using Interfolio would get too complicated. Some schools told me to still send in a form (which confused me because it would need to be filled out by a recommender... yet they're writing a letter too...), others told me that I would have to email it to them, and some told me that they wouldn't accept it at all through that service (FSU told me it was too difficult to keep track of for some reason). I think I'll save the $19 and mail them in myself, much to the chagrin of my recommenders, I'm sure, who will be stuffing envelopes over the weekend. Hope my meager Starbuck's gift card makes up for it!


SevenFreckles


Oct 6, 2009, 10:11 AM

Post #250 of 333 (5943 views)
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Re: [kbritten] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

Huh, I'm surprised that they were being difficult about it... but kind of not surprised too, if only because I'm pretty sure the application process goes out of its way to be as tricky as possible. But I'm sorry you went to all the trouble of emailing. FSU can't keep track of the letters if they're delivered by Interfolio? That doesn't make any sense to me... :) Well, I hope everything is smooth sailing from here with your LORs. And I think the Starbucks gift card is a really nice gesture. Good luck!


morganapple


Oct 6, 2009, 2:06 PM

Post #251 of 333 (6716 views)
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Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm wondering if it makes a difference that all my reference letters are coming from writing professors. Will that hurt me? Not sure if they're trying to get various perspectives of me or just my writing?


kbritten

e-mail user

Oct 6, 2009, 2:26 PM

Post #252 of 333 (6711 views)
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Re: [SevenFreckles] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

SevenFreckles: it was very weird, some of the schools never heard of the service. I pretty much received a different response from each of the twelve schools that I contacted. Several told me that it would be okay to use it, but others were kind of snarky with their response, like I was trying to be "difficult" or something. Oh well, to each its own! Thanks anyway, I'm making record time getting my letters returned, and it looks like I could be done with the entire application process by the end of October or, the very latest, end of November. Yay for me!!


bighark


Oct 6, 2009, 2:38 PM

Post #253 of 333 (6709 views)
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Re: [morganapple] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

Don't over-think the recommendation process. If you have three strong LORs from writing teachers, you're in good shape.


taraberyl



Oct 6, 2009, 11:34 PM

Post #254 of 333 (6679 views)
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Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

I apologize if this has been addressed in the past - I tried to find something about it but came up empty.

I have 3 great rec letters from three great people. i recently got back in touch with a former writing teacher of mine who is *kind of a big deal* and he said he would write one of my letters. i don't want to bump any of my other recommenders.
SO: can i send 4 letters of recommendation to schools? wise or unwise? will they be pissed? i don't want to anger the admissions gods.


ericweinstein
Eric Weinstein


Nov 12, 2009, 11:19 AM

Post #255 of 333 (6349 views)
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Re: [taraberyl] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

My advice would be that if a school asks for three, send threeno more and no fewer. In fact, if you're applying on-line, the electronic application might only provide three fields in which to register your recommenders, meaning you physically can't register more than three of them, and it will likely prevent you from submitting your app if you try to submit any fewer than three.


Hans Landa: You'll be shot for this!
Aldo Raine: Nah, I don't think so. More like chewed out. I've been chewed out before.


Pedro Eler


Nov 12, 2009, 11:50 AM

Post #256 of 333 (6338 views)
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Re: [taraberyl] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

If they say three, send three. No more, no fewer. Not following basic guidelines is normally considered a very bad thing when applying for MFA`s.


WanderingTree


Nov 12, 2009, 1:14 PM

Post #257 of 333 (6326 views)
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Re: [taraberyl] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm going to disagree with the other two posters. Letters won't make or break you. You won't get accepted or rejected based on rec letters. But, if you really want someone (and this person really is a big deal), I doubt admissions committees would care one way or the other if you included it.

A lot of people probably send more than 3 letters just in case something happened to one of their recommenders (or if one went awol and a deadline was coming up). I sent 4 last year and I still got wait listed at two top tiers.


ericweinstein
Eric Weinstein


Nov 12, 2009, 1:26 PM

Post #258 of 333 (6315 views)
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Re: [WanderingTree] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

WanderingTreeI absolutely agree with you that the letters of recommendation aren't going to make or break you (the writing sample will do that). Howeverand this is just based on my brief experience working in undergraduate admissions at a highly selective universityadmissions committees do like to see that you can follow their instructions, and if the instructions ask for three letters, I think you should send three. I think it's also worth noting that (a) a recommendation from someone who's "kind of a big deal" isn't necessarily going to help if that person doesn't have some pretty persuasive stuff to say about your writing, and (b) as I mentioned above, if your recommenders are submitting on-line, the electronic application my limit you to three recommenders. Not that you couldn't have one recommender submit a letter by post, but I think that just increases the odds of annoying the graduate school and drawing attention to the fact that you're not following their guidelines.


Hans Landa: You'll be shot for this!
Aldo Raine: Nah, I don't think so. More like chewed out. I've been chewed out before.


alamana
Jennifer Brown


Nov 12, 2009, 3:56 PM

Post #259 of 333 (6291 views)
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Re: [WanderingTree] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

I had 4 recommenders send letters as well, and did just fine.

I did so because it was coming down to the wire, and it looked like recommender 3 was going to flake out on me, so rather than have only 2 recs in, I asked recommender 4 to send letters for me. Recommender 3 ended up coming through at the 11th hour, so each school had 4 letters on file for me.


Be regular and orderly in your life, that you may be violent and original in your work. -- Flaubert

http://www.jenniferkirkpatrickbrown.com


taraberyl



Nov 12, 2009, 11:12 PM

Post #260 of 333 (6245 views)
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Re: [ericweinstein] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

i just want to say for the record that my use of the term *kind of a big deal* was intended as a lighthearted shortcut to communicate what i was trying to say, and that i am not an uber douche bag.

anyway i think i will use his letters since he's been my teacher for several semesters in undergraduate and knows me really well. none of my writing samples or SOPs go over the page limits so hopefully the schools won't feel like i disregarded their instructions.


ericweinstein
Eric Weinstein


Nov 12, 2009, 11:15 PM

Post #261 of 333 (6241 views)
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Re: [taraberyl] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

Haha no worries, taraberyl. I figured you were joking, otherwise I wouldn't have linked to a photo of Ron Burgundy.

And I obviously don't think that the schools are going to shred your application and blacklist you for submitting an extra recommendation, I'd just be cautious about it. It sounds like you know what you're doing, though, so best of luck!


Hans Landa: You'll be shot for this!
Aldo Raine: Nah, I don't think so. More like chewed out. I've been chewed out before.


Zuleika Dobson


e-mail user

Nov 30, 2009, 1:55 AM

Post #262 of 333 (5963 views)
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Re: [ericweinstein] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

Anyone know if addenda to letter of recommendation forms are actually required for applicants using dossier services?

I refer to Columbia and Wisconsin's applications, which asks those who are recommending to complete a slightly obnoxious rating grid on the candidate's various abilities (such as "perseverance").


"Every spectator is a coward or a traitor."


jaywalke


Nov 30, 2009, 10:31 AM

Post #263 of 333 (5921 views)
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Re: [Zuleika Dobson] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Anyone know if addenda to letter of recommendation forms are actually required for applicants using dossier services?

I refer to Columbia and Wisconsin's applications, which asks those who are recommending to complete a slightly obnoxious rating grid on the candidate's various abilities (such as "perseverance").


See: "irony."


Zuleika Dobson


e-mail user

Nov 30, 2009, 10:44 AM

Post #264 of 333 (5899 views)
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Re: [jaywalke] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

Yeah, not helpful.


"Every spectator is a coward or a traitor."


bighark


Nov 30, 2009, 1:25 PM

Post #265 of 333 (5851 views)
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Re: [Zuleika Dobson] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

If it makes you feel better, I use Interfolio for my recommendations, and I'm not asking my letter writers to fill out extra forms.


Zuleika Dobson


e-mail user

Nov 30, 2009, 3:14 PM

Post #266 of 333 (5820 views)
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Re: [bighark] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks bighark, good to know. I guess I might call and ask Admissions, though I read somewhere that professors sometimes just cross out those pages anyway.


"Every spectator is a coward or a traitor."


jaywalke


Dec 2, 2009, 4:11 PM

Post #267 of 333 (5615 views)
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reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

 
There's a good post on RateYourStudents about letters of reference.

http://rateyourstudents.blogspot.com/2009/12/ruby-from-richmond-runs-down-rec-letter.html


scottjmonty


Dec 9, 2009, 11:49 PM

Post #268 of 333 (5493 views)
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late reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

December 15th deadlines are in less than a week, and I heard from a recommender today that he would not be able to complete any letters for me until mid-January. Would it be a good idea for me to find a new recommender or are most programs ok with a late letter of rec as long as other materials are in order?


Zuleika Dobson


e-mail user

Dec 9, 2009, 11:59 PM

Post #269 of 333 (5492 views)
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Re: [jaywalke] reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks. Whoever wrote that must be horrifically cranky--or have the most insensitive students in the world.

An hour and a half seems a bit abnormal though--I have some academics in my family, and they say it takes them 10-30 minutes, and all seem to think writing letters is a part of their job.


"Every spectator is a coward or a traitor."


bighark


Dec 10, 2009, 12:30 AM

Post #270 of 333 (5486 views)
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Re: [scottjmonty] late reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

Yikes! That's horrible, Scott. Unless you asked for the letter last week, this person has really put you on the spot.

Although there are a couple of programs out there that take a hard line on absolute deadlines (IU Bloomington comes to mind), many programs understand that some aspects of your application are beyond your control.

The best thing to do at this point is contact your programs and advise them of your situation. I imagine that most will tell you that you should be fine as long as your other stuff comes in on time.

Anyway, if you do have to get a new writer, I wouldn't let Professor January know about it. Make him or her honor their commitment.

Good luck!


alamana
Jennifer Brown


Dec 10, 2009, 10:16 AM

Post #271 of 333 (5458 views)
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Re: [scottjmonty] late reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

scottjmonty-- I was in a similar situation last year when I went through app season, and I went ahead and got another recommender to send letters immediately. The tardy one still sent my recs, eventually, so each school had 4 recommendations on file for me instead of 3. But I figured that was better than having my app tossed at some schools because it wasn't complete by the deadline. Everything turned out fine for me.


Be regular and orderly in your life, that you may be violent and original in your work. -- Flaubert

http://www.jenniferkirkpatrickbrown.com


scottjmonty


Dec 10, 2009, 1:24 PM

Post #272 of 333 (5429 views)
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Re: [alamana] late reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

Bighark and Alamana, thanks for the help, but my professor just got his letter done after i gave him a little bit of a guilt-trip (situation is a bit more complicated than i can explain in a few sentences but basically he left the country today on short notice and was not going to be back by mid-january). anyways, all worked out fine


FreakingOutInBd


Dec 10, 2009, 9:10 PM

Post #273 of 333 (5350 views)
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Re: [scottjmonty] late reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

These people kill me/I had one go MIA on me too. I had to scramble around at the last minute (Irvine's early deadline) to ask someone else and had to explain why I was being so last minute. I hated having to tell that person that he was a sub. Not that he minded, but still.


taraberyl



Dec 11, 2009, 7:16 PM

Post #274 of 333 (5279 views)
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uh ohs [In reply to] Can't Post

As some of you may or may not recall, a while back I was wondering aloud on the message boards whether or not to use a fourth letter of rec from a teacher of mine who recently offered his help. I thought he would just write them, give them to me in sealed envelopes, and I would decide what to do. I was thinking about sending them with a little note of explanation if I did send them at all, saying, you know, feel free to discount this additional letter but this teacher was really important to my development as a writer, etc, etc.
The point is I hadn't decided yet what to do with them.

So. Turns out he decided to be very helpful and save me money on postage and ship them off himself.
Nice of him, right? But this frightens me to no end. On top of being an additional letter, it is arriving at places (Iowa) that specifically requested that everything be included in a single application envelope.

Is this a horrible horrible thing that's happened? Or ok? Should I write to the schools? Let it go?

Thanks, guys. This is not good for my health.


alamana
Jennifer Brown


Dec 11, 2009, 7:25 PM

Post #275 of 333 (5275 views)
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Re: [taraberyl] uh ohs [In reply to] Can't Post

When I applied (last year) I sent four letters. Because it looked like recommender no. 3 was about to flake out on me I had recommender 4 write letters and send them out. Recommender 3 managed to send them on time too, so. . . every school got four letters. I didn't worry about it and everything worked out fine for me. I wouldn't worry about it at all.


Be regular and orderly in your life, that you may be violent and original in your work. -- Flaubert

http://www.jenniferkirkpatrickbrown.com


bighark


Dec 11, 2009, 7:43 PM

Post #276 of 333 (8717 views)
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Re: [taraberyl] uh ohs [In reply to] Can't Post

Non issue. Don't worry about it.


taraberyl



Dec 12, 2009, 12:42 AM

Post #277 of 333 (8693 views)
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Re: [bighark] uh ohs [In reply to] Can't Post

thanks guys!
fooof.


Lux


Dec 19, 2009, 10:31 PM

Post #278 of 333 (8559 views)
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Phone calls? [In reply to] Can't Post

Just curious: do grad schools have a tendency to call the people who wrote your rec letters? Letters all tend to say 'for more info call me' and I'm wondering if this actually happens.


kbritten

e-mail user

May 26, 2010, 10:13 PM

Post #279 of 333 (7085 views)
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Recs [In reply to] Can't Post

Okay, don't laugh at me, but I'm already preparing for next year. My letters of recommendation were weak last year, and this year I'd like to make them more of a strength. I have several concerns:

  • I've heard many people say that factor in very minimally, I've heard others say things like "be sure to get at least one former professor," etc, inferring that they do indeed mean something.
  • I don't want to go to my old profs. Many of them are no longer there and I don't feel comfortable asking the ones who are (it's a lot work, I wasn't very socially active in my department, my degree was in philosophy, etc).
  • I have one recommender that knows my writing well and I want to keep her, but other than that, I don't really know where to turn. I don't want to join a writer's group (I'm not the bra-less, thick-framed glasses wearing, flea market shaw covering type. Not that there's anything wrong with that "type," it's just not me, and I'm worried that I couldn't get a rec from anyone in those groups because, well, I don't think I'd fit in), I can't seem to enroll in a local class (not offered anywhere), I tried to audit a "real" course at a university, but didn't register in time and the classes were already full. I don't think I can recommendations there.
  • So, I'd like to ask the school counselor at the school I work for. She can't attest to my writing, but she can for my teaching/work ethic/etc. I'd also like to ask another teacher I work with in the English department. She doesn't know my writing, but she could also attest to my work ethic/teaching/etc. Is that kosher?!?!?! Will that be acceptable most everywhere?
I would also like to know if anyone has been accepted with less than notable recommenders, like colleagues. I'm really not an anti-social person, just when it comes to my writing. It's actually a bad thing, since success in this field comes from networking, but it makes me uncomfortable, and I do a lot of cynical eye-rolling.

I guess the last part of this long post is that I would like to know about writer's groups, workshops, retreats, etc... are they time-wasters? Has anyone received recs from them? I can't afford the expensive ones (>$300 all-inclusive), but I guess I'm open to a good one. I just don't want to join a social group; I want to read, discuss, critique, workshops, etc... I mean business, people! >:D

Fin.

Oh, I'm in the Tampa, FL area by the way.

Fin.


(This post was edited by kbritten on May 26, 2010, 10:16 PM)


silkentent
Margaret DeAngelis

e-mail user

May 26, 2010, 10:23 PM

Post #280 of 333 (7080 views)
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Re: [kbritten] Recs [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
  • . . . I don't want to join a writer's group (I'm not the bra-less, thick-framed glasses wearing, flea market shaw covering type.


WHAT??


Quote

I would also like to know if anyone has been accepted with less than notable recommenders, like colleagues. I'm really not an anti-social person, just when it comes to my writing



I fret and obsess over recommendations, too. My first master's degree is 35 years old now, my second one 15. Most of my professors, who weren't writing teachers anyway, are not just retired, they're dead. I've been granted two residencies that required letters. One of the letters was written by a 25-year-old journalist who really does know my writing well. He uses his newspaper's letterhead.

-- Margaret, who always wear her thick-framed glasses and her bra, but gave up shawls in the 1970s.



Margaret DeAngelis
Markings: Days of Her Life
http://www.silkentent.com/Trees


alamana
Jennifer Brown


May 26, 2010, 10:28 PM

Post #281 of 333 (7079 views)
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Re: [kbritten] Recs [In reply to] Can't Post

What on earth makes you think writers groups are full of the bra-less, thick-framed glasses wearing, flea market shawl covering type?

For whatever it is worth, Im in a program now and I didnt have any recommendations from professors because Id been out of school for over 10 years. One recommendation was from the leader of one of my writing groups (everyone wore their bras, except for the men, and no one wore shawls), and the other two recommendations were from writing teachers I had for online classes with Gotham Writers Workshop.


Be regular and orderly in your life, that you may be violent and original in your work. -- Flaubert

http://www.jenniferkirkpatrickbrown.com


bighark


May 27, 2010, 1:21 AM

Post #282 of 333 (7059 views)
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Re: [kbritten] Recs [In reply to] Can't Post

I got in with "less notable" recommenders. I used a former (non writing) professor, a coworker, and a minor playwright.


abcd

e-mail user

May 27, 2010, 1:25 AM

Post #283 of 333 (7057 views)
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Re: [bighark] Recs [In reply to] Can't Post

I'd also recommend Stanford's online writing courses (cheaper than face-to-face courses at the state school here in Washington) taught by former Stenger fellows and online writing courses through UCLA extension. Both could improve both your writing sample AND your rec letter. Good luck!


kbritten

e-mail user

May 27, 2010, 10:12 AM

Post #284 of 333 (7020 views)
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Re: [abcd] Recs [In reply to] Can't Post

Is it normal to get a recommendation from an online writing course? I didn't know that was done. Also, are there any other good online courses that are cheaper than Stanford's? $750 is the cost of one month's rent for me :)


abcd

e-mail user

May 27, 2010, 10:20 AM

Post #285 of 333 (7016 views)
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Re: [kbritten] Recs [In reply to] Can't Post

The UCLA extension classes are about 500 and you can get grad credit for them. State school tuition for a class will run you 1000-1500 per class, so for me this is an investment and a bargain. (My rent is 475 so the class is more than a month's rent for me--but would be worth it.) Also, the profs are legit with well-regarded books, publications, etc--so I don't see why their rec would not count, especially if you also have recs from people who know you from face-to-face interaction, too.

I just saw that you can peruse the UCLA summer courses for free, like a 4 day open house (with enrollment discounts if you sign up for a course) beginning June 1. Here is the link: https://www.uclaextension.edu/r/Course.aspx?reg=V5504


alamana
Jennifer Brown


May 27, 2010, 11:33 AM

Post #286 of 333 (7005 views)
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Re: [kbritten] Recs [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't know if it's "normal" or not to get a recommendation from an online writing course, but one of my Gotham teachers offered to do it before I even asked and I'll be forever grateful to her for it. The other Gotham teacher I asked was happy to do it and wrote a great recommendation for me that focused on my detailed critiques of student work and dedication to writing.

Gotham online courses will run you a little less in cost than the university run online classes, but I admit they can be a little hit or miss quality-wise (the teachers are almost always good, but the students aren't always great or even dedicated enough to continue giving critiques once you are halfway through the class). Another option is online classes through The Writer's Center in Bethesda, Maryland. I think Bob Bausch teaches online classes for them, and he is both a fantastic teacher and famous writer.


Be regular and orderly in your life, that you may be violent and original in your work. -- Flaubert

http://www.jenniferkirkpatrickbrown.com


kbritten

e-mail user

May 27, 2010, 11:59 AM

Post #287 of 333 (6995 views)
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Re: [alamana] Recs [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks! And I was joking about the bra-less, shawl-wearing folk ;) But I am glad to hear that Margaret gave up the shawl!


ookfish


May 30, 2010, 6:21 PM

Post #288 of 333 (6827 views)
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Re: [kbritten] Recs [In reply to] Can't Post

It's all about your writing sample. Sure, someone who gets a letter of rec from John Ashberry, or George Garrett, or (fill in name of rockstar writer) will perhaps get a closer look at their writing, or a second glance/conversation within the dept. about them, but it's all about what you've got on the page. I've known people that had stellar recs and mediocre samples that became real frustrated -- and vice-versa, people who had fair recs, and knock-out samples that got into some great places. In this next year, A) write your a$$ off, B) show your writing to those folks you mention in your post who don't know your writing, and C) burn plenty of spirit money.


kbritten

e-mail user

May 31, 2010, 10:00 AM

Post #289 of 333 (6775 views)
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Re: [ookfish] Recs [In reply to] Can't Post

So, is everyone in consensus that recommendations from colleagues are not going to hurt me? I'm aware that they won't help me, but so long as they lessen my chances, I'll use 'em.


alamana
Jennifer Brown


May 31, 2010, 10:59 AM

Post #290 of 333 (6767 views)
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Re: [kbritten] Recs [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't think they will hurt you.

I think they could help you, if they speak to how hard you work, how well you work in a team--that kind of thing. Working well with others is big. You don't want to end up with people who will act crazy/mean/etc in workshop--and an employer/colleague recommendation can speak to how well you play with others. If you are thoughtful and respectful and easy to get along with at work, you probably will be in workshop, too.


Be regular and orderly in your life, that you may be violent and original in your work. -- Flaubert

http://www.jenniferkirkpatrickbrown.com


nine


Jul 23, 2010, 1:12 PM

Post #291 of 333 (5596 views)
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Re: Recs [In reply to] Can't Post

Hello. Would it be completely inappropriate to have family members write rec letters? There are no professors I've kept in touch with, no former employers that would even remember me, and I have no friends.


ericweinstein
Eric Weinstein


Jul 23, 2010, 1:44 PM

Post #292 of 333 (5591 views)
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Re: [nine] Recs [In reply to] Can't Post

You'll need three letters for most schools. Three letters from family members would be inappropriate, yes.


Hans Landa: You'll be shot for this!
Aldo Raine: Nah, I don't think so. More like chewed out. I've been chewed out before.


bighark


Jul 23, 2010, 2:48 PM

Post #293 of 333 (5584 views)
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Re: [nine] Recs [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, it's completely inappropriate. Wipe the idea from your mind. Even if your family member is a Big Deal Writer, you need to find somebody else.

Fix your professor problem by sending a letter or email that reintroduces yourself. Remind the person of how you know each other, and summarize what you'e been up to since you last spoke.

Dear Professor Jones, I was in your X class at University of Y a few years ago. After graduating, I worked a few years doing Z, but I also maintained a writing practice. In fact, I'm applying to MFA programs in fiction/poetry this fall, and I was wondering if you'd be willing to write me a letter of recommendation.

If you have published work you want to share, let them know how to find it. Make it easy for them to write on your behalf.

If it's easy to get to where they are, consider inviting them to a cup of coffee to catch up. If that's not possible, no big deal. The point is, you've grown since you were an undergrad, and part of that growth includes a new desire to pursue graduate study--something with which a professor can relate.

Good luck


elissa
Elissa Field


Jul 23, 2010, 3:23 PM

Post #294 of 333 (5579 views)
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Re: [bighark] Recs [In reply to] Can't Post

I've had to do what bighark is saying on 2 occasions -- both times felt like a dork doing it (even having had great relationships with the profs while is school, I went to a huge univ, hadn't kept in touch (who does?) and it had been several years) but in both cases the profs were completely unsurprised and comfortable trading whatever info was necessary (I gave resumes and for one a writing sample) so they could comment appropriately. It's not as a big a deal as it seems.


http://elissafield.wordpress.com/
http://www.facebook.com/...p?id=100001772022683


kbritten

e-mail user

Jul 23, 2010, 3:50 PM

Post #295 of 333 (5574 views)
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Re: [nine] Recs [In reply to] Can't Post

Nine, I'm still frustrated at my pitiful recommendation prospects and I totally understand where you're coming from. I would feel so, so, so, so very uncomfortable asking an old professor to complete 12-14 letters for me considering I've been away from school for almost four years now, I also wasn't very social in my department, and I majored in something almost as non-practical as CW, philosophy! I applied to graduate school a year after graduating (yes, one year) and had a disastrous time trying to get three letters. One professor was very enthusiastic and did remember me (I did independent study with him and he liked me :) ), but the other two barely remembered me, forgot to send the letters in (even after I reminded them three times), and took months after the deadline to actually complete them. I didn't attend GS after that (for personal reasons, I'm ready now), but I will not approach any of my old professors, even the guy who was enthusiastic. I just don't want to bother him! I don't want to make him stuff so many letters in envelopes and send them back to me so that I can send them out. He's also a little scatter-brained.

That being said, I'm seriously contemplating just asking him and seeing what he says. What's the worse that can happen? I doubt he's going to put some kind of academic hex on me that will permanently prevent me from ever gaining acceptance into a graduate program. I doubt he will burst out laughing at my request and communicate this to me through capital-lettered LOL's. I'm going to be honest with him and tell him how much work it's going to be and give him plenty of time to decline and send him a thorough packet with detailed information.

Who am I kidding, I'll still probably chicken out!! It's funny, for some reason I don't mind making my busy colleagues stuff a bunch of envelopes, but my old professors, NEVER! I think it's because I'm more familiar with my colleagues. My advice is as follows:

--Take an online course if you can afford it and ask for a letter. UCLA is offering an MFA prep course in October, but yes, it costs $525 and starts in October, which is when you want to start asking for a recommendation.
--Take a creative course locally at a community college or a big university. You can audit the course if you don't want credit for it and don't want to pay. Ask the professor for a recommendation.
--Join a writer's group, but ohhhhhh beware. I just attended a first meeting at one last weekend and was EMBARRASSED by the quality of writing and critiquing (they had a five minute conversation on whether a cat can be referred to as "bullheaded." Swear to Jebus. Who the F cares?). I'm sure not all of them are bad, just shop around if you have that luxury.
--Get a job (easier said than done, eh?), volunteer, etc... do a good job and ask one of them.

Other than that, I'm in need of a letter of recommendation as well. Maybe we could swap stories for a couple of months and write one for each other. Just promise me you're not a homicidal maniac, because I have a reputation to keep and I don't want you sullying my good name ;)


bighark


Jul 23, 2010, 4:33 PM

Post #296 of 333 (5568 views)
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Re: [kbritten] Recs [In reply to] Can't Post

kbritten, if you're truly worried about the volume of letter stuffing, use a dossier service like Interfolio (or one that may be managed through your university) where your letter writer only has to write and send one letter.

What happens to that letter after it's written is then managed by you and the service instead of the scatter-brained prof.


kbritten

e-mail user

Jul 23, 2010, 4:46 PM

Post #297 of 333 (5563 views)
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Re: [bighark] Recs [In reply to] Can't Post

Yeah, I've really thought about it. I just have money spending issues (except when it comes to clothing, I love to shop). It's really though for me to justify the $20 fee, plus the fees for sending the letters. I calculated it and it could be an additional $100 to use it (Interfolio, at least). Ugh, decisions: neurosis or money? As if I'm not spending enough on this stupid thing already!


patrickdunn


Jul 28, 2010, 2:54 PM

Post #298 of 333 (5490 views)
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Re: [kbritten] Recs [In reply to] Can't Post

kbritten:

Where did you see info on the MFA prep course at UCLA? Is it in the Fall Extension Catalog? I'm in an Intro to Fiction class through the Extension Program there now that is pretty great and would like to take another course if I can find the money (big if). Is it online only?

Honestly, I think getting the letters of rec. is the most daunting part of applying to MFA programs to me. I'm not 100% sure if I'll be applying, although I feel like I'm getting closer and closer everyday.


kbritten

e-mail user

Jul 28, 2010, 8:47 PM

Post #299 of 333 (5459 views)
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Re: [patrickdunn] Recs [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, it's in the Fall catalog, but it's really buried. I think it's towards the end, if I remember correctly, and I had to scan the thing a couple times to get there. But, it is there.

I hope you do end up applying! It'll be fun! That was sarcastic, but the whole thing is kind of fun. I don't know why...


napk132


Jul 29, 2010, 1:21 PM

Post #300 of 333 (5428 views)
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Re: [kbritten] Recs [In reply to] Can't Post

Great thread. You've all given me the courage to contact a former professor. I had two recommenders all ready, but I was a little anxious about the third. I'm somewhat ashamed of my undergraduate attempts at fiction, so I hesitated asking any of my undergrad writing professors, but I finally sucked it up, typed out the email, and sent it off.


bighark


Jul 29, 2010, 1:28 PM

Post #301 of 333 (7244 views)
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Re: [napk132] Recs [In reply to] Can't Post

Good for you! Be sure to keep us posted on how things turn out.


themanHimself
David Stockdale


Sep 13, 2010, 11:00 PM

Post #302 of 333 (7115 views)
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Re: [bighark] Recs [In reply to] Can't Post

This may have been addressed already, and if so, I apologize for the redundancy. I was wondering what exactly is the protocol for getting letters or recommendation. I graduated in May 2010 and I have numerous professors--probably about five or six--that I'm sure would be glad to write me letters, but I don't want to impose if I don't have to. Should I only contact three of them and see what their responses are? Say I'm applying to 10 schools (I haven't figured that out yet), do I have my professors send their letters to me via e-mail and then send them out myself to each specific school with my application? That's the only feasible way I can think of, because asking a professor to send out ten letters seems like asking too much of them. Thanks in advance for any possible feedback on this matter.


-David Stockdale

http://stockdalespeaks.tumblr.com/
http://scribasaurus.blogspot.com/

"Darwinian evolution tells us that we are incipient compost: assemblages of complex molecules that - for no greater purpose than to secure sources of energy against competing claims - have developed the ability to speculate." -George Monbiot


bighark


Sep 13, 2010, 11:45 PM

Post #303 of 333 (7104 views)
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Re: [themanHimself] Recs [In reply to] Can't Post

Welcome to the forum, man.

Yeah, this has been addressed before, but it's simple enough.

Securing letters of recommendation is a simple task. Your professors know the drill, and if you give them enough time to respond, things should roll along smoothly. Writing recommendation letters is part of the profession, so you're not putting them out with the request.

If you're thinking about applying to schools with December and January deadlines, now would be a good time to get in touch with the folks you want to write for you.

Simply drop them a line informing them of your plans and let them know that you'll be applying to several schools and that you'll be getting in touch with a final list of schools as soon as you determine all the places where you want to apply. Start with the top three professors. They should let you know right away that they'll write for you. If they don't, move on to the fourth, fifth, sixth candidates accordingly.

Most MFA applications are online, and most offer electronic submission of letters of recommendation. This is about as easy as it gets for the letter writers. You'll enter all their contact information (institution, address, phone, email), and the system will send them an email with the instructions on how they will upload their letters.

This makes things a simple copy and paste affair. Your writers may tweak their letters here and there if they happen to have a relationship with the faculty or schools where you're applying, but don't kid yourself--the letter writers are not going to write ten or twelve unique letters. They're going to write one letter and make slight adjustments as needed.

No biggie for you, becuase the letter of recommendation is about as important as the application fee as far as your appplication is concerned--application decisions are made on the strength of your writing sample.

Anyway, like I said, the letter-writing process is almost entirely electronic. If you happen to be applying to schools that don't offer online letters of recommendation (not very likely any more, but still possible), then your job is to provide the letter writers with everything they need to make the process as painless as possible. Fill out all the forms as best you can, address the envelopes, provide the stamps, and paperclip all the relevant information together into a tidy bundle so that the schools don't get confused. Again, not too many places require paper letters any more, but if they do, most will allow the letter writers to send their letters directly. They don't have to send them back to you.

If you do have an application that requires paper letters and that wants all the paper letters in your paper application, just be sure to address your letters back to yourself. Then you can collect them (don't open them, of course) and make sure they get sent according to the application's directions.

But this is not likely to happen. Again, almost everything is electronic nowadays.

Now the nice thing about electronic applications is you'll have the ability to see when and if your letter writers completed their letters. If it's getting into December and you don't see anythign submitted from Letter Writer #2, for example, you can click a button that will have the system send a reminder message.

Really, it's as easy as can be. Nothing to sweat.

There are other options out there if you run into snags (a professor who agrees to write one letter one time, for instance), but concentrate on going through the basic process first. This is the easiest and cheapest way.

GOod luck!


themanHimself
David Stockdale


Sep 13, 2010, 11:55 PM

Post #304 of 333 (7101 views)
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Re: [bighark] Recs [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks bighark, that's exactly the kind of answer I was looking for.


-David Stockdale

http://stockdalespeaks.tumblr.com/
http://scribasaurus.blogspot.com/

"Darwinian evolution tells us that we are incipient compost: assemblages of complex molecules that - for no greater purpose than to secure sources of energy against competing claims - have developed the ability to speculate." -George Monbiot


maybemd


Sep 14, 2010, 10:06 PM

Post #305 of 333 (7057 views)
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Re: [themanHimself] Recs [In reply to] Can't Post

Some programs are still playing paper-chase games and want letters mailed directly from the professors. They prefer that the letters never pass through your hands or before your eyes.

Yes, I know. Snail-mail is so last century. But that's what some require.

When dealing with colleges that required snail-mail letters of recommendation, I put together packages for each prof. Included were:
  1. The letter instruction form from the college, with my signature waiving my right to review.
  2. A pre-addressed and stamped envelope, with enough postage to cover an additional ounce just in case the prof. went gonzo and wrote a missive.
  3. A cover letter to the prof, thanking them (again) for their efforts in furthering my writing career and noting any additional information they might need (due dates, web-address of the college's list of faculty, what-have-you).

Paper-clipped each college's papers and envelopes together, then a huge clip to control the entire stack. Used first-class post office mailing envelopes one flat rate no matter how much each weighed and sent them out in good time before the due date.

Yeah, it cost some and killed a tree and created a mound of mine tailings, but one reference sent an e-mail saying Thanks, you made it easy. They were doing me a favor so I did everything I could to help with the process. Don't ever leave a batch of pissed-off professionals in your wake. That's never a good career move.

Side remark: Try to narrow your choices to 3 or 4 programs. Customizing my essays to 4 programs was enough of a hassle; I can't imagine trying to revise them up to 10 times. You will increase your chances of acceptance if you study each program's quirks -- throughly read their websites, question past graduates that you come across here at P&W and in the real world, their journals and graduates' work, information and propaganda they send you after your initial contact -- and faculty and customize your essays accordingly. It's kinda like doing your homework on different journals -- reading past issues, seeing if their style is a good match before a story submission.



(This post was edited by maybemd on Sep 14, 2010, 10:07 PM)


themanHimself
David Stockdale


Sep 14, 2010, 10:16 PM

Post #306 of 333 (7051 views)
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Three to four programs? Really? I've been under the impression that most MFA hopefuls apply to 12-15 schools just to ensure acceptance. Am I wrong?


-David Stockdale

http://stockdalespeaks.tumblr.com/
http://scribasaurus.blogspot.com/

"Darwinian evolution tells us that we are incipient compost: assemblages of complex molecules that - for no greater purpose than to secure sources of energy against competing claims - have developed the ability to speculate." -George Monbiot


maybemd


Sep 14, 2010, 11:27 PM

Post #307 of 333 (7044 views)
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I should have said this in my first post: I've applied to low residency programs. That makes a difference to some. I really don't want to debate the advantages and disadvantages of full residency vs. low res, here. And I'm old -- 53. I can't speak to the experience of other applicants, especially in full residencies, just my own. I think researching and then crafting 10-12 revisions of my application essays would have driven me bonkers.

Anyone else want to chime in?

By the way, got my first acceptance call today, to what P&W ranked as the top low res. program in the country. Still dancing around. One of my references was Lee K. Abbott but the director who called said the admission committee members, who gave me "strong recommendations", were most impressed by my sample manuscript. (Two short stories. One with a historical bent, about a family in a Japanese American internment camp. The other in close third person with an elderly white woman trying to find out why her grown son killed himself.) Waiting to hear from the other three programs then will make my decision with input from my husband.

It's the writing that counts. I've been told that when considering MFAers for teaching positions, schools give more weight to publications then anything else. That's what I want to do, besides continue to write and publish after my MFA studies are completed. Teach. Creative writing in a college, memoir at the VFW hall in town, lead the National Novel Writing Month Young Writers program in our county, teach article and memoir and fiction writing techniques at the Vets' hospital across the river. Continue studying poetry and the connections between writing and the other arts. I'd love to understand writing (and writers!) well enough to lead master classes and workshops. Some day, one day.

From another string here at P&W.
"Everybody:
I am on the admissions committee of a low-residency program. This semester I have read and rated a great number of applications. Patterns have emerged, some of them dark and self-destructive. I'd like offer some advice for those of you applying to or choosing between low-residency programs:

...Research the faculty. Read their books. Look at their websites. Your decision is going to change the direction of your life, so it's worth while to figure out who will be on the other end of what will be intense and intimate writing relationships. The best personal essay will list the faculty members you've read and give reasons why you think they're going to help you to say what you want to say. It will also let you focus your choice before you pay all those application fees. Three or four well-chosen schools are enough. [italics mine] You can only go to one. There are huge differences between schools and it's usually because of the faculty, not because of technical differences between programs."

"jdog" 3/28/09 #1991


Me again.
Gods, can you imagine the time it would take to research and read the work of the faculty of 12 programs?

Make it impossible for the admissions committee to turn you down. Include your best recent kick-ass story or poetry, stuff that reflects what you are most interested in writing, not what you think they want to read. After all, if your inner-most writer-being is not what's accepted into the program, you are going to be miserable. Then customize your essay so it's personal and has them saying we can't not take on this student, convince them you belong in their program, that what your writing needs is something only they offer. Sell your future self.


Glinda Bamboo


Sep 15, 2010, 9:19 AM

Post #308 of 333 (7016 views)
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Re: [maybemd] Recs [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the helpful info, maybemd. First, I'll say that I do think applying to low-res programs is an entirely different process, and selecting 3-4 schools sounds about right. But writers who are applying to the top 25 or so non-low-res programs seem to have much lower chances of getting in. I always hear stories about how a writer got rejected from 8 schools (including the likes if Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, UC-Irvine, Montana, etc.) but got in somewhere equally amazing, like Cornell or Austin. It's so competitive it seems to sometimes remain a crapshoot, even if your writing sample is worthy of the tippy-top.

I do think reading faculty books is a good thing, and I agree that doing this for 12 schools can be incredibly difficult to impossible (unless you've known for a full year where you're applying). Not to mention that it can be difficult to even track down many of their books, which might be out of print or just hard to find.

This is an interesting discussion because I'm at the point where I'm trying to decide 1) whether to apply to MFA programs at all this year, 2) if so, if I should only apply to the 3-4 top programs I love most, or 3) if I go for it and apply to the 9-10 programs I really like a lot for fear that if I don't try this year, it will get harder and harder to uproot my life for this degree. It's tough.


maybemd


Sep 15, 2010, 11:34 PM

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Re: [Glinda Bamboo] Recs [In reply to] Can't Post

[My first attempt at a reply vanished. Here's to trying again.]

Could our attitudes about how many programs to apply to (every wonderful one, or to just the few programs left after heavy screening) be correlated with shotgun vs. selective approaches when submitting to journals?

I used to advise students in my lab who were applying to graduate and post-doc positions. Told them to select the labs they wanted to work in and the mentors they wanted to work with, based not the reputation or name of the institution or the lab, but the type and quality of their bench work and the papers published by the lab's researchers. Whose work do you admire? What do you want to be doing when you come out on the other end and can they offer you the experiences you need to move along that path?

Grad school is so different from undergrad work. On a certain level, the faculty don't care. You want to float along at the minimum height, learn and do just the necessary to get the degree? Sure thing, they're willing to sign off on that. But if a grad student wants to push herself, asks unusual questions, creates different models, reads and afterwards reports back outside the expected norm, then they'll sit up and want to participate. Because at the graduate level, you're supposed to be becoming one of their peers. You're supposed to move beyond spoon-fed, spit-back-up, undergrad work, into doing the interesting, twist-on-the-old approaches, stuff. Profs are most interested in training and then working with equal adventurers.

Glinda B., you talk about facing the difficulties with uprooting your life. Grad school is about taking steps towards creating, or recreating, a life. If you feel unable to uproot, then why not look into low residency programs.

Here's a secret, one my husband need never know. Lee K. Abbott advised me to attend a full residency program. The quality of my fellow students would be better, he argued, and the faculty more committed to my development as a writer. I told him I was not willing to leave my husband and move to Baltimore in order to apply to the Johns Hopkins Writers Seminar program. Not that day. He said he'd be honored to write letters to low residency programs for me if that would save my marriage.

I'm willing to stare into the darkness without flinching, and to write about it, and I think Lee recognized that desire.

It would be very cool if my future classmates are as committed to reciprocal critiquing as I am, but it won't be a tragedy if they're a prime collection of soulless raptors and dust bunnies. Not if I'm there. The mentors I get in my program I plan to wring out, and then inspire. I would push to become a kick-butt writer whether or not I attend an MFA program but immersion in one will propel me faster, and further, down that road. So help them god.



(This post was edited by maybemd on Sep 15, 2010, 11:35 PM)


skt


Dec 11, 2010, 6:57 PM

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Who to ask-help! [In reply to] Can't Post

I need three letters of reccommendation for my applications. I will get one from my academic advisor and one from a poetry professor, both of whom have had me in class and know my work well.

My question is where to get the third: I am choosing between my somewhat laissez-faire undergrad thesis advisor (my thesis was a collection of poetry), or an english professor who had me in class twice, including my senior seminar. The first knows my creative writing, but doesn't know me particularly well; the second has never read my creative work, but can speak to my critical writing and abilities as a student.

Suggestions?

Thanks!


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Dec 11, 2010, 9:34 PM

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Better, I think, someone who knows your work. In fact, you are not being judged for acceptance into a program; your work is.


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

Difficult Listening, Sundays from ten to noon (Central time), at http://www.radiofreenashville.org/.

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bottledpoetry


Jan 18, 2011, 9:54 AM

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Letter of Recs when you are applying to MFA at your alma mater [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi all,

I was wondering if I could get your input on my situation. I did my BA at UC Irvine, which was my first choice school for the quality of its English/Writing instruction. I was lucky to take several writing workshops there and ended up graduating in the Literary Journalism (aka Creative non-fiction) program.

I am planning to apply for my MFA in fiction next year and my first choice is ..::drumroll:: UC Irvine, once again! The program is my ideal MFA in many ways, it's not even that I think I'll have more of a chance of getting in. On second thought, I probably have less of a chance to get in since it's my alma mater.

Anyway, I wanted to ask one of my professors to write me a letter of recommendation for my application package. I think she will give me an excellent letter, but is that a bad idea to ask her to recommend me for my alma mater? She is a department chair, and I don't want to put her in an awkward professional situation. At the same time, I don't know who else I can turn to besides UCI professors for my academic reference. I haven't taken a single writing workshop after graduating.

I am preparing three letters in total, one will be from a magazine editor I've worked with for 3 years, another will be from a fellow writer who I've been in a group with for about 6 months. So it seems that I need one academic reference in there, I think. I'm so nervous about approaching her and I haven't kept in touch with her for the last three years, even though she was my favorite professor! I do want to get in touch with her again, but I feel like our meeting is going to be so awkward.

Stress!!!

Advice from the interwebs?


(This post was edited by bottledpoetry on Jan 18, 2011, 10:03 AM)


MissEsquire



Jan 18, 2011, 1:22 PM

Post #313 of 333 (6448 views)
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Re: [bottledpoetry] Letter of Recs when you are applying to MFA at your alma mater [In reply to] Can't Post

That does sound stressful.

But you definitely need one academic reference letter. Have you thought about actually telling her about your dilemma? That you don't want to put her in an awkward professional situation but you think she'd be the best reference for you? Maybe put this to her and see what she says. Honesty can't hurt.

Your other option might be to get a reference from an English Lit professor, if you took English courses during your time at Irvine. You've already got two other references who (presumably) address your creative writing ability.


Olive


Jan 18, 2011, 1:35 PM

Post #314 of 333 (6440 views)
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Re: [bottledpoetry] Letter of Recs when you are applying to MFA at your alma mater [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi bottledpoetry..i know its an awkward situation......
my 2 cents of advice......
had u applied to any other school..same thing wud have been normal.....but since it's the same college as ur undergrad...and ur proff a know figure ..hence the discomfort....
Still,I think you should go ahead..atleast talk to ur proff..see how things work out..
and its perfectly fine to have her recommd u.....UC Irvine is very reputed and all reco things wud be handled on a very profeesional level...
Y are u holding urself to task 4 smthng nt even in ur hands..

Go ahead buddy..
Best Wishes
Olive


bighark


Jan 18, 2011, 1:45 PM

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Re: [bottledpoetry] Letter of Recs when you are applying to MFA at your alma mater [In reply to] Can't Post

Don't stress. Writers routinely apply to grad programs hosted by their undergrad institutions. It's harder to get in this way, but it's not unheard of, and if you got accepted, you wouldn't be the first.

Go ahead and ask your professor for the recommendation. If you're only applying to UCI, she'll probably counsel you to consider more programs (which is good advice), but you certainly won't be breaching some code of conduct or putting her in some sort of awkward position.

Good luck.


libbyagain


Jan 20, 2011, 8:14 AM

Post #316 of 333 (6391 views)
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Re: [bighark] Letter of Recs when you are applying to MFA at your alma mater [In reply to] Can't Post

I absolutely second what Bighark writes. I've not been in anything like the high-flown situation described here, but have been when, on a committee for a scholarship and for hiring (when an adjunct faculty person I'd recommended was part of the pool). What happened both times was that the folks sitting who'd also written recc's stayed somewhat mum during discussions of the candidate. Beamed, nodded vigorously at compliments paid the prospect, intervened to clarify/contradict less-glowing aspects of consideration. In other words, were "professional." Each time, the sum total was a boon to the candidate with an inside connection, imo.


mkouzmine


Oct 31, 2011, 11:47 AM

Post #317 of 333 (5592 views)
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Re: [libbyagain] Letter of Recs when you are applying to MFA at your alma mater [In reply to] Can't Post

Digging up an old thread. I have no one to ask for a LoC. I graduated from college over a decade ago and since then I've been abroad. I've never lived in the US as an adult, and I've never had any sort of job to be proud of. I've been a wife, a mom and a lady-who-lunches. Maybe I should shut up. I'm talking myself out of this.


bighark


Oct 31, 2011, 12:42 PM

Post #318 of 333 (5590 views)
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Re: [mkouzmine] Letter of Recs when you are applying to MFA at your alma mater [In reply to] Can't Post

You can always track down your former professors for letters of recommendation. Yes, it's been over ten years, but it only takes a moment to re-introduce yourself and bring your recommenders up to speed. If your professors are still at your undergraduate institution, great. If not, fire up a search engine and track them down. Don't remember their names? Request your transcripts and then track them down. It's not hard--an afternoon in front of a computer is all it takes.
Once you've found the people you want to ask, simply send a note that reintroduces yourself and explains what you've been up to and the plans you have for school.

For example,
"Dear Professor Jones. I took your class at Example University in 199X, and earned an A. Since graduating, I've moved abroad and started a family. I've also established an artistic practice, and am considering applications to US-based MFA programs for the next school year. I write <fiction/poetry/whatever> about <topics/themes/style>, and hope to spend some time to <finish a collection/develop my skills/acquire credentials to teach/etc>. Would you be willing to write a letter of recommendation on my behalf?"
If your professors untraceable, don't fret. The letters of recommendation are not the most important part of your application. Not having an LOR is not a good enough reason not to apply. You can always contact a program office for advice on this portion of your application. They may tell you not the worry about it and submit the things you have.
And if they tell you that LORs absolutely must be provided, then do your best. You can ask editors at journals who have accepted your work, any writing group or book club members with whom you've been associated, or friends or former colleagues who can speak to your sensitivity and intellectual curiosity. Don't worry about accomplishments or even the promise of great writing--the selection committee will be the judge of your work, not some letter writer.
I promise you that the LOR is among the least important parts of your application. Don't let this be the reason you don't apply.


alamana
Jennifer Brown


Oct 31, 2011, 6:57 PM

Post #319 of 333 (5573 views)
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Re: [mkouzmine] Letter of Recs when you are applying to MFA at your alma mater [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Digging up an old thread. I have no one to ask for a LoC. I graduated from college over a decade ago and since then I've been abroad. I've never lived in the US as an adult, and I've never had any sort of job to be proud of. I've been a wife, a mom and a lady-who-lunches. Maybe I should shut up. I'm talking myself out of this.


Two of my recommendations came from people who taught online classes I took with Gotham--one class was a fiction class and one was a memoir class. You might consider taking an online creative writing class and asking the teacher for a recommendation.


Be regular and orderly in your life, that you may be violent and original in your work. -- Flaubert

http://www.jenniferkirkpatrickbrown.com


mkouzmine


Nov 1, 2011, 2:57 AM

Post #320 of 333 (5562 views)
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Re: [bighark] Letter of Recs when you are applying to MFA at your alma mater [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you for the detailed and helpful reply. I know one professor who would write a recommendation for me, but he was my Russian prof. The other 2 I'll have to dig up somehow.

In Reply To
You can always track down your former professors for letters of recommendation. Yes, it's been over ten years, but it only takes a moment to re-introduce yourself and bring your recommenders up to speed. If your professors are still at your undergraduate institution, great. If not, fire up a search engine and track them down. Don't remember their names? Request your transcripts and then track them down. It's not hard--an afternoon in front of a computer is all it takes.
Once you've found the people you want to ask, simply send a note that reintroduces yourself and explains what you've been up to and the plans you have for school.

For example,
"Dear Professor Jones. I took your class at Example University in 199X, and earned an A. Since graduating, I've moved abroad and started a family. I've also established an artistic practice, and am considering applications to US-based MFA programs for the next school year. I write <fiction/poetry/whatever> about <topics/themes/style>, and hope to spend some time to <finish a collection/develop my skills/acquire credentials to teach/etc>. Would you be willing to write a letter of recommendation on my behalf?"
If your professors untraceable, don't fret. The letters of recommendation are not the most important part of your application. Not having an LOR is not a good enough reason not to apply. You can always contact a program office for advice on this portion of your application. They may tell you not the worry about it and submit the things you have.
And if they tell you that LORs absolutely must be provided, then do your best. You can ask editors at journals who have accepted your work, any writing group or book club members with whom you've been associated, or friends or former colleagues who can speak to your sensitivity and intellectual curiosity. Don't worry about accomplishments or even the promise of great writing--the selection committee will be the judge of your work, not some letter writer.
I promise you that the LOR is among the least important parts of your application. Don't let this be the reason you don't apply.



emilychristine
Emily Sims

e-mail user

Nov 17, 2011, 9:04 PM

Post #321 of 333 (5457 views)
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Re: [mkouzmine] Letter of Recs when you are applying to MFA at your alma mater [In reply to] Can't Post

Do the schools you're applying to specifically say that your LORs have to be from professors/employers?


Our Daily Tales / Travel Tales



kvly
M J

Jul 25, 2012, 1:07 PM

Post #322 of 333 (4929 views)
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Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

I have decided to apply for MFA (Fiction) programs. A bit early in the process, but I am thinking about who I should ask to provide my LoR. I have decided about two of them: one can speak about me primarily as a student in an academic setting; the other professor was my undergrad thesis advisor, and the thesis was a work of fiction, so she can speak about my writing itself (from a critical perspective, though).

I think my third letter should be from a writer. I have one poetry advisor and one fiction advisor in mind that I could approach. The one for poetry knows me better whereas I haven't worked with/spoken to the one for fiction, and I think my fiction has greatly matured since then. Will it be strange if I ask a poet rather than a novelist/short story writer for a letter? I am hoping that my undergrad adviser--who knows my fiction the best--will fill in that gap. And the writing sample will speak for itself, too.

My other option is a member of a poetry critique group I have been a part of for more than a year; I have worked with some of these people in workshop settings for more than 3 years now (I studied with the poetry adviser for 3 mos.). One of them especially is familiar with my poetry and fiction both. She offered to write a letter, but would this have as much weight as asking a published poet?

I know my LoR won't matter if my writing sample doesn't make the cut; but if it comes down to them deciding between me and another writer and the LoR could make the difference, I want to make sure I make the right choice!


dahosek
D. A. Hosek

Jul 25, 2012, 3:57 PM

Post #323 of 333 (4924 views)
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Re: [kvly] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

I would go with the recommender who knows you best.


---
University of Tampa MFA '14
http://dahosek.com


pongo
Buy this book!

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Jul 25, 2012, 5:36 PM

Post #324 of 333 (4918 views)
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Re: [dahosek] Recommendations and reference letters [In reply to] Can't Post

I wrote a recommendation letter for someone in my poetry group once, for a program at a school where I had taught (although not in the program). She wasn't accepted there, but I don't know whether her choice of recommender was a factor.


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

Difficult Listening, Sundays from ten to noon (Central time), at http://www.radiofreenashville.org/.

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tdr
T.D. R

Aug 7, 2012, 7:01 PM

Post #325 of 333 (4862 views)
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Letters of recommendation in advance? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm sorry if this has been covered already somewhere in here. I'm starting to research MFA programs because I have about a year and a half left to finish my bachelors, and I want to go right into a Masters program.

I know most of the schools I've looked into require three letters of rec. I think for my three I'll ask a fairly well known published poet I had workshops with last year, another teacher who is unpublished but I had several English classes with and a workshop, and for the last I may hit up one other teachers at my current college for the last letter.

I'm just wondering should I just ask for the letters now, and possibly ask them to pre-date and generalize it for multiple colleges. Or should it not matter that it's past dated by a year? Should each letter be addressed to a certain school?

I'm afraid to wait too long I may not get them. I know the well known poet is sick, and the other teacher is leaving for awhile, I feel possibly permanently if she has her way. I feel it's odd to ask for too many at my current college because I'm completing my degree online, and don't have much interaction with the faculty.


bighark


Sep 14, 2012, 6:08 PM

Post #326 of 333 (5684 views)
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Re: [tdr] Letters of recommendation in advance? [In reply to] Can't Post

I think you're jumping the gun a little bit. Asking for a letter of recommendation over a year in advance kind of puts you into the weird/creepy end of the eager student spectrum.
A better tact would be to nurture the relationships you've established with these people, especially if they're writers. Check in from time to time. Send them updates on your studies or work you may have published. If they're local, see if they'd be willing to meet you for a coffee every now and then. The idea is to stay on their radar without being suffocating.
If a recommender retires, goes on sabbatical, or moves across the country, you can still contact them for a letter of recommendation. If you've invested in your relationship with these people, they'll take the time to write something nice for you.
Still, I think it's important to say that the letter of recommendation plays a very, very, very small part of the MFA admissions process. Admissions decisions are based on the strength of your writing sample.
Good luck


elissa
Elissa Field


Sep 15, 2012, 9:19 PM

Post #327 of 333 (5672 views)
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Re: [tdr] Letters of recommendation in advance? [In reply to] Can't Post

I may be wrong*, but I think the hole in this plan is that the letters of recommendation are completed on forms from the program you are applying to, so you can't forward along an aged letter you have in your possession. I have lots of previous recommendations, but know the app requirements have me going back to those same people and asking them to rewrite the letters to fit the form. On the other hand, you could let those people know your intentions now and ask if they'd want to jot something down which you could refer them back to once the application time arrived.

*See if I'm wrong by opening online applications for some of the schools you are considering and seeing what form they use for the recommendations. That should help you answer your question.

Good luck.


http://elissafield.wordpress.com/
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Sibella
Pam, that is.


Mar 4, 2013, 11:54 AM

Post #328 of 333 (5228 views)
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reference letter conflict of interest? [In reply to] Can't Post

If my issue isn't unique, it's probably unusual.

I have taken a lot of workshops with Dr. A. Dr. A is the head of the creative writing MFA program at a big university.

Dr. A really gets my poetry--more so than anyone else I've ever worked with. He's been very kind and supportive. We're not exactly friends--he's very busy, and my only way to contact him is via e-mail.

I applied to his program and used him to write me a recommendation. I was accepted a few days ago.

Here's the issue: Between the time I started applying to Big U. and my acceptance, I became very interested in a particular low-residency program. I'm pretty sure that I'd rather go to this low-res program (or another low-res program) than the program at Big U., mainly because of the low-res vs. traditional format. (The chance to work further with Dr. A was the only reason I applied to Big U. in the first place.)

I have not yet told Big U. my decision; if I don't get into Low-Res U., I'll go ahead and attend Big U.

If you were me, would you ask Dr. A for a recommendation to the low-res school?

His recommendation would carry a lot of weight; on the other hand, I feel very awkward about this whole situation and don't want to complicate it further or leave him ill-disposed toward me. I feel awkward because (a) I'm asking for yet another recommendation letter (I'm beginning to think that the worst part of being a poet is having to get people to recommend you for schools, classes, retreats, etc.) and (b) I'm in effect telling him that his own school is not my first choice.

I have gotten the requisite two people to recommend me for Low-Res U., but I fear that one of them might not come through; I'd love to have Dr. A as a backup.

Dr. A has written recommendations for two of my friends to attend a different low-res program, and they got in. It's not like he's irrationally loyal to his own program; he understands the strengths of low-res programs for some people. I just wish I'd started by asking him for a recommendation to Low-Res U. in the first place, but it entered my radar rather late in the process.

In other news, I quit my full-time job about 2 hours ago in preparation for this whole odyssey. I've had a few false starts with grad school; this time, I'm determined to go for it.

Advice? Thoughts?

Thanks,

Pam


"What I wanted to hear didn't exist, so it was necessary for me to go out and create it." --Richard Thompson


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Mar 4, 2013, 1:04 PM

Post #329 of 333 (5223 views)
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Re: [Sibella] reference letter conflict of interest? [In reply to] Can't Post

If Dr. A. were anyone but the head of the program to which you've been accepted, I'd say go ahead and ask him. But By applying to another school now (and doing it under his nose, so to speak) you are telling him that you are not thrilled about being in his program. If you wind up there, it will be at the very least awkward; he will know he was your second choice.

Plenty of people go to their second-choice schools, and program heads know this, but I can't imagine it would help you any to rub his nose in it like this.


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

Difficult Listening, Sundays from ten to noon (Central time), at http://www.radiofreenashville.org/.

http://home.comcast.net/~david.m.harris/site/


Truth and Fiction



Mar 5, 2013, 3:41 PM

Post #330 of 333 (5196 views)
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Re: [pongo] reference letter conflict of interest? [In reply to] Can't Post

I definitely see what pongo is saying, but I also hope that most professors would prefer that their students do what's best for them and their own unique circumstances. Low-res programs are so different that it makes it less insulting than if you asked for a recommendation right now for another traditional, big-university program. If you explained that you're really excited about your acceptance to Dr. A's program but that, for personal reasons, you need to at least investigate the low-res route and apply, I would hope he'd understand and wish you well in whatever's best for you. (No guarantee for that, of course.)

I think the bigger question is whether the timeline of applying and hearing from the low-res program would work with whatever date you have to give Big U your answer. Is your spot at Big U funded? If so, that makes things a little more difficult and time-sensitive. If it's not funded, I can certainly see why you want to explore low-res programs.

With all that said, you already have two recommenders, so it would be easiest to stick with them and leave Dr. A out of it. But if you get accepted to the low-res and go that route, you're going to have to tell Dr. A anyway.

Let us know how it works out and what you choose.


Truth and Fiction


maida


Mar 5, 2013, 4:28 PM

Post #331 of 333 (5192 views)
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Re: [Sibella] reference letter conflict of interest? [In reply to] Can't Post

Your explanation of your decision sounds reasonable to me. If I were Dr. A, I might be personally disappointed not to get to work with you more closely, but I'd still be happy to support your choice and write you another recommendation for the low-res school that you think is a better fit for you. The fact that one program is traditional and one is low-res makes your decision very compelling and easy to justify--it's apples and oranges, not Pink Lady vs. Red Delicious.


Sibella
Pam, that is.


Mar 5, 2013, 4:40 PM

Post #332 of 333 (5191 views)
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Re: [maida] reference letter conflict of interest? [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you all for your advice.

I have no funding, as far as I can tell (I suppose that there might be a decision made later). I expect to be taking out lots of loan money for whichever program I choose.

I'm probably just wigging out because it seems like everybody involved in this--the potential letter writers, Dr. A, the people at the low-res school--is at AWP right now. I should probably let things lie until they're all back.

Or maybe I can drive to Boston, crash the conference, buy Dr. A a couple of Maker's Marks, and then ask him about the letter. (This kind of thing probably only works in Jonathan Franzen novels or something.)

Pam


"What I wanted to hear didn't exist, so it was necessary for me to go out and create it." --Richard Thompson


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Mar 5, 2013, 5:21 PM

Post #333 of 333 (5189 views)
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Re: [Sibella] reference letter conflict of interest? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

Or maybe I can drive to Boston, crash the conference, buy Dr. A a couple of Maker's Marks, and then ask him about the letter. (This kind of thing probably only works in Jonathan Franzen novels or something.)

Pam


If it were a Pynchon novel, he would explain how you must go to his university, and that the success of the grand conspiracy depends on it. You'd both have more Maker's Marks and wind up in bed, although in the morning you'd be unable to remember whether or not you had sex. You'd sneak out and drive all the way home without stopping, and wind up at the low-res school.


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

Difficult Listening, Sundays from ten to noon (Central time), at http://www.radiofreenashville.org/.

http://home.comcast.net/~david.m.harris/site/

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