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Arkinese


Jan 22, 2007, 11:51 AM

Post #76 of 333 (7885 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 (7873 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 (7864 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 (7841 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 (7823 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 (7808 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 (7802 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 (7790 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 (7779 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 (7756 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 (7666 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 (7599 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 (7533 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 (7469 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 (7394 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 (7355 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 (7346 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 (7336 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 (7333 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 (7310 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 (7249 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 (7209 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 (7174 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 (7119 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 (6993 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.

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