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__________



Aug 5, 2008, 6:26 PM

Post #151 of 344 (7316 views)
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Re: [Raysen] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

Egads, man. I'd like to hear more from dorchester on this one! I just can't believe that 80% of Iowa applicants are 'maybes'. Why would this number be so much higher than for lit journals? Simply because teachers place bets on 'future ability'?

If that's true, then I wonder how they whittle it down. Things seems more disturbing when you consider that most who do make it in appear to be rich white Ivy Leaguers...or folks born into heartwarming semi-poverty in another country who went to Ivy League schools on scholarship. One Iowa blogger even reports that (on the poetry side at least) they tend to admit the bored daughters of uber-rich, Rockefeller-type families -- because those daughters will one day marry, become even more bored, and bestow endowments.

I mean...Ack! 80%!? This makes the whittling down process look even worse... !


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(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Aug 5, 2008, 6:28 PM)


umass76


Aug 5, 2008, 7:03 PM

Post #152 of 344 (7296 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

There are definitely a number of Ivy Leaguers here (as well as many more who are not Ivy League graduates), but where is your "white" and "rich" data coming from? Particularly the "rich" part?

S.


Clench Million
Charles

Aug 5, 2008, 7:06 PM

Post #153 of 344 (7294 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Egads, man. I'd like to hear more from dorchester on this one! I just can't believe that 80% of Iowa applicants are 'maybes'. Why would this number be so much higher than for lit journals? Simply because teachers place bets on 'future ability'?


While before I said decisions for MFA programs are harder than for lit journals, since journals need polished finished work but MFA programs need writers who they think have potential... I do agree there is no way anywhere near 80% of applicants are in any kind of serious contention for a spot at a top program.

The fact is, at a desirable lit journal you are lucky to have 2 or 3% of the slush pile be in real contention. And maybe at max 10% even given real consideration. At least 90% of submissions are tossed long before an editor sees them... and most time much more than that. Most slush readings I've been to would have several readers and a giant pile of slush. Out of that we were lucky to get 5 or 6 worth passing on to the editor. Most of the time the editor would toss all of those after a quick glance.

As I said, MFA programs work differently since you are looking for potential and you are of course getting less "submissions" than a good journal does. Still, it seems improbable to me that the percent with a real shot goes from 3% to 80%. I doubt it even goes to 30%.

At a program that accepts 10 students I would be surprised if even 40 students had any real shot at getting in. My guess is that most programs whittle their list down very quickly and only have a few applicants to quibble over for a few spots (the other spots given automatically to the best applicants). The process varies I am sure. Most programs probably mandate at least a few readers. But the assumption that the majority of applicants have little chance at getting into a desirable (desirable being defined as getting lots of applications) school seems correct to me. You will notice that most of the time people either get accepted into no schools or accepted and waitlisted at several.


ejdifili
Emily

Aug 5, 2008, 7:21 PM

Post #154 of 344 (7291 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

If that's true, then I wonder how they whittle it down. Things seems more disturbing when you consider that most who do make it in appear to be rich white Ivy Leaguers...or folks born into heartwarming semi-poverty in another country who went to Ivy League schools on scholarship.


I don't know how true that is. Some schools (like Indiana University, for example) are explicitly committed to fostering racial diversity in their program. So, they definitely don't admit only rich white people. Also, I have met students from various top-20 programs, and not all are from the Ivy Leagues. In the program I am entering this year, I think only one incoming student holds a BA from an Ivy League school; others come from both lesser private universities and also state schools.

Realistically speaking, I'm sure it does happen that people get into MFA programs because of "connections," like who they or their family knows, or how much money their family has donated to the institution in the past. One would be naive not to recognize this as the way of the world. Nonetheless, I believe it is definitely possible to get accepted to a competitive program merely on one's writing merit. The applications sometimes ask how much money the candidate him or herself earns per year, but I don't think they have any reason to know about the income of a graduate student's family.

I, for example, was accepted to a program now listed in Seth's top 10, but I promise you that I had absolutely zero connections to that university, and my family is niether significantly wealthy nor significantly poor or downtrodden.

It is my understanding that final acceptance decisions can be based on things like previous grades or degrees, letters of recommendation, personal statements, etc. I don't think those elements get you into the final running, but I've heard that's what committees use to distinguish between applicants they may view as equally qualified based on their writing samples.


__________



Aug 5, 2008, 7:45 PM

Post #155 of 344 (7280 views)
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Re: [ejdifili] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

I was just speaking of Iowa...and I did say 'appear'. I have no hard data of where everyone did their undergrad.

Sometimes it can be disheartening, though, hearing from former students, or reading various blogs (like Matt Miller's blog), or (very recently) flipping through all the Best New American Voices on my shelf. There are usually two stories from Iowa (the max allowed), and the contributor's notes are strikingly similar. Harvard! Harvard! Harvard! Or I was born into the middle-class squalor of China, India, Germany, Sri Lanka -- and then I went to Sarah Lawrence and Harvard!

Line that up with the eerie sameness of the stories, the 'best' from every workshop, the horrible discovery that they all share the same voice, demonstrate the same learned techniques (1st sentence: journalistic prose, two character names and a situation. 1st paragraph: journalistic prose, appeal to the senses, pungent smell mentioned, exotic food munched...), and you're left with...what. Sickness? Despair? I don't know. Even the people with politically correct names spinning tales of the homeland write the same dreck as everyone else; the puffs of steam just rise from a certain type of baked Asian fruit pie instead of a Big Mac.

No offense to anyone who anyone who went to Harvard. I know they're a swell bunch of people. Some of my friends went there, and they are very swell. It just makes me wonder if there are any other schools...

Perhaps I shouldn't comment after a night spent perusing Best New American Voices.


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(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Aug 5, 2008, 7:50 PM)


Yugao


Aug 5, 2008, 7:48 PM

Post #156 of 344 (7276 views)
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Re: [ejdifili] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not sure how an admissions committee could definitively conclude how well off I am by my application. Only one standard application question might have revealed my socioeconomic status, the one that asked me to state the highest degree earned by each parent.

I visited two schools before making my decision, and my impression was that it was the work that counted. Faculty wanted to discuss my work and my plans. They didn't seem to have any interest in finding out whether or not I had a trust fund or if I came from a family of philanthropists.

"Top" programs can't maintain their reputations by admitting the bored and talentless. They need to admit people with the talent and initiative to gain some success in this very difficult field. As well, we are talking about very elite graduate programs that offer funding and fellowships. It isn't illogical to presume that people who were competitive undergraduate candidates would also be competitive graduate candidates, for whatever reason.

I do not have an Ivy League degree or immense family wealth, and I feel like I was treated fairly during the application process.


Clench Million
Charles

Aug 5, 2008, 7:50 PM

Post #157 of 344 (7271 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

Maas:

That might be more of a commentary on BNAV, which has always struck me as a really boring and bland anthology not at all worthy of its name, than MFA grads as a whole.

Although I never went to an Ivy League college, it wouldn't surprise me if they are over represented in MFA programs. But I doubt that is because the programs pick them for that reason. I bet a lot apply. Rich liberal parents are more likely to support an artistic career path than a lot of other families.


Raysen


Aug 5, 2008, 7:54 PM

Post #158 of 344 (7268 views)
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Re: [Yugao] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I'm not sure how an admissions committee could definitively conclude how well off I am by my application.


Well, this is where the Personal Statements come in. Someone could write: "I've always wanted to be a writer...blah blah blah...My dad is a billionaire industrialist...blah blah blah. We've given so much to charities and educational institutions. blah blah blah. And I'm open to new challenges and sooooo willing to learn from the amazing faculty members at _____________."


Yugao


Aug 5, 2008, 8:01 PM

Post #159 of 344 (7261 views)
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Re: [Raysen] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

I know you are kidding, but no one gets around to reading the personal statement when the writing sample is bad.


__________



Aug 5, 2008, 8:09 PM

Post #160 of 344 (7256 views)
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Re: [Yugao] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

Unless 80% of the applicants are maybes...hence my original point. ;)


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Raysen


Aug 5, 2008, 8:19 PM

Post #161 of 344 (7249 views)
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Re: [Yugao] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I know you are kidding, but no one gets around to reading the personal statement when the writing sample is bad.


Yeah, I was kidding of course, but for the sake of this example, we have to assume the applicant passed the initial writing sample filter. Thereafter, I think that, as Ethel Merman sang, ANYTHING GOES!


ejdifili
Emily

Aug 5, 2008, 10:04 PM

Post #162 of 344 (7226 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Sometimes it can be disheartening, though, hearing from former students, or reading various blogs (like Matt Miller's blog), or (very recently) flipping through all the Best New American Voices on my shelf. There are usually two stories from Iowa (the max allowed), and the contributor's notes are strikingly similar. Harvard! Harvard! Harvard!

Well, yeah, I know what you mean because I feel that way when reading Poets & Writers magazine. It seems like the majority of featured authors (those who hold MFA degrees, anyway) are graduates of Iowa, Irvine, Columbia, Michigan, etc. Especially Iowa, of course. Clearly, there are successful writers in this world who hold degrees from lesser-known schools, but it does make me stop for a minute and wonder if I'm doomed because Iowa rejected me. Of course, there would certainly be a lot of us in that boat. But, whatever... all you can do is keep writing, reading and generally striving toward improvement.


daleth


Aug 6, 2008, 1:28 PM

Post #163 of 344 (7164 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Unless 80% of the applicants are maybes...hence my original point. ;)



If 20% of the applicants are serious contenders, no one's ever going to give a second glance to the other 80%. 20% of the applicants is, for most schools, still far more people than they have room to admit. The only people whose personal statements, rec letters, etc. are going to get looked at are the ones in that 20%. If 10% are contenders, 10% are definite no's, and 80% are maybes, it's still only going to be the top 10% who really get looked at, because--again--most programs get something like twenty to fifty times more applicants than they possibly have room to admit.


Daleth Demented (Blog)


vorgefuhl


Aug 6, 2008, 1:38 PM

Post #164 of 344 (7161 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
(1st sentence: journalistic prose, two character names and a situation. 1st paragraph: journalistic prose, appeal to the senses, pungent smell mentioned, exotic food munched...)


I like this, you should expand this into a ten-page essay.


Raysen


Aug 6, 2008, 2:08 PM

Post #165 of 344 (7145 views)
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Re: [vorgefuhl] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

Quote
(1st sentence: journalistic prose, two character names and a situation. 1st paragraph: journalistic prose, appeal to the senses, pungent smell mentioned, exotic food munched...)


I like this, you should expand this into a ten-page essay.


Forget the essay. I'm waiting for the novel!


umass76


Aug 6, 2008, 6:57 PM

Post #166 of 344 (7096 views)
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Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

All,

I think the conversation about what percentage of applications fall into this category or that one is difficult to have because the terms of the discussion keep changing.

I had just noted that there was general agreement that 75% to 80% of applications to MFAs are "competent [or better]," and very quickly the question was whether or not 75% to 80% of applicants are "in serious contention" for a coveted spot in a top MFA program. Those are two different things, especially when the initial question was, "How quickly can/does an MFA program discard X% of applications as 'definitely no'...?" My point was, a "definitely no" application is one that is not competent.

First readers, and sometimes second readers, are not authorized to willy-nilly toss away applications by writers who are "competent [or better]," which I think we agreed makes up 75% or so of the total applicant pool. My point, then, was that for those who claim that 90% of applications never get past a first reader, that's wrong--probably 75% get past the first read.

It simply doesn't prove anything--and isn't saying much--to observe that a group of four or five faculty, cloistered in a room for several hours, can quickly look through a large volume of "competent [or better]" work and get to a point where there are forty applications for ten spots. Fine, they can do that. But that has absolutely nothing to do with the initial purpose of this conversation, which was to ask whether "competent [or better]" writers could reasonably say that, in fact, they're only in competition with 10% of the applicant pool. The answer is, no, they can't say that.

The reason is because, when the faculty are in that room and they get down to the last forty applicants, those applicants are exceptional. Which means that only exceptional writers can even conceivably claim to be competing against (say) 39 other writers instead of 899. And that assumes that a writer is the very best judge of his/her talent, which is an odd premise on a board where everyone is applying to an MFA--where, by definition, we expect others will be a better judge of our talent (to an extent) than we are.

Be well,
Seth

MFA Rankings and Acceptance Rates at: http://www.sethabramson.blogspot.com/


(This post was edited by umass76 on Aug 6, 2008, 6:58 PM)


Clench Million
Charles

Aug 6, 2008, 7:48 PM

Post #167 of 344 (7080 views)
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Re: [umass76] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

I very much agree that this discussion has featured evolving terms. Most people seem to be talking about different things. Understandable when talking about "competence" in writing and not wishing to sound insulting to the applicant pool.

My personal assumption though is that the majority of applicants, at least 70% if not more, do not make it past the first round. (I won't say "first read" because I assume most programs mandate each application get at least two pairs of eyes.) I do believe that second readers are authorized to toss manuscript and I do assume that the vast majority of applicants who get a "no" from the first reader will get a "no" from the second.

The way I understand it is that most schools have their main faculty (I'd assume four to eight teachers) get in a room and start reading. Since these are the big teachers anyway, certainly if two of them say no the manuscript is going to be tossed. Some schools probably work differently with initial "readers" who are not part of the faculty... in that case, I'd expect over 50% of the applicants to move to round two. But when the faculty gets to reading I bet they chop quite quickly. They have to. They already know only a handful of applicants have a shot at getting in and if a manuscript isn't catching anyone's eyes there is no need to go through a dozen rounds tossing out 50 applications each time until a manageable number is reached.

So in that sense, I think the initial poster was correct in assuming that most applications get tossed very quickly. I will not claim the "definite nos" are incompetent or not, but I have little doubt that the majority of applications are definite "no"s. If a school accepts 5% of its applicants there is no way that 20%, much less 80%, are "maybes" in any real sense of that term, which I think is the question. Most get tossed in the first round and then the rest of the time is spent whittling a small number of applications down.

This is, however, a very different question than whether or not someone who is merely a good writer can get through to the final rounds since the majority of applicants are horrible writers (which the initial poster also claimed). But I do believe that the good majority of applicants get tossed quickly after the first round.


Clench Million
Charles

Aug 6, 2008, 7:57 PM

Post #168 of 344 (7077 views)
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As to the more essential question (or what I think is the more essential question here) of whether being a "decent" or "competent" writer is enough to get you to the top 10%... I think that is an impossible question to answer since there will be no agreement over what counts as "competent." It depends entirely on how you use those terms and from reading this thread it seems clear to me that everyone is using it in different ways.

My guess is that if you work is good enough to be getting nice responses from literary journals, if not publications, you are likely to jettison to the top 10%. Beyond that, it is hard to say because these words have no definition we can agree on.


__________



Aug 6, 2008, 9:09 PM

Post #169 of 344 (7054 views)
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Iowa Maybes [In reply to] Can't Post

It's the term 'maybe' that keeps tripping me up. To me, if someone's a 'maybe', it means they're a contender -- a maybe. And 80% just sounds awfully high; especially when Iowa's the only program everyone knows about. I wonder, How they could they not get loads of manuscripts from every crazy out there? I'd expect a full 20% to arrive in feces-smeared envelopes from Unibomber types, people in cabins with hooded sweatshirts -- and not the cool hipster kind!

But, as I said, it's the end product that troubles me, that really causes me to doubt such high numbers. Because flipping through journals and Best New American Voices can be troubling. This is when competency stops being a term of admiration, becomes something ugly and fearful and slightly fascist that must be ran from, very, very quickly.


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(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Aug 6, 2008, 9:13 PM)


Raysen


Aug 6, 2008, 9:44 PM

Post #170 of 344 (7035 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Iowa Maybes [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

But, as I said, it's the end product that troubles me, that really causes me to doubt such high numbers. Because flipping through journals and Best New American Voices can be troubling. This is when competency stops being a term of admiration, becomes something ugly and fearful and slightly fascist that must be ran from, very, very quickly.


Notwithstanding your position, I'm still applying to Iowa. Heheh...


silkentent
Margaret DeAngelis

e-mail user

Aug 6, 2008, 9:45 PM

Post #171 of 344 (7034 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Iowa Maybes [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
It's the term 'maybe' that keeps tripping me up. To me, if someone's a 'maybe', it means they're a contender -- a maybe. And 80% just sounds awfully high; especially when Iowa's the only program everyone knows about. I wonder, How they could they not get loads of manuscripts from every crazy out there? I'd expect a full 20% to arrive in feces-smeared envelopes from Unibomber types, people in cabins with hooded sweatshirts -- and not the cool hipster kind!



The application itself costs something -- upwards of $100 when you add in the transcripts and the postage and the copying or printing costs. (I am agog at the people who say they're applying to 15 schools "this year.") And if you're admitted, there is cost. I think that would keep out a lot of the crazies.

I asked somebody at Bread Loaf about this last year. He was a reader for the admissions committee. I asked him what percentage of applications is completely unsuitable, especially since there is no application fee. The percentage of manuscripts who have talking animals and end with "thank God it was all a dream" is lower than at magazines because once you're admitted, you have to pay, instead of the journal paying you. I would think that the prospect of having to come up with at least part of $20,000 a year would keep a large number of the crazies out.


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


Yugao


Aug 6, 2008, 10:24 PM

Post #172 of 344 (7018 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

As I understand it, not all stories get a full read. I asked about this at one school and was told that professors (at least at that school) don't have time to go on reading pages and pages of work that will obviously not make the cut. The acceptance rate at that school was less than 5% for fiction this year, which means many hundreds of applicant stories had to be culled. I do think that experienced faculty members can probably tell from the first page or so which manuscripts are worth considering.


(This post was edited by Yugao on Aug 6, 2008, 10:26 PM)


Raysen


Aug 6, 2008, 10:28 PM

Post #173 of 344 (7014 views)
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In Reply To
As I understand it, not all stories get a full read. I asked about this at one school and was told that professors (at least at that school) don't have time to go on reading pages and pages of work that will obviously not make the cut. The acceptance rate at that school was less than 5% for fiction this year, which means many hundreds of applicant stories had to be culled. I do think that experienced faculty members can probably tell from the first page or so which manuscripts are worth considering.


This is very disheartening, but I understand the practical necessities. I'm just sad that the Admissions Committee may not get to THE TWIST at the end of each of my stories. Dammit.


Clench Million
Charles

Aug 6, 2008, 10:40 PM

Post #174 of 344 (7011 views)
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Re: [Yugao] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
As I understand it, not all stories get a full read. I asked about this at one school and was told that professors (at least at that school) don't have time to go on reading pages and pages of work that will obviously not make the cut. The acceptance rate at that school was less than 5% for fiction this year, which means many hundreds of applicant stories had to be culled. I do think that experienced faculty members can probably tell from the first page or so which manuscripts are worth considering.


One would hope that with the applications fees people are paying they would at least get a full read... but it wouldn't surprise me if that wasn't the case.

Certainly in literary journals, the vast majority of manuscripts don't get more than a page or two read.


writerteacher


Aug 6, 2008, 10:44 PM

Post #175 of 344 (7007 views)
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Re: [silkentent] Iowa Maybes [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I would think that the prospect of having to come up with at least part of $20,000 a year would keep a large number of the crazies out.


But for many (most? Seth?) programs, you don't have to pay; they pay you to attend with a fellowship and tuition remission, or with a TA-ship and tuition remission. (Yes, not all programs offer full funding, and those that do may not fund everyone equally, but still.) You may have to pay for fees or books, and unless you've independent means you'll certainly be living like a monk in most cases, but a huge part of the attraction and meteoric popularity of MFA programs is that chance that you can be sustained, without taking out loans, to focus on your writing for two or three or four years. It's the academic equivalent of an artistic grant.

So, popping $40-100 on an application seems like a *really* good bargain for such a potentially huge return on the investment, even if you're crazy.

Especially if you're crazy.

My friends can't believe I'm being paid to go to school. Neither can I.

I do agree that the effort it takes to pull together an application may be a deterrent to someone who is on the fence or not serious about writing or schooling, but we all know there are plenty of horrible writers who are terribly, terribly serious about it, so I'm not sure effort has much of an effect on the ratio of good/competent applications to goofy ones.

Cheers,
WT

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