Aug 6, 2008, 6:57 PM
Post #166 of 328
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.
MFA Rankings and Acceptance Rates at: http://www.sethabramson.blogspot.com/
(This post was edited by umass76 on Aug 6, 2008, 6:58 PM)