Mar 14, 2009, 11:25 PM
Post #486 of 709
I think it depends on your genre, and I can only attest to poetry since that is what I applied in. I applied to 5 schools last year, getting wait-listed at one. This year I applied to 16 programs. So far, I have 2 acceptances, 10 rejections, and 4 M.I.A.. When I spoke to Montana and Houston (my acceptances), they explained what they liked in my portfolio. Prageeta at Montana complimented my on the vast assortment of things I explored in my various poems, particularly gender and identity. Tony at Houston relayed that he found my works compelling because they were bold in being rough, jagged, and refusing clarity. Two very different aesthetics.
I note this because I actually applied to Houston the previous year and got flat out rejected. When I reapplied to programs this year, my portfolios only recycled about 1-4 of the poems, depending on the page limits at each school. The newer poems were stronger, but even more so, a lot more daring in what they tried to say.
What made this year's portfolio different was that I presented a sufficient package of a specific type of writing. Last year's work was constructed of various poems of different genres and topics and styles, which I thought would best showcase my versatility as a writer. I decided to abandon that direction this year and assemble poems that were different, but consistent to be read with each other. It's like if you thumb through various collections of poems by one poet, you can easily see why certain poems just complement each other.
Now, I did get rejected by 10 programs, and quite possibly 14, but I found it's probably because those schools passed on what my portfolio was selling. But I still tried to sell them a complete picture. The schools that did accept happened to like that product.
So I think it's very important to make sure your portfolio says something in terms of completeness. And by that I mean the reader should get through it and know exactly what sort of work you are looking to explore and how you wish to do it. Versatility is great, and you can always change your direction once admitted, but programs like to build cohorts around an aesthetic the faculty share, and if you only give them a hint of it, it's not going to win them over versus someone whose complete portfolio offers that. Again, you run the risk of alienating the reader by choosing one direction, but it will make those who like it like it so much more than if you hadn't.
My final thought is also about being aware of the schools' aesthetic. Over these last two years, I have noticed where people get multiple acceptances from, and often, there is overlap with that person. Since a program might only admit 6 people, statistically speaking, if 2 of the 6 were both admitted to the same schools, you can conclude both of those schools share similar aesthetic views. That is why I decided to pick Montana this year, and it paid off. Here's some programs I have noticed overlaps.
I am not saying getting into one of those schools makes you a guarantee for another, and this is only from my poetry explorations, but if you get wait-listed at a program this year and want to reapply, I suggest you search this thread for the programs the people who got into that school were also admitted to as a possible chance of seeing which other programs value your particular aesthetic.
(This post was edited by indievirtue on Mar 14, 2009, 11:31 PM)