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hapworth


Oct 1, 2005, 8:04 PM

Post #1 of 329 (21076 views)
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Statement of Purpose Can't Post

Hey all,

Oddly, I'm no newbie to grad school. I started off in the MFA program at Bama, but left to do an MA at Ohio University. I've written statements of purposes before, but since they were for Master's level programs, I didn't sweat them too much (though I did put plenty of effort into them).

Anyhoo, now I'm getting materials in order of Ph.D programs in creative writing, and the statement of purpose (SOP) is scaring me a bit. Any tips? I'm thinking of writing an introduction, one body paragraph that focuses on my literature interests (after all, the Ph.D will be lit-intensive) and one body paragraph that focuses, obviously on my writing interests, but it still seems scary. If I were a pure lit student, I wouldn't worry so much. I'd just tell readers that I wish to study eco-feminist representations of poultry in the poems of Emily Dickinson :-) Just kidding. Seriously, any general tips? I'm a fiction writer.

Hapworth


grimson
Justin Bryant
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Nov 26, 2004, 6:32 PM

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too many publication credits? [In reply to] Can't Post

I met with the director of one of the programs I'm going to apply to. She was extremely nice, and spent much more than the scheduled half-hour talking to me, which was great. But she did suggest that my very modest publication record might make me appear 'less teachable' than the typical MFA student to some faculty members (who read the apps), and suggested I spend a lot of time in my personal statement stressing just how much I do want to be taught.

For the record, I had my first novel published last year by a very small independent press, and have had 6 stories published in relatively small mags such as Thin Air and The Chiron Review. This is hardly big-time stuff, but I see her point. Anyone else dealing with this, and have any suggestions about how to broach it in my statement? I'd already written it, but am going to revise it based on her recommendation.


pongo
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Nov 26, 2004, 7:34 PM

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Re: [grimson] too many publication credits? [In reply to] Can't Post

I had a page or two of credits when I applied to my MFA program, and had no trouble getting in. Of course, my personal statement was all about how achieving those credits had shown me how much I had to learn.

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/


gymnick


Nov 24, 2005, 8:32 PM

Post #4 of 329 (21077 views)
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Statements of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm done with the writing samples, I have good recs and I'm getting the GRE over with tomorrow. Now, I'm back to focusing on the statements of purpose and I'm looking for some guidance.
I'm having difficulty with the goal part. I'm not sure, "writing a book and being published" is what they want to hear for my career goals. Nor do I think my incredibly self-deprecating tone will impress.
Also, how tailored to each school did you make your essays- was it a generic essay with certain parts thrown in for the school or was each one specific to the school?

Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S. This board has been such an incredible resource for me. Thanks guys.


pongo
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Nov 24, 2005, 9:06 PM

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Re: [gymnick] Statements of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, I only applied to one place, so I can't talk about tailoring my response, but my statement wasn't really about careerist goals. It was about what I wanted to do in my writing, how I wanted to change that and how I thought getting an MFA might help me to do that. Actually, it was an essay discussing my historical relationship with text and fiction, stretching into the future.

And it must have been all right; I was accepted within a couple of weeks of sending in the packet (rolling admissions program, of course).

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/


Kaytie
Kaytie M. Lee

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Nov 25, 2005, 1:08 AM

Post #6 of 329 (21064 views)
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Re: [gymnick] Statements of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

Probably best to discuss how you plan to grow as a writer in the MFA program. It's a school, after all--they're interested in what you can do for them (what talents and skills you'll bring to them) and what they can do for you (what you hope to learn while there).

No MFA program guarantees publishing opportunities that I'm aware of, so the statement of purpose is not the place to discuss that--it's a given. They want to know what you hope to get while enrolled with them, which is a very good reason why you should tailor your statement of purpose. It's a chance to show how much you researched their program. Many applicants (and writers) blindly submit to schools (and to agents/lit mags/editors). Show why you think you're a good match for the program. It's more work, but MFA programs want students who aren't afraid of the work it takes to be a writer.

Once you've written the first SoP you can easily alter it for the others. I applied to five schools and got into three, and I suspect that my statement of purpose had much to do with that since my writing samples, while clean and polished, were amateurish subject-wise.

Keep in mind: Those reading your application are writers, and sometimes even professors--they can tell a generic statement of purpose from a tailored one.

(Self-deprecating can work in your favor if it shows your personality--my SoP began with admitting that I failed my high school writing competency test. Granted, in my next sentence I mentioned how my English teacher waived the requirement to take it again since I'd always received As on essays. Still, it's a great story. I keep the card showing my "deficiencies" on my desk. As a creative writer you don't get many opportunities to show the "real" you. Your SoP is your chance to show your personality--take it!!!)


Kaytie M. Lee Last Updated November 2008

(This post was edited by Kaytie on Nov 25, 2005, 1:11 AM)


Onyx


Jan 24, 2006, 9:58 PM

Post #7 of 329 (20971 views)
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Personal Essays for low res programs [In reply to] Can't Post

I have been reading all of the low res threads and found them to be very very helpful (and I made it all the way through the super long thread!). I am looking at applying for winter of 2007, (so Sept. of this year), and doing a great deal of research. My big question for now is on the personal essays they ask for. I know they want information on your background and goals and all that, but they also ask if there are any possible problems you might have, or challenges. I was assuming that you shouldn't mention any possible issues, but will they assume that pretty much every applicant will have challenges and they want to know how you would deal with them? What is the best way to deal with this question?

Thanks in advance.


pongo
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Jan 24, 2006, 10:11 PM

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Re: [Onyx] Personal Essays for low res programs [In reply to] Can't Post

Depends on what kinds of issues you mean. If your issues include "I am currently serving time for killing my last writing tutor," that's one thing. If they are more along the lines of "I'm writing two different kinds of fiction and need to decide which to specialize in," include it. They want to know about your artistic issues, and possibly if they'll need to provide accomodations for learning or physical disabilities (although physical stuff belongs in a separate letter, after you're accepted; some schools just aren't set up for people with learning disabilities, though).

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/


emillikan


Feb 16, 2006, 12:47 PM

Post #9 of 329 (20974 views)
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last-minute statement of purpose--help? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi all! It's been three years since I graduated from Indiana Wesleyan U. with Writing/English, have been working full-time, trying to decide when to quit and what to do after. About three weeks ago I realized that, of many options, I DO actually want to go to grad school--specifically, for creative non-fiction. I'm in the middle of last-minute applications to MFA programs at Seattle Pacific U. and Pacific Lutheran U. SPU is my first choice, app. due March 1st. I'm hoping to spend the next two days holed away somewhere working on the statement of purpose ("development as a writer and person of faith") and the portfolio, etc., as well as the statement and a short book review for PLU.
So, question: Does anyone on here have any suggestions for websites, etc. with (free) sample essays, especially to writing programs, and/or some practical advice about grad essays? I've already checked the info on about.com, and I'm interested in some things I can save, print out, and use as references or springboards while I'm ignoring the internet for a couple of days. Any links to old threads on this topic would be great too. I've searched and browsed some, but under this kind of a deadline I'm trying not to spend too many hours surfing. I have a LOT of ideas, but I'm not sure how to address them or put them together...
Thanks to anyone willing to help!
Emily


hapworth


Feb 16, 2006, 7:19 PM

Post #10 of 329 (20945 views)
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Re: [emillikan] last-minute statement of purpose--help? [In reply to] Can't Post

Emily,

It's very difficult to find worthwhile SOPs online. I know. I've tried. I found this site the most useful, a Live Journal forum devoted to grad school: http://community.livejournal.com/applyingtograd/

The only problem is that the SOP discussion is pretty much over, but it was really hopping a couple months back. I learned a lot about SOPs just from peeking at the samples posted. The LJ forum is open to anyone, not just English majors, but plenty of English majors posted samples for feedback. You might visit this place and see if the archives go back pretty far. I believe that they do.

Hapworth


emillikan


Feb 16, 2006, 9:20 PM

Post #11 of 329 (20925 views)
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Re: [hapworth] last-minute statement of purpose--help? [In reply to] Can't Post

Great, thanks! I'll check that out. Looks like the Archives go back quite a ways.
Emily


lytonyawename



Apr 27, 2006, 9:42 PM

Post #12 of 329 (20927 views)
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Final Tally [In reply to] Can't Post

Been finishing my MA thesis and school and work weighing me down.

final tally:

In: UNLV (Douglas Unger wrote me a really nice email) and Alabama (accepted the Alabama offer)

Rejected: Oregon, Brown, Indiana, Michener, Iowa, and Arkansas (came last week).

The two places where I put the most work into my statement of prupose are the two places where I got accepted. They also happen to be the places I have the most connection to and the two places that "pulled" me the most.

Congrats to everyone who got in, and for those who didn't: i do think it is a little random, a little fate, a little luck, and a little sweat... so i know you should try again if this is really what you want to do.

out.


(This post was edited by lytonyawename on Apr 27, 2006, 9:43 PM)


__________



Apr 27, 2006, 10:09 PM

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Re: [lytonyawename] Final Tally [In reply to] Can't Post

Oh no...does everyone have a different statement of purpose for each school? Wouldn't your true aim or purpose be the same at each one? Or do you have to tailor it to what certain faculty want to hear?


six five four three two one 0 ->


gussy

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Apr 28, 2006, 1:28 AM

Post #14 of 329 (20897 views)
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Hey, congrats to everyone !!

Hi again, Amy: worry not -- I'd dare say that the statement of purpose is, basically, the same one for all schools. BUT you do have to tinker a little with it once you have your basic piece down. However, getting the main thing is the toughest task. Once you're there, introducing minor changes to each statement in order to make it sound more appealing to each target-school is a piece of cake. And this doesn't necessarily mean "pleasing" each faculty member. You just have to try to to show that you're acquainted with the "philosophy" of the department, and that you think you'd be a good fit.

I'd recommend that you go check out Tom Kealey's blog; look for his post on S of P; I found his suggestions very helpful. Also, his book has good tips on the S of P.


lytonyawename



Apr 28, 2006, 3:19 AM

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Re: [Junior Maas] Final Tally [In reply to] Can't Post

Oh, Las Vegas gives assistantships to everyone. teaching two classes or teaching one class and helping out at the writing center.


Junior Maas: actually, i say you should have a skeleton SOP and then adjust it... but take the adjusting for each school really seriously... talk about why you want to go there... really... for alabama, i talked about how the South is important to me, the whether (seriously), my family connections, how it relates to my writing, interrupting a comfort zone i've created where i am, etc, etc. for vegas i talked about the study abroad requirement and what i thought that would mean for my writing, how i'm intrigued by the very odd vibe i always get from vegas (not the gambling... that's mostly boring--but the things around it), etc, etc. i talked about my life experiences and my job too... teaching... the point is i think to be personal. i had a hard time writing that into an essay (oddly).

or not... like i said, maybe it's just luck too.

good luck


HopperFu


Apr 28, 2006, 8:24 AM

Post #16 of 329 (20878 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Final Tally [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Oh no...does everyone have a different statement of purpose for each school? Wouldn't your true aim or purpose be the same at each one? Or do you have to tailor it to what certain faculty want to hear?



Well, the actual questions are slightly different at each school. They really do want you to answer the questions. My statements of purpose were not radically different, but I did change them depending on the school.
For example, in my statement of purpose for Cornell, I stated some of the reasons Cornell appealed to me was because of the small program size, the balance between studio and lit classes, and the academically rigorous nature of the program.
That would NOT have been appropriate in my statement for Iowa (which is geared very much to studio work and admits 25 people per year).
I think my skeleton statement of purpose was very strong, but I did tailor it for each school (for the school, not the faculty). For the most part, I talked about why I thought an MFA program would be good for me, what I would do with the degree, and what I had done to prepare myself as a writer. I didn't, at any point, use the phrase, "I've always known that I was going to be a writer," or any variation thereof. :)
It's interesting to note that the most detailed and specific statement was for Wash U, which was the only school that outright rejected me.


sibyline


Apr 28, 2006, 9:26 AM

Post #17 of 329 (20865 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] Final Tally [In reply to] Can't Post

For better or for worse, I didn't tailor my statements at all. If I were to do it over again, I would have probably done some tailoring. Although in my opinion, any tailoring I would have done would have been along the lines of emphasizing my strengths specific to each program, rather than talking about what aspects of the program appeal to me. This is from having a professor boyfriend who complained about students writing all these great things about his school, and him knowing that they're doing the same thing for all the other schools the students are applying to.


bullscheidt


Apr 28, 2006, 10:50 AM

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Re: [sibyline] Final Tally [In reply to] Can't Post

One school, one that accepted me, said that they appreicated that I noted the diversity in their faculty in my SoP. I did it only in passing, but it made me think that the programs enjoy being recognized for what makes them unique.


HopperFu


Apr 28, 2006, 12:09 PM

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In Reply To
For better or for worse, I didn't tailor my statements at all. If I were to do it over again, I would have probably done some tailoring. Although in my opinion, any tailoring I would have done would have been along the lines of emphasizing my strengths specific to each program, rather than talking about what aspects of the program appeal to me. This is from having a professor boyfriend who complained about students writing all these great things about his school, and him knowing that they're doing the same thing for all the other schools the students are applying to.



I think that statements are worth looking at in general. My statements were about 1 1/4 single spaced pages. Probably two sentences, at most, were specifically about the school, with almost the rest explaining what I hoped to gain from an MFA, etc.
I guess there were some instances - and this would qualify as tailoring - where I would talk about how an aspect of the program (say, the academically rigorous nature of the affiliated English Dept) dovetailed with my goals and needs.
But really, a good statement of purpose does one thing first and foremost: it answers the question that the department has asked you to answer.
Of course, if your writing sample isn't good enough, it doesn't matter what your statement looks like.


commanda
Amanda

Jun 12, 2006, 10:06 AM

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Statement of Purpose and Past Rejections [In reply to] Can't Post

So, this year it was nine applications, nine rejections, and a black, black two-week rejection hangover where no hope lived. But I'm resilient! And young! And earnest! And dedicated! And don't want to do anything else with the next 2 to 3 years of my life! So I persevered.

I'm writing even more than before, experimenting with style, playing with content, and reading about intentionality and the nature of writing, (not to mention devouring books and periodicals by the handful). I've submitted truckloads of manuscripts, tracked down fellow writers in my area, pursued freelance copywriting, and am happily going into debt for a week of workshop-bliss at UMass at the end of June.

Do I tell 'em about my trials in this year's personal statements? Do they even care? Is it even worth noting? I imagine faculty reading about my past rejections and thinking that, even if they like my application and portfolio, there must be something wrong with me if the other schools said "thanks, but no thanks."

And what if I'm applying to a few of the same schools that said nuh-uh last year? Might they remember me and hope that I address my previous application process? Am I just flattering myself?


sibyline


Jun 12, 2006, 12:40 PM

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Re: [commanda] Statement of Purpose and Past Rejections [In reply to] Can't Post

personally, i wouldn't devote precious space to your application travails in your SoP, since many people are in the same boat. i would focus on your work and how it's been developing and what you've been doing. i wouldn't even address the application process thing. and it's totally normal for people to apply more than once so i don't think committees would hold that against you.


rooblue


Jun 12, 2006, 12:48 PM

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Re: [sibyline] Statement of Purpose and Past Rejections [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree totally with Sybiline here. It's all about the work. And the fact that you're re-applying doesn't matter unless a program suggested specifically that you do so. In that case I'd say something like, "I'm re-applying to this program at the suggestion of _____," blah blah. But I never heard of a program saying that, so maybe they don't.


commanda
Amanda

Jun 12, 2006, 12:50 PM

Post #23 of 329 (20633 views)
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Re: [sibyline] Statement of Purpose and Past Rejections [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the advice. I suspected as much. Plus, thinking about writing about my efforts was just making me tired. It wouldn't really be a Statement of Purpose, or Intent...just something the committees have read a million times before. It's true, too, that proof is in the pudding and I know that writing samples count the most.

Thanks again!


Art
Arthur J. Stewart
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Jun 12, 2006, 6:52 PM

Post #24 of 329 (20599 views)
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Re: [commanda] Statement of Purpose and Past Rejections [In reply to] Can't Post

Now, THIS is the type of attitude that will for for you! Keep it up! You'll start racking up successes.


Banyon


Sep 4, 2006, 11:45 AM

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Favorite Authors Statement? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi all,

I'm working on my statements of purpose (and all the other statements different schools ask for). Purdue's website states:

"Please include a brief written statement responding to these questions; Whose work do you admire? What collection of poetry and/or works of fiction read in the last year have been important to you, and why?"

What is brief? 300-500 words? I would just e-mail them and ask, but all the people they say you can contact are general graduate admissions people (not people involved with the MFA or even the English Department).

Thanks,
Banyon


Art
Arthur J. Stewart
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Sep 4, 2006, 12:01 PM

Post #26 of 329 (7011 views)
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Re: [Banyon] Favorite Authors Statement? [In reply to] Can't Post

Aim for a page.


__________



Sep 4, 2006, 8:13 PM

Post #27 of 329 (6993 views)
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Re: [Banyon] Favorite Authors Statement? [In reply to] Can't Post

Man, I was looking at that the other day, and thinking how depressing it is. It's bad enough when schools ask for a favorite author list and then receive all the "correct" responses. My favorite authors, the hugely influential ones, I discovered a long time ago; last year's books feel a little random. I'm sure it's this way for most.

So how do we handle these types of questions? Just write 500 words on our faves, sit back and be judged? Tell them how we loved the new George Saunders, TC Boyle, or Peter Carey book (who teach in other programs)? Mention we're mostly reading books by MFA profs this year, and we loved their books (without sounding like an ass kisser)?

Dilemma!


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darredet
Darren A. Deth


Sep 5, 2006, 5:42 AM

Post #28 of 329 (6973 views)
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Re: [Banyon] Favorite Authors Statement? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Banyon:

From my experience most statements of purpose run 1-3 pages. There are some schools that require more, but that doesn't sound like the case here.

Have you perused the website to determine if there is any mention of page length? If there isn't, I would make a phone inquiry.

Darren


Banyon


Sep 5, 2006, 9:00 AM

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Re: [darredet] Favorite Authors Statement? [In reply to] Can't Post

J Mass - I get the feeling that they just want to make sure the applicant is familiar with contemporary authors. Some younger applicants (I'm not bashing younger applicants--I'm a young one myself!) may have taken a lot of workshops and become good writers, but missed out on becoming good readers. They want to make sure you've actually read a poetry book in the past year... I'm just guessing, though. I wrote about Jorie Graham and Alice Fulton, because they are definitely my favorites... but maybe they're also kind of obvious choices? Sigh...

Darren - Purdue requires both a personal statement and a favorite authors statement. My personal statement is around 600 words, and at the moment my favorite authors statement is a little over 400... There are no word limits listed on the website, and no phone contacts listed within the english or writing department. I guess I'll play a little phone tag and figure it out!

Thanks,
Banyon


HopperFu


Sep 5, 2006, 10:14 AM

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Re: [Banyon] Favorite Authors Statement? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I wrote about Jorie Graham and Alice Fulton, because they are definitely my favorites...


I hope you're applying to Cornell, then. Alice Fulton seems quite nice (though I'm actually in Fiction, not Poetry).


Banyon


Sep 5, 2006, 1:19 PM

Post #31 of 329 (6949 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] Favorite Authors Statement? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

In Reply To
I wrote about Jorie Graham and Alice Fulton, because they are definitely my favorites...


I hope you're applying to Cornell, then. Alice Fulton seems quite nice (though I'm actually in Fiction, not Poetry).



Fiction at Cornell? I'm very jealous now:o) Sadly, I'm not applying to Cornell. It's basically my dream school, because I also want to go for a PhD in Lit, and they let a few people do the PhD and MFA at the same time... but my partner is an engineer and could never find a job in little Ithaca (I'm sure any available engineering jobs get snatched up by the Cornell engineers). Also, I might like Fulton too much to actually work with her, if that makes sense. Just meeting her would probably be a little uncomfortable, because I've read so much of her work, her interviews, and criticism about her work (I'm writing my undergrad thesis on her poetry).

-Banyon


__________



Sep 5, 2006, 3:52 PM

Post #32 of 329 (6937 views)
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Re: [Banyon] Favorite Authors Statement? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey guys. See what I mean, though? That's what I keep running into, when I think contemporary authors. I feel like people will read the statement and say, Well, if you like Author X so much, why not just apply to School X, where she teaches?

Here's another difficulty: say you love Mairy Gaitskill and are stoked about applying to Syracuse. But then your favorite writer, say maybe William T. Vollman, just beat her out for the National Book Award. If you don't catch something like that before the apps go out, it's gotta hurt...


six five four three two one 0 ->


Clench Million
Charles

Sep 5, 2006, 5:42 PM

Post #33 of 329 (6928 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Favorite Authors Statement? [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Hey guys. See what I mean, though? That's what I keep running into, when I think contemporary authors. I feel like people will read the statement and say, Well, if you like Author X so much, why not just apply to School X, where she teaches?

Here's another difficulty: say you love Mairy Gaitskill and are stoked about applying to Syracuse. But then your favorite writer, say maybe William T. Vollman, just beat her out for the National Book Award. If you don't catch something like that before the apps go out, it's gotta hurt...


Interesting, I can't say that I really thought of this when I applied, because pretty much none of my favorite contemporary authors teach anywhere, except George Saunders. I guess a lot teach randomly, but none have full time positions at universities I don't think.

One would hope that these professors would be mature enough to not reject someone like they like becuase they picked a writer from a rival unviersity as their favorite or something. If you apply to a mid-large size program, presumably there are a fair number of peple on the committee anyway. Also, remember that they won't even be reading these things until you've made the cut on the writing sample.


frolicaway


Sep 6, 2006, 12:13 PM

Post #34 of 329 (6895 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Favorite Authors Statement? [In reply to] Can't Post

Yow. I'm glad I haven't been asked for a favorite authors' statement, so far.

I would probably list off some dead people, then add something evasive about my exploration of more recent writers. Probably, it would be a terrible statement.


Banyon


Sep 6, 2006, 1:58 PM

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Re: [frolicaway] Favorite Authors Statement? [In reply to] Can't Post

Warning: This is off topic for the current discussion, but not off topic for the thread...

Is the statement of purpose where you mention any publishing you've done?

I'm asking because I just got a story accepted for publication at a magazine, but I'm not sure if I should mention this on my application at all. For one thing, I'm applying for an MFA in poetry, so I don't know if they give a hoot about my fiction story. Second, the story will not actually be published until February or June (I guess I could say "pending publication"?). And finally, the story is a piece of speculative fiction published in a speculative fiction magazine, but I don't know if I want to be labeled by the selection committee as a speculative fiction writer when I'm just trying to write poetry.

Maybe I should only mention it in my Michener application (where my secondary field would be fiction) and downplay the genre?

-Banyon


Clench Million
Charles

Sep 6, 2006, 5:45 PM

Post #36 of 329 (6864 views)
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Re: [Banyon] Favorite Authors Statement? [In reply to] Can't Post

You should put publications in your personal statement. I dont' see nay problem at all with listing a fiction publication, you don't even need to specificy ("I've had my work accepted to magazines such as Epiphany Quarterly" or whatever). Even if you list it is as fiction, there is no reason why publishing non-poetry creative work should hurt you at all. Quite the opposite.

An SF publication though? I'm not sure. I could see that prejudicing some committee members, but I really can't say for sure.


Aubrie


Sep 6, 2006, 6:17 PM

Post #37 of 329 (6856 views)
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Personal Statement [In reply to] Can't Post

So Tom Kealey says in his book that the personal statement/letter should organized in formal letter form. It seems to be a lot easier to write it like that, but is that really what admissions committees are looking for? A letter? I always thought it was supposed to be an essay of sorts.
Any thoughts?


bighark


Sep 6, 2006, 6:18 PM

Post #38 of 329 (6855 views)
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Congratulations on your story's publication! That's great news.

I don't know how you plan on writing your statement of purpose, so I cannot say whether you should or shouldn't mention your publication history. Some applicants use the SOP to list past accomplishments such as publications and contests, and others decide to write about other topics. You don't have to mention your publications in the SOP if you don't want to--there are ample opportunties to note how well you've been published. Most applications provide a "Publications" section, and you can definitely include a publications list in your CV/ resume.

Also, don't worry about publication date of your accepted story. The standard note for stories/poems that have been accepted for publication at a future time is "in press." If you do a Google search for "CV 'in press'," you'll see dozens of examples how this notation is used.

Finally, should you mention a SF story in a poetry application? That's a tough one. If it were me, I'd leave any mention of SF writing out of my application, but that's just me.

Good luck


Aubrie


Sep 6, 2006, 6:20 PM

Post #39 of 329 (6854 views)
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Also, if there are any kind souls out there who are feeling giving today, I would love to see someone else's statement (PM it to me!). I feel like I'm making a bunch of notes as to what I want to get in there, but am still having a hard time organizing it. It would be so helpful to me - the one I've seen (thanks Sibyline!) was tremendously helpful.


__________



Sep 6, 2006, 10:31 PM

Post #40 of 329 (6839 views)
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Maybe we could seek SOP donations for some sort of MFA blog?


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HopperFu


Sep 7, 2006, 7:42 AM

Post #41 of 329 (6824 views)
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Hey guys, I'm not sure how helpful it will be, but here is my statement of purpose from last year (obviously with the caveat that this is my work and I expect that it will not be used unethically ... and that people check things on the internet and getting busted for plagarism will ruin your chances of, well, anything). I changed it slightly depending on the school. The school that I changed it the most for - WashU - and was the most personalized (I talked specifically about why I was interested in specific profs), was the school that gave me the outright Heisman.
I have mixed feelings about sharing this. I think there was something kind of useful about writing this on my own, but I also think it is useful for other writers to see some examples. Sibyline's example - which she posted on here somewhere last year - is not similar to mine at all.
My other advice about the statement of purpose is a) answer the questions and b) remember that your chance to show your creativity is in your original work.
Not that any of it really matters that much. If they are reading your statement of purpose it is most likely because you have made it past the only really important step - your writing sample.
Anyway, here it is....



I would like to be a working, published writer, while also teaching on the college and university level. An MFA program is a unique opportunity to both improve my writing and to get the tools to become a top-notch teacher. For me, the University of XX seems like an ideal place to pursue my MFA because of the focus on studio time with an additional emphasis on literature classes, and the academically rigorous nature of the program. Another draw is the strong training for teaching provided by the program and the practical experience of designing and teaching my own course as a second year student.
My main aspiration is to be a published, working fiction writer, and it is clear to me that I need training and input from others to take my writing from very good to excellent. I learned a great deal as a scholarship student at the Squaw Valley, Napa Valley, and Ropewalk conferences, but I believe that I will gain even more from the extended, intense format of an MFA program. I think the biggest benefits of an MFA program are the opportunity to work with and be critiqued by professors and other writers over an extended period, and the chance to develop lasting relationships with some of these people as trusted readers. I also believe that the intense immersion in literature and criticism that is part of the academic side of an MFA program will train me to be a better reader and writer.
Though my main goal is to be a published, working writer, I also would like to teach writing and literature. I have taken great pleasure from the edifying moment when I have been in teaching situations in the past (helping other writers improve their work, supervising interns as a journalist, and teaching rock climbing). Ultimately, I want to emulate my favorite teachers, by being the kind of teacher who can push students and inspire them to strive for their potential. Attending an elite MFA program that combines a rigorous academic regime with the practical experience of a teaching assistantship will give me the opportunity to learn how to be a superior teacher.
The MFA Program in Creative Writing at University of XX has a strong balance of workshops and academically rigorous literature classes. This balance will help me address both my career goals of writing, and of teaching. Your workshops will help me to articulate my aesthetics and speed up the slower, unconscious work that goes into being a writer. They will also give me the opportunity to become a better critic of my own writing and to learn new things about my work that I cannot see on my own; many times it takes insights from someone else to help you see past blind spots.
The academically rigorous nature of The MFA Program in Creative Writing, and the program’s integral connection to the English Department are also appealing, since my proficiency as a teacher can only be improved by expanding my proficiency as a reader and critic. The literature classes will also provide me with more tools for writing, giving me the opportunity to approach texts as both a fiction writer and an academic.
Pursuing an MFA is the best way for me to improve my fiction and to prepare for a career as a writer and teacher. The University of XX's MFA Program in Creative Writing is a good match for me because of its balance of workshops and academically rigorous literature classes. Likewise, I also think that I am a good match for your program. I have a strong sense of who I am as a writer and where I want to go, but I am open to changes that will improve my work. I am willing to take risks in my writing, and I am committed to becoming the best writer that I can be. I would welcome the opportunity to become an active contributor to the University of XX MFA Program in Creative Writing.


Aubrie


Sep 7, 2006, 11:13 AM

Post #42 of 329 (6807 views)
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Thanks HopperFu - you rock. I just really needed to see how everyone organized their thoughts. I think I'm overthinking the whole thing.
Your essay is very straightforward, to the point. I think I need to slash and burn a little in mine.
Thanks again for helping me out (and I'm sure others. . .)

p.s. - I want an update about school? Sibyline's been MIA - what are you two up to?
Is it snowing yet?!? :)~


HopperFu


Sep 7, 2006, 1:14 PM

Post #43 of 329 (6796 views)
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Re: [Aubrie] Personal Statement [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm glad it is somewhat helpful.
School is good. Busy, though. I'm trying to write as much as possible (that's why we're here, right?), but I've also got to juggle classes, homework, and working at the literary magazine. It's certainly not digging ditches, but it's busy. I love it here, though.
No, it hasn't started snowing in Ithaca, yet, though it's gotten down to the 50s at night a few times (it's beautiful during the day, though).


Aubrie


Sep 7, 2006, 3:05 PM

Post #44 of 329 (6780 views)
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My sister went to Ithaca College and I never stopped hearing the complaints about the snow and the cold (and we're from NJ, not Florida or Cali or something). Just giving you a hard time. :)
Good to hear that things are well and that you're busy!


* Did anyone give a thought to the Kealey/letter thing?
I'm sticking to essay format. The letter seems weird to me.


HopperFu


Sep 7, 2006, 3:25 PM

Post #45 of 329 (6776 views)
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In Reply To
* Did anyone give a thought to the Kealey/letter thing?
I'm sticking to essay format. The letter seems weird to me.


I'm not even sure what Kealey means by a formal letter format.
My basic thought on the personal statement is that your number one goal should be to, essentially, not be weird. Unless you have some triumphantly amazing thing to say about yourself and why you want to go to the program (and trust me, you don't, no matter how cool you think you are), you should be fairly carefull in your statement. That is not the same thing as being dull or dumb. Rather, you should try to let your fiction speak for itself. If you want to study at a certain program because you like the fact that they let you do cross-genre work, great, mention it. If you want to study somewhere because the town has an awesome history of streaking.... (you'd be so surprised at what people think is okay to put on applications and cover letters).
Remember that this is, in a lot of ways, like applying for a job. Be professional.
That being said, there are plenty of exceptions to the rule. Sibyline's letter that she posted last year somewhere, if I remember right, was NOTHING like mine. Which is fair, 'cause in real life she's quite pretty and I'm a bit of a toad.


__________



Sep 7, 2006, 5:25 PM

Post #46 of 329 (6762 views)
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Hey HopperFu:

Thanks for sharing! Counting sibyline's SOP, that's 50% of Cornell's entering class right there, correct?

I remember sibyline outlined her creative work much more extensively. It gave me the impression she was not only very dedicated, but had a clear and reachable plan, as opposed to harboring some vague aspirations of "being a writer" I'm sure a lot of people mention.

I recall that, at least in tone, sibyline's statement was like yours. I noticed, as you said, you both keep the whiz-bang stuff for your stories and maintain a polite, professional tone throughout. The emphasis is on how a school could help you guys, rather than some b.s. posturing about how they'd be lucky to have you. (Shamefully, I admit that tactic crossed my mind at one point.)

This is all very helpful, so thanks. I hope you guys don't mind if I channel the spirit of your statements.


six five four three two one 0 ->


Clench Million
Charles

Sep 7, 2006, 5:52 PM

Post #47 of 329 (6755 views)
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It is definitly interesting to read these personal statements. Mine was very different from HopperFu's, it was much more personal giving a kind of history of my writing and what led me to want to get an MFA. It was also more informal, though it was still in a "polite professional tone" as you say. I also did, as you say, emphasize how the program could help ME not how I could help THEM.

I certainliy agree with Hopperfu that that is important and that you shouldn't try to do some wacky or flashy thing. I kind of wonder if I didn't go a little to much in the crafted direction myself, but I guess it worked somewhat...


HopperFu


Sep 7, 2006, 6:06 PM

Post #48 of 329 (6751 views)
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In Reply To
I also did, as you say, emphasize how the program could help ME not how I could help THEM.



God, yeah. I'd be really surprised if programs were looking for prima donnas. And given the number of people who apply to most programs (acceptance rates run between about 0.5% and 10%), why would they pick you if you're coming in with an attitude?


wilmabluekitty
Wilma Weant Dague

Sep 7, 2006, 8:32 PM

Post #49 of 329 (6735 views)
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Re: [Banyon] Favorite Authors Statement? [In reply to] Can't Post

Wow! Alice Fulton is my muse! But I've rarely ever--even on the women's poetry list--found even one die-hard fan. I'm so glad she has other readers ;-). I've met so many serious readers of contemporary poetry that haven't even heard of her. Alice rocks---and she's certainly been generous in my few interactions with her. I'm so jealous!!!!


sibyline


Sep 8, 2006, 6:05 PM

Post #50 of 329 (6684 views)
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In Reply To
p.s. - I want an update about school? Sibyline's been MIA - what are you two up to?
Is it snowing yet?!? :)~


yeah, i don't have internet at home so i can only pop in every so often. i spent today revising the new story i workshopped last week, and looking over hopperfu's story for next week. i'm his "official critic" you see, so i'm required to give him a hard time. :) i also babysit for him on wednesdays and am supposed to take his headshot once he gets over his inferiority complex and embraces his zoolander side. i'm much more reachable over e-mail aubrie; i'm in touch with other MIA's like gussy and franz that way.

as for the SOP thing, i think tom posted his stegner statement and it's definitely pretty informal. i found it refreshing, but i can imagine that he can more easily get away with it because he already had a record and a reputation when he appliled. the fact that hopperfu and i got in the same program with really different statements i think kinda means that they're not anywhere near as important as the sample, so i wouldn't stress out too much about it. i would just stay away from the "i wanted to be a writer since i was 6" kinda deals.

bighark, did you ever get me that revised story? i think i missed it...


__________



Sep 8, 2006, 6:46 PM

Post #51 of 329 (7434 views)
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In Reply To
i spent today revising the new story i workshopped last week...

I'll be darned if I didn't just think of something: what happens when you attend a program with only four acceptees per year? Do you workshop an insane amount of stories per semester?


six five four three two one 0 ->


sibyline


Sep 8, 2006, 7:46 PM

Post #52 of 329 (7430 views)
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In Reply To

In Reply To
i spent today revising the new story i workshopped last week...

I'll be darned if I didn't just think of something: what happens when you attend a program with only four acceptees per year? Do you workshop an insane amount of stories per semester?


we do two pieces a week, three per semester. so that's pretty normal. though one advantage is that since we do two instead of three if you have a 15-person seminar, there aren't really page limits as long as people give enough notice.


wiswriter
Bob S.
e-mail user

Sep 9, 2006, 6:45 PM

Post #53 of 329 (7399 views)
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At the last Bennington residency a couple of friends and I were talking with a faculty member about how admissions decisions are made. He said the personal statement "helps us make sure the person we're admitting isn't insane."


__________



Sep 9, 2006, 7:02 PM

Post #54 of 329 (7396 views)
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Yeah. 'Cause god knows there's never any correlation between art and a certain kind of mental twitteryness. It's that old dictum, keep things dry, safe, and sociable. Keep things AWP!


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pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Sep 10, 2006, 11:52 AM

Post #55 of 329 (7362 views)
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In fact, I encountered a couple of people in my MFA program whe were certifiably insane. They were not good or great artists. They were insane. There were plenty of people there who were not "AWP", whatever that means, but the insane ones never finished the program.

They didn't contribute much to the program, either. They looked at everyone else's work through the lens of their own, and made no productive comments.

I think it's fine to keep the insane out of graduate programs.

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/


__________



Sep 10, 2006, 7:58 PM

Post #56 of 329 (7336 views)
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Well, thank god for decades of civil rights and labor struggles, I guess.

One or two person sample sizes aside, I'm sticking w/ what others have fought for with a lot o' time and effort.

And just FYI, 'insane' insn't a clinical term, and a statement of purpose is not a diagnostic tool used by clinical professionals.

I'm just saying...


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laughingman


Sep 11, 2006, 1:38 AM

Post #57 of 329 (7315 views)
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AWP?


Banyon


Sep 11, 2006, 7:30 AM

Post #58 of 329 (7307 views)
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According to a quick internet search it's the Arctic Warfare Police sniper rifle. Or the Associate of Writers and Writing Program. I'm thinking he meant the former.

:o)

-Banyon


Aubrie


Sep 28, 2006, 11:35 AM

Post #59 of 329 (7227 views)
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So I've finished my SOP for my schools that require 250-300 words, but everytime I re-read it, it feels lackluster. I've done exactly what I need to do, but it seems so basic. Is anyone else feeling this way? I know HopperFu had said to keep and simple and let your prose shine, and I think that's the best advice, but my SOP just reads a little BORING. Argh.


renapoo


Sep 28, 2006, 3:51 PM

Post #60 of 329 (7209 views)
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Yeah, I wrote what I thought was a pretty snazzy SOP but then, after hearing from people and realizing that the Statement is the place where the committee goes to make sure you're not crazy, I toned it down pretty majorly.

I figure the programs that ask for 250-300 words have to know they're not going to get something interesting. It's the longer ones (like, a 4-page autobiographical statement for Irvine) that are worrying me at this point.


HopperFu


Sep 28, 2006, 3:56 PM

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I know that it probably depends a little on each school, but I still think that the place to wow them with your brilliance and creativity is in your writing sample, and the statement of purpose is simple designed so that they can make sure you are a) committed to writing, and b) not committed in an actual insane asylum


renapoo


Oct 11, 2006, 2:22 PM

Post #62 of 329 (7133 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] Personal Statement [In reply to] Can't Post

Okay, maybe I am reaching a new level of anality here, but what is the protocol when referring to the program in your personal statement? Is it okay to shorten it (UVA, UMASS), or is that too informal?


GDClark
George David Clark
e-mail user

Oct 13, 2006, 11:55 AM

Post #63 of 329 (7090 views)
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Feel free to abreviate with the name of the school.


bighark


Oct 17, 2006, 5:54 PM

Post #64 of 329 (7054 views)
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Re: [sibyline] Personal Statement [In reply to] Can't Post

eeek!

I missed this post.

And I must have not sent that updated story.

Double eek!

At least the reason I haven't heard back from you wasn't because it sucked :)


Banyon


Oct 24, 2006, 10:47 PM

Post #65 of 329 (6969 views)
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Show me yours I'll show you mine [In reply to] Can't Post

Okay, so I've gone through five or six drafts of my personal statement, but none of them have worked for anyone but my mother, who just keeps saying she thinks I'm wonderful. I love you, Mom, but you're not on the admissions committee. Apparently I am the world's worst personal statement writer. I sent a copy to a friend of mine who got into Yale for grad school (completely unrelated--physics), and he wasn't a fan either. I figure he knows what works since he got into Yale:o)

So, does anyone want to trade statements and give feedback? I am actually good at helping others with their statements (I helped my roommate revise hers into a form that her advisor liked); I just really stink at revising my own!

-Banyon


wilmabluekitty
Wilma Weant Dague

Oct 25, 2006, 7:54 PM

Post #66 of 329 (6941 views)
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Re: [Banyon] Show me yours I'll show you mine [In reply to] Can't Post

I'll have a look. I warn you, I can be ruthless. Mine's not ready--and won't be for a while. Raincheck?


Banyon


Oct 25, 2006, 10:08 PM

Post #67 of 329 (6926 views)
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In Reply To
I'll have a look. I warn you, I can be ruthless. Mine's not ready--and won't be for a while. Raincheck?



Thank you so much. No worries--I think my statement is in need of some brutal honesty. Or maybe just some brutality. My e-mail is aopenn @ yahoo.com (but without the spaces). Drop me a line and I'll e-mail my statement. And you definitely get a raincheck for a future edit:o)

Also, weren't you the other person who loves Alice Fulton? It is an honor to have my statement edited by someone with such good taste;o)


Aubrie


Oct 25, 2006, 10:59 PM

Post #68 of 329 (6917 views)
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Re: [Banyon] Show me yours I'll show you mine [In reply to] Can't Post

If you're up for another one, I'll gladly trade with you!


Banyon


Oct 25, 2006, 11:39 PM

Post #69 of 329 (6911 views)
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Re: [Aubrie] Show me yours I'll show you mine [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm definitely up for that, Aubrie. Drop me a line at the e-mail above:o)

-Banyon


darredet
Darren A. Deth


Oct 26, 2006, 6:13 AM

Post #70 of 329 (6895 views)
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Re: [Banyon] Show me yours I'll show you mine [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Banyon:

I'm in a graduate program already right now and would be more than willing to take a look at your personal statement.

If you wish, I can send you mine just to look at.

Darren


Banyon


Oct 26, 2006, 8:37 AM

Post #71 of 329 (6890 views)
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Darren, sounds good. My e-mail address is a few messages up:o)

This is great... I thought I'd have trouble getting even one person to look at my statement!

-Banyon


Fear&Loathing


Oct 28, 2006, 6:25 PM

Post #72 of 329 (6827 views)
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Re: [darredet] Show me yours I'll show you mine [In reply to] Can't Post

Is it "a MFA program" or "an MFA program"? Tom Kealey and others use an, but my CW teacher slashed the -n off after looking at my personal statement. Is this one of those gray areas of grammar?

I'm a horrible grammarian and am looking for an opinion on the matter and maybe a reference to something online.


Clench Million
Charles

Oct 28, 2006, 6:45 PM

Post #73 of 329 (6821 views)
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As far as I know, it should be "an" as "an" is used before any vowel sound (in this case "em") regardless of whether a vowel starts the word of not.


bighark


Oct 29, 2006, 12:08 AM

Post #74 of 329 (6806 views)
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Hey Fear and Loathing,

Clench is right, you use the article "a" before words beginning with consonant sounds, and "an" before words beginning with vowel sounds. That's why it's "an" MFA but "a" Master of Fine Arts (and a Master of Fine Arts is a master's degree...).

I don't know of any online resources you can turn to for confirmation, but I can tell you that I am citing this out of The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage.

Good luck with your applications.


Fear&Loathing


Oct 29, 2006, 1:37 AM

Post #75 of 329 (6796 views)
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10-4, BigHark and Clench. Thanks, over.


Banyon


Oct 29, 2006, 1:12 PM

Post #76 of 329 (7210 views)
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To name drop or not to name drop [In reply to] Can't Post

In my SOP, should I mention specific writers at the school I'm applying to or not? I want a definitive answer on this. Something tells me I won't get one:o) For people who are currently at a school--did you mention specific writers from your school in your SOP? I think HopperFu and Sybiline said no. Anyone else?

-Banyon


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Oct 29, 2006, 3:47 PM

Post #77 of 329 (7203 views)
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I didn't. I get the impression that most schools aren't impressed by blatant sucking-up, even if that isn't how you intend it.

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/


wilmabluekitty
Wilma Weant Dague

Oct 29, 2006, 3:58 PM

Post #78 of 329 (7197 views)
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Re: [pongo] To name drop or not to name drop [In reply to] Can't Post

But isn't it possible to mention names without sucking up? This all seems like such a poker game where no one's willing to show their cards, no one's supposed to ask questions or investigate until after they're accepted, but we're supposed to plonk down a thousand bucks applying to ten or twelve places? This mfa thing is surely turning into a big racket.


sovietsleepover


Oct 29, 2006, 8:21 PM

Post #79 of 329 (7169 views)
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If you're applying because one particular writer's work or approach is a large part of your attraction to the school then I'd say YES, say so, and say who. If you're applying to the school for other reasons, but will be happy to work with the writers there, don't mention the writers there.


laughingman


Oct 31, 2006, 1:50 PM

Post #80 of 329 (7123 views)
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Spacing? [In reply to] Can't Post

Should the statement of purpose be single-spaced or double? When I submit stories, I always doublespace them, of course. But when I write letters, I always single space them. I single-spaced my as SoPs last year, was this a mistake? A page and a half of single space is a totally different creature than a page and a half of double space...

-laugher


sibyline


Oct 31, 2006, 1:55 PM

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single-spaced mine with line breaks between paragraphs.


muttonfish


Nov 6, 2006, 11:03 AM

Post #82 of 329 (7054 views)
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Method of Statement [In reply to] Can't Post

The Statement has provided me with more aggravation than anything else. I wrote it once and subsequently submitted it to a former professor for review. He did not like it. So I reviewed this thread and re-tailored the statement in light of the the advice/examples. I also looked at some of the info on the MFA blog. I thought it was much improved. Professor didn't like it, again. Here is my question, this guy just received his PhD in Victorian Literature. He is a scholarly journal/dissertation man through and through. Is it possible that he is not the best person for advice? Looking at the one Hopper attached, as well as Kealey's, I am almost certain that this guy wouldn't care for those either. I'm venting my frustrations, I know. I just feel like he is critiquing this thing with his own background in mind and less from the mind of the creative writer/MFA. Thanks for listening.


plumagemour


Nov 6, 2006, 11:40 AM

Post #83 of 329 (7036 views)
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is hopper's sop in this thread? i wasn't able to find it.

also my messages don't seem to be working so i never got a chance to say thanks for mailing me your statement, darren.


Glinda Bamboo


Nov 6, 2006, 12:46 PM

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Re: [muttonfish] Method of Statement [In reply to] Can't Post

muttonfish,

I say find another person to review your statement. Sounds like you need a second opinion. Since it's a personal statement, not everyone is going to agree with you on the "right" way to do it. As long as you look at it objectively and take some friendly hints (like you already have, from these forums and Kealey's book), I wouldn't put a lot of weight into one professor's preferences.


laughingman


Nov 6, 2006, 2:10 PM

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Re: [muttonfish] Method of Statement [In reply to] Can't Post

Muttonfish,

I've read a few statements of purpose for lit majors applying to M.A. and Ph.D. programs in the last year, and my feeling is that for literature track applicants the statement of purpose is less a statement of purpose... and more of a supplementary writing sample; not so much a chance to talk about what you'd like to do, as a chance to demonstrate your impressive writing abilities for a second or third time.

On the other hand, the impression I've gotten from reading this board, Kealy's book, and other resources is that MFA application readers are actually looking for a candid explanation of where you are as a writer and what you would like to accomplish. Attempts at cleverness or trying to tell them what they want to hear (overwrought writing or description of yourself that smacks of romanticized fiction) may backfire on you in this case where-as readers of Dickens would have loved it.

Maybe your Victorian lit man is reading your statement the way he'd read the statement of someone applying to a more academic program. Then again, maybe not--have someone else look at it for you.

(I'm not sure I'm answering your question here so much as a few of my own (and those, poorly), sorry.)

-laugher


HopperFu


Nov 6, 2006, 4:41 PM

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Re: [plumagemour] Method of Statement [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
is hopper's sop in this thread? i wasn't able to find it.

It was on page 2 of this thread, along with a little preamble. I've cut and pasted it again....

I would like to be a working, published writer, while also teaching on the college and university level. An MFA program is a unique opportunity to both improve my writing and to get the tools to become a top-notch teacher. For me, the University of XX seems like an ideal place to pursue my MFA because of the focus on studio time with an additional emphasis on literature classes, and the academically rigorous nature of the program. Another draw is the strong training for teaching provided by the program and the practical experience of designing and teaching my own course as a second year student.
My main aspiration is to be a published, working fiction writer, and it is clear to me that I need training and input from others to take my writing from very good to excellent. I learned a great deal as a scholarship student at the Squaw Valley, Napa Valley, and Ropewalk conferences, but I believe that I will gain even more from the extended, intense format of an MFA program. I think the biggest benefits of an MFA program are the opportunity to work with and be critiqued by professors and other writers over an extended period, and the chance to develop lasting relationships with some of these people as trusted readers. I also believe that the intense immersion in literature and criticism that is part of the academic side of an MFA program will train me to be a better reader and writer.
Though my main goal is to be a published, working writer, I also would like to teach writing and literature. I have taken great pleasure from the edifying moment when I have been in teaching situations in the past (helping other writers improve their work, supervising interns as a journalist, and teaching rock climbing). Ultimately, I want to emulate my favorite teachers, by being the kind of teacher who can push students and inspire them to strive for their potential. Attending an elite MFA program that combines a rigorous academic regime with the practical experience of a teaching assistantship will give me the opportunity to learn how to be a superior teacher.
The MFA Program in Creative Writing at University of XX has a strong balance of workshops and academically rigorous literature classes. This balance will help me address both my career goals of writing, and of teaching. Your workshops will help me to articulate my aesthetics and speed up the slower, unconscious work that goes into being a writer. They will also give me the opportunity to become a better critic of my own writing and to learn new things about my work that I cannot see on my own; many times it takes insights from someone else to help you see past blind spots.
The academically rigorous nature of The MFA Program in Creative Writing, and the program’s integral connection to the English Department are also appealing, since my proficiency as a teacher can only be improved by expanding my proficiency as a reader and critic. The literature classes will also provide me with more tools for writing, giving me the opportunity to approach texts as both a fiction writer and an academic.
Pursuing an MFA is the best way for me to improve my fiction and to prepare for a career as a writer and teacher. The University of XX's MFA Program in Creative Writing is a good match for me because of its balance of workshops and academically rigorous literature classes. Likewise, I also think that I am a good match for your program. I have a strong sense of who I am as a writer and where I want to go, but I am open to changes that will improve my work. I am willing to take risks in my writing, and I am committed to becoming the best writer that I can be. I would welcome the opportunity to become an active contributor to the University of XX MFA Program in Creative Writing.



sibyline


Nov 6, 2006, 7:47 PM

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Re: [sibyline] Spacing? [In reply to] Can't Post

here's mine... really different from hopperfu's and we're in the same program, so...
--
I would like to pursue graduate studies in fiction to be in an environment where I can experiment and broaden the scope of my work, aided by the structure of a rigorous curriculum and consistent feedback. I also wish to continue and finish projects already underway. By the time I receive my degree, I plan to have manuscripts ready for publication, and a clearer idea of the directions in which I wish my future work to go. I would also like to teach fiction at the college level.

At present, I am working primarily on a novel entitled To See, while also writing short stories as a way of trying new ideas. To See is a first-person novel about a blind girl who grows up in a rural part of the Philippines then immigrates to the United States, where she eventually becomes a scientist who works on retinal implant technology that may allow blind people to see. She eventually has to decide whether or not to be one of the first people to have the operation that she herself helped develop. I am overlaying the twin themes of disability and immigration in order to explore the conjunctions and disparities between the two. In addition, I want the novel to explore how technology is viewed from two different cultural perspectives.

While I have many different ideas for short stories, the ones that are forming themselves into a cohesive body of work are set in the Philippines. A common thread in these stories is the way they depict actions and situations that are unfamiliar, almost implausible to Westerners, but are still within the realm of reality. In the stories I’ve included as part of my application, a six-year-old boy starts a revolution and a man returns from America after a quarter century to find the same servant outside his window. These events, while unusual, are much more plausible in the context of my native culture than they are in America. I want my stories to occupy a space between the real and the fantastic, so that they can continue to comment on aspects of lived life, while at the same time communicate how reality can be experienced in many more ways than a reader expects.

I believe that immigrant fiction as an increasingly established genre has the potential to move in such diverse directions, and I wish to be part of that movement. I am particularly interested in finding ways to write about immigration without making the fact of immigration so central to narratives, just as many of us who have immigrated indeed have to grapple with the consequences of our new lives on a regular basis, but must also contend with many other parts of ourselves. I also wish to write immigrant fiction that knowingly describes the problems of representation, of the way in which the act of writing itself necessarily distills and transforms experience. I have also written and will continue to write fiction that is not about the immigrant experience at all, but is nonetheless colored by my unique cultural perspective.

I studied English Literature as an undergraduate at Harvard, where I focused on dramatic literature but also did significant coursework in the 19th and early 20th century novel. I also have an MFA degree in Photography, which has allowed me to teach college-level courses both at Harvard and the California College of the Arts. However, I also feel that getting an MFA in fiction would fill significant gaps in my knowledge. For instance, I have hardly read contemporary or even postwar fiction in a class, and would like the experience of analyzing and discussing such work in a school setting. I have also had limited experience taking fiction classes in universities, and feel that ongoing feedback from faculty and fellow students, who will come to know my work on a consistent basis, will be invaluable.


Glinda Bamboo


Nov 6, 2006, 8:44 PM

Post #88 of 329 (6938 views)
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Re: [sibyline] [In reply to] Can't Post

Sib and Hop, it was very generous of you to post your personal statements. I'm amazed at how different mine is from each of yours. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, but I'm interested in the different takes.

It was great to read them. Thanks!


wilmabluekitty
Wilma Weant Dague

Nov 6, 2006, 11:03 PM

Post #89 of 329 (6922 views)
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Re: [Glinda Bamboo] [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes,


it was incredibly generous of you two!

I have a question about SOP's. I faded out of an mfa program over ten years ago. Should I explain in my statement. Should I just chock it up to immaturity and move on?


vronsky


Nov 7, 2006, 8:18 AM

Post #90 of 329 (6902 views)
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Re: [wilmabluekitty] [In reply to] Can't Post

My feeling is you should acknowledge the fact that you didn't complete the program, but you shouldn't go into a long-winded explanation. Don't act defensive, don't pretend it didn't happen. Maybe you can even use it to your advantage? "I unfortunately wasn't able to complete program X because of N. However, I feel I've matured a good deal since then, and look forward to starting anew...etc"

I guess I would just focus on what has been accomplished since then. Let your accomplishments do the talking. And trust that they'll understand, that they won't hold it against you, that they know you're only human...

In Reply To



JKicker
Jonathan

Dec 14, 2006, 10:59 PM

Post #91 of 329 (6642 views)
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Re: [maggiekate] [In reply to] Can't Post

One question for anyone who can answer it. I noticed Hopper's and Sib's example letters didn't really mince words with an introduction. Is this the standard practice for this type of thing or did they just cut that part off of their examples for privacy's sake?

I have mine all ready to go but I just kind of feel like there should be a "Hello, my name is Jonathan and I'm 23 years old" bit to start off with?

Any advice on this bit?

Keep the dream alive!


wilmabluekitty
Wilma Weant Dague

Dec 14, 2006, 11:18 PM

Post #92 of 329 (6635 views)
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Re: [JKicker] [In reply to] Can't Post

They know your name and what you want--all they want to know is why. I've seen a lot of people start with a good "hook"--a little story about what makes them unique. One talked about meeting George Saunders on a plane--I thought it was name-dropping til she mentioned that he's writing her a rec! Another began with a story about being half-American Indian, These seemed goood to me, but I've never gotten into a top tier school.


renapoo


Dec 14, 2006, 11:31 PM

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Re: [wilmabluekitty] [In reply to] Can't Post

I think Tom Kealy's book and blog advocates doing a little intro, but I'm sure both ways are fine. Probably more important to have coherent sentences and be succinct. And oh yeah, the writing sample. I think I heard that was important too.


JKicker
Jonathan

Dec 15, 2006, 2:23 PM

Post #94 of 329 (6577 views)
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Re: [renapoo] [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the replies. I'm on something like a final draft now. I wish this whole application process was easier so I could pretend I didn't invest much when the rejections come.


Aubrie


Dec 15, 2006, 7:12 PM

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Re: [JKicker] [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Thanks for the replies. I'm on something like a final draft now. I wish this whole application process was easier so I could pretend I didn't invest much when the rejections come.

Well said!
I agree wholeheartedly.


sibyline


Dec 15, 2006, 8:02 PM

Post #96 of 329 (6523 views)
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Re: [JKicker] [In reply to] Can't Post

don't know about hopperfu, but i cut and pasted my statement verbatim.


JKicker
Jonathan

Dec 15, 2006, 8:43 PM

Post #97 of 329 (6512 views)
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Re: [sibyline] [In reply to] Can't Post

thanks sib


coolshoes


Dec 18, 2006, 5:36 PM

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Keep in Mind [In reply to] Can't Post

A statement of purpose is important, of course. But from someone who is now in an MFA program, let me tellyou what happens when you meet faculty: Some will brighten when they meet you and hear your name and say something like, "Oh, I read your portfolio / manuscripts / piece about...." Not one said, oh I read your statement of purpose. Good luck all.


jdybka
Jilly Dybka

e-mail user

Dec 18, 2006, 8:27 PM

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Re: [hapworth] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

This week The Chronicle of Higher Ed had an essay about MFA statements of purpose.

http://chronicle.com/jobs/news/2006/12/2006121301c/careers.html

Not sure if this link is valid for non-subscibers.


Poetry Hut Blog (poetry news)




Banyon


Dec 18, 2006, 10:28 PM

Post #100 of 329 (6383 views)
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Re: [jdybka] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not subscriber, and I was able to read it.

It completely freaked me out. Now I'm afraid that I didn't show my statement to enough people and get enough feedback... my experience was similar to the author's: everyone I talked to gave me different and often conflicting feedback. I felt like my only choice was to try and pick and choose what the best advice was, but how could I know?

This was easily my least favorite part of the application process. I would rather take the GREs five times in a row than write a personal statement.


jaywalke


Dec 20, 2006, 10:06 AM

Post #101 of 329 (7184 views)
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Re: [Banyon] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I'm afraid that I didn't show my statement to enough people and get enough feedback... my experience was similar to the author's: everyone I talked to gave me different and often conflicting feedback. I felt like my only choice was to try and pick and choose what the best advice was, but how could I know?


Virginia Tech puts some guidelines around the personal essay section. They ask you to address the following three points:
1. Why do you want to undertake graduate work?
2. Why in this field?
3. If you have a concentration in mind, briefly putline your interests in this area.

This straightforward approach kept me from overthinking it. I mulled it over for a week or two then wrote it in one night and had my lovely-and-brilliant spouse look it over. She's a prof, so I figured she speaks fluent grad schoolese. I changed the two words she suggested and off it went.

My essay was not as flip as this reply, but I did try to keep it simple and truthful, trying to hit a mark between self-deprecation and egomania.

I still think it's all about the writing sample. If my top story is dead on the page, the essay won't even see the light of day.


Arkinese


Jan 2, 2007, 8:20 AM

Post #102 of 329 (7055 views)
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Re: [jdybka] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

Long time reader, first time poster.

Thanks for posting the link, jdybka. It helped me make some final sense of my personal statement as I finish editing it for the last few applications. I spent four whole days procrastinating before I wrote the first draft last month. Everything else was completely done but I just couldn't make myself sit down and write the damn thing.

It's just this horrible paradoxical...mess of trying not to suck up but still saying what fits within the buzzword guidelines but not dropping a bunch of names but still explaining why their program is the program for you. I was talking to a friend of mine who wrote one for a biochemistry program and he said that even though his statement was much more concrete (since he could discuss research and reference specific professors he'd already met) he still hated the final product because it felt like he was sucking up and being fake when that was the exact opposite of what he was trying to do.

I agree with Banyon about taking the GREs five times instead of writing a SOP...(POS is more like it for me).


LateApplicant


Jan 8, 2007, 9:22 PM

Post #103 of 329 (6967 views)
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Hopkins self-critique in lieu of SoP--Help !!! [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi all,

In lieu of the Statement of Purpose, Johns Hopkins wants applicants to send, I'm quoting, "an introduction and critique of" the writing sample, which should give the faculty "a view to the scope and thoughtfulness of the work submitted and a sense of the student's ability to contribute in the writing workshops."

Argh !!! What are we supposed to do? "Workshop" our own stories with ourselves as the other workshoppers? Being harsh critics of them? Wouldn't this be shooting ourselves on the foot? What other alternatives are there? Anything different might sound like you're "explaining" your writing, which doesn't sound good...

HELP !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


renapoo


Jan 8, 2007, 11:46 PM

Post #104 of 329 (6951 views)
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Re: [LateApplicant] Hopkins self-critique in lieu of SoP--Help !!! [In reply to] Can't Post

This has been discussed elsewhere on the board (maybe in the Hopkins thread, if not this one). You can do a search of "hopkins" and "statement" (or something like that) to see what different people's approaches were. For me, I tried to briefly mention what I felt my strengths and weakness were and how the stories I sent to them fitted into the larger scope of my writing. Not sure if that's what they wanted, but that's what they got.


LateApplicant


Jan 9, 2007, 12:56 AM

Post #105 of 329 (6942 views)
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Re: [renapoo] Hopkins self-critique in lieu of SoP--Help !!! [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks, Renapoo. That helps. And I'll certainly do the "hopkins" + "statement" search...


tlelah


Jan 9, 2007, 2:06 PM

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Re: [Arkinese] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm in the same boat - I have my analytical essay in the bag, just needs some editing. My manuscript has long been ready, but this personal statement stuff is just killing me. I have spent the last two months procrasting even though I have already been in touch with the faculty at my dream program.

I'm considering taking a picture of myself with a "For Sale" sign stuck to my forehead and sending it as my personal essay. All in jest of course. I know that there are certain questions they ask - but I feel I could answer all of those in short statements. It's this "I'm wonderful, but not too wonderful" pull of writing a personal statement that just has me lost!

Has anyone done anything incredibly creative that they can suggest to get away from this "about me" jazz??


Arkinese


Jan 9, 2007, 4:12 PM

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Re: [tlelah] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

For Cal-Irvine's autobiographical "sketch" about your background as a writer, I revamped an interview-style "application" I wrote when applying to write for my undergrad school's newspaper. I put in a bunch of questions about writing, authors, profs, etc. but it also includes queries like "Favorite Beatle," "Zodiac sign," and "Lifelong dream." The lifelong dream bit finishing up the "sketch" and goes something like this:

Lifelong dream: To be the Mariners' starting pitcher in the seventh game of the World Series.
Lifelong dream you could actually achieve without delusions of grandeur: To marry a major-league pitcher. It's the perfect relationship because I have all sorts of alone time to write whenever I want while he's on the road.
You are so shallow. Seriously, come on. A real lifelong dream:
OK, fine. To at least date a minor-league pitc—
All right, I think we'll stop there.
I hear Cal-Irvine has some good prospe—
No, really. That's enough. Thanks.

It's not the PoS but it's still something the program will read and judge me on (ooh, end preposition). I figured it was the thing with which to push the envelope. There's a book called "Perfect Personal Statements" which you can check out from the library. It talks about what risks you can take.

(This post was edited by Arkinese on Jan 9, 2007, 4:15 PM)


HopperFu


Jan 9, 2007, 4:45 PM

Post #108 of 329 (6849 views)
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Re: [tlelah] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Has anyone done anything incredibly creative that they can suggest to get away from this "about me" jazz??

I'd actually disagree with going creative. I think the place to be creative in your application is the writing sample. Of course, I wrote a rather dull SOP. [edited to add: I think my concern is that going creative is a high-risk strategy for your SOP. There are lots of examples of it working, but you stand a much better chance of putting them off then you do of tipping the balance in your favor, especially since so much weight is givin to the writing sample]


(This post was edited by HopperFu on Jan 9, 2007, 4:47 PM)


hamholio


Jan 9, 2007, 5:08 PM

Post #109 of 329 (6842 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree with HopperFu's post. These programs aren't writing retreats, they are graduate level programs, usually under the English Department, and if I were choosing people I'd be looking for people that are not only strong writers, but also capable of performing at the graduate level.

That said, I've heard that some strange stuff does get accepted as a reasonable statement of purpose at MFA programs. It is an art degree, so I doubt they'd pass up a great writer who chose to write their SOP on menstrual blood and the moon.


tlelah


Jan 9, 2007, 5:46 PM

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Re: [hamholio] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

The program I am looking into is a low-residency one and I am just really iffy as to whether a stale SOP will make them jump up and down at my application ... but at the same time I need to show them I am dedicated. Our correspondence will be done in writing. The manuscript shows I have talent (fingers crossed, hopefully it does), the analytical essay shows that I can academically perform, and the SOP is supposed to say "yeah, I have time to dedicate to this program." But I need an extra pull ... this is the only program that has thrilled me so far; despite big names, etc etc. at other places. I looked at which writers had a style/voice I wanted to glean from. So, here I am attempting the perfect application for the one perfect school and my odds are down - any suggestions?? I love the interview idea that Arkinese had but not sure if I could pull it off ... I mean there's no baseball in low-residency ;) ...


HopperFu


Jan 9, 2007, 6:13 PM

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Re: [tlelah] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, my thought on this is that your writing sample is what makes them jump up and down, and the statement of purpose is to make sure, more than anything, that you a) aren't obviously crazy, and b) that you are capable of writing some sort of cogent argument / essay and can communicate your thoughts properly.
Some of the innovative SOPs are really cool, but they are sort of like trying to do a triple backflip off a diving board: great if it works, but if not, it's a big, fat belly flop.
I think that you let the writing sample speak for your creative impulse and then answer the questions honestly - and profesionally - on the SOP.

I understand your anxiety about the application. For what it is worth, if you don't get in, please try again next year. It's such a subjective process that sometimes you get a "no" and it is not indicative of your actual talent, particularly when you have your heart set on only one place....


renapoo


Jan 10, 2007, 12:40 AM

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Re: [tlelah] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

Maybe you can talk about WHY you think this program is perfect for you? If it's genuine, it'll probably come off as such. I think out of all the SOPs I did UVA was probably the best because I'm really excited about their program, even though I avoided mentioning specifically why I was excited (Ann Beattie). Enthusiasm is always good.

But yeah, I'd err on the side of "sane and committed" rather than "insane and committed...at an institution." Not that crazy people shouldn't get an MFA. But probably not the best aspect of one's personality to highlight.


Arkinese


Jan 10, 2007, 4:43 AM

Post #113 of 329 (6751 views)
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Re: [tlelah] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
So, here I am attempting the perfect application for the one perfect school and my odds are down - any suggestions?? I love the interview idea that Arkinese had but not sure if I could pull it off ... I mean there's no baseball in low-residency ;) ...


And that was for the autobiographical sketch Cal wanted, which they said was specifically NOT the SOP (in big capital letters). For my actual statement for them and every other school, I was honest—like HopperFu said. I explained that I used to write a lot and then moved onto other things but came back to writing because it was what I was most passionate about. (Clearly in better form than what I'm writing here.) There were some other things but that was the co-theme.

I would argue that you almost *can't* look phony if you're simply honest in your SOP. People can sense insincere buzzwords and saying what you "think they want to hear." Because, in theory, being honest is speaking truthfully and people connect to someone who they know isn't just balderdashing them, so to speak.




wiswriter
Bob S.
e-mail user

Jan 10, 2007, 7:48 AM

Post #114 of 329 (6741 views)
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Re: [Arkinese] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

Greetings from Bennington - I'm just catching up with a lot of posts here - I've been busy finishing my thesis and getting my graduate lecture and reading squared away, which I'm proud to report are now done. Waiting for the sheepskin on Saturday.

People might be overstressing a bit over the personal statement and trying to do too much with it. The manuscript is the place to be creative. The statement is the place to be informational, to give a few good reasons why you want an MFA and why the particular program is right for you. Plain, conversational prose is probably safest. Faculty also look at the statement as a way of verifying basic writing skill - it's a check to make sure the writer isn't turning in a manuscript that's been edited past the point of ownership by the applicant, which is a central problem with MFA admissions. So if you're going creative with your statement, make sure it's just as good as your sample.


JKicker
Jonathan

Jan 29, 2007, 7:16 PM

Post #115 of 329 (6613 views)
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Re: [wiswriter] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

Somewhere on this forum people were talking about typos in the SOP...I'm dialup at the moment so I can't very well read all of the pages within this decade...anway..

After I read about people catching typos in the SOP's I told myself I would never read over them once they were out...but unfortunately since I reuse a lot of the SOP I didn't have much choice. With three schools left (out of 15) I found two glaring typos. The word "of" was omitted from "one of the best" and IN MY FREAKING SIGN-OFF "Thank you for your consideration" I left the letter "r" off of your... So if i actually get in anywhere this will be a testament to not killing yourselves over typos....if I don't get in then please, by all means continue freaking out.

This is after I had read the SOP probably 40 times, and had 3 other people read it multiple times...ugh.


afkasmhop


Jan 29, 2007, 8:11 PM

Post #116 of 329 (6596 views)
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Re: [JKicker] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

Dont sweat the TYPOS. I am doing an online application right now that actually has a typo in it! I was shocked!


malber


Jan 30, 2007, 11:32 PM

Post #117 of 329 (6533 views)
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would it help anyone [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm happy to post my SOP if anyone wants to take a look. I know most people probably have already sent them out, but if anyone wants to take a look at mine, it's very different from the previous ones on this thread.


Arkinese


Jan 31, 2007, 12:48 AM

Post #118 of 329 (6517 views)
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Re: [malber] would it help anyone [In reply to] Can't Post

I'd be interested to see, malber. I thought mine might be different from what a lot of other applicants write since I talk about some issues that most people don't usually have to deal with in college (health stuff mostly -- ugh). I'd like to see what made yours different as well. And if you don't want to post the whole thing, you can just post an excerpt of what you thought was most different.


malber


Jan 31, 2007, 12:54 AM

Post #119 of 329 (6513 views)
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Re: [Arkinese] would it help anyone [In reply to] Can't Post

well, here's a very generalized draft. mine was shorter than some, i think. i went for 2 pages (-ish), but double-spaced. these poor people read enough. and it couldn't have been too bad... i'm in at Ohio State as of a few days ago.

hope this proves enlightening (of course, please only use this for educational purposes):


Statement of Purpose

I’ve taken a very unusual path to get to this point. In fact, for most of my life, I thought I was going to be a doctor. The passion for writing and the creative process was always with me, but growing up in a very low-income household, it seemed that salary and job-security were the most important things in a career. But medically speaking, I was miserable after just a few weeks in med school. I found myself not caring if I learned the various pathways of muscle innervation or not and I decided to leave. I tested out the job market, but I always knew I would return to writing eventually. Without sinking further into the well-worn clichés of “soul searching” and “zeal for life,” it will suffice to say that writing is my career now, it is what drives me. I used to come home from school, drop my scrubs on the floor, and turn on the television. I’d complain for hours about embryology. Now without the scrubs and smell of formaldehyde, I sit down and write; I complain about not having better sentences.
Being premed, my time for undergraduate English was limited. However, since coming to Eastern Michigan’s M.A. program, my horizons have broadened considerably. I’ve had several writing workshops and now I have a much clearer sense of the state of modern fiction. My reading list, once the sole territory of mass-market paperbacks, now includes both modernists and postmodernists. The point is exposure. That’s why I jumped at the chance to study writing in St. Petersburg, Russia, this past summer. Working with such great writers as Sam Lipsyte and George Saunders, I got to improve my own writing as well as witnessing first-hand all the amazing things fiction can do. These experiences, along with editing our graduate literary journal and in helping to establish the reading series at EMU, are just the first steps in a long process – a process that I hope continues with entrance into your M.F.A. program.
I have also spent the last two years as a graduate assistant, teaching introductory composition courses at EMU. It may be trite to say that I’ve already learned more about writing than I’ve taught, but I believe it’s true. The freshmen in my classes are so unsure of themselves, so caught up in their five-paragraph paradigms, that they fall all over themselves trying to find the secret language of good writers. In more ways than I’d like to admit, I was in a very similar situation not so long ago. And while I now recognize that no “secret decoder” exists, I believe that time spent dedicated to my writing, especially at a prestigious program like yours, will provide a measure of subtlety and craftsmanship that is the hallmark of great fiction.
I am grateful for my time in med school. There is no doubt that had I pursued my early interest in writing without trying the medical track, I would have been left wondering. Now, with an additional load of student loans and all the perspective I could hope for, I can honestly say that I know what I love. More importantly, I know what it takes to seriously pursue it. An admission to your program is the next step.


Arkinese


Jan 31, 2007, 2:05 AM

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In Reply To
Without sinking further into the well-worn clichés of “soul searching” and “zeal for life,” it will suffice to say that writing is my career now, it is what drives me. I used to come home from school, drop my scrubs on the floor, and turn on the television. I’d complain for hours about embryology. Now without the scrubs and smell of formaldehyde, I sit down and write; I complain about not having better sentences.


This was such a great section. I mean, it was all really good and I could tell that you were being straightforward and genuine but I liked the "smell of formaldehyde" juxtaposing the clichés (I remember 10th grade anatomy and even that little bit of smell was awful!).

Here's a generalized draft of mine (which was edited for each school depending on the length required, issues addressed, etc.):

I never thought years of chronic illness would have a beneficial impact on my career. I never thought chronic illness would do much for me at all. It began with a bad case of mononucleosis followed by clinical depression, both of which I tried to brush off. Though I had to take a year off between graduating from high school and attending college, I pretended I wasn't concerned about my health because I had to go to college.

Of course, my first semester was disastrous because chronic illness isn't conducive to the college lifestyle. I often slept twenty hours a day and I ached constantly. This frustrated me not only because I was near-functionless but because school had always been "easy" for me. I had relished attending classes in high school and had been excited about working toward an English degree in college where I could focus more on the reading and writing aspects I loved. After all, I'd been reading and telling stories since I was four years old. Only now with the depression, I couldn't focus and I had no motivation to read or write anything. I was failing not only my classes but my life expectations. Because almost everyone in my extended family had attended college, it was a given that I would too.

When I left college for the second time in as many years, I accepted this failure and was more depressed than ever. While in college, my major had changed from English literature to theater and then to psychology and, each time I left, I became more angry at myself for not finding the right career choice, even though I loved studying all three subjects. After a year of nothing but doctor appointments, I decide to give college one more tentative try and started a distance psychology course. It felt odd to plod along instead of taking eighteen credits a semester, but I started 2004 with determination to succeed in this one class.

That spring, my best friend started a weblog. I'd vaguely heard of "blogs" and had the impression they were mostly used by computer programmers. My friend explained how it was more of a journal where one could post entries electronically—and I realized the scribbled-in-the-back-of-the-psychology-notebook essays I was always writing had suddenly found an audience.

The blog writing began extracting me from my depression and pain and by the time I'd been "blogging" for six months, I was back in college, continuing work on my psychology degree. But even more than studying psychology, I loved writing my daily posts. When I discovered my school now offered creative writing, I had a quarterlife crisis. I wanted a career change.

*****

Then the statement becomes more "normal" because I talk about how much I enjoyed my writing classes and how I want to continue working in a creative writing atmosphere. The whole thing ends with the line: "If writing can sustain me through years of chronic illness, then it deserves the best training and nurturing to sustain me through a lifelong career."

It's hard for me to talk about my college issues and not come off as sounding a bit cheesy because there's that whole "I FINALLY made it!" movie-ending shtick with my eight-year undergraduate career (good work, me...). When I tried to come up with a way to work that theme into my statement, though, I figured it was better to be genuine and work with the "finally made it" cliché than to work against the issue, glossing over it as though it wasn't a big deal ("it just took me eight calendar years to finish because I was lazy...")

I've only written a couple of "personal statement"-type things before when applying for scholarship stuff but I always thought it was a good idea to just be yourself and be genuine. I think if anyone does that, regardless of what they actually say, readers can sense it.


__________



Jan 31, 2007, 2:18 AM

Post #121 of 329 (6500 views)
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Say, malber, you didn't happen to write that story in FENCE about a war at a shopping mall, did you? Because if so, that was pretty swell. Did your SLS story double as your application package?


[EDIT for admins: ...and how 'bout those statements of purpose, eh?]


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(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Jan 31, 2007, 2:19 AM)


malber


Jan 31, 2007, 10:29 AM

Post #122 of 329 (6450 views)
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Junior: nope, that wasn't me. I wish, though. As a general rule, I really like Fence. War in a shopping mall, eh? SOunds like a cool idea :) why? was the style reminiscent?

As for my SLS workshopped stuff: I used one of the stories from SLS in my packet, the other was a piece i'd workshopped in a class and was subsequently picked up by a little press.


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Mar 29, 2007, 12:35 PM

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Hi Sibyline,

Hope your days in Cornell are treating you well. Although slightly off-topic, I want to chime in and say I enjoyed reading your sample SOP a lot. As a child reared from Haitian immigrants I, too, have interest in exploring a immigrant fiction through the lens (oh, Christ, here goes my lingo from taking too many critical theory courses during undergrad) of Haitian men living in contemporary America through a variety of different situations.

What I'm curious to know is whether a MFA program like Cornell (my 2nd choice, 1st is UW-Madison) usually accept students from state universities? I attended LSU and I get a vibe that Cornell mostly accepts students from other ivy-league institution. Or is that simply a fallacious argument on my part?

Also, has the program accepted students with GPA's under 3.0? Sorry for the excessive (and multiple) questions, Sibyline, but just curious to know. Thanks again!

btw, have you yet taken a class with Alison Lurie or Ernesto Quinonez (sp)?



hamlet3145


Mar 29, 2007, 1:34 PM

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Quote
What I'm curious to know is whether a MFA program like Cornell (my 2nd choice, 1st is UW-Madison) usually accept students from state universities? I attended LSU and I get a vibe that Cornell mostly accepts students from other ivy-league institution. Or is that simply a fallacious argument on my part?



I'd be more than a little horrified if MFA programs gave more emphasis to one's undergrad pedigree than one's writing sample. Going to Yale doesn't automatically translate into being able to write an effective line of prose. I can't speak for Cornell but I know here at Montana the students run the undergrad gamut from community college to Harvard. I suspect that a graduate program in literature would weight a student's undergrad experience much more heavily.


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Mar 29, 2007, 1:46 PM

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I thought so, Hamlet3145. As you pointed out, a graduate committee for a MA in literature/Comp Lit would definitely look at which institution the prospective student attended. My guess is most MFA programs strictly (and simply) care about your writing, regardless of a top-tier or third-tier academic institution.


sibyline


Mar 30, 2007, 3:57 PM

Post #126 of 329 (7322 views)
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of the 16 people who are here right now, two of us went to ivy-leage institutions... i don't think any of next year's 8 prospectives did.... so i don't think that's a factor at all....


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Mar 30, 2007, 4:02 PM

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I suppose it's a clouded myth I'm following. So it's eight is the maximum number of students accepted each year (4 poets; 4 fiction writers)?


sibyline


Mar 30, 2007, 4:05 PM

Post #128 of 329 (7316 views)
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occasionally people are accepted as combined mfa/phd's, and that funding comes from a different place so there are times when there are more than 8 people in a class.... but that doesn't happen too often.


__________



Mar 31, 2007, 6:29 AM

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In Reply To

Quote
What I'm curious to know is whether a MFA program like Cornell (my 2nd choice, 1st is UW-Madison) usually accept students from state universities? I attended LSU and I get a vibe that Cornell mostly accepts students from other ivy-league institution. Or is that simply a fallacious argument on my part?



I'd be more than a little horrified if MFA programs gave more emphasis to one's undergrad pedigree than one's writing sample. Going to Yale doesn't automatically translate into being able to write an effective line of prose...

I guess, like all things, it differs school to school. The Iowa alums over at Poetry Snark have said that Iowa chooses a healthy chunk of heiresses to round out their poetry slots. No one makes money in poetry, but it's those families who turn around and donate wads of dough to the Workshop. That's why, along with genuinely talented folks, you'll be sitting in class with Buffy Mitzee Rockefeller's ditzy cousin.


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John Horvath Jr


May 3, 2007, 12:16 PM

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I taught creative writing-poetry, literary theory, and criticism for years. I was a college English department chairman. I' am a published poet since the middle 1960s in America and abroad. I now edit poetryREpairs.com

Here is what I know of Master of Fine Arts programs.

You can't have too many credits. You can have too many vanity items (you paid to have it published). You can't have too few credits (the advice given - to talk about how much you want to learn is good advice). Too few credits is what philosophy student-bankteller T.S. Eliot had; it's what pediatrician William Carlos Whilliams had; we all start somewhere and not necessarily in literature. It's good to know that there aren't just undergraduate English Majors in a graduate Writing program. Ideas brought from other disciplines can be very exciting poetical problems to think through. It's a good to know the [i]teaching[/i] faculty in a program. In an application you can talk about why you want to study with/under X poet/professor/s.

Be careful though. The big names may only have one or two annual seminars for a few 'select' students. The name may draw students in, but the name may not meet with students - no one-on-one. Or, you may find so many students that NO ONE can track them all (this is the 'Money Cow' program - those that will take any and every body because the cash flow is good for the school). All Money Cows suffer mad cow disease.

Some teachers will tell you that going to Iowa or Oxford is not important as long as you write well. Well, that advice usually come from someone who survived Iowa or studied at Oxford. In that spectrum, the #1 university program is U of Iowa. But, the 'learning' process is more akin to 'aesthetic darwinism' - survival of the 'best' and 'fittest'. Of course, you are there to learn and develop your craft. The Oxford U. system (indeed most British systems) will give you long reading lists and as much one-on-one as you can squeeze into a semester.

Last thing is to look at the magazines and journals published. Will your poetry have a chance at appearing in it? Is the mag all pseudointaphokinlectuals or a closed circle of mutual admiration(publishes only students). Look for quality - Dalhousie Review or Antigonish Review are examples. Then look at what is published other than the 'poetry' journals. English Education will publish poems tho that is NOT their focus.

Then there's the alternate routes. When I was a spry young would-be in the 1960s/70s at Peabody/Vanderbilt I learned solid mechanics of poetry, the New Criticism of the 1920-1940 era, and the Fugitives. Studying the How, Why, What and Who of poetry is as much a help as focusing on writing your own work. I'll never forget the 'poet' who submitted to poetryREpairs (which I edit) a long explanation on his discovery of the 'bisyllabic strategy' - the last syllable of one line will sound the same as or close to the last syllable of the second line (yes, he discovered the COUPLET). Whatever it is you learn along with how to write a poem,the writing is essential.

Sometimes the best program is shared wine over a bistro table with six other committed poets. We have many young would-be-poets and too few of them are young turks.


edwriter



Oct 4, 2007, 7:56 PM

Post #131 of 329 (6993 views)
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Hi, everyone. I'm late to this discussion, but perhaps this may help in the future.

Today I stumbled on a guide on "How to Write a Great Statement of Purpose." Its author is Vince Gotera, who teaches at the University of Northern Iowa and edits poetry for North American Review. I've just posted about another one of his guides on another thread.

Although this guide is not specifically targeted to MFA applicants, given Gotera's background, I thought it was worth mentioning within this thread.

You'll find it here.

Best,
Erika D.


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



mpagan


Oct 22, 2007, 1:50 PM

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I have a question. If you mention in your SOP that you are working on say, a collection of short stories and a novel, but only send some short stories with your application, does that look bad at all? I guess if their reading your SOP they've sort of decided they like your writing right? But will they feel cheated if you don't include a sample of what you said you're working on? I am only sending in short stories, which are part of a collection I hope to finish while at an M.F.A. But I also mentioned a novel I am working on, which is not as polished as the short stories, which is why I didn't include it. Hmmm, now that I think about it, why would I jepordize my chances of getting in by sending in work I didn't feel was as polished as my other stories - right? Arrrg!


HopperFu


Oct 22, 2007, 5:06 PM

Post #133 of 329 (6890 views)
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Nope. Don't worry about it.
You're over thinking it. Just send the story(ies).


bennyprof


Oct 22, 2007, 5:15 PM

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In Reply To
I have a question. If you mention in your SOP that you are working on say, a collection of short stories and a novel, but only send some short stories with your application, does that look bad at all? I guess if their reading your SOP they've sort of decided they like your writing right? But will they feel cheated if you don't include a sample of what you said you're working on? I am only sending in short stories, which are part of a collection I hope to finish while at an M.F.A. But I also mentioned a novel I am working on, which is not as polished as the short stories, which is why I didn't include it. Hmmm, now that I think about it, why would I jepordize my chances of getting in by sending in work I didn't feel was as polished as my other stories - right? Arrrg!



Yep, I think you've got the right idea. Send your strongest work, period. I doubt they'll give a second thought to why you didn't send part of your novel instead... if it's a work in progress, it naturally follows that it's probably not ready for close scrutiny. There are also possible disadvantages, I think, to sending the first thirty pages of a book. Good beginnings are a lot easier to come by than good endings, and I suspect they want to get a feel for whether or not you can tell a whole story from start to finish, (unless the excerpt/chapter stands really well on its own). That said, I've heard of people getting into some of the top programs based on a novel excerpt, so it's by no means a hard and fast rule. So yeah, back to my original statement. Send your strongest work, period.


mpagan


Oct 22, 2007, 5:43 PM

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Thanks benny and Hopp - I thought as much.
But it's good to get feedback.


mr.shankly


Nov 8, 2007, 2:43 PM

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I'm applying to nine to schools, most of which don't have an accecptance rate higher than 5%. For one of the schools (Indiana) two of my recommenders received degrees from the univeristy. One recieved her MA in Fiction before the MFA started there, and the other his PhD in Literature. One of the main reasons I first looked at Indiana is my respect for those two professors. Do I mention this? Or will it seem as if I'm just name dropping?


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Nov 8, 2007, 6:16 PM

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I don't think there's any harm in honestly discussing why you chose Indiana. I assume you aren't going to go nuts in overpraising the two recommenders.


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/


Raignn



Nov 13, 2007, 11:57 AM

Post #138 of 329 (6614 views)
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Well since I can't create a new topic, this seemed like the best place to ask this question. I've found several resources for statements of purpose and personal statements... but what about teaching philosophies? I've never written a teaching philosophy before and have little to no idea what to include, how it should look, etc. Any suggestions, examples, resources, etc, please feel free to post or PM me.

The help is much appreciated!


Zash
Zachary Ash

Nov 14, 2007, 1:09 AM

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In Reply To
I've found several resources for statements of purpose and personal statements...

Any online?


zebulon


Nov 23, 2007, 4:28 AM

Post #140 of 329 (6435 views)
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Has anyone here applied to UT-Austin that would like to offer advice on what to include in their 250 limit SoP? Mine's hovering around 450, with another 50 or so directed at why I think each program fits me LIKE A GLOVE! haha, but in 250 words... damn.

Also, how many anecdotes are too many? 3? Should I just stick to the opening anecdote, then move on to goals and why I'd fit into the program?


__________



Nov 23, 2007, 8:52 PM

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An anecdote? In a 250 word SOP? Is anyone else doing this? (Serious question, not meant to be funny or derogatory).

Most bad personal statements open with the Ever since I was little, I wanted to be a writer... gambit, which I guess we could all file under No Shit!. And then that was usually followed by something 'funny' the personal stater did when they were six. (Another career killer: Webster's Dictionary defines 'writer' as:... )

I mean, is this what we're talking about, or is there a more relevant, sophisticated anecdotal approach? And should I be considering it?


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(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Nov 23, 2007, 8:56 PM)


sovietsleepover


Nov 23, 2007, 11:21 PM

Post #142 of 329 (6375 views)
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On one hand, I don't think the Michener Center places much weight on the 250 word essay (otherwise they'd want a longer one). On the other hand, it definitely seems like they look for 'interesting' candidates--people with unique or surprising backgrounds, subject matter, etc. So use such a brief essay to set yourself apart as a person, rather than just as a writer or as an expanded CV of professional/academic achievements crammed into too small a space to do yourself justice.

My opinion re: anecdotes is to use only one that provides a seamless transition into your goals/intention as a writer, and then only if the anecdote demonstrates special insight & uniqueness, as well as the usual tenacity and commitment. Another 1-2 anecdotes might fit in later if 100% germane to where the essay's going.


zebulon


Nov 24, 2007, 2:01 PM

Post #143 of 329 (6336 views)
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Re: [sovietsleepover] Austin's 250 word limit [In reply to] Can't Post

OK, so they need not know anything about your origins as a writer? It was a less formulaic, but still about that, so thanks, I'll cut that out...

Sorry, one last small question about publications, does that go in the SoP? Or as an attachment to the writing sample? And is there a specific number of publications that is good to mention? I've read that in cover letters if you list more than 4 it's viewed slightly negatively... Or should I merely mention if the poems in the sample are published somewhere... (ie My poems have recently appeared in blah blah blah, or "Mother's Day" was originally published in The Southern Review, "Hoarfrost" blah blah blah...)?

Thank you all for your help. I think reading too much about applying to MFAs really psyched me out.


jlgwriter
Jeanne Lyet Gassman
e-mail user

Nov 24, 2007, 3:49 PM

Post #144 of 329 (6318 views)
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Re: [zebulon] Austin's 250 word limit [In reply to] Can't Post

The MFA application forms I filled out all had a separate place to list publications, honors, and awards. They had about three lines, so I just enclosed a separate sheet (the forms said that was fine, too) listing everything of relevance. As to the SOP, I would have to find mine to tell exactly what I said, but I remember the general context if you want that.

I stated my reason(s) for pursuing the MFA. I talked about specific career and writing goals and how I thought the MFA would help me reach them. I think I also referred to my current assessment of my writing craft and what I thought I needed to work on. I discussed why this was the right time in my life and career to get an MFA, and I talked specifically about each program I was applying to and how I felt I could benefit from their program. Oh, I also talked about my prior workshop experience and indicated what strengths I thought I could bring to the program.

I didn't use any personal anecdotes, though. I will tell you that two faculty members commented on my SOP, saying that they were impressed by how clearly I articulated my goals.

I think several people have posted their SOPs on here. If go back through the earlier posts, you should find them. I can post mine on here if you want, but you'll have to wait a few days because I'm still caught up with family stuff and finishing a scholarship application for the spring semester.

For me, the SOP was more stressful than the writing sample, but that could be because I've been out of school for so long. Just be honest, direct, and focused, and you should do fine. Remember, the SOP is your first introduction to the program. They want to know what kind of writer and/or student they might be working with. They want to know what your expectations are and what you can bring to the program. I'm not sure they really care how you got to where you are--unless it has had a major impact on your writing life and craft.

Hope that helps.

Jeanne


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


BLUECHEESE


Nov 24, 2007, 7:00 PM

Post #145 of 329 (6293 views)
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Re: [jlgwriter] Austin's 250 word limit [In reply to] Can't Post

What school are you attending? And it would be very helpful if you'd post your SOP.

The funny thing is, I haven't seen a single SOP posted by a poet. I'm wondering what they are expecting out of us? Poetry is a totally different world than fiction in terms of what it attempts to be; despite being included in the same MFA programs.


Rambler


Nov 24, 2007, 7:39 PM

Post #146 of 329 (6285 views)
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Thanks so much for sharing your technique. I appreciate the good advice.


jlgwriter
Jeanne Lyet Gassman
e-mail user

Nov 27, 2007, 12:17 PM

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Re: [BLUECHEESE] Austin's 250 word limit [In reply to] Can't Post

Here is the promised sample of my SOP. It's for fiction, BLUECHEESE, so I don't know how helpful that will be to you, but this SOP did get help me get into the low-res school of my choice. I've redacted some of the personal information. Be sure, too, to go back through this thread and read the SOPs by HopperFu, Sibyllene (sp?), Maliber, and Arkenese. I used those as templates to design my own SOP.

Here you go:


I believe that an MFA in creative writing will afford me the opportunity to further develop my craft and provide me the credentials to teach as an adjunct at the community college level. I have been writing for over twenty-five years, actively seeking out workshops and courses to help me improve my skills. Three of the most notable workshops include: a week-long fiction writing workshop with Lee Smith at Duke University; a semester fiction-writing course (noncredit) with Alex Blackburn at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs; and three courses (noncredit) on writing the novel with Patricia Burroughs Collins County Community College, Plano, Texas. I have also attended numerous writing conferences and entered writing competitions. I have won several awards for my fiction, including an Encouragement Award in Creative Writing from the Arizona Commission on the Arts and an Artist Skills Building grant from the Creative Capital Foundation.


My formal training includes a bachelor’s degree in English from [..] and one year of graduate study in English at the [..]. Due to the constraints of family commitments, my time to write has been limited. However, now that my children are grown, I am both ready and eager to pursue a concentrated course of study in the art of writing fiction.


My writing experiences have taught me to write solid, sometimes publishable prose, but I would like to take my writing from merely “good” to excellent. I have always been comfortable in the workshop setting. In fact, when I first began writing seriously in the early 1980s, I founded the Stockton (California) Writers Association, a group that began with four members and expanded to over sixty participants by the end of my tenure as facilitator. Since then, I have continued to be involved in critique groups, some more productive than others. I am currently an active member of the [..], a highly successful (and published) group of writers who work on everything from nonfiction to poetry to short fiction to novels. Although this group is helpful to me, I am also acutely aware that I’ve reached a plateau in my craft. I want to stretch my boundaries, push beyond what I know and am comfortable with to produce writing that is more sophisticated and more creative. The MFA Program in Creative Writing of [..], with its focus on writing, reading, and critical analysis, will help me achieve those goals.


For the past few years, I have been working on two major projects: a collection of short stories and an historical novel. The short stories are contemporary in nature and tend to be about characters who have normal, everyday lives but make bad choices that throw them into unexpected and difficult situations. My novel is set in Tiberias in the first century C.E. and is about [..]. The stories are in various states of completion and revision, but the novel is currently in a final draft stage. I’m uncertain which project would be the most appropriate for the MFA Writing Program, but this is something I would like to explore with my faculty advisor. My primary goal for the MFA is to create a book-length work of publishable fiction; my secondary goal is to receive the credentials that will qualify me to teach as an adjunct at the community college level. I want to do this because I believe the teacher can learn as much about the craft from her students as her students can learn from her.


In my experience as a teacher of community writing workshops, I have discovered that it’s just as important to teach what the student wants to know as it is to teach what the student needs to know. When I was first approached to teach a beginning fiction writing class, I sat down and made a list of everything I wished someone had told me when I began writing seriously. Then I broke down this list into four basic components: plot and conflict; character development; use of setting and time; and the function/mechanics of dialogue. This simple process of deconstruction proved to be illuminating. I discovered that when I had to explain how to write fiction, my own writing improved.


I am an eclectic and avid reader. In addition to reading the works submitted by my critique group, I read nonfiction articles and books as research for my novel-in-progress; short story collections; contemporary and classic works of fiction; memoirs; and books about the craft and business of writing. I read the fiction for pleasure and to study style and technique. I read nonfiction primarily for information. I believe that the critical reading component of your program, with its emphasis on reading as a writer, will help me to reach an even greater understanding of the craft.


Pursuing an MFA in creative writing is the best way for me to develop my craft as a writer and my skills as a teacher. The MFA Writing Program at [..] has a stellar reputation for its vibrant writing community and faculty mentorship. I would welcome the opportunity to become a member of that community.

----
Hope that is helpful.
Jeanne


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


Rambler


Nov 27, 2007, 10:30 PM

Post #148 of 329 (6113 views)
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Re: [jlgwriter] Austin's 250 word limit [In reply to] Can't Post

Bless you for sharing.


forthedogs


Nov 28, 2007, 8:27 AM

Post #149 of 329 (6086 views)
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Re: [jlgwriter] Austin's 250 word limit [In reply to] Can't Post

thanks for sharing this!


question for the rest of you:
Minnesota's application wants an SoP to the English Grad Dept. The grad school app also wants one online. The eng dpt website says their statement is "a separate statement from the one required as part of the Graduate School application but may include the same text."

Does this mean it can be the same, or do i have to write another one? The grad school asks specific questions, but I feel like my SoP adequately answers these. Think it's ok to use the same statement?


zebulon


Nov 30, 2007, 12:41 AM

Post #150 of 329 (6004 views)
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Re: [jlgwriter] Austin's 250 word limit [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you very much for your input.


aluminum


Dec 5, 2007, 1:34 PM

Post #151 of 329 (8202 views)
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Capitalization of short stories (& grammar) [In reply to] Can't Post

Should I put my short story title in quotes when I mention it in my SoP?
And also, if this is the title of my short story (which it isn't, ha ha), At the Expense of Seeming Idiotic, is it capitalized correctly?

It's time to rid myself of this Cornell application once and for all! As soon as I have a consensus on these questions I'm putting it in the mail...


forthedogs


Dec 5, 2007, 1:37 PM

Post #152 of 329 (8196 views)
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Re: [aluminum] Capitalization of short stories (& grammar) [In reply to] Can't Post

i don't know specifically, but generally short story titles are put in quotes, novels in italics. i think that's mla standard, in any case. or what i remember of it.

and your title is capitalized correctly.

get it in the mail!


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Dec 5, 2007, 2:07 PM

Post #153 of 329 (8189 views)
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Re: [JWhelan] Capitalization of short stories (& grammar) [In reply to] Can't Post

The general rule for titles is that books, or similar large works (tv series, albums, movies, magazines) are italicized (or underlined; the two are morally equal). Something that might be a part of the larger work goes into quotation marks: songs, stories, poems, episodes, etc.


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/


aluminum


Dec 5, 2007, 7:04 PM

Post #154 of 329 (8138 views)
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Re: [pongo] Capitalization of short stories (& grammar) [In reply to] Can't Post

thank you both for responding. i ended up putting them both in quotes.


aluminum


Dec 6, 2007, 2:55 PM

Post #155 of 329 (8070 views)
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Syracuse SoP [In reply to] Can't Post

Is anyone else applying to Syracuse?

On their website it states "Describe in about 500 words your main academic interests, why you wish to study for the degree you've chosen, why you wish to study at Syracuse University, how you expect to finance your studies, and your plans for the future after you receive your degree"

Personally, I plan on financing my studies with a generous financial aid package and a position as a TA. Am I wrong about the financial assistance provided by the writing program at Syracuse? Does anyone have any opinions on how I should address this question?


(This post was edited by aluminum on Dec 6, 2007, 2:56 PM)


monarca


Dec 6, 2007, 3:42 PM

Post #156 of 329 (8048 views)
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Re: [aluminum] Syracuse SoP [In reply to] Can't Post

I think that's a general outline for what they want in a SoP. Not a check list. Mention that you hope to TA in order to get the most of the program and to also help with the finances, if you feel the need to mention anything at all. Personally, I skipped that part. It seemed irrelevant for the MFA degree (but would be relevant for other master's programs at SU).


mpagan


Dec 6, 2007, 3:44 PM

Post #157 of 329 (8045 views)
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Re: [aluminum] Syracuse SoP [In reply to] Can't Post

Since Syracuse's M.F.A. offers full funding I just ignored that part.

I think that is standard language they use for all their graduate programs (the one's that don't offer full funding, I guess)

I don't think they'll read through your statement and say "hey - he didn't say how he planned to pay for this - he's out!" Knowing you'd get full funding. So ignore it I say.


Zash
Zachary Ash

Dec 6, 2007, 7:55 PM

Post #158 of 329 (8007 views)
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Re: [mpagan] Syracuse SoP [In reply to] Can't Post

Trolling through web pages, I came across a statement of purpose posted online. It's by a student in the Cornell MFA program. What do you guys think, is this a good model? It looks simple and straight-forward.


http://mramireztalusan.blogspot.com/...ment-of-purpose.html


mpagan


Dec 7, 2007, 1:10 PM

Post #159 of 329 (7957 views)
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Re: [Zash] Syracuse SoP [In reply to] Can't Post

I think that statement is really good—professional, interesting, but not loopy or fancy pants. Excellent model you can use to think about your own statement. Also, it comes across as an "honest" statement. Notice the writer is providing candid and well written reasons for why they want to pursue the M.F.A. The writer is answering a question. It may be very different from other statements (and it should) but it's not deviating from "why this degree?"


Glyph


Dec 12, 2007, 6:19 AM

Post #160 of 329 (7842 views)
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Teaching Philosophy Statement [In reply to] Can't Post

Does anyone have any tips/advice on writing the "Teaching Philosophy" statement that is required by some programs? I'm a bit at a loss because I've never taught creative writing before--the extent of my teaching experience has been teaching ESOL students how to speak and read English. I don't suppose there are any examples out there...?


forthedogs


Dec 12, 2007, 6:45 AM

Post #161 of 329 (7838 views)
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Re: [adoten] Teaching Philosophy Statement [In reply to] Can't Post

hi adoten,

i had this problem, too. after talking to current students and one of my lorws, though, i think schools are looking for general thoughts on teaching and why and how you'd be good at it; and that "writing teacher" probably in most cases means Frosh Comp. i don't think that any program expects you to come in with a unified theory on how to teach creative writing. many programs won't even let you until the 2nd year.

sounds to me like you have some good teaching experiences to draw on. you're probably safer talking about what you know about (i.e. your own teaching experience and how that might make you a good teacher in the future outside of ESOL classes) than trying to make something up about cw teaching. i think emotional/intellectual honesty comes across kid of loud and clear in these statements and remaining so is really important.

just make sure to answer all the questions they ask. i think syracuse, for ex., has several questions about this, right?

maybe someone else has more/better/contrary thoughts on the teaching statement.

if you pm me you email address, i can send you mine if you want.


MissEsquire



Dec 12, 2007, 12:04 PM

Post #162 of 329 (7802 views)
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Re: [adoten] Teaching Philosophy Statement [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Does anyone have any tips/advice on writing the "Teaching Philosophy" statement that is required by some programs? I'm a bit at a loss because I've never taught creative writing before--the extent of my teaching experience has been teaching ESOL students how to speak and read English. I don't suppose there are any examples out there...?


adoten,

I just finished writing one of these, too. Like you, I'd never taught writing; I'd been an EngLit T.A. and taught radio broadcasting. Basically, I talked about these experiences and spoke about my opinions on teaching. I avoided talking about what a writing instructor should do because anything I would say on the topic would be total horse pucky. This isn't very specific, but I hope it helps.


__________



Dec 12, 2007, 2:04 PM

Post #163 of 329 (7781 views)
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Re: [MissEsquire] Teaching Philosophy Statement [In reply to] Can't Post

I thought of the myriad ways my undergrad workshops sucked, then developed a plan to address them. This became my teaching philosophy.

I'll let you know if it turns out to be a good idea.


six five four three two one 0 ->


Glyph


Dec 12, 2007, 4:37 PM

Post #164 of 329 (7751 views)
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Re: [JWhelan] Teaching Philosophy Statement [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks, all of you. JWhelan, I'll PM you.


bennyprof


Dec 21, 2007, 1:16 AM

Post #165 of 329 (7622 views)
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SOP Mistake [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, it happened. I made my first app mistake, which, given the number I'm sending off, was inevitable, right?

Maybe it's not a big mistake, but it's enough to make me a little anxious... in my SOP I referred to Michigan as a "small" program. Which I guess is a subjective enough word for a little cushion, but still... 24 fiction students isn't exactly small, comparatively -- more of a medium size. Somewhere between Cornell and Iowa.

Do you think they'll scratch their heads when they get to that part? (Please say 'no,' even if it's a lie.)


(This post was edited by bennyprof on Dec 21, 2007, 1:17 AM)


HopperFu


Dec 21, 2007, 8:03 AM

Post #166 of 329 (7605 views)
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Re: [bennyprof] SOP Mistake [In reply to] Can't Post

Actually, I don't think they'll scratch their heads. To me (even coming from Cornell), Michigan is a small program. Twelve students a year in your field isn't large compared to Columbia or Iowa or some other programs. There are lots of pros and cons to both big and small, but I don't think calling Michigan a small (as in size, we hope, not as in stature) program is a big deal....


bennyprof


Dec 21, 2007, 11:38 AM

Post #167 of 329 (7586 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] SOP Mistake [In reply to] Can't Post

That makes me feel a lot better. Thanks, Alexi.

Yeah, I made the "small" comment in reference to a better student to faculty ratio, so I don't need to be worried about them taking it the wrong way.


HopperFu


Dec 21, 2007, 1:09 PM

Post #168 of 329 (7569 views)
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In Reply To
That makes me feel a lot better. Thanks, Alexi.

Yeah, I made the "small" comment in reference to a better student to faculty ratio, so I don't need to be worried about them taking it the wrong way.


In that case, particularly don't be worried. Compared to a lot of other schools (even a few with smaller class sizes), the student to faculty ratio at Michigan is great.


mr.shankly


Jan 1, 2008, 8:52 PM

Post #169 of 329 (7445 views)
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Virginia Personal Statement [In reply to] Can't Post

In the online application for Virginia, there's a section to write a "Personal Statement." I'm finding it difficult to even begin, because I'm unsure of what they're wanting. This is unlike any of the others I've come across so far. I'd appreciate any clues as to what the heck they want. For those of you who aren't applying, here's what the site says:

"Please provide a statement of your academic interests. Your commitment to a selected field of study is assumed; we want you to discuss some of the problems and issues that particularly engage your mind."

Does this mean problems and issues NOT related to my field since it's assumed I'm committed? I could use some help, especially since this is due tomorrow.

Thanks.


bennyprof


Jan 1, 2008, 10:04 PM

Post #170 of 329 (7424 views)
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Re: [mr.shankly] Virginia Personal Statement [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

"Please provide a statement of your academic interests. Your commitment to a selected field of study is assumed; we want you to discuss some of the problems and issues that particularly engage your mind."



When they say "Your commitment to a selected field of study is assumed," they're not saying you should write about another field entirely. They just don't want you to spend a lot of time trying to convince them of how dedicated you are.

In any case, it sounds like a general statement they designed to try and encompass all fields. I didn't design my SOP for Virginia as a critical look at the modern literary landscape, and I seriously doubt that's what they have in mind. Just a plain ole statement of purpose'll do, I think.


__________



Jan 1, 2008, 11:50 PM

Post #171 of 329 (7405 views)
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Re: [bennyprof] Virginia Personal Statement [In reply to] Can't Post

But damn. Isn't 'academic interests' a little broad, considering how everything -- rap music, sitcoms, pastries -- is considered 'academic', so long as it's prepended by a 'history of' or 'semiotics of'? They just want you to summarize your interests, leave out the committed part, and then delve into the problems you find engaging in each? In the space of a few inches? I mean, what do I zero in on, here? Ecstasy and incontinence in Elizabethan fiction? Patriarchy and the celebrity nip-slip? Because that's a lot to choose from, and then 'problematize', in a few hundred words.


six five four three two one 0 ->

(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Jan 1, 2008, 11:51 PM)


bennyprof


Jan 2, 2008, 1:58 AM

Post #172 of 329 (7385 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Virginia Personal Statement [In reply to] Can't Post

The nip-slip's got my vote.

Don't know. Can't remember filling out their app (they all run together at this point). Pretty sure I just uploaded my statement of purpose, altered to fit VA's spec's. Wouldn't stress over it in any case.


Raignn



Apr 8, 2008, 5:57 PM

Post #173 of 329 (7198 views)
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Re: Sample Statements [In reply to] Can't Post

Well now that I've officially accepted an MFA offer, I just wanted to let anyone applying next year (and this offer stands as long as this post is here, so if you find this in 6 months or whenever you're really starting to think about applications, still feel free to PM me), I am more than willing to send my statement of purpose (which was a bit of a blend with a personal statement) and my teaching philosophy to anyone interested. I'm not necessarily saying they are the best or anything, but I know when I was applying I would have killed for more samples (especially of teaching philosophies!). And they did help me get accepted to 1 program and waitlisted at 4 others (2 of which turned into funded acceptances).

I wanted to extend this offer now before I forgot!


weltanschauung


Apr 9, 2008, 11:58 AM

Post #174 of 329 (7059 views)
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Re: [Raignn] Sample Statements [In reply to] Can't Post

Raignn,
That is such a generous offer. I'd be very grateful to see your statement of purpose/teaching philosophy.

Thanks,
Gwyn


SevenFreckles


Oct 14, 2008, 1:06 PM

Post #175 of 329 (6898 views)
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Re: [weltanschauung] Sample Statements [In reply to] Can't Post

So this is my second round of applications and I'm working on a new SOP. I feel rather compelled to mention my first attempt at an MFA acceptance in my statement. That round of rejections really taught me a lot. I don't know how appropriate that would be though. It seems like it might draw too much attention to my failure. Any thoughts?

Also, what about schools that I'm reapplying to? Should I mention that specifically at all? Gah! I'm probably stressing myself out needlessly, but please help!


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Oct 14, 2008, 7:56 PM

Post #176 of 329 (6624 views)
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Re: [SevenFreckles] Sample Statements [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't quite see the advantage of reminding a school that they've already rejected you once, unless you're stressing your growth or something like that. In fact, I'd leave it out of all your SOP's unless it's a relevant part of your narrative.


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/


empiricalhubris


Oct 14, 2008, 8:36 PM

Post #177 of 329 (6619 views)
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Re: [SevenFreckles] Sample Statements [In reply to] Can't Post

The SOP is tough, tougher and more important than most admit. Mentioning your previous application might help you, if you handle it well. For example, if you were to discuss the changes you've made in your writing over the past year you might be able to better justify that you are ready to enter a program. Doing that would also show that you're able to be honest about and critical of your writing, a big plus as far as committees are concerned. I doubt most admissions committees would look poorly upon someone who was rejected before as they understand better than anyone how small acceptance rates are.

To reference my first sentence, the SOP is, generally speaking, the second most important part of your application (behind the writing sample). I'm about to make a bunch of claims. They aren't unsubstantiated conjecture; I've actually discussed this with several profs at my program and others who have dealt with committees elsewhere. When schools are deciding who they want, they're often faced with a significant number of applicants who are equally strong. The SOP helps them pick out the potential students who seem to fit with the program, whether it's attitude or focus or whatever, the best. That's actually extemely important to many MFA programs as most of them hinge so heavily on a "writer's community" of sorts. So, tailoring your SOP is extremely important in that it can "nudge you over the line," especially if you're an emerging writer. I know that if an SOP sounds like a form letter, programs will often drop the app. I found this out the hard way. When I applied, most of the SOPs I wrote were highly generalized. The schools that got those, for the most part, rejected me, even if they weren't as prestigious as some of the programs whose SOP I spent time with. Every program whose SOP I spent time with (either by discussing the writers on staff, the focus of the program, or even the opportunities presented by the school at large) admitted me. Of course everyone is different, but it might be something to think about as you get your stuff togehter.

Good luck and if you have any questions, just PM me.


HopperFu


Oct 15, 2008, 9:12 AM

Post #178 of 329 (6586 views)
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Re: [empiricalhubris] Sample Statements [In reply to] Can't Post

You might not remember me since you had three hundred applications, but I was one of the people you rejected! Here's why you made a mistake...

David is right. There is NOTHING to be gained by reminding them that they have already decided once that you are not good enough.
You can certainly - and you absolutely should - talk about the things you've done to improve your writing, but there is no reason to do so in the context of having been rejected the previous year.

And yes, if you can tailor your statement a little, it probably helps. That being said, if you look at examples that people have put up on these boards and elsewhere, you'll see that even within the same program, statements can be wildly different.


SevenFreckles


Oct 15, 2008, 10:51 AM

Post #179 of 329 (6570 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] Sample Statements [In reply to] Can't Post

I can see why it's best to avoid reminding them that I was rejected. I understand that completely--that's why I felt unsure about it in the first place. And I guess it's best to err on the side of caution. I'd rather rework my SOP so that it doesn't include that information that have it sway them against me...

But I wish it didn't work that way. For me, it was twenty times harder to decide to reapply that it was to apply in the first place. I think being able to pick yourself up from rejection, learn from it, and then share honestly where your coming from should count for something. Being a writer is about perseverance. I don't think we should be punished for or embarrassed by our failures. I think we should be encouraged to learn from them. I'm kind of torn. I'm not sure I'd even want to be in a program that made you feel like you had to get it right the first time, every time.

I appreciate everyone's advice. I certainly see the merit in it. I think I just feel a little frustrated at the process right now. Hmm...


germericanqt


Oct 15, 2008, 3:53 PM

Post #180 of 329 (6537 views)
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Re: [SevenFreckles] Sample Statements [In reply to] Can't Post

I think maybe the biggest problem with this line of reasoning is the fact that you're not alone. "I didn't get in, but look at me now, I worked hard and I'm back!" might be your individual triumph story, but for the committees, it's probably similar to "I've wanted to be a writer since..."

From what I can tell, there are LOTS of us who didn't make it who are trying again this year. I went through the same process as you, trying to decide whether to include that piece of my narrative. I think in the end I decided just to focus on the "here is what I'm working on to improve my writing" aspect, leaving out the "here we go again. Please recognize my genius this time!" part. (Although I did throw in a bit about "writer's tenacity" on one or two of them). The reason I'm unsure is because I've tailored each SOP to each school, and between length adjustments and constant reworking of my central theme, I'm not sure exactly what each of them says without double-checking.


v1ctorya


Oct 15, 2008, 6:47 PM

Post #181 of 329 (6513 views)
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Re: [SevenFreckles] Sample Statements [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
So this is my second round of applications and I'm working on a new SOP. I feel rather compelled to mention my first attempt at an MFA acceptance in my statement. That round of rejections really taught me a lot. I don't know how appropriate that would be though. It seems like it might draw too much attention to my failure. Any thoughts?

Also, what about schools that I'm reapplying to? Should I mention that specifically at all? Gah! I'm probably stressing myself out needlessly, but please help!



There are, I beleive, two thoughts on this. One is that it shows you stayed focus, that applying wasn't just a whim last year, and that you have determination and dedication to your craft.

The other is that you are right away admitting to your failures, not your strengths, and why do that? On a first date you point out the best qualities, not that you've gone out a lot of times and never gotten a call back or whatevers. On a date, the person in front of you is the only one that matters, not the past, not the guy you're seeing the next day, him. And I kind of follow that philosophy when applying to schools - that one is the only one that matters, at least in the essay I'm writing, not my baggage, that school and our future relationship together.


byandby


Oct 15, 2008, 9:27 PM

Post #182 of 329 (6496 views)
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Re: [SevenFreckles] Sample Statements [In reply to] Can't Post

The first time I applied to programs was two years ago. I was wait listed at two places, but ultimately rejected everywhere. I applied again last year, only to the same schools because of some unexpected recommendation issues. Because I contacted schools and had them reactivate my application from the previous year (some schools waive the fee for your second time around! and by reactivating you save money on sending GRE scores and transcripts!) I knew that if I got far enough along in the process, they would probably know that I had applied the previous year before and not gotten in.

I wanted my SOP to make sense should the application reader have that information. So, my essay talked about the things I did differently in the past year-- I mentioned writing classes and writing groups and the way I restructured my schedule so I would have more time for writing. If I was wait listed at the school, I mentioned being wait listed. If I was outright rejected, I didn't mention that I had applied the previous year, but I did my best to make my essay work for all readers, whether they knew I'd been rejected before or not.

I got into two schools and was wait listed at a third (out of seven schools; interestingly, I was immediately rejected by the two schools that had wait listed me the previous year). And now I'm well into my first semester at a competitive program with full funding + TA stipend and i love it love it love it. Good luck! Second times a charm!


SaundraN


Oct 18, 2008, 1:47 AM

Post #183 of 329 (6416 views)
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Re: [byandby] Sample Statements [In reply to] Can't Post

 Can anyone recommend sites that have examples of statements for MFA in poetry? Or, could you post your examples here?

I would love to read examples by those who have successfully gotten into poetry programs.

Thanks,
Sandy


HappyCianci



Oct 18, 2008, 11:16 PM

Post #184 of 329 (6371 views)
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Formatting [In reply to] Can't Post

 
The SOP--

Single or double spaced? Single or double spaced?????


HopperFu


Oct 19, 2008, 9:12 AM

Post #185 of 329 (6346 views)
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Re: [HappyCianci] Formatting [In reply to] Can't Post

Single unless specifically stated otherwise.


Raignn



Oct 19, 2008, 10:17 AM

Post #186 of 329 (6339 views)
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Re: [SaundraN] Sample Statements [In reply to] Can't Post

Just a reminder to everyone, I'm more than happy to send along my statement of purpose/personal statement and teaching philosophy to anyone who needs. Just send me a PM!


Raignn



Oct 19, 2008, 4:57 PM

Post #187 of 329 (6307 views)
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Re: [Raignn] Sample Statements [In reply to] Can't Post

I actually found the post where I wrote up my thoughts on Midwest schools, it's here: http://www.pw.org/speakeasy/gforum.cgi?post=268325#268325


HappyCianci



Oct 24, 2008, 2:48 AM

Post #188 of 329 (6231 views)
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Mentioning Faculty [In reply to] Can't Post

Is it really unwise to mention faculty members whose work you enjoy, who you are interested in learning from? Tom Kealey advises against it, but I could see programs being attracted to applicants who show a specific interest in working with their writers. I'm torn.


sovietsleepover


Oct 24, 2008, 5:02 PM

Post #189 of 329 (6167 views)
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Re: [HappyCianci] Mentioning Faculty [In reply to] Can't Post

Don't gush; limit yourself to a couple sentences. What if you're accepted, and then your favorite writer leaves or goes on sabbatical or turns out to be an incompetent jerk? The admissions committee already has a sense of accepted students' typical experiences with that faculty member, and doesn't want a student's happiness to henge on a single person (no matter how awesome they are).

All that to say, be sure you're [implicitly] clear that you can be happy at the university regardless of whether you make it into favorite writer's workshop.


bighark


Oct 24, 2008, 7:12 PM

Post #190 of 329 (6148 views)
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Re: [HappyCianci] Mentioning Faculty [In reply to] Can't Post

The strategy of displaying a "specific interest" really only works if the particular faculty member you plan on mentioning is on the admissions committee (she might not be) or if the admissions committee members reading your SOP aren't offended that they weren't mentioned instead of the other person.

I don't think mentioning a faculty member is going to harm your application, but it might not necessarily help it.

Good luck.


HopperFu


Oct 24, 2008, 10:14 PM

Post #191 of 329 (6123 views)
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Re: [bighark] Mentioning Faculty [In reply to] Can't Post

internecine politics in academia can be particularly complicated. Tread lightly.


murasaki
Marie Mockett
e-mail user

Oct 25, 2008, 12:42 PM

Post #192 of 329 (6083 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] Mentioning Faculty [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
internecine politics in academia can be particularly complicated. Tread lightly.


We need an "MFA Application" Magic 8 ball.


moomoocow42


Oct 29, 2008, 2:31 PM

Post #193 of 329 (5963 views)
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Re: [murasaki] Mentioning Faculty [In reply to] Can't Post

A really nitpicky/paranoid question. Would it be an effective strategy to talk about the kind of stuff you'd like to write in your SOP? I hesitate to do this because my writing samples do not necessarily reflect the kind of writing I'd like to explore -- I don't want to get into a situation where I cannot put my "money where my mouth is." But at the same time, I really want to mention the kind of writing that I'm interested in because I think that it opens up a compelling line of conversation about my background, something that I want to talk about in my SOP. Anyone have any wisdom to share on this subject?


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


HappyCianci



Oct 29, 2008, 8:47 PM

Post #194 of 329 (5912 views)
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Re: [moomoocow42] Mentioning Faculty [In reply to] Can't Post

It's only one opinion, but I would avoid talking about it in a regular SOP.

It's okay to take different directions with your writing once you're in a program- they expect and want that of their students. But you might come off flighty or defensive of your writing sample if you bring it up in your SOP. I'd leave it out unless it is specifically requested.


pongo
Buy this book!

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Oct 29, 2008, 10:35 PM

Post #195 of 329 (5888 views)
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Re: [HappyCianci] Mentioning Faculty [In reply to] Can't Post

I think it's fine to mention your goals as a writer in your statement of purpose. Isn't that pretty much what it's for?


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/


moomoocow42


Oct 30, 2008, 2:06 AM

Post #196 of 329 (5866 views)
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Re: [pongo] Mentioning Faculty [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the input, HappyCianci and Pongo. Good points. As always, I think it's rapidly becoming a case where I'm really really overthinking things. Back to the grind!


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


HappyCianci



Nov 13, 2008, 8:30 PM

Post #197 of 329 (5737 views)
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UMass [In reply to] Can't Post

UMass- No SOP?


Linzetta


Nov 20, 2008, 4:28 PM

Post #198 of 329 (5611 views)
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Re: [Banyon] Favorite Authors Statement? [In reply to] Can't Post

I can't find on UNCG's website if they even want a SOP at all! Does anyone know if they do and what they want? I'm going to include one just in case but it would be nice to know some specifics...


HappyCianci



Nov 20, 2008, 5:59 PM

Post #199 of 329 (5595 views)
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Re: [Linzetta] Favorite Authors Statement? [In reply to] Can't Post

Linz-

No SOP for UNCG!

I emailed them and they said not to send one.


Linzetta


Nov 20, 2008, 6:32 PM

Post #200 of 329 (5586 views)
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Re: [HappyCianci] Favorite Authors Statement? [In reply to] Can't Post

Happy,

Thanks for the info! V. Bizarre of UNCG. I haven't come across any other school that doesn't want one. More than okay with me though. One less to worry about.

Linz


bighark


Nov 20, 2008, 6:38 PM

Post #201 of 329 (6368 views)
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Re: [Linzetta] Favorite Authors Statement? [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't recall Arkansas wanting much more than the manuscript for its first round. No GRE, no SOP, no LOR, not even an application fee. Just manuscript.


Linzetta


Nov 20, 2008, 6:40 PM

Post #202 of 329 (6365 views)
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Re: [bighark] Favorite Authors Statement? [In reply to] Can't Post

Interesting. I'm not applying to Arkansas, but with little requirements, it wouldn't be that hard to throw it in. I wonder if schools that have less requirements receive more applications.


NickMcRae
Nick McRae

e-mail user

Nov 20, 2008, 6:59 PM

Post #203 of 329 (6363 views)
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Re: [bighark] Favorite Authors Statement? [In reply to] Can't Post

That's what I thought at first for U Ark--manuscript and the GTA application. But then I noticed that, at the bottom of the GTA application, they ask for 3 recommendation letters, a teaching statement, a critical sample, transcripts, and GRE scores. Still worth it though.


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

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


keljsim


Dec 6, 2008, 1:03 PM

Post #204 of 329 (6245 views)
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Writing for business? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm applying to 8 schools-6 MFA programs and 2 MS Journalism. Yes, I'm indecisive. I'm a creative nonfiction (aspiring) writer. Honestly, I enjoy working in a fast-paced business environment (currently work in the fashion industry). I love to write, love school, love business. I want to get an MFA so I can improve my writing and get a job in the literary industry. Editing, publishing, writing features for magazines or (my dream) NPR. Will it offend the admissions committee if I begin my SOP with "my primary goal is not to publish my writing"...and continue to explain my desire for a real job in the "business" of words? Maybe it would be refreshing to see a student with different goals than most., maybe not. HELP--Iowa is due next week!!


HopperFu


Dec 6, 2008, 1:40 PM

Post #205 of 329 (6236 views)
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Re: [keljsim] Writing for business? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
"my primary goal is not to publish my writing"


That in your SOP = circular file.

The primary purpose of the SOP is to show that you aren't crazy. Refreshing = crazy.
I think what you are saying actually make sense, but arguing for an MFA as job training is not the way to go. You can certainly argue that it is an ancillary benefit, something that is "in addition to" all of the wonderful ways it will help you improve your writing.


Mae Fields



Dec 6, 2008, 1:48 PM

Post #206 of 329 (6235 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] Another SOP question [In reply to] Can't Post

Hopperfu,

I'm glad to see you on this thread today, because I am fine tuning my SOP today and I had a question. I also posted it over at the MFA blog, so I'll just copy my question here.


Q:

In the personal statement, should I include research I would like to pursue in graduate school?

The reason I am asking is because schools like Iowa do ask applicants to "describe any research you wish to pursue..." on the application.

I do have a thesis, but am concerned it will not resonate with all the members of the admissions committee.

I ran my thesis by a professor and she approved it, thought it interesting, but my idea for research is close to being within her area of specialty.

Do you think I should include a statement about my research in my SOP or should I leave it out except in instances where I am asked about research directly??

Thanks! I am fine tuning my statement, about to get apps. in the mail, and still on the fence about this.



keljsim


Dec 6, 2008, 2:13 PM

Post #207 of 329 (6227 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] Writing for business? [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for responding so quickly--I needed some direction and appreciate such a candid answer. So my question now is: isn't everyone going to talk about the wonderful ways in which the MFA will improve their writing? How do I keep my SOP genuine and interesting? Is it really about proving that I'm not crazy?? It's painful to write the same essay as everyone else--should I just suck it up?


In Reply To

In Reply To
"my primary goal is not to publish my writing"


That in your SOP = circular file.

The primary purpose of the SOP is to show that you aren't crazy. Refreshing = crazy.
I think what you are saying actually make sense, but arguing for an MFA as job training is not the way to go. You can certainly argue that it is an ancillary benefit, something that is "in addition to" all of the wonderful ways it will help you improve your writing.



HopperFu


Dec 6, 2008, 2:34 PM

Post #208 of 329 (6220 views)
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Re: [Mae Fields] Another SOP question [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Do you think I should include a statement about my research in my SOP or should I leave it out except in instances where I am asked about research directly??


That's hard to answer without knowing what you mean by research. My opinion on this is that it is probably worth including IF you qualify it in some way ("ONE OF THE THINGS that informs my writing is X") and IF the research area is more experiential than academic. In other words, if you are Korean-American and want to research the first wave of Korean-American immigration in Duluth, Minnesota (yes, I'm making this up), that is probably interesting and should be included. No if your area of research is "the way hegemony and colonialism has influenced the post-feminist inclusion of dystopian literature."
Many profs believe that you should have a thing that you write about, something that is yours - i.e. the Korean-American Duluth experience - and this can be a decent thing to include on your SOP. I do think it is important though to qualify or couch it in such a way that it is clear that this is not the only thing you write about or are interested in.
And all of this may be moot if your writing sample and other facts about you make it really obvious what your "area of research" would be. I.e., I have a friend who wrote a book set in the former Yugoslavia, and her name is very clearly in that vein, so it probably wouldn't have been necessary for her to indicate that this is an area that interests her.

And in the interest of being long-winded, I should add that I am not sure that I actually agree with the idea that you are supposed to have one thing that you write about or claim as your own. I'd argue that it is precisely as an MFA student when you should write about all sorts of things and not limit yourself to one thing.


HopperFu


Dec 6, 2008, 2:39 PM

Post #209 of 329 (6215 views)
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Re: [keljsim] Writing for business? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
isn't everyone going to talk about the wonderful ways in which the MFA will improve their writing? How do I keep my SOP genuine and interesting? Is it really about proving that I'm not crazy?? It's painful to write the same essay as everyone else--should I just suck it up?

Yes, I don't know, yes, yes.
Okay, non-flip answer is that, no, there are going to be some people who write about how they've always wanted a pet monkey or how they want to write for the aliens. Those people are awesome, because they aren't your competition.
At the point your SOP gets read with seriousness, it means they like your writing sample and want to admit you. I would argue that you should be honest - why are you going for an MFA? - and professional. There will likely be something about you or about the reason why you are applying that is interesting, but don't force it.
At the end of the day, we can't really predict what committees are going to like or dislike. It is possible that if you go out on a limb somebody will say "this guy is great! So honest!," but it is more likely to work against you. The most important rule about SOP writing is: do no harm.
In your specific case, I think the part of your SOP that IS original or your voice is the part where you make the argument that in addition to how much it will help your writing, and how you hope to become a published writer, you are interested in eventually ALSO working as a journalist / NPR person, etc.


spamela


Dec 6, 2008, 7:50 PM

Post #210 of 329 (6165 views)
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Re: [keljsim] Writing for business? [In reply to] Can't Post

A heads-up: gettng an MFA will most likely *not* help you get a job in publishing--at least not books, and probably not magazines. There are other technical writing degrees you could get instead, if you want to be more attractive to national publications (journalism and science writing spring to mind). All the professional publication writers I know got their jobs writing for national publications by starting at the bottom and working up. Same with all the book editors I know. None of them have MFAs. MFAs are art degrees which are not perceived as preparing you for professional writing work of the sort you'd be doing for magazines or the administrative and reading work you'd do as an editorial assistant. This isn't true across the board, of course, but in my editing career and the careers of my friends, these things have been true. This may not be true of small presses, but small presses rarely pay or hire.

If you really want to work in publishing, the best way is to hit the street and start applying for jobs, or enroll in one of those summer publishing courses (Columbia and Harvard/Radcliffe have them) to make connections.


keljsim


Dec 6, 2008, 8:29 PM

Post #211 of 329 (6158 views)
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Re: [spamela] Writing for business? [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the advice. I am a little unsure about whether I actually want to get an MFA, which is probably why writing the Statement of Purpose is so difficult. For now though, I need to get the apps in before the December 15th deadlines so I have options. I'm applying to Northeastern and Columbia for journalism at the same time. Do you enjoy your career? What exactly is the "bottom"? And do I have to live in NYC to have a career in publishing/editing?


In Reply To
All the professional publication writers I know got their jobs writing for national publications by starting at the bottom and working up.



pongo
Buy this book!

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Dec 6, 2008, 8:41 PM

Post #212 of 329 (6151 views)
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Re: [spamela] Writing for business? [In reply to] Can't Post

There are graduate programs in publishing (Rosemont College offers a masters, and I assume there are others), and there are extension courses at NYU. If you want to be an editor, these (and the Radcliffe program) are much more useful to you than an MFA.

Try looking here: http://www.gradschools.com/...gramType=0&Page=


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/


(This post was edited by pongo on Dec 6, 2008, 8:44 PM)


spamela


Dec 6, 2008, 9:12 PM

Post #213 of 329 (6141 views)
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Re: [keljsim] Writing for business? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey, I PMed you with my (very long, sorry!) answer.

I would caution against paying for a masters in publishing. I don't know a single editorial assistant, editor, senior editor, executive editor, etc. who has one. It's a waste of time and money--you learn everything you need to know on the job. The summer programs are useful for making connections and helping you figure out which branch of publishing you may want to go into. But a graduate degree in publishing seems to me like a University cash cow.

Plus, when you begin work in publishing, you have to start at the bottom anyway. Because editing is so much about connections you make on the job with lit agents and writers, no one's going to hire you as anything more than an editorial assistant if you've never actually worked in publishing before, no matter what degrees you have. So you can either spend a lot of money and time on an advanced degree and then get an editorial assistant job. Or you can just get an editorial assistant job.

Maybe other people out there who've gone through these programs have better things to say about them, but they strike me, from the outside, as rather useless at best, and exploitative at worst.


spamela


Dec 6, 2008, 9:30 PM

Post #214 of 329 (6130 views)
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Re: [spamela] Writing for business? [In reply to] Can't Post

caveat before people in masters publishing programs get upset with me: This has just been my experience working for a large fiction publisher in NYC. It may be a different story for specialty publishers (science, textbooks, etc.) about which i know very little. And certainly extension courses (as opposed to a full-fledged graduate degree in publishing) could be very useful in helping one decide what field/area of publishing one wants to work in, similar to the summer certification courses I've mentioned. And if you can get *funded* in a masters publishing program, great. But the people I've known at the NYU program were not funded and NYU is not cheap. Plus, the job market right now sucks, and publishing pay is crap in best of times. In my opinion and experience, a good internship beats them all.


HopperFu


Dec 6, 2008, 9:42 PM

Post #215 of 329 (6124 views)
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Re: [spamela] Writing for business? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'd second what you are saying about the internships.
A woman I was on a panel with recently (she's at Newsweek) said that you should think of the cost of an internship (since most are unpaid) as an expense you are paying instead of going to grad school in journalism.


django79


Dec 6, 2008, 10:38 PM

Post #216 of 329 (6112 views)
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Re: [spamela] Writing for business? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not sure how relevant or competitive this program may be since it relocated from Radcliffe to Columbia, but while at Radcliffe, The Radcliffe Publishing Seminar boasted some very high-rolling alumni. One such alumni works at Knopf and recently purchased a pw.org member's novel. Google "Columbia Publishing Course" for more info. I just wanted to mention a program that has had some tangibly successful results, but again, I'm unsure of their efficacy since moving to Columbia.

best,
t


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Dec 6, 2008, 10:39 PM

Post #217 of 329 (6111 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] Writing for business? [In reply to] Can't Post

Oh, I had a career in publishing before I got my MFA (and not afterward) so I would actually endorse the idea of avoiding a masters in publishing. A few extension courses are not a bad investment, though.

The main thing a degree in publishing will give you is two years before you need to find a job.


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/


keljsim


Dec 7, 2008, 12:45 PM

Post #218 of 329 (6051 views)
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read my SOP? [In reply to] Can't Post

I know it's a lot to ask, but would anyone consider reading my statement of purpose? I'm so glad to have found this forum--you have been life savers!


Mae Fields



Dec 7, 2008, 6:20 PM

Post #219 of 329 (5994 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] Another SOP question [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you. That was very helpful. I hadn't thought of qualifying the research by tying it to my writing. I feel my statement's better, more unified now, so I appreciate your feedback.
M.


__________



Dec 7, 2008, 6:57 PM

Post #220 of 329 (5981 views)
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Re: [Mae Fields] Another SOP question [In reply to] Can't Post

Someone help me settle a bet:

Let's say you've taken a little foray into, I dunno, 'gonzo fiction' -- in which you re-enact, for realsies, various episodes from your stories, in order to identify and possibly write about how a third party might react. So far this might possibly include dressing up like a priest, boarding a public bus, and making out with a nun, or slipping a clerk a handwritten note that says you've just gone insane. Let's also say you've had some luck with this, and that it's so fun it just might be shaping your fictive world view.

Do you:

(a) Shut up about it, because in a personal statement, people would think you are crazy, or

(b) Go ahead and include it, because, hey -- the Surrealists pulled similar stunts, and committees won't mind.


I won't disclose my own take...but I would love some opinions. Thank you.


six five four three two one 0 ->

(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Dec 7, 2008, 6:59 PM)


writerteacher


Dec 7, 2008, 10:34 PM

Post #221 of 329 (5932 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Another SOP question [In reply to] Can't Post

Hah! Oooohhh...

This may be random, but my first instinct is that for fiction, an applicant's process is immaterial. I can't see a committee being convinced that a gonzo approach somehow implies a greater commitment to writing, or verisimilitude, than the ass-in-the-chair approach.

If you're going for CNF, though, mentioning process feels more relevant and may be interpreted by the committee as revealing. But maybe not.

I say don't mention it, and I'd follow Hopperfu's rule for the SOP: Do No Harm. (He wisely counsels that the purpose of the thing is to demonstrate one is *not* crazy.)

Gracious, that's funny, though.
WT


HopperFu


Dec 8, 2008, 8:49 AM

Post #222 of 329 (5895 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Another SOP question [In reply to] Can't Post

I think for non-fiction it might work, but you damn well better make it sound really well-thought and part of the lasting tradition of gonzo journalism WITHOUT being yet another one of the bazillion (usually young men) pure imitators.
I think for fiction, please mail me your application fee instead of throwing it in the trash.*

*the serious answer is that there is always an exception, and it is possible that somebody will read it and think that's wonderful, but you are going to get WAY more "hell no!" responses then "well that sounds interesting!"

Keep in mind that one of the considerations that faculty make is that you are going to be their student and part of the program for a little while. If your SOP makes it seem more likely that you'll need to be bailed out of jail by the department chair more than twice (the first two times are free in any MFA program), that's probably a bad strategy.

Again, the purpose of your SOP is not to show how creative you are. That's what your writing sample is for.


Raysen


Dec 8, 2008, 12:33 PM

Post #223 of 329 (5855 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Another SOP question [In reply to] Can't Post

Pick (b). You would then just be one LESS competition for me in the MFA application game.

Seriously, don't take risks in the Personal Statement. Without divulging any secrets in my Personal Statement, I explained:

(1) my motivations in life;
(2) my major accomplishments -- and I stress "major" (vs. "minor") -- and how it's related to my motivations in life;
(3) how nice I am -- tying it back to my motivations in life;
(4) why I want to attend _________;
(5) my research plans and what I hope to achieve at ________; and finally,
(6) summarize what I just said above with an emphasis on how my motivations in life tie everything together.

Oh, and also, I pointed out that I'm somebody famous.


(This post was edited by Raysen on Dec 8, 2008, 12:35 PM)


Mae Fields



Dec 8, 2008, 3:52 PM

Post #224 of 329 (5815 views)
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Re: [Raysen] Another SOP question [In reply to] Can't Post

Raysen,

Please don't take this personally, but if you are somebody famous then why did you need to "point it out" in your SOP? Wouldn't your fame make you inherently recognizable to any admissions committee? Either way, your strategy makes me giggle a little bit. Perhaps only because I'm tired of working on applications and this incredibly long paper on European Modernism I'm completing, I've drank entirely too much coffee today and oh, I'm not famous -- though I am less worried about that then other aspects of my application.

I think I might write a sentence in my SOP that states just that: "By the way, in case you're wondering, I am completely not-famous. Utterly mundane. There is nothing remarkable about me in the least... " Of course, I'm kidding.

Who is the illustrious Raysen? Are you Chelsea Clinton, Paris Hilton, Toni Morrison, MacCauley Culkin, a former Mousketeer, or an American Idol reject? As stated before on this thread, inquiring minds want to know.

Either way, I hope your fame is related somehow to your good works and writing rather than your celebrity or spectacle.

Again, best of luck to everyone applying.

M.


(This post was edited by Mae Fields on Dec 8, 2008, 4:02 PM)


Raysen


Dec 8, 2008, 4:45 PM

Post #225 of 329 (5803 views)
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Re: [Mae Fields] Another SOP question [In reply to] Can't Post

I was kidding about the "famous" part. I'm actually a nobody.


Mae Fields



Dec 8, 2008, 5:22 PM

Post #226 of 329 (6984 views)
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Re: [Raysen] Another SOP question [In reply to] Can't Post

Then I was misled by your posts in the choosing an MFA thread. I'm glad you're not MacCauley. As stated before, good luck with your apps. M.


(This post was edited by Mae Fields on Dec 8, 2008, 5:23 PM)


__________



Dec 8, 2008, 5:47 PM

Post #227 of 329 (6975 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] Another SOP question [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey, thanks, guys, I appreciate it. Feeling somewhat foolish now, I will admit I came down on the side of silence. My poor friends -- they always have to hear it from a third party!

(Raysen, sometime after application season, you'll have to let us know if you really are Steven Seagal...)


six five four three two one 0 ->


pernicus


Dec 8, 2008, 6:24 PM

Post #228 of 329 (6960 views)
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Re: [Raysen] Another SOP question [In reply to] Can't Post

No one seemed to care that I'm James Franco


Raysen


Dec 8, 2008, 6:42 PM

Post #229 of 329 (6949 views)
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Re: [pernicus] Another SOP question [In reply to] Can't Post

I care that you're James Franco. What I don't understand is why you want an MFA when you've got that whole Hollywood thing going for ya.


unsaid78


Dec 8, 2008, 8:10 PM

Post #230 of 329 (6917 views)
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Re: [Raysen] Another SOP question [In reply to] Can't Post

It's too late...I am already convinced that you're famous lol. Please tell us what the big deal was after this app season is done!


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


moomoocow42


Dec 8, 2008, 8:49 PM

Post #231 of 329 (6905 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Another SOP question [In reply to] Can't Post

I've got it. Raysen IS Steven Seagal. Just think about what he could put on his SOP. Something along the lines of "I'm also well versed in nine different forms lethal martial arts, and have killed people with the following everyday household items: Pencils. Toothbrushes. Paper clips. Navel lint. Do not make the mistake of rejecting me from your program."


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


PrivateI


Dec 11, 2008, 6:05 AM

Post #232 of 329 (6806 views)
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Another SOP question [In reply to] Can't Post

 So I am in the slightly unfortunate situation of just having realized that I want to get an MFA in creative nonfiction, which leaves me just days to scramble and get everything together as deadlines approach. I'm 4 years out of my undergrad schooling (BA philosophy) and a published journalist, though not actively freelancing right now. To be honest, I am not well-read, and so I have zero familiarity with the faculty at the schools I'm interested in. I do know what kind of programs appeal to me and what I want to get out of them. So my question is, must the personal essay I submit reflect some knowledge of the faculty's work and of literature in general, or can I get by with an articulate discussion of my goals, areas that need improvement, etc. ? I ask because it is crunchtime and I want to know whether I should give it a shot at the last minute or not. I do have what I believe to be strong manuscript material. Thanks in advance!

(By the way, I posted this in the creative nonfiction thread before I realized that this one existed. Apologies to anybody that bugs).


bighark


Dec 11, 2008, 8:02 AM

Post #233 of 329 (6801 views)
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Re: [PrivateI] Another SOP question [In reply to] Can't Post

Private,

You do not have to mention faculty in your personal essay. As a matter of fact, I advise people against doing that in general.

Good luck on your applications.


jlgwriter
Jeanne Lyet Gassman
e-mail user

Dec 11, 2008, 10:36 AM

Post #234 of 329 (6776 views)
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Re: [bighark] Another SOP question [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm in the middle of my MFA in fiction at Vermont. I didn't mention any faculty by name in my SOP. Agree with Bighark here. It could go against you to name particular faculty. Focus on your goals in your personal statement.

Good luck to you.

Just my thoughts.

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


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


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Dec 11, 2008, 1:46 PM

Post #235 of 329 (6743 views)
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Re: [jlgwriter] Another SOP question [In reply to] Can't Post

Let's see. You talk in your SOP about how much you want to work with a particular faculty member. The day before the committee reads your application, that faculty member takes a huge dump (literal or metaphorical) in the middle of a faculty meeting and storms out, swearing to resign.

Why risk putting your application at the mercy of more factors over which you have no control?


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/


jaywalke


Dec 11, 2008, 3:08 PM

Post #236 of 329 (6725 views)
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Re: [pongo] Another SOP question [In reply to] Can't Post

Or x faculty member who is on the acceptance committee despises y faculty member mentioned in the SOP, and will do anything to keep another acolyte for their hated rival off campus. . .

Some faculties are healthy and mature. Others are like daytime Telemundo programming.


Raysen


Dec 11, 2008, 3:48 PM

Post #237 of 329 (6713 views)
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Re: [jaywalke] Another SOP question [In reply to] Can't Post

In something like the SOP, I think it would be wise to be truthful about yourself and your goals. For me, I didn't see the need to mention anything about the faculty members because, frankly, I wasn't familiar with most of them and the ones I was familiar with, I didn't particularly admire. I didn't see the need to mention this opinion, of course.

In the Texas MFA site, they mentioned that they didn't want to read about "Oh, dear me, I've always wanted to be a writer since I was a wee lad of five..." I imagine they get sick of that crap. I think they want originality and someone they can get excited about working with for the next two years. Give them that. After all, they have to get up in the morning every day with the same hangups and reservations and dread for life like everyone else. Give them someone to cheer for. Someone they can believe in.

I should add that I'm no expert at this sort of thing. I go mainly on instinct and intuition and my unique insights into the heart of man.


HappyCianci



Dec 11, 2008, 6:01 PM

Post #238 of 329 (6679 views)
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Re: [jaywalke] Another SOP question [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Or x faculty member who is on the acceptance committee despises y faculty member mentioned in the SOP, and will do anything to keep another acolyte for their hated rival off campus. . .


Most of us probably wouldn't belong in a program that succumbed to this caliber of petty behavior anyway. So like, if you actually get rejected on these grounds, then good riddance, x and y.


kvandegraaf


Dec 11, 2008, 7:59 PM

Post #239 of 329 (6656 views)
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Re: [HappyCianci] Another SOP question [In reply to] Can't Post

That's true, but there are a plethora of reasons that focusing on one or two specific faculty members might not be such a hot idea. As applicants, there's a lot that we're not privy to, such as the possibility that Professor X is going on leave for the next year or doesn't teach as much as the program might want you to believe. Or maybe Professor Y has actually already accepted a position at another university, but the program hasn't made the news public yet for obvious reasons. Or there could be less dramatic reasons...many younger professors get stuck on the admissions committees because, let's face it, it's a ton of work to sort through hundreds of applications. If you have a choice between an applicant that spends a portion of the SOP gushing about a professor that isn't you and a statement that focuses on the specific strengths of the department as a whole, it's possible that you'd be more attracted to the latter candidate. I'm not saying this is a hard and fast rule, and I'm sure many candidates that mention specific professors are happily admitted to great programs. It's worth considering, though, that there's a lot that you don't know about your audience when you choose to talk about specific people in your SOP.


HappyCianci



Dec 11, 2008, 9:58 PM

Post #240 of 329 (6637 views)
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Re: [kvandegraaf] Another SOP question [In reply to] Can't Post

Yeah, I agree with you, I just wish it were different. I personally didn't mention faculty in my SOPs except when it was requested.

In a perfect world though, we should be able to discuss who we're excited to work with. It's a pretty major part of the program, after all.


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Dec 11, 2008, 10:04 PM

Post #241 of 329 (6634 views)
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Re: [HappyCianci] Another SOP question [In reply to] Can't Post

My first wife went into a particular graduate program (not in writing) specifically to work with one particular scholar, who promptly (just after the interview with the ex) announced a two-year leave of absence.


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/


aiyamei

e-mail user

Dec 12, 2008, 8:07 AM

Post #242 of 329 (6578 views)
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Re: [HappyCianci] Another SOP question [In reply to] Can't Post

I just want to mention that for hundreds of years, at universities/institutes of higher learning across the world, the model has been for students to seek out like-minded professors/mentors/sages to which to apprentice themselves. A major part of education is learning how to know yourself well enough to know who you want to learn from. There is no shame in it. There is also no shame in admitting that writing has different 'schools', that it is not a case of fiction is fiction is fiction.

Hannah Arendt went to Heidelberg because of Heidegger, Plato hung around Socrates before there was even such a thing as a school.


Joe A. I.


Feb 10, 2009, 11:57 AM

Post #243 of 329 (6395 views)
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Re: [hapworth] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

Here's a question for people applying to Bennington, or who have applied in the past: How did you approach their application essay? The program asks for "a two- or three-page essay discussing your reading life and your engagement with the literature of other writers." What I find odd is that they don't ask you to address the issues that most schools ask you to address: what you want to get out of grad school, what attracts you to their program, etc. Should I talk about this stuff anyway, or simply focus on what the prompt asks me to address (i.e. "my reading life")?


silkentent
Margaret DeAngelis

e-mail user

Feb 10, 2009, 2:28 PM

Post #244 of 329 (6330 views)
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Re: [Joe A. I.] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Here's a question for people applying to Bennington, or who have applied in the past: How did you approach their application essay? The program asks for "a two- or three-page essay discussing your reading life and your engagement with the literature of other writers." What I find odd is that they don't ask you to address the issues that most schools ask you to address: what you want to get out of grad school, what attracts you to their program, etc. Should I talk about this stuff anyway, or simply focus on what the prompt asks me to address (i.e. "my reading life")?



Wow, that's an interesting application essay prompt! I've worked a lot with high school students applying to undergrad schools, and my advice was always to stick with the prompt, and if it asks "why do you want to come here" don't spend a lot of time telling them how terrific their schoool/program is because they already know that and they've heard all the cliches a million times. Find a really specific and personal reason that this school and no other is the right one (even if you have to think of a dozen different specificities for a dozen different schools). Many of my young people were successful in getting their first choice schools/scholarships, an outcome no doubt having nore to with them than with me.

The Bennington prompt ("Discuss your reading life . . . ") reminds me of a story a friend tells about himself as he approached the last round of examinations/interviews before ordination and the conferring of his DMin. He prepared by thinking through all the plans he had for building new congregations, for forging alliances with community organizations, for working on denominational concerns at the local and statewide synodical level. He was going to change, if not the world, at least central Pennsylvania for Christ!!

The first question, about the only question, his review board asked? "How's your prayer life?" They wanted him to describe it, to say how it helped him stay in touch with the divine, how it helped him understand his place in the work he was about to undertake. It threw him, and he sputtered and stammered a good bit.

He was, of course, successful in achieving ordination and getting the degree, but the experience showed him where he was taking some things for granted and not being intentional enough about them, and how to think about all aspects of his preparation for his work.

I've never applied to an MFA program (dropped that idea for the near term in October, might pick it up again for the next round of application season), but I say, give Bennington what it wants.


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


Raysen


Mar 4, 2009, 8:01 PM

Post #245 of 329 (6151 views)
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Re: Michigan [In reply to] Can't Post

Michigan had us prepare a Personal Statement and an Academic Statement of Purpose. The Academic SOP had to be under 500 words, if I remember correctly. I think my submission was at 620 words (or thereabouts). I hope that wasn't the reason for my rejection. At the time, I obsessed over the word limit and worried that my application would be rejected on a "technicality." If there was one thing I remember the most about my Michigan application, it was the fact that I went over the word limit. To this day, I can't shake this "mistake" from my consciousness.


(This post was edited by Raysen on Mar 4, 2009, 8:03 PM)


WanderingTree


Sep 5, 2009, 6:35 PM

Post #246 of 329 (5988 views)
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Re: [Raysen] Michigan [In reply to] Can't Post

A little late but . . .

The Michigan SOP (both of them) just specified that you write up to 2 pages (single or double spaced) and did not specify a word count. I called the program last year and they said to follow the directions on the program website NOT on the grad school application or Rackham website. I believe they've updated the program website so this is clearer.

I'm starting to work on the michigan essays which will definitely be a lot different from other programs given that there are two essays and there's more flexibility in terms of word count. How are people going about the intellectual statement? I'm finding it difficult not to have overlapping information between the two essays.

(This post was edited by WanderingTree on Sep 5, 2009, 6:40 PM)


KrisB


Nov 2, 2009, 6:10 PM

Post #247 of 329 (5409 views)
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Re: Different Purpose Statement Question [In reply to] Can't Post

While I know it's super to mention one's desire in eventual teaching in a personal statement, which I certainly will do, is it wrong to mention something like the desire to work for a literary magazine?

I currently intern at one of the most prominent literary magazines and aspire to one day become a staff member of a lit journal like it. Is this something that application reviewers would be glad about or indifferent to? Though I want to become a successful novelist, I also want to assist other unique writers in getting their voices heard.

I'd appreciate any comments as to whether or not this aspect of my ideal literary career is something I should mention in my personal statement! Thanks so very much.

Also, I'm just beginning my applications now for early January deadlines. I'm hoping to get my applications in before Christmas however. I'm freaking out because it still feels like I'm behind. Am I behind? Or, are most of you other 2010 applicants beginning yours now too? Ahhhhh!


BLUECHEESE


Nov 2, 2009, 6:35 PM

Post #248 of 329 (5401 views)
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Re: [KrisB] Different Purpose Statement Question [In reply to] Can't Post

Yeah. Totally. I think this actually makes you more of a realistic applicant. Most students are not going to get tenure track positions as faculty of MFA programs or whatever (or become the next star novelist). Be honest, and simple. By keeping it professional, people mean don't go on some bullshit-y rant about how emo you are about your love of emo.

I'm really to old to know what emo is, but I thought it was effective here.


KrisB


Nov 2, 2009, 6:57 PM

Post #249 of 329 (5399 views)
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Re: [BLUECHEESE] Different Purpose Statement Question [In reply to] Can't Post

Hah. I am not quite sure where emo applies here, but I definitely get what you mean, and really appreciate your advice. It's a hard blend of not assuming a too humble or too dreamy voice. I used to shout "I am going to be the best writer in the entire world!" from rooftops. Now when people ask if I'm a writer, I bow my head for a weird "no"/ "yes" thing and say something like "ummmmm".

I was tutoring last week and a couple of the six graders shouted at another passing six grader, "You're so emo!" And I said, "Guys, what do you think emo is?" And they said, "You know, like cutting your wrists."
To which I replied, "It does not mean cutting your wrists. And that is not nice at all."


BLUECHEESE


Nov 2, 2009, 7:41 PM

Post #250 of 329 (5390 views)
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Re: [KrisB] Different Purpose Statement Question [In reply to] Can't Post

Ha. Kids are funny.

I'm almost 27. So it is really before my time.

I just see these bourgeoise sub-culuture wannabes hanging outside of Barnes & Nobel trying to act cool while smoking and wearing black.


kbritten

e-mail user

Nov 2, 2009, 8:06 PM

Post #251 of 329 (6865 views)
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Re: [BLUECHEESE] Different Purpose Statement Question [In reply to] Can't Post

You just made me think of South Park... per se...


OldScribe2000


Nov 3, 2009, 5:36 PM

Post #252 of 329 (6795 views)
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Re: [KrisB] Different Purpose Statement Question [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm sending my applications out in two waves: one batch on November 16th, and a second on November 30th.

I don't know how you're doing with your letters of recommendation, your GRE test, or your writing sample so it's hard to say if you're way behind or not.

But I would definitely get it in gear. There's a reason why I set my personal deadlines so far ahead of the program deadlines...










While I know it's super to mention one's desire in eventual teaching in a personal statement, which I certainly will do, is it wrong to mention something like the desire to work for a literary magazine?

I currently intern at one of the most prominent literary magazines and aspire to one day become a staff member of a lit journal like it. Is this something that application reviewers would be glad about or indifferent to? Though I want to become a successful novelist, I also want to assist other unique writers in getting their voices heard.

I'd appreciate any comments as to whether or not this aspect of my ideal literary career is something I should mention in my personal statement! Thanks so very much.

Also, I'm just beginning my applications now for early January deadlines. I'm hoping to get my applications in before Christmas however. I'm freaking out because it still feels like I'm behind. Am I behind? Or, are most of you other 2010 applicants beginning yours now too? Ahhhhh!



emilychristine
Emily Sims

e-mail user

Nov 3, 2009, 6:20 PM

Post #253 of 329 (6784 views)
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Re: [OldScribe2000] Different Purpose Statement Question [In reply to] Can't Post

I just sent out all of my application packets last week...and now I'm rethinking all of my statements of purpose. I tried to tailor them a bit, but didn't treat them like 'another writing sample,' as someone here recommended. I think they're adequate, but certainly nothing spectacular. What was I thinking???


Our Daily Tales / Travel Tales



katelauren
Kate

Nov 3, 2009, 7:17 PM

Post #254 of 329 (6767 views)
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Re: [emcsims] Different Purpose Statement Question [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm having a "what was I thinking" moment right now too.....I just applied to Cornell and forgot to make my statement of purpose single spaced. I had it set at 1.5 and then realized after I submitted it that they specifically asked for single. Of course the odds that I get into Cornell are slim to none anyway, but now that I can't even follow directions....!?!
Oh well, we shouldn't beat ourselves up too much for things we can't change now. Don't be too hard on yourself, I'm sure your statements are great!


KrisB


Nov 3, 2009, 8:01 PM

Post #255 of 329 (6757 views)
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Re: [katelauren] Different Purpose Statement Question [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, you are all way ahead of me either way. That's for damn sure.


WanderingTree


Nov 3, 2009, 9:47 PM

Post #256 of 329 (6733 views)
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Re: [emcsims] Different Purpose Statement Question [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm just trying not to stress out about applications any more than I need to. We're supposed to be writing right? And yeah, that's tough when your minds racing about all the little things of applying to grad school. I've sent all my packets in and all I can do now is wait, write and try to remain rational. In the scheme of things, I'm guessing the statement of purpose is more of a "double-check" to see if you're an ass/psycho or not. Some programs might put more weight on them but those programs are likely in the minority. A few faculty members have gone on record as saying that they don't even read them. Of course, you should do a good job on them, but I think when it comes to arts oriented programs, it's all going to be about the portfolio and everything else is icing on the cake.

(This post was edited by WanderingTree on Nov 3, 2009, 9:48 PM)


ericweinstein
Eric Weinstein


Nov 9, 2009, 4:50 PM

Post #257 of 329 (6595 views)
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Re: [spamela] Writing for business? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Maybe other people out there who've gone through these [graduate publishing] programs have better things to say about them, but they strike me, from the outside, as rather useless at best, and exploitative at worst.


A bit of a blast from the past, but if anyone is still curious/wondering about this, I agree 100%. (PM me if you have questions.)


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.


WanderingTree


Nov 9, 2009, 5:10 PM

Post #258 of 329 (6587 views)
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Re: [ericweinstein] Writing for business? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm inclined to agree as well. I mean, a lot of these big wig editors didn't go to any such program. How did they get where they are today? They started from the bottom (sometimes even the very bottom - the mail room) and worked incredibly hard. There are always entry level positions advertised by the likes of Simon and Schuster, Penguin etc. None of them require an advanced degree in publishing.


__________



Nov 9, 2009, 5:39 PM

Post #259 of 329 (6582 views)
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Re: [WanderingTree] Writing for business? [In reply to] Can't Post

Seriously? Big time editing is like Ari Gold's office?


six five four three two one 0 ->


WanderingTree


Nov 9, 2009, 5:45 PM

Post #260 of 329 (6577 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Writing for business? [In reply to] Can't Post

Indeed. Look at old issues of P&W or search online. There have been several interviews with former and current editors of the big publishing houses that tell the tale of climbing the literary corporate ladder. Of course, this was all 20-30 plus years ago. Things are different now and publishing is hardly a booming industry. People are more likely to get laid off than get a promotion.

(This post was edited by WanderingTree on Nov 9, 2009, 5:48 PM)


__________



Nov 9, 2009, 6:31 PM

Post #261 of 329 (6568 views)
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Re: [WanderingTree] Writing for business? [In reply to] Can't Post

I always figured editors had to have some kind of qualification beyond a fratboyish devotion to menial tasks.

Not to insult the mail room, or anything.


six five four three two one 0 ->

(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Nov 9, 2009, 6:38 PM)


spamela


Nov 9, 2009, 8:56 PM

Post #262 of 329 (6525 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Writing for business? [In reply to] Can't Post

Oh man, it would (maybe) surprise you how many publishers at big houses started in the sales department. Meaning, they moved up through the ranks on the sales and marketing side of things, but they end up making the important editorial decisions in their imprints. There are many reasons why the big publishing model is hurting literature, and that's one of them. Not that sales and marketing people can't be good readers, but that what is rewarded in the big publishing model is ultimately book sales. Not that this will come as a shock to anyone, I'm sure, but it still shudder-inducing. And now I'm off to write the next Marley and Me.

S


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Nov 9, 2009, 9:06 PM

Post #263 of 329 (6521 views)
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Re: [spamela] Writing for business? [In reply to] Can't Post

Max Perkins started in sales. I was never at his level, but I started as a typist (editorial assistant), which is where almost everybody started.


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/


spamela


Nov 9, 2009, 9:15 PM

Post #264 of 329 (6517 views)
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Re: [pongo] Writing for business? [In reply to] Can't Post

I hope they still make 'em like Max Perkins!


belgium


Nov 10, 2009, 3:42 PM

Post #265 of 329 (6418 views)
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Re: [spamela] Writing for business? [In reply to] Can't Post

They probably still make them like Max Perkins, but he'd have a hard time remaining employed by most NY trade publishers.



Ridiculous Words


greenpenquills


Nov 14, 2009, 7:30 PM

Post #266 of 329 (6292 views)
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Addressing personal issues in your SOP [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi everyone. First, I should mention that I'm applying for an MFA in Creative Nonfiction. That being said, I'm having difficulty in deciding what to address in my SOP. The biggest reason I want to go to an MFA program is to get support and guidance in writing a memoir mainly about the trials and tribulations of struggling with depression and chronic anxiety disorders since a very young age.

I've always been steered away from mentioning my anxiety and depression in these types of things. However, when I try to explain my reasons for doing this without mention that factor, it ends up sounding generic and fake. I say I want to write a memoir, but not why. Would it be a huge risk to address these things head on in my SOP? I'd include other things, of course, and also mention that I have mostly overcome those things at this point in my life, but that would be a big part of it.

I feel it is relevant to mention, especially given that the program is creative nonfiction. They are asking me for my personal reasons and goals for going to their program and that's a big reason. My writing sample also includes two essays that have a lot to do with those things. I have a scene of myself in therapy at age six being asked why I'm anxious and another scene of being in therapy at age eight, dealing with the death of a friend. But I also don't want them to think that I'm crazy or unstable.

Anyway, I just wanted to know if anyone here has an opinion on this or if they've addressed things like that in their SOPs. Thanks!


OldScribe2000


Nov 14, 2009, 10:57 PM

Post #267 of 329 (6269 views)
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Re: [greenpenquills] Addressing personal issues in your SOP [In reply to] Can't Post

I wouldn't "dwell" on this one current work. After all, the education you'll earn will last you a lifetime, but this memoir you're writing will be finished soon. I think MFA committees want you to look at the big picture--and I think you should, too.

Also, don't beat the hell out of your struggles with anxiety and depression. Many, many, many people are also fighting these battles. The last thing you want is the people on these committees to say, "Oh, boy, another 'poor me, I'm depressed and angry and suicidal' writer."

I'm sorry if I sound cruel, but can you imagine what these people have been subjected to over the years? Telling them that you're battling depression and you want to write about it is like telling a cop that you were speeding because you were late for work.


greenpenquills


Nov 15, 2009, 5:17 AM

Post #268 of 329 (6244 views)
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Re: [OldScribe2000] Addressing personal issues in your SOP [In reply to] Can't Post

I definitely understand what you're saying and was afraid of it coming off that way. But then what other person reasons can I list for wanting to do this? Obviously I've been writing for a long time and it's what I want to do with my life, but that's what everyone says. Should I just say I want to write a memoir and not why? It all seems very generic without getting specific about what it is I want to write about. I feel like I can't really win here.


OldScribe2000


Nov 15, 2009, 2:37 PM

Post #269 of 329 (6209 views)
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Re: [greenpenquills] Addressing personal issues in your SOP [In reply to] Can't Post

Best advice I can give you: say what they don't expect you to say and phrase it in a manner that will make you appear as the best candidate for their program.

If you've never read a short-short story by Tobias Wolff entitled "Bullet in the Brain," then read it now. Imagine that the main character, Anders, is sitting on the MFA committees at the schools you're applying to. Do your best to impress that a**hole, and you can't go wrong.


fixittuesday



Nov 16, 2009, 7:26 PM

Post #270 of 329 (6137 views)
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Mentioning the W word. [In reply to] Can't Post

I was waitlisted at a few schools last year that I'll be applying to again this year. One school's director went so far as to encourage me to "please"(!) apply next year. Should I mention this in my SOP? Does mentioning the waitlist:

a) Remind them that I wasn't good enough last year?

or

b) Remind them that I was almost awesome enough and encourage them to consider me again in my new and improved state?


This year's writing sample is 8,765,342 times better than last year's. Should I let the writing sample speak for itself or identify myself as a former runner-up?

Anyone out there get accepted the second time around? Rejected? Thank you for any advice! ;-)


meory


Nov 16, 2009, 7:27 PM

Post #271 of 329 (6136 views)
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Specific versus general? [In reply to] Can't Post

Another Statement of Purpose question... I'm appying for an MFA in poetry, and in writing my Statement of Purpose, I notice that I keep using fairly general statements, like saying that I think the experience of an MFA program would improve my writing, broaden its scope, etc., but not saying exactly what I want to improve. The thing is, I don't know. I don't have specific issues or anything that I've defined as things I want to work on. I want to work on... everything. I just want to write as much as possible, to be surrounded by a community of writers, to read as much as possible -- basically to make writing my life as one can only while enrolled in an MFA program. My question is, is this so general that it will count against me because it's the same thing many other applicants are bound to say? I'm trying to make my SoPs more specific by tailoring them to each school and stating the specific things that attract me to each program. But when talking about my own intentions, goals, and things like that, should I be more specific, or is it okay to be somewhat general?


Woon


Nov 16, 2009, 7:51 PM

Post #272 of 329 (6119 views)
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Re: [meory] Specific versus general? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Another Statement of Purpose question... I'm appying for an MFA in poetry, and in writing my Statement of Purpose, I notice that I keep using fairly general statements, like saying that I think the experience of an MFA program would improve my writing, broaden its scope, etc., but not saying exactly what I want to improve. The thing is, I don't know. I don't have specific issues or anything that I've defined as things I want to work on. I want to work on... everything. I just want to write as much as possible, to be surrounded by a community of writers, to read as much as possible -- basically to make writing my life as one can only while enrolled in an MFA program. My question is, is this so general that it will count against me because it's the same thing many other applicants are bound to say?


Yes.

But as many have said, what counts is the Writing Sample. Who cares about the SOP?

To me, however, you should make every part of your application unique and set apart from the pool of applicants.


WanderingTree


Nov 16, 2009, 8:21 PM

Post #273 of 329 (6107 views)
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Re: [meory] Specific versus general? [In reply to] Can't Post

Meory, as Woon said, it's the writing sample that counts. That's what's going to get you accepted or rejected.

But, you should try to get in some specifics. It's almost impossible to not have some generalities in your SOP, but take a good hard look at the questions you posted because you already have some specifics there. Couple this with a program feature you especially like (or something along those lines) and you are golden.


meory


Nov 18, 2009, 2:34 PM

Post #274 of 329 (5987 views)
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Re: [WanderingTree] Specific versus general? [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you, Woon and WanderingTree. I want to make my statement unique, but I fear I really don't have that many unique experiences to talk about. I mean, I'm only 21, I've lived in the same state my whole life, never studied abroad or done any "well-rounded applicant" type things (would have wanted to, but just haven't been able to yet). So I'm hoping enthusiasm counts for something, because I try to get across in my statement that I am very committed to writing, to improving as a writer, to being part of a community of writers -- basically that I know this is what I want to do. And I talk a little about all the undergrad creative writing workshops I've taken, being a member of a local poetry reading group, and a couple other activities. For some reason the statement of purpose is what's stressing me out the most...


StellaBella


Nov 18, 2009, 2:40 PM

Post #275 of 329 (5986 views)
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Re: [meory] Specific versus general? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey meory,

I'm exactly the opposite. I've traveled, lived and taught in fifteen countries over the past five years and I speak fluent Spanish and French - I've got all sorts of random personal stuff I'd like to include (hitchhiking in South Africa, being evacuated from a Chinese train) but when I tried to weave some of that in, a friend of mine (who's now the undergraduate advisor at a big ten school) told me to nix almost all of it and focus almost exclusively on the "statement of purpose" vs the. "personal statement. Grrr! I can see his point, but I was going for the chance to shout hey, I'm unique!

But...I've mentioned that now but in a much more formal and straightforward letter that focuses on how travel has influenced my writing and will shape the writing I want to do in the program.

Any thoughts on that? I was told the statement should be an "academic autobiography" but I think, man, for creative writing, shouldn't there be a little leeway on that? I was also a history/history of science major when I graduated five years ago, so I don't have a lot to talk about with regards to my undergrad. And I haven't done any writing workshops since I've been bouncing all over the place.

Ok, this is getting really long, I'm stopping, I promise, but how many of you are including the writers you've read who've influenced you? Hollins in particular seems to want this, so I have a paragraph about the writers who've shaped my work.

Thoughts?


ericweinstein
Eric Weinstein


Nov 18, 2009, 4:04 PM

Post #276 of 329 (6711 views)
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Re: [StellaBella] Specific versus general? [In reply to] Can't Post

The only thought I have is this: the SoP is not the place to get inventive or be creative. Your application MS is the place for that. If you try to pack too much into the SoP, you run the risk of not answering the questions the program is asking you to answer ("Why do you want an MFA? Why are you applying to this school in particular?") and coming off as a little bit... well, "out there."

It's been said a couple of times here in the Speakeasy and was echoed by the program coordinator at the NYU MFA open house, so I think it bears repeating: the MS will make or break you. If it makes you, the committee will review your letters of recommendation and SoP to make sure you're not insane or a jerk. That's it.


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.


(This post was edited by ericweinstein on Nov 18, 2009, 4:05 PM)


KrisB


Nov 24, 2009, 7:26 PM

Post #277 of 329 (6548 views)
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Re: [ericweinstein] Specific versus general? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hello All,

One school that I'm applying to asks for a 500 word autobiography. Did any one have to write one of these? While I know I shouldn't I'm tempted to begin, "I was born in..." Please help me not do that!
Does anyone have an example of this that I might be able to read?


meory


Nov 25, 2009, 2:37 PM

Post #278 of 329 (6492 views)
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Re: [KrisB] Specific versus general? [In reply to] Can't Post

Is this for Sarah Lawrence? That's the only school I'm applying to that requires an autobiography. I went to their open house and asked the professors about it, and they basically said to use it to write about whatever I thought was important, whatever I would want the admissions committee to know. It doesn't have to be a life story or anything like that, but it can be used to say why you write, what writing means to you, anything that you think matters about you as a writer or just as a person, but doesn't fit into the statement of purpose. I also got the idea that the autobiography can be a lot more creative than the statement of purpose. At first, I was dreading this additional requirement, but after I got this advice it seemed less daunting, and I'm actually enjoying writing it.


Woon


Nov 28, 2009, 6:19 PM

Post #279 of 329 (6369 views)
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Re: [meory] Specific versus general? [In reply to] Can't Post

I always found these Statements of Purpose or Personal Statements somewhat ridiculous. To me, they serve only to give the applicant more writing space to further BS the Admissions Committee. I especially don't like the ones where they ask me to carefully articulate why I want to attend so-and-so school, besides wanting to learn, the location, and time to write. I mean, what else is there?

Let's take Iowa, for example. Truthfully, I want to attend Iowa because it is supposedly the top program in the land. As for location, I've lived all over so I'm flexible. As for faculty, I've read works by Lan Samantha Chang, Ethan Canin, James Elle McPherson, and Marilynne Robinson and frankly, although I think they're competent, I wouldn't consider them my favorites. If they released a new book, I wouldn't run out to buy them. Know what I mean?

Do I think I can learn a lot from them? I'd be lying if I said "Yes." Frankly, I don't know whether they're good teachers or not and I wouldn't know, at this point, whether they would be a good fit for me. But I know enough about myself to know that not only am I flexible and adaptable wrt location, I'm adaptable to people. And I think I can learn to like Iowa and probably learn from Chang, Canin, McPherson, and Robinson. But I don't know for sure.

And if Iowa or any other school wants more info in the Personal Statement than that, I'll be entering BS territory, because that's all I got.


meory


Dec 3, 2009, 8:48 PM

Post #280 of 329 (6194 views)
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Re: [meory] Specific versus general? [In reply to] Can't Post

Any advice on this one? "A 3-5 page personal statement focusing on the role of the candidate's reading life in his or her development as a writer." I was thinking about talking about various writers who have influenced my writing in some way, but I'm really not sure how to approach this.


Zuleika Dobson


e-mail user

Dec 5, 2009, 10:25 PM

Post #281 of 329 (6117 views)
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Re: [Woon] Specific versus general? [In reply to] Can't Post

Anyone interested in trading SOPs and some brief feedback?

It's Saturday night... but I'm secretly glad to be working on this.


"Every spectator is a coward or a traitor."


WanderingTree


Dec 5, 2009, 10:40 PM

Post #282 of 329 (6110 views)
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Re: [Zuleika Dobson] Specific versus general? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'd be game. I have one program left, but the SOP is a little different from the others. Hit me at D19NPrimo@gmail.com


Zuleika Dobson


e-mail user

Dec 7, 2009, 3:50 AM

Post #283 of 329 (6025 views)
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Re: [meory] Specific versus general? [In reply to] Can't Post

Still whoring out my SOP, if anyone is interested in feedback swapping at the eleventh hour.

(Note: WanderingTree was very helpful, but I think the more feedback, the better.)


"Every spectator is a coward or a traitor."

(This post was edited by Zuleika Dobson on Dec 7, 2009, 3:52 AM)


edamame40
Ray O

Dec 18, 2009, 6:52 PM

Post #284 of 329 (5827 views)
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Shorter vs Longer-ish [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm sure it has been discussed already, but for those currently applying: many schools have a 500 word or so limit for the SOP; others give you leeway to make it longer. Do you think it advisable to make it a bit longer and detailed in those cases, or do you think shorter is generally better? Do they give you room just to see if you will spaz out and try and tell your life story?


Lux


Dec 19, 2009, 1:32 PM

Post #285 of 329 (5782 views)
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My personal statement was a trainwreck... [In reply to] Can't Post

Y'all, I'm pretty sick about this. Sent off my Michener application just under the deadline. Unfortunately, my life has been totally nuts lately. I literally finished the app the night before it was due, at 4 am in a Motel 6 500 miles from home. Um, yeah. I didn't procrastinate on it, was working frantically for weeks, but now that I look back on what I wrote? My personal statement was totally off.

I was tired. I just had to finish it, and I overedited, screwed up, and don't feel like I really answered the questions they asked. I also didn't emphasize the fact that I want Michener in particular because it lets you study two genres, which is hugely important to me.

I suppose it would be totally out of line to send a follow-up letter? Or a revised version of the statement? Man.


Trilbe



Dec 19, 2009, 2:44 PM

Post #286 of 329 (5761 views)
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Re: [Lux] My personal statement was a trainwreck... [In reply to] Can't Post

Did you at least mention your Primary and Secondary genres? Michener was kind of snarky about putting them prominently into the statement, "Don't make us dig for the information!" I'm no expert, just an applicant like yourself, but if you didn't put that info in there at all, you might be well served to use the forms they sent with the UT EID on it and resubmit that Statement. They seemed quite demanding about including the Primary and Secondary genres, in bold, in that Statement.


Lux


Dec 19, 2009, 2:52 PM

Post #287 of 329 (5755 views)
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Re: [Trilbe] My personal statement was a trainwreck... [In reply to] Can't Post

I listed them in bold at the top. But I didn't explain why and the site kind of says you should give your background in those areas.


WanderingTree


Dec 19, 2009, 4:25 PM

Post #288 of 329 (5731 views)
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Re: [Lux] My personal statement was a trainwreck... [In reply to] Can't Post

Listing your genres in the heading is probably sufficient. As far as not addressing your background, that's a bit more problematic. What did you cover in your SOP anyway? I wouldn't submit another statement though.


Lux


Dec 19, 2009, 4:32 PM

Post #289 of 329 (5728 views)
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Re: [WanderingTree] My personal statement was a trainwreck... [In reply to] Can't Post

I just focused on why I write, my personal philosophies on how it affects our lives. That sounds very general but the statement wasn't terrible. It just wasn't what it should have been. Only having 350 words to play with made it darn near impossible to cover much of anything and I just kind of ran out of time, got exhausted, and threw something out there.


edamame40
Ray O

Dec 19, 2009, 5:34 PM

Post #290 of 329 (5695 views)
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Re: [Lux] My personal statement was a trainwreck... [In reply to] Can't Post

Lux, just remember the personal statement is of significantly less importance than your writing is. Anyway, it sounds like your statement was not that bad, you just realized it could be better; that is probably the case with most of us once we send it off. Speaking for myself, that is definitely the case. Then again with Michener, I think that covering everything well in 350 words is next to impossible anyway, so we just have to do our best.


ericweinstein
Eric Weinstein


Dec 19, 2009, 5:43 PM

Post #291 of 329 (5693 views)
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Re: [Lux] My personal statement was a trainwreck... [In reply to] Can't Post

Unless your SOP indicates that you are 1.) insane or 2.) a jerk, I wouldn't bother sending a new one. The writing comes first, and the SOP & LORs are used to make sure that potential acceptances aren't pieces of crap or psychopaths.


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.


Lux


Dec 19, 2009, 5:47 PM

Post #292 of 329 (5691 views)
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Re: [ericweinstein] My personal statement was a trainwreck... [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks guys. Guess I'm just kicking myself because I could have used it to much greater advantage than I did. I'm also thinking the SOP is kind of a writing sample in itself, so I feel like it is important. But, I did the best I could, and if asking to resubmit something would be more harmful than helpful, then I'll just have to live with it. :)


ericweinstein
Eric Weinstein


Dec 19, 2009, 5:49 PM

Post #293 of 329 (5689 views)
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Re: [Lux] My personal statement was a trainwreck... [In reply to] Can't Post

To me, the primary question is: "Did I send the strongest writing sample I'm capable of?" If the answer is "yes," there's little else you could do to improve your odds (assuming, as noted above, that you didn't portray yourself as an asshole in the SOP or get a letter of recommendation that mentions your disruptiveness in the workshop and general jerkbag behavior to peers and professors).


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.


Lux


Dec 19, 2009, 5:52 PM

Post #294 of 329 (5688 views)
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Re: [ericweinstein] My personal statement was a trainwreck... [In reply to] Can't Post

I definitely don't sound like an asshole in the SOP, just... not as good as I could have sounded, by a long shot. As for the rec letters, I didn't see them but I am hoping they're positive. :) Thanks. Guess I'll just wait it out and do better on future ones.


Lux


Dec 19, 2009, 5:53 PM

Post #295 of 329 (5687 views)
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Re: [Lux] My personal statement was a trainwreck... [In reply to] Can't Post

The main issue was that I wanted Michener b/c of the dual genre study. I write fiction but have published (and also love to write) poetry. I submitted a fiction sample as my primary genre, but my application etc. lists various poetry publications, so maybe I'll get lucky and they'll figure out for themselves that a dual genre would be ideal for me.


OldScribe2000


Dec 19, 2009, 6:03 PM

Post #296 of 329 (5675 views)
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Re: [Lux] My personal statement was a trainwreck... [In reply to] Can't Post

Although it was in the last hour, you still did the most important thing: you finished. Consider this training for what you'll encounter in grad school when you have multiple deadlines stacked up, little or no sleep, and you're working away from home.


In Reply To
Y'all, I'm pretty sick about this. Sent off my Michener application just under the deadline. Unfortunately, my life has been totally nuts lately. I literally finished the app the night before it was due, at 4 am in a Motel 6 500 miles from home. Um, yeah. I didn't procrastinate on it, was working frantically for weeks, but now that I look back on what I wrote? My personal statement was totally off.

I was tired. I just had to finish it, and I overedited, screwed up, and don't feel like I really answered the questions they asked. I also didn't emphasize the fact that I want Michener in particular because it lets you study two genres, which is hugely important to me.

I suppose it would be totally out of line to send a follow-up letter? Or a revised version of the statement? Man.



Lux


Dec 19, 2009, 6:39 PM

Post #297 of 329 (5661 views)
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Re: [OldScribe2000] My personal statement was a trainwreck... [In reply to] Can't Post

The part that gets me the most is that what I wrote could be mistaken for a general statement, since it doesn't specifically refer to the Michener program. Darn it.


edamame40
Ray O

Dec 19, 2009, 8:43 PM

Post #298 of 329 (5624 views)
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Re: [Lux] My personal statement was a trainwreck... [In reply to] Can't Post

If nothing else, the length will speak to its Michener-ness, in that few of the schools have such an insane word limit -- none that I encountered, though I am sure there are some out there.


Lux


Dec 19, 2009, 10:29 PM

Post #299 of 329 (5600 views)
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Re: [edamame40] My personal statement was a trainwreck... [In reply to] Can't Post

Very good point. :) Thanks.


vaquero


Dec 20, 2009, 10:28 PM

Post #300 of 329 (5532 views)
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Re: [Lux] My personal statement was a trainwreck... [In reply to] Can't Post

Okay, so for whatever reason, I had written down on my application cheat sheet that Michener wanted 500 words. As such, I submitted a statement that was exactly 500 words. Michener is pretty, er, stringent. Should I submit a revised statement that's under 350 or just hope for the best?


rosiekins


Dec 28, 2009, 5:51 PM

Post #301 of 329 (8240 views)
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Re: [hapworth] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

The Syracuse personal statement guidelines have me confused. They want you to answer this question: "how you expect to finance your studies." ...I thought that they provide a full ride scholarship plus an annual living stipend for everyone accepted into the program? I mean, it says right here in the brochure: "Each student admitted receives a full scholarship in addition to an annual living stipend..."

So, is that a trick question? Am I supposed to say, "You'd be financing my studies, duh."

I'm FREAKING OUT. :(


kbritten

e-mail user

Dec 28, 2009, 6:42 PM

Post #302 of 329 (8225 views)
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Re: [rosiekins] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

Ha! Your post made me laugh. I never really thought about that when writing the statement, but I just emphasized my desire for teaching experience, something that the program provides. If that's something you are interested in, maybe that's something you could also emphasize. You're right though, that doesn't make much sense!


rosiekins


Dec 28, 2009, 7:10 PM

Post #303 of 329 (8217 views)
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Re: [kbritten] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

YAY thank you for replying! I feel much better now. Thought I was losing the rest of my marbles.


lexielizabeth


Jan 4, 2010, 9:43 PM

Post #304 of 329 (7998 views)
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Re: [rosiekins] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

If anyone is interested in swapping statements of purpose for Texas (I know the deadline has already passed, but it's still nice to see what other people have been able to squeeze into 350 words), I'd really be interested in how you were able to pull it off, because I know I couldn't fit anything into that small amount of wording.


Trilbe



Jan 5, 2010, 1:36 PM

Post #305 of 329 (7926 views)
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Re: [lexielizabeth] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

Honestly, LexieE, I admire you for being a strong enough person to look at those statements at this point! I don't want to find anything unfortunate -- or have anyone else find anything -- now that it's too late to change it.


fridadreams

e-mail user

Dec 2, 2010, 12:12 PM

Post #306 of 329 (5852 views)
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Re: [Raignn] Sample Statements [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Well now that I've officially accepted an MFA offer, I just wanted to let anyone applying next year (and this offer stands as long as this post is here, so if you find this in 6 months or whenever you're really starting to think about applications, still feel free to PM me), I am more than willing to send my statement of purpose (which was a bit of a blend with a personal statement) and my teaching philosophy to anyone interested. I'm not necessarily saying they are the best or anything, but I know when I was applying I would have killed for more samples (especially of teaching philosophies!). And they did help me get accepted to 1 program and waitlisted at 4 others (2 of which turned into funded acceptances).

I wanted to extend this offer now before I forgot!

Hi Raignn, I would be so grateful to have a look at your statements!! Would be so kind and generous as to share them with me, please?

I'm new to the forum, hello everyone! :)

I asked one of my references (a prof from my undergrad years and a current editor of a literary journal) for general tips on the SoP and he replied that admission readers were looking for "professionalism and commitment" and specifically mentioned they want to see that you will "continue on to a PhD and teach" and that they're "especially looking for writers who have a specific viable thesis project in mind." I thought I'd share this with everyone else panicking about SoP like me. I also wondered, if his reply was so dry like this that maybe I need to reconsider counting on him for a great letter of rec. ... He's helped me with one of my stories, my best and only one of two "completed" pieces, and called it a "nice, compact story, suitable for a application packet." Am i getting too paranoid? I just haven't gotten anything remotely personal or encouraging from him... I'm not explaining myself!!! Argh!!!!!


Raignn



Dec 12, 2010, 8:04 PM

Post #307 of 329 (5733 views)
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Re: [fridadreams] Sample Statements [In reply to] Can't Post

My statements have been sent. Good luck!


flobelle


Dec 13, 2010, 10:57 PM

Post #308 of 329 (5667 views)
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Re: [Raignn] Sample Statements [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm curious. I'd love to see your personal statement if you would mind sending it.


llstanle
Lesley

e-mail user

Dec 15, 2010, 8:10 PM

Post #309 of 329 (5607 views)
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Re: [hapworth] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

quick technical question regarding the statement of purpose: do you just title it "statement of purpose" and include your name or do you title it differently?


kfal
kaelin falandays

Aug 13, 2011, 7:27 PM

Post #310 of 329 (5052 views)
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Re: [llstanle] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

Hello! I am new to the forum! I am working on my SOP (a little early I guess) and I am wondering if any current or past users would like to share advice on their SOP. I would also like to get some feedback on mine and I would love to do the same for yours. I am trying to get an MFA for Poetry.


Thanks
-Kallie


Yugao


Aug 15, 2011, 12:59 PM

Post #311 of 329 (5016 views)
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Re: [kfal] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

As I understand it, the purpose of a SOP is to screen out overtly narcissistic or otherwise difficult people. If you come across as stable, sane, productive, organized, realistic, and intelligent, your SOP is working. The SOP will only be considered if you are in the final cull, most likely.


kfal
kaelin falandays

Aug 15, 2011, 1:28 PM

Post #312 of 329 (5011 views)
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Re: [Yugao] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

Would anyone like to read my draft of one of my SOP's for review?


azer
A Z

Aug 15, 2011, 2:19 PM

Post #313 of 329 (5007 views)
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Re: [kfal] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

I'd be happy to. I'll send you my email in a private message.


danmurph321
Daniel Murphy

Aug 18, 2011, 11:59 AM

Post #314 of 329 (4956 views)
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Re: Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

Does anyone know if the Statement of Purpose is read before or after the writing sample? In my Statement of Purpose I want to talk about my style and unique voice in my writing, but I am not sure if I should assume my stories have been read first or not. I would think the Statement of Purpose is the first thing read for the application but I honestly have no idea if that's what reviewers do! Any input on this would be greatly appreciated, thank you.


belgium


Aug 18, 2011, 1:05 PM

Post #315 of 329 (4952 views)
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Re: [danmurph321] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

From everything I've heard elsewhere, the first thing that will be reviewed will be your writing sample. If the program is not impressed by the writing, chances are that the rest of your application (including the statement of purpose) will go unread. Sad, maybe, but a lot of the programs are simply so swamped each year with applications.



Ridiculous Words


zackperici
Zack Perici

Aug 19, 2011, 5:48 AM

Post #316 of 329 (4919 views)
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Re: [belgium] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

A couple points:
1. I wouldn't reference your writing sample in the personal statement. Talk about your writing, yes, but take advantage of the opportunity to talk about yourself too. Your samples (hopefully) show that you're a promising writer, the statement should show that you're a nice, sensible, and teachable person.
2. From what I gather, after talking to people in admissions and doing some preliminary research, the order most programs will review your application is: writing samples, letters of recommendation, personal statement.


alamana
Jennifer Brown


Aug 19, 2011, 8:10 AM

Post #317 of 329 (4917 views)
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Re: [zackperici] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

I know of one application reader who looks at the personal statement first. Everyone is different. But there is no question most will read the manuscript first. Not sure what it matters, though--everything you submit needs to be the best it can be.


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

http://www.jenniferkirkpatrickbrown.com


Yugao


Aug 20, 2011, 11:14 AM

Post #318 of 329 (4893 views)
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Re: [danmurph321] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

At most places, it will be read after the writing sample. It will only be read if your writing makes it through the preliminary rounds.
I would focus more on your outlook as a writer than on "your style and unique voice". The SOP likely won't be read unless your writing speaks to someone on the committee. In any case, it might be best to give the impression that you are still forming as a stylist rather than defending a mode you have settled on. "Unique" might be a tricky word to use too; it literally means "like nothing else." Unless your writing is wholly distinctive and without influence, the use of a word like unique will seem overkill. And if your writing is unique, the committee will know it.


danmurph321
Daniel Murphy

Aug 22, 2011, 10:46 AM

Post #319 of 329 (4845 views)
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Re: [danmurph321] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you everyone for the input! All very good points to know.


kfal
kaelin falandays

Sep 5, 2011, 3:08 PM

Post #320 of 329 (4746 views)
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Re: [danmurph321] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

Let me know if any of you want to share SOP for critiques! I am in desperate need of some feedback.


downeyr


Sep 23, 2011, 6:54 AM

Post #321 of 329 (4638 views)
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Re: [kfal] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

kfal, I'd be willing to trade SOP's with you. Send me a PM and I'll give you my email address!


"Only a talent that doesn't exist at all can't be improved."
-John Gardner

"A writer needs three things: experience, observation, and imagination--any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others."
-William Faulkner

"You must have chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star."
-Friedrich Nietzsche



friedpigeons


Nov 12, 2011, 7:13 PM

Post #322 of 329 (4438 views)
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Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

Take it for what it's worth. When I went to Samantha Chang reading last year, this is what she said: That she doesn't bother reading SOP/PS or letters of recommendation. When she receives the applications, she'll grab the manuscripts and, alone, read all of them, filter those that she thinks have potential/are good--which is to say she's the first and most important reader you have to impress. Those lucky enough to be selected will go to a committee where the manuscripts will be read by everyone then go to a vote.

As for the SOP, it is a university-wide thing: Every graduate student is required to write one. Notice that the directions for the SOPs are quite general, in that the questions are not directly tailored for each individual graduate program. For example, some school will ask, What are your research interest? or What research are you proposing to do and with which faculty member? Now I don't know about the majority of MFA applicants, but I don't plan to do much research--the-nitty-gritty hypothesizing-collecting-data-plotting-them-formulating-conclusion-type-research--while in the MFA program. What I do plan to do is read and write a lot, be all ears all the time to my colleagues and instructors; I might even do research for a lit paper or for a story or novel I'm working on. But research?

Research? We're talking about research, man. We ain't even talking about reading or writing. We talking about research? Come on, man.

I've taken liberty to not address such questions directly (maybe to my detriment? I don't know). I will find out how my decision pays off in a couple of months.

Now I'm not saying there is no one on the committee who's going to read the SOP; I'm just saying, don't sweat it: don't sweat whether you've answered every question; don't sweat the form--should I answer this first or that?; don't put too much time into it that your writing sample suffers (if you're still working on it). The only thing I'm sweating now is hounding my professors to have their LORs in on time, so I can pay the app fee and get this over with. Because as soon as this is over with, guess what, I can go back to devoting all my extra time writing.


emilychristine
Emily Sims

e-mail user

Nov 17, 2011, 8:52 PM

Post #323 of 329 (4367 views)
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Re: [friedpigeons] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

I think you have said it perfectly. Many of us are spending so much unnecessary time sweating the SOP, when we need to be putting that time into our manuscripts. The SOP deserves time and attention, to be sure, but not endless amounts of it. It is the least familiar piece of writing in our application, which is why we're freaking out. Let's calm down and approach it rationally. If anyone would like to trade SOPs, I am more than willing to help!


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jbhollister
Jeffrey Barnes

Nov 21, 2011, 5:39 PM

Post #324 of 329 (4319 views)
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Re: [kfal] Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi, Kfal (or anyone.)

If youre still game for sharing / exchanging SOPs, let me know.

Jeff

jbhollister@gmail.com


(This post was edited by jbhollister on Nov 21, 2011, 5:43 PM)


AMB
A B

Dec 12, 2011, 12:53 AM

Post #325 of 329 (4008 views)
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Statement of Purpose [In reply to] Can't Post

I'd also be happy to swap SoP feedback with anyone who's interested.

PM me and I'll send you my e-mail address.

Best,Adam


kvly
M J

Sep 28, 2012, 12:57 PM

Post #326 of 329 (4498 views)
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Statement of Purpose -- Style [In reply to] Can't Post

I have read the SOPs posted here by successful applicants (thank you!). Since I am thinking of structuring my SOP a bit differently, I was hoping I could get people's thoughts on if they think this will be a problem or if it's fine.

So, here's the story: I have a strong vision for the novel I want to complete during a MFA program. I have been working/developing the idea for a few years now, and now I just want the space/support/opportunity to finish it. I want to do a MFA because while my foundation of ideas is strong, I need to keep working on the craft and work of actually capturing in narrative form what I have envisioned.

Anyway, because I have already spent a lot of time thinking about/researching on this novel, I have a lot to say about what I want it to be. In my SOP, I am giving a sense of what the novel is about; how it's similar to and different from other literature in that vein; and the larger ideas that I am seeking to capture and/or think about in the story. I have about 2-3 paragraphs just on that; I think they reveal not only a story about the novel but also what interests me as a writer.

What do you guys think? I don't want to come across as inflexible to programs because I already know what I want to do. And I do make it clear in my SOP that I want to think about other projects that I can work on in the future, not just this one; and I want to experiment with other techniques and learn new ways of doing things, because that's where my weakness is. But I am hell-bent on this project so it seems silly to not mention it.


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Sep 28, 2012, 3:03 PM

Post #327 of 329 (4494 views)
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Re: [kvly] Statement of Purpose -- Style [In reply to] Can't Post

While it's a good idea to talk about the novel you plan to write in the program, I think you should also talk about how the program can help you write it, and how the program can help you grow. If all you're looking for is two years to write, why do you need the program and why does the program need you?


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kvly
M J

Sep 28, 2012, 3:14 PM

Post #328 of 329 (4493 views)
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Re: [pongo] Statement of Purpose -- Style [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you so much. You are so right and I really needed to hear that. I will still talk about the novel, because I do want them to know my interests, but I need to do a better job of articulating why a MFA program is what I need right now. I really do think a MFA program is going to help me a lot because while I have concrete ideas I need help on what to do with them/how to make them into something, and I'd hate for that to get lost in my discussion of the novel. Thanks again!


iambligh
bligh macdonald

Jan 18, 2013, 1:56 PM

Post #329 of 329 (4160 views)
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Re: [kvly] Statement of Purpose -- Style [In reply to] Can't Post

When writing the statement of purpose, autobiographical statement, and all related statements, I found myself fighting hard against the impulse to write:

Look, I sent you a manuscript, and I paid you good money to read it. All the information you require is in there; it tells you who I am, what I'm doing, and what I aim to achieve, and if it doesn't, I have no place at your program anyway. If I wanted to explicate things, I'd be a PhD candidate. The End.

Did anyone else have an urge to write something like that? For the record, I'd probably have followed it with an apology for my strident tone and chocked it up to application-related exasperation. I'd plead that I'm usually a likable person, and people love workshopping with me; Bob's your uncle, and the thing would end up being 500 anyway.

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