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texasgurl
Stacy Patton Anderson

e-mail user

Nov 16, 2005, 4:57 PM

Post #26 of 1175 (8521 views)
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Re: [pongo] the application annotation [In reply to] Can't Post

For what it's worth, you'd have to say a great deal more than "try to relax," to offend me.

Yoga's my relaxation activity of choice; but making time to practice while I have so many other things to do is tough. I'm not kidding myself that I won't be hugely disappointed if I get in nowhere, but it won't be the end of the world. I read an old story of mine this morning and realized that I've come a long way in the last year. If not this year then I know I'll be better next year--maybe then.


Stacy Patton Anderson
http://family-of-five.com


motet
Dana Davis / Moderator
e-mail user

Nov 16, 2005, 7:48 PM

Post #27 of 1175 (8510 views)
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Re: [pongo] the application annotation [In reply to] Can't Post

I couldn't agree more with HopperFu (although every time I type your name for some reason I chuckle...go figure...:).

David, thank you. I think you're a tremendous asset to the board and you have been for all the years I've been posting and moderating. I also know that sometimes what I hear in my head as I write it down, is not always what other people hear when they read it. Message boards are quite difficult in that regard.

What's made the Speakeasy so terrific when it began and what makes it terrific now is that we're all here to educate, support and encourage each other. There's a really great group of writers posting here these days and I hope each and every one continues to make this writing board the best around.

My thanks to all of you....

Dana


brooklynpoet


Nov 16, 2005, 8:07 PM

Post #28 of 1175 (8506 views)
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Re: [texasgurl] the application annotation [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you, all you exquisitely anxious MFA applicants. (Because I agree that tone does not come through online, I should mention that I'm speaking without a trace of irony, although with some deliberate affect.) I've been lurking on this board for a few weeks and was beginning to think I was the only one who had not mailed off a dozen applications in early September and spent the last two months polishing her latest book manuscript. Procrastinator that I am, I daresay I'm significantly behind in the race toward completion, though I suppose it doesn't matter as long as all the packages sneak in before the relevant deadlines.

I have to say I'm not sleeping much lately, relaxation exercises (and hot baths, and decaffeinated tea, and psychotherapy) notwithstanding. As it happens, I already have a master's degree in literature. I've been thinking about how much more anxiety-producing I'm finding the application process this time--fifteen years later than my first experience with the process (and I'm a much less anxious person now, overall; see above comment about psychotherapy).

There are personal reasons for the difference, of course, having to do with taking creative risks and committing to school at this later stage in my life. But this is the thought that keeps revolving in my brain: when I applied to graduate schools in English literature, I had some sense of where I stood in relation to my fellow applicants; or at least I knew that my academic record was of a caliber that would meet the standards of the programs to which I applied. Of course, I wasn't guaranteed to get in to all or even most of them; but as with my college applications, I understood where I fit in, based on the acceptance criteria: grades, GRE scores (general and subject), recommendations from professors regarding critical work, the sample of critical work, and the essay. I knew which schools were stretches for me and which were likely to accept me. So although I was nervous and felt pessimistic until the letters came in, the results were not actually surprising.

Back to the present. At each MFA program to which I'm applying, where they will accept 6 people in my genre out of the approximately 200 to 600 or more applicants this year, they go to great pains to state that although of course they consider all application materials (particularly, I should think, when it comes to choosing among the finalists for the few available slots), admission to the program is based on the strength of the writing sample.

Now, how am I--how are any of us--supposed to avoid anxiety given that reality? Would someone like to tell me how to estimate my standing in comparison to a few hundred other writers whose work I've never seen? And, in fact, whose general quality, as a group, I have no way to determine. I have no hesitation in stating that I've outclassed every other student in the workshops I've taken recently, but then they were public workshops. The other students were not writers.

It's a damnable condundrum.

(I hope you will all forgive the formality of my prose. I've been reading 18th century lit. lately.)

--EM


HopperFu


Nov 16, 2005, 8:51 PM

Post #29 of 1175 (8499 views)
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Re: [EmmaDaily] the application annotation [In reply to] Can't Post

EmmaDaily: I alternate between two ways of thinking about my writing sample compared to everybody else - I assume I am the best (and am prepared to weep horribly if I am not accepted), and I assume that I am the worst (and am prepared to week horribly if I am not accepted). It depends on the day.

I had a moment of pure anxiety today. I got a letter in the mail from one of the schools I applied to. I saw the school name on the envelope and my first thought was, "oh god, they rejected me already!" It was, of course, just a form letter saying that my application has been forwarded to the MFA program, but still. I want no thin envelopes from any of my schools! Just lovely phone calls or big, fat folders.


thee swimmer


Nov 16, 2005, 10:03 PM

Post #30 of 1175 (8495 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] the application annotation [In reply to] Can't Post

Greetings all.

I'm just waiting on a final rec letter and then I'm sending out my applications. Ten schools. Fiction.

I would like to get back to work on my novel. This huge pile of applications must leave my hands.

I can think of little else at the moment. By having the applications sitting at these schools (where I can't change them), I hope to be able to get back to writing.

I had to go with hardcopy rec letters instead of the online versions. Trusting the postal service and my professors timely attention seemed much more difficult than simply tossing three envelopes in with my application.

March and April feel a long way off.

The Speakeasy has been invaluable and I look forward to getting through this application process with a bunch of like-minded writer types.


Aubrie


Nov 16, 2005, 11:56 PM

Post #31 of 1175 (8488 views)
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Re: [thee swimmer] the application annotation [In reply to] Can't Post

HopperFu - I too, have the exact same days. The "of course I'll get in somewhere, no doubt about it" days, and the "who am I kidding, I'm screwed" days.

All my recs are out, though most recommenders are feeling "pokey" at best. But I'll wait patiently until I give them a shove (in the nicest way possible, of course).

Drinking a glass of wine in celebration of first draft of personal statement down.
Tomorrow? Studying for GREs (taking them the 23rd...gulp) and working on writing sample.

I will indeed be that last minute application, racing around like an idiot.
In true Aubrie style.

Let's all keep each other updated.

-A


gymnick


Nov 17, 2005, 2:59 AM

Post #32 of 1175 (8482 views)
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Re: [Aubrie] the application annotation [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm a last minute girl myself. Taking the GRE's the morning after Thanksgiving. I registered Monday night, around the same time I opened the book to study for them. I've been following the (hopefully good) advice on this board and focusing on my writing sample(s). I'm also writing a new one (in its third draft version being read by my writer friends). Anyway, good luck with the applications. I'll be going right to the deadlines!


motet
Dana Davis / Moderator
e-mail user

Nov 17, 2005, 8:00 AM

Post #33 of 1175 (8478 views)
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Re: [EmmaDaily] the application annotation [In reply to] Can't Post

Welcome Emma. I'm delighted that you've joined us!

I think you're absolutely right - there is no way to avoid the anxiety. The only thing you can really do is try to not let it overwhelm you and that's not an easy thing.

Fortunately, when it comes to acceptance or not, the stress doesn't last forever. Even though it certainly seems like it does.


HopperFu


Nov 17, 2005, 2:32 PM

Post #34 of 1175 (8460 views)
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Re: [Aubrie] the application annotation [In reply to] Can't Post

Aubrie and Gymnick: best of luck with the GRE's. Don't stress too much. I have yet to hear of any program that gives the GRE's serious weight. From everybody I have every talked to or heard from, the graduate schools are merely looking for reasurrance that they didn't make a terrible mistake when picking your writing sample. You will both do fine. And the best thing is that you actually get your scores right away now.


hapworth


Nov 18, 2005, 10:11 AM

Post #35 of 1175 (8430 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] the application annotation [In reply to] Can't Post

David's advice is useful, but I think a lot of the anxiety people are feeling is connected to the application process, not just the prospect of getting into an MFA program (though, yes, this is part of the problem). I say this because I can relate to all this anxiety. I'm applying for doctoral programs in CW, and the application process is maddening. So many things to work on (statement of purpose, writing samples (critical and creative)), so many tests to study for (GRE general, GRE subject), so many schools to rsearch and choose from, so many specific rules from each department (the transcripts should go here--no, there! the writing sample should be sent there--no, here!). It's normal to want to vent a bit.

I was ahead of things for a while, but now I'm feeling behind. I secured recommenders months ago, but they've been waiting for me to send materials for the longest time because it took me forever to narrow down my school choices (I'll be applying to a mixture of creative writing and literature programs). I did well enough on the GRE General, but I haven't yet studied much for the Dec. 10 subject test, and that subject test is a real beast. I now know what I'll say in my statement of purpose, so that makes me feel good, but knowing and writing are very different acts. I also have to polish up a critical writing sample and take a final look at my creative samples. Finally, I have to get everything straight in terms of what gets sent where. Oh, and did I mention the cost! :-)

No, I don't think we should silence the anxiety discussion because the application process itself is anxiety producing, and most people seem to be talking about this. The specific "I hope I get accepted" anxiety thread will come later--as it does every year on this board--probably around March. By the way, there's a pretty cool blog for people applying to grad school in English, and it's pretty active: http://www.livejournal.com/community/applyingtograd/

Hapworth


HopperFu


Nov 18, 2005, 2:08 PM

Post #36 of 1175 (8407 views)
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Re: [hapworth] the application annotation [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
...the application process is maddening. So many things to work on (statement of purpose, writing samples (critical and creative)), so many tests to study for (GRE general, GRE subject), so many schools to rsearch and choose from, so many specific rules from each department (the transcripts should go here--no, there! the writing sample should be sent there--no, here!)....

And is it just me, or does it seem like they make it purposefully difficult and confusing? I mean, I think I'm a pretty bright person, good at following directions (I can put Ikea furniture together!), but still, the directions are often really confusing. I had one program that I applied to that I think I sent a total of five copies of my transcript to because it was so confusing as to how many copies and where they should go. (I guess I could have just called and asked, huh? I'm hoping they'll just assume that it was my college's blunder).


libbyagain


Nov 18, 2005, 5:58 PM

Post #37 of 1175 (8391 views)
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Re: [EmmaDaily] the application annotation [In reply to] Can't Post

Amy, besdies "best of luck" (which I wish to all in this tenterhooks position, natch) I just want to remark that your post brought back such good vibes from my experience of a friend of mine, who, after going through a lit. program with me, set off into creative writing-dom. I could tell he cared EVEN more about that process, and he confessed to much the same feelings you describe, in much the same tone. Fwiw, he ended up very happily at Kalamazoo, in their cr. wr. Ph.D. program--and found his lit background to that point very, very useful, in going forward.

I myself went ahead to the lit. Ph.D route, and find myself looking sideways at him, these days, wishing I'd done what he did.

fwiw.

Elizabeth


Aubrie


Nov 23, 2005, 7:39 PM

Post #38 of 1175 (8330 views)
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Update [In reply to] Can't Post

Just got home from taking the GREs. Big, stressful waste of time. I think I did fine. Im not even sure why schools want to see them (I'm not convinced they even look at them anyway), but my verbal was a 620 (87% I think?) and 590(totally, totally average) quant. I'm really, really bad at math, so that was a shockingly good score. ;)
I have NO idea how I did on the analytical part though... can't gauge that for the life of me.


HopperFu


Nov 23, 2005, 10:29 PM

Post #39 of 1175 (8317 views)
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Re: [Aubrie] Update [In reply to] Can't Post

Congrat - I think those are perfectly decent scores (don't worry about the math - I read somewhere on here (or somebody told me) of a person who got in to a good MFA program with a 300). I'm sure you did well on the analytical writing. Besides, the GRE's aren't what they really concentrate on - they are just a filter for the graduate school. Think of it as one more hurdle done and over with.


Aubrie


Nov 26, 2005, 4:56 PM

Post #40 of 1175 (8277 views)
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Personal Statements [In reply to] Can't Post

Okay. Can we all put our heads together here and figure out what we think are the most important aspects of our personal statements? I'm trudging through mine, it's like I'm telling my whole life story, and it's killing me.
Right now I'm concentrating on aspects of my life that have/will shape me as a writer, as well as what I hope to get in an MFA program. I'm stressing the importance of a writing community a lot (it's why I didn't apply to low-res programs) and my traveling experience, wanting to teach later on... workshopping. I feel like it's all self-evident though. Of course that's why I want to go.
What are you guys writing out there?
What about those of you who have applied in the past?
This is taking WAY more time then I'd like it to.


curbludgeon


Nov 27, 2005, 6:39 PM

Post #41 of 1175 (8254 views)
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Re: [Aubrie] Personal Statements [In reply to] Can't Post

I've just been trying to write something that doesn't make me cringe. Doing so has been super-hard, actually.

I'm making sure to show that I've researched the programs (naming instructors whose work I especially respect). I'm explaining why an MFA program is the best environment for me as a writer, and why now is the right time for me to start in one. I'm summarizing how I view the character of my work, and the sort of writing that I plan to do in the program.

I think there's only so much blanket advice that can be given for these things, though.

My guess, as someone who's in the same boat as you are, is that emphasizing your history is best when you've been doing things that clearly prepare you for these programs. Having a job in publishing, yeah. Being involved with local literary events, yeah. Working at Target, or playing bass in a local rock band, I'm not so sure about. Maybe I'm being overcautious. My early drafts were more autobiographical than my current one: I started thinking that it was speaking well for me as a person, but enough for me as an applicant in particular.


texasgurl
Stacy Patton Anderson

e-mail user

Nov 30, 2005, 7:40 PM

Post #42 of 1175 (8195 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] the application annotation [In reply to] Can't Post

I just returned from the post office where I dropped my first envelope in the mail (Stegner). Even though there's about a snowball's chance in hell that it will amount to anything, I experienced a wave of nausea when I dropped it down the mail hatch and realized there was no way for me to get it back out and check it one more time. My mind immediately went to HopperFu--I didn't expect to experience what he described quite so literally. I'm going to be a mess by the end of February.


Stacy Patton Anderson
http://family-of-five.com


motet
Dana Davis / Moderator
e-mail user

Dec 1, 2005, 7:54 AM

Post #43 of 1175 (8177 views)
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Re: [texasgurl] the application annotation [In reply to] Can't Post

Maybe this just goes to prove that the wild combination of fear, exhilaration, optimism
and utter despair has predictable physical results in most sane people!

Best of luck, Lee. :) Think good thoughts.... It couldn't hurt!


HopperFu


Dec 1, 2005, 3:11 PM

Post #44 of 1175 (8152 views)
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Re: [motet] the application annotation [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
...the wild combination of fear, exhilaration, optimism
and utter despair...

Um, i.e., torture? Are graduate school applications sanctioned by The Geneva Convention?


motet
Dana Davis / Moderator
e-mail user

Dec 2, 2005, 7:23 AM

Post #45 of 1175 (8131 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] the application annotation [In reply to] Can't Post

More like self-torture... and hey there by the way. How's your application roller coaster ride been going ?


HopperFu


Dec 2, 2005, 9:11 AM

Post #46 of 1175 (8127 views)
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Re: [motet] the application annotation [In reply to] Can't Post

The roller coaster is, not surprisingly, up and down. Some days I actually forget about it, and then other days I'm rather anxious. I said to a friend of mine recently that I almost don't care what the results are, I just want to know if I got in or not. Which, obviously, isn't really true, since I do really care....
As another friend said to me, however, going to graduate school is not what will or will not make me a writer.


finx


Dec 4, 2005, 4:35 PM

Post #47 of 1175 (8112 views)
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I'm applying impulsively [In reply to] Can't Post

I applied to Stegner for fiction and then I thought, heck, here's this nice writing sample, why don't I just send it off to a couple MFA programs?

So I am.

Naturally, the process of applying is way more involved than I had imagined, especially dealing with cover letters. I find myself worrying about my apps more than my writing practice which is a bummer but it will make sense if I get in and get some fancy scholarship. I've accepted that that's how it's gonna be over the next couple weeks.

I'm applying to Columbia because I like their faculty and I like how it's part of the Fine Arts department and because I'd like to live in New York.

I'm applying to Syracuse because I love George Saunders and want to work with him.

Where else should I apply?

I am very serious, devoted, opininiated, intellectual, prolific, hip, scholarly, urban, artsy. I want a program with good faculty, where I have a lot of independence but where I will be challenged and a lot will be expected of me. I have a BFA and a fine arts background. I don't want low-res. I currently live in SF but will move. I will consider international.


shadowboxer


Dec 4, 2005, 5:00 PM

Post #48 of 1175 (8110 views)
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Re: [finx] I'm applying impulsively [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I applied to Stegner for fiction and then I thought, heck, here's this nice writing sample, why don't I just send it off to a couple MFA programs?

So I am.

Naturally, the process of applying is way more involved than I had imagined, especially dealing with cover letters. I find myself worrying about my apps more than my writing practice which is a bummer but it will make sense if I get in and get some fancy scholarship. I've accepted that that's how it's gonna be over the next couple weeks.

Quote
What are the cover letters for?



I'm applying to Columbia because I like their faculty and I like how it's part of the Fine Arts department and because I'd like to live in New York.

Quote
And because you want to pay for the whole thing yourself? Sorry, I couldn't resist.


I'm applying to Syracuse because I love George Saunders and want to work with him.

Where else should I apply?

I am very serious, devoted, opininiated, intellectual, prolific, hip, scholarly, urban, artsy. I want a program with good faculty, where I have a lot of independence but where I will be challenged and a lot will be expected of me. I have a BFA and a fine arts background. I don't want low-res. I currently live in SF but will move. I will consider international.



Do your research! Read through the old threads in this forum and the archive. It's not a decision to be taken lightly. There are a few old copies of MFA rankings floating around. You should not choose schools based on the rankings, but it does provide a fairly comprehensive list of schools.


finx


Dec 4, 2005, 5:26 PM

Post #49 of 1175 (8643 views)
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Re: [shadowboxer] I'm applying impulsively [In reply to] Can't Post

The cover letters are to suggest that I'm not the only one who thinks I have promise.

I am doing my research, I'm just fishing for random chunks of serendipitous advice as well.

I probably won't go anywhere if I don't get full funding. I'm already 20k in debt from undergrad.


bighark


Dec 4, 2005, 6:51 PM

Post #50 of 1175 (8635 views)
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Re: [finx] I'm applying impulsively [In reply to] Can't Post

I can't say I envy you, finx. You pretty much need to get your tail in gear in order to make the application deadlines for MFA programs now.

I'm not too familiar with the Stegner application, but I've heard you don't need letters of recommendation at the start of the process. If you haven't already contacted three professors/editors/writers to recommend you, you need to do so right now. This is the first week in December--a busy time for academics--so if you don't have letters arranged already, don't be surprised if the people you ask politely decline.

Have you taken the GRE? If you haven't, you're limited to programs that don't require the GRE. If you manage to somehow take the test this week (you can sign up and attend the GRE as late of the day of the exam in some places), you might be able to apply to some programs with later deadlines (Jan 15 and beyond). Some programs are firm about having all application materials before the stated deadline, some aren't. If you're in love with a place that requires the GRE, call the department and see if you can have your application considered before your test scores arrive (test scores take about a month to tally).

Syracuse requires the GRE.

NB regarding Columbia: Applicants are required to write an essay of no more than 1,000 words, giving their response to a work of literature in their concentration published within the past ten years. Also, Tuition for the 2003-2004 year was listed as $33,000. The estimated total per year, including materials and living expenses, is $50,000. (Columbia does not offer tuition remission or stipends to all of its students).

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