Dec 2, 2007, 2:09 PM
Post #769 of 1172
Actually, in a certain sense--in the sense of creating "like" peer groups--folks applying to schools in part based on reputation is good for everyone. Playing Devil's Advocate here, if everyone applies to School A, then School A will:
Re: [Junior Maas] What are the odds?
[In reply to]
* Have the most applications to choose from.
* Likely have the lowest acceptance rate.
* Possibly have the strongest peer group.
There's a kind of synergy there, in the sense that "in theory" only the strongest applicants will get into School A, and thus end up with a peer group perfect for their level. If School B then gets the second-most applications, it may have the second-best peer group and be perfect for the second-best applicants, and so on...
Of course, in the real world nothing is even close to this black-and-white, and there's absolutely no way whatsoever to make such fine distinctions as the ones above with any kind of precision. I guess I'm just setting up the scarecrow above to play it off the alternative: that no one have any idea whatsoever which schools are the most selective, and are thus most "likely" to have among the strongest peer groups, and so the next Shakespeare ends up in a workshop in which she is not challenged, and in which the other students resent Shakespeare because she is not at the same point in her writing development as they are. The best workshop--for all members of the workshop--is one in which the level of advancement of the individual writers is close enough that they can all benefit from one another, but also just different enough that they can push one another without it becoming cause for resentment, frustration, or a sense of alienation among the earlier-stage development writers. But we manifestly do not want a system in which every MFA features workshops of twelve writers at twelve different stages in their development--as good as that "sounds," in practice it actually just ensures that everyone will be miserable.
Also, while it's true that people apply based on word-of-mouth, word-of-mouth is often based on anecdotal recitations of how supportive and helpful a program is (e.g., A tells B, "I'm applying to [----------] because my friend C had a great experience there, or because I love the professors at school [----------], all of whose work I've read extensively; so what does B do? B applies to the same school as A, not simply because "everyone's doing it" but because the word-of-mouth B received was substantive. Then the friends of B apply because B relates what A said, and so on. In a perfect world? Yes, B and B's friends would have all the time and money and energy and foresight and presence of mind to travel all across the country spending weekends at every MFA they could possibly ever be interested in to get a sense--likely false--of the environment there. But if B trusts A's opinions, there's no reason B shouldn't act on the advice of A, thus creating a domino effect for B's friends, and so on...). Likewise, there's something to be said for "collective research"--if one school is getting 1,000+ applications, it must have some basis, it's simply for the applicant to decide whether that basis is one they care about.
I just think there's more natural logic to these processes than some are allowing for. People and processes are sometimes irrational, but they're not that irrational. At base, applicants are still making decisions based on what they perceive to be their best interest--I think it doesn't give folks enough credit to simply imagine them as sheep all racing toward the same cliff, though I do understand the frustrations indicated above and don't mean to disparage anyone here by disagreeing.
(This post was edited by umass76 on Dec 2, 2007, 2:10 PM)