Jun 30, 2007, 4:09 PM
Post #470 of 764
Having gone through this experience myself last fall, I think the number of schools you should apply to depends on the range of schools you're applying to; if you've tiered your choices such that you have only as many reaches as other types of schools (i.e., schools you feel you've a good chance with, and schools where the odds of acceptance seem very much in your favor) then 10 to 12 schools might be fine. If you're planning on applying only to the top schools, and that's pretty much what it seems you're doing (no judgment intended there), and if funding is important to you, I think you won't be "safe" unless you apply to 15 to 20 schools. Yes, I know, that's a huge financial investment, and I know I'm militating for slightly more schools than Kealey advises, but I'm speaking from my own experience here. Last fall I applied to Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Cornell, Brown, Virginia, and Johns Hopkins, and while I was lucky enough to get into the first three, I got immediate form rejections from the other four, and others I knew who got into those other schools nevertheless got form rejections from Iowa, Michigan, and Massachusetts (for instance, one person I know got into Cornell, the toughest MFA to get into in America statistically speaking, and got form rejections from Iowa, Michigan, Massachusetts, Brown, Virginia, and JHU). What I think that tells you is that highly-ranked, well-funded programs are longshots for everyone. Had things rolled the wrong way I'm sure the three schools I got into might have responded to my application exactly as the other four did; it wasn't like, "Well, if I'm a good candidate for Iowa, it means I'll at least be waitlisted at ______." Not necessarily. So, looking at your list, I'd recommend 15 or more schools.
If you go to my website (http://sethabramson.blogspot.com/...ng-mfa-rankings.html), you'll find acceptance rates for many of the schools on your list. Consider: looking at individual genres only (poetry or fiction), Irvine (6), Cornell (4), Virginia (5), Brown (5), Johns Hopkins (5), and Texas (5) will this year take a total of 30 students per genre. That's 6 of the 15 schools on your list, or 40%; which means, conceptually at least, that unless you're very confident you're among the top thirty candidates in your genre in the United States, you may well find yourself getting a quick reject (I'm speaking in theoretical terms here; obviously I hope you get in everywhere!) from almost half your schools right off the bat. Of the schools below, only Iowa (25 per genre), Michigan (12), Massachusetts (10), are "large" programs, and of course it's all relative, even 25 is a very small class compared to the "major" graduate school institutions (law, medicine, business, engineering). The rest of your prospective schools (Indiana; Florida; Oregon; Florida State; Mississippi; and Minnesota) all accept about seven students per genre, although actually I think Mississippi may be four. Which means, taking all the schools you're applying to and averaging them, and taking out Iowa because it's a little off the curve here numbers-wise, the schools you're applying to accept an average of 6 or 7 students per genre. With the average applicant pool for the top forty schools hovering around 400 or so (approximately 250 fiction and 150 poetry; invariably, more apply to the former than the latter), you're looking at something like an average 2.6% acceptance rate for the schools you like if you're in fiction, and 4.3% if you're in poetry. Very rough numbers? Of course. But they give you a taste, I think, of how things stand.
The reason I went through all that analysis, and have all the numbers I do on my site, is to encourage people to understand that applying to an MFA isn't like applying to, say, law school. Consider: as an attorney, I applied to law school in 1998 with a very good but not astronomical GPA and an extremely high LSAT score (making me, I think, somewhat comparable as a law school applicant to how I was as an MFA applicant, if perhaps a little bit stronger as the former than the latter). I applied to twelve of the top fifteen law schools in the country and only didn't get into two: one (Yale) was and is the top law school in the country, and the other (Cornell) wasn't really a rejection, as I took myself out of the running by deciding not to go to Ithaca for an in-person interview (a requirement if you pass the first rounds of the application process; however, by the time you hear from them, you've often gotten in outright to other schools you prefer, as happened with me). Yet those results were "predictable" based on my GPA, LSAT, and alma mater. With MFA applications there's absolutely no comparison conceptually--the process is wholly different, as are the weighing of various candidate factors--yet many still apply to MFAs the same way they'd apply to law schools, i.e. by applying only to the best ones and hoping something good happens.
Top twenty-five law schools also have, on average, acceptance rates five to ten times higher than the top twenty-five MFA programs.
So, Benny, your list looks great, and I frankly don't think you should drop any of those schools (albeit, if you're in poetry, I would consider dropping Johns Hopkins, Texas, and Oregon; JHU and Texas because of only modest faculty reputation in the field, and because those schools generally predicate their reputations on their fiction programs; Oregon because I've heard some horror stories from people about the behavior of their admittedly well-regarded poetry faculty), but I do think you should add some schools, perhaps five, all with higher acceptance rates and/or larger in size than your current crop of options. So, I'd take a look at:
Bowling Green State **
Washington University (@ St. Louis) *
Notre Dame **
U. of Washington ***
New Mexico **
Penn State **
* Excellent reputation and funding.
** Good reputation and excellent funding (albeit I'd put New Mexico slightly behind the others).
*** Very good reputation and a large school, [relatively-speaking] many applicants accepted.
Hope this helps, Benny.
(This post was edited by umass76 on Jun 30, 2007, 4:14 PM)