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What Have You Learned From the Application Process?
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sibyline


Mar 16, 2006, 12:12 PM

Post #1 of 59 (6610 views)
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What Have You Learned From the Application Process? Can't Post

I realize we're all still in the middle of it, but I've been thinking about what I've learned from applying and the things that I wish I had known before that I know now. Maybe this thread would help some other hapless applicant in the future:

1. The process is ridiculously subjective - I guess this is obvious, but I don't think it can be emphasized enough.

2. Do my research - I wish I had read more books by faculty members, to have a better sense of the kinds of people who will potentially be instructing me. Also related to #3.

3. Apply to lots of schools - I only applied to six really competitive ones, and I only got in by a hair. I would have expanded my list by at least four schools if I hadn't gotten in this time.

4. Submit my best work - I don't think I accounted for this enough. I'm working on a novel that's very much in progress, and it's the thing that I'm most excited about, so I submitted an excerpt to half my programs, and sent older, more polished stories to the ones that had short page requirements or faculty who mainly did stories.

I got rejected by the three programs I sent the novel excerpt to. I got an acceptance, a waitlist, and a rejection for the programs I sent the short stories to. Moral: even though I was most excited by the thing I was working on, I should have been more objective in picking my best work.

5. Get someone I trust to look at my work - I have a tendency to be really independent. I didn't get any outside help on my applications even though a more established friend offered to help me edit. I should have taken her up on it.

6. Find a community to get advice and share experiences with - I wish I had known about Speakeasy!


(This post was edited by sibyline on Mar 16, 2006, 1:43 PM)


theapplepicker


Mar 16, 2006, 12:34 PM

Post #2 of 59 (6597 views)
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Re: [sibyline] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

I echo your #2. After reading quite a few books and quite a number of poems, I still don't feel it was enough.

Furthermore (on the research front), I would have learned more about the funding situations at different schools. I don't think I would have applied to UMass if I'd done this. And I would have applied to Cornell.

There's just never enough time to research all the schools you would want to apply to if you knew about them. Had I had the time to learn, I also would have applied to JHU, Michigan, and a couple places in Oregon. I knew about these schools, of course, but I just didn't have the time to do the research I wanted on all the schools I was interested in *and* do a solid job of preparing my application for each school. So, I guess I'd stay "start researching 2-3 years before you plan to apply if you want the most bang for your buck."

It sounds like an insane amount of time, but I could have used it!


(This post was edited by theapplepicker on Mar 16, 2006, 12:38 PM)


lavashlavash


Mar 16, 2006, 12:45 PM

Post #3 of 59 (6581 views)
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Re: [theapplepicker] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

Start early! I didn't apply to Arizona because I didn't start my applications until about December 10th.

Also, I think what Tom Kealey preaches about large programs vs. small programs is really smart. There should be at least one somewhat large program on everybody's list.


sanssoleil
Chris
e-mail user

Mar 16, 2006, 12:48 PM

Post #4 of 59 (6576 views)
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Re: [sibyline] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

1. I should have donated $125 to the Red Cross instead of paying Hunter to spend one week considering my application.
2. Schools that offer full or almost full funding are the way to go. There are at least three schools I applied to that I cannot attend even if I do get in. I am dumb.
3. Don't tell your family that you're applying. That is all they will ask about for six months. When you don't get in, you will be embarrassed. When your mom says "Now why in the world would they not want you in their program," you will be even more embarrassed.
4. Stay away from message boards like this one. You will find yourself in the middle of March wondering where February went.
5. Find a message board like this one. You will find yourself with new friends.
6. Write like a hurricane no matter what.


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 16, 2006, 12:49 PM

Post #5 of 59 (6574 views)
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Re: [sibyline] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

Personally I wonder how relevant #2 is. Just because an author writers in a style you like doesn't mean they will teach well, and just because they write in a different style than you doesn't mean they WON'T encourage and understand your style. In undergrad my teachers had pretty differetn styles and approaches than me, but they understood what I was going for and helped me work towards that.

I dunno, I just think reading two books by every teacher at thirty programs is impossible.

It seems like a better tactic after you've gotten into a few places and need to decide between them...


clarabow


Mar 16, 2006, 1:17 PM

Post #6 of 59 (6551 views)
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Re: [sanssoleil] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

sanssoleil i loved your list. it made me happy.


Ms. Mystery


Mar 16, 2006, 1:39 PM

Post #7 of 59 (6534 views)
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Re: [sibyline] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

Sibyline, this thread is a great idea!

1. Start REALLY REALLY early. Earlier than you would even consider "early." Seriously. I almost missed a lot of deadlines because I was a moron and didn't register for the GRE until December. Luckily Minnesota said they would accept my application by their December 20th deadline as long as the GRE scores were on the way, but that was a pretty close call.

2. Figure out what you want and research programs that fit you. I defintely did this to some degree (I was looking for programs that fund everybody in an urban area, basically.) That said, don't apply to schools that fall really far outside your guidelines. I can't for the life of me figure out why I applied to the Art Institute of Chicago. I know they don't have a lot of funding and the cost of living is pretty high, but I guess I thought, "Ooh, Chicago" and went ahead with it anyway.

3. Really take time putting together your manuscript and personal statement. I did kind of a wimpy job on my personal statement, and I definitely regret it. I should have asked more people to read it over before I sent it. Then again, I didn't feel like I had time to do so because I was racing to the finish for most of December and January.

4. As far as community goes, I almost wish that I didn't know about this, the who_got_in community, the grad cafe, or any of the other internet locations for obsessive grad school applicants. It definitely made me an anxious mess for about two weeks in February. At the same time, it's been really helpful in other ways. I guess I wish I could have found this forum way back over the summer when I was still preparing for the whole application thing, but I also wish that somebody could have blocked me from this site for most of January and February!


franz

e-mail user

Mar 16, 2006, 1:50 PM

Post #8 of 59 (6520 views)
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Re: [Ms. Mystery] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

What I have learned:

1. Use the P & W message board as a resource. I didn't find out about it until it was too late to apply to other schools, and it's the best resource available for MFA applicants.

2. Wouldn't have applied for the Stegner until after finishing an MFA.

3. Wouldn't have applied to schools with crappy funding (fortunately, Emerson was the only school on my list like this).

4. DON'T use the last US News and World Report to inform your application decisions. I used it to narrow down the field I would apply to-- as a result, I didn't apply to the Michener Center and didn't really consider the program at Arizona.

5. I would apply to ten or twelve schools, not 8, as I did (and since the Stegner was one of my schools, I really only applied to 7).

6. I would have emphasized more in my personal statement my ability to work well with others and teach.

7. There's nothing wrong with dreaming of a school you think you have no chance of getting into. JHU was a case in point for me-- when I wrote up my list of schools I would reapply to next year, JHU wasn't on there because I never thought I had a chance in the first place. And I was wrong. What if I had just second-guessed myself and not applied there?

8. Really, only apply to places where you would be serious about living. That's just as important as the school itself. Why did I apply to Iowa when I've already lived there 21 years? I wasn't seriously considering attending.


Franz Knupfer, author of short stories and novels


theapplepicker


Mar 16, 2006, 1:59 PM

Post #9 of 59 (6506 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

You're right to question its relevance, but while I also agree that it's impossible to read even one book by every teacher in your genre at 30 schools, it was important to me to at least try.


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 16, 2006, 2:05 PM

Post #10 of 59 (6495 views)
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Well, personally I'm really lazy. I'd just feel like I'd wasted my time when I inevitably got rejected by most of the programs. Would have rather been reading something else with my reading time...


poetastin


Mar 16, 2006, 2:31 PM

Post #11 of 59 (6466 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

Amazon's "look inside this book" is a great resource, as is your public library. You won't read 30-60 or faculty books, but you can certainly get a feel for some of these authors just reading ten pages from each of their books.

It's so confusing, though. Even in Kealey's book, it says go with a school's reputation, but then Adam Johnson recommends (in the same book) picking schools by faculty. And both seem to make sense. Here's your dream school on the one hand--George Saunders! Mary Gaitskill!--and your undergrad experience on the other, where your best teacher was the one who wrote in another style. Egads, man...


sibyline


Mar 16, 2006, 2:31 PM

Post #12 of 59 (6466 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

Yeah, I kinda felt the same way Clench, but in retrospect, schools (the funded ones at least) are investing a lot of money in us, and I now feel like it wouldn't have been such a big deal to have made a bigger investment by doing more reading. I'm quickly making up for this by having read four books by Cornell faculty members in the past month.

Oh, and yeah, I forgot about STARTING EARLY, which is an appropriate thing for me. I'm quite self-directed, but hate bureaucracy, so I'm invariably late whenever forms are involved. I submitted every one of my applications either on the deadline or (eep!) even a couple of days late for some of them. I was so cavalier about that at the time, and it all worked out for me in the end so I'm kinda relieved, but it's definitely not a good idea to do that.


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 16, 2006, 2:55 PM

Post #13 of 59 (6441 views)
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Re: [sibyline] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

Sibyline: I guess for me its like this: There are probably ~35 schools, maybe more, worth looking into. Reading something by every professor at all those schools would just take too much time for me and, for reasons listed above, I'm not sure how important it is. Other factors, like location , seem more important in the initial narrowing down. So once I narrow it to ~10 schools by those other factors, I should apply to all of them anyway, so who teaches where isn't important at that point.

Once I hear back there is a good chance I'll only get into one (or none), so reading from those ~10 seems pointless. Even if I get into a few, probalby only one or two will give me killer funding and I'll probably have a gut feeling to go to one or two (location, reputation, etc.). If I do get into multiple schools that I can't decide between, well I should have a month or so to check out faculty at that point.


Just my 2 cents.


sibyline


Mar 16, 2006, 3:03 PM

Post #14 of 59 (6436 views)
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yeah, you're probably right. not necessarily reading entire books but familiarizing oneself with people's work would be good though. if i had to do it over again, i would have probably done some more tailoring of manuscripts based on what i know of faculty / program.


shadowboxer


Mar 16, 2006, 3:07 PM

Post #15 of 59 (6427 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't think it's necessary to read the books of the faculty at each school. Often, teaching style may be completely different than what you imagined while reading the book. Most professors are versatile and happy to work with students writing in different styles. Working with professors who write differently than you is good for your work and perspective. However, there is nothing wrong with wanting to work with someone whose books you admire.


franz

e-mail user

Mar 16, 2006, 5:17 PM

Post #16 of 59 (6372 views)
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I am scrambling right now to catch up with reading of JHU faculty. During the whole application process and after, I've looked through a lot of different faculty members at different schools to get a sense of style or quality, but I haven't had a chance to read through most of the books. (I was reading "Geronimo Rex" and others instead.) Quite frankly, there are a lot of faculty members who write solid but not spectacular work, and with so many spectacular books out there, I'd like to focus on those instead. (In the case of one school I applied to, which has a very prestigious program, I was particularly unimpressed by the banality of the faculty's work.)
That being said, I was wowed by Charles Johnson's "MIddle Passage" (He's at UWash), and looking through faculty members has really broadened my horizons on some mid-list fiction or more cutting edge fiction. I had never read Stephen Dixon before (or even heard of him) before applying to JHU, but he's hilarious and fun to read. Plus, one of my favorite authors, Jonathan Lethem, calls Dixon his "secret master", which I think is impressive. So at the very least, I do think it's important to at least research faculty members and look at their books. You will find some books you love, and the ones you don't, well, just read a few sections and get a sense of their work.
Anyway, none of my favorite authors teach? What the hell do they do for a living? Do they actually make a living off writing? I find it hard to believe.


Franz Knupfer, author of short stories and novels


rapunzel1983
Marisa Lee

Mar 18, 2006, 5:51 PM

Post #17 of 59 (6280 views)
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Re: [franz] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

What I would have done differently:

1. Found the official US News ranking before applying. There are so many schools I left off. UMass and Syracuse and Arizona and Houston, for instance. I simply had no idea they were good, and my undergrad college doesn't have much of an application-atmosphere (even my profs didn't have MFAs), so I got my list by reading a bunch of books and finding out where the authors got their MFAs from. I'm from the Northeast, so it was strange I ended up applying to all these schools out west while completely neglecting UMass and Syracuse.

2. And yes, the Stegner was a waste of time. Especially at this age.

3. And no, I wouldn't have tailored my personal statement for each school. On second thought, I did NOT tailor this year, and my results have been pretty good. My previous application year, I read work by the faculty and tailored everything meticulously and got rejected everywhere. I have a feeling that the strain was apparent. It is better to be unspecific than to come off forced. So if you do undertake the task of reading faculty work--start doing it in the summer, a year ahead of time. Don't cram. It just won't work.

4. Short stories DO come off better than novel excerpts. I submitted a novel excerpt and still did fine, but I could have had it easier. I think I could have added 2 acceptances to my pile if i had used a short story.

5. Do something else in the meantime!! Care about something else. Or else you'll be in danger, like me, of feeling EXTREMELY DRAINED after the process. I've been doing these apps for two years now and weirdly enough, I feel sick now that the whole thing is over. Like, "This, THIS, is what I've been obsessing over????? Envelopes and slips of paper???" Falling in love, getting dumped, going on an adventure, anything is better for the spirit than obsessing over this. I don't know if something is wrong with me, but I haven't felt alive in years.

6. Don't tell people you're applying.


Windiciti



Mar 19, 2006, 1:18 AM

Post #18 of 59 (6214 views)
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Re: [sibyline] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

You know sibyline, clench, poetastin, and everyone else who wrote abou this:

I have been feeling quite guilty about not having read faculty writings of the schools I applied to. Like others, I was rushing to complete applications, get transcripts, write essays w/ the different slants required by each school, etc. Yeah, I started preparing applications quite late, january 7th. Before that, I hadn't decide to do it, apply for MFA or MA programs, I mean.

I completed 3 applications by February 1, then 3 more by March 1, and also wasted a vast amount of time on this forum---
very enjoyable---but deadly.
I have only read the work of 2 Faculty members, by chance, Erin McGraw at OSU and Amy Bloom, who will be teaching at Indiana, this summer.

Realize now, I did a pretty half a--- job! Yet, I still feel that wherever I go will be good. There are bound to be kindred spirits in ANY program and good profs. too.
I relish the critiques in workshops, and don't take umbrage about suggestions I receive. I need a community of writers, a home to improve my fiction.

I am not a young writer who can go anywhere and catch the gold ring like lots of you are going to do at Iowa, OSU, Arizona, JHU, etc., etc. My choices are infinitely more modest.

But guess what? I'm pretty happy! Two places accepted me, so I'm going somewhere no later than fall, 2006...to write! What a great luxury after slaving for years as a high school teacher!
Thanks for listening and perhaps responding.

So many of you make good points, that I am in a constant "AHA" mode but can't comment on every post that resonates with me. Wd. spend my life...Oh, God I already am!
Ciao!

P.S. For the person who wrote about previewing stuff on Amazon, a big THANKS. I'm going to do it.


uadelta21


Mar 20, 2006, 6:22 PM

Post #19 of 59 (6102 views)
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Re: [sibyline] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks, sibyline, for starting this thread and directing me to it.

After 2 tries (and still waiting to hear about the fate of this 2nd go), I've begun to learn this:

1. These message boards give great insight into other's experience of the process. I definitely don't feel so alone now in my anxiety! Though I do agree with you all it does somewhat increase the obsessiveness. At least we can all obsess together.

2. Workshops and writing groups can greatly improve your writing, and provide recommenders for applications.

3. Apply to more schools! The first time I knew hardly anything about the process and applied to 3 competitive schools with a mediocre writing sample. This time I applied to 4 with a much better writing sample, but I see now that if I apply again, I'll apply to still more schools.

4. Other people, like fiance's, family, and co-workers, who don't know about MFA programs, assume if you're smart, got good undergrad grades, etc. then you will for sure be accepted. Oh if that were only true!

5. How much each application is like a lottery ticket. The more you buy, the better of a chance you have, but it's still a roll of the dice.

6. If nothing else, I have made myself a better writer than I was before.


stephkarto1
Stephanie Kartalopoulos

Mar 20, 2006, 8:58 PM

Post #20 of 59 (6055 views)
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Re: [sibyline] 10 things that I have learned... [In reply to] Can't Post

The PhD programs I applied to are as subjective as MFA programs, because of how interdisciplinary they are in nature and how few applicants they accept each year, and I felt a lot things "repeated" from my MFA application experience (5 years ago).

But, reflecting upon 5 years ago, this is my advice:

1. Research the whole program. There will always be things you wish you had known about before the fact, once you arrive, but research the program THOROUGHLY--who the department administrators are, who the program director is, what the funding situation is like, how long professors have stayed at the program, the situation of funding as a first year as opposed to a second year, etc. How many lit classes will you need to take? How many workshops? How many forms classes? What are the expectations of your thesis, and how long will you have to do it? How many readings will you have to give while you're at the program? What can you learn about the program offering career guidance for when you're on your way out the door at the other end? Does the program get local/community support with programming for readings, events, etc. (i.e. is it seen in a favorable light--would going there bring a sort of harmonious experience for you also being a resident of the town)...

2. Hop on the web and research the towns the schools are located in. First think about whether or not you could afford to live in the town with the funding you would realistically get, if you are accepted. Can you afford rent, utilities, some groceries, public transportation/car expenses, etc.? Where is the nearest airport, and are plane trips to places you realistically would visit expensive? What's the public transportation like in the town, and what are the town's resources and entertainment options like? With the resources you have, can you afford to consider this option? If you needed a summer job between first/second or second/third year, would one be relatively easy to find?

3. Make a list of what the pro's would be and what the con's would be of attending that one school. EVERY school has good things and bad things about it, and you need to figure out what works for you (i.e. for me, UF was my first choice from the get go--I go by gut instinct 99% of the time--and I knew moving from Boston to Gainesville would be my biggest compromise--but I knew that once I found a bar, a coffee shop, a book store, a CD store, a place to hear music, and one or two other "staples" as far as landmarks are concerned, that I could survive and, more likely than not, be totally fine. And I was.). And remember, when you are waiting to hear from schools that no school is perfect--no town is perfect. It kept me in check when I applied to MFA programs, and it made it easier to deal with the schools that didn't accept me (for those schools, there was no longer a list of good things and bad things to weigh against other schools).

4. As much as I wanted to read the work of each poet in the programs I applied to, I wanted to make sure that I talked to students in the program about their experiences with thees poets as professors. There is a HUGE difference between a great writer and a great professor--but sometimes you can link the two and see, once you get feedback from current students/recent alums, how the writer's teaching strengths/weaknesses are exemplified in the things that person can encourage you to do with your writing (i.e. Sidney Wade opened me up to more wimsy and abstraction, and William Logan opened me up to be a more critical reader of poetry and to not discount poems that are focused on rhythm, structure, meter, and form just because that's what I first see in the poem. I don't love William's work, but he has become one of my best mentors; I like Debora Gregor's work decently enough and find something expert about her writing, but she is the worst teacher I have had in my entire life.)

5. Apply to as many schools as you can afford to, but also apply only to schools where if you get accepted nowhere else you can feel excited to go there. Because even with gut instincts, you really never know.

6. Always secure one more person than you need to fill out your recommendation letters. Most schools will generally accept 4 if the requirement is 3 or 3 if it's 2. You never know who will screw you over at the last minute (I got screwed over when I applied to MFA programs and almost screwed over with the PhD applications--thankfully I had back ups each time).

7. Even if you are unsure that you will *actually* apply to the school, go straight ahead and have your transcripts, GRE scores, and other "paperwork" items sent to each school you are considering, and do it early on. For the schools you *actually* apply to, send fee as a money order just to be extra-safe.

8. Keep an organized filing system of EVERYTHING, and keep photocopies of everything you send (or even transcript requests you fax to old schools). You never know who will lose what.

9. Help your recommenders out by being super-organized and giving them more time than they say they need and more time than is reasonable for you--it's a courtesy to them, and it's good practice to you. When you send them forms, send everything in a very clear-cut, exact, organized sort of way. Maybe this is me and maybe it's being anal, but it helps me each application I send to do this. For each recommender, in a file folder, I have:
  • All of my forms in order alphabetically by school I apply to
  • Stamped envelopes for sending the reco letters clipped to the form
  • A post-it affixed to the reco form with three dates on it: my submission goal date, my "realistic submission date," and the absolute final application deadline.
  • A post-it affixed to the reco form with a list of poems submitted for my writing sample
  • One copy of the personal statement that I have "mutated"/will mutate to accommodate each school I am applying to.
  • An updated copy of my curriculum vitae
  • A copy of any transcripts showing grades I got in these people's courses, if they are my professors, or recent copies of papers I wrote for them or poems I worked on with them OR, if it's someone who I otherwise know or have not worked with in a while, a list of achievements since we last worked together
  • One "manuscript" in alphabetical order of all the poems I am using for my application submissions.
  • A thank you note.

(like I said, I know that's super-anal, but the way I see it, my recommenders are really busy--the more I can do to help them out and make this a no-brainer, the easier it will be for them. Except for the times I have been screwed over, I have had--according to what recommenders have told me for when they send stuff out--less than 1 week turn-around for my recommendation letters to be sent to my application schools.)

10. Even after I send my applications off, I went back and re-read the work of the professors in the program--not to read with the context of "what can I learn from this professor?" but just to go back and read for pleasure. And to fall totally and completely in love with their words, lines, images, and metaphors. Because, well, it's poetry and I love poetry, first and foremost.


In The Lobby


Jan 10, 2010, 6:46 PM

Post #21 of 59 (5388 views)
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Re: [sibyline] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

This is my second post at the Easy. I've been a lurker and just want to give regards to all of you. This site is a wealth of support and knowledge.



-To never view application status. Ever. Never.
It's just something about spending 38 hours milling through school websites, 98 hours on a statement of purpose, 2 hours on your writing sample, 3 hours on the GRE, 6 hours and $50 on a bottle of malbec coping after viewing GRE scores, $56 in transcripts, $40 in GRE submits, $23.57 in stamps, your checking and savings on app fees, $45 on Priority mail, 102 hours ensuring your professors write rec. letters, and to the correct schools, 30 minutes thinking of a thank you gift, 78 hours compiling together applications, 12 hours hitting F5 on this website. And once it's all over, and you can finally click 'view application status' on one of your many potential schools.... you've never sent your transcripts, nor taken the GRE, and have not sent 7 friendly reminder emails to professors that the deadline for letters of rec. are approaching. It's funny, really. I figure if they want me enough, they'll have me? I hope this is the right attitude...?

-To know which schools you will apply to in advance. Perhaps in May, even. And make them stick. Mine changed 5x daily. It's January 10 and I'm still thinking about throwing in 1 or 4. I'm sure it's fairly known, but when you take the GRE, at the end of the test you can have scores submitted to four different schools for free. As it turns out (fault of my own) I later decided to not even apply to the four free schools I sent scores to. : /

-Still pending. This is my first application year.

Good luck to everyone!


ericweinstein
Eric Weinstein


Jan 10, 2010, 7:27 PM

Post #22 of 59 (5366 views)
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Re: [In The Lobby] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

What I've learned:

1. Start early, start early, start early.
2. Spend the most amount of time on your manuscript, followed by your statement of purpose. While necessary, elements like the GRE and undergraduate transcripts should not be taking up huge amounts of your time. Get them out of the way early (see #1).
3. Don't apply to safety schools. The MFA is not nearly as time-dependent as the undergraduate degree; if you don't get in this time around, apply again next year. It's worth it to improve your writing and get into the program you really want. It's not worth your time or effort to apply somewhere you're not sure you want to go. Don't settle.
4. Don't apply to schools that don't offer full funding unless you're independently wealthy. Paying $100,000 for an art degree is stupid. Period.
5. A lot of the application process is subjective, so don't waste your time over-analyzing every aspect of it. Learn from the experience, but don't dwell on 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.


kbritten

e-mail user

Jan 10, 2010, 8:29 PM

Post #23 of 59 (5341 views)
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Re: [ericweinstein] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

I learned to follow everyone's advice. Start early, workshop your stories, stick to your schools, do a little bit at a time, etc... I am very proud to say that this usual procrastinator followed that advice and am very happy that I did. Only about a week of mild burnout and a week of super self-doubt (there's still a little there ;) ). I have been waiting so long that I'm not as anxious as I thought I would be, although I really, really want to know!!!


(This post was edited by kbritten on Jan 10, 2010, 8:30 PM)


bighark


Jan 10, 2010, 9:06 PM

Post #24 of 59 (5326 views)
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There's no such thing as an MFA safety school.


ericweinstein
Eric Weinstein


Jan 10, 2010, 9:12 PM

Post #25 of 59 (5320 views)
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Certainly some programs are more selective than others.


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.


bighark


Jan 11, 2010, 12:28 AM

Post #26 of 59 (4085 views)
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Nope. Every writing school in the country wants the best students. The methods for judging applications may vary from place to place--and this explains why someone gets accepted to Prestige U. but not Legacy U. or even Upstart U.--but every faculty at every school does things the same way.


insertbrackets

e-mail user

Jan 11, 2010, 3:25 AM

Post #27 of 59 (4052 views)
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I'm currently sitting pretty at OSU with full funding, critiquing poems and responding to my students' work but thought I might chime in here with can best be described as my pears o'wisdom.

What I Learned:

1. There are no guarantees (accept that everyone applies to Iowa): Well, almost everyone. You cannot predict what will happen. I applied to 12 schools, accepted at 3. One school got 50 applications in poetry, another got 200, an another got closer to 400. I made into the top 6 picks for all of them. The other 9? Flat out rejections. It's like shooting blindly into a cave. You may or may not hit something.

2. Research matters: I am crazy and obsessive. I plan things out in advance. I figured out where I was applying by July of last year before I applied, and turned in my apps to all my schools two weeks ahead of the earliest deadlines. I knew the schools inside and out, their requirements, their pluses and minuses, how much their stipends amounted too. Now with Seth's blog effectively out of commission, your jobs all got a lot harder, but there's still ways of getting info when and where you need it.

3. Apply to schools that matter to you for whatever reasons they do: I applied to OSU because the idea of working with Andre Hudgins and Henri Cole, plus the guarantee of full funding, in a part of the country I've never lived (but could definitely live) in, the guarantee of a teaching job, and the chance to be affiliated with a large university, mattered a lot to me. It seems to me OSU will become (and is becoming) a very respected program that applicants just haven't discovered yet. I have no delusions that prestige short of Iowa will help me get a job anywhere, but it gives me satisfaction to know that others covet what I have. I guess I am just a sick bastard who likes to know others are jealous, hah!

4. The GRE is bullshit: case closed. Especially the math. That crack is whack! Stressing out about that test at the expense of any other part of your application is the dimmest move you can make. NO ONE GIVES A SHIT, ETS HAS A SHIV PRESSED AGAINST THE THROAT'S OF MANY UNIVERSITIES. THEY WANT THEIR BLOOD MONEY. "THEY FEED THEY LION, AND THEY LION GROW" (extra credit if you know where that quote came from)

5. Online statuses are also bullshit: case double closed. Always email or call human beings. They are still there behind their wall of emails and automated phone menus. You just might have to circumvent the system to contact an actual breathing person, and not just their unemotive, listless, monophonic voice.

6. Have a distraction: for me it was still BEING IN SCHOOL AKA POTTY TRAINING AND PLAYING WITH LEGOS...that joke was for the agists out there. I hear you making your juvenile remarks about juvies like me. Other options include watching LOST, MAD MEN, 30 ROCK, THE OFFICE (BBC OR US OR BOTH), BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, BREAKING BAD, GLEE, MODERN FAMILY, FUTURAMA or some other lovely show on DVD. Drinking, murder, dog whispering, picking up a new language, fornicated with strangers abroad, or building a model airplane should do the job too. Oh, writing always helps too, unless, like me, you were PETRIFIED WITH FEAR THAT YOU WERE A FAILURE AFTER TURNING IN YOUR APPS AND VOWED AS GOD AS MY WITNESS I WILL NEVER WRITE AGAIN...a vow you announce immediately after (fingers crossed) your first acceptance, at which point you rapidly conclude that, far from a failure, you are actually THE SHIT...at least until you show up to your first grad workshop. Hahaha.....oh I made myself sad.

7. Your online friends are now your best friends: because they know exactly what you are going through and (this is critical) CARE, or at least pretend to as they conduct voodoo rituals and pray to Aries, Anubis, Quezacoatl or Kali to take you out of the equation. Sure your friends and family and non-writer peeps and paramours and mistresses (or as it was in my case) manstresses are there for you, but they don't know why this little arts degree is so important to you. We do, and we want to welcome you into our cozy bosom. We love you...just so long as things work out for all of us. Don't be surprised when things go sour for some and people start contemplating existential ennui and ritualistic seppuku publicly while cursing you out in the broadest way possible. It's just what happens, the name of the game as the dull cliche goes.

Good luck kids! Oh and if you applied to OSU...just know you'll be hearing from us real soon. The scuttlebutt around here is that acceptances across all genres should go out by the end of the month. But then if you looked at what's left of Seth's blog, the pattern he has recorded would make that very clear to you.

See y'all on down the trails!


Who told you I was a racist? Was it...a minority?
-T-Rex, qwantz.com Dinosaur Comics


NickMcRae
Nick McRae

e-mail user

Jan 11, 2010, 7:13 AM

Post #28 of 59 (4040 views)
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Great post, Tory! :)

NM


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

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


emilychristine
Emily Sims

e-mail user

Jan 12, 2010, 5:46 PM

Post #29 of 59 (3896 views)
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What have i learned? Hmmm....

I have learned that I am the most impatient (least patient?) person I know, and I'm okay with that, because what I want is usually pretty damn important.

I have learned that my heart rushes every time I get an email informing me someone on the P&W forum has replied to my post.

I have learned that letting my mother read something I wrote is not the end of the world. I mean, it's close, obviously, but I didn't burst into flames.

I have learned that no one understands, except you. And my cat. Nala understands every damn thing I've ever told her since 1994.

I have learned that while white wine and chocolate are the most appealing friends while working on writing samples, Diet Coke and pretzels are the better way to go.

I have learned that even though the mail only comes once a day, it should really come three or four times. In fact, the mail man should just knock on your damn door and tell you whether or not there's a letter from Irvine. I mean, we need to know.

I have learned how to circumvent the Internet blocks at the public high school where I work so I can religiously check my gmail all day long... just in case.

I have learned not to lurk.

I have learned to be a better teacher, because my own irrational anxieties enable me to better empathize with all of theirs. Basically, I've reverted to the emotional maturity of a 15 year old.

But most of all, I have learned not just to put myself out there, but to own the fact that I've put myself out there.

Emily
PS. If I get into a program, I want a t-shirt that says "I survived the MFA application process."


Our Daily Tales / Travel Tales



In The Lobby


Jan 12, 2010, 5:53 PM

Post #30 of 59 (3891 views)
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Ha! Perfection! You words needs to be lacquered on the back of every glass bottle of Shatto across America.


Woon


Jan 12, 2010, 5:58 PM

Post #31 of 59 (3888 views)
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At the risk of offending many of you, I don't understand what the big deal with all the angst about MFA applications. It seemed very routine and straightforward to me. I researched and applied to 13 schools. I sent out for my transcripts from my undergrad. I asked some of my former teachers if they could write letters of rec for me. I studied for, took the GRE, and did well. I finalized some short stories. I drafted my Statement of Purpose (or Personal Statement). I applied online. To me, it was all fun and I hardly broke a sweat.

If I don't get in, it's not the end of the world. It's an art degree, for pete's sake. We all have options, whether you believe it or not, if the MFA doesn't work out.

I mean, there's always Optometry school.


In The Lobby


Jan 12, 2010, 6:08 PM

Post #32 of 59 (3880 views)
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Re: [Woon] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

I broke a sweat and burnt 340 calories just reading your first paragraph. No worries, I'm not offended. It's just that for me, it's either an art degree or podiatrist assistant certification. Optometry? I could only be so lucky! :D


gg.scholastica
Gena Goodman


Jan 12, 2010, 7:56 PM

Post #33 of 59 (3849 views)
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Re: [Woon] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

Not offended, but certain that you're more organized, or at least less ruffled by small things, than I am. Mine went more like this: Pick stories. Re-pick stories. Ask people. Get conflicting opinions. Re-pick stories. Un re-pick stories. Suggest to excellent prof. I won't need her ref. Unsuggest, luckily she's forgotten. Wrangle up others, try to put together packets... later than I'd hoped. Realize I sent the wrong deadline, chase them down. Order transcripts. Forget transcripts before going on vacation. Apply to some schools with deadlines RIGHT NOW. Run out of ink... but not really. Find missing ink cartridge. Apply to others, transcripts obviously missing... Realize put wrong address on [second] GRE registration, which is why I have yet to get my score report (I mean, WTF-- I've only written it correctly 1x10^20 times). Send GREs. Apply to more schools, some with random extra forms that ask me questions about life and teaching for which I have no answers. Quickly hack stories apart to fit tiny page requirements. Move back, forget to email some stories/SoPs/important shit! to new computer. Find someone to email them to me. Pay exorbitant USPS fees, only to be told today, upon my last mailing, that it would've been cheaper to use a flat rate envelope. D'oh, now you tell me.

I admit that every stress-inducing thing that happened concerning applications was my fault (with a few exceptions...) but my first (and hopefully last) application season was not as calm, cool, or collected as yours, Woon. I envy your stride, and I'm sure it'll pay off during your MFA, as well.

-G

PS-- random rant did not include the amount of time last year and this summer I spent searching websites for accurate information, or the fact that because of that, I asked for paper recs for a school who decided to switch to all-electronic recs recently. Should have seen that one coming. Advice for future crazies attempting MFA: check the websites, often. Don't shirk making detailed graphs of who-needs-what-in-what-quantity-when.


clinfort


Jan 12, 2010, 10:00 PM

Post #34 of 59 (3819 views)
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Re: [gg.scholastica] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi all, this is cross-posted with the MFA blog:

RE: Writing sample

Last year I was accepted into three (out of three) MFA programs: UNH, Northern Michigan, and Oregon State off the waitlist. I ended up at NMU for funding reasons.

Half of my writing sample was already published in a literary journal (Denver Quarterly). If you guys want to compare samples check it out. It's in issue 43:1, and also recently uploaded to Kindle and Kindle for PC and iphone here:

http://www.amazon.com/Father-Crowd-ebook/dp/B0033PRYBM/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1263351104&sr=8-6

Best of luck to all applicants





In Reply To
Not offended, but certain that you're more organized, or at least less ruffled by small things, than I am. Mine went more like this: Pick stories. Re-pick stories. Ask people. Get conflicting opinions. Re-pick stories. Un re-pick stories. Suggest to excellent prof. I won't need her ref. Unsuggest, luckily she's forgotten. Wrangle up others, try to put together packets... later than I'd hoped. Realize I sent the wrong deadline, chase them down. Order transcripts. Forget transcripts before going on vacation. Apply to some schools with deadlines RIGHT NOW. Run out of ink... but not really. Find missing ink cartridge. Apply to others, transcripts obviously missing... Realize put wrong address on [second] GRE registration, which is why I have yet to get my score report (I mean, WTF-- I've only written it correctly 1x10^20 times). Send GREs. Apply to more schools, some with random extra forms that ask me questions about life and teaching for which I have no answers. Quickly hack stories apart to fit tiny page requirements. Move back, forget to email some stories/SoPs/important shit! to new computer. Find someone to email them to me. Pay exorbitant USPS fees, only to be told today, upon my last mailing, that it would've been cheaper to use a flat rate envelope. D'oh, now you tell me.

I admit that every stress-inducing thing that happened concerning applications was my fault (with a few exceptions...) but my first (and hopefully last) application season was not as calm, cool, or collected as yours, Woon. I envy your stride, and I'm sure it'll pay off during your MFA, as well.

-G

PS-- random rant did not include the amount of time last year and this summer I spent searching websites for accurate information, or the fact that because of that, I asked for paper recs for a school who decided to switch to all-electronic recs recently. Should have seen that one coming. Advice for future crazies attempting MFA: check the websites, often. Don't shirk making detailed graphs of who-needs-what-in-what-quantity-when.



Zuleika Dobson


e-mail user

Jan 13, 2010, 1:04 AM

Post #35 of 59 (3782 views)
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Re: [gg.scholastica] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

Since hindsight is 20/20, I'll probably have a fantastic answer to this question in April.

But so far, I have definitely found out how crucial it is to build a strong portfolio of shorter pieces to choose from. I spent 15 months slaving away on a novel, which is not really the preferred writing sample for Admissions Committees. I should have focused on producing a handful of very solid short stories and then asking trustworthy friends for their top 3 picks.

And I should have been savoring the work of contemporary writers instead of a bunch of dead guys.


"Every spectator is a coward or a traitor."


aiyamei

e-mail user

Jan 13, 2010, 6:37 AM

Post #36 of 59 (3763 views)
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In Reply To
I spent 15 months slaving away on a novel, which is not really the preferred writing sample for Admissions Committees. I should have focused on producing a handful of very solid short stories and then asking trustworthy friends for their top 3 picks.

And I should have been savoring the work of contemporary writers instead of a bunch of dead guys.


For some reason this response makes me so sad. I hope you are not serious. I hope what you mean is, "the fact that I was pursuing the things that actual writers pursue rather than jumping through arbitrary hoops and being the good trained poodle the MFA system sometimes asks young writers to be -- that was sometimes impractical, but oh well!" rather than actually suggesting that people should start reading politically (it would be an impossibility for there to be as many great writers working today as there have been cumulatively over the past two thousand years, no?) and frankly, writing a novel rather than short stories is only smart.

I just hope everyone will keep perspective through all this. These schools are making you jump. To jump when someone says jump is sometimes a good thing to know how to do; it's a means to a highly desired end. But as writers, you must learn not to mistake obedience for virtue. You must learn to preserve your own tastes, standards, and ideals.

Writing includes MFA programs, but it's much more than MFA programs. Don't forget!


rain_raine


Jan 13, 2010, 10:16 AM

Post #37 of 59 (3719 views)
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I'd like to second what aiyamei said. After jumping through all of those application hoops, I'm just getting back to writing and it feels wonderful. I think some of the application hoops are helpful: writing the statement of purpose, descriptions of my writing background, and even teaching statements have made me much more self-aware, and I think I am becoming a better writer because of it. I also managed to whip out a couple short-shorts, and the first draft of a slightly longer piece while working on applications, but this past week I've been doing some second/third draft writing, which feels like real writing for me. (My first drafts tend to be much more like sketches, even the sentences tend to be shorter. In the second or third draft the story begins to really develop and take shape, and it feels great to see that happening again.)

In terms of general application advice, then, I'd say that an important one is to try and get back to writing as soon after the applications are finished as you can. Writing will remind you that you are a writer, no matter what the outcome of your applications turns out to be.

More specific, nit-picky application advice:

-Submit applications early
-Avoid using USPS around their busy days, this means both the date you drop it in the mail and the date it's supposed to arrive (this year their busiest day was Dec. 14, and, probably as a result of mailworkers being so busy, my arrival confirmation for one application didn't work, leading to a week of solid freaking out)
-Make a spreadsheet ahead of time of the date you will mail each application. In making this, double check whether each due date is a postmark date or an arrival date, and adjust your mailing date accordingly. (I didn't do this last one, but I would have freaked out less if I had.)


ericweinstein
Eric Weinstein


Jan 13, 2010, 11:22 AM

Post #38 of 59 (3699 views)
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Re: [rain_raine] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

Thirded. I hadn't realized how little attention I was paying to new writing during the application process until it was all over. I wrote nearly a dozen poems in the weeks after I finished my apps, some of which were actually good.


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.


lily_lee


Jan 13, 2010, 12:57 PM

Post #39 of 59 (3671 views)
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thank you, aiyamei. i'm submitting a novel excerpt and well understand this may foul up my chances with MFA committees who prefer short stories. Yet this - and whether I get accepted somewhere or not - has absolutely no bearing on my current and continued commitment to novel-writing!

Novelists wrote things of great beauty centuries before MFA's were invented...as did short story writers and poets, of course. I honestly think some applicants lose perspective about the meaning of an MFA or the permission it gives you to do certain things (no-one here! but some)...



lily_lee


Jan 13, 2010, 1:02 PM

Post #40 of 59 (3668 views)
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Re: What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

Er, sorry if that sounded rude - it really wasn't meant to be. also just scrolled up and saw Tory's post - absolutely excellent!


Zuleika Dobson


e-mail user

Jan 13, 2010, 1:53 PM

Post #41 of 59 (3648 views)
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This is not so much a defense as an attempt at clarification...

My decision to apply to an MFA this year was relatively last-minute (October), and I think I ended up extremely unprepared for many reasons. My novel was far from being 'ready' and polished enough to actually send off, and I desperately wanted to be able to choose from a variety of short stories. The problem was I had none at the time, and then only had 2 later on. I have been a poet for pretty much the entirety of my life and within the past two years, had written a play and had been working on this novel. I didn't want to send this piece off, but felt I had no other options.

I was at a loss when discussing contemporary writers in the SOP because while I am fairly comfortable with contemporary poets and 19th-20th century fiction writers, I've read too little from contemporary fiction writers to give a fair answer. I'm completely out of the loop.

I'm not trying to be political and strategic, but I did not treat the MFA application as seriously as I should have. I am trying to be realistic in order to face the consequences of my haste and poor preparation. Thus, I don't expect MFA acceptances, but in case any programs are impervious to the faults of my submissions... of course I'd be thrilled.


"Every spectator is a coward or a traitor."

(This post was edited by Zuleika Dobson on Jan 13, 2010, 1:56 PM)


ericweinstein
Eric Weinstein


Jan 13, 2010, 1:57 PM

Post #42 of 59 (3642 views)
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In Reply To
I have been a poet for pretty much the entirety of my life and within the past two years, had written a play and had been working on this novel.



Out of curiosity: why didn't you apply to MFA programs in poetry?


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.


aiyamei

e-mail user

Jan 13, 2010, 2:17 PM

Post #43 of 59 (3627 views)
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I didn't mean you should defend yourself. If anything the opposite: I meant that it sounded to me like you were doing all the right things beforehand, and what you 'should' be doing for the MFA apps, well, I get it, but still...don't blow it out of proportion.


Zuleika Dobson


e-mail user

Jan 13, 2010, 2:32 PM

Post #44 of 59 (3619 views)
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I understand what you meant. But the problem is actually that I didn't do the right things beforehand, and know that I should have spent time working on developing a larger pool of writing samples and being better acquainted with the work of contemporaries and MFA professors, neither of which would have been a political/strategic maneuver solely for the purpose of the MFA. Though of course it would help tremendously.


"Every spectator is a coward or a traitor."


Zuleika Dobson


e-mail user

Jan 13, 2010, 2:33 PM

Post #45 of 59 (3615 views)
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I guess since the answer consists solely of reasons not germane to this discussion topic, I'll PM you.


"Every spectator is a coward or a traitor."


ericweinstein
Eric Weinstein


Jan 14, 2010, 11:03 AM

Post #46 of 59 (3506 views)
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In Reply To
Nope. Every writing school in the country wants the best students. The methods for judging applications may vary from place to place--and this explains why someone gets accepted to Prestige U. but not Legacy U. or even Upstart U.--but every faculty at every school does things the same way.



Right, but numerically speaking, some schools are more selective than othersói.e., if School A takes 30 applicants from a pool of 500 (6% acceptance rate) and School B takes 10 from a pool of 500 (2% acceptance rate), then School B is, ceteris paribus, more selective than School A.

I'm not saying this means School B is better than School A for being more selective, but it stands to reason that, in general, applying to schools with higher acceptance rates increases one's chances of being accepted.


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.


bighark


Jan 14, 2010, 12:23 PM

Post #47 of 59 (3484 views)
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Look, we're talking about art school. If this were a discussion about law school or an MBA program, where objective criteria like GPAs and standardized test scores are considered, then perhaps selectivity could be a useful figure. In this case, it isn't.

There's no way to measure the strength of your application relative to all other applications. Furthermore, this notion of selectivity suggests that if you're good enough to get in to the school with the 2% acceptance rate then you'd also be accepted to the school with the 6% acceptance rate, and history has shown that this is not the case.

Take the following post, for instance: http://www.pw.org/speakeasy/gforum.cgi?post=271488;#271488.

Scenarios like the one above play out on this board year after year.


ericweinstein
Eric Weinstein


Jan 14, 2010, 12:51 PM

Post #48 of 59 (3470 views)
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What I perhaps should have said, then, is "don't apply to programs you think (for whatever reason) you have a better shot of getting into, but wouldn't be thrilled about attending if accepted."


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.


JohnGradyCole


Jan 18, 2010, 9:52 PM

Post #49 of 59 (3297 views)
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Who doesn't love unsolicited advice?! Who, I ask you?! Here's mine.

* Waste time, and don't feel bad about it, but remember: moderation. Do your work. Don't be a lazy dummy.

* Save your money for app fees, and do it early and often. The first time I applied to fiction programs, I was so caught up in my manuscript and statements of purpose and whatnot that I didn't give a second thought to money after deciding early on that, yes, I can probably afford to apply to X number of programs. I ended up putting everything on the credit card mere weeks before getting laid off. Whoops. This time around, my total amount spent on MFA apps was $400. Thanks to literally stashing a set amount of cash a week into my mattress, I didn't have to put a dime on the CC. Hooray for interest-free peace of mind.

* There are many, many folks who applied but didn't get accepted the first time around, and are giving it another go. Seek these people out. Share war stories.

* Dig up any information you can on program acceptance rates. Be optimistic, but for heaven's sake be practical.

* @gg.scholastica, I totally echo the awesomeness and utility of making a big ol' spreadsheet of requirements and deadlines for each program to which you're applying. Every time I finished an app requirement, I colored its Excel cell green. Beholding my entirely green spreadsheet after I mailed off my last application was enormously satisfying.

* You are not entitled to anything. Repeat.

* If you don't get accepted, let yourself be sad, then figure out what to do differently, then try again. Do it in that order, but don't spend six months doing the first part and then rush to squeeze the second two parts in before the end of December. I felt better as soon as I started working on new fiction after getting universally rejected, but I still allowed myself to emotionally work up to it, which sounds stupid, but you know what, your face sounds stupid!!

* Antique stores are a great place to find super cheap contemporary fiction. (Subtext: read, read, read!)

* If the clock's ticking and it becomes necessary to hound your recommendation writers, then by all means hound away. I know a lot of hands are wrung over this. The way I see it, your letter writers agreed to do something important for you, and it's not your fault if they don't adhere to that commitment, or forget about it. Don't write them nasty emails, obviously, but also at no point in any of those emails should there appear any variation on the phrase, "sorry to bother you."

* Friends who are voracious readers are just as helpful as friends who are voracious writers in terms of quality feedback. You already knew that, but it's always worth repeating.

* If anyone tells you to quit stressing between now and the end of March, remember that a stern blow to the clavicle can render a person unconscious.

* "But most of all, I have learned not just to put myself out there, but to own the fact that I've put myself out there." @emcsims: amen.


emilychristine
Emily Sims

e-mail user

Jan 18, 2010, 10:39 PM

Post #50 of 59 (3282 views)
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Re: [JohnGradyCole] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

@JohnGradyCole--Thanks for the Amen :) And I'll be using that advice about the stern blow to the clavicle. I can't tell you how many times people have told me that I just need to be patient... well, they just need to be kicked in the face!

:)


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taraberyl



Jan 19, 2010, 1:27 AM

Post #51 of 59 (3833 views)
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Re: [emcsims] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

i echo those who swear by the master excel chart with fees/deadlines/etc - only in my case, it didn't really stick until i stuck it - literally - on a wall. i taped two pieces of printer paper together and made the chart old school style with magic marker. i also put things like "net id"s and passwords on it. i liked having everything on the wall where i could see it (and, ok, i never was so good at excel). PLUS it was really satisfying to draw lines through entire rows when i'd finished the app for that school. ahhhh.


lily_lee


Jan 19, 2010, 5:32 AM

Post #52 of 59 (3811 views)
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Re: [JohnGradyCole] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

Excellent advice, JohnGradyCole! Thank you!


bighark


Jan 19, 2010, 12:40 PM

Post #53 of 59 (3770 views)
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Re: [lily_lee] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

 A couple of things I've picked up along the way.


Writing Sample (Fiction)

1) Use the same writing sample for every school. Don't edit bits to fit page requirements. Don't mix pieces because you think they may fare better at a certain school or schools. Using the same sample eliminates a lot of the questions that may pop up at the end of the process when you're accepted at some places and not at others.

2) Unless a school states a specific minimum page length, donít worry about using a smaller sample. Itís perfectly fine to send 14 pages when a school says its limit is 25 or 30.

3) Donít sweat going over page limits by a few pages. If your two best stories come in at 32 pages, go ahead and send them to the 30-page limit places. If youíre me, you send them to 25-page limit places, too.

4) One strong story > One strong story and one OK story, but two strong stories > one strong story. Donít freak out if you donít have two strong stories, though.

5) Send your best work, and donít over-think the details. If your best story is a few years old, for example, donít worry that someone is going to look it up and ask why you havenít done anything more recent.

Personal Statement

1) Keep your personal statement to one page. This is an important document, and if you write it well, it can serve you in the future for things like residencies and fellowships. Shoot for a length of 350 words. Yes, thatís hard. Brevity, as they say, is the soul of wit.

2) Prepare a teaching statement just in case. Your schools may not require them, but having a teaching statement ready can save you some time if you decide to add a new school or find a place in an application where that content could be used.

Letters of Recommendation

1) Donít be shy about asking a recommender if he or she is willing to write you a strong recommendation.

2) If you want to ask a former professor for a letter after youíve been out of school for a while, take a few moments to write a summary of who you are (including what youíve done since school) and what you did in that professorís class. Be brief. Two or three paragraphs should be enough to jog a memory.

3) Take care of your letter requests early. Try to line up your recommenders before the end of October, and tell them that they need to have their letters ready by December 1.

4) Itís an extra expense, but Iíve been really happy with using Interfolio for my letters of recommendation. Your recommenders write one letter one time (although they can write personalized letters for particular programs if they wish) and then you take care of everything else. It makes things easy on the recommenders, and you only have to keep track of the letters in one place instead of a dozen (as would be the case if you use the online recommendation forms offered by most schools). If Interfolio is appealing to you, budget about $100 for the typical list of 10-14 schools.

5) I never did this, but I have heard from faculty that it doesnít hurt to have more than the required number of letters for your file. If a school asks for three, itís ok to send four or five. In any case, I can see the value in having back-up recommendations at the ready in case someone flakes out.


GRE

1) The GRE is worth taking if only to open yourself up to more possibilities in terms of schools.

2) Sit for the GRE as early as you can. Most schools will accept late-arriving material like GRE scores, transcripts, and LORs, but some donít, and you donít want to waste your application fees. Before November is best.

3) If you have to choose between studying for the GRE and working on your writing sample, work on your writing sample. Creative writing programs do not accept students on the strength of their GRE scores.

4) Some schools make money available to students with exceptional GRE scores. Think above the 1500 mark. Understand, though, that this money comes from the parent institution, not the creative writing program. Creative writing programs donít care about your GRE scores, and any funding they have to offer has nothing to do with your performance on this silly test.


Transcripts

1) Order a set of transcripts for your personal use. Some schools offer ďunofficial transcripts,Ē which are free. Having your transcripts is useful when applications require you to fill out GPA forms and the like.


JohnGradyCole


Jan 19, 2010, 2:20 PM

Post #54 of 59 (3732 views)
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Re: [bighark] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

Bighark: wonderful, simple, and altogether too true point about ordering a set of transcripts for your personal use. I found myself consulting my undergrad transcripts frequently during the application process, and for myriad reasons.


JohnGradyCole


Jan 19, 2010, 2:38 PM

Post #55 of 59 (3725 views)
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Re: [taraberyl] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
i echo those who swear by the master excel chart with fees/deadlines/etc - only in my case, it didn't really stick until i stuck it - literally - on a wall. i taped two pieces of printer paper together and made the chart old school style with magic marker. i also put things like "net id"s and passwords on it. i liked having everything on the wall where i could see it (and, ok, i never was so good at excel). PLUS it was really satisfying to draw lines through entire rows when i'd finished the app for that school. ahhhh.


Nice, taraberyl. I'm assuming you used a red marker to draw those satisfying lines.

Another fun thing I did with my chart was add color commentary. For example, one program I applied to last year required a comically short personal statement in addition to the regular personal statement. Under the "OTHER" chart section for this program, I entered "Completely pointless, ridiculously tiny statement. You have to do your best on it regardless, but still, what the f&#@. Seriously." In doing so, my chart became not only my taskmaster, but also my sympathetic friend. And who couldn't use more of those?


jessaheath


Jan 21, 2010, 11:20 PM

Post #56 of 59 (3557 views)
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Re: [JohnGradyCole] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

Advice/Reflection

1. I'd like to echo... excel can be your color coding sidekick, and a good way to track your progress.

2. Large envelopes with sticky notes work just as well, and are also very satisfying.

3. Send SASPs to every school that has you mail your writing sample (even the ones who don't request/suggest). Postcards I bought from the Louvre when I was 15 have kept me from obsessively tracking down my materials. They are also very pretty on my windowsills, and a nice distraction while waiting for the real responses. This morning I received a postcard that read: U. of Virginia, Materials Received. 1/15/09. BAM. Initials I think, but it was still very satisfying to read.

4. Don't take in too much of the advice from other applicants. The Speakeasy and MFA Blog are great resources and a fantastic place to find support or answers, but this process is about expressing yourself/your work IN WRITING to the adcoms. Writing is what you are good at, remember? Trust yourself.


blob


Nov 13, 2010, 1:13 PM

Post #57 of 59 (2727 views)
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Re: [jessaheath] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

Just responding to bump this thread up. I think people currently applying might find this very helpful. I know I did.


callieStacks
Callie Stackhouse

Feb 13, 2011, 2:01 PM

Post #58 of 59 (2430 views)
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Re: [Woon] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
At the risk of offending many of you, I don't understand what the big deal with all the angst about MFA applications. It seemed very routine and straightforward to me. I researched and applied to 13 schools. I sent out for my transcripts from my undergrad. I asked some of my former teachers if they could write letters of rec for me. I studied for, took the GRE, and did well. I finalized some short stories. I drafted my Statement of Purpose (or Personal Statement). I applied online. To me, it was all fun and I hardly broke a sweat.

If I don't get in, it's not the end of the world. It's an art degree, for pete's sake. We all have options, whether you believe it or not, if the MFA doesn't work out.

I mean, there's always Optometry school.

*nowthatthecoastisclear*

I was actually thinking Temple University's Non-Credit Creative Writing Workshop on Wednesdays in between swimming lessons Tuesdays and Thursdays.

*beendoggy-paddlingsincethesecondgrade*


merryflip
merry flip

Nov 18, 2012, 10:10 PM

Post #59 of 59 (1733 views)
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Re: [ericweinstein] What Have You Learned From the Application Process? [In reply to] Can't Post

well, i love your post, surely, there are more options than this, personally speaking, it's just ok!

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