May 23, 2007, 11:21 PM
Post #28 of 454
My opinions/advice, having just gone through this process (and been accepted to 4 of the 9 I applied to):
1. Do your research. Google and used books from Amazon should be your new best friends. Write down the faculty at the schools you're interested in and find their books, their interviews, their faculty websites--anything. I dropped two schools off my application list and spent the application money on amassing a library of used books by profs at other schools. Find out what the schools offer for financial aid and factor that into your decision (it's hard to pay back $60K in debt as a poet!). Research what percentage of applicants get accepted (If they take 50% of applicants, do you want to be in the unelite? If they accept 1.2%, do you think you're really that good?). If you can find course catalogs or meet current students, find out how often your favorite writers actually teach. Reading these message boards and other blogs, I was astounded at how un-educatedly some people admitted to being about the schools they applied to, spending $1000+ dollars to apply to schools they didn't really know much about. This is the next two years of your life--do the homework!
2. Get organized. A good chunk of my day job is (was!!!) project management and paperwork, and this process was even a little intimidating to me. Every school has different rules and different deadlines and different SOP and teaching statements guidelines. I made a folder for each school and maintained a nerdtastic spreadsheet with deadlines and notes. I spent two nights (2-3 hrs) a week on this for about two months, and then a solid weekend as the first deadlines approached. I somewhat customized my application to each school, making sure I at least made it sound like I was writing my SOP just for them. Also, I highly recommend finding an affordable bourbon and stocking up. It eases the freak-out as the deadlines approach, and makes all this paperwork a little more tolerable.
3. Keep writing and editing. This fall, I was in a structured workshop, run by a poet-friend out of his house, and used it to tweak my writing sample. If you're not in a community of writers already, try to find one--Writer's Voice programs through a YMCA, commercially-run workshops, online courses, whatever. I don't think I would have been accepted to a couple of the schools without the growth my writing experienced this fall/winter. And, if you've never workshopped before, and you want to enter that type of program, you'll be better prepared.