Subscribe | Give a Gift Subscription

Log In or Register | Help | Contact Us | Donate

Advanced Search

Main Index » Writing and Publishing » MFA Programs
Choosing an MFA Program (2009) (2010) (2011)
Edit your profilePrivate messages Search postsWho's online?
You are not signed in. Click here to sign in.
If you are not a member, Register here!
153631 registered users
First page Previous page 1 ... 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 ... 41 Next page Last page  View All


e-mail user

Oct 1, 2008, 1:22 PM

Post #201 of 1018 (26995 views)
     Re: [Junior Maas] Choices, choices [In reply to]  

Well, i grew up in t-town, and i was mostly happy to leave. But the writing program is awesome, so much so it almost lured me to go back. it has long history, I used to crash the MFA parties in the eighties, back when writing professors weren't expected to be professionals. Needless to say these parties were awesome. If T-town weren't my hometown with all the baggage, I would have gone for it. There's enough quirky Old South lurking around the corners to make it interesting, and a downtown with old architecture, and lots of feasible road trips. (the Gulf, New Orleans, Nashville). I think there's something about being on the fringe that makes the writing community bond. Everyone I've heard of going there didn't lack for a good time. And people do well from that program. It seems to be one of those mysterious programs that produces writers who publish. Probably because it really focuses on the writing and not the hoopla.



Oct 1, 2008, 1:29 PM

Post #202 of 1018 (26990 views)
     Re: [germericanqt] Choices, choices [In reply to]  


How do you figure out a school's acceptance rate? I'm looking at Ohio State University's program.


Oct 1, 2008, 2:46 PM

Post #203 of 1018 (26971 views)
     Re: Wilmington [In reply to]  

Hi Symmetrical,

Just a quick note about your last comment--I don't think UNC @ Wilmington is fully-funded, you may be thinking of Greensboro, which is semi-officially 75% funded but is rumored by current students to be nearly or actually funded for all. Wilmington I have down as a 35% to 55% funder, probably like 40% in the final accounting (i.e., 40% of students receive full funding).


MFA Rankings, Acceptance Rates, and Statistics at: http://www.sethabramson.blogspot.com/



Oct 1, 2008, 5:20 PM

Post #204 of 1018 (26942 views)
     Re: [umass76] Wilmington [In reply to]  

oh right, sorry about that.


Oct 1, 2008, 9:22 PM

Post #205 of 1018 (26900 views)
     Re: [riotpoof881] Choices, choices [In reply to]  

I got most of my statistics from The Suburban Ecstasies. There is a list of rankings based on acceptance rates for 2007; if a school wasn't listed there I checked the website and googled it and so forth. My University of Utah ranking, for example, is not an actual acceptance rate, but my understanding of my own likelihood to get it (very unofficial, based on what a professor in the program told me.)

Mikiel Ghelieh

Oct 1, 2008, 11:55 PM

Post #206 of 1018 (26880 views)
     Re: [symmetrical] [In reply to]  


Thank you for your imput. Arizona State, UNC-Wilmington, Alabama, Texas, and Florida all looked like they had great programs. Texas has to big of a program as far as I'm concerned, looking for more of a smaller program. Florida is a school I am for sure looking at, but not yet sold on applying. UNC-Wilmington and Alabama are just not the right fit for me as far as I'm concerned. ASU and I have a love hate relationship, I love the Campus and Town, and who amongst us doesn't like beautiful women. ASU is also a consideration I do need a little further research in its funding and program set up. If anyone else has any ideas on programs for poets, three years, with funding please let me know.



Oct 7, 2008, 11:04 AM

Post #207 of 1018 (26747 views)
     Re: [In reply to]  

I need tons and tons of help and advice. Please save me, benevolent P&W forum-goers.

Alright, so, I applied last year to 7 schools, crossed my fingers, hoped for the best... and got rejected by every single one. It kinda crushed my dreams and my desire to write, so I avoided even thinking about writing for several months. Now, though, I think I'm ready to start thinking about trying again. I found a local workshop, I'm talking with my former professors, hopefully I learned a bit from last year.

Last year, I applied to the following schools:

U of Virginia
U of Wisconsin
U of Florida
Washington Univ in St. Louis
U of Michigan
and Georgia College & State Univ.

So, 6 very top-end schools and only 1 "safety". My primary concern was funding, I knew nothing about the faculty (and still don't) and not a whole lot about contemporary literature in general. I sent out two pieces which were apparently very experimental (I'd say one definitely was, though I'm not 100% convinced the other is.)

Since that time, I've discovered my writing is generally experimental, and it also tends to be what I enjoy reading. I have been trying to brush up on contemporary literature a bit, reading through the 2008 O. Henry and Pushcart prize anthologies. All it's done for me to date, though, is emphasize to me that experimental fiction is my genre of choice.

So, all that said, I suppose my primary concerns this year are "well-funded" and "experimental-friendly" schools, as I'm a poor guy from the Nashville suburbs. (It also limits the number of schools I can apply to, damned app fees.) I've been wanting to read Tom Kealey's MFA Handbook, but I decided to go ahead and preorder the new edition, which is apparently still not released. (His publisher gives a pub date of 10/1/08, but Amazon still just says "Oct. 2008". Maybe if Seth sees this he might know a bit more about when it should be available for us last minute types?) I very much hope it will give me some more help, but until that time, I've turned to the Speakeasy.

When I was applying last year, I came across a blog entry by Steve Tomasula (Director of Notre Dame's MFA program) about experimental programs, including his own. It's a nice little list, and the comments are helpful, too. (Link's available here.) I know from looking last year that ND's funding is pretty nice, so I think they've got a definite spot on my list. Brown is also on his list, and I doubt I can afford that. I intend to look further into U of Colorado, Boulder, U of Utah, U of Alabama, and Florida State soon. I also need to look into the ones suggested by Lance Olsen, director of U of Utah's program, in the comments. I'm looking for other suggestions from this community as well. Perhaps some of you have got some good suggestions?


Oct 7, 2008, 1:18 PM

Post #208 of 1018 (26712 views)
     Re: [anjldust] Re: [In reply to]  

Brown was on the Atlantic Monthly's list of "well-funded programs". I think everyone there gets a tuition fellowship and stipend.


Oct 7, 2008, 1:22 PM

Post #209 of 1018 (26710 views)
     Re: [imariel] Re: [In reply to]  

Wow, I thought I'd read that it was super expensive, being Ivy League and such. I guess that tends to apply more to programs other than their MFA. Thanks for that, it makes it a much more attractive school to me. :-D


Oct 7, 2008, 7:44 PM

Post #210 of 1018 (26662 views)
     Re: [anjldust] Re: [In reply to]  

Check out Illinois State University. They offer a Masters, not a MFA, in creative writing. I've heard that they're very accepting of experimental writing. They also offer assistantships, but I don't know the details.


Oct 17, 2008, 1:50 AM

Post #211 of 1018 (26491 views)
     Whittling Down "The List" [In reply to]  

This is my second year applying for MFA Programs, and last year my list was a little top-heavy. I think I've finally gotten my list down to something suitable but am having trouble filling in the spots (I'm planning on applying to 12 schools) with my remaining "maybes" (and I'm also willing to drop/swap some in the top half, too, if it becomes prudent to do so). Any advice? I'm applying for fiction.

My I-think-so's...

UMass Amherst
Johns Hopkins
Arizona State
Univ. of New Orleans
Univ. of South Carolina

My maybes
Wash U St. Louis
UMass Boston

I am concerned about funding, would prefer to teach (but could do without if necessary), am pretty flexible on location, but definitely want a more balanced list this year... Thoughts?


Oct 17, 2008, 2:24 AM

Post #212 of 1018 (26485 views)
     Re: [als02] Whittling Down "The List" [In reply to]  

Hi there,

If you're concerned about funding, I'd rank your prospective additional schools as follows:

1t. University of Iowa
1t. Washington University
3t. University of New Hampshire
3t. University of New Mexico
5. University of Massachusetts at Boston

So, if you're adding two, go with WUSTL and Iowa. If you're worried about keeping your list balanced acceptance rate-wise, go with WUSTL and...well, in fiction I don't necessarily love your remaining options. I'd propose one of Penn State, University of Florida, Louisisna State University, George Mason University, or University of Alabama (hardest to "easiest" admit: Alabama, Florida, Penn State/George Mason, LSU).


(This post was edited by umass76 on Oct 17, 2008, 2:25 AM)


Oct 17, 2008, 2:34 AM

Post #213 of 1018 (26482 views)
     Re: [umass76] Whittling Down "The List" [In reply to]  

Yeah, I was thinking about some of those additional schools you mentioned earlier and don't mind going back to it. Does the non-maybe list look decent enough?

I was also thinking of Oregon (I've come down from a list of about 20), but in general, I'm really having trouble generating a final list this year. I think I'm second-guessing myself too much after having been rejected from all 12 schools last year (UNCG, Alabama, UofFlorida, NYU, UC Irvine, Austin, UofIllinois, Michigan, Indiana, UNLV, Minnesota, and UVA)--wanting to get that "perfect list." I know one doesn't exist, but I wouldn't mind it.

Ha, I also wouldn't mind being able to afford whatever school I might get into. :-)


Oct 17, 2008, 3:42 AM

Post #214 of 1018 (26473 views)
     Re: [als02] Whittling Down "The List" [In reply to]  

The non-maybe list looks good, though I could see, in fiction, replacing New Orleans and South Carolina (particularly the latter) with two of University of Memphis, University of Idaho, Boise State University, or Texas State at San Marcos (preferably the first and last of these, though Idaho is a notable and decent option as well).


(This post was edited by umass76 on Oct 17, 2008, 3:44 AM)


Oct 17, 2008, 11:58 AM

Post #215 of 1018 (26437 views)
     Re: [umass76] Whittling Down "The List" [In reply to]  

Als02 (and others),

In the event this is helpful to anyone: http://creative-writing-mfa-handbook.blogspot.com/...mfa-programs-to.html ("How to Draft a List of MFA Programs to Apply To," from the MFA Blog)


(This post was edited by umass76 on Oct 17, 2008, 12:00 PM)


Oct 17, 2008, 12:13 PM

Post #216 of 1018 (26426 views)
     Re: [als02] Whittling Down "The List" [In reply to]  

After reading all these crazy lists of people applying to schools, I'm going to apply to even fewer schools than were originally on my list. I think there comes a point where applying to xyz schools is too many.

I feel like you end up spreading your applications too thin, in a sense. Say you apply to one school and you know what they want and spend additional time fixing your application so that way you appeal to what they want. You talk to current students, or take a class at the school in the program you're looking to get into...whatever. If you know where you want to go, why not apply there?

I say this because I know a lot of people who have gone to top ranked MFA programs having only applied to one or two schools. I wonder if less is more. Any thoughts?


Oct 17, 2008, 12:51 PM

Post #217 of 1018 (26415 views)
     Re: [flobelle] Whittling Down "The List" [In reply to]  

Hi Flobelle,

Honestly, there is no way to know "what they want"--I think you can visit a school, talk to its current students and its graduates, even sit in on a workshop (should they allow it), and you'd still not know "what they want." This isn't a science, but (in many ways) a crapshoot, so I worry that thinking the system can be gamed/predicted will lead folks to huge disappointments down the line. Frankly, even if it were possible to know "what they want," and to "fix your application" to meet the program's perceived needs/desires, it wouldn't change the fact that the acceptance rate at the average hypothetical target school is likely less than 5%--which means there are doubtless others who are a better fit for "what they want," especially as we can't really, in the end, "fix our application" beyond the level of our talents and the scope of our aesthetics.

For every story of a person who applied (foolishly) to two schools and got into one or both, I promise you there are ten or more stories of those who applied to ten to twelve schools and got into none.

I strongly advise against believing that, when you're applying to programs harder to get into than Harvard Medical School (as all the top MFA programs are), it's the case that you can somehow focus your attention enough on a particular application to dramatically increase your odds. The bottom line is, if they like your work more than 99 out of every 100 applicants, they'll accept you; if not, they won't, no matter how much you think you gave them "what they want."

In this instance, in this context, less is definitely not more. Trust me; I spend more time talking to and communicating via e-mail with current and past MFA applicants than just about anyone (I have to, or else all these freelance essays and ongoing rankings would be impossible to do with any degree of reliability or accuracy).



Oct 17, 2008, 2:58 PM

Post #218 of 1018 (26396 views)
     Re: [umass76] Whittling Down "The List" [In reply to]  


Seth is right. Less is not more when it comes to your MFA applications. Also, I'd caution you against holding onto this idea that you can somehow divine what a particular program wants in applicant. You can't.

You're applying to creative writing programs. Decisions will be made on the promise of your fiction or poetry. I can't think of a more nebulous criteria for admission, can you?

Even if you could get a bead of what a school has done in the past, you don't know what they'll do for your application class. Admissions committees change from year to year, and the committee that admitted the Full Ride University cohort for 2010 may not be the one that makes decisions for 2011.

Anyway, there's never a type or style of writing that will impress a reader more than quality writing. The best strategy for applying to MFA programs is to send your best work. Don't send a farm animal story because you think a program digs farm animal stories. Send your best work.


Oct 17, 2008, 3:53 PM

Post #219 of 1018 (26380 views)
     Re: Whittling Down "The List" [In reply to]  

And even if by some divine miracle that you were able to discover what the Admissions people are looking for, so did other applicants. I'm guessing that of the hundreds (thousands in Iowa's case) of applicants, at least fifty or so have been able to tailor their application and writing samples to the "wants" of the Admissions people. But there are only 4-12 seats available! The numbers are against you. The competition is stiff! And ultimately, it really is a roll of the dice.

So, good luck everyone!


Oct 17, 2008, 3:54 PM

Post #220 of 1018 (26379 views)
     Re: [bighark] Whittling Down "The List" [In reply to]  

In Reply To
Don't send a farm animal story because you think a program digs farm animal stories. Send your best work.

...unless your best work is a farm animal story.


Oct 17, 2008, 5:34 PM

Post #221 of 1018 (26358 views)
     Re: [bighark] Whittling Down "The List" [In reply to]  

That's not what I mean. als02 here wrote what s/he deems "experimental" and didn't even consider Brown or Illinois State in the first round and instead picked a lot of very traditional, literary-narrative kinds of programs. (hello, Michigan??)

Maybe what s/he wrote was not up to par, period, but I feel like doing more research and focusing on a few schools that have what you want is better than applying blindly, which is what a lot of these lists are looking like these days.

Also, maybe applying to 12 schools wasn't a good idea. Maybe it'd be better to apply to no schools.


Oct 17, 2008, 9:27 PM

Post #222 of 1018 (26327 views)
     Re: [flobelle] Whittling Down "The List" [In reply to]  

Hi Flobelle,

It sounds like, despite asking the question, you've already pretty much made up your mind on this topic. Which is fine, but you should realize that Illinois State is an M.A., not an M.F.A., and Brown is both a) one of the top five hardest programs to get into in the United States, and b) not one of the twenty programs in the U.S. fully funded for all students for both years. Plus it's a two-year program, and many applicants are interested in the several dozen three-year programs out there.

Anyone who makes their admissions decision primarily based on the perceived aesthetics of a program--in an environment in which, if the school admits you in the first place, they're already indicating a welcoming attitude to your aesthetics--is making a huge and costly mistake. I think you should realize that a lot more thought has gone into the current conventional wisdom about MFA programs than you're acknowledging. I think if you spend a few months reading around the major websites on MFAs you'll see what I mean. No one's going into this half-assed, if that's your concern. The best advice continues to be to apply to 12 to 15 programs, and to place "perceived aesthetic bias" (a largely speculative category of assessment) into its proper place in the decision-making tree--an unprivileged one. Best of luck,


P.S. I gave you a link, above, to an MFA program assessment tool advising consideration of approximately thirty factors in deciding which programs to apply to. Your response said that the advice here, and that the trend here, was/is to "apply blindly." That sort of tells me that you're asking a question but not taking a lot of time to listen to the answer--perhaps because you feel you already know it.

(This post was edited by umass76 on Oct 17, 2008, 9:31 PM)


Oct 17, 2008, 10:26 PM

Post #223 of 1018 (26312 views)
     Re: [umass76] Whittling Down "The List" [In reply to]  

I think there are others, like me, who do not believe in applying to a zillion programs. I posted because I was curious to find those people on this board.

I think that you do some people a disservice by saying they should apply to 12-15 programs. If you have to apply to that many programs, maybe the MFA degree isn't the right thing to do. If you have to apply to that many schools, you should consider something else! It's expensive to apply--where is this ridiculous sum coming from?

I don't see how someone could apply your list of thirty traits and come up with 12-15 programs.


Oct 17, 2008, 11:24 PM

Post #224 of 1018 (26307 views)
     Re: [flobelle] Whittling Down "The List" [In reply to]  

In Reply To
...and instead picked a lot of very traditional, literary-narrative kinds of programs. (hello, Michigan??)

(flobelle, this is not directed *at you*, just some thoughts brought about by what you wrote above in the context of the larger discussion.)

In my experience, it's not useful to tag an entire program as literary-narrative, experimental, post-modern, traditional, whatever. The reason is partly that programs comprise faculty with individual sensibilities, interests, tastes and literary styles. But a bigger factor is that the students have individual sensibilities, interests, tastes and literary styles.

I'm in my second year of a three-year residential program that admits between four and eight fiction students each year. At any given time, then, there are twelve to twenty-four fiction students coming through. There is no discernible commonality of style, voice, subject, or fictive approach. Workshop, regardless of which faculty member leads it, is about responding to what's on the page -- not an attempt to guide the work toward a particular aesthetic dictated by the instructor. It's about figuring out how fiction works in *this* piece, and how to help *this* piece achieve what the student is trying to achieve. One of my instructors is attentive to structure and mechanics, another to narrative dynamic and characterization, still another to voice, language and tone. No one gives a shit about what kind of story I'm writing apart from helping me write it well.

I think it's a common concern, but a mistaken one, to worry as you're applying that your work might not "fit." Unless a program comes out and declares that it discourages anything but narrative realism or, I don't know, magical realism or experimentalism, etc. -- and I've never seen such a designation -- I think it's safe to assume that the faculty will support whatever style the student is interested in writing, as long as the writing itself (sing along) shows promise.

That's not to say that there are no programs with outstanding faculty specializing in particular forms -- just that one faculty member does not an entire program make, especially considering the spectrum of student work.

This is a numbers game. It makes more sense to cast a wide net than to try to beat the house with a single hand, (to mix a few metaphors). You give yourself more control, in the long run, if you frontload your odds and get an acceptance or two or three (at which point you can get selective). You can't decline to dance if you haven't been asked.

Good luck, everyone --


Oct 18, 2008, 12:01 AM

Post #225 of 1018 (26293 views)
     Re: [writerteacher] Whittling Down "The List" [In reply to]  

I'd be interested to know how many programs you applied to, and where you ended up.

If it's a numbers game, is this a way of saying you didn't get into your first choice school? And if you did, then what does that mean? You get into your first choice school, and then think about all the money you wasted applying everywhere else.


First page Previous page 1 ... 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 ... 41 Next page Last page  View All

Main Index » Writing and Publishing » MFA Programs


P&W Newsletters

Sign up to receive our monthly email newsletter to stay informed of the latest news, events and more.

Click to Sign Up

Subscribe to P&W Magazine | Donate Now | Advertise | Sign up for E-Newsletter | About Us | Contact Us

© Copyright Poets & Writers 2011. All Rights Reserved