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Choosing an MFA Program (2013 - 2014)
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moonslice


Aug 11, 2011, 3:40 PM

Post #101 of 177 (9200 views)
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Re: [umass76] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

Hello. It's been a number of years since I've posted in the Speakeasy. I had to register again. I've been working in writing, editing, etc for several years, but not in a literary way (advertising, professional blogging, etc.). I have a BA in English, and am considering applying for an MFA (not a low res) in poetry.

I have a few questions which I believe haven't been addressed in this thread yet:
Does it matter if you apply early? I know it probably varies among schools, but do you think they start selecting people before the deadline arrives?

Do more people apply for fiction than poetry? I'm trying to figure out which is more competitive.

Is it wise, if allowed, to have a dual focus (poetry and fiction)?

Would you shy away from a studio version of an MFA which requires almost no literature classes? U of Memphis gives this option, but I'm not sure if it's a smart one for teaching later. Then again, the teaching jobs are so competitive I'm not sure it matters.

For programs that are fully funded and require teaching (like Vanderbilt), does it help to play up your high school level English teaching license?


bighark


Aug 11, 2011, 4:10 PM

Post #102 of 177 (9195 views)
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Re: [moonslice] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

Applying Before Deadline: It's not going to hurt you, but you won't be helped, either. Your application content will be filed until it's time for the admissions committee to begin its work several months from now.
Poetry v. Fiction Applications: MFAs are hard to get into period. While there are a larger number of fiction applicants, getting into poetry programs isn't any easier by comparison.
Wisdom: If your practice involves writing both fiction and poetry, then I'd look for places that allow you to do both. They're out there.
Studio v. Academic: A personal choice. You'll be exposed to plenty of literature regardless of which kind of program you choose. If you feel a more academic approach will better inform your writing, go with that. I wouldn't make this decision based on the prospect of finding a job.
Teaching: You'll never be accepted into a program over a better qualified writer on account of teaching experience, but it's certainly a skill that will be appreciated in the places where you might be required to teach. If any of your applications require a teaching statement, that's the place to bring up your teaching.


umass76


Aug 11, 2011, 10:53 PM

Post #103 of 177 (9166 views)
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Re: [moonslice] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

Moonslice,
Acceptance rates for MFA programs are low across the board, but as a general rule yield-exclusive acceptance rates for poetry programs are approximately twice those of their same-university, fiction-program peers.
S.


moonslice


Aug 12, 2011, 2:02 AM

Post #104 of 177 (9154 views)
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Re: [umass76] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

It seems as though more people probably want to write fiction because so few people actually buy poetry. Am I wrong here?

In Reply To
Moonslice,
Acceptance rates for MFA programs are low across the board, but as a general rule yield-exclusive acceptance rates for poetry programs are approximately twice those of their same-university, fiction-program peers.
S.



moonslice


Aug 14, 2011, 2:26 AM

Post #105 of 177 (9107 views)
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Re: [bighark] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks bighark for your response.
I'm wondering if asking to focus on both makes me look, uh, well unfocused! I know that professors expect most students to have an interest in both poetry and fiction, but I can't help thinking that they want students who display a clear commitment to one or the other, not a divided one to both.
Am I being paranoid?
I've written much more poetry than fiction. I'm very unsure of my ability to get in based on fiction samples. Plus, my references know me better as a poet. While I have plenty to learn about writing poetry, I have much more to learn about fiction. Not sure what this says about where I should place my focus.


In Reply To

Wisdom: If your practice involves writing both fiction and poetry, then I'd look for places that allow you to do both. They're out there.



bighark


Aug 14, 2011, 11:07 PM

Post #106 of 177 (9076 views)
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Re: [moonslice] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

I wouldn't say paranoid--just uninformed. Some schools embrace the multigenre approach, and others would rather you focus your efforts in one area. Some will let you enter in the poetry track and take classes in fiction once you're in the program (or vice versa), and others might require you to apply and be accepted to both the fiction and poetry tracks if you want to work in those genres at the same time.
My advice is to seek the schools that are open to experimentation. I'm sure you have a tentative list of schools right now, so you can start to see which places can accommodate your needs. If you're not sure, send an email or make a phone call. There's no harm in asking. And if you are determined to apply to a school that wants you to focus in one area, then maybe you shouldn't mention your interest in fiction in your statement of purpose for that particular place.
There's plenty of time between now and when the first round of application deadlines (the earliest are usually December 1), so I'm sure you can find the schools that will be right for you.
Good luck.


moonslice


Aug 15, 2011, 1:18 AM

Post #107 of 177 (9071 views)
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Re: [bighark] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks bighark. I guess I'm feeling like there's not much time since I haven't started studying for the GRE or put together samples. It feels like there's lots to do. I need to make a schedule for myself to work on these things.
I've seen that a few people here have said not to worry about the math section of the GRE, but I know I'll totally bomb it if I don't study. And there's all those vocab words.


zackperici
Zack Perici

Aug 18, 2011, 9:05 AM

Post #108 of 177 (8996 views)
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Re: [moonslice] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm in the same boat with the GRE and application materials. Studying and getting my samples together and contacting faculty from my undergrad for recs and writing the PS, ayayay.
Anyway, as far as the GRE thing I was freaking out about the math until I actually took a practice test and realized it's more reasoning than actual calculations. I'm a little embarrassed to say that I did better on quant than on verbal. Just go through a quick refresher of basic algebra, triangles, circles, etc. For the vocab: I don't have the time or energy to cram all those words in my head. I grouped them in to categories like positive connotation words and negative connotation words, criticism and assistance, happy and sad. After a week of studying the words like that and i was getting 100% on the verbal practice sets. Even if you don't know the words you'll know enough to eliminate the wrong words.
Spend 90% of your time working on the samples because that's what 90% of the consideration for acceptance will be.


moonslice


Aug 18, 2011, 9:32 PM

Post #109 of 177 (8967 views)
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Re: [zackperici] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the tips zackperici. I have always been particularly bad at math, and I took the GRE with no prep at all back in 1996, just after graduation from college. I made a 360 on the math!
At the time I was thinking about grad school for psychology, my other major. I still struggle with the choice between the two. It seems more practical to study psychology, but if you think that grad school for MFA is difficult to get into, just take a look at forums for psy people trying to get in. It's not pretty. At least with an MFA you don't have to worry about getting an APA-approved internship once you graduate or having incredible math scores. I got As in all my psy classes, even the ones involving math. The GRE doesn't really do what it should.
Besides, poetry is where my heart is. Psychology is merely interesting to me and helpful in many ways. For example, I'm working on everything under the sun besides poetry samples right now because I'm afraid of failing. I know that, but it's still hard to control those fears. I still haven't made a schedule for myself.
PS- Kaplan has a free GRE vocab study app for your mobile.


zackperici
Zack Perici

Aug 19, 2011, 5:38 AM

Post #110 of 177 (8943 views)
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Re: [moonslice] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

I also had that quandary. I was deciding between going back for an MFA or going to a one year portfolio school for advertising to pursue copy writing. I'm sure that the latter was a more sensible option, but after thinking on it, doing some research into schools, and taking inventory of who i am as a person I realized that the MFA was what really got me excited. Choose the option that you're more passionate about.
For now, take the test. Don't psych yourself out (yes, pun intended). And work on your portfolio. You don't have to apply anywhere but if you do decide to move forward with the MFA you'll be in better shape.
And as for those GRE vocab flash cards, having them on my phone is quite addicting. It's like word of the day on steroids.


moonslice


Aug 20, 2011, 7:46 PM

Post #111 of 177 (8900 views)
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Re: [zackperici] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

zackperici,
I did the advertising thing. Maybe you need a special degree for an edge, but it's something you can teach yourself or learn on the job easily if you get your foot in the door first. I think you're doing the right thing. Advertising can feel like it kills your soul, spending your life promoting products or companies you don't always believe in. (And working very late often or sitting around with nothing to do wondering when you'll get fired.) Nonprofit is the way to go if you do copywriting. It doesn't pay as well, but you feel like you're doing something worthwhile. And if you get into the right place, it can be a fun environment (i.e., wearing jeans to work!). But still, copywriting is a sales job. A lot of people don't realize that, or think about how you'll have clients crapping all over your work.
I've been watching HBOGO on my phone while exercising, but now I'm wondering if I could use the vocab thing. Probably too dangerous!
By the way, if you need GRE prep books or 2012 planning calendars, check your Borders store before they close. Mine has a few left at half off.
Back to the MFA, I know you're right about working on all this stuff. It can't hurt anything. The worst that would happen is I spend a little money on the GRE without needing it.
Next week, I need to ask to observe a workshop at my local university with an MFA. It think this will give me a better sense of whether I'd enjoy a program. Or it could be I'd hate it while I'd like another one...


aparke23
Anna Parker

Aug 25, 2011, 9:56 PM

Post #112 of 177 (8839 views)
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Re: [motet] Choosing an MFA Program (2012) [In reply to] Can't Post

I am applying to MFA programs in fiction this fall. I have been working on a novel for over a year now, and I believe that it is my best work. I feel that it is in a polished form and feel comfortable with a segment of the novel representing my abilities as a writer. However, I have recently seen posts on this forum and on the MFA creative writing blog that suggest that novel excerpts are frowned upon by MFA programs even if the programs themselves officially accept them. I was wondering if anyone had any informed feedback as far this claim is concerned, or perhaps, could put this claim into a more specific context. Thanks!


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Aug 26, 2011, 8:33 AM

Post #113 of 177 (8812 views)
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Re: [aparke23] Choosing an MFA Program (2012) [In reply to] Can't Post

I was accepted into my program (from which I graduated some time ago) on a novel excerpt. If you're working on a novel, why would a program want you to submit something else?


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

Difficult Listening, Sundays from ten to noon (Central time), at http://www.radiofreenashville.org/.

http://home.comcast.net/~david.m.harris/site/


aparke23
Anna Parker

Aug 26, 2011, 11:38 AM

Post #114 of 177 (8796 views)
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Re: [pongo] Choosing an MFA Program (2012) [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the help. Also, many of the programs that I am applying to do not specifically ask for a novel synopsis. Should I include this in my manuscript anyway or do I need one at all?


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Aug 26, 2011, 11:46 AM

Post #115 of 177 (8792 views)
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Re: [aparke23] Choosing an MFA Program (2012) [In reply to] Can't Post

I didn't include a synopsis in mine.


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

Difficult Listening, Sundays from ten to noon (Central time), at http://www.radiofreenashville.org/.

http://home.comcast.net/~david.m.harris/site/


aparke23
Anna Parker

Aug 26, 2011, 11:58 AM

Post #116 of 177 (8789 views)
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Re: [pongo] Choosing an MFA Program (2012) [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you!


bighark


Aug 26, 2011, 12:27 PM

Post #117 of 177 (8782 views)
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Re: [aparke23] Choosing an MFA Program (2012) [In reply to] Can't Post

For MFA applications, novel excerpts need to serve as a discrete unit of story. If you feel the need to include a synopsis in order to let your reader know what's going on with your piece, then you might want to consider other options.


moonslice


Aug 30, 2011, 3:19 AM

Post #118 of 177 (8701 views)
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Re: [bighark] Choosing an MFA Program (2012) [In reply to] Can't Post

Do any of you check out potential professors on http://blog.ratemyprofessors.com/ -- Rate My Professor?
I have to wonder whether only bitter students bother reviewing there, but then I did see several very positive reviews as well. I was a bit nervous to see several bad reviews for professors from schools I'm considering.


skilar
Paul Habeeb

Aug 31, 2011, 9:38 PM

Post #119 of 177 (8645 views)
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Re: [moonslice] Choosing an MFA Program (2012) [In reply to] Can't Post

I studied abroad for a year as an undergraduate, but those classes and grades are listed on my US institution's transcript. Do I need to request transcripts from my university abroad, or should my US transcript be fine? Thanks.


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Sep 1, 2011, 8:13 AM

Post #120 of 177 (8617 views)
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Re: [skilar] Choosing an MFA Program (2012) [In reply to] Can't Post

The U.S. transcript will cover it. As long as it lists all the classes and mentions that you graduated. (Although not everyone I met in my MFA program had a bachelor's degree.)

Very little about the application really matters except the statement of purpose and the writing sample.


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

Difficult Listening, Sundays from ten to noon (Central time), at http://www.radiofreenashville.org/.

http://home.comcast.net/~david.m.harris/site/


bighark


Sep 1, 2011, 10:58 AM

Post #121 of 177 (8608 views)
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Re: [pongo] Choosing an MFA Program (2012) [In reply to] Can't Post

Seconded. Also, I had a similar undergraduate study abroad experience, and my US transcript was all the was required.


skilar
Paul Habeeb

Sep 1, 2011, 3:38 PM

Post #122 of 177 (8586 views)
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Re: [bighark] Choosing an MFA Program (2012) [In reply to] Can't Post

Awesome. Thanks for the info. I assumed the MFA program itself wouldn't care, but I didn't want the graduate school to cause a fuss.


mds2179
Michelle

Sep 20, 2011, 1:25 PM

Post #123 of 177 (8340 views)
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Choosing an MFA Program (2012) [In reply to] Can't Post

Seasoned writers and the like- Would anyone like to swap WS or SOP for a little editorial revision?> I'd love to get some feed back, both grammatically and what not on them. I'd love especially to get feedback from those who have been accepted into MFA Fiction programs :)

Additionally, could anyone shed some light on the program experience with George Mason's MFA in fiction?


alamana
Jennifer Brown


Sep 22, 2011, 5:24 PM

Post #124 of 177 (8262 views)
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Re: [mds2179] Choosing an MFA Program (2012) [In reply to] Can't Post

Michelle, I'm a fiction candidate at George Mason. Feel free to send me a message.


Be regular and orderly in your life, that you may be violent and original in your work. -- Flaubert

http://www.jenniferkirkpatrickbrown.com


mds2179
Michelle

Sep 22, 2011, 6:25 PM

Post #125 of 177 (8910 views)
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Re: [alamana] Choosing an MFA Program (2012) [In reply to] Can't Post

Jennifer,

I'd love to pick your brain! For some reason my account is giving me limited access to send messages, so, if you wouldn't mind emailing me at mds2179@uncw.edu that would be great!! I'd love to ask you a few things.

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