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vitadimanche


Mar 21, 2006, 10:52 PM

Post #1 of 430 (19116 views)
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Columbia Can't Post

Okay, so I know that Columbia is ridiculously expensive even with the meager fellowship they offered me.

But I just got back from a visit there where I got to meet lots of great people, sit in on two classes, had a tour--got to see the library which is amazing, especially compared to my kind of shitty undergrad library--and just generally fell in love with everything about it and the city.

I've always wanted to live in NYC. I have a great many friends in NYC. And I love the Columbia faculty.

Granted I'm still waiting hear from (re: rejected from) Brown and Houston, so I can't make a decision yet. But.

How crazy am i to just go for it and try to make it work at Columbia? I worry that if I went elsewhere, I'd always regret not giving Columbia a try.

What do others think?


(This post was edited by motet on Apr 2, 2006, 9:23 AM)


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 15, 2006, 4:04 PM

Post #2 of 430 (18870 views)
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Columbia [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey all. So I was accepted to Columbia on... the 1st of March I think... and was contacted by phone. The person, Sam Lipsyte, told me they would be sending a big packet explaining everything, yet I haven't gotten one yet. Has anyone else gotten their packet yet or should I be worried?


(This post was edited by motet on Apr 2, 2006, 9:16 AM)


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 15, 2006, 4:12 PM

Post #3 of 430 (18859 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Columbia question for the accepted [In reply to] Can't Post

Well... shit. The mail just came and I just got a letter from Columbia saying the packet would come soon.

Feel free to turn this into a general Columbia MFA discussion thread though?


happycat


Mar 16, 2006, 10:55 AM

Post #4 of 430 (18780 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Columbia question for the accepted [In reply to] Can't Post

I haven't gotten any packet yet from Columbia, either.

What other schools did you apply to, Clench? Are you going with Columbia? I am still leaning strongly toward Hunter. Haven't heard from NYU or the New School yet, but at this point I feel like my mind is already made up.


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 16, 2006, 12:54 PM

Post #5 of 430 (18748 views)
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Re: [happycat] Columbia question for the accepted [In reply to] Can't Post

All things equal (ie funding), Columbia is probably my top pick. Or tied with JHU. They offered me a fellowship, which is cool and flattering, but it would still be expensive. I haven't heard back from most of the programs I applied to, so basically I dunno. Columbia unless someone else offers me a lot more.

(I applied to NYU and New School too)


happycat


Mar 16, 2006, 2:24 PM

Post #6 of 430 (18717 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Columbia question for the accepted [In reply to] Can't Post

But all things aren't equal. Tuition at Columbia comes to $70,000 for two years. The largest fellowship they give, which they offered me, is $12,500 per year. That's nice, but $45,000 for a worthless art degree is still a lot.

So, yeah, I'd love to go to Columbia, but I'd also love to be able to work part time (and live off a part-time salary) for the rest of my days, and have lots of free time to write and be happy. That's harder to do when you have a huge college-loan debt hanging over your head. Especially when the most you can hope for as a writer is the prestige of having one of your stories published in the Paris Review, or the meager advance on a literary novel that never earns out. This is pessimistic, I know.


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 16, 2006, 4:46 PM

Post #7 of 430 (18686 views)
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Re: [happycat] Columbia question for the accepted [In reply to] Can't Post

Well obviously they aren't equal. You just asked me if I was going to go and I said if the funding is the same at anywhere else I happen to get into, then I'll go to Columbia. If not, I dunno, depends on the offers.

Are you sure 12,500 is the most they offer?


happycat


Mar 16, 2006, 5:04 PM

Post #8 of 430 (18669 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Columbia question for the accepted [In reply to] Can't Post

Oh, I see what you mean. I thought you meant you'd gotten into a school that was offering you a better financial deal overall--cheaper than Columbia.

$12,500 was what the guy told me was the most. Maybe he was blowing smoke? But Columbia is supposedly legendary for its lack of funding and high price. Like everything else in this city.


vitadimanche


Mar 17, 2006, 11:54 AM

Post #9 of 430 (18615 views)
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Re: [happycat] Columbia question for the accepted [In reply to] Can't Post

I was accepted to Columbia for poetry and Lucie Brock-Broido told me there would be quite a delay with my packet, because that's just the way it is.

I know what you mean when you say it's a "useless art degree" but if we really thought it was useless, why would we be so keen on going? Obviously it's worth a great deal (even if only to us) for the time it gives us to focus on writing.

I'm trying to decide between full funding at FSU + stipend and Columbia (which also gave me a good fellowship, but not good enough). I want to go to Columbia so badly, and I REALLY want to live in NYC, but the cost is scaring me. My advisor went to Columbia and is still paying off his loans, but he says he doesn't regret a penny of it because it absolutely led to his success and he made the best friends of his life there and got him the connections he needed later in life, so that doesn't make the decision any easier.


happycat


Mar 17, 2006, 12:22 PM

Post #10 of 430 (18600 views)
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Re: [vitadimanche] Columbia question for the accepted [In reply to] Can't Post

Full funding with a stipend is pretty amazing. Congrats!

You'd probably be a bigger fish in the pond there. And Tallahassee is nice... very woodsy, peaceful, kinda dull. Good if you like camping, thunderstorms, and lots of trees. But it is a red state. (I know the area somewhat.) And New York is, well, New York. Lots of tourists, homeless people, and rich kids. If you go for cheap housing near the campus it'll be very cramped and probably ugly. If you go for cheap housing in Brooklyn or Queens, ditto, plus you'll have a subway commute. I love New York but I feel like I haven't had an hour's free time since I moved here. (Except, of course, to post on forums...)

But hey, seriously, and this goes for all of us in the forum (I'm man-facting here): wherever you go, you'll probably be really happy, so don't sweat it.


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 17, 2006, 1:22 PM

Post #11 of 430 (19163 views)
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Re: [happycat] Columbia question for the accepted [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
$12,500 was what the guy told me was the most. Maybe he was blowing smoke? But Columbia is supposedly legendary for its lack of funding and high price. Like everything else in this city.


Interesting. I only asked because I got the same offer. I guess its cool to know they want me enough to offer their highest funding, but I guess it also means I don't have any negotiating room to get more...


Aubrie


Mar 21, 2006, 11:09 PM

Post #12 of 430 (19098 views)
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Re: [vitadimanche] Columbia-Poetry [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey - I hear ya. I fell in love with Columbia's program as well. If I had been accepted, it wouldn't be a question as to whether I would go. Debt schmebt.
Beautiful campus, beautiful city, great faculty, and awesome students. Super-strong program....
<sigh>
I hear ya.


Dr. Bathybius


Mar 21, 2006, 11:34 PM

Post #13 of 430 (19087 views)
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Re: [vitadimanche] Columbia-Poetry [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I got to meet lots of great people, sit in on two classes...

Ooh! What were the classes like? How did they compare to your undergrad workshops?


vitadimanche


Mar 21, 2006, 11:40 PM

Post #14 of 430 (19077 views)
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Re: [Dr. Bathybius] Columbia-Poetry [In reply to] Can't Post

The classes were really great. I didn't get to visit a workshop (though, honestly, I sometimes think nothing could compare to my undergrad workshops, which were AMAZING), because I could only get Monday off from work, and there were no workshops Mondays. But I sat in on Bob Holman's (sp?) class Exploding Texts and Liam Rector's Poets In Their Youth, both of which contained illuminating and impressive discussions. I loved the work the students shared in Holman's class, and the cogent, thoughtful comments made in Rector's class also impressed me. Holman made me jump right in and participate, which was great.

All the students I met were really great too. They had nothing but positive things to say (well, they all begrudged the money, but not enough to make them go anywhere else) about the whole experience. It was pretty exciting. And only makes my decision harder.


JosephC


Mar 21, 2006, 11:44 PM

Post #15 of 430 (19073 views)
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Re: [vitadimanche] Columbia-Poetry [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi vita, perhaps this might help. I have an acquaintance who went to Columbia for fiction. I believe there is a student office where they help you procure graduate student housing, which he did. And I believe they technically give you 5 years to complete your thesis. He took the extra time, all along qualifying for graduate student housing (somehow, on a technicality, I believe), and got lucky with publishing a few stories and earned an adjunct position at Barnard teaching rhetoric. So for a few years after the two-year program, he managed to stay in reasonably-priced housing, work, and pay a bit of his debt. Don't count this as a promise, because it didn't happen to me, but yes, an acquaintance of mine made it work. Perhaps he was just lucky, but perhaps you will be too. Good luck!


vitadimanche


Mar 21, 2006, 11:54 PM

Post #16 of 430 (19063 views)
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Re: [Aubrie] Columbia-Poetry [In reply to] Can't Post

:-( Sorry you didn't get in. It's such a difficult thing. I got rejected from most of the schools I applied to, but then Columbia took me. There's no logic to it.

Good luck with the rest of your schools.


Aubrie


Mar 22, 2006, 12:01 AM

Post #17 of 430 (19055 views)
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Re: [vitadimanche] Columbia-Poetry [In reply to] Can't Post

I haven't heard yet, but I'm assuming it's a rejection.
I'm secretly harboring hope for a waitlist position.
Guess it's not so secret now.


vitadimanche


Mar 22, 2006, 12:05 AM

Post #18 of 430 (19052 views)
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Re: [Aubrie] Columbia-Poetry [In reply to] Can't Post

You never know, though. Maybe they're waiting to hear if other people turn them down and spots open up....you're not out until you're out.


gussy

e-mail user

Mar 22, 2006, 12:21 AM

Post #19 of 430 (19045 views)
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Re: [vitadimanche] Columbia-Poetry [In reply to] Can't Post

If you think you can put up with the debt (emotionally, financially, etc.) and you think you couldn't be happy elsewhere, go for it. This issue has been discussed in some other thread, look for it. I don't think it's obviously silly to go into debt in order to go to the program you like, but it's also true that you might as well apply to other equally good programs that might give you financial support. That's why I insist on "if you couldn't be happy elsewhere" (which is, I think, unlikely).

Visiting is a killer, though. Yeah, once you visit, and barring some freakish accident, you will like the program -- or the impression of the program that you may have had in those two or three days. Which only goes to show what you've already said: the decision is tough. But on the other hand it's easy: think, realistically, whether you could or could not deal with the debt. This is a highly variable issue. Some people will be OK dealing with that, and some others will live in misery. Therefore, you are the one who's in the best position to know whether it'll be worth it or not. But don't fool yourself: don't "weigh" the immediate happiness (going to Columbia) against the future unhappiness (being in debt). If you honestly believe you will be unhappy when burdened by the debt, there's no current happiness that can outweigh that. Man, your future self will curse your current self like no one has ever cursed. But if you can deal with financial insecurity, etc., and the prospect of being in huge debt in your 40's doesn't bother you all that much, you're cut to go in debt. Of course, to the MFA debt, add mortgage, potential children and their financial needs, etc.

Also, I'd try to find and talk to people who are in that situation already. I think you mentioned one person. Well, seek more, because the one you met might be the lucky exception. The rest might, for all we know, be terribly unhappy. I've heard horror stories about former MFAers who're still yoked to Columbia's finance department. And I've also heard (fewer) stories like the one you mentioned, about people who are happy despite the monthly payments to Your Master's Voice. Anyway, I'd try to find as many former Columbia MFAers, see how they're doing, and then project yourself being in the shoes of the least favored Columbia MFAer -- perhaps even a couple of notches "below" him or her. (You know, just to err on the side of caution). Would you still be happy then? If the answer is yes, go for it. Of course, in the fate of these MFAers, like in everybody else's, good or bad luck (and other unforeseeable factors) surely played some role. But precisely because of these unforeseeable factors I'd project myself into the worst-case scenario. If I'm OK with that, then everything's going to be fine. But don't trick yourself: project yourself into the really worst-case scenario. If you can deal with that, you'll deal with whatever cards you'll be dealt.

Anyway, this is a mess. That's why I didn't even apply to Columbia. It's not that I'm immune to its charms, but I would have been tempted to go, and I would have freaked out about the debt. I just couldn't handle that. But that's just me :)


LaurenAnne


Mar 22, 2006, 8:35 AM

Post #20 of 430 (19012 views)
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Re: [gussy] Columbia-Poetry [In reply to] Can't Post

First off, the discussion of this was in the "waiting" thread, where I posed pretty much the same question; I want to go to Sarah Lawrence.

Gussy--this post KILLS me. I totally appreciate your ability to think forward and your brutal honesty, but projecting myself into the worst-case scenario isn't how I've lived my life until this point and I'm just not sure it's time to start now. I really appreciate hearing what you have to say, because it's actually pretty hard for me to picture it. But when I think about the worst case scenario (which for me is that I can't write good fiction AND I lose the fairly good job I have now AND I have the SLC debt) well, I'm not sure how much happier I am if all that crap happens and the debt isn't a factor. Like, that sounds like a recipe for recrimination regardless of whether or not there's a financial element. But the best case scenario? In which I keep writing and keep freelancing at my job? That's not so unrealistic and it's pretty appealing and my imaginary future children will just have to be paid for by my imaginary future husband.

But I guess the real issue, the one Vita is, I assume, facing as well, is more of a bird-in-the-hand thing. I'm in at a program I like this year, and though I know I'd prefer to have no debt, I'd also prefer to actually GET an MFA, so putting it off to reapply next year is unappealing.

Just an opposing view, but I want to stress I do REALLY appreciate what you said. I think maybe having someone really point up the negatives makes them easier to deal with.


gussy

e-mail user

Mar 22, 2006, 12:16 PM

Post #21 of 430 (18937 views)
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Re: [LaurenAnne] Columbia-Poetry [In reply to] Can't Post

Lauren Anne,

Thanks for your words! It's really nice to have a disagreement like ours -- you know, so kind and respectful !

It seems that you have made your mind, and that's excellent. Again, this is a highly personal matter, and it seems going in debt will work for you. Go for it, and enjoy! I've heard great things about SLC !

Two little things to clarify (but by all means, don't read this as an attempt to persuade you or impose my view). You are right when you suggest that it might be unwise to project oneself into the worst-case scenario all the time. Not only would one feel lousy, but it might even be self-fulfilling. However, when the stakes are unusually high, I think it's a good thing to do in order to help your deliberation. Not that it should necessarily be an overriding consideration, but it certainly is a consideration that should bear on your decision. Second, I totally understand the feeling of "bird in hand." But, as random as this hideous application process is, I think it's very unlikely that you won't be accepted next year to a couple of good programs if this year you've been accepted to a program of the caliber of Columbia or Sarah Lawrence. (Of course, provided you apply to several programs. And provided you don't have geographical constraints. If you tell me you don't want/cannot apply to places outside NYC, the whole picture changes, and then the "bird in hand" thing carries much more weight).

But anyway, just wanted to say I enjoyed your post, and your determination. Let me know how things go at Sarah Lawrence. Do they hold open workshops/conferences -- something like Bread Loaf, for instance?


LaurenAnne


Mar 22, 2006, 1:15 PM

Post #22 of 430 (18912 views)
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Re: [gussy] Columbia-Poetry [In reply to] Can't Post

I kind of love our little disagreement too: "I see your point!" "I see yours too!"
Anyway, i do have geographical constraints. I already live in NYC and I'm pretty determined to stay, for work reasons as much as anything else. if I didn't, I think I'd be with you all the way.


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 22, 2006, 11:33 PM

Post #23 of 430 (18837 views)
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Re: [vitadimanche] Columbia-Poetry [In reply to] Can't Post

Why would you be crazy to go there?

Columbia has produced many, many successful writers. The funding situation is shitty, but Columbia is certainly right up there as far as faculty, reputation and track record goes.

(NOTE: I say this as someone who got accepted to Columbia this year and will probably go there...)


(This post was edited by Clench Million on Mar 22, 2006, 11:42 PM)


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 22, 2006, 11:41 PM

Post #24 of 430 (18829 views)
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Re: [gussy] Columbia-Poetry [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
But, as random as this hideous application process is, I think it's very unlikely that you won't be accepted next year to a couple of good programs if this year you've been accepted to a program of the caliber of Columbia or Sarah Lawrence.


I'm not sure I'd go that far. This is saying nothing about LA, whose work I obviously don't know, but we all know what a crapshoot this is (and writing is in general) and it isn't that unlikely someone who got into SL or Columbia one year wouldn't get in anywhere (much less "a couple") the next.

I got into Columbia this year and apparently was offered their highest fellowship. Yet I haven't even gotten waitlisted anywhere else yet...

The anecdote I always remember was in undergrad reading Best American Short Stories for class and one of the stories, which I think had been published in Tin House finally, was noted by the author as having been rejected 30 times before being accepted somewhere... You never know.


(This post was edited by Clench Million on Mar 22, 2006, 11:45 PM)


brooklynpoet


Mar 23, 2006, 1:45 PM

Post #25 of 430 (18756 views)
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Re: [gussy] Columbia-Poetry [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm just going to add my little mite to this discussion, because I do live in New York--and am seriously considering staying here (City College, which no one but me seems to have applied to!) and I chose not to apply to Columbia because of the financial situation.

I've met a fiction writer who's currently finishing his thesis, and two of my "mentors" are graduates of the poetry program, albeit almost 20 years ago. The fiction writer said he went to Columbia because it was the only program that accepted him. He has a 1 1/2 year old kid and he's finding it hard to make ends meet, post-graduation. He was ambivalent about the program, but stressed how competitive it is.

Someone else I know was an MFA grad student at Columbia while I was an undergrad there. Actually, he was my TA for the mandatory composition course. He's now a working (substantially published) poet and the director of an undergraduate cw program, and he also teaches in a low-res MFA program. He said he has "fond memories" of his time at Columbia. He did not stay in NYC.

The third person is another "mentor" who graduated from the poetry program in the early nineties and is now a K-12 teacher in NYC. Her advice is not to go to grad school in NYC altogether, mostly for financial reasons but also because it's difficult to find the quiet and time to focus on writing. Of course, that has to do with financial issues too. I believe she feels that her debt has made it more difficult for her to get her first book out. I'm making some assumptions based on just a couple of conversations, but I believe her feeling is that it's easier to go to school elsewhere and move to NYC afterward, if that's where you're excited about being.

Personally--and of course, all of this info is filtered through my personal situation--I also think Columbia might be more appealing to younger students, in their early-to-mid twenties. There's so much more time after graduation to pay back those hefty loans. I'm way too rapidly heading into my late thirties, and having accumulated grad school debt previously and worked in (oh-so-underpaid) publishing for ten years, there's no way I could pay $70k in tuition alone, plus the 20k you need for living expenses just to survive around here. At my rate of interest, which is high, $70k in loans amounts to $550 per month in payments after graduation. I couldn't afford the payments even when I was working full time; doubling the capital would be insane.

But hey, that's just me. I think it's great to go to a program you're excited about and not be so afraid of the future that you let *projected* financial constraints make the decision for you. And I couldn't have a warmer feeling toward Columbia generally, so I definitely understand the appeal. I think in all cases, it's best just to know yourself and what will inspire and free you vs. what will weigh you down with anxiety. Anyway, best of luck to all considering and/or going to Columbia, and if you hear anything about City College--where the tuition is $8500 per year, by the way--do let me know!

brooklynpoet

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