Mar 13, 2007, 2:07 PM
Post #348 of 1632
I'll add my two cents two hours too late. I've got to side with the folks who require a well crafted rejection letter and an actual signature penned by either the person who read my manuscript or the director of the program (and, thus, ambassador to the unaccepted).
Re: [papichulo] Michigan Gets the Rudest Rejection Award
[In reply to]
As I look to applying next year, I'll remember the indelible impression these schools have made on me. Johns Hopkins apparently thought it unnecessary to let applicants know that the centerpiece of their program (Stephen Dixon, the most prolific American short story writer) would be leaving, and that they'd be accepting only two people this year. If I hadn't read it on Speakeasy, I wouldn't have known about it a month after I'd applied. My application to Michigan was a royal disaster, though I accept nearly all the responsibility. However, even before the troubles I'd helped to create for myself, I found their office people to be unresponsive, unhelpful, unfriendly. They also lost several of the materials I hand-delivered to the proper departments, which I found out by calling them to see when their decisions would be made. I never received responses to the pleasant, few, and hardly demanding emails I sent to Florida and Southern Illinois. It was harder than hell to get anyone at Florida on the phone, and when I finally spoke to that delicate peach, she was a real meanie. Finally, Washington University sent the most formulaic rejection letter I could ever imagine. I was embarrassed for them. It's as if they didn't have any good writers on campus to pen something halfway decent.
On the other hand, I had tremendously positive experiences with UMASS Amherst, Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, and Bowling Green State. COMPLETE CLASS ACTS. Sylvia Snape at Amherst, Mary McGowan at Bowling Green, and the kind lady who answers the phone at Illinois whose name I regretfully forget, are the type of program secretaries that sell a program nearly as effectively as location. To think they have to put up with all our demands, procrastination, desperate phone calls, and impending anger and disappointment, and they're still committed to answering every question with a smile and a friendly tone!! I would add to this list the importance of an informative, up-to-date, and attractive website and brochures, which has been discussed in-depth elsewhere on Speakeasy. But after I get my rejection letter and cry myself a river, it is the human touch that the program may (should) have had that leaves me thinking positively or negatively about that particular group of people in Ann Arbor, Amherst, and so on.
Now, I certainly don't believe that I can expect to encounter only civil and forthcoming institutions in the future. Lord knows I know from experience that they are rare. The whole idea of higher education used to be that you could be so esteemed that you could be rude and demanding of students (See: "The Paper Chase," dir. James Bridges, 1973). But there are some institutions that dedicate themselves to an honesty and competence that has raised the bar for the communication between young poets and storytellers and the giants with whom they wish to study.
The rejection letter is a final handshake before I hit the road. It's always good to have a firm handshake and to look 'em straight in the eye.