Jul 29, 2008, 11:45 AM
Post #92 of 1018
Re: [lapwing] Choosing an MFA Program (2009)
[In reply to]
That's an excellent, excellent post. Only thing I'd quibble with is that I don't think there are, at present, any low-residency programs with acceptance rates under 10% (Warren Wilson is the most selective, at 12.5%), so really any low-residency program would fit into your rubric.
I also think there are, actually, tons of great programs which fall under the--if not "safety school" by any means, then simply what I've called in the past "higher-odds"--rubric you laid out. I think the three most interesting categories there, the ones including the best programs, are the "night" MFA grouping (which right now includes only the excellent and surprisingly affordable Northwestern MFA), the "large class" grouping (which does include a few prestigious schools where at least a handful of admittees will get funding, like Arizona, George Mason, New Hampshire, and New Mexico, and some where many admittees will, like Iowa), and the "small applicant pool" grouping (perhaps the best grouping of the lot, pragmatically speaking, as it includes well-funded schools going through meteoric reputation rises, like Alabama, Purdue, Vanderbilt, North Carolina at Greensboro, Arizona State, Florida, Bowling Green, and Illinois).
The key, I think--assuming an applicant with either limited funds or no desire to pay for the MFA degree--is to avoid programs in New York City and California (excepting the well-funded Irvine), and other notoriously unfunded programs (e.g., Pitt, SAIC), have realistic expectations about the most popular programs in the "ultra-selective/ultra-funded" category (Cornell, Texas, Wisconsin, Virginia, Irvine, Brown, Michigan, Oregon, and Indiana, all "fully-funded" in at least some sense of the term, and with a less than 4% acceptance rate), and load up on the many excellent, well-funded, second-, third-, and fourth- tier programs out there (meaning, schools ranked #13 to #48) that have smaller applicant pools and/or higher acceptance rates, but still good funding, many of which are listed above.
That said, I'm still tempted to say that, even for those applicants who follow the above prescription, the application cycle--in terms of selecting which schools to apply to, and whether or not the applicant ends up feeling like s/he pulled a "coup" and got into a school s/he is stunned and thrilled to be accepted to--can be made, or broken, in the schools that fall into a sort of [absolutely non-pejoratively speaking] "gray area" (well-regarded, mid-size applicant pools, average to elite funding, very selective but not an impossible admit, low-first or second- or third- tier), for instance (from approximately toughest admit this year to least):
North Carolina at Wilmington
These are the schools where chances of admission are much tougher to judge, largely because more is known about their funding than their selectivity, but (despite not having admissions numbers for some of these) their reputation is nevertheless well-established. I think a good route for many applicants will end up being something like (vaguely like):
4 toughest-admit schools
2-3 large class-size schools
4 small applicant pool schools
5 "gray area" schools
1-2 less-selective schools * OR (more likely) well-funded unknowns/less-knowns ** OR new programs ***
* This would include schools that don't fare at all well on the P&W Reader Poll, report no acceptance-rate data, and are not known to have significant funding; a strong applicant who gets rejected from all other programs may nevertheless be admitted to and be one of the rare "funded admittees" at a school in this grouping.
** Includes McNeese State, UNLV, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, VCU, Idaho, Miami, GCSU, Wichita State, Minnesota at Mankato.
*** E.g., Rutgers, UMass at Boston, UCSD, Wyoming, etc.
I realize that's proposing 16 to 18 applications, so realistically I could see applicants shaving off 1 to 5 schools total from various of those five categories.
Rankings & Acceptance Rates Available at: http://www.sethabramson.blogspot.com/
(This post was edited by umass76 on Jul 29, 2008, 11:52 AM)