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Sep 5, 2008, 12:33 PM

Post #701 of 764 (23169 views)
Re: [richardkae] Rankings [In reply to] Can't Post


Thank you for the clarification; I'm proven wrong, then, on that point, and I apologize for not reading carefully enough.

It seems (to correct myself) that it wasn't your post that was in the wrong place, it was the one you just quoted. Anyone who wants advice on programs has been told (not by me! But by P&W, and for obvious reasons) to go to the "Choosing an MFA Program" thread. But it's certainly not your fault that you tried to help that poster out, anyway. Again, I'm sorry for being doltish.

Be well,


e-mail user

Sep 5, 2008, 1:00 PM

Post #702 of 764 (23160 views)
Re: [umass76] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

In Reply To
Given that there's zero chance anyone will speak ill of their college/university in this space, what really are we learning here? This thread is for discussion of rankings.

Seth, get off your high horse now.

Rankings are nice, and so are these wonderful first impressions people are sharing with us. Let me repeat: hearing these first impressions is WONDERFUL. And even if you don't feel that way, last I checked, you're not the moderator. If Dana wants to make this into a separate thread, then that's cool. But as for you: sit back and relax. This thread isn't exclusively your show, much as you may try to make it into that.


Sep 5, 2008, 2:11 PM

Post #703 of 764 (23144 views)
Re: [aiyamei] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post


In my time here it's been pretty common, I think, for posters to say "I think this discussion is off-topic." The difference is that instead of e-mailing Dana backchannel, or complaining on the moderator's board, I just pose the question to the thread participants: Is this off-topic? And then I give my own opinion, which is that I think these comments may be helpful but they're off-topic. If that's being somehow aloof and self-righteous, okay. But I don't think the policy here--for years--has been to just wait until Dana notices that a thread created to discuss rankings has turned into a thread where people ask for advice on the topic of (let's call it) "choosing an MFA program."

On a separate note: if you were regularly criticized on this board for taking a poll of other people's opinions, I wonder whether you would feel a little under the microscope, too? For years--years--there have been folks here who've tried to derail the conversation on rankings, not because they wanted to discuss something else more (as, if that was it, they'd just hop onto a different thread) but because they don't like what I've done. That's fine. But can we just stipulate that some folks don't like what I've done, and that that's no reason to turn a thread on rankings into something else? [To be clear, I don't think that's at all what Lynn intended; that said, I don't know that anyone here could read Big Hark's response and not feel that there was an agenda behind it (the word "hooey" was a clue, perhaps) rather than an attempt to preserve the rights of posters to post off-topic queries].


P.S. Bottom line is, I have no clout here and don't want any. I put out there what I thought. If the participants on this thread disagree, by all means continue doing whatever it is you want to do. If I really wanted to force the thread in a particular direction, I'd be doing things right now administratively that I don't do, haven't done, and don't want to do. Like I said, I put out there what I thought, and I never claimed any authority to (or desire to) impose my will on anyone.

(This post was edited by umass76 on Sep 5, 2008, 2:17 PM)


Sep 5, 2008, 2:44 PM

Post #704 of 764 (23128 views)
Re: [umass76] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post



This thread began as a place to discuss school rankings -- the 'official' school rankings, no matter how much it might rankle you -- and as a place for us to share opinions of those schools/rankings. And then it became like a data dump for your blog. It seems a little unfair of you to cry foul if the topic veers for one instant. If we had to cut something, I'd rather it be the pages of school lists with no explanation.

You must chillax, Seth! I guarantee you, there is no conspiracy, no movement to discredit your new rankings, nothing on the DL that bubbles up with words like 'hooey'. We all appreciate the efforts you're making...but let's just let the mod do her (his?) job.

six five four three two one 0 ->

(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Sep 5, 2008, 2:49 PM)


Sep 5, 2008, 3:24 PM

Post #705 of 764 (23106 views)
Re: [umass76] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

Rankings-hater? Come on.

I think the list is silly, man, but I don't hate it, and I don't hate you for posting it.

From what I can tell, some people recently looked at your list and were inspired to post about their personal experiences. "Yeah, hey, my school is at position # on this ranking, poll, list, whatever, but let me tell you about my personal experience. I love the school. The teachers are great. I'm getting lots of money."

These posts don't detract from the thread is what my point is.

People aren't lobbying to have the ranking of their schools adjusted. They're opting out of the ranking process altogether. They're saying, "Yes, but" to the whole enterprise. Those posts aren't harmful. They're useful. I think they should stay.

I'm just chiming in express why.

You can still make your list. Some people find great comfort in rankings and lists. I'm sure you're providing them a tremendous service.

Some of us would also like to contribute to the community.

Let us.


Sep 5, 2008, 3:29 PM

Post #706 of 764 (23100 views)
Re: [Junior Maas] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

I just like the word "hooey." It reminds me of my step-dad's manner of speech. Throw in some "What the Sam hill?" and "Cripes!" and you've got him pegged.

[THIS is a good example of an off-topic post.]

Julie R.T.

Sep 5, 2008, 5:24 PM

Post #707 of 764 (23064 views)
Re: [umass76] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post


I am new to this message board and I don't want to get in the middle of this argument. I actually just discovered this thread last week and now that I've read it the whole way through (took a while), it seems like the rankings you're putting together are probably doing more good than bad, though I can see why students from certain programs might be a bit rattled by them. I for one have found them helpful, if only because they've brought to my attention certain programs I might have otherwise overlooked.

And so, at the risk of breaking up this argument, I'd like to offer my own list of schools--the places I'll be applying for poetry this fall.

Johns Hopkins
Arizona State
UNC Greensboro


Sep 5, 2008, 5:33 PM

Post #708 of 764 (23056 views)
Re: [Julie R.T.] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm in the wrong here guys, what can I say. As you were.



Sep 5, 2008, 8:21 PM

Post #709 of 764 (23023 views)
Re: [umass76] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

hey Seth, I love ya and I get it...

but.... hey everybody.....Wash U (for poetry) SUUUUUUUCCCCCCKS!

There. I feel better.


(This post was edited by medusashair on Sep 5, 2008, 8:23 PM)


Sep 5, 2008, 9:32 PM

Post #710 of 764 (23006 views)
Re: [medusashair] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

In Reply To
hey Seth, I love ya and I get it...

but.... hey everybody.....Wash U (for poetry) SUUUUUUUCCCCCCKS!

There. I feel better.


Does it really? Cool, because they rejected me last year. For fiction, though. Lucky me!

And Seth, I am still your fan :)


Sep 5, 2008, 9:40 PM

Post #711 of 764 (23002 views)
Re: [medusashair] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

In Reply To
hey Seth, I love ya and I get it...

but.... hey everybody.....Wash U (for poetry) SUUUUUUUCCCCCCKS!

There. I feel better.


Elaborating somewhat, I did do my MA at Wash U (not in English lit) and also my BA, and I found it to be pretty pretentious. Beautiful campus, decent city, but full of people constantly whining about how much they hate Wash U/St. Louis/the Midwest. Meanwhile, it's an eternal dick-measuring contest. I'm glad to find myself now in a school (arguably as well-ranked, overall as Wash U) where people are much nicer and seem to actually realize how fortunate they are to be here.


Sep 6, 2008, 2:17 PM

Post #712 of 764 (22926 views)
Re: [ejdifili] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

Because I agree, sort of, with both sides of this argument, I will refrain posting a personal account of my experience at the University New Hampshire. I do want to make myself available for anyone interested in the program here at UNH. Please PM me.

I will offer the following two points, though.

Two new faculty members: Tom Payne in fiction (incredible). David Rivard in poetry (equally incredible). Simic is still around (teaching a workshop in the Spring).

Lastly, Sethís research has been very helpful, and the discussion of funding is important. But sometimes, a program that isnít considered, from a statistical standpoint, ďa well funded programĒ can still come through. Funding was important for me, and although UNH does not fully fund everyone, Iím fully funded. And every single second year student that wants a TA has one.

Sorry for the plug, but I thought there were a couple of points that I should make that relate to any program that is overlooked because of a mediocre funding reputation.

Luke Johnson

Sep 6, 2008, 3:07 PM

Post #713 of 764 (22920 views)
Re: [weathpa] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

Plus, David Rivard and Charles Simic at the same place. That's amazing. And this is what jealously looks like...


e-mail user

Sep 6, 2008, 3:51 PM

Post #714 of 764 (22905 views)
Just to clarify [In reply to] Can't Post

I only posted about my school because someone asked for suggestions. Sorry for the confusion:)


Sep 11, 2008, 5:55 PM

Post #715 of 764 (22745 views)
Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi all,

Just wanted to let everyone know that I've put up The Blogger Top 20 Nonfiction/Creative Nonfiction Programs [Preliminary] on The Suburban Ecstasies. This is a very early edition of the poll/ranking; I'll be continuously updating the data over the course of the next eight months, assuming there's a strong enough interest in making this genre-specific ranking a permanent fixture in the now-annual TSE rankings. Those who'd like to contribute their own application data to the poll should feel free to list their application choices (i.e., the schools you're planning on applying to) in this space, or to send them to me via e-mail (my e-mail address is listed on my website).

Also, I hope no one will mind if I add this personal note: If there's anyone using, enjoying, and learning from the TSE rankings who hasn't yet donated to TSE, I hope you'll consider doing so (there's a link at the top of every TSE ranking page with some background on this, as well as a link to article I wrote explaining my [very difficult] decision to finally ask for contributions; I should say that not only is PayPal secure, but from having used it myself to donate to others I can say it takes under two minutes to do). I want to thank everyone who's already donated to this ongoing effort to compile MFA rankings; as I'm doing this free-of-charge, and as I'm a student with a wage only slightly north of the federal poverty line, every dollar contributed is more important than you'll ever know. In any event, the rankings can be found here:


The many, many, many other MFA rankings and statistical tables on the website can be found in the right-hand sidebar at the main page (scroll down for the 2007 and 2008 data; the 2009 data is at the top of the sidebar):


Wishing everyone well, and best of luck with applications,



Sep 12, 2008, 12:18 AM

Post #716 of 764 (22694 views)
Re: [umass76] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post


thank u for posting that list! i am applying in fiction, but it's still interesting to see which programs have the strongest, or most popular, nonfiction programs.

since u asked for lists, i'll give u the one i have come up with for myself, for fiction programs.

johns hopkins
mcneese state
e. washington


Sep 14, 2008, 5:56 PM

Post #717 of 764 (22561 views)
Re: [Gpaoll] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

Interesting rankings.

I can't speak for any of the other programs in the top ten, but as someone who was accepted to both the New School and Columbia for CNF, I would highly advise choosing Columbia. If you are looking at TNS as a half-as-expensive version of Columbia, keep in mind that TNS is also half the program -- each semester there, you will take one workshop and one literature class (along with a single credit seminar), while at Columbia, you will take one workshop and up to three seminars and lectures. You may also take classes in any department at Columbia for credit. For a nonfiction writer, being able to take courses in non-writing related subjects is extremely important. This is not allowed at the New School, when last I checked.

All other arguments aside -- faculty, reputation, connection to the publishing industry, blah blah blah -- are subjective in comparison to this basic question of what you get for your money.

Also, I would highly recommend that anyone considering applying to mfa's in New York start looking at outside scholarship funding AT THE SAME TIME as applying. While I realize that applying to MFA's is exhausting, if you take the extra step of looking for outside funding, you can significantly lighten your debt load. I will come out of Columbia with very little debt thanks to the work that I did looking for grants.

As I understand it, Seth's rankings are largely based on the number of applications to a particular program. While this is an important indicator, I would remind potential applicants that there are important objective distinctions between what's offered at different programs -- see my above example about Columbia vs. TNS.


Sep 14, 2008, 6:25 PM

Post #718 of 764 (22551 views)
Re: [switchthai] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Switchthai,

Some good points there. Just a point of clarification, though: while the rankings are indeed based on where people are applying, you have to keep in mind that where people are applying is undoubtedly due, in part, to just the sort of objective distinctions you mentioned (i.e., funding, course load, duration of program, location, and so on). So hopefully the rankings very much do take into account all of the factors applicants use to determine where they'll apply. That said, rankings are just one tool, one measure among many.

I don't know about others, but I'd be curious to hear more about the sort of outside grants you've discussed. I know Columbia suggests that their admittees seek outside funding, but I've always wondered what percentage of one's tuition can realistically be paid for through competitive grants (presumably, in some cases one doesn't find out whether one's gotten them until one's already made the decision about where to attend), let alone living expenses. One of the real benefits of the funding packages at non-NYC programs is that many of them offer TAships as well as tuition remission, meaning that tuition and money to live on are addressed in one shot. My guess is that grants can't be secured for living expenses, only tuition, and even then only a portion of tuition. I'd be happy to be corrected, though.

When you say "very little debt," can you (if you're comfortable with it) give a sense of what that means to you? I.e., what kind of debt one is looking at, over two years, assuming one secures a grant after a competitive application process?

[P.S. My questions on the funding issue were/are actually addressed toward the Columbia thread; i.e., I think there are many in that thread who'd be interested in hearing more about grants for NYC schools. I'm not trying to make this thread about rankings into a discussion of grant availability].

Be well,


Sep 14, 2008, 6:50 PM

Post #719 of 764 (22544 views)
Re: [umass76] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Seth --

To be perfectly frank, I was able to get my entire education funded, including a living stipend, for the entirety of the degree. I did not mention this because it's not exactly the type of thing that happens to everyone, so I don't want to promote it as a goal that is just within reach of anyone. I won a variety of grants in the $2000 - $9000 range, and one grant for $43,000 per year. This was all added to a by-no-means-insignificant departmental grant ($20k) from Columbia.

Even if I had not won the $43,000 grant, which was by far the most competitive, I still would have collected over $20,000 in grants through my grantseeking, not counting Columbia's funding. (I should also mention that Columbia is seriously devoted to increasing its funding for MFA students, though perhaps you've heard this old saw so many times that it doesn't mean anything any more -- I do believe that allocations are going up, however.) I did a good deal of work to find this money, because I knew that I wanted to go to Columbia but that I did not want to pay for it.

It is my pleasure to correct you vis-a-vis the living expenses issue, and not because I'm being facetious -- I am happy to report that most of the grants I applied to calculate "financial need" based on a school's official "cost of attendance" calculation, which almost always includes a (usually ultra-conservative) estimate of living expenses, MINUS the applicant's resources. So living expenses and the cost of books are considered a legitimate expense, just like tuition. Of course, this varies from grant to grant.

For many people, attending a smaller or newer program with excellent funding might be a better option -- but for those of us who want to get an MFA in New York city, don't write off Columbia. It is truly a fabulous program. (One of my teachers wrote a book a book last year that won the National Book Award for Nonfiction and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award; another teacher has been a finalist for both the Pulitzer and the NBCC Award; another was the ed-in-chief of Vanity Fair. These are the people I'm studying with in my first semester).

As you said, this might be more germane to the COLUMBIA thread, so I won't go into any more detail about how much I am loving the program. However, I want to remind applicants that while the suggestion to seek outside funding might sound like a brush-off or a daunting curse, it can actually lead you to excellent results.

If anyone is interested in more information, please feel free to PM me -- I would be happy to send you a copy of the spreadsheet that I used to track all the grants I applied to, and to give general counsel on where to look for $$.

Good luck everyone

EDIT -- Moderator feel free to move this to Columbia thread if necessary

(This post was edited by switchthai on Sep 14, 2008, 6:53 PM)


Oct 5, 2008, 6:59 PM

Post #720 of 764 (22355 views)
Re: [switchthai] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

If you haven't been inundated with requests for your spread-sheet; I want one! I want one!

Now, a question as to "rankings:" any suggestions where to research schools' poets for long (book-length) poetry? I'll deal with the school rankings after that. If this question should be in another forum, suggest which one & I'll transfer it there. This year I will be choosing 5 traditional res programs to apply and one low res. I have to find 3 of the 5 that will cover everything.



Oct 5, 2008, 7:20 PM

Post #721 of 764 (22350 views)
Re: [Katevey] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

send me your email and i'll send you some info...



Nov 16, 2008, 11:28 AM

Post #722 of 764 (22158 views)
It's here! [In reply to] Can't Post

The Creative Writing MFA Handbook is now available for immediate shipping from Amazon.com. You can get it here:


There'd been some delays, but now it's out and selling like hot cakes, apparently.

As I noted on my website: "Chapter 3 is 'my' chapter (so to speak), and it's a long one: 30+ pages. It contains brief profiles of fifty programs (with information on class sizes, acceptance rates, and all that other hard-to-find information), funding rankings (featuring 60+ programs), a master Poets & Writers poll (nearly 300 respondents), a comprehensive tiered ranking (the first ever master ranking of MFA programs since 1996), special lists of new and upcoming programs...what more could an MFA geek possibly hope for?"

Hope it's helpful to folks. It's not perfect--nothing is--but I honestly believe it's leaps and bounds from where MFA research stood just 24 months ago.

And it's only $13.57!

[Gets off soapbox].



Apr 15, 2009, 3:20 AM

Post #723 of 764 (21797 views)
The first ever large-scale single-genre MFA rankings... [In reply to] Can't Post

...are here.

In the interest of one last hurrah for the 2008-9 MFA application season, the new rankings now up at TSE are the 2009 Top 100 Fiction Programs (N = 257) at


and the 2009 Top 100 Poetry Programs (N = 163) at


I hope folks find this data helpful/enlightening. Also recently posted, here--


--is the (much smaller) 2009 Top 50 Nonfiction/Creative Nonfiction Programs.

On TSE you can also find the "final" edition of the 2009 TSE100 (the overall MFA rankings). Link-wise, you can find the ranking here:


Congratulations to everyone on their acceptances, and best of luck to those applying for the 2009-10 application cycle!

Best wishes,


Oct 19, 2009, 12:57 PM

Post #724 of 764 (20847 views)
Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

The new MFA rankings--the first-ever* comprehensive MFA rankings sponsored by a major media outlet--are excerpted here; the methodology article is excerpted here. Both the rankings and the article can be read in full in the November/December issue of Poets & Writers.

* The 1996 USNWR rankings were neither "comprehensive" (they were predicated on a single question from a single questionnaire, which question measured a single element of the MFA experience) nor "MFA rankings" (33%+ of the schools included were not full-residency MFA programs, but rather M.A. programs, doctoral programs, and low-residency programs). Also, there are approximately 80 more full-residency MFA programs ranked now than there were in 1996.


Oct 19, 2009, 6:05 PM

Post #725 of 764 (20794 views)
Re: [umass76] [In reply to] Can't Post

Duly noted.

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