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bighark


Sep 14, 2012, 6:08 PM

Post #326 of 333 (7394 views)
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Re: [tdr] Letters of recommendation in advance? [In reply to] Can't Post

I think you're jumping the gun a little bit. Asking for a letter of recommendation over a year in advance kind of puts you into the weird/creepy end of the eager student spectrum.
A better tact would be to nurture the relationships you've established with these people, especially if they're writers. Check in from time to time. Send them updates on your studies or work you may have published. If they're local, see if they'd be willing to meet you for a coffee every now and then. The idea is to stay on their radar without being suffocating.
If a recommender retires, goes on sabbatical, or moves across the country, you can still contact them for a letter of recommendation. If you've invested in your relationship with these people, they'll take the time to write something nice for you.
Still, I think it's important to say that the letter of recommendation plays a very, very, very small part of the MFA admissions process. Admissions decisions are based on the strength of your writing sample.
Good luck


elissa
Elissa Field


Sep 15, 2012, 9:19 PM

Post #327 of 333 (7382 views)
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Re: [tdr] Letters of recommendation in advance? [In reply to] Can't Post

I may be wrong*, but I think the hole in this plan is that the letters of recommendation are completed on forms from the program you are applying to, so you can't forward along an aged letter you have in your possession. I have lots of previous recommendations, but know the app requirements have me going back to those same people and asking them to rewrite the letters to fit the form. On the other hand, you could let those people know your intentions now and ask if they'd want to jot something down which you could refer them back to once the application time arrived.

*See if I'm wrong by opening online applications for some of the schools you are considering and seeing what form they use for the recommendations. That should help you answer your question.

Good luck.


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Sibella
Pam, that is.


Mar 4, 2013, 11:54 AM

Post #328 of 333 (6938 views)
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reference letter conflict of interest? [In reply to] Can't Post

If my issue isn't unique, it's probably unusual.

I have taken a lot of workshops with Dr. A. Dr. A is the head of the creative writing MFA program at a big university.

Dr. A really gets my poetry--more so than anyone else I've ever worked with. He's been very kind and supportive. We're not exactly friends--he's very busy, and my only way to contact him is via e-mail.

I applied to his program and used him to write me a recommendation. I was accepted a few days ago.

Here's the issue: Between the time I started applying to Big U. and my acceptance, I became very interested in a particular low-residency program. I'm pretty sure that I'd rather go to this low-res program (or another low-res program) than the program at Big U., mainly because of the low-res vs. traditional format. (The chance to work further with Dr. A was the only reason I applied to Big U. in the first place.)

I have not yet told Big U. my decision; if I don't get into Low-Res U., I'll go ahead and attend Big U.

If you were me, would you ask Dr. A for a recommendation to the low-res school?

His recommendation would carry a lot of weight; on the other hand, I feel very awkward about this whole situation and don't want to complicate it further or leave him ill-disposed toward me. I feel awkward because (a) I'm asking for yet another recommendation letter (I'm beginning to think that the worst part of being a poet is having to get people to recommend you for schools, classes, retreats, etc.) and (b) I'm in effect telling him that his own school is not my first choice.

I have gotten the requisite two people to recommend me for Low-Res U., but I fear that one of them might not come through; I'd love to have Dr. A as a backup.

Dr. A has written recommendations for two of my friends to attend a different low-res program, and they got in. It's not like he's irrationally loyal to his own program; he understands the strengths of low-res programs for some people. I just wish I'd started by asking him for a recommendation to Low-Res U. in the first place, but it entered my radar rather late in the process.

In other news, I quit my full-time job about 2 hours ago in preparation for this whole odyssey. I've had a few false starts with grad school; this time, I'm determined to go for it.

Advice? Thoughts?

Thanks,

Pam


"What I wanted to hear didn't exist, so it was necessary for me to go out and create it." --Richard Thompson


pongo
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e-mail user

Mar 4, 2013, 1:04 PM

Post #329 of 333 (6933 views)
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Re: [Sibella] reference letter conflict of interest? [In reply to] Can't Post

If Dr. A. were anyone but the head of the program to which you've been accepted, I'd say go ahead and ask him. But By applying to another school now (and doing it under his nose, so to speak) you are telling him that you are not thrilled about being in his program. If you wind up there, it will be at the very least awkward; he will know he was your second choice.

Plenty of people go to their second-choice schools, and program heads know this, but I can't imagine it would help you any to rub his nose in it like this.


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

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Truth and Fiction



Mar 5, 2013, 3:41 PM

Post #330 of 333 (6906 views)
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Re: [pongo] reference letter conflict of interest? [In reply to] Can't Post

I definitely see what pongo is saying, but I also hope that most professors would prefer that their students do what's best for them and their own unique circumstances. Low-res programs are so different that it makes it less insulting than if you asked for a recommendation right now for another traditional, big-university program. If you explained that you're really excited about your acceptance to Dr. A's program but that, for personal reasons, you need to at least investigate the low-res route and apply, I would hope he'd understand and wish you well in whatever's best for you. (No guarantee for that, of course.)

I think the bigger question is whether the timeline of applying and hearing from the low-res program would work with whatever date you have to give Big U your answer. Is your spot at Big U funded? If so, that makes things a little more difficult and time-sensitive. If it's not funded, I can certainly see why you want to explore low-res programs.

With all that said, you already have two recommenders, so it would be easiest to stick with them and leave Dr. A out of it. But if you get accepted to the low-res and go that route, you're going to have to tell Dr. A anyway.

Let us know how it works out and what you choose.


Truth and Fiction


maida


Mar 5, 2013, 4:28 PM

Post #331 of 333 (6902 views)
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Re: [Sibella] reference letter conflict of interest? [In reply to] Can't Post

Your explanation of your decision sounds reasonable to me. If I were Dr. A, I might be personally disappointed not to get to work with you more closely, but I'd still be happy to support your choice and write you another recommendation for the low-res school that you think is a better fit for you. The fact that one program is traditional and one is low-res makes your decision very compelling and easy to justify--it's apples and oranges, not Pink Lady vs. Red Delicious.


Sibella
Pam, that is.


Mar 5, 2013, 4:40 PM

Post #332 of 333 (6901 views)
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Re: [maida] reference letter conflict of interest? [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you all for your advice.

I have no funding, as far as I can tell (I suppose that there might be a decision made later). I expect to be taking out lots of loan money for whichever program I choose.

I'm probably just wigging out because it seems like everybody involved in this--the potential letter writers, Dr. A, the people at the low-res school--is at AWP right now. I should probably let things lie until they're all back.

Or maybe I can drive to Boston, crash the conference, buy Dr. A a couple of Maker's Marks, and then ask him about the letter. (This kind of thing probably only works in Jonathan Franzen novels or something.)

Pam


"What I wanted to hear didn't exist, so it was necessary for me to go out and create it." --Richard Thompson


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Mar 5, 2013, 5:21 PM

Post #333 of 333 (6899 views)
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Re: [Sibella] reference letter conflict of interest? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

Or maybe I can drive to Boston, crash the conference, buy Dr. A a couple of Maker's Marks, and then ask him about the letter. (This kind of thing probably only works in Jonathan Franzen novels or something.)

Pam


If it were a Pynchon novel, he would explain how you must go to his university, and that the success of the grand conspiracy depends on it. You'd both have more Maker's Marks and wind up in bed, although in the morning you'd be unable to remember whether or not you had sex. You'd sneak out and drive all the way home without stopping, and wind up at the low-res school.


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/

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