Thursday, May 11, 2006

Out of the Waitlist and Into the Fire

Sanguine in San Francisco writes in again...

So I was accepted into one of my top choices off of
their wait list, and was very excited to be admitted
and hoped to attend. Since being accepted, though, my
experience with the program has been a little
frustrating. They seem pretty disorganized about
sending out program info and it was difficult to get
the program to answer my questions or get me
information that I needed about the program and
enrollment, etc.

They also didn't help me plan my visit -- it was all
pretty much up to me. When I visited I talked to
various people, and felt good about the information I
gathered, but I didn't feel like the faculty were
particularly welcoming. The people I spoke with were
nice, but they didn't go out of their way to spend
time with me and didn't express much enthusiasm about
working with me. I know that I'm sensitive, but I
don't think it's an issue of me being too sensitive,
because I had a different reaction to some of the
other programs that accepted me -- I felt like they
were welcoming and enthusiastic -- but unfortunately
those programs were too costly.

I also found out that I likely won't be given
funding/TAship for either year. They are going to get
back to me on the funding question, but weren't too

One of my good friends says that public programs are
just like this -- I shouldn't expect them to spend all
this attention on me or be all warm and touchy feely.
But I feel like I received a warmer welcome from other
schools and I know other people accepted into public
programs who were greeted with more enthusiasm. Is
this just how it goes when you get accepted off a wait
list? Do you think my expectations were too high, or
should a program be treating admitted students with a
lot of encouragement during a visit? Is it a bad sign
or a neutral sign would you say?

Well SiS, programs should treat admitted students with some form of enthusiasm during a trip. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. When I think back to when I visited UMass, I got a lot of help from the departmental coordinator, but that was it as far as the program itself went. I got the most help from current students.

Bottom line: It's not a good sign, but it's no reason not to go. I'd weigh your financial options, and see if you can afford the program. That should be your main concern.

Best of luck, and let us know how it goes.

I'd appreciate any comments or stories about readers' interactions with their programs. Thanks.


Anonymous said...

I was accepted to a high profile public (one of Tom's top five) from the waitlist. Everyone was so warm and friendly--I met with both faculty and students who went out of their way to welcome me. Overall, a great experience.

I'm sorry that your experience was less than ideal. Have you talked with other accepted students from your program? Maybe they got similar impressions.

Anonymous said...

I am going to UMass this fall. I have to say that I got a lot of help from current students, the departmental administrative coordinator and from the faculty. The departmental administrative coordinator sent my information to the faculty when she found I was going to visit; the faculty wrote back and gave me information about workshops I could sit in on. The faculty also invited me to hang out with the class after workshop. I got a lot of advice about seeing the area and the students seemed to take me seriously from the get-go. Since I returned from the visit, I've been receiving lots of information about housing and opportunities in the fall. All in all, I had a very positive visit out there. I know one other incoming MFA student who visited before I did, and they also had an extremely positive experience during their trip to the UMass MFA program. Hooray!

Anonymous said...

OK, this is not first-hand experience, but the source is reliable: I know of at least two cases of incoming students at public schools who had less-than-ideal experiences and who are now very happy. One of them told me that her impression of the program was, during her visit, one of coldness; that they were not actively trying to recruit her; that while the current students were nice and helpful, faculty and staff were simply business-like. But that once she was there, she saw how everybody was committed to doing a good job. Faculty were not overly friendly, but they were very professional.

Anonymous said...

I had SiS's experience at the first school to which I was accepted. Everyone I talked to was great, including the professors, but the whole visit was pretty hands-off. Then I was accepted off the waitlist at a second program, and everyone has gone out of his/her way to make me feel wanted and welcome.

While I originally felt good about going to the first program, I feel leagues better about the second. Involvement in a community of writers is important to me, so the friendlier, the better (at least initially). On the other hand, some people dig the hands-off and want lots of space to do their work. I think it just depends on what you're looking for in the program.

Jason Michael MacLeod said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jason Michael MacLeod said...

What's this "public" business? Most MFA programs _are_ based in public universities. Or am I being thick and missing some reference here. Also, why would a non "public" program be more welcoming? Better pay for staff members? Cooler varsity sweaters? Scratching my head on this one.

Anonymous said...

I visited UMass Amherst and had a less than satisfactory experience. So unsatisfactory that I decided, hands-down, not to go there. I was only able to meet one faculty member (not allowed to speak with James Tate, for whatever reason, and was told that Peter Gizzi was away.) The few current students that I emailed did not write back, and after sitting in on a class, I was asked to leave halfway through. Yes, they wouldn't even let me sit through the whole workshop. That said, I wasn't able to hang out or speak with any students. When I asked about housing for the visit, I wasn't given a student to stay with (like I was at other programs) - I was directed to hotels. I had a short, unpleasant afternoon and was glad to move on. Honestly, I wouldn't go to a program that rubs you the wrong way or doesn't at least have one person take interest in you. I had warm welcomes from three other, highly-ranked programs, and they seemed to make time for my questions, so why not UMass? Probably because they already have too many students in the program.

Anonymous said...

That is really weird (re: the bad UMass visit). I'm sure that really happened to you, but it's just so extremely different than my visit in March. When I arrived, no one offered me housing with students...then again, I never asked for that kind of arangements, so I don't know what would have happened if I'd inquired about it. Anyway, the students were awesome and I certainly did get to sit in during the entire workshop and participate actively with the other students. The students even made sure I had a copy of the story before I arrived in Massachusetts. They took the time to hang out with me and answer all of my questions. I got to talk to all the fiction faculty who were in residence at the time, as well. I'm sorry you had a bad experience and hope you'll be happy at your new program! Personally, I'm pretty sold on UMass - they have regular graduate student readings, the area is chock full of bookshops, they've got Juniper Festival, they've got The Massachusetts Review and jubilat, and they've just hired a cool new faculty member in fiction (Chris Bachelder!) - and the students in general, at least in fiction, seem pretty tight-knit. Maybe it's different for poetry.