Wednesday, May 24, 2006

To-Do List Before Liftoff

Anxious in Austin returns and writes...

It seems increasingly likely that I'll be spending next year abroad. I'm very committed to my writing and to applying to MFAs this coming Fall, but I'm worried about the constraints being in another country will put on my applications. Do you have any recommendations/concerns about transcripts, recs, GREs, or something as ludicrously simple as which address to use (permanent or abroad)?

It all depends on where you're going, AiA (Where are you going, by the way?), but if I were you I'd get as much of this stuff done as I could beforehand. Particularly the GRE, which presumably you won't be able to do in many places abroad. Transcripts can probably be handled online with no problem in the Fall. Get those letters of recommendation now. Summer's a good time to hit people up, especially in academia. They don't have as much on their plate now.

As far as addresses go: I'd use something that you know will be viable in March-April of 2007. Know anyone in a stable living situation? A parent or sibling? I'd use theirs. Good luck, Austin, and happy travels.


Anonymous said...

I did this last year and it was a little stressful, but nothing insurmountable.

1) I agree with Tom's suggestion to take care of the GRE ahead of time. It's actually available most places (except China, Korea and someplace else) 24/7, just like in the USA so it's possible to take care of it on the fly, just not all that fun.

2) Request recommendations nice and early because coordinating with recommenders over many, many hours of time difference can get a little stressful too. Same with transcripts. Basically, just try to do stuff significantly before the official deadline. I'm not good at that and it came back to bite me in the form of many sleepless nights where I was up in the wee hours trying to make cross-continental phone calls the night before apps were due. I wouldn't recommend the experience, particularly.

3) And on that note, my big suggestion is that if you have a very generous family member or friend, I'd enlist them to help you out by having recommendations and transcripts sent to their US address in order to collate materials for shipment. Some programs semi-insist on that (although you can always use the "I'm living in Tanzania excuse" if you have to--it sells, as they say) and it's much easier to have things shipped around in the US than abroad. Although I never had anything disappear into the ether of the international mails, some stuff certainly took its sweet time getting from one continent to the other.

Anonymous said...

I applied to MFA programs while I was out of the country. It was a pain in the ass, but it had to be done.

I took the GRE beforehand and then forgot my score. I had to call the ETS and they charged me an arm, a leg, and my left nut to tell me my score over the phone. They charged me my right nut to send the scores to the proper schools.

I had a manila envelope full of sealed academic transcripts. I had my US checkbook because not all of the MFA programs have an online payment system for the application fee (There's probably a better way than bringing your checkbook along, but I couldn't thnk of one). Besides, I didn't want to make an online payment in a dodgy internet cafe with sticky keyboards.

For letters of rec, my undergrad university held them and sent them out to the proper schools at my request (for a fee of course). You might want to see if your college has a similar system.

Oh, I used my parent's stateside address and phone number for the contact info.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the advice from all. I'll be in Prague, teaching at a school that seems secure enough to send and receive documents at. I am taking steps to take the GRE before my departure, but probably need to step up my rec requests.

I'm still sort of torn between having my parents' home address be the recipient of my apps, forms, good/bad news, etc., or whether to have them send things over to Prague. Anyone have a strong thought on which is better?

Anonymous said...

I would strongly suggest using your parents' address. Using a Prague address would just set up extra opportunities for people in various programs' offices to make mistakes in trying to contact you. Plus international mail gets delayed more easily, and for more time, than domestic mail; you might end up getting accepted somewhere but not getting your letter until the deadline has passed. I spent the second half of my junior year of college in Budapest and watched a couple of people go through grad school applications using their Hungarian addresses -- the end result was that they both had to do everything via email, and there were still a couple of miscommunications.

Anonymous said...

The only time I used my European address was a return address on the application envelope. Everything else was to mama and papa.

You see, if your parents are anything like mine, they love you very much. Or if they don't love you, then they like you more than they like most people. Thus, they'll always be able to reach and will be the middleman when it comes to rejections or acceptances.

That's how it worked for me.

When I was accepted, mama and papa contacted me. When I was rejected, they made a very nice PDF and emailed it to me. Could've done without that, actually, as it was sort of humiliating.