Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Application Question: Name Your Favorite Professor?


I always assumed that the way to get into a Creative Writing MFA program was to be a good writer. Oh, yeah, of course there are politics, but what currently has me all confused is this: should I contact the faculty beforehand?! I have been reading their work, but I don't really know what to say in an email without being a blatant toady. "Hey, your writing is swell! So is mine! Will you advise me?" Would I be totally out of line and obvious? But then on two of my applications I've noticed that it seems to expect me to have contacted them. However, I know all I feel like I need to know about the programs, and any question I asked would be pretty flakey. Am I dooming myself by not contacting them? When it asks me to list who I'd like to work with, would it be rude for me to list faculty members WITHOUT writing them first?! And how do I gracefully mention their work in my statement of purpose?! ... I am not a good ass-kisser.

- Abashed in Arkansas

This seems really strange to me. I'm not saying they shouldn't ask this, I'm saying that it's out of the ordinary. My usual advice is not to mention the faculty, unless you’re going to mention all of the faculty.

AiA, can you tell us which programs ask this question? Has anyone else stumbled across this?


Adam said...

I can't speak to NYU or Cornell. Montana's application (the online one, which bear in mind is the same for every graduate program) includes this question:

If you have contacted a faculty member concerning admission to the Graduate School, indicate name and date of contact

I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to infer that contacting a faculty is a requirement or even something that would benefit your application. The program's Q&A includes this:

8. Will I improve my chances of acceptance if I come to campus for a visit?
Generally not. Since we have some applicants to the program who have studied here as undergraduates, we try very hard to put everyone on equal footing by making decisions based on what you've put in your application packet. Having met a professor won't change that. A better reason for a campus visit is to help you decide if you want to choose us. If you've never been to Montana, a visit might help you decide if you want to apply. The best time to visit, in our opinion, is after we've accepted you and you're trying to decide between ours and another program. Then you can meet students who would be your classmates, as well as get a sense of the faculty and the place so you can make an informed decision.

I really doubt that faculty contacts (or lack thereof) is something to worry about.

EJ said...

I also noticed this for Hunter College. It's a little unclear to me if they want this as part of the statement, but it is on the "How to get in the door"/application page.

6. Make sure you know who the faculty are
Your reasons for coming to Hunter might include its convenience on the subway, or the very reasonable tuition costs. These are both good reasons, but not what the Hunter MFA is all about, which is to assemble the best collection of students and faculty in the country. We'll be spending a lot of time reading your work and then finding out who you are. Likewise, to better understand what you are getting into, you should find out more about us. See Who will teach you.

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