Sunday, January 28, 2007

Back again; Reader Rankings of Schools

Okay, I'm back. No, I was not Jack Bauer's cellmate in China. I've just been busy with life stuff. It's almost decision time for programs and students. Exciting and nerve-wracking as I remember.

Hey, a good place to check out is Seth Abramson's new LJPW Reader's Poll of Creative Writing Programs. Seth has done some more analysis (as a reader pointed out, my use of the word 'statistical' is not accurate), this time of reader's comments on Live Journal and Poets and Writers message boards. He's done some comparison to his "Kealey Scale" too.

Thanks Seth.

And also: Poets and Writers and reportedly Live Journal (link anyone?) are excellent sources for talking with other prospective students and finding information and support. Rock on.


Qfwfq said...

I can't say as I think "statistical" analysis is the best term here. Anyone who studied statistics would cringe at the idea of this survey. A handful of people's lists on two websites whose user base overlaps significantly (meaning the already untrustworthy resaults are having their problems doubled)...

I appreciate that Seth wants to put some time into making rankings, but it seems like his primary goal, from his long-winded defensive summary, is to declare his own rankings to be amazingly accurate.

What I don't understand is why seth thinks the LJPW readers "poll" is important when, on another part of his site, he ranks schools based on their selectivity and notes how many applications they got. Isn't ranking them based on how many applications a more sensible way to see what schools are popular?

I'm sure not even Seth thinks that UVA is 3 times as popular as NYU, for example.

Anne said...

Here's one Livejournal link which may be helpful:

There are probably other relevant communities out there on LJ; I haven't yet read Seth's post so I don't know if he refers to any of them specifically.

Seth Abramson said...


I don't want to muck up Tom's blog with this--and won't for much longer--but since you've repeated the same unfair accusations here as you leveled recently on my blog (and which were ably refuted there, I think), I feel compelled to mention what any person who's read my rankings-related posts could tell you:

1. The polls are not scientific, I've emphasized that point on numerous occasions, and when questioned I've clarified that point at least a dozen times or more. Those who continue to make the charge that I'm claiming otherwise can only be doing so out of ill will. There's just no other excuse for it.

2. I've made efforts, albeit not perfect ones, to ensure that there is a minimal "doubling" effect between the LJ and PW "votes." My hope is--and has been--to increase the sample size of the LJPW poll to the point where any "doubling" effect would minimally affect the rankings.

3. I have never, never claimed the rankings to be "amazingly accurate," as this person (whoever they are) now disingenuously claims. I have suggested that there's ample reason to think them instructive, and ample reason to believe they could be, and are, a useful tool (one among dozens) for those seeking to attend an MFA program this (or any other) fall. Again, anyone who asserts that my intention here was to craft "amazingly accurate" polls is disingenuous, and/or hasn't read the posts which introduced the individual polls, which were indeed long-winded--ironically, partly to fend off spurious accusations such as these.

4. As to the final point made by "qfwfq," I've addressed it in a post today on my blog, as well as in the "comments" section of the LJPW Reader Poll post, where this same person leveled these same charges today. That I'm willing to direct people to my responses there, whereas this person simply makes new charges in new locations without reference to prior refutations of same, says, I think, about as much about the character of these comments as needs to be said.

I stand by what I've said in my posts and on my blog, and strongly believe that the reason these rankings are so threatening to certain people (I'll note: an inordinate number of whom attend Columbia University, one of the schools most sorely used by the rankings) is because one look at the TSE (and LJPW, and TKS) rankings reveals them to be, at the very least, the best rankings we presently have--not because they're "amazingly accurate," but because they're quite evidently more accurate than their only other competitor, an unscientific poll taken a decade ago which considered one (not 16) factors in drawing its conclusions.

I'm sorry that "qfwfq" feels slighted because some of his/her favorite NYC schools--Columbia and NYU, particularly--were slighted. But the fact remains, and I think Tom's made this clear, that for those of us (which is most of us) for whom money is an issue, the NYC schools are not necessarily a top-ten investment.

I've had a stronger response to these rankings than anything I've ever done on-line over the past eight years--8,000 unique visitors to the site in about 30 days--and while I'll concede that's partly because the blog is just stunningly interesting :-), I'm sure at least a few of the visitors and repeat visitors are finding the work I've done instructive enough to not disingenuously snark about it, as the mysterious "qfwfq" has done here. [NB: Try searching for the Blogger profile for "qfwfq." No surprise, there isn't one! That's the sort of person I think we're dealing with, here].

Sorry for the intrusion, Tom.

Anna said...

Excuse my chipping into what appears to be a rather juicy discussion.

Since I haven't done more than scan the dialogue between Q and Seth, I abstain from trying to guess who's right. But it seems to me like there's no need to get too worked up about rankings to begin with. Of course Seth's done an enormous amount of work to collect the info that's out there and to transform it into a general measurement of where the best deals are overall. But at the end of the day, people are responsible for doing their own thorough research, ideally by checking out as many programs as possible, asking themselves which ones seem to be "good" according to personal standards, and determining their own rankings. And each individual can argue until doomsday about why his/her methods of ranking programs are more accurate, more comprehensive, etc.--but we have better things to do, don't we?

Like, for instance, creative writing. :)

Qfwfq said...

You seem quite paranoid Seth.

If you note the timestamps, you will note that I posted here before I posted on your blog. Those were the only two places I posted. Your claims that I am running around the internet firing off accusations sound patently paranoid. I didn't refernece your "prior refutations" here becuase they hadn't occured yet. I've been working on my time machine, but the parts haven't been totally fixed yet.


Beyond that, I'm not sure what to say about your insinuations and insults. I'll let people decide for themselves.

My only point is that the resaults don't seem very accurate and the hard data that we do have available shows the poll to be very inaccurate.

Qfwfq said...

Try searching for the Blogger profile for "qfwfq." No surprise, there isn't one! That's the sort of person I think we're dealing with,

Yikes! I missed this crazyness. I don't know who you are, but such ranting is a little unbecomming. You will notice that my sign up date is August 2006. This is not some secret account I made for you. If you follow the MFA Handbook Blog you'd know that August was around when Tom decided that he wasn't going to allow anonymous comments and everyone who wanted to discuss things had to make a blogger account. So I did. Ta da.

Seth Abramson said...


I could engage you further, I suppose, but I think Anna said it best: everyone ought to use those methods of divination which work best for them, and if they want the rankings as a resource, great, and if not, equally great.

As to who I am, Qfwfq, a quick look at my blog informs you. I remain as ignorant as ever of who you are, however, and expect to remain so. Such is life.


fastermoonshine said...

This is off topic, but I was wondering if you could start an area of the blog for people to post 2007 admissions notifications? This was so helpful, but it looks like it is not going to happen this year. Thanks!

Saltwater Farmer said...

Here's a blog posting notifications:

Seth Abramson said...

I'm doing the same thing here (i.e., letting everyone know which schools have issued acceptances already) for those who are interested. Feel free to comment on the lead post (at the link) if you have an acceptance to report.

Also available at the link is information on MFA response times, acceptance rates, class sizes, the readers' poll MFA ranking, and, of course, The Kealey Scale and TSE Composite rankings.


The School of Lost Ambitions said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sestina, Villanelle and Aubade LLC said...

Here's the post for Creative Writing MFA/PhD 2007 acceptances on the who_got_in LiveJournal community.

Christopher said...

I have a question about a program highly ranked by all three of the different scales, but that doesn't haven't anything to do with methodologies or personality clashes. ;)

I wonder how much of UC-Irvine's fiction reputation (recently anyway) rests on the successes of Alice Sebold, Glenn David Gold, and Aimee Bender. The reason I ask is that in digging around in interviews and so on, they all seem to throw a lot of props to Wilton Barnhardt, who is no longer there.

I'm not trying to suggest that Irvine's program isn't a fine one independent of Barnhardt's presence. I dug into this because I was interested in the program at NC State that Barnhardt directs with John Kessel.

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