Monday, March 10, 2008

On Still Being in the Dark

Lots of new acceptances have been going out and, as April 15 gets nearer, many of you are starting to look forward to finalizing decisions about what to do and where to be next year. Yet others have not had their good news yet, and continue to wonder whether they'll get in anywhere at all. Going through the application process is both a learning experience and a sobering process. So many of us are not really sure what to expect, one way or the other, when we first set our sights on the CW MFA. If you're like me, you jumped in with both feet, hoping for the best but with a paltry sense of what might happen realistically.

I feel lucky, in that I was accepted into one of my top-choice schools last year. The acceptance came relatively late in the process, in mid March of 2007. At that point I'd already been rejected by three of the Really Big Name programs. To say that I was starting to feel dejected is an understatement. I could barely touch my breakfast in the morning anymore. Happily, the good news came at last, instantly putting perspective on everything. OK. Really Big Name U. didn't want me, but another of my top-choice schools did definitely, emphatically want me. Immediately I felt as if everything were going to work out just fine. And, it turns out, it's worked out stellarly. In the last year I've learned more about writing and how to be a better writer than I would have thought possible when I first began to think about going for the mythical MFA.

Just a year ago, when I still hadn't been accepted anywhere, I was thinking about my options and at one point planning on moving somewhere quiet to write on my own, away from all things MFA. If things hadn't worked out as they did in the end, I might be writing this from some sleepy town in New Mexico or Oregon. But I also think I learned that if I had it to do over again, I would not put so many of my eggs into the one basket of the biggest name, most elite schools (the three Really Big Name programs I mention above admit a grand total of thirteen students in fiction between them, I think... I mean, what are the chances?) I toyed with the idea of applying again if no acceptances came my way--to more programs and certainly to more of the great, fully funded "sleeper" programs that are out there. So many options to consider back then, and so much uncertainty. It was both an exciting and a scary time.

Yet things have, one way or the other, worked out just great. Along the way, I've adjusted my expectations and my actions to new realities. None of it has been a cakewalk, and I'm working harder than ever now. As it happens, I'm happier than ever, too, and my writing is growing by leaps and bounds. So... it begins with uncertainty, and it can feel like a meaningless lottery. But sooner or later things click into place, or you reassess and adjust and come up with a new plan. And I don't think any of it goes to waste. If you're willing to work, your effort pays off, sooner or later.

For those of you still waiting to hear, keep the faith. And keep working at it.

33 comments:

Vince said...

The prolonged darkness is frieghtening, as someone who is currently in that boat. You're pinning your hopes and your passion for writing on several programs...careful not to put all your eggs in one basket. The clock is ticking, and some of us seem to need a wing and a prayer just to get into a solid program. The luckiest ones get into several programs. I'm fighting a yucky C- (for an English course that I didn't even need in order to graduate) in my last semester as a senior at Loyola. Pardon me folks...that's my darkest demon in this process. I had a newspaper internship at the B'more Sun that gave me a full platter. I at least got an A for the internship. My current toil (as I wait to hear) has led to several new poems. Hopefully, I can share them in a workshop this coming fall. best wishes to all hoping fo admission.

Elizabeth said...

Best wishes to everyone who's still waiting - I'm one of the fearful ones. There's still a fair number of apps. out there, but so far it's been "thank you, no." Yesterday there were two on the same day (blech), so I'm really hoping the light breaks through and reminding myself that really, it only takes one. Even though my mother is starting to lean on me to form a different plan . . .
Here's hoping everybody gets their one.

S said...

Thanks for the message! After getting four rejections, one after the other, from the big name schools I finally got an email acceptance from University of Arizona! I applied to this school more as a suggestion from a Professor, without knowing much about it, can anyone tell me about their experiences at the MFA program at University of Arizona in Tucson?
Thanks!

pps said...

Could anyone give me a few examples of "sleeper" programs? I would greatly appreciate it since I hear a lot about them but in very generic terms.

Thanks.

Luke said...

I would say UNC-Greensboro is an example of a 'sleeper' program. They've got an amazing reputation, great funding, and a small program. Despite all this, I think they get significantly fewer apps than a place like Michigan or Cornell.

Ryan said...

I'm still waiting on some of my schools, but I've recently found out that I got into Wichita State for fiction. But, I can't find much info on the program.

Does anybody know anything about it or heard any opinions on the program?

M. Douglas said...
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M. Douglas said...

pps,

Google "under the radar programs" to find a link to an article on this site about some excellent sleeper programs, including UNC, Purdue and Arkansas.

M.

Lizzy said...
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Lizzy said...

This post has a link to a great article about sleeper programs.

eLily said...

Hey all,
I realize having a label for Sleeper Programs would be helpful for some readers, but I took the liberty of archiving it.
My logic is ... well the term is fairly subjective, and what might be considered a sleeper one year, could be relatively popular, or even selective the next. But then again, all data are forever changing on MFA programs, including funding, acceptance rates, etc.

For the time being, in addition to the link Lizzy provided, here are the others:
Vanderbilt
New Mexico
Chatham
Mid-List Programs
Thanks, Lily

Ray.L. said...

Hey Vince!
I'm a senior at Loyola and hoping on getting my MFA too, someday. Good luck to everyone waiting on acceptances!
Raina

Speak Coffee said...

Actually if you type writing MFA "under the radar programs" into Google you go - surprise, surprise - right back to this blog. Check the older post: http://creative-writing-mfa-handbook.blogspot.com/2006/10/under-radar-programs.html

Lizzy said...
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Sarah Perrault said...

As far as I know, the program at Northern Michigan doesn't get deluged with applications. (Some people don't like the idea of 200" of snow per year -- can't imagine why. Just imagine all the writing you could do while snowbound!)

Some of the profs there are quite good. The writing students are a mixture, or were when I was there (2001-2004), though I started in the program's second year so that may have changed as it's gained more traction and distinguished itself from the MA more.

The funding wasn't the best ever, but then again the cost of living was reasonably low. Compared to some places (SF, NY, other major population centers), it was staggeringly low.

Cat Ennis said...

I just wanted to say not to pin your hopes on the MFA Acceptance Response Times Database. (http://sethabramson.blogspot.com/2008/01/2008-data-bank-of-application-response.html) It is a super great resource but I was checking it too much. And I gave up hope on one of my top schools because they'd notified someone back in February, but I just found out today that I got in! So even though it's nice to have something concrete to hold onto like the Response Time Database, don't pin all your hopes on it. You might get a late acceptance letter later. Good luck! I hope this crazy scary time settles down soon for everyone.

dcti said...

I already posted this at Speakeasy, but at this point, I'm getting a bit obsessive. Not to mention that I could use as much help as possible.

I live in Hawaii and I was wondering if that could affect when I might be notified about acceptances or rejections. I already received two rejections through the mail (UMass Amherst and Syracuse) and I'm currently waiting for any word from UOregon, NYU, and UNLV.

However, it seems like a lot of people who are accepted into programs either get a phone call or a personal email. I'm a little worried, since living in Hawaii doesn't really affect that kind of contact. I'm starting to feel like I'm just waiting for rejection letters to come in!

Should I keep a tiny bit of hope, or break out the chocolate already and start next year's applications?

Samara said...

Congratulations, Cat! That's really exciting!

mitocondrial said...

Has anyone hear from UC-Irvine yet? I'm interested in both acceptances and rejections (and for which program: poetry or fiction).

Also, does anybody have a clue when they will respond to applicants?

Pensive495 said...

DCTI: I watch the blogs pretty obsessively, and there are people waiting on all of the schools that you are. I wouldn't worry about it.

spillingink said...

mitocondrial:

I have not heard a thing from UC-Irvine...and I don't think anyone else has either. I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure. :)

spillingink said...
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Lizzy said...

Congrats, s, cat ennis and everyone else who's had a "late" acceptance.

It's not actually that late yet... People do get in, right up until the last minute--I remember an acceptance in April to Indiana last year (either that or my old brain cells are getting creaky). There's still time for good news for lots of folks, especially as those who received multiple acceptances make their final choices, opening up slots at many programs.

Speak Coffee said...

dcti: I've gotten everything (rejections AND acceptances) so far by snail mail. Being in Hawaii could cause a couple days delay for first class mail to get to you, but probably not a couple weeks.

That and I'm going to second whoever said that Seth Abramson's blog isn't the best thing to set your hopes on. It's a bellwether, yes, but it doesn't tell you where every sheep is.

jaevoni said...

Does anyone know much about the Oregon State program? I haven't found much about it besides from them. It's close to my home, so I'm interested in it. I really want to got to the University of Oregon, but it's good to know about the others.

Sarah said...

Thank you thank you for this blog... I am honestly feeling more encouraged. I have two rejection letters on my fridge,Iowa and Cornell, and I'm waiting to hear back from seven others. I, too, fell victim to self doubt after reading Seth's blog, though it is a pretty cool resource. Here's hoping something will turn up in the next few weeks. Thanks guys.

sarah louise said...

thank you so much for this uplifting post. after obsessing over seth's blog, i too fell victim of despair since it seemed like everyone else had heard from the schools i applied to.

i had to sit back & realize that if i get rejected from the 3 remaining schools (& i may), it isn't the end of the world & certainly not my writing. it's very easy in our degree-driven society to locate our artistic impetus in the yay or nay of as admissions committee with their own personal tastes, motives, etc.

studentwriter said...

I assume from the posts that none of you are interested in the low-residency programs. I'm currently at Bennington and think I'm getting a great deal more personal attention from an esteemed writer than ever would I get at the residency programs. You may want to reconsider. There were over thirty of them last I looked.

Kimi Raikkonen said...

Studentwriter,
I'm glad you said something about low-res. I'm looking into a few. Do you miss the interaction of your fellow writers, or do you have contact with them? The one on one attention is appealing.

makosa said...

It's April 1, and I have not heard from 3 of the 5 schools I applied to. (One acceptance, one wait-list.) Is this normal?

Aaron Abubo said...

so far I have gotten acceptance letters from san jose state university, University of San Francisco, St. Mary's College, and Columbia College Chicago. Still waiting to hear from UCI and the New School. Has anyone heard from either of these schools yet? This is for poetry, btw.

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