Saturday, August 02, 2008

Mailbag, August 2, 2008

There hasn't been a general mailbag since June 17, so I'm going to go ahead and start one - post your questions, concerns and comments here. Are there any questions that you would like to see the MFA blog contributors tackle in more depth? Let us know!


John said...

A stupid question for you: any general formatting rules for my sample? I double-space everything, since it's required in all of the writing workshops and such that I have participated in.

Double-spacing would obviously be a big impact on length! So, what's the general rule?

Alex said...

I double-spaced...I went back and forth trying to find a recommended method and finally settled on what I found here after some prolonged Googling:

Formatting a Short Story

No idea if that's what other folks do but that site satisfied my need for a firm set of rules/fonts/spacing options I could follow in order to feel like I was conforming to some sort of standard.

(I did play with margins in one case where I couldn't exceed 20 pages. My main sample was 21-22 pages using the method described above, and I fiddled with the formatting to get it to 20.)

Just_Another_Poet said...

I'll be applying for my MFA programs next year -- Fall 2009 -- (yeah, I see that I'm a bit early), but how can I know if I am essentially 'good enough' for a specific program (???)

I know one has to fit a certain mold for certain MFA programs.

So far, most of my poems this semester has been receiving universal praise (I'm not trying to brag... if it helps, I used to write things that made picture books look like masterpieces). I'm just getting better, and I feel I have more room for growth.

Does one think it might be smart to send some of my poems to magazines? If published, should I send those poems as my portfolio? Lastly, should I be sending a variety of things that show my range, or should I focus on familiar subject matter with regards to all my poems. I have written poems in the past that have been funny, serious, ; strong, yet different voices and speakers.

I'm applying to 10 programs and I want to have at least 4 reach schools (Cornell, Michigan, Michener, JHU), 4 quality schools (UMass Amherst, Ohio St., Vanderbilt, Hollins), and 2 sleeper programs (UNC Greensboro, U Arkansas). Yeah, that might change.

I have also started reading some of the faculties' work, and trying to find something similar in their writing with mine.

I have no intention to "imitate" their work in some way, as I feel my own voice is strong, but I don't really want to be all that different; hence, the reason why I'm reading their work.

Anyway, if anybody could provide some helpful feedback, it would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

Lizzy said...

Double spaced, 12 pt Times New Roman, with 1-inch margins seems to be the standard.

malcontent said...

just another poet,

I don't believe there is any way to know which programs your work is "good enough for". I'm starting my MFA in the fall and I almost didn't apply to the program I will be attending because I was so intimidated by their miniscule acceptance rate. The program I am attending was the most selective one I applied to, yet I was rejected from many of the (marginally) less selective schools. I think success often depends on finding some sympathetic readers, and the best way to do that is to apply to as many programs as possible.

Sending your work out is a good idea, as it can help you gauge what kind of reception to expect. Just keep in mind that it is probably easier to get into an MFA program than to publish in a sought-after literary journal.

There's nothing wrong with reading faculty work, but that work may not indicate where your work will find a sympathetic reception, or where you will find the best teachers. I wouldn't make similarity of style a concern, as I think objective quality will probably matter more.

Good luck.

Seth Abramson said...

Hi Just Another Poet,

Malcontent answered your questions already, so I'll just make a quick note about your list of prospective programs. It's a very good initial list, I'd just propose the following:

1. In the poetry genre, your descriptions of the schools should be amended (to reflect current realities) as follows: "reach schools" (Cornell, Michigan, UMass), "quality schools" (JHU, Michener, Arkansas, UNC Greensboro, Ohio State), and "sleeper programs" (Vanderbilt, and Hollins only because the turmoil there over the past few years, and the fact that until recently it was an M.A. not an M.F.A., may have put it off some folks' radar screens, but now it's back and better than ever in terms of funding, duration, and being an M.F.A. program). In other words, I think your list might be a little light on sleepers, especially as the cat's out of the bag on Vanderbilt now due to its incredible funding package. Real sleepers in the poetry genre might include: Western Michigan, Virginia Tech, VCU, University of California at Riverside, and others. Schools that aren't sleepers but are excellent for poetry and might be under-applied to: Illinois, Arizona State, Colorado State, Bowling Green, Southern Illinois, UNC at Wilmington, LSU.

2. If you can afford it, apply to 15 schools.

My two cents,

Seth Abramson

MFA Rankings and Acceptance Rates at:
The Suburban Ecstasies

Nancy Rawlinson said...

John - Lizzy's suggestion on formatting is spot on, in my opinion.

Alex - that article about formatting is interesting but a bit out of date, I'd say. I personally hate reading courier - I'd much prefer Times or Times New Roman. The author of the article also suggests never using italics - I don't think that stands. Following all the rules he suggests might drive people crazy. Keep it simple, I say: 12 point, standard font, regular margins, double spaced. If you've got those things right, whether you underline or use italics shouldn't make a bit of difference.

Just Another Poet - I'd second all Malcontent's advice, and Seth is the resident expert on poetry programs so I'm sure his advice is sound too. I'd just add, on the "range v. subject matter" issue, focus on quality. Don't sacrifice quality for range. If this means that all your poems focus on one subject, fine. If it means you are sending in a more diverse selection, that's equally fine.

How can you tell what your best work is? Use a combination of reliable, quality feedback and your own gut instinct. The reaction of magazines that you might end up submitting to isn't a reliable indicator, usually, and you shouldn't let that be your only guide on what to send.

pps said...


15 schools? Really? I already feel kind of ridiculous asking people to send rec. letters to 12 schools.

deadninjahorse said...

Well, I feel annoying asking recommenders to send letters to 14 schools, but I'll be quite ok with that if one of those schools accepts me(with funding).

Just_Another_Poet said...

Thank you, Seth and malcontent, for the feedback. I feel rather on the edge of ease and discomfort (but slipping further into discomfort) regarding the selection processes at some of these programs. On the same note, thanks for the list of other programs and for clarifying their tiers. I feel I may be aiming a bit too high, so I will definitely consider revising my list to get more programs in there.

Yikes! I've only one year left before I apply! It's a funny story. Being the only member of my family to attend college, I never knew about some of the majors offered at certain universities. Creative writing was one of them. As soon as I found that out, I dropped my psych/pre-med focus and switched over to something I knew I'd love doing.

And Seth:

Can I meet you halfway on the number of programs to apply to? Perhaps 11 or 12? My financial situation sucks, and I'll be using a large portion of student loans just to apply for graduate school (heck!)...

I wonder how my professors will feel about my applying to *that many* programs. They'll hate me for a while, I'm sure.

Tory Adkisson said...

Hello fellow MFA Bloggers,
I have been feverishly mulling over the programs I am applying to, and am still moving things around. Nonetheless, I would love to have some feedback on my choices (I am applying in poetry):

Brown University
Cornell University
Indiana University
University of Minnesota
University of Iowa
University of Oregon
Ohio State University
University of Washington
University of Massachusetts
Syracuse University
University of Michigan
University of Wisconsin

12 Schools in all, which seems like a lot, but since funding is far and away my number one priority, I have to keep my options open.

That being said, I would love to hear other suggestions of programs to look into...I don't think I could live in the south, and as a Californian since birth, I am trying to go out of state so I can have more independence and freedom and get a different perspective on things.

Thanks (in advance) for the help!

Seth Abramson said...

PPS and Just Another Poet,

If anyone looks at you cross-eyed about applying to as many schools as you can possibly afford--be it 10, 12, 15, or 18--just politely explain to them that getting into an MFA is statistically more difficult than getting into medical school. Or law school. Or business school. Or engineering school. Or undergrad.

Consider this: On the website of Harvard Medical School, you find the following language: "The roughly 165 seats that Harvard Medical School has available for new students each year are the object of intense competition. Almost 5,400 people applied for admission in 2004, putting Harvard Medical School's admission rate at under 3 per cent--perhaps the steepest odds that applicants face in applying to any academic program in the country."


There's not 1, not 2, not 4, but ten MFA programs--just of those with released/available admissions data--harder to get into than Harvard Medical School.

Would anyone think twice about applying to 15 medical schools? Probably not. That said, Just Another Poet, you should of course only apply to as many programs as you can afford (with an absolute maximum of 18, I suppose). 12 is fine. Keep in mind you're not trying to figure out how many applications will result in one acceptance, but rather two or three--you don't want to, if you can help it, be left with only one option. For too many reasons (competitive funding offers being one) to name here.

All that said, there's no cause to feel discomforted. You'll do fine! The only reason to know this stuff is not to dissuade or discourage you, but only so you can make smart, well-informed decisions as you march toward getting into (which you will!) an MFA program you're happy with.

Best wishes to you,

MFA Rankings and Acceptance Rates at:
The Suburban Ecstasies

Jennifer said...

@I loved the feedback just another poet got on her list of schools, anyone willing to comment on mine? I'm applying for fiction. Suggestions for add'l schools welcome. . . I think I should add a couple to this list now that we are talking 15 apps. . .

U. Cal. Irvine
U. Iowa
U. Texas Michener
U. Nevada, Las Vegas
U. Virginia
George Mason
U. Alabama
U. Mississippi
U. Indiana
U. Houston

Oh, and on the formatting question, definitely double spaced, twelve point times new roman font with one inch margins (I'm an editor, trust me on this).

Laura Scott said...

Just Another Poet,

Some schools offer a application fee waiver, but you have to apply for it very early. If you have time, I suggest seeing if your schools offer this opportunity.

Good luck!

Luke said...


I think you've got a really great list. I'm currently heading into my second year at Hollins, so obviously I'm a bit partial. But based on what you have so far a few schools came to mind that you might want to consider:

-UNC-Greensboro--great size, similar reputation to a place like Hollins, and Michael Parker on the fiction faculty...can't say enough about how great of a teacher this guy is, along with being an amazing writer.

-UNC-Wilmington--up and coming program, a little bit sketchy with the funding and Wendy Brenner...

-Cornell--I see Syracuse on there, Ithaca (in my opinion) is an infinitely cooler town and obviously on par or above reputation-wise.

tory--it looks like your list has changed a bit since the last time you posted it, and I think for the might consider Southern Illinois, full funding for everyone they accept and Rodney Jones, Rodney Jones, Rodney Jones...same thoughts with VCU...obviously it's in the South, but I think their funding is fairly substantial and they've got David Wojahn.

Good luck all!

latecoffee said...

tory-- a few suggestions:

university of oregon might not be one to consider right now...dorianne laux has just left to take a position in fall 08 with nc state in raleigh, north carolina... not sure who they'll get to replace her or when that will take affect.

i'd add a few more programs, maybe a few in the south, such as unc-greensboro. they've got a strong poetry program with their recent hires in the past few years. i know you don't want to live in the south, but i don't think you'll find it much different than the midwest (many would argue better).

Tory Adkisson said...

thanks luke and latecoffee for the feedback.

my major gripe with the south isn't so much the social climate as it is the actual climate. the relative humidity of southern summers would likely do me in before time. i am trying to keep and open mind though.

actually i am toying around with applying to UNC-Greensborough, it seems like a very interesting, very serious school. And a good place to write.

Does anyone have anything to say about Purdue?

Anastasia Dyakovskaya said...

hi all!

I am relatively new to this process, but I've been reading this blog for a couple of months now and it's been such a great source of knowledge!
I'll be applying for Fall 2009 nonfiction programs (though ideally the program would be somewhat flexible), and would love to get any feedback on here like some other users have. Here's my list so far...

-California College of the Arts (my top choice as of now..any thoughts? no one really mentions this program much)
[i'm drawn to the art school setting]
-New School
-Arizona State

This is still a working list, of course. I'd love any suggestions on programs that I haven't listed...I guess I'm most concerned with location, funding, and how flexible the program is in terms of genre, though nonfiction is my main one. I'm a born and raised New Yorker, so I'd love to get out of here, and San Francisco is where I'd most like to live...I'd like to think I'm pretty open though.

I can't wait to hear back! Good luck and best wishes to all!

nubia said...
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Vince said...


By all means--apply to Brown University if that's where you think you belong as a writer. I just think it's a little silly that there is an experimental label when it comes to any writer crafting a new story or poem. Avant garde??? What's old is new again as the pendulum in any artform moves from one position to the next. Modern avante garde sounds a little redundant to me. Also, keep in mind potential teaching opportunities when it comes to certain programs' reputations.

Just_Another_Poet said...


I'm going to take some initiative and give advice on this blog (since I haven't done so yet, but here goes!)

From what I hear, the program at Brown, and you've mentioned this, tends to accept poets who are experimental. Iowa, on the other hand, tends to accept those poets who are traditional. In my honest opinion, the programs are on opposite sides of the spectrum. I only suggest that you look at your poetry and decide for yourself if it is traditional or experimental.

I don't know for sure (as I am new here) if applying to both of those programs (together!) is advisable.... because they're so different.

Vince said...

Perhaps experimental means thinking outside the box as a writer--busting loose from the seams of conventional wisdom as a writer...and not new for new sake or just new interpretations. With all this said, experimental might be anyone's guess. Someone (maybe nubia herself)has mentioned earlier that UCIrvine tends to be more experimental than Iowa.

Luke said...


There are a few programs that come to mind for me when I think of 'experimental writing' (though I hate that classification...isn't all writing experimental??): Brown, Utah, Notre Dame, Alabama (Michael Martone!, and Kate Bernheimer), SAIC, the creative writing PhD at Denver, University of Washington (Heather McHugh),and the poetics program at SUNY Buffalo springs to mind as well. But as you can see, many of these schools fall into one of your forbidden zones. This makes me wonder if your own requirements aren't your largest obstacle: it seems as if you're embracing the most traditional mindset concerning MFA programs and their rankings, all the while searching for an environment that will accomodate a writing style that rejects (or tampers with) the poetics of these very same traditions. All of this merely to suggest that you broaden your criteria to include some of these other programs, let go of the idea that Brown and Iowa and Irvine exist in a category unto themselves (though, they are very clearly the upper echelon MFA programs). Or don't; perhaps if you're determined to go to one of these programs, you shouldn't compromise what you want in a school, but you certainly should be (and most likely are) aware of the prospects you're up against.

Consider the writers you admire and find out where they teach, if they do. In my mind this, along with funding, should weigh much more heavily on your decision than the reputation of a program.

Sara E.G. said...
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Sara E.G. said...

luke and vince: i couldn't agree more.

i too was under the impression that almost all writing was deemed "experimental" to a point and looking for programs that are labeled "avant garde" might be as limiting as joining a program that teaches strict form and traditional line (and i don't even think that either of these two programs exist in the real world.)

it seems to me that the 2-3 years you spend in an MFA program should primarily be about your own growth. that growth can happen at a top tier school or a sleeper program. where do you feel comfortable and where are you going to produce your best work?

i think limiting yourself to those particular programs is a very dangerous move. i assure you that each year there are people accepted at Iowa or Cornell or Brown that are not accepted at Minnesota or Oregon or Texas. there is no absolute rhyme or reason to the admissions process here, so as an "experimental poet" who doesn't want to follow the conventional path, why look at MFA programs in a conventional manner?

that said, i would take a very hard look at SAIC. if money isn't an issue, it may be just your fit.

nubia said...
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Lincoln said...

Sara E.G. said...

luke and vince: i couldn't agree more.

i too was under the impression that almost all writing was deemed "experimental" to a point and looking for programs that are labeled "avant garde" might be as limiting as joining a program that teaches strict form and traditional line (and i don't even think that either of these two programs exist in the real world.)

I think I would have to disagree with you three.

Let me put up a big caveat: I'm mostly a fiction writer and am only really familiar with the fiction side of MFA programs. So it very well may be the case that "experimental poetry" in MFA programs works in a completely different way than "experimental fiction."

That said, for fiction at least I definitly do not think most programs are ideal for an experimental writer (which I'm defining pretty broadly). I'd say the number one reason is the students. In undergrad most people are taught a certain style of writing and a certain way of critiquing. The "MFA story" I guess one might say. Honestly I'm not sure most people would be helpful for someone trying to some different Robert Coover or Diane Williams type thing. I've certainly known people who've had terrible grad workshop experiences doing solid work that didn't fit into the scope of the the programs writing.

I've also heard of teachers that discouraged experimental work in workshop.

Again, maybe this is different for poetry, but for fiction at least I would definitly advise writers who think their work might fall outside of character driven domestic realism to look into programs.

Look for teachers and for alumni that fit into the general field you are interested in. That is probably your safest bet.

Lincoln said...

Does anyone know of schools that openly welcome less conventional writers? I think Columbia might be one, but I'm from New York and I'm more than ready to get out of this city.

Yes, Columbia definitely looks for less conventional writers-along with conventional ones-in both fiction and poetry.

New School does as well I think, though that is also in New York.

Brown is an obvious one.

Other schools that come to mind for me are Syracuse and Cal-Arts (mostly for Steve Erickson and Black Clock). Although again I'm a fiction writer, so my impression of these schools comes mostly from that.

Good luck!

M. said...


Have you considered applying to UMass-Amherst? I feel like they're pretty accepting of different styles of writing, although that's just a guess since I JUST got in and haven't started yet (but, while far from being "experimental," I'm no traditionalist either).

Are you more concerned that you won't get accepted into a school because of your writing style, or are you concerned that you'll get accepted/funding/attend but find people hostile to your style? If it's the latter, you may learn the most from that experience than finding a place that 100 percent gets your work, if any such place existed.

Also, to the person concerned with moving to the South as far as climate goes-- I just moved from the South to the North, and I swore I wouldn't do that for climate reasons (ice! cold! snow!), but I got in and got a TA position, so weather be damned. And the interesting thing I found out arriving in Mass in the middle of July is that Southerners suffer less from the humidity/heat because they air-condition everything in their lives, no big deal, and then take it easy in the winters with their gas bills. Go for the South! It's got its charms.

Seth Abramson said...

I'll say it until I'm blue in the face: I'm at Iowa now, in poetry, and we have writers of every single aesthetic. There is no "Iowa aesthetic," Iowa is not conservative, and the simple truth is that if you're admitted, they want to help you along in what you're doing, period.


The notion of Iowa as conservative is a product of its traditionally conservative fiction program. And even that is changing under Sam Chang's leadership.

There are many programs that cater to experimental writing: UC at Davis, UNC at Wilmington, Rutgers, and Washington University at St. Louis, to name a few.

I think the key here is not to fall into what I call The Brown Trap, which for some is (variously) The Cornell Trap, The Iowa Trap, The Virginia Trap, The Michigan Trap, and The Irvine Trap. I have come across all of these. It's when someone says, "I won't be happy unless I go to ________________." Having seen this many times before, I can only say--as gently as possible--that it is an attitude which disappears quite quickly and readily when one actually starts doing the hard work of investigating programs. There are easily twenty MFAs in the country who can lay claim to being in the top five nationally--some with stronger claims than others, but no less an authority than The Atlantic has made this same observation--so no one, no one, is either a) without options, or b) with only a handful of options.

For those who like the coasts, there are plenty of completely unfunded programs to attend both in NYC and Cali. For those willing to go somewhere in the remaining 95% of the contiguous United States, there are a minimum of twenty fully funded programs in absolutely insanely out-of-the-way places, like Illinois. And Ohio. And Pennsylvania. And upstate New York. And Texas. Heck, there are three in Indiana alone.

Just trying to insinuate a little perspective (and tough love) here. :-)


MFA Rankings and Acceptance Rates at:
The Suburban Ecstasies

Tory Adkisson said...

I agree with a lot of what has been said above, and especially with Seth's assertion about "[insert school] traps." In some ways they are just that, misleading notions of a program's strength based on a combination of outdated rankings and heresay. It's important to set aside time to consider your own reasons for applying to an MFA program and assemble the criteria you need to have at the schools you're applying to, and really investigate whether or not some of your "top-ranked" schools possess these criteria.

Not to be a peddler of books that are not my own, I recommend seriously purchasing Tom Kealey's book on the MFA (maybe pre-order the new edition, as I am) and really consider the information he provides. Seth's site has also been very helpful to me too. Statistics can be cold and sobering, but it's important to have a realistic idea about what you're getting yourself into.

I will be applying straight out of college this fall, and as such I feel I have a VERY large chip on my shoulder. Everyone says take a year off, get "experience". All that resistance has only strengthened my resolve. I am applying to 12 programs because I want to get into an MFA program, I want to live the writer's life permanently. And I have a lot of experience to draw from.

I didn't mean to meander off topic or write such a long comment, but my main point is, if you really want it, think about everything you want and need out of the experience. It puts things into perspective.

(also, look into UNLV, it seems to be a bit on the experimental side too and has a nifty travel study option!)

nubia said...
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Rebecca said...

I'm also applying straight out of school and only to schools that I would absolutely kill to attend. My thinking is that I know that I can pick up my life and move anywhere net fall, and I'm not sure my personal life would be such that I could still do that if I took a year off. At the same time, if I don't get into a program i looove, I'll take time off and i'll be happy doing that which is why my list is fairly short and "top" (or top to me) tier.

Texas Michener-Playwriting primary

potentially Brown and Yale for playwriting but they're not too keen on taking 22 year olds

M. Douglas said...

"Does anyone have anything to say about Purdue?"


I posted this comment earlier about Purdue in response to sara e.g.'s question:

"I'm sure I'll have better information in the future (and Bolivia Red may want to verify this as well), but what currently impresses me about the program at Purdue (in addition to the extraordinary faculty and wonderfully supportive colleagues), is the amount of money and time they offer you. You complete your coursework the first two years, and the third year is dedicated entirely to your thesis (also fully funded). The TA workload is also relatively "light" when compared to other equivalent programs."

I should also note that there are several excellent programs (very similar to Purdue) within two or three hours of each other (including the other programs Seth alluded to in Indiana alone): Notre Dame, Illinois, Ohio State, IU, etc.

That said, I feel very lucky I stumbled on Purdue last year when I was making my decisions.

Good luck with everything!


Nick McRae said...

Would anyone care to comment on my current list? I'm applying for poetry:

Michener Center
Ohio State
Southern Illinois
Virginia Tech
Bowling Green

Thanks in advance!

rose said...
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rose said...
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rose said...

I will be somewhat limited in where I can apply by where my husband will be going to school next year. I am looking at programs near philadelphia, pittsburgh, or st. louis. so far I have found

Washington University
University of Missouri
Rutgers Camden
Chatham College
University of Pittsburgh

I know these programs are all over the board but any thoughts? Any programs in these locations I am missing?

Kit said...

Hi everyone,

Also applying for Fall 2009 in poetry. I've made funding a top priority when selecting which schools I'm applying to, but there are a couple schools on my list with tiered funding. Hence, I'm looking outside as well for financial aid sources. I know about the Javits fellowship, but I can't find any other substantial fellowships (i.e. would be equiv. or close to a funding package from a university, like Javits) open to grad students in creative writing. Anyone aware of others out there? Perhaps there are none, but if anyone has ideas, that would be great!


Anastasia Dyakovskaya said...

So, are there any other creative nonfiction writers out there? There seems to be a serious lacking of us in this community... I don't know if anyone saw my last post, but I would still love some feedback (it's up here!)..and I'd also be very interested in hearing some experiences of fellow nonfiction writers.

Bsquared86 said...

Greetings everyone! I'm new to the MFA Blog and I must say that I wish I'd found thsi blog sooner!But, as they say, better late than never!

I was wondering if you could discuss the different Art Schools that offer MFA's in Creative Writing. I'm looking for programs for Fall 2009 and schools such as CalArts and Otis School of Art & Design look very promising but I can't find much info about them, expecially the latter. What are some of the differences between the Art school programs and the University programs? I notice that they don't usually pop up in the rankings and rating lists circulating around.

Thank you and I hope to hear back from you all!

M. said...

i guess i didn't know how stressful and how much work and research it was going to be just gathering a list of programs to apply to. Waiting for acceptance/rejection letters seems like it's going to be much easier.

Oh, Nubia, getting the list together, applying, and waiting around sucks. All of it! Then waiting around to see if you get a TA position or a fellowship sucks. It's very draining. And I was applying/waiting all while in my senior year of college, which made me a twitchy bundle of nerves most of the year, up until around April 15th.

The good news is you're starting on all of this now and asking the right questions at a good place to ask questions. And if you won't mind waiting around for rejection or acceptance, then you're better off than most people who play the waiting game.

Lizzy said...


Consider adding Florida State to your list. I'm starting my second year here at FSU, and not only has my interest in nonfiction been fostered by the wonderful faculty, but the program itself is structured so that a student has lots of flexibility in the genre(s) s/he ends up working in.

In fact, the program requires that students work in at least two genres, though most of one's work may emphasize a single genre. I've even heard of students who did both fiction and nonfiction work toward their theses here.

Let me know if I can answer any questions for you.

kk said...
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kk said...

Hi all,

Thanks for all your advice to other MFA applicants - just reading has already answered most of the questions I've thought up.

I was wondering if anyone had anything to say - good, bad or otherwise - about the programs at University of New Orleans, Memphis or American. I'm applying for Fall 2009 (fiction) and while funding is definitely one of my top priorities, I'm also looking for the right environment. The cities, programs and offerings of those three have me very interested, but no one seems to have much to say about them.

Any thoughts?

(If it makes a difference, the other schools on my list are UMass Amherst, Cornell, Texas, UNC Greensboro, UNC Wilmington, LSU, Mississippi, Johns Hopkins, Vanderbilt, Michigan and Brown...subject to change/trimming.)

Thanks in advance!

Jennifer said...

Hi K.K. -- University of New Orleans is a low residency program, right? So you would only be there a couple of times per year. I do, by the way, recommend going to new orleans however you can. . . I went to law school there and it is a great place.

I don't know anything about low res programs like this one, though.

Adrienne said...

KK- I just visited Memphis this week, actually. I don't know any more about the program than you probably do, but I can tell you a bit about the campus. It's very pretty and practically right off Poplar Ave which has all you ever need. I am pretty sure that you would never have to go to any other street if you went to that school. It's about fifteen minutes away from Beale Street so there's entertainment there as well. There are a lot of apartment complexes close by so it wouldn't be too difficult to find a place close by. It's also in a reletively safe part of town if that's something your worried about.


I'm applying in fiction for Fall 2009 and I figured since other people are comparing lists that I might as well toss mine into the discussion. I've been working on my list since September and I feel good about it but I would like to add some more since there are a few schools (which I will mark with an asterisk) that I am unsure about. I keep reviewing the MFA Handbook, looking at lists from former workshop mates who had luck with acceptences this spring, and searching various websites but after a while it all starts to look the same. I feel like I am just looking for programs similar to the ones already on my list and that I may be overlooking good ones just because they don't fit the mold I set for myself back in the fall. Any advice would be most welcome. Like I said, stars beside programs to which I might not apply.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale*
University of Iowa
Hamline University*
Vanderbilt University
University of Memphis
Indiana University*
Minnesota University Mankato*
University of North Carolina Greensboro
Virginia Commonwealth University
Hollins University
University of Massachusettes Amherst
Cornell University
University of Michigan
University of Minnesota

I'm from Indiana and I'll apply to IU because it's a mere two hours from home, but I am familiar with all cities that have MFA programs in the state and I am generally not fond of the areas. Also, I would rather not go out west.

I have another question regarding the GRE. I've been studying a lot and I know that the actual MFA programs themselves don't really care about your math scores. However, I have a friend who got accepted to a program but was rejected by the graduate school because of her scores. I would hate for that to happen to me. Does anyone know of average math/verbal/total that graduate schools and MFA programs expect?

savage detective said...


I'm considering U of Memphis to fill the last slot on my list, but can't find its acceptance rate anywhere. Do you have any idea how many writers apply/get in?


M. said...


I applied to two schools that required a GRE score of 600 in verbal (UNCG, I think, and the UT's Michener Center for Writers). Both schools seemed to not REALLY care about the score, but it does play a small role. Usually a program's website lists which score they prefer, although to be honest, I wouldn't necessarily want to go to a university that rejected someone based solely on GRE scores, considering a lot of people these days reject the idea of standardized tests and the industry created from them.

Nancy Rawlinson said...


I just pulled your comment for a general posting - one specific response here: I don't know too much about California College of the Arts, but their website indicates that nonfiction workshop are not offered every semester. So, depending on how cross genre or experimental you want to be, maybe not the best nonfiction choice out there.

kk said...

Jennifer and Adrienne, thank you for your feedback!

I'm interested in UNO's full time program, not their low-residency progtam, altohugh that seems to be the only one I can find any information about! I went to school there as well, and I'd love the chance to get back to the city - I miss it almost daily.

And I couldn't find any information on the number of writers accepted at Memphis, although the program website does have some bios of current students, and it seemed like a medium-sized program?

Luke said...

re: GRE scores

I know a couple of the places I applied had a requirement (by the graduate school, not the english department) which I didn't meet by about a hundred points, and I still got in...if that counts for anything. I think a strong writing sample can out-weight the scores as long as they're not abysmal.

nubia said...

hello everyone,

so after some more research and reevaluating of what i want and need from an MFA program i've become very much intrigued by the idea of going to an art school. The three that I have discovered so far by reading this blog are Cal-Arts, California College of the Arts, and SAIC.

I've investigated those programs a bit and so far like what I've read about them but I can't seem to find any other art schools that offer a creative writing MFA.

Any ideas?

Jennifer said...

Nubia - I think the Art Institute of Chicago has a program.

Brittany said...

Does anyone know how to find out if schools offer an application fee waiver? I tried searching the websites and Google-ing it, but came up empty handed.

I have no idea if I even qualify, but after getting rejected from 7 schools this past year, I want to apply to at least 10 this year, but I might have to give up eating.

Lizzy said...


Many schools will waive application fees if you qualify for a waiver for the GRE from ETS.

Contact the graduate school admissions office, rather than the CW programs themselves, I would say.

nubia said...

Anyone know anything about the MFA program at Bard College?

Head Cold said...

Will I have to offer-up writing to the workshop gods on the first day? Most of my stuff – CNF – is still in research. I start my first year at my first choice in a few weeks.

jess said...

I actually have a questions about writing samples. I know it's recommended to submit two short stories, but most of my stronger stories are written in first person. Would it hurt me to submit two first person short stories? Or is preferred that applicants can show diversity and that admissions would much rather see one first person and a third person story? Or am I being ridiculous and it doesn't matter as long as it's good writing.

Jennifer said...

Jess -- I say forget about the POV thing and submit your best work. So definitely submit your first person stuff since that is, as you put it, your stronger work.

I think a lot of people are working in first person these days anyway -- I bet a lot of writing samples will consist of multiple pieces in first person POV.

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