Saturday, September 06, 2008

Where Are You?

September is here, and MFA application season is gearing up and gaining steam.

Many people are finalizing their lists of programs and are looking forward--for better or worse--to the GRE.

Others are already hacking away at personal statements and weighing options for letters of recommendation.

Where are you in your application process? Check in and let us know what you've already crossed off your MFA To-Do list, and what remains to be done.

102 comments:

latecoffee said...

i'm still trying to decide whether or not to apply to programs and if the phd w/ a creative thesis option is really a valid degree for me at this point. HELP!!

my post from another thread:

application list for phd programs with a poetry concentration:

florida state
univ of southern miss.
univ of georgia
univ of houston
univ of tenn
unlv
univ of illinois at chicago

maybes:

univ of utah
univ of denver
univ of southern california
univ of wisconsin
univ of cincinnati
georgia state

i'd love to hear opinions about my list but also about the degree itself...i'm still not entirely convinced it's the way to go. my ultimate goals are to publish a book and to find a permanent teaching job, both of which i feel the phd could help me with. i graduated two years ago with my mfa and feel that i'm making a pretty decent living so far (between a full time job and adjunct work, i'm looking to pull in just under $65,000 for the year) but the main problem is that to make such a good living, i have to sacrifice time to write...so a program requiring a creative thesis would really help in that regard. i'd be looking for a program that is pretty much fully-funded, however. i'm not willing to deplete my savings at this point in my life. thoughts?

Luke said...

hey latecoffee,

i've been looking into applying to cw phd programs this fall as well. a few notes on your list.

the programs at georgia, unlv, and denver all have an experimental tilt. too much so, in my opinion, to the point where i've removed them from my list as I don't think my style of writing (more traditional narrative-lyrics) would have much chance there. i'd take a look at their faculty and see what you think, but just a heads up.

university of houston, from what i've heard, is a tiered program. but from what I've been told, the top tier is phd students in poetry (which is no surprise with the faculty they have), so it actually works out in your favor.

at usc the funding is incredibly competitive from what i've garnered from reading message boards, and only available to a small precentage of the admits.

as far as the degree itself goes, i think it's important to recognize that it's not going to get you as far as a straight lit. phd. that being said, when coupled with decent publications, i think it makes you a much more competitive applicant for tenure track teaching jobs, as it seperates you from the pack a bit more.

i'm only applying to 2 programs that i'd be thrilled to attend, rather than the scatter-shot approach I took when applying for an MFA. it really depends on how desperate you are to start a phd right away. for me, 4 or 5 years sounds a lot longer than 2 or 3, to the point where i'm much less likely to compromise what i'm looking for in an institution simply to start a program sooner.

i'm happy to see another prospective phd-er on the boards!

--Luke

Elizabeth said...

I'm still in the process of deciding where to apply - I managed to get sick for two weeks and fell behind on everything. So now I'm trying to play catch up on getting my list made and polishing my writing sample. Gah, it's September and I'm already stressed. Happy thoughts to the people who have to take the GRE, though. It'll be done soon!

Monica said...
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Monica said...

I'm trying to decide what stories to submit. Speaking of which, a couple of us asked about word limits in the previous thread - what's up with Cornell wanting 6000-12,000 words, but only twenty pages? Twenty pages of standard formatting is just over 4000 words.

Tatertot said...

I've more or less narrowed my list down to the following schools:

Go big or go home schools:
UT-Austin
Umich
Umass - Amhearst
UOregon
Vanderbilt
Brown

Extremely happy if accepted schools:
UPitt
Penn State
Florida State
Northern Michigan

Back up:
NEO MFA

I've started my SoP and the like, but haven't given much thought to it lately. What I really should get on is finishing my writing samples. For one of my schools I need fifty pages of fiction and I'm currently at thirty.

Then there's the GRE. blaaah.

zola said...

I'm reevaluating my writing sample and considering doing something very bold and probably advised against: submitted two poems.
They are both very dense pieces but only a page each, but covering the whole page both length and width. I bet that I have more writing in two pieces than a lot of writers of much shorter poems may have in 10 pieces.
Is this a bad idea? Do you think it could cost me an acceptance? Even if the two pieces are reviewed favorably? Or could it make my application stand out a little? Or sent immediately to the trash?
I have a lot of other writing but I don't think they're anywhere near as good and I don't want to take another year to write to add to my sample. I want to apply now!

Seth Abramson said...

LateCoffee,

Hey there--trying to get back into the swing of things helping people out after an insane ten days. My thoughts on your questions (and I have to be brief, with so many seeking assistance):

1. Based on your goals, a PhD. in Creative Writing does make sense. More time to write, more time to publish, more time to get teaching experience, a slightly better CV for job applications. Only go somewhere fully-funded, however.

2. Your PhD. list looks excellent. Georgia, Houston, FSU, UNLV, UIC are all excellent for poetry. Southern Miss is pretty good, too. Tennessee I know less about, but frankly any of your secondary list (with the exception of Georgia State perhaps) could be seen as excellent programs for poetry, especially Denver (from a theory standpoint), USC (from a selectivity and reputation standpoint), Wisconsin (the best all-around option on your list, BUT remember it's only a CW concentration within the English PhD.), and Utah and Cincy I've heard good things about, particularly faculty-wise. My advice would be to drop Southern Miss and Tennessee and insert USC, Cincinnati, and Denver. Or, if you're willing to do an English PhD., add Wisconsin.

My website has preliminary rankings for CW PhD. programs, if you're interested.

Be well,
Seth

Seth Abramson said...

Zola,

Do not do this. It will cost you acceptances. MFA faculties have small attention spans because they read an ungodly number of apps. Your app needs white space. A large number of shorter poems (one page or less) is much, much more desireable. Be well,

Seth

deadninjahorse said...

I'm strongly considering dropping some very competetive 2 year programs from my list (like UVA, Iowa, Michigan) and replacing them with slightly less competetive, still decently funded 3 year programs (schools like UF, UMASS-Boston, Colorado State)

I really want to go to a 3 year program, and I'd still be leaving UT-Austin on my list as my ultra-hard to get in dream school...

Anyone with past experience or thoughts on this strategy?

Tory Adkisson said...

* I have decided 11 out of 12 schools to apply to; I am trying to decide between Purdue, Illinois and ASU (currently Purdue looks like the frontrunner)
* I have written a SOP and am currently on draft #3. It looks like I am just about done, which means it's time to start tailoring letters towards individual programs.
* I registered to take the GRE on 10/25 @ 12. I will be taking it on the same day with fellow MFA-bound friends (in Fiction, so we're not in direct competition with each other). I am studying unenthusiastically from the Barron's prep book. Yeah.
* I have sent emails and confirmed appointments with my recommenders for early- and mid-October.
* By far, the most arduous part of this, is revising poems for my manuscript and deciding what new pieces to put in vs. some of my old reliable favorites.

Clearly I am a little OCD about organization, but I think I am on target to have everything ready to send off by my birthday (11/29).

Kerry Headley said...

Hey all,

Well, where I am at is seriously considering postponing a year -- a hard decision, but likely smart. Due to last minute faculty changes my last semester of my BA has suddenly become a lot more work than I thought it would be. I also have a research/writing internship (Project Censored, if anybody is familiar with that series.) I began to realize that with all my homework, the GRE, applications, etc. I might end up sending not so great writing samples. This would cost me funding that I think I could get if I actually had the time to submit higher quality applications. Postponing gives me the chance to take the GRE at my leisure, maybe enroll in a writing class and get some kick-ass writing samples together.

Plus, I could stalk this blog for an extra year.

Has anyone else made that decision?

-- Kerry

Stinky Cheese Woman said...

I'm considering about a billion different schools, most of them in California (I'd like to be near the ocean). I was wondering if anyone knows anything about San Diego State University? Just for the record, fiction is my focus.

Also, I did pretty bad on the practice GRE (especially the math part, but come on...what do they expect?!) I'm going to make the appointment on Monday, though, study hard, and hope for the best.

Tatertot said...

Hi Kerry -

I made the same decision around this time last year. I'm pretty thankful I did it, mainly because I was in the process of writing a thesis and had twenty one credit hours. My writing samples would have absolute trash if I had submitted them. I will give you this warning though, that year is going to be very very long but it will make you appreciate school a lot more. What I'm doing at the moment is substitute teaching at my old high school and auditing a writing class at my local community college. I highly recommend staying in some sort of writing workshop if you have the time because it's very nice to really be able to focus fully on your writing and not other classes. Good luck with your decision!

Bsquared86 said...

At the moment, I'm enrolled in a CW course at a community college this fall to beef up my manuscript and get some much needed recs. I'm contemplating whether I should shell out the money for an online course through UCLA or Stanford.

I am also in the process of narrowing my list of potential Poetry programs(consisting mostly of Low-Res and SoCal schools, but I'm having trouble finding info on art schools like CalArts and Otis College of Art & Design, especially when it comes to funding. Anyone know anything about them?

Lizzy said...

Hi Monica,

You should use Times New Roman 12 pt, double-spaced, 1-inch margins.

That yields roughly 350 words per page on my word processor. Twenty pages would then be 7000 words. I'm not sure how you'd fit 16,000 words in 20 pages. It may be a typo. Weird.

I'd just try to get close to a 20-page sample, with a minimum of 6,000 words.

Lizzy said...

Zola,

Don't do it. Two poems is not enough, no matter how rich they are. Even if they love them, they may end up wishing they had more, wondering whether you can be as productive as they'd hope. But you're also staking everything on just two poems.

Wait to be bold when you're in a program. For now, try to round out your chances of admission as best as you can. This means taking every opportunity to shine in your writing sample.

Good luck,

Lizzy

Kerry Headley said...

tatertot,

Thanks for the encouragement and warning. Yeah, I really get that the extra year could be terribly long, and that's another reason why it was a hard decision.

The good news is that I live just blocks away from a fabulous community college that offers three different creative writing classes. I could get myself used to the workshop experience and maybe find my third letter writer. Overall, I want to think that I will end up being better prepared and able to seriously focus on my writing samples. I'm a little sad, but I can't deny the relief I feel as I consider waiting.

Incidentally, Amherst, Brown and Oregon are/were on my list too.

Good luck!

-- Kerry

zola said...

bsquared86,

I emailed CalArts about their funding and this is what they wrote back to me:

We offer scholarships to our incoming students that are eligible for financial aid in the range of $7000 - $12000 for the year. Second year students are guaranteed TA positions that pay an additional $6200 for the year. There are few TA positions available to first year students, but we also offer Marker positions that pay $5000 for the year as well as Peer Tutor and CAP positions which vary in pay from $2500 - $5000 for the year and many of our students are also offered work study funds.



Lizzy,

Yeah, i think you're right. i should not send just two poems as my writing sample... but my other writing is nowhere near as good and i don't want weaker writing weighing things down. programs always suggest including quality over quantity and i would be following that notion if i cut my sample way short.

Tine said...

I did this whole thing haphazardly last year while finishing my BFA. I only applied to two schools because I didn't have the time to do the proper research, much less create an outstanding package of material that best represented my abilities. This year things will be different. First, my list: (Fiction)

Alabama
Texas State
Bard
Cornell
Vanderbilt
UVA
Brown
University of Florida
Hollins
Minnesota
U of Michigan

I understand that these are generally upper tier and I wanted to pick one or two more that may be safer.

My boyfriend just started his studio art MFA at Cornell, so we live in Ithaca and I've been hanging around Cornell's literary events like a creep, eating their bacon-covered, almond-stuffed dates at the catered receptions. It sucks that my proximity and secret participation is creating even more yearning to be in one of the creamiest and most selective programs. Just wanted to share my sad story.

Anyway, I ordered some GRE study materials (the Kaplan one) and I'm actually pretty excited about it. I'm going to pretend it's a quiz game. I'm going to register for an early October date as soon as I get my next pay check.

-I have contacted one recommender.

-I made an application checklist spreadsheet.

-I'm writing every day, which is not always the case for me (but totally should be).


I love this blog and I'm excited about going through this process again. Most of you are supportive and informative, and I appreciate it.

latecoffee said...

thanks luke and seth for your comments and advice! i definitely feel more grounded in this process now that i've had some feedback... thanks again!

gulfcoasting said...

Latecoffee: Nothing but good things to say about FSU's PhD program. Love the profs (worked with many of them during undergrad) and my friends in it are very happy with their decision.

Tory: You blow my mind. Kudos.

Seth: Many of my poems are two or three pages. Now I'm worried based on what you told Zola. Would it be better to submit shorter poems even if the longer ones are stronger?




I will have no life until after November 4th.

In the meantime, I am trying to write when I come home at night and hopefully I will find time to study for the GRE. I'm still not signed up to take it because I'm trying to figure out if I'm eligible for extra time since I have an LD. It's been such a hassle that I might just take it under regular conditions and hope for the best. I looked at every school's website I could find and I narrowed my list to under 20 schools, but I still haven't finalized it. I have no idea which poems I'm going to submit. My profs know I'm applying this year and have offered recs I'm planning to make a trip up to my alma mater in early November to meet with them personally and provide rec materials.

In all honesty, reading and writing this post is the most time I've spent on my application process all week.

gulfcoasting said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gulfcoasting said...

My last comment kicked me into MFA gear.

Now I've got my list (I think).

For Poetry:

Alabama
Columbia University
Florida
George Mason
Houston
Iowa
Johns Hopkins
NYU
Texas
Texas State
UNC Greensboro
Virginia
VCU
Virginia Tech
Wash U

Tory Adkisson said...

Thanks gulfcoasting, that's awfully flattering ;-P

I think I am less organized in reality, but listing things in bullets definitely makes me feel more in control of this whole insane process.

Keep fighting the good fight!!

I think I am adding Hollins as my twelfth school since I just realized Aaron Baker is on their faculty (I just bought his first book of poems yesterday) and my best friend is applying there in fiction. We have this kooky idea that we might get into some of the same schools and go to grad school together.

Finding school number 12 has been quite a hassle. At last, I think I have found peace.

Bsquared86 said...

zola:

Thank you for the info on CalArts! I think I'll follow your lead and email Otis or just take a trip over there and talk to some one in the department face to face.

Seth Abramson said...

Gulfcoasting,

I think, ultimately, you have to submit your strongest poems, or else you'll always doubt yourself. Still, though, if it's possible to have a mix--your strongest longer poems and your strongest shorter poems--and to still feel you're giving them your best work, that might be best (assuming you're unable to submit just shorter work and have it all be incredibly strong). The reality is, the long poem is extraordinarily hard to do, and virtually no young poets--and very, very few advanced poets--can do it well, and reception is therefore a persistent issue, especially in the current climate, which is biased against longer work because it's typically seen as ineligible for litmag publication. Some poets dislike long poems written by anyone except their favorite poets. And some poets who write long poems nevertheless find some way to break up the poem to create eye-resting white space (like, by having one stanza on each page, for instance). Ultimately, long poems require patience--and it's a lot to ask of an MFA faculty reading hundreds of apps per year (and it likely being their least favorite aspect of the job), to overcome any biases they may have (or natural impatience for) longer poems, particularly when they're written by very young writers being asked to showcase their talent in the most immediate sense possible, not necessarily through the more grandiose and specialized talent of the long poem. The danger with a long poem is that if it flags at any point, the reader loses patience and stops reading without having seen the entire scope of the poet's vision; with a short poem, it's almost certain to get a full read, and possibly a re-read, for the reader to determine the concept or execution of the poem in full. I just think shorter poems are more forgiving to readers, and readers are thus more forgiving with them in return.

It's also important to realize that, because MFA faculties do not expect younger poets to be writing long poems (and I too would tend to recommend against it, as a writing instructor), it's not as though, even if a long poem is successful, an MFA faculty member will say, "Aha! S/he can write long poems! Just what we were looking for!" Because, in fact, it's not--in part because long poems can be a hassle to workshop, so if you give the impression that that's what you write, you begin to seem like a less useful/desireable workshop participant.

Be well,
Seth

forgotten the cat said...

deadninjahorse---

Hopefully you will see this as it is pretty far down from your original comment.

I totally understand wanting to be in a 3 year program, and also the urge to apply to some less competitive schools. But if you see a 2 year program you really like, make sure to look into the post-grad opportunities that school may or may not have.

I'm in the program at Michigan, and although it's a 2 year program, there are a good deal of opportunities for those who want to stay on. The program recently increased its funding to include generous fellowships for four students from each discipline (1/3 of the total class), to stay on for a third year of writing and interaction with the faculty and the 1st and 2nd years.

Just some food for thought.

deadninjahorse said...

thanks for the info, forgotten the cat... I'd heard vague things regarding a possible 3rd year at michigan, and was hoping to hear from people actually attending there, or who have recently attended.

Can anyone else attest to the possibility of extending a normally 2 yr program to a third year?

zola said...

whoa! Seth, your comments on poem length and mfa applications are a little disappointing to read. I thought this was about art not what professors are willing to tolerate while reading applications. I don't even write short poems (wouldn't even want to attempt it). And as a reader whenever i look at a short poem I think, where's the work? My work isn't that long (about the full length of a page with very long lines) but judging by the way my work is evolving i see things just getting longer and longer. I wasn't expecting this to be something that may hurt my chances of being accepted by mfa programs or the poetry world in general. is this what poetry is now all about: rules, artistic restrictions, expectations of young writers. are mfa programs helping or hurting? makes me slightly hesitant to be apart of such a community.

Luke said...

"And as a reader whenever i look at a short poem I think, where's the work?"

I really hope you didn't mean this...really? it seems you're saying quantity trumps quality, though you just admitted this wasn't the case in an earlier post...so the minimalist poems of people like Pablo Neruda, Charles Simic, and A.R. Ammons are merely lazy? What about Sandburg's "Fog"? Merely a half-hearted gesture because only 6 lines? I suspect this can't be true, as these poets write long poems as well (see Ammons' book length poems Sphere and Garbage or Sandburg's Chicago poems). I think you're missing the point here, it's not that long poems = bad, so much as only submitting two long poems severely damages your chances, in my opinion. Not because there is no place in poetry for long poems, but because you're blatantly disregarding the guidelines of the application which ask for 10 pages or 10 poems depending on the school. Yes, submit your two long poems if you feel they are your strongest, but also use your application to show your range as a poet. To only submit these two poems would be both to devalue your own work and to discredit the people reading the application. If the work is good enough, it will get read, but be aware of the very real biases you are up against, as raised correctly by Seth.

Summary: Don't send ONLY 2 poems, no matter how accomplished you feel they are...

-Luke

Tory Adkisson said...

I second Luke's comment. As a former 3 page-plus poem writer (my Ashberian phase) who has learned to clip them down to a single page, I must say it takes A LOT of work to compose something so short yet loaded with meaning. "Where is the work"--It's in the words that were cut, the lines you don't see.

Submitting two long poems, brilliant though they may be, will likely not showcase your full range of ability and ultimately hurt your chances of acceptance. Your two poems may be stronger than someone else's ten or twelve, but the twelve will probably illustrate a wider range of ability, moods, subjects, and skills which may be more useful in the workshops these MFA programs run.

I think they may also get the impression (and I am starting to as well) that you're aesthetic might be too firmly planted in this long poem form and, therefore, you might be resistant to the criticism you receive in the workshop. It's an uncompromising type of presentation that says "this is what I do, and if you don't like it, screw you." Reconsider your stance against smaller poems; as with longer poems, there's a lot to learn from them.

Jennifer said...

I think I am ok, but I can feel the panic about to set in. . .

1. I finished my personal statement for U. T. Michener, and will build off of it for the other 14 schools.

2. I today signed up for the $99 Kaplan GRE "crash course."

3. I just spent a week at a writing retreat where I -- hopefully -- earned myself recommendation no. 3, and where I got some material for a really great new story I'm working on that I plan to submit.

I am starting to feel a little nervous about both the GRE math and about filling out all of the application materials and getting it all right with 15 different schools!

Nemo said...

I've "finalized" my list, but I'm looking for feedback. I'm at twelve, but I wouldn't mind cutting the list down a school or two, or even finding replacements for weaker choices on my list. I know I should axe out Virginia because it's statistically against me, but I have my heart set.

Schools I'm applying to in poetry:

Iowa
Virginia
Texas, Michener
UMass, Amherst
Florida International
Indiana
Michigan
Purdue
Montana
Houston
Notre Dame
Washington @ St. Louis

My main concerns are full (or near full) funding, moderate on teaching/lit mag editorial, leaning toward 3 year programs, but alright with 2.

John said...

For those who were wondering about submissions for Cornell, someone in the English dept. contacted me as said that 20 pages is the max. if you want to apply online. Meaning, if you want to send 25+ pages, you have to send it via good-'ol-fashioned mail.

Seth Abramson said...

Zola,

What Luke and Tory said. I was really making a pragmatic point, not a value judgment--and, as the others said, it doesn't have to do with "rules," so much as how the human mind works when asked to complete a repetitive task. It's true that I don't recommend long poems for younger writers--I think mastery of the short-form is a prerequisite for the long-form--but that said, this probably wouldn't be the place to debate it, and my thoughts on MFA applications are separate (i.e. based on pragmatism, not aesthetics or pedagogy). Be well,

Seth

Jennifer said...

Woo hoo! I just finished the U. Tex. grad school application online! 1 down, 14 to go...

Brian said...

Latecoffee, Luke, Seth,

Do you know anything about the Ohio U, Western Mich, UW Milwaukee, and SUNY Binghamton CW PhD programs (for poetry)?

Also, does anyone know the acceptance rates at some of these programs? This article says that U Missouri-Columbia accepts 2 people per genre per year.

Thanks.
Brian

deadninjahorse said...

Sorry to repeat my post, but just wanted to ask again if anybody knows of 2 year programs where the option to add a third year exists.

I'm trying to finalize my list this week, and am debating on cutting some 2 year programs and adding a couple 3 year ones. Michigan was the only one so far mentioned where the possibility to extend exists, though I have heard this about montana i think, as well.

anybody?

s.t.liaw said...

deadninjahorse:

UCI's poetry program (so probably fiction as well?) is a two year course with the 3rd year optional. It has been this case for the incoming and at least the last two classes.

Lizzy said...

ninja,

Not sure what you're looking for in a third year--whether more time to focus on a thesis or simply more funded time to write.

If you just want funded time to write, Cornell funds MFA grads with two years of lectureships post degree. That may not be the same as an extended MFA, but it adds up to more time in an academic/intellectual setting with a guaranteed teaching job.

Sara E.G. said...

Okay, after a long weekend of relaxing up north I'm ready to absolutely have no life for the next few months.

Where I stand:

1. I'm signed up for the GRE for October 27th. I've been studying 3 or so hours every other day (haven't really touched on math yet and anticipate, perhaps foolishly, very little time spent there.)

2. I have the intro to my SoP and am having difficulties getting beyond that. As most people who have taken some time between college and grad school, I'm finding this kind of writing very hard to do again and am hoping that a time crunch will give me the kick I need to get it done. Any pointers anyone can give here?

3. I'm spending the majority of my time polishing, polishing and polishing that portfolio. A few from the college BFA years made the cut, but the vast majority are fairly recent. This worries me slightly only because of the stigma about submitting fairly new work, but these all have been workshopped within the last year or less and I feel they are absolutely my strongest. I'm slated to begin a new workshop in a couple weeks (the prof. is one of my recommenders) and I anticipate some good work coming out of that class (in general, I've produced some of my best work in his past classes) but I am worried about submitting material that new. I feel my current portfolio as it stands is quite strong, but there's always that gem that comes about last minute which might not be a gem in hindsight.

4. Purdue requires a critical essay of 10-12 pages, in addition to the portfolio. I really have no idea what to do about this. It's been at least five or six years since I wrote a critical essay for college and I have zero records of those old, Gateway-era files. Should I write something from scratch? I'm assuming anything I wrote back then wasn't exactly stellar, but composing a new, critical essay makes me nauseous. Yikes. Anyone else dealing with this?

5. And for the record, my final list for poetry is as follows:

Minnesota
UVA
Notre Dame
Purdue
VCU
Virginia Tech
Penn State
Hollins
Michigan
Southern Illinois
UNCG
Indiana
Vandy
Wisconsin
Illinois

I'm feeling good with where I stand, but it's only the beginning of September and my poor boyfriend is going to kill me if he hears any more MFA talk. These are going to be a rough few months ;)

deadninjahorse said...

sara eg - I'm just not applying to programs requiring a critical essay as part of the application, since I also have nothing already written to use, and would have to write something from scratch.

Tine said...

Sara EG and Dead N Horse,

Ha. Yeah, I scrapped Purdue for that reason. At first I felt guilty for being lazy, but then I thought about how much work I'm already putting into this process. Sara, if Purdue is one that you have your heart set on then I would just find a free morning, drink a couple shots of 'spresso at your local coffee house, and crank something new out. Wrestle it! Win!

Love,
Christine

Sara E.G. said...

Hi tine and deadninjahorse--

Well, clearly I didn't have my heart too set on it as I decided in the last ten minutes to ditch it. I simply do not have the time (or desire) to write something that long from scratch. Call me lazy, but I'd rather be working on my portfolio.

SO, that leaves me needing a new 15th, preferably another three year one. Taking a look at my list above, any thoughts of what might round out a nice list?

martin said...

I'm in a pretty good spot right now. I've taken the GRE, I've sent out my school list and instructions to my 3 recommenders, I've started on my SOPs, and I'm about to leave on a 5-day vacation during which I will spend time revising and revising and revising part of my writing sample. I'm almost 26 years old and I'm in the best shape of my life.

Sara e.g. - I'm in the same spot with Purdue. It's an important school on my list, but I don't have a 10-page critical essay to submit. I've recently been scouring my old college folders, but even if I came up with such an item, I'm certain it would be of questionable quality.

What to do??? It has to be from an English class, right?

Sara E.G. said...

An interesting note:

I was taking another look at the Michigan website and they require two statements: one personal and one a statement of purpose.

From their website:

* Clearly labeled academic & intellectual Statement of Purpose: The Statement of Purpose should be a concise, up to two pages in length, single or double spaced, well-written statement about your academic and research background, your career goals, and how Michigan's graduate program will help you meet your career and educational objectives.

* Clearly labeled biographical Personal Statement: The Personal Statement should be a concise, up to two pages in length, single or double spaced, well-written statement about how your personal background and life experiences, including social, cultural, familial, educational, or other opportunities or challenges, motivated your decision to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Michigan. This is not an Academic Statement of Purpose, but a discussion of the personal journey that has led to your decision to seek a graduate degree.

I was under the impression from reading Tom Kealy's book and stalking this blog for the past year that the SoP was supposed to cover BOTH of these topics, both your personal growth, your writing growth and your potential for growth at said school. I'm more than fine submitting the two essays, but I'm curious if other people are trying to cover all these bases in their single SoP for other schools?

deadninjahorse said...

the three years I'm applying to that you dont already have on your list are-

Colorado State
Arizona State
Florida
UNC-Wilmington
Alabama

and maybe UMASS-Boston

Sara E.G. said...

deadninjahorse--

I think I may actually take another look at UNCW. It looks like a great program, but I was put off by the locale, to be honest. Perhaps I need to take a harder look....

and martin: I don't think Purdue specifies where the critical essay comes from, but I'm assuming the majority of people submit them from English courses. It's really a shame they require this. I guess I was thinking it wouldn't be that big of a deal until I actually sat down and realized I'd have absolutely nothing to give them in terms of this requirement. Sigh.

Tory Adkisson said...

sara e.g.

as a fellow michigan applicant, i noticed that they required this too. in my SOP i have one paragraph specifically about my intellectual desires and such things, but i think it is carefully woven in throughout my short little essay. i would characterize it as 60% "stunning biography / sob story" and 40% "i am a smart-guy / i got all these ideas see".

i have kept most of the paragraphs the same throughout all twelve letters, but i have a section for each specific program depending on whether they a) have a journal, b) are a three year program, or c) have a lot of flexibility in regard to their degree requirements. if a program has all these, then i just pick one. i think it's clever. well, maybe not so much clever as reasonably effective.

that's my strategy.

Luke said...

Hey Brian--

As far as Western Michigan goes, I know only that Stuart Dybek recently left the program, thereby diminishing a significant amount of their appeal. Though, they do have New Issues Press and Third Coast, so if publishing is an interest, this is certainly a place to consider. Plus, word on the street is they just graduated a cluster of poets so they'll be accepting (with funding) as many poets as they ever would (3 or 4 if I remember correctly).

As far as Binghamton goes, in looking at the website, it appears as though the program runs a pretty traditional PhD (as in Lit.) framework, only allowing you a creative dissertation, but without much room for workshops during the course of study.

As far as Ohio goes, I was pretty impressed by their alumni list, I didn't know a score of poets I admire attended: Stanley Plumly, Bin Ramke, Dave Smith, and William Heyen are all graduates. That being said, I didn't recognize too many names on the faculty list.

I know 100% nothing about Milwaukee, except that they've go the Cream City Review, which is a magazine I dig.

As far as acceptance rates go, I think they're low across the board. And not only that, you're competing with a higher caliber applicant pool as compared to MFA programs (most of the applicants already have MFAs...) From what I've read, most programs accept between 1 and 4 people in each genre each year, and you're likely competing with at least 40 other applicants for those spots...but this is largely speculation

Hope this helps...it seems silly to be entering into this process again so soon...but here I am posting on the mfa blog at midnight before teaching a class tomorrow at 8....

yikes

gulfcoasting said...

I'm going to try to spend a few minutes keeping up with this blog every night so I stop falling behind in the commentary and I stay motivated in my application process. Y'all are amazing when I get overwhelmed or don't know where to find answers or just need to know someone else understands what a big process this actually is and won't look at me like I'm insane when I say I'm applying to 15 grad schools. Thank you for that.


Speaking of insane, is that what I would be to apply to Brooklyn College for poetry primarily because Amy Hempel teaches fiction there? Fiction frustrates me but I do like short shorts and people have looked at me like I'm insane when I claim I'm not going to write them anymore.


Luke,
I took Hollins off my list last night because it seems to be strictly a two year program, but I've been thinking about it all day. Do you feel like you had enough time to finish your thesis based on the curriculum? I'm wary of two year programs but the website makes me feel like Hollins would be a great fit. Any advice?


Zola,
Some of the best poems I've ever read are short poems.


Deadninjahorse,
I'm starting to think the same way but I'm keeping my dream schools on the list anyway.


Seth,
Thanks for your help. I'm bummed but it makes sense. I've always liked reading long poems but I seem to be in the minority.

Should I front load my portfolio with short poems and put a couple longer ones at the end? Some of my strongest work is "only" about a page and a half, which leaves white space... which is good, right? And what about programs like Alabama, which asks for 10-20 pages? Can I get away with more longer ones if the sample size is larger because they want to read more? Or should I stick to what you said about shorter poems in general?

I've also been wondering about the SOP. This might sound dumb, but I've gotten really confused. Most of the schools on my list say to send it to grad school admissions, not to the writing program. Who is my real audience in that case? How does this affect what I should put in my SOP?


Sara EG,
I cut programs that required critical samples from my list. I don't know where any of my old papers are and I don't have time to write one now. More importantly, I don't want to be part of a program that values theory and criticism more than actual work.

Tory Adkisson said...

as someone who thankfully all ready has a 15 page critical essay (that I am meticulously revising!) waiting in the wings for Ohio State and U of Washington, I think it is important to consider that as the future poets and writers of america, these programs want us to be able to articulate ourselves well when it comes to the art that we practice (and perhaps publicly review in print or in person). Several of my programs, on top of the critical essay required for admission, also ask for a critical essay alongside the thesis when it is turned in at the end of the MFA program.

I am not lobbying for anyone to reconsider the programs they are, or aren't, applying to based on the existence of the critical essay, I am merely expressing why I think it isn't such a bad thing and, in many cases, it is inevitable anyway. That's my reasoning.

deadninjahorse said...

I';m fine with the essay accompanying the MFA thesis. But at this stage, I simply don't have anything to use and writing a 7-10 page essay in addition to everything else is just asking too much.

I'm also assuming that when I'm finishing my MFA I'll be much better equipped than I am now to talk/write about my own writing and the different schools/periods of poetry.

At least, I sure hope so...

deadninjahorse said...

ps - nobody believes me when I tell them that the longest paper I've had to write as an undergrad English major is 5-7 pages, and of course mine were always barely trickling onto that 5th page.

Tory Adkisson said...

Combine two of your old papers and label it a postmodern foray into the critical essay!!

No, I agree that it's a fairer request after it's all said and done. Maybe I'm just used to complying with unreasonable requests?

I am onto my long-short list of poems for the application now, and have 29 poems and 36 pages to whittle down into various combinations of awesome. A tall order indeed! I am going to try and find my 10 or so core favorites, and then adjust by program. It's frustrating that they all don't just ask for 10 poems, but variations on that theme. Oh well, time to get to work...tomorrow morning after some chai tea that is!

M. Douglas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
M. Douglas said...

In regards to the critical essay, I tend to agree with Tory. Most of these programs require you to teach for funding, and I'm not sure I see it as too much to ask or certainly too "theory centered" for these English departments to find out if their new TAs know how to write critical, academic papers--especially if they plan on having their TAs teach composition.

If teaching and funding aren't issues, I can respect the frustration. I can also respect the desire to favor the writing sample over the critical sample. (You definately should.) I would just be wary of assuming that a program is more focused on theory and criticism just because it requires a ten page essay.

Good luck everyone.

M.

Emily said...

I've finalized my list of schools to which I'll apply: (poetry)

Wisconsin
Indiana
Michigan
Alabama
West Virginia
Colorado St
Minnesota
SDSU
Penn State
Columbia College
Cleveland State/NEOMFA
(and maybe the new program at UCSD)

And I've filled out the table that Tom gave in the MFA Handbook with info like deadlines, number of letters, transcripts, etc.

I've gotten in touch with one former professor who said she'll be happy to write recommendations, and have attempted to make contact with another one who hasn't gotten back to me yet. Still debating who else to approach, as I've been out of college since 2000.

Started deciding what to include in my writing sample but by no means decided for sure. There's a pretty big range of sizes from the different schools; I don't have all my info here, but I seem to recall the range being between 10 poems (or 10 pages?) and 25 pages.

Thought about the GRE but haven't had the extra $$$ to schedule it yet. It's a lot more expensive than I thought! I got a GRE prep book from the library too, but haven't cracked it open yet.

I feel like I'm about where I need to be at this point. Am I right?

Luke said...

gulfcoasting,

It is a strictly two-year program (no post-grad fellowships). That being said, the first year is weighed heavily to allow writing time (you take 2 weekly workshops and one lit. class both semesters). No one teaches in the first year. I found the time to be incredibly productive. The second year is one lit class and one workshop (plus teaching, for some), that's it. The remaining time is given to focus on the thesis.

All that said, like any writer worth his or her salt, I plan on scrapping a lot of the poems from that first semester, not because I hate them, but simply because it took a few months for the project of my thesis to materialize for me (that, and I hate them).

I'm very confident that I'll have a book-length thesis at the end of my two years (especially with poetry collections trending toward shorter these days). I'm also very confident that I'll be tinkering with that thesis in the months after I leave Hollins, but I think that's true regardless of how long you spend in a program.

Hope this was helpful. Feel free to ask any more questions.

--Luke

jclynn said...

At the moment I'm cleaning up my portfolio pieces and finalizing my application list. I'm starting to get nervous that I am bit behind in the process! At least I don't have worry about the GRE (this is the last year my previous scores are still valid).

This my current list of schools - it's ever changing. I'm in fiction and my main priorities in setting up the list were, in no particular order, the school's location, the amount of time in workshops or just writing and if there was an opportunity to work with/on a journal.

Univ. of MD
American
VCU
George Mason
UNC - G
UNC - W
USF
Univ. of FL

Other possibilities...
Hollins
Florida Int'l

Any insight appreciated!

Brittany said...

After a lot of thought, I have decided to hold off on applying to MFA programs for another year. I tried my hand at it last year and ultimately got rejected by 7 schools, and I can't afford to take any chances. I'm going to take an online writing course (any suggestions?) and get my portfolio as polished as possible. I'm even taking the GRE again (sigh) and rewriting my personal statement(s).

So, hopefully a year will be enough time to get my act (more) together and actually get in in 2 years! Wish me luck everyone.

Sara E.G. said...

tory--

Thanks for your feedback about the SOP. Just to clarify, your 60% brilliant biography/sob story and 40% intellectual looksy-at-me (btw, I love your breakdown!) is the SOP you're using and tweaking for your 12 schools, right? Are you then writing two separate ones for Michigan or are you just trying to split your current one into two beasts to satisfy their requirements?

Tory Adkisson said...

sara e.g.

That's right, the 60/40 is the one i am tweaking depending on the particulars of the school I am sending it to. As I said, if the program has degree flexibility, extra time, a magazine, or something equally notable, I make mention of it.

As for Michigan, I am going to reread that section on the intellectual statement of purpose and write something original. Hopefully I will actually talk about something instead of listing all the things I think make me a smarty pants.

Lizzy said...

Emily,

That sounds about right to me. Of course, priority number one should be a terrific portfolio/writing sample. If that's not already together, I'd really focus on that above anything else, at this point.

Brittany,

Sounds like you're confident with your decision. It's OK to decide to wait and give yourself more time to put together a great application.

Good luck, and stop by again. I think it may be helpful, for folks like you who are postponing application, to do a mock walk-through of the process by following what others are doing. It should help make you feel ready once next season rolls around.

Sara E.G. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sara E.G. said...

Hi Tory--

Your plan sounds good. I think I'll be using some material from my college artist's statement to use in the SOP and tweaking it so I don't sound as "smarty-arty pants" as I did a few years ago.

Sounding unique yet likable is a hard balance to strike ;) Seriously.

Good luck to all....

Jennifer said...

Brittany -- I highly recommend Gotham's online creative writing courses. I took a memoir course, and not only did it help my writing, the teacher offered a recommendation for MFA programs, I didn't even have to ask!

Stinky Cheese Woman said...

Anyone have any info about San Diego State University...?

AKZombie said...

Am I the only person who's applying to 20 schools? I told a friend that it's sort of like hunting with buckshot. I'll send everything out there and hope that at least one pellet hits my target. I know cost figures in big time for people, but I'm just sort of biting my lip and going for it. I already owe my soul to both Wells Fargo and AlaskaAdvantage (they can fight over my meager net worth when I'm dead).

I'm taking the GREs this Saturday (the 13th). I aced the practice Verbals, so I'm just concerned with the Math and the written (not a big fan of having to write essays on the fly - but I'll do it). To keep myself sane, I'm using my powers of OCD to put together checklists for all of the schools, printing out forms, making a list of what I need, and baking cakes/picking flowers for my poor references.

Good luck to everyone - but I would totally cut someone if it meant I could get into Michener.

Kerry Headley said...

AKZombie'

Funniest post ever. Thank you for making me laugh. I'm not applying this year, so you won't have to cut me. I can relate to making the most of OCD when it comes to school.

Good luck!

Kerry

Sara E.G. said...

akzombie--

Like Kerry, I'm not applying to Michener so there's no worries there, but I am applying to a lot of schools as well. Being poor in winter is romantic. So is the SOP when paired with scotch.

I find no romance in the GRE. I hate you for acing verbal.

Rhymes with Banana said...

Hey, I'm new to this blog, but since I live in L.A. and currently work for a tv show, not many of my co-workers/friends can give me advice on this whole mfa fiction thing that i've decided to change my life around and apply to a bunch of schools. I'm one of those crazy kids that has been out of college for over two years and wants back into academia.

I'm doing pretty well application wise. I had a long vacation and really worked my butt off on my statement and stories. All, except one of my applications is in, which probably seems crazy, but I'm one of those people than can't focus on GREs until all my creative stuff is done, so I got it all in early. Now I'm just fearing math, which I haven't touched really since high school (as a theatre/writing undergrad I was sneaky about finding classes that were considered math/science as loosely as possible). Of course I'm also obsessively worrying that my professors won't get recommendations in, but i promised I'd nag them.

Here's where I'm applying (fiction):

Iowa
Johns Hopkins
American
Boston
Brown
Cornell
UVA
University of Michigan

I'm pretty terrified b/c my list seems to be pretty much very exclusive and top-tier, but I guess I'm of the mindset of wanting to make the most of my time and talent in the best program.

Now it's just a waiting game. My GRE general is 10/18 and my subject test (sigh.. Boston) 11/8. Though I've been a go-getter about my applications, I need to start studying big time...

How do you survive the waiting game. Around what time should I expect to hear yea or nay??

Lisa N.R. said...

Hello everyone...much love and good karma out to you all for saving my life with my dark sordid obsession---mfa application. I notice precious little about the U of Washington (no one has it on their lists),other than it is in the top 25 for poetry and is declining in the top 100. For complicated reasons, I need to try and stay in the West or go low-rez (unless I got into Iowa and then I'd be willing to try and uproot my whole rabbit warren), so I'm very curious about UW for fiction. Does anyone have any info or know of anyone who'd be willing to share about this program? I think, by the website, they still have Dr. Charles Johnson and David Shields in fiction and Heather McHugh for poetry (swoon). Also, can anyone comment on my whacked list? Here it is; it's so random...
(Fiction in no order)
Montana
Oregon
U Washington
U Idaho
UC Irvine (ahem)
U British Columbia(????)
Iowa (might as well dream)
U Miss
Bowling Green ( I like the Mid-Amer Review)
Warren Wilson (hey, I MIGHT win the Lotto)
I have a feeling that what I'm missing is some schools that might actually accept me into their program. Best wishes, especially to Seth and Tom. When's the new Handbook coming out?

Tory Adkisson said...

akzombie:

Wow 20 schools does sound like overkill, though I must admit, you sound determined based on that fact alone.

Cheers to OCD tendencies, hopefully they will keep us ahead of the game!

*

sara e.g.:

I am beginning to think of you as my partner in crime here since we have a lot of commentary back and forth on various threads throughout this wondrous blog.

I now wish I had signed up to take the GRE a little sooner than the end of October, just because the dread is setting in ever so slightly like a coat of dust on a china cabinet. I find that the GRE is a harsh mistress, and she spurns every advance I make towards her. Even if she were male I don't think she'd be digging this major league hotness. If only I had some mathematical suave! (As if such an oxymoronic thing exists!)

*

rhymes with banana:

Your list is pretty top tier, adding another half dozen schools to your current list would probably help your standing a lot, especially with regards some well-established mid-tier programs (think the great reddish expanse separating East and West!)

Notifications typically occur between March and April 15th or so, but some schools will tell you much earlier, while others force you to sweat it out until practically May. This blog should help us cope though, as we bite our nails and recall that single damned typo that will keep us from attending the MFA of our dreams @_@!

John said...

I've noticed some apprehension among poets on submitting lengthy poems...is the same true for fiction applicants?

I plan to submit two stories - one around 23-25 pages, the other a short short.

Anyone else thinking of this plan of attack?

Bsquared86 said...

Am I the only person that is/was not worried about the GRE? I took it last year and I actually did a little better on the math than the verbal (I really love both Math & English). I got a high average on the written portion but only a decent score on the Verbal.

I've contemplated taking it again but I'd rather not. Mainly because of the expense- shelling out the money for the GRE all over again and the fees for sending scores to the 17 schools (currently) on my list is over my budget- these application and transcipt fees are already draining my pockets.

Thankfully, it appears as though none of the programs that I am seriously interested in require GRE scores. I graduated cum laude and recieved good grades in my English courses, so I think my GPA can stand pretty firmly on it's own. Should I shoot for a higher score anyway, even if they don't ask for it?

Jennifer said...

For those freaking about the GRE, I happened upon something that is helping me. You know how expensive those Kaplan and Princeton review courses are? Well, Kaplan's is $599 online, but they have this thing called a crash course for only $99 and I signed up and I think it is probably just as helpful as the other more extensive courses. I recommend it.

Bsquared86--

I would not bother to take it again. I don't think anyone cares about your score, given that you did fine on it already.

Emily said...

Lisa N.R.

Just wanted to say I'm happy to see Bowling Green on your exclusive list! I did my BFA there, about 8 years ago, but even then it was a good program, and I think it's gotten better. Mid-Am is an awesome journal and the MFA students get to be very involved with it. At the time (and I can only hope it's still the case), BG had a very supportive environment with a lot of interaction between faculty and MFAs and visiting writers, and a traditionally well-attended MFA reading series.

It may not be as top-tier as your other choices, but it gave me a warm fuzzy just to see it on your list! Good luck!

Sara E.G. said...

tory:


Mathematical suave is perhaps the scariest thing I've ever heard. As far as the spurning GRE, I've become a little crazy with it all. Example: I was offered a nice freelance gig (I do photography) the weekend I'm slated to take the GRE, and I could of course reschedule the test for a measly 50 bucks, but no. I turned it down because I'm scared that if I change the date I'll bomb it and wonder if I might have done well if I would have stuck to the original date. That's right, I'm passing up money for superstition.

I've lost it.

Lisa N.R. said...

Emily---Thanks for the positive info on BGSU. I used to submit to MAR and I got the nicest rejection slips, signed and all. I first read Mary Oliver in MAR and they just had Anthony Doerr as a judge for their fiction contest, so I'm smitten with the journal. Even though it's not as "top tier," I consider myself fortunate to be accepted there.

Emily said...

Lisa N.R.

Tony Doerr was an MFA at BG when I was an undergrad and he was a super nice guys! He was roommates with another grad student who taught one of my classes and ended up becoming a friend of mine so I, like, actually hung out with him sometimes, ha ha!

Sara E.G. said...

Since I dropped Purdue off my list because of its critical writing submission (and I really do understand this requirement and wish I had the time to fulfill it) I am still in need of a #15 school.

I've narrowed it down, I think, to West Virginia and George Mason.

I was looking at Montana, but realized they *could* ask for a critical writing sample if you're selected for a TAship, and I was considering UNC Wilmington, but there is something about the locale which I can't get seem to get over (I looked up their average temps and nearly died in my chair.)

I know West Virginia has a bit better funding than George Mason, but it seems George Mason may be a stronger program?

For the record, my list again, in poetry:

Minnesota
Notre Dame
Wisconsin
Michigan
VCU
Virginia Tech
Hollins
Indiana
Illinois
Southern Illinois
Vanderbilt
UNCG
Penn State
UVA

Any feedback about these two schools, or even others, is most welcome.

Emily said...

sara e.g.

I'm applying to WVU, but it's more of an intuitive choice than a really logical one. It just appeals to me; their website is friendly and down to earth, and one of the professors has an interesting little advice sort of thing about applying to MFA programs which I liked. It's here if you haven't seen it: http://english.wvu.edu/current_undergraduate_students/preparation_for_graduate_school#mfa

Seth Abramson said...

Sara e.g.,

WVU is a fine program, and if you need a real higher-odds option it's a good one (the funding especially is nice), but if you can take a mid-tier-odds option and are willing to take a 50% or so chance on funding, George Mason is an excellent program for poetry and one that I'd choose over WVU.

S.

Christine said...

Hey everyone,

I'm new to this blog, and am super excited to have finally found lots of other people doing the crazy MFA thing. :) I'm still tweaking my list of schools, but one school I've really had my heart set on is University of British Columbia. I'm not sure how much other people know about applying to UBC (I noticed one other person with UBC on their list), but if anyone has experience with them, I had a question:

Basically, I recently realized I probably don't meet their minimum grade average requirement. They require a B+ average or higher in 3rd & 4th-yr undergrad courses. My overall grade average is around a B+ (3.45), but for my 3rd & 4th-yr courses it's a B (3.0). Assuming that Canadian and US grading scales are roughly the same, that is.

Anyway, does anyone know how strict UBC is about their minimum grade avg requirement? My undergraduate degree is in biology (I did it for the parents and oh, does it show), so I was hoping that if my writing were up to par that they wouldn't then reject me because I can't, say, do organic chemistry.

I did email their graduate advisor about this, so hopefully he gets back to me soon. In the meantime, any feedback (even an explanation of US vs Canadian grade scales) would be much appreciated.

Good luck to everyone else!

~Christine

undertheeaves said...

I'm baby stepping along.

I've registered for the GRE though I continue to bomb the practice tests. Practice, practice, practice. Study, study, study. I know at one point in my life I was good at standardized tests - perhaps that is no longer the case.

All my requests for recommendations are out. Two yeses. One waiting.

And I've finalized my list for fiction:
NYU
Hunter
UC Irvine
Texas State
Ole Miss
Alabama
Vanderbilt
Oregon

I know it's small but those are the ones I am sold on. Still exploring a few other options as well.

Have people had success with combining novel excerpts and a short story for their portfolios?

Sara E.G. said...

seth and emily--

Thanks for your feedback regarding WVU and George Mason. Emily, I found the link you posted insightful, and their page did leave a nice feeling with me.

That said, I think I'm inclined to go with George Mason. The only draw back is cost of living in Fairfax is quite bit higher than a place like Morganstown, WV. And there is my ongoing romance with rural Appalachia. Sigh...maybe I still don't know.

Blu said...

i'm new here, and can't wait to become an oldhead in this community. i have a question: does anyone have any comparative insight on lesley and bennington? i've been accepted to both. now i have to make a choice! (isn't life supposed to make choices for me, by only opening the one right door?)

my focus is non-fiction, however i intend to also study poetry and fiction. i'll study the latter if i can manage to get it in there without adding a semester - although if they will allow and i can afford it, i may be inclined to add a semester...

i was accepted in both poetry and non-fiction by lesley. i applied only in non-fiction to bennington, which did not encourage applying in more than one area.

gulfcoasting said...

Blu,

I met with some people at Lesley a couple years ago when I began the MFA application odyssey. I dropped them from my list because I decided against a low-res program, but I liked what I saw. The admissions office was friendly and helpful and the program as a whole seemed to have its act together.

Blu said...

thanks golfcoasting. i have a strong sense that both programs are excellent, which is part of my problem. i'm wondering if you or anyone else has any nuanced and comparative information about the two programs, the staff, the spirit of the residencies, their approach to developing their writers and the like. my difficulty is that i'm trying to decide between two programs that are both excellent and that both seem ideal for me!

Monica said...

I'm suddenly thinking I might not apply at all.

Putting applications together is a pain. I don't want teaching experience (because I don't want to teach). I'd only want to apply to schools with full, no-strings-attached funding in places I like, to give me maximum time to write, which basically means...UT-Austin. And if I got accepted, I'd have to decide about it while in the remote South Pacific where I'll be researching my novel (it sounds like a Tin Tin scenario, but it's true :)). Why go to an MFA program when I already have an ideal situation to write? In other words, getting an MFA might just get in my way, more than anything.

But the jury's still out. That's just where the wind is blowing, today.

Sara E.G. said...

I'm having some doubts about my "final" list, and am hoping someone can put them to rest.

I had planned on applying (poetry) to 15 schools and am now second guessing at least one of them (probably more like two of them.)

For the upteenth time:

Minnesota
Wisconsin
Michigan
VCU
Virginia Tech
Notre Dame
UVA
Hollins
Penn State
Indiana
Illinois
Southern Illinois
UNCG
Vanderbilt*

And since I cut Purdue, my 15th, I have been debating about George Mason and West Virginia.

I starred Vandy because it's the program that I've been feeling most iffy about as of late. I just don't know if I can handle the environment of a well-known conservative school in the south. I talk about this like I'm sure to get in, which is obviously a load, but regardless, I shouldn't apply to a place that I don't think I could live if they happened to accept me, right?

And as for George Mason, I saw on their website that they *can* ask for a critical writing sample if you're accepted, which I don't have (Montana asks for this, too and it was the reason I cut Purdue.) West Virginia doesn't seem to be as strong of a program but I think I could live there...um, right?

Maybe I should just get over the idea of 15 schools and apply to 13. The reality is that I can't seem to find any other programs that fit me besides those listed above.

If anyone can tell me anything new, or some gem I'm not thinking of, please do.

Many thanks.

Luke said...

Hey Sara,

Not much info, but I know how every little bit can help. I can tell you that, at least to me, Nashville seemed like a pretty hip city. Plus they have Mark Jarman, and I think he's the bees-knees. That being said, once you get outside of Nashville, you are in very rural (and very beautiful) Tennesee, bringing with it both the good and the bad. But the city itself seemed pretty artistically and culturally vibrant.

As far as George Mason goes, I was accepted there two years ago and they never asked for a critical writing sample, and I'm not sure under what circumstances they would. I wouldn't let it deter you--they've got an incredible poetry faculty in my opinion (Eric Pankey and Jennifer Atkinson).

Morgantown is a strange animal. It's gorgeous, and I imagine you'd be able to find a niche there, but keep in mind that West Virginia is a big-time football school carrying with it all the trappings of that kind of undergraduate culture (translation: for the undergrads, it's in large part a party school).

Hope this helps.

-Luke

Sara E.G. said...

Luke--

This helps tremendously. You've given me some things to think about.

One thing: what made you choose Hollins over George Mason?

Just curious. Thanks again.

Luke said...

I ended up choosing Hollins over my other options (UNC-G, UNC-W, and George Mason) mainly b/c of the funding, which I wasn't offered at Wilmington or Mason.
The decision between Greensboro and Hollins was a much tougher one, I ended up going with Hollins because they were a bit clearer about the funding picture (Greensboro was still unsure of the specifics and duties required as the April 15th deadline approached), but more importantly, because I had a really good feeling about Hollins, and was more impressed with the faculty, alumni (Annie Dillard and Natasha Trethewey are both among my faves), etc. Greensboro is also about 15 minutes from where I did my undergrad, so part of me just wanted to get out of dodge. For the record, I think Greensboro is an amazing place, and had I not just spent 4 years in the area, I very well might be there.

--Luke

georgia pearle said...

i've narrowed my list down to:

columbia
iowa
umass amherst
sarah lawrence

low residencies:
warren wilson
queens charlotte

i've got one letter of recommendation and am working up the nerve to ask the other three potential recommenders.

i'm pretty nervous about the prospect of moving again--i moved cross country for my undergrad, dragging my husband and two kids along with me, and it's been rough financially.

umass might make it easier on us--we're already in the area and are familiar with its resources--but my advisor keeps pushing columbia and another poet on faculty at my undergrad school (and umass mfa alum) seems to think umass might be too experimental for my style these days.

i wanted to go south, but all the southern schools i looked at require the gre, and i don't have the time or desire to take it.

i've got a body of work that is fairly polished, but haven't yet decided which poems will go with my applications.

Blu said...

I had a terrible time trying to decide between the schools to which I was offered admittance, but have chosen Bennington.

I am now trying desperately to identify scholarships and grants for which I am eligible. I learned at the last minute about the Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest. In four days I read that entire 1070 page tiny print book and wrote the essay, submitting it less than 15 minutes before the deadline. At some point it became about not giving up, about setting an example in determination for my daughter, and less about whether I'll win the one top prize their giving out - but winning the prize would be sweet! I'll be writing an essay about that experience. Lol!

There were many scholarships that excited me, but that had one requirement that made me ineligible, such as GRE scores. I'd have taken the GRE if I had found the scholarships early enough. I probably will take the GRE's soon, just to have it in case I need it in the future, but that doesn't help me when the deadlines are basically tomorrow.

On the paperwork I have to send back to Bennington it asks about my sponsor. Where do I get one of those?

Alex Pollack said...

Wow.

I think most of you guys are ahead of me in the process. Right now, I'm finishing up a one-year contract teaching English in South Korea (it was an adventure I took in part for more life experience, more writing material, and hell, who am I kidding, because I had no idea what to do after finishing undergrad in spring 2007.)

I go home to America in late October, and plan to use the (likely unemployed) months for studying and taking the GRE and gathering my MFA materials together. I'm excited to find such a vibrant community of writers here, as well as such considerate responses to writers' queries. (So refreshing to find an online community free of snarky, empty one-line responses that help nobody.)

Anyway, I have a fairly general question: how much publishing experience do most successful MFA candidates have? Aside from my contributions to my undergrad (Emory) magazines and newspapers, I've gotten some columns published in a Korean mag for expats and I also maintain a travelogue blog of essays (though I figure those are a dime a dozen...) Anyway, what I'm saying is I don't really have any short stories published in any real journals to my name. This makes me wonder if I'd be a stronger candidate later, though I feel a strong and growing stronger drive to begin an MFA in fall 09.

Anyway, sorry for my rambling, and I'm curious to hear opinions on this topic...

Blu said...

Alex,

I'm no expert, but my experience tells me that what is most important is your writing sample. I applied to only two programs, both low res, but I was accepted to both. And I have very, very, very little publishing credits.

I have only two publishing credits actually - both poems. One is in the literary journal Obsidian III. The other is a poem that was accepted to be published in a forthcoming anthology - I'm really excited about it. Here's the kicker, I'm focusing on Non-Fiction, (although I was also accepted in poetry).

My life afforded me precious little time to focus on my writing. I could not take from that time to identify journals that were appropriate for my writing style and submit, submit, submit. That's really a process, and I choose to continue to work on my writing, and spend time reading. I did read journals. I enjoyed the quality writing and considered it homework for the time that never came, when I would have time to set aside to pursue getting published.

I understand your concerns. When I first started looking into the MFA that is one of the several things that kept me year after year, backing away. I say, don't let that stop you unless you apply and get a lot of no's.

One more thing: I called Lesley, one of the two programs to which I applied, before they ever got my application. Everyone with whom I spoke gave plenty of time and attention to the answering of my questions. Why not call the schools in which your interested? Just ask them directly how important publishing credits are.

I believe that before any other part of your application is considered, the quality of your writing is evaluated. They may not even look at anything else if they don't see indicators that you're ready and serious as a writer. I'd focus on getting my sample tight and go ahead and apply.

That's my two cents!

Toodles!

Corey said...

Hello all,

I've been reading the blog for awhile now, but have never posted before. It seems like most of you are in the same stages of the application process as I am, and I thought I would seek some advice.

I know the programs that I'm definitely applying to, but most are very competitive. I'll list them below. Are there any that I haven't listed that might not be quite so competitive? I'm especially looking for full to good funding, and no critical essay requirement (no time). I'd love if you could request a couple more possibilities. Thanks!

(for poetry)

University of Virginia
Cornell
University of Oregon
Iowa
UMASS Amherst
Indiana-Bloomington
U Michigan
Syracuse
UC Irvine
Vanderbilt
UNC Greensboro

Also thinking about San Diego State University, American, Notre Dame, and Minnesota.

Again, thanks!

Cheers,

~Corey

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