Monday, October 20, 2008

Mailbag, October 20th

We're nearing the end of October, and application season is in full swing. Let's check in another mailbag.

115 comments:

eLily said...

Don't forget to subscribe to the comments.

Jennifer said...

Anybody out there submitting flash fiction with their manuscripts? My really short pieces are my best, so I'm submitting one along with a couple of full length stories.

Is anybody else writing flash? I'm afraid it will be looked down upon because it isn't longer.

Adrienne said...
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Adrienne said...

jennifer-

I personally am not submitting any flash fiction, but I am an intern for a literary magazine and more and more flash fiction is being submitted. Also, I am helping coordinate a short short fiction contest at my school. All of my professors and the people I work with seem to think that this form of fiction is really interesting, up-and-coming work. It's getting really popular, so I think that as long as you submit longer pieces with your flash stuff you'll be just fine.

gregory said...

has anyone heard anything about university of central florida?
such a mystery...i have a void that needs to be filled by something.
also, what southern schools excite people?

John said...

what would you consider flash fiction? Less than 5 pages?

Jennifer said...

The piece I am submitting is 777 words. That is two pages double spaced. So I don't mean short - short, I mean flash for real.

Mike Valente said...

Jennifer,

if that's your best work, then submit it. the good thing is that you still have room to submit an entire story, given a 20-30 page limit.

If it's good writing, they won't frown on it.

mike

Lincoln said...

Jennifer,

I submitted a mix of flash and longer pieces and got into an MFA. If its your best work, then send it out!

Bsquared86 said...

This may sounds like a silly question but,

What information about myself should I provide my recommenders?

eLily said...

jennifer - I submitted flash fiction along with a novel excerpt for my MFA applications. I was accepted to both traditional and low-res programs with that manuscript. If it's your best writing, definitely send it. My only caution is to be sure there is real purpose behind the form. That is, the story must fit the form and vice versa.

eLily said...

bsquared - it depends, I guess, on your relationship with your recommenders. Are they professors or managers/bosses?

They should know enough about you to vouch for your character and your dedication to the MFA degree.

Check out some previous posts on letters of rec.

milan said...

On literary responses:

Is it appropriate to "respond" to something by explaining how it helped you with your own writing?

Rather than just deconstruct a story, I'd like to examine it from a personal perspective. I would still "respond" to the story in every sense, but would offer an explanation of how I came to these conclusions and what they meant to me and my writing.

Is this completely inappropriate for a literary response? Not all schools require them. I speak about the ones that do. Columbia for example.

Thanks,

Milan

Jennifer said...
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Jennifer said...

Milan -- Hmmmm. There is a school of thought that personal, autobiographical responses have no place in literary criticism. But some disagree.

Assuming that what the school wants is literary criticism I would stay away from a personal response in case the person who reads it is a member of that school of thought.

I sure am glad I haven't had to do that for any of my apps.

Bsquared86 said...

Thank you Elily! They're all professors.

And, now for my usual question, lol

Anyone else applying to or have an opinion of Otis College of Art & Design or California Institue of the Arts?

Emily said...

This question may be a little bit off-topic, but I've seen some people mention that when they applied to an MFA program, they were not accepted, but were instead offered admission to that school's MA in English program instead. What schools do this? Does anyone know? I really want an MFA, but also have aspirations to a PhD eventually, and therefore think I'd also be happy in a MA program.

Anyone else in this situation, or know what schools might do this?

farren said...

I guess I am a little confused about who will be reading my SOP. Will it be the creative writing program (in which case, my aesthetic interests and creative growth may be more emphasized) or the English Department (in which case my academic history and preparedness for graduate school)? Both--toe the line? Depends on the institution?

mikedon said...

Does anyone know if San Francisco State has any funding for first year students?

insertbrackets said...

Emily,
I know that last year Brooklyn College offered acceptances into their MA program to a good number of their MFA applicants. I can't think of any others of the top of my head.

Farren,
While some schools ask you to send your SOP to the Graduate Admissions Office, or the English Graduate Department, it will be the admissions committee, aka faculty members, who read it. It doesn't make much sense otherwise.

Jess said...

I have a question about recommendations. I'm pleased that most schools don't seem to require a form. My question is that for schools that do require a form, it mostly consists of checklists that don't really allow my recommenders to really describe me as a person. For the schools that actually require these sort of forms, is it an absolute no-no if I just send a recommendation letter instead? Or should I have my recommenders fill out the checklist in addition to sending the standard recommendation letter? How strict are schools about the actual format of the recommendation?

Eileen Wiedbrauk / Speak Coffee said...

Emily: I only know of one off hand. Eastern Michigan University (I talked with a director there last winter). Their writing program is really avant guard -- think hybrids, think written word crossing with visual art installations or with technology -- it's also got some more traditional elements, but as a smaller MA program you'd probably be going for the hybrid aspects anyway. But their MA in lit has a later deadline, a larger incoming class and all the credits can transfer to the writing degree if you apply the next year and are allowed to change programs.

So I guess it depends on whether you'd be willing to get a Lit MA and a writing PhD or a writing MFA and a Lit PhD, or some other combination. But if you're looking at PhDs also check out the University of Denver: they ONLY offer a PhD in creative writing, no MA or MFA program at all.

Josh said...

jess:

You want to follow the specific guidelines for any school you're applying to. When programs are receiving hundreds or thousands of applicants, you don't want your application to stand out as the one who didn't follow the rules.

However, if a school doesn't make a specific statement to the contrary, I don't see any reason why you couldn't send along a written letter along with the recommendation forms. That's protocol for some programs. If other people disagree with me on that, please voice that.

But ultimately, again, that's not going to be the prime determiner for your acceptance to any program. Your portfolio of work is. That just can't be overstated.

Nic D. said...

My GREs are on Saturday. I'm freaking out. The good news is I'm getting the hang of this Verbal stuff. The flashcards are coming in handy. I'm just going to read a couple of sample essays and see how they work. That's not really something I'm worried about. However, the Math! I tried some of the "medium questions" and got a lot wrong. So I hope Creative Writing programs just ignore that score all together.

I have 2 reccomendations. One from my instructor and one from my playwriting professor. I'm freaking out about that because I need one from a PhD.

My personal statement is practically done. It's being finely tuned.

My writing samples are the last thing on my mind, ironically. I'll have all of November to work on them and I have my professors/peers as resources to keep throwing them at, to critique. Once I get passed this GRE phase in a week, I'll be able to focus more on that.

My question is: Reccomendations. One of them is from an instructor (candidate for PhD), an MFA professor in Theater, and the third one. And assuming the 3rd one is a PhD professor. Does this look alright? An ecclectic mix. I keep hearing they all need to be from PhD professors though, which scares me.

savage detective said...

I'm freaking out about the recs! I feel strange telling someone I'm applying to 15 schools and also I think its awkward that they have to send it by snail mail to some schools and email them to others.

I'm freaking out. Someone please talk me down.

Sara E.G. said...

nic:

I haven't heard that the rec letters have to be from those with a Ph.D. What programs have you seen that require it? I can't possibly imagine why that would matter (and I know that two of my three recommenders certainly don't have them) but it makes me curious.

And like you, I'm taking the GRE this weekend (well, on Monday morning actually.) My verbal scores have been improving with each practice test and I haven't worried myself with the math. The way I see it, there are so many other things to spend hours working on and refining in these next coming weeks that I can fathom giving math more than a passing glance. While I may certainly be wrong, I don't think they're going to hold "semi-conscious" quantitative scores against us.

savage:

I made it as easy as possible for my recommenders by giving them each a large package with fourteen envelopes inside, already stamped and addressed for each school. The programs that required a supplemental form I simply filled my portion out and stuffed it in. The programs that didn't I just had an empty envelope for. I wrote a funny instructional letter (or what I deemed funny in my MFA-Exhaustion-Phase-'08) outlining the instructions and mailed them off to the respective parties.

I'm mailing all my letters. One school seemed like they really wanted it uploaded online so I called them. They said it was fine to mail it, and I'm assuming other schools would have the same attitude.

Yes, it's a hassle. Yes, you feel like a pest. One of my recommenders (who received his MFA about 10 years ago from Columbia--apparently in the era when folks applied to just two or so schools) was amazed at the prospect of 14 applications, but was impressed that I was tackling such a beast. I don't think he minded the hassle, or if he did, he hid it well.

Good luck to everyone.

Luke said...

RE: GRE and Recommendations

This may sound ridiculous to say, but don't over-worry this. The GRE likely has little-to-no-import in the final decision—maybe if it comes down to two very tightly matched candidates. But the math portion has absolutely zero value--don't waste valuable writing time worrying about this. More likely than not the only reason you're taking the GRE is to satisfy a requirement for the graduate school rather than the individual program, and if they like the sample sufficiently then they'll overturn any objections the grad school may have (happened to me two years ago at UNC-Greensboro). I properly tanked the GRE's (thought I had a week more prep. time than I actually did, not that it matters) and was accepted into 5 of the 10 programs to which I applied. This leads me to...

Recommendations letters. On the spectrum of importance these are probably above GRE scores and GPA, and just below SOP. Everything is miles behind the manuscript. That said, it doesn't matter if your recommenders have a PhD. Much more important is that they know your writing, your work ethic, and your temperament. All of this information is probably taken more seriously if it comes from a well-published or well-established writer, but all of your recs need not be literary all-stars.

This is just a long-winded way of saying: don't get freaked out by all the paperwork! The important thing is the writing sample. Yes, they want to know you're not crazy (recommendations), that you're not impossibly vain (SOP), and that you can tell the difference between an adjective and a noun (GRE), but all they really care about is that you can write. Yes, for the sake of the university you have to do the other stuff, but don't let yourself get bogged down or distracted or over-worried about a portion of your application that will likely never be seen unless the writing itself is polished. Manuscript, manuscript, manuscript!

Hope that didn't sound preachy...I just can't say it enough.

Best of luck, all.

--LJ

Jesse Thiessen said...

savage detective:

Are any of your recommenders professors? If they are, writing recs is basically all but in their job description. While keep in mind what TK says in the book ("No one owes you a letter"), it's definitely an expected part of their job.

15 is a lot, and while I didn't have as many (I did 12), I basically did everything sara e.g. suggested to make life easier for my recommenders and they were good sports about it.

And here's something I did that I'll suggest: Give them a copy of one of your favorite books (though obvie make sure it's one that they're not likely to have read already) when you get your letters back. Not only is it appropriate and just a plain nice thing to do, it certainly won't hurt if you have to ask them for any extra info (or God forbid, another letter) later on down the road.

Nic D. said...

I don't know... Both my Lit and Poetic instructor have warned me about THEM giving me reccs. They both know my writing and literature qualifications well. But the way they phrased it was:

"Yes, I can write it for you, but I don't want to hurt your application. I'm not sure that a letter from me will get you very far. Schools generally don't take letters from graduate students very seriously. They don't bear much weight to them."

Nic D. said...

and p.s. Going along with the theme of "Don't over worry your GREs"

The reason I'm worried is because some of my schools have specifically pointed out (Get a 500 or above, Get a 600 or above, Your score may prove beneficial when it comes to assigning assistanceships...). It scares me these people have a magic number you need to aim for, you know? I mean, I know at Florida State's Theater Grad. program, the GRE requirement is only there as a technicality for the Grad. School admission process. It doesn't bear much weight, but I feel like if I don't get at least a 600, I have something to be concerned about?

savage detective said...

Thanks sara e.g., luke and jesse!

Jennifer said...

nic d.

You don't need one of your letters to be from a Ph.D. I don't know any Ph.D's. My rec's came from two online writing class instructors and a friend who ran a writing group I particpated in. I'm an attorney. .. that's all I had.

Also, regarding the GRE, don't stress about the math part. I got 90th percentile verbal and 17th percentile math. . . and I ain't worried about it.

Regarding

Victorya said...

I say don't worry too much about GRE, a few schools don't want them anyway as more and more realize they do nothing but line the ETS coffers (side note - I've been to their compound in Princeton - AMAZING! A small city. And the chefs- every day was crab and salmon and rich sauces)

As for rec- I worry too, but I don't like having to wait on other people. I gave them the envelopes for the schools, those who didn't have their own, and a big envelope to mail them all back to me once sealed. Then I can check them off my spreadsheet and drop them in the post office box knowing they are in. No online for me! Can't track that as easily.

I have one back, despite doing this in JUNE. One said he'll do it this weekend, and waiting on the third.

jclynn said...

victorya's post brings up a question for me. Are people having recommenders mail their own letters or you asking recommenders to return the letters to you?

I'm going to be putting together packets for my recommenders within the next week or two, and haven't decided which method is best.

zola said...
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zola said...

i sent my recommenders and package with stamped envelopes and all the other important materials included and had them send out the letters to the schools. the benefit of doing it that way is that i don't have to bother with that portion of the application anymore. I did my part and it's done. The benefit of having letters sent back to you is that you're in control and you know when and where your documents are---but I asked my recommenders to let me know when they mail the letters out so I can keep track of things. And two out of the three schools I'm applying to allow me to check my application status online so i can know that they in fact have received the letters.

Emily said...

Another question about recommendations, which may have already been addressed here....

Most of my schools require 3 letters, but some only require 2? Should I just go ahead and send the same 3 letters to all the schools, or should I only ask 2 of my recommenders to do the letters for those schools wanting two letters?

dire said...

Emily,

I'd suggest pick two and send only two to those schools. While there's no guarantee, I get the sense that schools will be irked if you send extraneous material -- if they wanted three, they'd say so. I'm doing the same. Good luck!

...

Hi all, I'm finally getting around to filling out the obligatory information on the online apps. I'm nowhere near done with ANYTHING yet. Fear and guilt, great motivators... ugh... crippling.

dire said...
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dire said...

jclynn,

I did zola's opposite -- since I haven't graduated yet, I gave my recommenders nicely organized envelopes. I'll pick them up at the deadline I specified. One of my recommenders isn't teaching this fall, so I mailed her the same packet but with a self-addressed, $4.80-stamped Priority Mail envelope. I'm paranoid about mail, I guess, and most of my schools want everything bundled together in one packet.

It's up to you: do you want to have their letters in your hands to mail all at once, or would you rather only worry about your part?

(Sorry about the deletion, I forgot the "only" in the last sentence!)

Nic D. said...

Is there a way we can get a thread going where we post each other's email address and we can critique each other's writing sample?

Adam said...

Question: Some schools ask for 30 pages of fiction, others for 25, and some others for 20. How does one navigate these waters? It looks like when I'm done revising the two stories I've chosen I'll be somewhere between 25-30 pages. What do I do then about the school that only wants 20. I feel comfortable submitting a sample a little under 30 and a little over 25 to the schools asking for those respective numbers, but is it bad form to submit, say, 26 pages to the school specifically asking for 20?

Jennifer said...

Nic D. --- I like that idea!

David E. Grim said...

Nic, Jennifer, perhaps a Google Group would work?

Emily said...

nic, jennifer, david:

i'd also be interested in a group to critique writing. absolutely!

David E. Grim said...

OK, so i formed a Google group. Who'd like to join? It's on restricted access, so i think the way this works is you send me your email address and I send an invite. My email is: grimstuff[@]gmail.com

Corey said...

I finally have my final list of schools I'm applying to, yes! I'm taking the GRES next Wednesday (gulp) and have more flashcards than I know what to do with. After that I'll start putting together packets for my recommenders, and then I need to drastically redraft and shorten my thesis for UW, Montana, and Purdue. I can't decide which poems to put in my portfolio... but I think I have a good draft for my SOP. I feel so behind!!!

Jason said...

The writing sample critique group sounds interesting to me, but what exactly are you guys intending to do with it? I'm not looking for a workshop group - all of the work I'm thinking to include in my writing sample is in or very close to its final revision, and I'd assume any work you guys are thinking about submitting would be in a similar state.

However, if this group is more intended as feedback on which pieces are our best work and should be included, which should be left out, etc, sign me up. As it says in the book, feedback on your sample by people unfamiliar with your work is important. My stuff is poetry, but I'm up for giving feedback on anything.

Nic D. said...

It could be a mix of both; workshopping and feedback.

I seriously need feedback on my essay. I thought it was good? My instructors said it was great. They laughed and loved it. And now, I got rejected from the Advanced Essay Workshop. So I have no clue if it is good. I'd love the feedback from MFA applicants on it.

eLily said...

Adam, it's definitely frustrating that programs have varying limits on page and word counts, but I'd caution against sending more than the magic number.

I think your instincts are right; it's bad form. Breaking the rules won't help you, even if the final few pages of your manuscript are amazing. So revise or find a shorter story (poem, excerpt, etc.) to send in its place.

zola said...

i can understand not wanting to go over the writing sample length maximum but what about sending a writing sample that is under the requested length. My sample for poetry is 8 pages long and consists of 6 poems. I thought this would be sufficient because my poems are no shorter than a full page... and i also went along with the notion that stressed quality rather than quantity....

Jason said...

zola: it depends on the school's guidelines. A couple schools on my list want 6 poems or 10 pages max. In that kind of situation, 8 pages is perfectly fine. Other schools on my list, however, are looking for 15-20(!) pages of poetry. I think only submitting 8 pages of work to these kinds of schools could negatively hurt you. As for the 10 poems/10-15 pages schools, I think it'd be prudent to toss another poem or two into the sample.

David E. Grim said...

Hi Jason,

It looks like our group will be whatever its members need it to be. We have 16 so far, and already one person has posted their work with four people signing up to critique it. This person's posted specific questions they would like addressed. So, if you were to sign up, you can post your work and request specific feedback.

Go here to request membership:
http://groups.google.com/group/mfa-seeker

Look forward to seeing you there,

David

jclynn said...

What are people's opinions about including a flash fiction piece when the school asks for "two short stories"?

I have, what I think, is a great flash fiction piece (about 800 words) that I am planning on using in portfolios that are dictated by page length. However, do you think it is appropriate to include it when the school only asks for two stories (the other being a traditional 5,000 + word piece)?

David E. Grim said...

About our new Google Group for "MFA Seekers," I wanted to extend our invitation to anyone who wants to give and receive feedback on their work.

We have 21 members and two pieces posted so far.

The group is located here: http://groups.google.com/group/mfa-seeker

-David

Jason said...

jclynn: if the other story is, in fact, a "traditional 5,000 + word piece," I'd do it. Shows you can experiment, but also that you know how to play by the rules.

Jennifer said...

Jclyn -- I have a piece of flash (770 words) that I am submitting along with 2 full length stories to the schools that ask for two stories. Flash is my best work, but I feel the need to give to full length stories too. So, yeah, I say definitely go ahead.

insertbrackets said...

I am done with the GRE. I somehow feel vindicated. Now this process is really beginning for me. Next stop, bleed my bank account by way of filing all the grad school apps. Hooray?

Jennifer said...

Insert brackets: Hooray!!

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

tory--

Congrats! Did you fair alright?

I take mine tomorrow at noon. After this, I'm sooo looking forward to bleeding my bank account dry! Seriously, anything has got to be better than this...

insertbrackets said...

i did okay. i did better on the math than i expected. it definitely detected math-tard and corrected itself for me. and to think, the computery aspect of the testing slightly worried me.

how did you do, sara? i hope well. cheers to losing all our hard earned moneys!

Jennifer said...

Can anyone give me an online creative writing class recomendation? I have become totally turned off from Gotham.

Thanks!

David E. Grim said...

Jennifer, there was a post on this blog a couple weeks ago about Stanford's writing courses. Also, Tom mentions UCLA's online courses in the MFA book.

Sara E.G. said...

Tory--

I did okay as well. Not as well as I would have hoped, but still better on the math than I would have expected. Despite any hopes for a stellar score, I'm simply glad it's over.

Now, onto the money spending! (And after my mediocre score this afternoon, I deserve to buy myself something more than 14 application fees.)

:P

milan said...

GRE and Transcripts:

Is it okay to have Ets send my GRE scores out before I send the rest of my application?

Some schools' websites say it is okay. Some say nothing.

On transcripts: Is it okay to mail them personally (sealed of course)?

I don't trust the University to mail transcripts to 14 different schools. Will they be accepted as "offical" mailed directly from me.

Thanks,

milan

Jennifer said...

Milan -- University of Nevada at Las Vegas didn't accept the transcripts I mailed them. They wanted them straight from the schools. Everyone else (I applied to 10 schools) seemed to be ok with my sending the transcripts to them myself.

Corey said...

Ugh, taking the GREs bright and early tomorrow morning. Any last minute advice for the night/morning before?

milan said...

stop studying.

Flip said...

Sorry if this is the wrong place for this but I am looking for insight on SoP.

Vandy only specifies "concise, two pages".
Certainly I imagine that's double spaced and not much room to breathe.

Also, I'd love to see some more SoP samples...

Anyone?

savage detective said...

just came back from the GRE.

710V
630Q

darjeeling said...

Hey everyone, your chances just got better: I bombed my Verbal GRE with a 590. Jesus! Math a surprising 750.

Feels like someone's scraped out and carved my stomach into a jack-o-lantern. The 1340 combined is alright, but I'm guessing this puts me out of the picture for a lot of funding opportunities, to say the least.

Somebody say something...I'm hurting over here.

Ray.L. said...

stop tripping about your GRE scores, people. unless you got a 250V and a 320Q, you're pretty much set. schools look mostly at the your portfolio and recommendations. yes, they'll take the scores into consideration, but it shouldn't make you want to not apply to schools, unless you truly did poorly.

i was going crazy over my low scores a couple weeks ago when i took the test and all my recommendors calmed me down and assured me it wasn't the end of the world.

farren said...

What Ray said.

Jennifer said...

What Farren said.

deadninjahorse said...

590 V
550 Q

I basically went as fast as I could and guessed on 90% of the math question. I took more satisfaction from finishing the test in less than 2 hours than my scores.

Now I can move on to the more important things: finalizing my writing sample and starting my personal essay.

Luke said...

darjeeling--

I had the exact same score two years ago (we should have been mathematicians!) and was offered funding at 3 of the 5 places I was accepted.

In the words of Foghorn Leghorn:

GREs don't matta, I say, I say.

No worries. Tinker with that sample!

-LJ

Sara E.G. said...

What deadninja said.

My scores were right around yours, ninja. I also finished in under two hours and feel my essays went really well (haven't received the scores yet.)

I went and had some Mexican food after. I'm just glad it's done with so I can focus on what actually matters: writing.

savage detective said...

amen.

David E. Grim said...

Flip,

Our Google Group "MFA Seekers" has a new thread discussing Personal Statements, so there are some in our group who will be addressing this. although the group has been leaning toward critiquing work samples.

If you want to check it out, go here:
http://groups.google.com/group/mfa-seeker

-David

unsaid said...

I take the GRE on Friday! Halloween! lol Reading these posts helps. I'm just gonna get 'er done and move on with the next steps in the process!

insertbrackets said...

Guys,

My GRE scores are nothing to brag about, but they are sufficient. I think that's what they are looking for, sufficiency (though the programs that shuffle their rejected MFA applicants might have grounds to redirect you to their MA/Ph. D's, a la Brooklyn College) not a stellar score. Being a good test taker has nothing to do with being a good writer. At any rate, don't stress out too much, because writing is hard to do when you pop a blood vessel in your eye.

Good luck peeps, and for those who have already rid themselves of this ETS nonsense, now onto the more important task: revising that writing sample!

Bsquared86 said...

Those GRE scores don't seem bad to me at all! Good luck to those with the GRE coming up.

I scored higher on my Quantitive than my Verbal when I took the GRE in 07. I can't even remember the score anymore and I am doing my best to care less and less about it. I'm a little sad that I wasted the money on it since none of the programs I'm applying to require it.

Ray.L. said...

@ sara: omg, i had mexican food after i took the gre, too. it made everything so much better. :-)

corkeyb33 said...

Okay, so I'm sure this has been asked before, and I looked through the SOP thread... but I'm still a little confused. A lot of schools ask for only one SOP/personal statement, and some don't give guidelines. Should I assume that if they ask for an SOP it should be more academically focused, whereas a personal statement would be more biographically focused? If they only want one, shouldn't I have a mixture of both? Man, fitting everything in two pages is ROUGH.

Shana said...

Hey all: Just wanted to follow up on a post I made a few weeks ago when I wasn't sure what to submit for the 15-20 page "critical paper" one of my schools requires (since I've been out of college for ~10 yrs and all my college papers are long gone). I contacted the director of the program, explained the situation and offered that I could send writing samples from my professional work that should my ability to write critically and effectively. She was very understanding and said that would be fine.
It was a relief and it is good to know that behind the jumble of requirements and rules (that sometimes seem quite messy and arbitrary) there are real people who make sense. Good to know as we all fumble our ways through this crazy administrative nightmare called MFA apps!

unsaid said...

Took the GRE today.
V- 540
Q- 620

Blah! Glad it's over!

Jennifer said...

Filled out online apps, check.

Statement of purpose(s), check.

Most transcripts sent, check.

GRE taken and scores sent, check.

Envelopes addressed and ready for portfolios, etc., check.

Recommendations, one person got them out, but need to contact two of them to remind them but nervous about this.

Portfolio, working on it, but nervous about that too.

Sara E.G. said...

Hey everyone--

Has anyone else applying to Penn State noticed they changed their SOP requirement? Their web site use to be rather general if I remember correctly, and I don't believe gave any real guidelines for the SOP. It looks as though they've updated their site and it now says the SOP should be a one page statement.

One page? YIKES.

Um, can I single space it? ;P

corkeyb33 said...

Ugh! I am having the hardest time writing my SOP. It's so difficult to make it memorable, personally informative, and intellectually insightful.

I keep getting bogged down trying to come up with a "hook" and not having enough room for the rest of it. Can I have 10 pages, not 2 please?

insertbrackets said...

Speaking as someone who is pretty much done with his SOP, my advice is that you leave some space (a paragraph or so) that you will be able to specifically tailor to other programs. It's probably a good idea to reference aspects of the program you are applying to, and how those aspects will enhance your ability to work and live as a writer, and as a part of their community. Make sure you leave some space for that.

Jennifer said...
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Jennifer said...

Regarding SOPs: There is an old post on here somewhere that helped me immensely, and all it said was that the SOP should really show three things, where you have been, where you are, and where you are going as a person and a writer.

Looking at it that way, my content and structure flowed relatively easily.

Sarah, for whatever it is worth, my statement is single spaced.

julianna said...

I've written before about LETTERS OF REC., but let me just follow up and tell you that these are NOT a big deal from our side of the admissions desk.

I've never expected the recommendors to have PhDs. I think that you should go with people who know you and your work the best.

It's such an overhyped genre that we're really only looking for red flag letters -- which we really don't get b/c profs usually beg off from the task of writing a negative or even luke-warm letter.

If someone is applying to our PhD program from an MFA program and they have NO letters from the professors of that MFA program, we might scratch our heads. Other than that, I would not get worried about these. Not at all.

All my best,

Julianna Baggott, Asst. Director, Creative Writing Program, Florida State University

julianna said...

STATEMENTS OF PURPOSE

Plain is fine. Straightforward works. A little something personal about your own story, that's fine as well.

I'd steer from clever and joke-y.

We like it if people are already dedicated to the craft, already have a deep passion for the work. It's also appropriate to talk about OUR specific program and why you've chosen to apply to us specifically. One might also mention a living, breathing reading life that is contemporary. (Not "I really love Poe.")


Do not have typos and poor grammar. Make these statements polished to a high shine on the sentence level. You're a writer after all.

I've only lowered my score one time one time because of a statement. The letter stated the candidate's contempt for graduate programs in creative writing and that he/she didn't believe that writing could be taught. So, for obvious reasons, I thought it might be difficult to have such a young writer in workshop. I suggest not writing a STATEMENT of that sort.

All my best,

Julianna Baggott, Asst. Director of Creative Writing, Florida State University

Sara E.G. said...

Julianna--

You're such a help. Thanks so much for your feedback.

corkeyb33 said...

Thanks Julianna!

savage detective said...

Does anybody know if Penn State requires a cover sheet for the recs? I sent them an email but they haven't responded.

deadninjahorse said...

no. I've checked all my schools twice and penn st had no form.

Sara E.G. said...

Savage-

No, their web site doesn't mention it. In any event, I've already sent my letters out to Penn State without the cover letter, so they better not require it now!

As a side note, I'm worried that my recommenders won't remember to sign the back of each letter. I mean, there's 14 of them. I know my boss did because I stood over her and watched her sign them, but the other two worry me. If they forgot, would the schools still accept them you think?

savage detective said...

sara,

don't obsess about those little things. i'm sure you'll be fine.

milan said...

Anyone know what the "minimum" requirements on gpa and gre are at Texas- Austin?

Thanks.

Jennifer said...

Milan, I don't know about GPA, but the UT website says this about GRE:

"We do not have minimum score requirements, but most students accepted into the MFA program have verbal scores of 600 or higher."

milan said...

How are y'all handling recommendations that are required to be submitted online?

I need to get my recommenders recommending, but I have not done my SOP nor am I ready to submit the application.

For the most part do applications have to be submitted before the recommenders will be emailed by the school?

Sara E.G. said...

Milan--

All my recs are in and I've only completed two of my 14 online apps. It's my understanding that as soon as the schools receive their first piece of info about you, they begin your file. I don't think it has to be the online app first.

milan said...

hey sarah,

are you saying as long as i have begun the applications i can register the recommenders and they will be emailed before i submit?

thanks.

Gwyn said...

Milan,

For the five or six schools to which my recommenders are submitting their letters online, only one school required that I submit the online application prior to registering and notifying my recommenders. For the rest, I was able to register them prior to submitting the application, which means also that they don't need to wait until my apps are completed in order to submit their letters.

I hope that made sense!

To be a little clearer, all schools using Embark or Applyweb seem to allow you to register and notify your recommenders prior to submitting your application. The only school I encountered that didn't allow this was, I believe, UT-Austin, but they allow you to send your SOP after submitting the rest of the application, so you don't need to finish that bit just yet.

-Gwyn

milan said...

Anyone applying to FSU?

If so, why? I can't decide.

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

Milan--

I just scrolled up and reread. You were asking specifically about submitting recs online. Doh. Sorry I missed that. I was referring to submitting them via snail mail (which I'm doing), in which case it doesn't matter if they arrive before your application.

Sorry for the confusion.

dylan said...

Iowa and some other don't have recommendation forms or online submissions. What have y'all been telling your recommenders? Just giving them a stamped envelop and telling them to mail a letter?

Mike Valente said...

Hi Everyone,

I know it's that time of year, and I just want to say Best Of Luck. Really, there's not much more you can do -- You've taken the GRE (apian?), youve polished you're writing sample, and your recs are in the mail.

mikedon said...

Julianna,

Thanks for all the great information you have given us.

I am wondering how strict programs are about page requirements for manuscripts? For example, are we better off going two to three pages over the limit and having completed pieces or should we chop them off to stay within the limit?

Any insight on this is much appreciated!

Sara E.G. said...

Dylan--

Yep. I did that for all the schools without a supplemental form (only five of my 14 schools had a form.)