Tuesday, January 13, 2009

If you were in the driver's seat...

Just for discussion's sake - err, stress relief? - here is something I've been thinking about for a while: how could this whole MFA application process be a lot easier, in a perfect world?

After reading over this week's MFA Blog mailbag and P&W Speakeasy MFA forum, I think fellow bloggers are feeling some of the same frustrations I have/had about the MFA application process. Some of it's a matter of tone - the way schools present themselves on the web, or the way they reply to you when you communicate with them. Or perhaps HOW they reply to you (just you wait, those who have not yet received a rejection envelope/postcard/email!) Other times, it's a matter of information: what can you figure out from the website? what is a given? what can't you know until it's too late? when is too late?

I wonder if we can lay out some suggestions for improvement and perhaps even some praises from our application experience that would give schools some groundwork for going forward, as they're bound to get even more applicants next year and the year after that...I mean, we might as well say what works and doesn't work, right? And who knows, you may be applying again next year, too!

(side note: Sorry, my sentence structure is waining at this point. Applications have made my brain feel like a deep fried Twinkie.)

More for thought:

What has been the most frustrating thing/biggest monkey wrench about applying to MFA programs?

If you could eliminate one MFA application requirement, what would it be?

What is something a school presented in their application process that was the most helpful?


insertbrackets said...


We all know that for several of the schools we apply to, the GRE does not factor in whatsoever. It's not so much the test itself, which is loathesome, but the cost of taking and sending score reports that makes it particularly offputting. With the 140+ dollars I spent on the GRE, I could have applied to another one or two schools. A much better use of my monies. They could replacement with a statements or forms or whatever. I'd write as many essays as they wanted if it meant I didn't have to take the GRE!!!

michelle said...

If it were up to me, schools would start with only the writing sample. Then they could ask for all the rest--transcripts, SoPs, teaching applications, essays and the blah blah blah blah.

Also, it would be great if there was some way to fill out online forms once, and transfer your info to the next school.

I'd second not requiring the GRE as well, though I don't want to write any more essays either.

dannigirl said...

I agree with the GRE assessment. I think it's criminal for ETS to charge $20 (!) per score to send to institutions.

I like Arkansas' approach--send manuscripts, SOPs, and letters and such, and if they like you, then you fill out the application and pay the app fees. If every school did this, we all might be a few dollars richer in the end. Instead of having to pay for 12 applications and lose all of that money, you would only have to pay the school you decide to go to. Would that really be too much to ask?

On a positive note, I have to say that Marnie Leonard over at Colorado State seems to be on the ball. Just a few days after I'd submitted the online app, she emailed with a list of the things she still needed from me.

Best of luck to everyone in the coming months. Hope to see some of you at some program.

michelle said...


Md23Rewls said...

GRE is the obvious one to get rid of IMO. If a school wants to keep it as a requirement, then I'd like to see them tell me why it's a requirement. If any one of them can explain why they want me to spend $140 on top of their $50 application fee, I'm all ears.

As for other things in the application process that annoyed me: When a website's not clear on funding. I understand that it's probably one of the more delicate areas for a school to talk about, and if the funding's not great they don't want to scare away potential students, but saying, "There are some stipends and scholarships available" is insanely vague. I'd definitely rather they be upfront about where their funding is at.

nick0102 said...

I would love for all programs to offer a wide range of pages/words for the creative manuscript. Having one school limit the manuscript to 25 pages maximum, while another requires a minimum of 30 pages (I'm looking at you Indiana) makes for an annoying headache in the already daunting application process.

Md23Rewls said...

I'll second that Nick. I think an appropriate range would be 20-30 pages. Having a minimum of thirty is annoying, especially when you generally write everything (in my case, essays) in the 18-22 page range. It's like they expect you to just find another few pages lying around to include.

sara e.g. said...


This is a great topic for conversation (and distraction.) I agree that the GRE was undoubtedly the most annoying part of the whole process, and certainly the part that I'd omit from all applications if it were up for debate (I just sold my GRE books on Craigslist and it felt so good.)

For me, the way a program presented itself on its website was a fairly big deal. I don't need flash or millions of links, but please do not give me the financial aid package of students from 1997-1998 (yes, one of my schools used this number.) I enjoyed the sites that listed a sampling of their courses, and really enjoyed the sites of schools who included student profiles. (I'm a bit anal about university web pages as I've helped design and maintain them in the past, and feel schools that don't put any effort into theirs are simply exhibiting their laziness and complacency.)

In regards to communications with schools, I have mixed feelings. I understand that much of the correspondence we have with programs is through administrative assistants or perhaps even a student worker who doesn't particularly enjoy their job. I don't always like mine either. That doesn't mean I reply to my emails with one-word answers or simply don't reply at all. This happened at one of my top choices, and it was a huge turn off (I still applied, chalking it up to a pissy undergrad working part-time in their office.)

Some schools have been such a joy to converse with: UNCG, Illinois, Hollins and Vanderbilt, to name a few. I take this (perhaps foolishly) as an indication of how they might treat me should I happen to attend that program. It's made this process easier, for sure.

Finally, if the online application could be streamlined to a simple, one time application submitted to the various schools of your choice (as someone pointed out that law schools do) that would be ideal.

In other news, I've been terribly bored since my last app was sent out. My local adult ed (which I LOVE) is offering a poetry class on revision. I simply can't bear to bring in anything from my writing example only to find out I was so close to a much better revision of it. Thank god for the new season of Anthony Bourdain.

AKZombie said...

Better websites! I realize that perhaps an MFA program is not chockablock with techno-savvy students, but maybe they could hook up with some geeks to help them out. I researched soooooo many programs, and I have lost count of how many out-dated, hard-to-navigate, and just plain uninformative websites are out there.

Programs, websites are your friends. If you put enough information on there to make the program, funding, application process, etc. clear, then you will cut way down on the people contacting you directly.

I'm feeling everyone on the application/GRE costs as well. When this process is over, I will have "invested" at least $1500, and I may not get in anywhere *spits through fingers to counteract any kind of jinx*. I realize that some schools use the GRE to weed out some people, but jeezly crow, ETS is making a fortune off me.

zola said...

i think all programs should contact you when your application is complete and should notify you when the app. deadline is approaching if they are missing something. this would calm nerves and avoid a whole stream of phone calls from applicants wanting to confirm that their materials have arrived.

i agree with NO GRE's.
i also agree with the writing sample being the only requirement to apply to a program with other materials being requested if a program shows interest in the writing.

Adrienne said...

Really, typing out all sorts of repeat information on applications makes me want to die. The idea of having one application to fill out and sending it everywhere sounds amazing to me. I guess the only problem with that is that we all have to get accepted by the graduate school as well and they all have different requirements (oh, but if they didn't!).

Elizabeth said...

I agree with the above - I would completely nix the GRE. I also second the notion of schools starting with the writing sample first, then going on to the rest. The thing I've wished for most in the process is a standardized format. I can't say how much stress could be avoided if I didn't have to go back and forth checking and double checking to make sure I had the requirements for school A, which are different from school B, and don't forget the extra copies of your transcript for school C - oh, and those two forms that school D needs . . .
I most appreciate those schools that lay their requirements out easily and straightforward. Michigan/Ann Arbor's website is a good example. "We need these things. Send them here. The Graduate School needs these things. Send them here. By this day. End." Websites where information is buried, or where information conflicts with what the Graduate School requires are just a headache.
Most, if not all, of your applicants are doing their research online. I feel that a poorly designed web site suggests that schools either don't care enough about their program or don't care enough about potential applicants to provide solid information. While that didn't stop me from applying to schools with poorly laid out web sites, it certainly caused some real stress.

rachel said...

*Universal application (to be filled out once and made available to all programs, with supplemental questions for the schools that need them to be submitted along with the manuscript)

*Universal letter of recommendation requirements (preferably only two, which may be submitted electronically or manually as the recommenders desire)

*Universal statement of purpose requirements

*Universal manuscript length requirements (but it's okay for separate schools to specify separate things that they're looking for in particular)

Hey, you said "in a perfect world." I know none of these are realistic expectations.

It is realistic, however, to expect that all websites include basic information such as funding, typical acceptance rates, current faculty, and a checklist of all materials required. Many of them do have this information neatly organized, but some are a mess. My alma mater, for one, makes it particularly difficult to get all of the information you need. I would love it if each school had an individual page for the MFA instead of being a sidebar to the English Department--it makes navigation so much easier.

Alex said...

It'd be pretty great if some of the schools would accept me.

To put in my two cents, I think we all obsess way too much about the nuts and bolts. I'm guilty of it too, to be sure, but in the end, schools are going to accept the people they find to be the most qualified and that's really it. A standardized process would be great but it's totally unrealistic. As Winston Churchill said about democracy, "It's the worst form of government in the world, except for all the others."

speculations for schoolboys said...

I actually didn't mind the GRE all that much. What I minded was the obscene amount of money ETS charges to send your scores somewhere, and I think that's an issue that applies to all grad schools and programs, regardless of the MFA. There should be an cheaper, easier way for schools to get scores. Period.
I think that just sending writing samples, and then, if there's interest, the rest of the application materials is a great idea. It could cut down on fees, and the number of frantic calls and emails programs receive.
It would also be extremely helpful if there were a way, online, to view what materials are missing or have been received. I suppose it could be a pain for schools with hundreds of applicants, but it seems easier to do some minor data entry than field hundreds of emails and phone calls.
I also echo what a lot of people have said about what information about a program is available online. Most people are doing things online...it's in a program's best interest to make information available to interested individuals on the internet. Let us know what the funding for a program is like! What kinds of classes are offered and required besides workshops? Truly awful websites definitely made me reconsider some programs, even if they weren't a full-on deterrent. They made me think that programs just didn't care too much about people who were interested in applying.

Keely H. said...

I'd get rid of the recommendation letters. No matter how much a teacher loves you, they always get that harassed look in their eye when you ask them for a rec letter, probably because they've already been asked by 15 other students and it's only October. I've got one professor who writes every rec letter as if it were its own individual work of art, which is great and all, but now its a week past the deadline and she still hasn't sent it. There are only so many polite ways to remind a professor that she's missed a deadline and two more are pending in a day when you passed the state of blind panic a week ago. It's the only part of the application process that beyond a certain point you have absolutely no control over.

samcutter said...

A Common Application, such as what undergraduate admissions uses, would be nice as well as being able to check your materials online. But here's the thing, all that costs money and manpower. As far as I can tell, MFA programs don't have whole departments of people working on this stuff or the money to pay all these people. Even if a program received 1000 applications, it wouldn't be enough to justify the cost of paying College Board to use the Common Application (or the cost of organizing and convincing all the MFA programs to use one application) or getting computer people to set up the website and all the background mechanics that go with it (as well as maintain it). It definitely sucks to have to fill out multiple applications, but the short ones aren't too painful. I agree that the GRE requirement should be done away with, but I think some programs (Maryland?) use the scores to determine who gets to teach.

And I agree that Marnie Leonard is great. She's super nice if you call. But the Colorado State website is old and ugly. It's a good example of a school that doesn't have the funds for the luxury of a fancy website. I don't think it means they're complacent or that they don't care.

Md23Rewls said...

Samcutter, you are correct that some schools use the GRE to determine who teaches, but my question is...why? Why do they use it? Knowing a few analogies doesn't have any bearing on what kind of teacher you'll be any more than having a good writing sample or a strong statement of purpose.

M. said...

My two cents:

Schools should not require two copies of official transcripts. It was expensive. They should offer to accept one photocopy and one official copy.

UNCG had the best app. It's clear, direct, and focuses on the most important aspect of this whole process: an applicant's creative writing.

The staff at WashU have been really great.

I appreciate any program that informs applicants via email that their files are complete. It is a courtesy that shows the program takes each applicant seriously. Things get lost in the mail. It happens. No one should have to lose their chance over that, especially if they've paid quite a bit of money and time to apply.

CompassRose said...

I ran into unexpected difficulties when applying to Florida State. About a week after applications were due, the English department's administrative assistant e-mailed all applicants to let us know that university/presidential fellowship applications were due January 9th. But the program website (even within its tiny section that dealt with financial aid) only glancingly mentioned these particular fellowships, did not include a link to the necessary application (although said app could be found on the university's page about financial aid), and--perhaps most egregiously--did not include a basic mention of the fellowship application form on its list of mandatory mailed materials (how hard would it have been to include something on the website, no matter how casual, about this app.? "Hey, folks, don't forget to fill out this pretty important fellowship app! Deadline's January 9th. Here's a link!").

In my experience, ALL of the schools that I applied to either: 1.) Made it extremely explicit that applicants must fill out assorted financial aid paperwork, and made said paperwork readily available on the MFA website (for example: Iowa); or 2.) Stated that applicants would automatically (or by simply checking off a box on the application, or briefly mentioning their interest in receiving funding/a fellowship within their personal statement) be eligible for financial aid/fellowships/a TA ship. FSU, as far as I'm concerned, actually buried information about funding (god knows why). As Tom has often pointed out, it's within every program's (and their MFA students') best interest for said program to be quite explicit about what funding is available; to this, I would add that it is also absolutely essential for MFA programs to spell out exactly what applicants need to do to secure said funding (seriously - be compassionate, folks. I'm lucky enough to have a full-time job at the moment, but we're in the midst of an economic crisis, and only a cruel program would actively deny potential students the opportunity to receive some sort of stipend). Luckily, I (just barely!) had time to fill out the fellowship application; however, I almost missed knowing about the application's existence entirely. And yet, by adding one simple line of text to their list of required application documents (plus a link to the fellowship application)--something that would have taken even someone with a basic knowledge of HTML perhaps 5 minutes to accomplish--FSU could practically ensure that MFA students are covered, funding-wise!

Of course, perhaps I should simply have been more aggressive about contacting the program or the graduate school to inquire about financial aid. However, let it be known that I did look the FSU English dept. and Creative Writing department websites over backwards and forwards - and not once did I find anything saying "to get funding at all, you've got to provide us with this form."

Let me add that FSU is also one of my top choices, and that this whole experience left me feeling extremely unsettled.

CompassRose said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bsquared86 said...

The only requirements should be . . .

-Transcripts from undergraduate institution (instead of all colleges attended, whether the coursework contributed to a degree or not)
-General Application

I'd do away with GRE, SOPs, LORs, and every other acronym, lol. Honestly, I really don't see the point of recommendations. Either my work shows potential or it doesn't-- do you really need to ask other people about me? Honestly, that was one of the most stressful things during this process.

Joel Wayne said...

I understand why MFA programs require all the information at the forefront - it wastes less time and they obviously want a full picture of the individual, as a writer, student, and person.

I had a lot of success with the Embark Online system, which is currently used by Brown, Cornell, and Michigan's programs (among others, I'm sure). After you finish filling out one application, the information is transferred over to the next Embark application you begin. Very handy.

I also think it's helpful when the English department is upfront about what the department requires AND what the graduate school requires. One transcript sent to each? Do both require recommendations? It can be very confusing.

Like others, I'd probably like to see the abolishing of GRE requirements. Not only because it's costly but because, from a personal standpoint, I don't do well on these tests. They don't allow any room to breathe or create.

Beyond that, my biggest headache was goading my referees to submit their letters in time for the deadlines. I'm not used to acting like a pushy asshole but when it came to getting my applications finished, I erred on the side of annoyance.

samcutter said...

Md23Rewls, I think the reason GRE scores are used to judge is because it's a standardized test so it makes all things equal. An A in a lit course at a community college is not the same as getting an A in a lit course at Harvard. But if everyone is made to take the same test...I mean how else are they going to attempt to figure out who gets a teaching position?

BSquared86, I don't think recommendations carry a lot of weight, but are still important because they add another element to the application. The bland recs probably won't affect anything, but if the committee is trying to decide between two excellent writers, a negative or glowing rec can make the difference.

M. said...

Yes, I felt bad troubling people to ask for the recommendations, but am glad the programs ask for them, because A) I received good ones and B) They are the only way to inform a program of your tone/productivity/contributions to workshop. e.g. I don't think a program would want you if you are a total a-hole or a slacker in workshops and the rec letters are really the only way for them to get that information. I agree, though, it sucks to ask. Professors expect to be asked as some point, so although it can be time consuming, someone had to do it for them once, or they wouldn't have the job they do.

Just be nice, and gently remind them /coax them if they're approaching deadline and don't have it done. Have backups, too.

unsaid said...

Compass- I second everything you said about the fellowship app for FSU! I wouldn't have known about it had I not received that email. I'm thankful for the email but it would have been great just to have that info upfront on the website.

I liked that Alabama sent me an email stating one of my transcripts was missing. I called only to find out it hadn't been entered but I really appreciated the email and the lady who was willing to sort it out so quickly.

Sending 2 copies of transcripts is ridiculous...especially when you attended 2 schools previously.

Boise State had a really in-depth TA application which I didn't appreciate lol. I think they seriously need to tone things down. Their app was the most difficult of all of my 16 apps.

My favorite application was Vanderbilt's (because it was free).

Big thing- I like emailing in my portfolio. I liked schools, like Virginia Tech I think, that wanted the writing sample emailed.

Lydia said...

Great topic!

I agree with others' suggestions that it would be nice to have a common application form for all MFA programs. Individual programs could add a supplemental form if necessary, but at least some of the redundancy would be eliminated.

However, barring that, I think there should be a common recommendation form at the very least. I don't so much mind having to fill out multiple application forms, but I do feel bad asking my recommenders to fill out 11 separate forms. It's an unnecessary burden on them that could be easily avoided. It would be especially nice if there was a website where recommenders could upload their recommendation once, and then the applicant could electronically send that recommendation to as many schools as he/she chooses. This way the recommenders' job would be streamlined and simplified.

And another word about recommenders: some of the schools I applied to required that all three recommendations come from professors. This is a much more challenging requirement for applicants who finished college years ago and whose former professors are often retired and -- in some cases -- deceased. Even when professors can be tracked down, they're being asked to provide insightful and glowing commentary about a student they taught 10-20 years ago. Meanwhile, older applicants have bosses, colleagues, mentors, clients, even students who have known and worked closely with them for years. These individuals are certainly qualified to provide a recommendation -- perhaps even more so -- than a professor who has known a student for a semester or two at most. I feel that all programs should be receptive to receiving recommendations from employers in order to level the playing field for older applicants.

And a lot of programs absolutely need to update their websites. I love programs that put all the application requirements in one organized place. I also really appreciate it when they provide information about the courses they offer and the size of their program. Posting information that's intended for current students gives me a better sense of what it's like to be in the program and whether it's a good fit for me -- before I spend my time and theirs applying.

Bsquared86 said...

@ Samcutter- I see what you mean about LORs. But, I still don't like the idea of requiring letters of recommendation. Ok, so maybe it's really just a personal vendetta of mine against LORs in general LOL. I have this same gripe about most applications that require LORs.

I realise that LORs can make a difference when the committee cannot make a decision between applicants but what about the hundreds of other LORs that barely get a glance? Waste of paper and postage, I say! lol.

But, seriously, I've heard/read too many stories of applications not being considered because LORs arrived late or were lost in the mail. A lack of LORs should not prevent an aspiring student from applying/being considered. There are a few programs that don't require LORs but list them as an optional part of the application package and I think that should be universal.


I would also like to add hard copy applications and multiple copies of transcripts and manuscripts to my list! If I'm paying an app fee over $20 then the least they can do is print out my app and make their own copies, lol. In a perfect world, one copy of transcripts would do and all apps would be online.

Jesse Thiessen said...

I know what I'm about to say is almost grounds for excommunication from the Right-Brained Guild, but I'd just like to say that on a certain level I get all the hoop-jumping. I get the lame SOPs, the hours of studying for the GRE, the mind-numbing repeat applications, and the near-stalking required to obtain a completed letter of rec. Because it weeds out the people who aren't willing to do all that work. I had an acting teacher once who said "Talent is cheap. There's no shortage. Being a friendly, responsible, nice, exciting person to work with who shows up on time (not to mention sober) and doesn't cause drama or power struggles, THAT's what's rare. Your talent won't take you to the next level, but being a person that somebody wants to work with will."

I understand that isn't as true for writing as it is for an intensely collobrative art form like theatre, but I thought about it often during the red-tape application nightmare. And I thought "Man, if I was a professor and I was going to choose six people out of six hundred to chill with for the next two years, I'd probably want to make damn sure that this s/he's not only a good writer, but an awesome person as well."

I think we get a mite entitled through this whole process. We are asking total strangers to spend two/three years helping us develop our writing, and in many cases we are asking them to foot the bill. No school owes us admission, or even consideration.


The cost-related stuff is RIDICULOUS. The absence of a social life for a few months seems like an acceptable sacrifice, but dropping $1,500 on 12 schools for a glimmer of hope of attendance is not only crappy, it just doesn't seem to make sense. How many great applicants are School X not getting because it costs far too much to apply there? It seems like basic economics: Lowering the cost of application will ensure a larger and more diverse applicant pool.

Two copies of official transcripts is nuts, especially when you're like me and have to pay an extra service to get your out-of-town old transcripts dug up. I've dropped up to $20/application just on transcripts.

I understand GRE scores when it comes to TAships and other financial aid - and I've appreciated it when schools such as Iowa or UMass suggest it for better funding, but don't require it - but I definitely don't get its relevance when it comes to straight admission.

And someone please tell me that $100+ for an app fee is insane in or out of NYC, yes?

I know. Some of the app cost stuff is out of a program's hands. But I still feel it's big enough that it's worth mentioning.

Also, notification of missing materials. I understand that it's our responsibility to ensure everything got there on time and that it's not a program's fault if something gets lost in the mail (How do they know we didn't accidentally address the package to Eugene, OK 87203 instead of Eugene, OR 97203?) but I feel like there could still be a good middle ground between baby-sitting applicants and keeping them in the questioning dark (And for future applicants, I highly recommend the SAS postcard method TK suggests in the book, it bought me a lot of peace of mind).

I'm sure I have more gripes and irritations, and I'm sure there'll be room to post them later when they come to mind at a time that is not 2 in the morning.

Elizabeth said...

Yes. I feel $100 dollars is insane no matter where you're apply. The highest I paid was $75 for Syracuse, and I was miffed at that.
I would like to add a huge second to your argument on cost - I would even choose that over getting rid of the GRE. This is my third year trying to get into an MFA program, and with only a part-time job, I'll be feeling the hit of all the costs well into summer. If I don't get in this year, I simply won't be able to apply again. It's too expensive. I understand that these programs don't have a lot of funding, but there has to be a better way. On good days I try to remind myself that, if I get funding, what I put in will be more than given back. On bad days it feels like I'm trying to enter the most expensive lottery in the world.

Tbear said...

Kill the double transcript requirement.

Kill the multiple destinations for applications. (If they love your writing, they can certainly cajole the graduate school into admitting you.)

Kill ETS. I don't mind bemusing others with my shabby GRE scores, but such opportunists in this economy can locomote their way back to the bottom of the scholastic-swindling cesspool.

Jennifer said...

I'm with Jesse, and jumping through all the hoops doesn't bother me, not even the GRE.

What I would like to see, however, is detailed, logically laid out directions on exactly how to apply like they have on the Michener Center website.

sara e.g. said...

I tend to agree with Jesse about a certain amount of hoop jumping. I feel the LOR and SOP are absolutely necessary in order for admissions committees to feel that they're admitting not only talented people, but also sane, nice and hardworking people. These are the kind of people I want to be in workshops with, too, so I feel it benefits us as future students.

I'm with Tbear on ETS though. A bigger racket I have never seen. My scores weren't that great. I stopped caring a while ago. I will resume caring if it greatly affects my TAship or financial aid package. I'll be back on the ETS warpath and it won't be pretty.

And regarding websites: I don't care if they're ugly. I don't care if they look cheesy with poor graphics and low resolution photos. What I care about is misinformation, or a lack of information altogether. That doesn't take loads of money that only the larger schools can afford. Hire a student who can write basic HTML. Update your stats. There's no excuse not to.

Adrienne said...

Sara e.g-

I agree with you about websites. At first I was irritated by uglier or ridiculously simple websites, but after a while I realized that by ignoring those programs I was missing out on some pretty great ones. Personally, I droll over the Memphis site every time I visit it, but there are schools like UNCG, Hollins, and BGSU that I am interested in and if I brushed them off because of simple websites, I'd be missing out. I can forgive a lack of prettiness as long as there is great and necessary information.

Especially good luck to you. I think it takes a lot of guts and determination to apply three times and I hope that you don't have to put your dream aside just because of the cost of this crazy process.

Adrienne said...


I just got my first "rejection." IU sent me an email saying they hadn't received all of my materials, so I was out. I send them in on December 9th and when I asked before, they had EVERYTHING. Either I was told wrong, or I don't know. It kind of sucks.

sara e.g. said...


Yikes. Indiana is starting to rub me the wrong way. I'm just waiting for an email to pop up notifying me of the same, despite the fact that they confirmed I had everything in.

I think you should dispute this. If they told you they had everything just to go back on their word, then something is wrong with their admissions process, not you. It isn't fair that you paid a fee to have everything taken care of only to have them not keep up their end of the deal.

unsaid said...

Hi Adrienne- Sorry to hear about the Indiana thing. Would you mind being a little more specific about how the email was worded? I hope it's okay to ask that. I'm just hoping there's some misunderstanding, I guess lol.

I'm with Elizabeth. If you've got proof that you were told they had everything previously, you should say so. It can't hurt if you do it nicely, can it?

unsaid said...

Oops...I'm with sara e.g. that is lol.

Emily A. Benton said...

I had an unclear response from IU last year, too. I got an email from Heather Steele saying they did not have all of my LORs. I asked which one was missing (providing the names and addresses of who was sending them), so that I could ask the recommender to resend their letter, but she never responded to that email (and this was before the deadline). Then I emailed again after the deadline because I was sure all of my letters had been sent before November, and thought maybe her lack of response meant that they had since found them. She responded to this email stating that I would be notified of my status within a few weeks. Then the rejection letter showed up. It made me wonder if I was rejected for an incomplete application or because they did evaluate my application and did not consider me a good candidate (the latter which is completely valid, of course, I just was unsure.)

I'm only mentioning this specific because I think I've seen 4 other IU communication complaints already this application season. Also, I'd like to state that I think IU is a GREAT program - it was one of my top choices last year, partly because I think Maurice Manning is a brilliant poet on their faculty - but I chose not to reapply this year after my bad experience/communication last year.

oh, and nice discussion so far, you guys. I agree with a lot of points you're making - especially about information on websites.

Alice said...

Iowa has that insanely long financial aid app--very intimidating and time consuming. But they know we're all going to apply there anyway, so they are not really concerned with making it easy on us...

I agree, the GRE is stupid. Also, I so appreciated schools that allow you to upload your writing sample/statement of purpose online (NYU, Brown, JHU, etc.) Saves so much time and a trip to the post office, which is always a hassle.

[Goll, this thread sounds so whiny! But I guess when most of us are applying to approximately 10 schools, it gets sort of crazy.]

Adrienne said...

Regarding IU:

The "rejection" or perhaps disqualification email was this:
As indicated on our website, the deadline for receipt of all
applications and supporting materials for Indiana University's Creative
Writing Program was January 1, 2009. Since one or more of the
documents for your application didn't meet our deadline, we are unable
to consider your application. We thank you for your interest in our
program and wish you all the best.

I emailed her back and she said that they never got my transcripts. I suppose it's my bad. I though that since it said everything was completed online that they had everything. It might be my undergrad's fault. I ordered my transcripts in November. I guess I thought I had conformation but didn't.

It's not the end of the world, I guess. I applied to fourteen other schools and IU wasn't my choice anyway. I am from Indiana and only live about 2 hours away from it. I'm sort of looking for a different experience than that, but IU is a really great school and it's just disappointing to start out the acceptance season this way.

Christopher Lee Miles: said...

The fact that MFA programs are so well sought has made some Universities complacent and careless about organizing the application method. Therefore, the burden is upon the applicant to wade through mud.

On a different issue, I did not mind taking the GRE: MFA programs are still graduate schools, and an evaluation of the students overall ability to navigate graduate school is not out of question.

unsaid said...

Thanks for sharing that, Adrienne. You seem to have the right attitude about the situation. I wish you the best going forward with other schools!

Oh and I liked that you called this acceptance season instead of just notification season.

Joel Wayne said...

I'd like to add to the issues that others are having with Indiana. I also just received my first rejection (of sorts) after Indiana emailed me the same message as Adrienne. This is after I received confirmations about my GRE scores, transcripts, AND application materials. I even included a self-addressed stamped postcard with a little note that said "please return if all application materials have been received." It was sent back to me, the message was circled, and it was postmarked December 9th, well before the deadline. Obviously, I'm a little steamed about the whole thing. I'll be calling Heather Steele today to see what, exactly, I am missing. Ugh.

michelle said...

I'm getting this impression that someone at IU may have a bee in their bonnet about incomplete applications...I have sympathy, because I'm sure it must be overwhelming, but it sounds like they email first, double-check later...

And aside from whether the GRE has actual benefit--I think grad schools mostly use it for US News and World report statistics, there's no way it costs ETS anywhere approaching $20 to send a copy of scores anywhere. My guess: $4 tops.

insertbrackets said...

Hey fellow IU applicants. Don't despair quite yet, both my friend and I received emails informing us of our "incomplete applications" only for Ms. Steele to email us a bit later to inform us that those "rejection" emails were errors. They couldn't print a letter of rec for one of my friends, and the same must have happened to me (I had snail-mail letters sent). I get the feeling that they are TOTALLY discombobulated right now, so wait a bit before you start haranguing them about an application error.

ilana said...

Indiana: Absurd. I spoke with them also, to no avail. My crime: My undergrad sent the transcript late, and one of my LORs didn't arrive--though I suspect it actually arrived without the cover letter.

Rationale: We have 500 applications that came in complete and don't have time to sort through the incomplete ones.

Am curious to hear if anyone has any luck with either getting a refund (though mine was paid by credit card) or cajoling them into considering you.

met789 said...

Chiming in on the GRE issue – I agree that it is not the best metric to be using in an application to a program where the decision of acceptance is ultimately subjective in nature.

However, there is a larger issue at hand with the GRE – namely, the test does not test anything other than your ability to take the GRE. Many studies regarding the GRE’s ability to demonstrate whether a test taker will be successful in a graduate program have shown little or no correlation. If there were a definitive or even significant result then there’d be no argument from me.

Standardized tests test a student’s ability to take standardized tests, end of story. This goes for GREs, SATs or the No Child Left Behind testing. The reasons why the GRE is used are because it is a deterrent; an easy tool for weeding out applicants; and it generates significant income for many educational organizations and edu-businesses. ETS is a business and businesses primary purpose is to make money. Twenty dollars a pop adds up quickly, not to mention the test at $140. On top of that, if you have a Learning Disability you may have to pay for testing to in order to provide ETS with evidence to accommodate your needs. (LD testing needs to be done if five years has elapsed since your last evaluation. If you are out of school and have been working for awhile you may need to be re-evaluated.) This testing can run anywhere between $500 to $2000. All these costs then the application fees, transcripts, printing, mailing, etc. your savings dwindles.

Knowing this, I still took the GRE because programs require it for funding eligibility and for admittance. I want to get in to a program.

I have been out of school for some 15 years. I spent six months studying for the GRE. I did okay, even with the accommodations for my disability. I have been working these 15 years and I have been teaching Adult Ed courses in screenwriting as well. I hope that all this is part of the consideration for admittance and not my GRE. The GRE does not reflect my abilities.

My partner says that for her doctoral program the GRE was a big deal. However, she is a research scientist. I would expect the quantitative section to be weighted heavily. But does it test research methodology or scientific theory? No. Would a subject exam be more appropriate? For us, would the literature exam suffice? I think that it would not.

If I had my druthers I would get rid of the GRE. It doesn’t make sense as an applicant. As a committee member? Well, as someone said before, the GRE score comes in handy for a tie breaker between two candidates. Additionally, to make assistantships fair for all GA/TA applicants in all programs, the GRE can make a level playing field, maybe. The score is a tool of convenience for a committee member. Doesn’t mean it’s right but it can make the process easier when you have hundreds and hundreds of applicants to sort through. I just hope that it is not the first metric the committee uses but rather the last. I am counting on my writing samples, letters, statements and resumes to get me in.

Ben said...

So I've never posted here before but had to jump in when I saw the mind-boggling amount of IU problems.

Had already mailed my recs, manuscript, SOP, transcripts, etc., submitted my online app. close to (but Definitely before) deadline, paid my fee, got the "Congratulations! Your applications has been successfully submitted" screen, then got an email a few days later saying they couldn't consider my app. because it wasn't on time.

A little disappointing b/c it's a great program, but at the same time not the end of the world (my gf wasn't too keen on Bloomington). And it's my fault, not Heather Steele's fault, for running so close to deadline. At the same time, seems to be a systemic issue there.

Adrienne said...

IU again-

I checked with my university and they sent my transcript on NOVEMBER 12TH. So, I emailed the poor, helpful Heather Steele back appologizing for bothering her repeatedly and asked, since I have documented proof the transcript was sent, if I could send it again and still be considered. I'll understand if they don't let me- you can't make exceptions for everyone- but it's worth a shot.

I'm also contacting all of my other schoosl to make sure they got their transcripts. My undergrad says everything was mailed, so this must be a post issue. It's odd that IU would have trouble getting my stuff from only hours away, though. It's common for stundents at IU and my school to do a lot of communicating back and forth since may people transfer from one to the other.

I'll let you all know how it goes!

Jesse Thiessen said...

Chiming in on the IU issue: Same thing happened to me with my LOR problem. Turns out the problem has been fixed.

My advice to all those who're dealing with materials drama? Give whoever you're dealing with the benefit of the doubt. This isn't an ethical thing so much as a sensible thing, as someone who works in customer service. Someone who is polite and patient with their request is probably going to be cut a lot more slack from whoever's at the other end of the line.

That's not to say you shouldn't be active in trying to get your situation righted, but saying the equivalent of "I appreciate you taking the time to help me, and let me know if there's anything I can do to help fix this problem" can go a long way in getting someone to reciprocate.

Lemon on Rye said...

The thing I would change would be the SOPs. I would limit all of them to 500 words. I spent a lot of time on my writing samples, and the last thing I wanted to do was be creative on my 2-3 page SOP. I just wanted to get down to the nitty gritty and say why I was applying at this point in my life, what my interests were, and why I wanted to go to the school.

Md23Rewls said...

I feel sorry for everybody who is having issues with Indiana. It was a program I considered, but ultimately decided against applying to. Fingers crossed that everybody gets everything smoothed out with IU (or that you get glorious offers from other schools and can later tell the IU story as an amusing anecdote when you are a best selling author).

A few thoughts regarding the GRE: I guess I can sort of understand the grad school wanting a common measuring stick for all candidates, but I don't think it's fair to use it as a measuring stick for funding, particularly when it comes to TAships in English. If the MFA program thinks I can write, then shouldn't that have more weight in whether I have the opportunity for a TAship than some test I did mediocre on? Heck, if they wanted to interview students to help determine who should get a TA slot, then I'd be all for that too. It just doesn't make sense that they use a test which only looks at a very very very tiny sliver of anything to determine how much funding a student gets. Maybe I come off sounding a little bit bitter about this because I didn't do that great on the exam, but I just find it absurd that they're treating people with bachelor degrees as if they were high schoolers.

I guess my problem overall is that while my GPA (3.01) and GRE scores aren't overwhelming, my writing sample and LoR are extremely strong. SoP somewhere in between. I'm sort of the ultimate test case as to how much the writing sample counts for, i.e. whether it cancels out the pedestrian GPA/GRE. Everybody says that it does, that it's 90% (at least) of what they're looking at, but I can't help but be nervous. **shrug**

LoR can definitely be a pain, but I understand why they're necessary. For one, a strong letter generally shows that the student took the time and effort to form a working relationship with the professor. It also gives outside perspective to just who you are as a person--something that the SoP and writing sample don't generally do.

Emily A. Benton said...

great points, Jesse. This discussion was never meant to scapegoat anyone, and of course some tact and politeness is required from both parties. I can only imagine how frustrating it would be to receive all those emails, phone calls, and frantic requests from MFA applicants.

But I think a lot of us can attest to being polite and thorough and also accomodating with people working in our prospective admissions offices and English departments. Obviously, we want these people to like us if we think we have a chance of going to school there. And if accepted, we're even likely to fill the position of the person on the other line; positions like that can provide funding for students who don't have TAs.

however, you'd think that paying a hefty application fee does account for a certain amount of customer service on the part of the school. at the very least, pinpointing the problem - i.e. the missing material of an application, its source, or its ETA - allows for a solution to be put in place.

To put all the blame on the applicant, even the one who makes the deadline with everything else, seems a little irrational, no? I also say we can't blame everything on the school.

But from my experience, I think there are two groups of schools - those who will not look at an application unless everything is accounted for, regardless of logical reasons, excuses, payment, or fate - and those who will take the money and evaluate the application, even if one minor piece is missing, and/or work the applicant to retrieve that piece before moving forward.

There may even be a third, such as Arkansas, that WON'T take your money unless they're absolutely sure you're qualified to compete. I have huge respect for that, although it's baffling to me that they're reading all those writing samples for free!

Again, my point wasn't to rant about IU but to just talk about what works and doesn't work.

On the upside, I learned from my IU experience and other mishaps last year and in turn, mailed all my LORs inside my writing sample packet so I knew everything arrived together.

flatfootjenkins said...

I think the GRE should be kept. We're asking to enter an academic institution, many whose programs require graduate level literature classes as part of the curriculum. I don't think they should cost as much as they do, but to get rid of them would, I think, be unwise.

As far as specific programs with troublesome applications, I thought Minnesota's was a lot of work, with constant surprises and frustrations throughout, and I don't think important information should be scattered across three different websites/web pages. If that's the only program I get into, I'll go, but if I have a choice between anything and Minnesota it won't be Minnesota.

Kim said...

Hi all,

Boy, I sure am anxious waiting for those letters/calls/emails.

In terms of feedback, the one thing I would suggest is this:

put all the directions, forms, requirements, and addresses in ONE place clearly marked on the department's website.

I was surprised, many times, by a rec form, TA app, or some other thing that was hidden away somewhere, and this made the process a lot more stressful.

I'm happy to jump through any number of varying and time consuming hoops, I just want to know where and how to jump. I understand why they don't make the applications easy; it's one way of testing if someone will have the tenacity to do everything academic life requires.

Of course I wish the application fees were cheaper, but I just don't know enough about how that money is used to say whether they're unreasonably high or not.

Adrienne said...

Jesse, Emily, etc-

I completely agree. I've been trying to be as poite as possible with Heather. I'm sure it's just as frustrating for her to deal with everyone's problems as it is for us to deal with them, or even more so because of the sheer number.

I sort of understand where IU is coming from with their rules, but at the same time, you'd think they'd WANT to see as many applicants as possible. Using something as simple as a possible issue with the post (like in my case) to separate the wheat from the chaff is kind of silly. I personally feel like I am worthy of consideration and I'm sure there are many of talented writers who are in similar situations with IU and other programs.

I think these issues we're having are just adding to the dialogue of this post: some things could and probably should be changed to streamline this process. I understand the business end, but it's hard to swallow when it's your future.

Justin said...

I definitely agree that the GRE is a wasted requirement. Other than using it to decide on funding - when a program isn't fully funded - between accepted students, it's not a useful gauge of anything, really. Never mind the robbery that ETS gets away with in the process.

I also think that, like Arkansas, these programs ought to only require the manuscript with an earlier deadline in October or late November. That way, they can weed out people early, thereby making the entire process a lot less stressful on them AND on the applicants later down the road. If they like you, you send your supporting materials to them.

A lot of the websites were highly frustrating. Put everything about the program in one place! I hated having to spend 15-20 minutes on some sites trying to find funding information or the page length requirements, etc. UIUC's site even had links that no longer worked or re-route the user to a place where you started.

I wish that there were some kind of sampling of recent MFA students' work so that you could sort of get an idea what kind of writing/themes/style the programs are looking for, if indeed they're biased in any way. That's asking a bit much, but just a thought.

Kayla said...

Re: Indiana-- the same thing happened to me! Apparently they only received two of my LORs, even though I know all three were sent on time. I am now trying to find out which one is missing, and if there is any way my application can still be considered.

Good luck, everyone-- let me know what happens.

Christopher Lee Miles: said...

met789, I think you raised some important issues, but it seems to me their should be some measuring tool--whether that be standardized tests or not--to evaluate graduate applicants . . . has anyone ever gone so far as to propose an alternative ? I mean, I don't think a wad of poems and personal essay are sufficient. If we are not pleased with the process, then perhaps we should offer an alternative one.

Lisa N.R. said...

I don't mind the GRE (maybe that's b/c I do well on those tests and my GPA is high...I'm wishing they would take those things into consideration more. Writing sample is what gives me angst), but the cost is a racket, for sure. LOR's are fine, keeps out some of the crazies (not all). U Washington has been very nice and timely responding to emails and they require that LOR's come in the packet with everything else (transcripts, manuscripts). I actually like this; it puts the responsibility on the student to get the LOR's in. It was a pain to get all 3 ahead of time, but now I can rest easy (hah), knowing that at least everything's in.

Md23Rewls said...

I just don't think any standardized test is a good measuring stick of a prospective group of applicants, particularly a group of mature adults. By this point in time, we have more than enough of a history to show who we are. I think that LoR, writing sample, SoP, and transcripts give a pretty full picture of who somebody is. What is a ninety question test going to say that the rest of our application doesn't? That we're good/bad at analogies? I think funding from an MFA program should be directly tied to the writing sample. Considering we're all going to these schools to write, it just makes sense to me. I know it's pretty subjective to rank students that way, but I'd rather them subjectively rank our writing than go on some standardized test that really doesn't say anything about us (other than our ability to take the GRE).

For everybody that did well on the exam, though, congrats and more power to you. I really don't want to come off sounding bitter because of my pedestrian GRE scores. I'm not. I think my writing will carry me wherever I need to go. It's just that I don't like the idea of the GRE in general.

e. moya said...

I didn't apply to any schools that required the GRE. Although I have taken it in the past I feel it is a rather inaccurate way of measuring a students aptitude for an MFA program of all things.

Sorry to all those going through wackiness with UI. I contacted TX San Marcos regarding my transcripts and they have not received them (my alma mater screwed up)and they were very understanding.

This is nerve-wracking! I have 8 schools down and 3 more to go.

Mike Valente said...

This is just speculation, but it's possible that Indiana could have cut the staff that usually assists in the sorting and processing of applications, perhaps stemming from budget cuts and less available resources. Add to that a possible spike in applications, and I imagine that Indiana is probably knee-deep in recs and writing samples. I understand the worries and concerns (but not the lost Recommendation!), but it sounds like Heather Steele is doing what she can with what she has.

Also, the GRE is one of those necessary evils that I think makes sense. Some MFA programs are very lit intensive, many asking their students to teach undergrad classes. I think the test is required by the graduate school & university, and the small MFA department abides. What drives me up the wall is the fee that's charged for every score report -- that's ridiculous. When you shell out the $100 to take the test, you actually don't think the damage is that bad -- almost like surveying the beer bottles and dixie cups on the ground after a party -- but the score report fee is a killer.


Nikki said...

I'm going with what somebody else said here: My BIGGEST frustration was trying to figure out exactly what each school wanted. I wished they all had it exactly lined up like Michener's website. Going through websites for the CW program, and then the actual graduate college to find different requirements (LOR cover letters was a big one for me) was a definite headache and in the end made me lose time working on what was most important--the manuscript. I understand GRES, LORS, SOPS but at least let me know everything beforehand so it doesn't become a treasure hunt.

On another note, I want to absolutely rave about the application process for Texas schools. I applied to three schools in Texas and there was an online program that saved each application and could be simply transferred over to the new school's application. One application for three schools. It was breath-taking. I also liked that UMass Boston kept you up to date with what you still needed to turn in and today sent me a lovely email letting me know they'd gotten all of my materials. True, in the weeks leading up to deadline, those weekly emails felt a little bit like a nagging mom but I suppose that was probably a good thing given that I put off my SOPs until the last minute : /

Adrienne said...


That is a definite possibility. Like I said, it's my theory that my transcripts just got lost in the mail. As far as I know, though, it's always been their policy to only consider applications that are absolutely complete by their due date. It's a really crappy situation a lot of us are in, but I would say that Heather Steele is handling everyone's requests well. She's been polite and nothing but pleasant. I wouldn't want to have her job right now!

met789 said...

To flatfootjenkins, Christopher Lee Miles, and Lisa N.R.

If the GRE tested your academic prowess and your ability to navigate graduate school, then the test would be an excellent metric to use, but this is not the case. The GRE only tests how well you can take the GRE. And don't get me started on the Computer Adaptive Testing design.

I am all for tool that would make it easier for admission committee members to make decisions about applicants qualifications to be successful in a university's graduate program. The GRE, however, is not that tool.

Bear with me while I make a few long-winded points.

When I took the GRE straight out of college my verbal was in the mid sevens and that was with a prep course. When I took it this past October, 15 years later, I scored in the high fives and that was after 6 months of studying, no prep course (couldn't afford prep course, LD testing and application costs – one had to go). The data could say a couple things; the older test reflects a recent graduate's knowledge accurately and that knowledge has deteriorated over time; or that the prep course made a significant difference in the score. The truth is somewhere in between. Additionally, I was shaking like a leaf this time around and I think I second guessed myself too often. I believe if I could have paid for a prep course I would have scored significantly higher. This leads me to believe that I am just studying for a test and the subject matter contained in that test and that the GRE does not reflect my ability to be successful in grad school (which is what ETS claims that the GRE tests for). My situation of course is anecdotal.

I do not have a problem with a program making a heavily-weighted decision based on your academic record if you are a recent graduate. However, if you were a 4.0 in your undergrad 10 years ago (even five years) it has little bearing on your ability to manage a grad program today. What would inform a decision based on your previous academic standing is your recent or current work/volunteer history and your writing. Depending on their level of reflected responsibility and productivity after college a committee member can make an educated guess as to whether or not the applicant could navigate a graduate program.

My observation with my partner and her experience pursuing her PhD in a scientific field is that work experience trumps academic only experience. Many PhD candidates for her program came straight out of undergrad. Of those candidates who didn’t apply directly from college, all had work experience – many were research assistants in labs (academic or industry); some held non-science related jobs; and several of the work-experienced applicants also had families with children. Almost all of the direct college applicants had amazing scores on the GRE and outstanding academic records. The people who worked a few years had varied results in their academic scores and GREs but often had other items like multiple publications or excellent recommendations that helped bolster their applications. The first year of the program was intensive and competitive. Several people washed out from the program, but none of them were from the group that had worked prior to applying to grad school. Work experience in this example seemed to be a good indicator as to who would be successful.

Another thing that her program did prior to accepting applicants was to invite second-round applicants to interviews and something called a “prospectives’ weekend” where prospective students interacted with current students in the labs to which they were applying. This gave the professors a feel for the “fit” of a candidate for their lab. If they interviewed well and the fit was good, a prospective was offered a spot and if they were not a good fit and didn’t interview well, then, no offer. Biggest drawback, applicants had to pay their own way and usually stayed with other students. I would welcome an opportunity like this because it would also tell me whether or not I want to be at that program.

If I were a committee member looking at an application package from a prospective student, I would make my decision similarly to how I make decisions for hiring people and for people applying for loans (I am a lending officer during my day job.) From a HR perspective: who is a good fit (style and output); who will be most capable for the job (highest level of responsibility); what is the candidate’s experience (previous work – academic or otherwise); and what is the quality of their work (writing sample). From a lending perspective: credit history (GRE, Academic scores; writing samples); what is their capacity (how does their history mesh with their application – are there discrepancies, are they explainable, what is their character like); what is their collateral (do they show a commitment to their craft, to work, to this program). The GRE score is not like a credit score, a credit score shows the history of a candidate and discrepancies can be challenged and a GRE is a moment in time that has little to do with a candidate’s history. Credit scoring is not perfect; however, it is a much better metric for decisioning an applicant than is a GRE score.

One more thing and then I’ll go. I believe writing samples are the best way of deciding on a candidate. The samples are a direct representation of our work and not an abstract tool that may or may not be an accurate depiction of us as future students. We should focus most of our efforts into our sample as applicants and everything else should be secondary.

Okay enough from me, for now ;-)

michelle said...

Whatever factors are used to weigh candidates besides the writing sample, I know from talking to a writing teacher who serves on admissions committees that about half of the hundreds of applicants don't make the first cut based on the writing sample. They're just not good enough writers to be considered. So why not have that step be first?

While it might be crushing to hear I'm not good enough to be considered for a particular program, it would be a kindness to spare me the costs of sending GRE scores, transcripts, and the time of mailing an SOP, completing an online application, and in some schools, completing a lot of extra work, like the UMASS teaching application.

The schools could still charge a reading fee. Also, by separating the writing sample from the rest, it would make the process easier to manage for everybody.

Think too of the administrative assistants logging in close to a thousand applicants--transcripts, GREs, etc...

Christopher Lee Miles: said...

met789, thank you for your comments--you may have swayed me a bit to your side by relating your partner's experience.

marsupial said...

I thought I'd share this interesting exchange--not sure if it's a matter of too many emails from too many applicants, a breakdown in internal communication, or both.

November 5--I email a school's grad studies office about a question about letters of recommendation. The application was due January 1.

December 15--over a month later, when I have entirely forgotten about this email and have come up with my own solution--an admissions speclialist emails me back. They tell me they are forwarding my email to someone who processes the creative writing applications.

December 17--the processor answers the question I asked on November 5.

January 16--the associate dean(?!?) of the graduate school emails me saying, "I hope this has been resolved." I immediately respond with, "It has, thank you." She then writes back, "Thanks!"

TWO HOURS LATER--she replies again with "Great. Sorry for any inconvenience."

So in November, there must have been a ridiculous amount of e-mail backlogs for it to take them over a month to get back to me--but not really, they just forwarded my question to someone else. And I have no idea how the associate dean happened upon my email today, or how she even got it to begin with, because her address was never in the exchange. And then she responds to my response TWICE.

I don't mean to sound like I'm criticizing, because I'm not, I just find it all very amusing.

met789 said...

Now, after reading my post stating that writing samples should have the most weighting in the application, I realize that I will never get into a program. That post needs some serious editing.

I hope my samples aren't that bad.

Lisa N.R. said...

Hey, Met789--- I actually agree with you; the criteria should be, as it is, writing sample, writing sample, writing sample (no shame about messy blog comment conventions...I think we all give grace in this media, right? I'm sure your samples are pristine!). I don't believe the GRE is a good measure of anything and it's a huge scam. I just happen to do well on those things (I do well on Ms. Pacman, too; it makes about the same amount of sense in an MFA application!) and I was a bit wistful, the same way I'd wish they'd require a photo if I looked like Scarlett Johannson. (I get told that ALL the time, hahahaha. Sigh.) When it comes right down to it, everything I've heard indicates that we will be judged almost exclusively by the amount of blood and heart and beauty we've poured out onto the page. I'd almost rather be judged on my GRE. At least I could distance myself from it, but as it is, if I get rejected, it will be because they didn't care for ME, my art, my words. It's a cruel world all around. Best wishes to all in the waiting process and may we all have courage to continue.

met789 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
met789 said...

Lisa N.R.

Ah, I understand -- anxiety over the writing submission. I am right there with you.

I think using one's ability to play Ms. Pacman as a measure of how well they'll do in grad school is a great idea. How do we get that movement going?

As for looking like Scarlett Johansson, that would be nice especially when I look like a butchy Dame Edna.

Kerry Headley said...

I would definitely cut the GRE. I took that test yesterday to get it out of the way early since I am applying next fall. I did really well on the verbal and terrible on the math. I have a confession: I did literally guess on almost every math question. I did this because I just did not have the brain power after just finishing my BA a few weeks ago. Only two of my schools actually require it, and I really don't think the math will matter, especially since I did very well on the verbal. Am I wrong?

ETS's ridiculous fees are immoral in my opinion. Still, I took the voluntary section and wrote an extra essay that ETS is supposedly going to pay me $250 for doing. If they actually pay me I will feel less crabby about the whole thing.

Nothing else really bothers me about the process except crappy websites.

The Indiana snafus scare me!

Julia said...

I am just starting to think about this process, so all this is very informative.

I'd just like to point out that, while submitting only writing samples and having those be the determiner as to whether applicants should proceed might be easier/less stressful, it might be worse. How far in advance would one have to apply? Imagine a thousand writing samples being read and decided upon, and then letters/emails being sent to request full application packets from however many, and then those applicants scrambling to collect all the materials they need. It sounds like a year-long process. I wonder how Arkansas does it?

Jordan said...

I would be very happy if they were a little less Oz-like. Seriously, do you wonder how some programs sift through dozens or even hundreds of apps per slot? When you hear faculty talk about it on their websites they act if it was just obvious that these were the right 10 out of 1000. A little transparency would go a lonnnnng way...

thecompassthechart said...

I was very impressed with Arkansas's treatment of the whole process-- you send them your writing sample, LORs, and copies of everything else. And then you don't have to pay an app. fee unless they actually accept you. It seems incredibly humane of them and was one of the reasons that they caught my attention.

Jacqueline Stephens said...

Due dates should not be on holidays! If a person should send you their packet a week or so ahead of time, SAY SO. Don't make it so that those of us who don't remember which holidays the post office runs miss out. I guess I shouldn't be so last minute, but I want to work on my sample as long as I can.

MVan said...

I applied to 11 programs winnowed from a list of about 25. Biggest peeve in the process was that many application protocols assume applicants are undergraduates moving straight from baccalaureate study to grad school. I've been out of school almost 15 years, working as a professional writer. Skewing application requirements and preferences this way only adds another potential obstacle to the communication process.

This caused the most angst when it came to letters of recommendation. Schools that shared what they are looking for in recommendations almost always narrowly focused on academics, in terms of classroom work and recommenders from academia. Not only is this irrelevant when you've been out of school so long, it may prevent admissions decision makers from getting the information they need to consider applicants fairly.

In the end, I wish I'd followed my instincts and sent letters from my editors, not former workshop instructors and similar academics.