Saturday, January 24, 2009

Jesse's Nightmare

In a previous mailbag, Jesse wrote:

“I am FREAKING OUT. I didn't receive my SAS postcard from Indiana though I'd sent in the app about a month ago, so I e-mailed the secretary and she said she never received my letters of rec! I'm sure I bundled them with the application but I can't find them anywhere (And I'm wondering now if it was just that bundling them all together was a no-no). I just e-mailed her asking if I could get more letters quickly and send them to her by overnight mail, but Indiana's non-postmark deadline was January 1st. Does anybody have any experience with this?”

Indiana's response was:

“Jesse, 

I doubled checked and have gone thru all of the mail and have not received any recs for you. I am sorry but we cannot accept any more materials from applicants."

Any thoughts? Anyone experiencing similar problems with other universities?

46 comments:

Mike Valente said...

Jesse --

What steps have you taken since learning that your Recs did not make it to Indiana's CW office? Did you ask them what your options were?

Either way, I recommend re-sending them. The intern/grad asst/staff compiling all of the info might just toss them into your folder. Also, the faculty reading your app know what it's like to send off Recs during a crazy and hectic season, so if your letters arrive late, they won't sweat it.

Did they specifically tell you that your application will not be evaluated without the Recs? If so, you can politely ask for a refund, but if their website states that EVERYTHING must be submitted before the deadline, they might not give it to you.

Best of luck getting this resolved.

Mike Valente

K8 said...
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Bsquared86 said...

See, THIS, is why I am not a fan of the LOR requirement!

The refusal to even consider his application or give him a chance to overnight new letters reflects poorly on the program, in my opinion.

Unfortunately, the mailbags are usually full of stories like this.

Good luck, Jesse, with your other applications!

lavventura said...

(I am sorry Jesse. This seems unfair. I hope your writing sample & the rest of your portfolio warrants an investigation into the whereabouts of your letters. )

I really sympathize for those of you who have found important elements missing from your files, especially after taking great care to make sure deadlines are met.
4 out of 8 schools to which I have applied have had some portion missing! I simply cannot account for why this is. Luckily, schools such as Columbia & Wash U have contacted me to alert me. Michigan allowed a professor to resend a letter. I'm quite disappointed that my Brown application lacks my Personal Statement, and my file will be read without it. Someone at the grad school assured me that 99% of the decision is based on the writing sample. Needless to say, I'm trying not to fret.

Adrienne said...

I've had IU issues too. They said they never received the transcripts I sent in October. They told me then that my application would not even be considered. I sent them my receipt from ordering the transcripts, told them it must have gotten lost in the mail, and asked that since I had documented proof of having mailed them in well before the due date if I could send them in. There isn't even a point in asking them to refund the processing fee for the application that they are NOT going to process because they have ignored all emails from me since.

Jesse, I think I remember you saying IU is one of your top picks, so I wish you the best of luck working this out. IU is a great program, but it's a great program I've personally given up on. Hope you can get through to them!

Jesse Thiessen said...

As flattering as it is to see my name on the top of the MFA Blog, this needs some correction.

I posted later on in that Mailbag that this situation got corrected a few days later, when I received the following e-mail from Indiana:

"Hey Jesse:

Your file is complete. It will be considered. I just wanted to let you know."

Also, for clarification, my LoRs were not sent separately, they were bundled in by me with the rest of my application materials as I was pretty paranoid about this exact situation.

I do know a lot of other people have/had similar situations with Indiana, and I seem to recall some people saying they got a similarly mysterious e-mail a few days later saying the materials had been found and their application was considered. Though running through the comments on recent posts I don't see any of those...

Also, while I think we'd all like to know what's going on with Indiana, I have to say that Heather Steele has been nothing but pleasant in my interactions with her, and she even tried to call me repeatedly with the good news the day my application got in order.

Personally, I just wish schools were a little more flexible about missing materials, especially when considering possible mishaps with USPS (Though granted I did just read Jonathan Franzen's essay "Lost in the Mail" and it has easily tripled my app-related paranoia) and other outside sources like transcripts and LoR.

Thanks for the kind words, everyone. I hope everyone else who's had this issue is as fortunate!

Richard Moy said...

I was informed over the phone by someone at Columbia that they hadn't received one of my recs, which I could have sworn was in my packet. They said I could have it in by Wednesday, but that I would have to pay a $35 late fee by check. I have to say that I am fairly disenchanted with the place now and sort of just want my $100 back, but I lack any sort of backbone that would prevent me from not mailing another copy with a check to keep it company...

Bsquared86 said...

@ Jesse:

Glad to see that your issue was resolved!

Doransan said...

I think a large portion of many of these mishaps would be resolved with better intraschool communication in terms of the graduate admissions office and the Creative Writing department. I know there is a different thread for those wishing to express their thoughts and ideas on how to streamline the admissions process, but it also applies here. I agree with many, if not all, of the suggestions put forward in that thread, but an easy way to resolve this issue is to have everything except transcripts sent online directly to the department and mail the transcripts to graduate admissions. If the people reviewing the application are actually interested in the transcripts, then they can contact admissions and check themselves.

I applied to Emerson, and they have the system where everything must go through graduate admissions before it is forwarded to the department. I received an e-mail saying my application is incomplete because I did not include transcripts of college level classes that I completed in high school. Until these transcripts are received by them in admissions, they will not forward my application to the committee at creative writing. All of us know that the people reading our stuff could care less about our high school grades. I pleaded with the woman over the phone to just send my sample and personal statement over, but she refused saying it went against policy. Now, I am still waiting to get those transcripts in order and to Emerson while everyone else's samples are being read and decisions are being made.

Jesse's and many others' issues could be resolved by better communication between offices. Forgetting the anxiousness, paranoia, depression, and other application induced mental issues we are all suffering from, we are shelling out a significant amount of money, and we should get our money's worth. I am not sure how, but I think it is time us applicants take up a position where we are still evaluated and scrutinized but not in such an S&M fashion. Given my lack of information on the process from the other end, I hope that Tom, Seth, or others can offer some thoughts on what we can do. We are at the mercy of our own minds during this process. We have to submit our writing but we shouldn't have to submit ourselves.

Doransan said...

I think a large portion of many of these mishaps would be resolved with better intraschool communication in terms of the graduate admissions office and the Creative Writing department. I know there is a different thread for those wishing to express their thoughts and ideas on how to streamline the admissions process, but it also applies here. I agree with many, if not all, of the suggestions put forward in that thread, but an easy way to resolve this issue is to have everything except transcripts sent online directly to the department and mail the transcripts to graduate admissions. If the people reviewing the application are actually interested in the transcripts, then they can contact admissions and check themselves.

I applied to Emerson, and they have the system where everything must go through graduate admissions before it is forwarded to the department. I received an e-mail saying my application is incomplete because I did not include transcripts of college level classes that I completed in high school. Until these transcripts are received by them in admissions, they will not forward my application to the committee at creative writing. All of us know that the people reading our stuff could care less about our high school grades. I pleaded with the woman over the phone to just send my sample and personal statement over, but she refused saying it went against policy. Now, I am still waiting to get those transcripts in order and to Emerson while everyone else's samples are being read and decisions are being made.

Jesse's and many others' issues could be resolved by better communication between offices. Forgetting the anxiousness, paranoia, depression, and other application induced mental issues we are all suffering from, we are shelling out a significant amount of money, and we should get our money's worth. I am not sure how, but I think it is time us applicants take up a position where we are still evaluated and scrutinized but not in such an S&M fashion. Given my lack of information on the process from the other end, I hope that Tom, Seth, or others can offer some thoughts on what we can do. We are at the mercy of our own minds during this process. We have to submit our writing but we shouldn't have to submit ourselves.

Maria said...

I had a similar problem with IU and they will not review my application. I sent my application in three weeks before the deadline and received all my SASPs returned. I wish they could have contacted me sooner so it could have been resolved prior to the deadline. I felt as if that was the respect I deserved after spending many hours on the application and so much money. I do understand that they have a lot of applications and the logistics of managing them all are difficult.

Jason said...

There is ample evidence that IU is very strict about its procedures and deadlines, and is unwilling to bend them. I think this reflects poorly on the administrative philosophy (not the program nor staff), and would seem to be a warning sign for incoming students that future headaches may arise. Certainly there are other, equally well-known schools that are less tightfisted when it comes to this kind of thing.

Mel said...

This exact thing happened to me. They sent me my SASP and said "Missing 1 rec letter," then an e-mail saying that my file, since it was incomplete, would not be reviewed for admissions. Better luck next year!

They didn't even tell me which letter was missing, nor did they allow me an opportunity to send the letter in even though it was coming directly from a professor who had fallen ill and a little behind. I had to e-mail them back and ask which one was missing, at which point they told me, and informed me that it was too late to send letters in; the deadline was passed.

I was eventually informed that the director of the program was allowing any applications with two recommendation letters or more, instead of the previously required three. This was good news, but I still became disenchanted that they were so unwilling to take a late letter given the circumstances. I too, think this reflected poorly on the university and definitely gave me a "the hell with it" mentality. I don't want to go to a school that is so unwilling to work with students/potential students.

Seems like a lot of people are getting similar responses. Every other school that was missing one letter contacted me and told me "Don't worry about it, we don't hold you responsible for letters because we know it's out of your hands." Brown was particularly accommodating.

I think admissions to Indiana might suffer if they continue to be so difficult.

Lily Graypure said...

I'm refusing to panic about missing LORs. I made a good faith effort to get everything to them--since the LORs are arriving from other people, I'd expect any school to notify me if it's missing. I'm sure they'd rather tell me than risk me calling every day to check on it.

But I'm totally panicking that maybe I misspelled my own name or something. :-)

I've found Heather Steele at Indiana to be incredibly helpful. She actually puts punctuation in her e-mails if I ask her a question. Other schools . . . not so much.

Straight Black Water said...

How is everyone else going about finding out if their files are incomplete? I have just been going under the assumption that no news is good news and I recently received an email from Wash U never received my writing sample--which I know I sent in--or my letters. They were at least kind enough to let me email them as attachments and still be considered. I didn't put SASPs in any of my packets except for Irvine, and now I'm regretting it. Will the program let you know if your packet is incomplete, or do you have to actively find out if they received everything? This post has made me a bit worried that perhaps just waiting for responses isn't enough. Thanks!

Kat said...

Richard, I had the exact same thing happen at Columbia. I sent my letters and transcripts in November, and just got a call on Friday afternoon informing me that they hadn't received either.

I managed to get my recommendations overnighted there, but there's no physical way I can get new copies of my transcripts in by the Wednesday deadline. Help, anyone?

Richard Moy said...

Kat, as unreasonable as the caller was the other day (at least from my perspective), everyone else I've talked to at Columbia has been more than accommodating, so I'd at least give them a call. I actually had one of my better admissions experiences over the phone with them a few months ago. The woman on the other end was a graduate of my school, and we discussed how the quality of our undergraduate education at Rutgers was virtually the same as it would have been at Columbia. And now I'm done waxing poetic...

Seriously, though, try giving them a call. At this point, what harm could it do?

Eduardo G said...

I've had quite a few issues with missing materials. I was extremely angry with Indiana when I was told my transcripts never arrived. This apparently happened with several schools, and the issue has been resolved with all save for Indiana, who simply dropped my application.

Washington U sent me an email saying a LoR was not received, even though it is attached to my online application as they requested.

Madison said they never received my mailed materials, even though the confirmation number I attached says otherwise. They had me email my Writing Sample, but I'm waiting to hear about the rest (and need to follow up).

What an exhausting process!

Rhymes with Banana said...

Jesse that seems terribly unfair. I'm so sorry. I have to say this is why I'm a huge fan of my recommenders being able to submit their letters online--it let me see immediately who had submitted and when or it immediately sent me an e-mail saying one had been submitted. I think this far more modern way is the way to go and saves all this confusion.

Kate said...

Speaking as a third year fiction MFA at Indiana, I have to say that reading this is pretty embarrassing. I don't understand why missing materials are being treated this way...it was definitely different when I applied. Yikes.

Kat said...

Thanks, Richard. I did call Columbia Admissions, but unfortunately they weren't able to offer much advice re: the transcript issue. I guess all I can do is order new transcripts, and in the meantime I'm going to overnight unofficial copies along with a polite, yet groveling letter to please accept them as a temporary placeholder.

If anybody happens to have a particularly helpful contact in Columbia administration, I'm all ears!

Md23Rewls said...

Just today I've run into several problems. I had my transcripts sent out before I left the University of Idaho following graduation, back around December 20th. I just finished up my application to Wyoming and the website says the transcripts have not been received yet. Part of me thinks that it's just a website thing and it will be updated shortly, but considering they already put up that they got my GRE scores, I wonder. I e-mailed the grad school and hopefully we'll get this sorted out. Because this made me paranoid, I then checked the status of my Houston application and they also said they had not received my transcripts. Now, Houston's MFA program said to send everything to the MFA, including both sets of transcripts, so perhaps one of them simply hasn't moved down to the grad school yet. I don't know.

I know I'm good on the Iowa/Hollins/Arizona front, but to have two applications floating around with transcript issues is insanely annoying.

Smoke-oi said...

Oh, get this. Columbia lost my transcripts, which were sent from Columbia undergrad (I have proof( and they're trying to gouge me for $35. Wrote a curt e-mail.

HeadlinesRcrazy said...

I think this might be a universal problem, and I think a lot of it might have to do with poor interaction between the graduate offices at some universities and the actual English/Literature/Creative Writing departments. I received repeated emails from the English Department at one school telling me that I still needed to fill out the university's graduate school application form before they could review my file. I had to send the confirmation from the school acknowledging receipt of the application three times and, finally, the actual link to my application before the department conceded that perhaps there had a been a "communication error" between it and the university's graduate office.

Md23Rewls said...

Yeah, I get the feeling that the communication between grad school and English department is pretty thin at a lot of these places. When you think about it, though, that sort of makes sense. The degree we're going for is pretty specialized and definitely isn't what I'd call a mainstream degree.

You can tell that some of these schools are not particularly good at doing the whole 'electronic age' thing yet. Yay for systems from the 90's as we near 2010! 0

Chidelia said...

I have to chime in to let ya'll know that I haven't had a single issue with any of my applications, as far as the schools not receiving my documents.

And I think the reason why is this:
I sent absolutely everything to each school in one single package. I got me letters from my recommenders and my transcripts from my school sent directly to me over the summer. I didn't even want to mess around with the on-line recommendation stuff; I'm old-fashioned. All of the schools have an off-line option, and for the ones that required a rec form with the letter, I simply printed them off, filled out my section, and sent them to my recommenders in a bundle with explicit instructions on how to fill them out and seal them with the letter. It was extra work on my part, but now at least I can chill out knowing all the bureaucratic stuff is in order.

But like StraightBlackWater, I've also just been assuming that, after the initial confirmation e-mail I was sent, no news is good news!

~chidelia

Kat said...

Smoke-oi: Yikes, that's pretty disappointing. I'm beginning to wonder if this sudden rash of late fees is some sort of effort to compensate for falling endowments...

Smoke-oi said...

That falling endowment talk is all hooey, in down years they simply increase the percentage paid out (from 4% in 2006 to around 7-8% this year). I don't think the $35 fee is a scam, but it is obnoxious given the that the error obviously occurred on their end.

Meghan said...
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NaySoo said...

I am thankful to see this post and all of the comments that proceed it. UI sent me an email recently stating that one of my application materials failed to arrive by the deadline. As noted, my application is now tossed. I have no idea what item might have arrived late, and UI has given no reply. I guess my time and money get a big OH WELL as far as they're concerned.

Victorya said...

Chidelia,

I did the exact same thing as you. Still have some schools that I've had to resend transcripts too a couple times, etc. Even though everything else in the envelope got there. And each envelope had a checklist, then there was the excel checklist so it was double-checked (Checked off once when putting in the piles, then once when putting in the envelopes).

With so much 'stuff' coming in, you're one of the lucky ones to not have anything misplaced.

Rich Moy said...
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Rich Moy said...

By sharing this, I'm hoping whatever humor you manage to find in it eases some of the frustration we all seem to be dealing with through this entire process.

I had to be in Manhattan last night for a concert (Andrew Bird, if anyone's curious) and rather than dealing with the mail again, I decided it would be best to just drop by Columbia and hand them my last recommendation in person. I just happened to pick the worst weather day that I've been home for since Christmas ... so when I got to Columbia, I was drenched in some combination of rain and snow, my glasses fogged up with reckless abandon, and in general, I resembled nothing less than a miserable wet dog. The guy at the desk asked for my name, and when I gave it to him, he said, "oh, yes. Hi, Richard. We still need your letter from Betty Spear."

It was then that I realized that I had dragged myself over 100 blocks through abysmal weather, with my iPhone as my only guide, all to deliver a single sheet of paper to a school that I'm pretty sure I can't afford to even consider. I started thinking about the entire process as I waited for my sneakers to dry, and I couldn't help but laugh at the maniac I had become during this whole thing.

Also, I realized that I still had 6 hours to kill before the concert. Not that it's a hard thing to do in Manhattan, but still.

I'm not sure if there was much of a point to this story, aside from the fact that this whole process is a lot more personal than it was when I went through the undergrad application dance, and that maybe a good laugh at ourselves every now and again might help us through this go round.

Read this in good health, and good luck to everyone! Mostly, just breathe. Otherwise, you might end up at some admissions office drenched in rain.

Cheers.

Md23Rewls said...

That's a great story. Not great in a 'Yay!' sort of way, but great in that we really do have to laugh at how crazy this whole thing makes us. The other day at about 3:00 in the morning I was printing out a bunch of stuff for my Wyoming application and I felt like I was about ready to snap. I was just tired of everything. After I got it mailed off, though, I smiled when I left the post office, because it's funny how much we will obsess over a few sheets of paper. Even though none of my schools have notified anybody yet (as far as I know), it's still extremely cool to see people getting accepted. I genuinely feel happy for them, knowing that they've gone through this same neurotic waiting/second guessing/tediously-wrapping-up-details phase that I have.

Emily A. Benton said...

great story, Rich. and hey, at least you got to see Andrew Bird! *drools*

caper said...

I was accepted to Vermont College low-res as well. Thanks!

Chidelia said...

Victorya- yup I definitely feel good about my “one package” decision.

And I've got my own “applicant obsession” story to share:
Even though NONE of my schools have begun notifying anyone yet, I somehow got it into my mind that they must at least already have a list of top candidates.

So I decided that I would send all of the CW directors e-mails asking completely unnecessary, though relevant, questions. In my fantasy, I figured they would see my name on the e-mail and be instantly reminded that I was one of their top choice applicants, and decide to go ahead and let me know that I was pretty much in the program, they just haven’t formalized things yet.

So I send out messages to the 3 directors of schools that stated GRE scores were NOT required, asking, just to make sure of course, that GRE scores were in fact not required. It was about 9am in the morning, so they all got back to me within a few hours.

However, NONE of them fell for my trap!!! Just little perfunctory messages stating that I had, in fact, read their websites correctly and no, GRE scores are not required, thank you.

No, thank you.

~chidelia

Md23Rewls said...

Sneaky sneaky sneaky.

Annie111 said...

Has anyone else checked their UMass Amherst application status and found that it shows materials missing? Mine shows my transcript and 1 recommendation letter missing. I called the grad app office and they told me those status checks weren't up to date, but that was weeks ago.

corkeyb33 said...

Annie-- I actually called them today and they said that it still wasn't up to date... I forgot to ask if they would notify when it is up to date, and whether or not I'm accepted, lol...

Seth Abramson said...

Hi Mike,

I'm going to move this thread down two spots, I hope that's all right; essentially, I'm concerned (for the moment) that the first thing one sees on coming to the website is the words FREAKING OUT in all capital letters. I'm worried this will/is adding to the stress of the posters. [Mind you, I wouldn't do this if Jesse hadn't already gotten 40 responses. I do hope you understand!].

Best,
Seth

Seth Abramson said...

P.S. I suppose featuring the word "nightmare" prominently is also a potential source of anxiety... ;-)

-- S.

Annie111 said...

corkey- Good to know. That's what I suspected, but wasn't sure if I was the only one...

Jesse Thiessen said...

Excellent. It was getting a little surreal continuously visiting the blog and subconsciously going "HOLY @#$@ I HAVE A NIGHTMARE?" for half of a second.

Mike Valente said...

You're absolutely right, Seth. I wouldn't want to be contributing to any anxiety experienced by applicants.

Thanks for moving it.

Rebecca said...

My UMass Amherst materials aren't up to date either. I guess they're quite a bit behind.