Monday, December 28, 2009

NEW MAILBAG! Monday, Dec. 28, 2009

388 comments and counting? Wowzers! You guys have been busy. Somebody noted, around comment number 320, that it was time for a new mailbag and yes, it is. So start afresh with your comments, questions, and mutual support, below.


468 comments:

1 – 200 of 468   Newer›   Newest»
kaybay said...

I posted this in the old mailbag, forgetting there's a new one:

I sent my GRE scores to UCF in November and they are still not showing as being received, even though everything else says "complete." I'm going to call once Christmas Break is over, but in case they swear they "never received them," what do I do? I have confirmation from ETS that they were sent. Would they make me pay again? Anybody have experience with this type of thing?

Jennifer said...
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Jennifer said...

kaybay--Last year Ole Miss swore up and down they never received my GRE scores even though I had the confirmation from ETS that they were sent. I ended up having them sent again (and yep, that meant paying again).

kaybay said...

*sigh* that's really, really dumb :(

Ashley Brooke said...

New mailbag! We needed you!
And this is perfect timing because... I JUST FINISHED MY APPLICATIONS. For real!

stevenqle said...

What is your opinion on post bacc programs in writing? I'm a year out of school and majored far away from fine arts, which was nutrition.

I'm looking to build my portfolio and get some feedback, which I figure I could do on my own and through local writer groups. But I also need to get letters of recs and maybe some pre-approval from MFA grads. Is the post-bacc worth it to network and add some kind of related certificate to my application? I understand these certificate programs are huge moneymakers for the universities, so I'm hesitant about the merits of them. I am looking into the UC Berkeley extension program.

Tory said...

stevenqle,

I have heard extension programs can be helpful (I've heard particularly good things about UCLA extension, though I am sure Cal Extension would be good too). However, if it's an issue of building a community and writing recs, checking out courses at a community college near you might be a MUCH cheaper way of satisfying those needs.

I am not sure what sort of pre-approval or certifications you are interested in, but they don't matter much to MFA programs, in fact, who writes your LORs isn't even that important so long as they know you well (a lot of people think people who write their LORs need to be famous writers & that's just not the case). Hope my perspective helps.

Ashley Brooke said...

Steven,
you could also try the Gotham Writers' Workshops online. Tuition is only about $400 per class.
You could also use Meetup to find writers in your area to share your work with.

mj said...

If you're in the Bay Area (you mentioned UC-Berkeley) I recommend the Writing Salon for some pretty decent fiction workshops. They're not cheap (Like 360 for three months of weekly workshops), but taking one might get you back on track with the workshop experience, help you decide whether you want to pursue the MFA, and even get you in touch with possible future recommenders.

WanderingTree said...

The Mid-American Review runs online workshops usually in the spring/summer/fall. You get to workshop 3 stories and talk about writing related things with a group of dedicated folks (not to mention the MAR editors). The workshop lasts 9 weeks. I highly recommend it.

WanderingTree said...

There's also the Stanford online courses if you can afford it. I did one and had a good experience.

Eli Lindert said...

Did you guys do anything special for your Iowa SoP? I think I'm going to go with a more "personal" and less business-like model, but there are so few guidelines it's difficult deciding what to include.

xavier said...

Anyone have any information on Otis College of Art's MFA Creative Writing program? I received an acceptance letter last week, am really excited about the possibility of being in LA, but I want to know more about the program.

luling said...

please advise if you can:::

is it acceptable/neutral/terrible to mention in the personal statement that i visited the school and met with two of the program's students and had a great chat with them?
i'm applying to U Arizona and they only allow a 250 word statement.. and i don't know whether i should use the space to mention having gone to visit the campus, met with some students-- or if it's even kind of gauche to talk about it?
any thoughts?

to everyone cranking it out at the last minute.... godspeed!

Dolores Humbert said...

luling,

I would mention it very briefly and in summary, as just ONE of your supporting reasons why you want to go to arizona. i wouldn't advise name-dropping. and as for 'cranking it out,' i'll tell you that i've been up all night starting a new--that's right, a NEW--story for our mutual friend, UofA here because yesterday I realized that i had mistyped the page requirements on my app checklist and was going in with just 20pg (with 2stories) and not 30 (with 2 or 3). AHH. I dont advise anyone writing a new story, oh, 3 days before the deadline and it certainly will cost me, but doing this has shown me what i am capable of--far more than i had expected or hoped--so I, at least for now, am happy with the learning lesson. Or it may be the fact that i've been up for 27 hours and am slightly delusional. probably the latter. but good luck to us both!

xavier,
congrats! all i know about otis is that it's pretty expensive and as an angelino, i never really hear much about the mfa folks there doing readings outside of the program or really getting involved with the greater community. but it's located next to fidm, another fashion/arts university which means a lot of good looking people are around!

Dolores Humbert said...

xavier,
but i'd get into contact with some of the faculty and students and hear about it firsthand! i have no idea what i am saying so please don't think because i havent been hearing much about the school that others have not as well. all the smog in this darn town has made me deaf! so congrats again! it must be so exciting! people love your work! PEOPLE IN LA love your work! *I say, all haughty in my proud LA voice* Nice going! :)

kaybay said...

I think the most important thing in a personal statement is to answer the program's questions. If the program is vague, I would recommend mentioning your goals, why you are going to grad school, why you like the program, how you hope to finance your education, etc... 250 words is pretty limited, so you probably don't have enough time to mention former students. I don't think there's anything wrong with it though, I mentioned "rave reviews" from former students in several of my statements. Good luck!

Eeyore said...

Anyone have advice on whether to send extra letters of recommendation? Would it annoy reviewers?

Most places ask for 3; I'd like to send 4, mostly because I haven't spoken to my professor in 6 years so am afraid his letter won't be as strong as an old boss who could be my 3rd (but who would be the third former-boss-recommendation).

Jessica said...

Hey kids,

Is anyone else applying to Southern Illinois University? I'm confused about the fellowship application...is that necessary to gain financial aid...or just extra? How could i have overlooked this...I think my application is screwed then.

4maivalentine said...

Anybody have any dirt on Florida International University? Their website is amazingly underwhelming.

4maivalentine said...

Ashley, have you done the Writer's Studio? I think that's the most expensive yet most high profile.

Ashley Brooke said...

Jessica, I filled out a graduate assistantship application only for SUIC. There is contact information for fellowships, but I want teaching experience, so I didn't apply to the fellowships, and I assumed that was acceptable.

4maivalentine, I have not done the Writers' Studio and I'm not too familiar with them, but they look like they might offer an experience similar to some of the other online workshops. For somebody who is out of school who wants inexpensive workshop experience, online courses are great. Some community colleges have workshops too.

4maivalentine said...

I'm spamming today, yeesh. Does University of Miami not require a personal statement? I keep searching their website and I see no mention of one.

That can't be right...

WanderingTree said...

Jessica,

I didn't send a fellowship application to SIUC. It wasn't on the checklist they provide applicants as a necessary document. When I called the admissions office a few weeks ago about the status of my materials, they said I was good to go. So, there ya go.

WanderingTree said...

Eeyore,

A lot of people send a fourth rec. letter. Nothing to worry about.

MSR said...
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MSR said...

I think I'm done with all my applications! This is a crazy feeling. What do I do now?

Ben said...

I have a 25 page story that I'm sending to a school (Iowa) that suggests 30-80 pages. Sending a second story would mean using something rougher that was written a while ago and that would require some last-minute editing. I suspect it would be better to have a too-short writing sample than one in which the second piece is rather rough. Am I right?

Michael said...

Ben,

If it helps any, I'm sending Iowa two stories that total about 25 pages. I think it says on their website that manuscripts typically fall within that 30-80 page range, but I'm sure that they get some that are shorter.

kaybay said...

My Iowa sample was around the same length (25 pages). You made my heart sink a little when you said 30 minimum, but it did say that most samples fall into the 30-40 page range, so I felt better.

I remember reading that shorter is better than longer and that it is better to have one good story than one good story and one bad story. The bad story makes them think, and not in a good way.

4maivalentine said...

Now, I am talking from the other side of the spectrum (60 page sample, wtf right?) but my logic is that they'll love your short samples. I mean, they'll have so many samples to read, 25 sounds great. Now if you said your sample was 5-10 pages (hello USC? WTF?) I'd worry for you. But 25 pages? That's pretty standard.

I would definitely say, send 25 pages of a polished story instead of 40 pages of one polished and one rough.

Rosie said...

Hi people. I'm applying to Emerson, and can't find how long they want the statement of intent to be! University of Maryland doesn't specify, either. I'm guessing that doesn't mean I should just go ahead and send the 1,500 thingy I have in mind...

HELP!

Amy said...

Does anyone else think its odd that Iowa doesn't ask for a resume/cv?

luling said...

hey dolores and kaybay,
thanks for your thoughts- much appreciated!

rosie,
i'm not sure if it's the same across genres (i'm applying CNF) but it 80% of my schools ask for 500 word statements. that seems to be the norm as far as i can tell.

good luck everyone!

Michelle said...

I mailed out the last of my 17 APPLICATIONS today! I nearly had a panic attack at the post office! It feels so good but I'm still so nervous and beginning to regret certain things within my applications. I hope the anxiety goes away- I can't imagine feeling like this for months and months. The crazy thing is, I'm not even done; I still have so much to do: financial aid, etc. Man, what an insane experience this has been!

JLR said...

Xavier,

I also was accepted to Otis last week. I contacted a classmate from my undergraduate studies at USC who just finished her MFA from Otis. She said that "Otis is complicated--I personally had a very rewarding experience, but can't speak for everyone in the program." I'm going to call her sometime in the next couple of days to talk about the program further.

JLR

xavier said...

JLR,
Please do share your friend's thoughts. I talked with a friend from my undergrad here in Hawaii and she said she's seen some really good things in Otis' literary magazine, but that may or may not be a reflection of the program

If anything, I'm excited to have been accepted somewhere (and that Otis does rolling admissions, as opposed to other programs). Also stoked about the possibility of living in LA.

Keep in touch, JLR. My e-mail: lmoreno@hawaii.rr.com

Ashley Brooke said...

Amy,
No, I don't find it off that Iowa doesn't want a resume or CV. I think that out of 14 schools, I only sent mine to 3 or 4. I don't like sending it anywhere. Iowa is all about the writing, and I'm not surprised at all that they don't care what is on your resume.

Ashley Brooke said...

But I don't think it would hurt you to send one if yours is particularly impressive.

Rosie said...

Thanks, luling! I'll try to keep mine about that length.

I have a second emergency, HA. I'm a dingbat and didn't see that I needed to turn my writing sample into Syracuse by the first, so in a panic, I sent it yesterday via some fancy "guaranteed to arrive by the 31st" delivery. However, the post office lady said that when received, someone would have to sign off on it. Or else it would be sent back. And now I'm thinking...will anyone even BE there? (They do say the English department is closed until the 4th...)

Syracuse does not specify whether the sample needs to be received ON the first, or if it needs to be postmarked BY the first. Which is why I sent it the fast way, just to be safe. Now I'm punching myself in the face.

So my question is...could or should I send my sample again, this time via regular speed mail, just in case they DO mean "postmarked by"...? Just so that, no matter what, they'll have my darn sample?

Please HELP! I'm freaking out. Can't believe I overlooked such a vital thing. I've been so neurotic. :(

Ashley Brooke said...

Rosie,
send it again. I only noticed that deadline discrepancy last week and I mailed my sample then. I posted about it on the last mailbag to remind others! Sending it again via priority is only going to cost you like $6 and it could save your application.
There isn't going to be anybody at the English department, period, because of the schools "Green Days." It's likely your sample will be sent back or kept at a nearby post office.
It can't hurt to be extra safe.

Rosie said...

Hi Ashley,

Thanks for your quick reply! So the sample due date is likely "post marked by"? Because I know it won't get there by the first, hahaaa.

I wish I had read the last mailbag and seen your reminder! I'm silly and losing my mind.

Ashley Brooke said...

I'm not sure, but it says "submit by," which sounds like a postmark date. Since nobody will even be there until the 4th, I can't see why it should be a received by date. If it is, then you're out of luck, but I think it's better to try than not, right?

Ben said...

Awesome, thanks everyone. I'm glad there are some others out there limboing in under the 30-page mark. (I usually have the opposite problem with length requirements, so it's a weird feeling to come up short.)

Jenna said...

Done with applications! But that surprise $125 app fee for CUNY-Hunter felt like a punch to the ribs. If I'd known it was that ridiculous, I might not have applied. Oh well. It's over now! Yay! Off to Mexico for a week!

RugbyToy said...

Yikes. How can so many of you afford to apply to 12, 13, 15, 18 schools?

Also, I'm worried about my "application status" within the writing programs and English departments to which I'm applying. I can check my general graduate admissions status to the universities online, but many of my schools (Wash U and Iowa, for example) don't seem to have a way in which you can confirm that they've gotten your manuscript. Am I missing something? I don't want to add to the mess of phone calls and emails these program staffers are getting, asking for them to seek out my packet. But the mail services in my town can be so unpredictable. I just want to calm my anxieties, and I don't know how. Wish i would have gotten tracking :(

RugbyToy said...

PS Not to mention, I doubt anyone at any major program at this time has the patience or the energy to sift out an individual application from the pack, just to "make sure" it's there. I'd send out a second packet, but my recommenders are all out of town, and getting hard copies of their letters would be impossible.

I've never felt so helpless in my life. It keeps me up at night, knowing how so much can go wrong and how little I can do to solve any of it. To think I'd be denied the chance to attend a program simply because of a mailing error makes me want to cry.

xavier said...

Rugby,

Do not fear calling or e-mailing a program to track down your materials.

Most schools use electronic systems that track whether the various parts of your applications have been received and filed away. I've check on my material with a number of schools and have received fairly quick response. Most admissions offices are happy to help. That's why you pay an application fee, after all. I also received a letter from PSU saying they have not received transcripts from me. So I am reordering those. Anyway, point is, ask away. Someone will help. That's what admissions offices do.

Good luck!

kaybay said...

Speaking of Rugby's dilemma, does anyone know how to check on your application status for Florida? I have returned SASEs or the ability to check status online for every school except Florida. Is everyone just assuming everything's okay, is everyone calling, or are people getting confirmation somehow?

WanderingTree said...

Rugby,

In the case of WUSTL, I can say for certain that there is no way to confirm receipt of your materials unless you sent a SASE or something. I called and they said they couldn't do anything. They will let you know if anything is missing come January.

RugbyToy said...

Again, I know most of these places got the online application and GRE score and transcript, yadda yadda. It's the manuscript I worry about. The departmental materials seem harder to confirm, because there's not a huge admissions staff sorting through the lot. For example, I forgot to put the stupid street (Dey House) address on the envelope I sent to Iowa, although I did mark it for the appropriate program and school and city and zip. I called the workshop staff and they've got dozens and dozens of tubs of mail, and they're not going to start filing it until after the deadline.

I guess I just wanted someone to tell me they made a similar mistake and that everything turned out OK. Or say "poor baby." Or offer me a consolation sandwich. Or Snapple.

Besides, I've been reading your names on these message boards for a while now; talking to you peeps is like talking to celebrities! :)

JRJ said...

Woot woot! Syracuse app sent!

Have a good NYE everyone!

Brenda said...

This may have come up before, but I'm curious what y'all think regarding super-high admission fee costs. I know that in the handbook (at least, I think that's where I read it), Tom addresses this and says that if they're charging you over $65 or so, they're probably using it to make a profit and you may want to reconsider the program. I tend to agree.

So... Hunter College & Brooklyn College. Both $125. Ouch. I really want a NY option in my bag, and have the apps all ready to go, but I just can't pay that right now.

Tried to give them the benefit of the doubt since NY is an expensive place, but... I don't know how I feel about it. I mean, shouldn't they want good writers, not just good writers with deep pockets?

I did email both and ask about any possible waivers, and Hunter has already say no, they won't waive it for any reason. Thoughts?

Brenda said...

In my above comment, I meant "application fee" costs, obviously, not "admission fee." Sorry, brain fried.

JRJ said...

Brenda,

I'm also pretty wary about the exorbitant fees of the CUNY schools. I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt. New York is expensive, but also the state's going broke. I don't know.

I do know I have an interest in going to Hunter and Brooklyn so I'm willing to jump through whatever hoops I need to to gain acceptance. The fee is insane, but at the same time, I want to be considered. What other option do I have? I'm already shelling out close to $1000 for all applications.

Grin and bear it?

Brenda said...

JRJ, thanks for the feedback. That's where I'm at too, and what I'd planned to do, but finances didn't shake down and I literally do not have it to throw to them. Won't, until after the deadline has passed. I'm bummed. Also can't pick between the two, so doing one isn't an option either. It looks like I may be out of the running for NY altogether due to bad financial timing, which isn't a situation anyone wants to be in. I guess I can console myself by thinking if they were really somewhere I wanted to go they'd try to work with me on this?

JRJ said...

Brenda,

That is definitely disappointing the financial side is preventing your application. Not really fair.

Brenda said...

I agree. I guess that's why I'm leaning toward agreeing w/ Tom that this kind of thing maybe should make us reconsider the program itself. I mean, it makes it seem like since I don't have the cash they aren't interested in reading my writing. I know that everything in the long run boils down to profit, I just don't like to think that about things like MFA programs. :)

JRJ said...

I wonder who decides on the price of the application fee.

mj said...

Brenda, Considering that Hunter doesn't have much to offer in the way of funding its MFA students, I think you should consider the high app fee as a harbinger of the financial situation you'd be in if you ended up a student there!

Brenda said...

MJ, I agree and that may very well be part of the reason for the fee. It's more about timing, though. I can finance the education, it's nine months away yet. Just bad timing for the zillions of expensive app fees! :)

Kristina said...

Just wanted to say that I'm glad other people are equally crazed as the deadlines approach! I feel like I will never be done, and I was also worried I was the only one finishing up the final touches so last minute. Glad I'm not alone...good luck, everyone! I'll definitely keep poking in.

4maivalentine said...

Can I just add in about Hunter's fee. I was so pissed off that I actually considered rewriting my personal statement crudely state that I must want to REALLY go to their program if I'm really willing to give up $125 dollars on a god damn application. Applying for colleges is hard enough but thank you Hunter for executing a fatality, flawless victory on my helpless bank account.

Ugh.

Brenda said...

4maivalentine, you're making me feel better about the fact that I'm not gonna apply there. :) Thanks for the vitriol!

Side note, guys: is 1200 words too much for the Iowa personal statement? No limit is given and most things I've read say the longest it should be is around 1,000 words. I'm just so tired of rewriting it!

Brenda said...

To clarify, most things I've read say that 1,000 words is the longest ANY personal statement should be. I haven't read a thing at all about Iowa's in particular.

beedeecee said...

jrj - completed my syracuse application this evening, too! :)

i'm also having some reservations about hunter's application fee. it's my last application, which would add up to 6 altogether. i know that is quite low compared to the number of schools some are applying to, but i am also fairly low on funds and just couldn't spring for much more. i will likely apply to hunter just to round out the applications to an even number and because i also want a new york school in the bunch ... but i will be glaring at the screen of my macbook as i type in my credit card number. :)

chad said...
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chad said...

I have seen a few of you discussing "postmarked" vs "received." The only school (so far) that I've seen distingush the two is Michigan. They say at the very end of everything they throw at us that all material must arrive in their office by Jan 1st. I am assuming this doesnt refer to grad school materials (transcripts). but I read it today and ran down to the post office and overnighted my material...will arrive tomorrow. ha. oh, and i also read someone on here saying they couldnt overnight their app because they needed signature confirmation. the person (at the post office) who told you that (I think) was mistaken. b/c you can sign the line where you waive the required signature. anyway. and also. i think most post offices close on the 31st at noon. keep that in mind and good luck to all. oh (again). i posted this in the other mailbag but then this was created so i'll post again (referring to the following quote, one which was comforting, knowing wilde was kind of doing the same thing i've been doing for the past week).

I have spent most of the day putting in a comma and the rest of the day taking it out.
— Oscar Wilde

Eli said...

I'm trying to nail down my Syracuse teaching statement, and i'm feeling reflective and, well, dumb. I hope no-one else is having similar misgivings. I'm wondering why on earth i only applied to 7 top flight schools (one of which doesn't even give tuition remission to international applicants, apparently - irvine) with a completely, irredeemably bonkers excerpt from a speculative fiction/urban fantasy novel?? I looked at the first page of my writing sample yesterday and decided they'll all think I'm on hallucinogens, laugh at how ridiculous the premise is, and not read on.

Waaah! I feel like this: once arrogant, now idiotic.

This has been such a gruelling 3 months and the thought of starting it all afresh next year...argh. I just have to let it go, and remind myself that if they don't want to work with my writing, it's for the best.

Just wanted to whine, and I do feel slightly better for it. No sympathy needed, although i'd welcome empathy :) Right, back to that Syracuse teaching statement... Happy New Year everyone!

Eeyore said...

Should the manuscript you turn in be single or double spaced? None of my schools specify, that I can find.

Opinions?

Eli said...

double-spaced is usually preferred, dude. it's the safer option. Or 1.5 spaced.

Ashley Brooke said...

Prose manuscripts should always be double spaced, though poetry can often be either.

Chad, don't get too down on yourself. We're not good judges of our own writing, and applying to schools like Syracuse with a sample like yours means that you're at least applying places that are open to experimental writing. If you don't get in this year, don't take it to mean that your writing isn't good or that you should give up - applying to only the most selective schools is tough. Especially with a sample that's a little experimental. Good luck. Here's hoping neither of us is doing this again in year!

Trilbe said...

@Eli - I've been following this blog and the forum over at P&W for three years, preparing myself for the applications I've sent out this month, and one thing I've learned about the process is that there's no such thing as a safety school in this game -- even the "less selective" programs get hundreds of applications for only a handful of spots. I did spread my apps out over KealeySeth's four tiers and I've added some unranked programs but, really, that was mostly to make myself feel better about my chances. For better or worse, "higher odds" don't really mean anything in this process -- against the "odds", one of my favorite P&W posters from last year's application season got rejected from the 20-25 poetry spots at Iowa -- not even waitlisted -- and yet got straight out chosen for one of the 5 poetry spots at UVA. In each case, out of 500-600 poets.

And there are always some folks who only apply to the most selective 5-6 schools and who get into one, or more, of them because the application committees liked their work. Where you get in has nothing to do with how many applications you've filled out. It's only based on whether or not the people reading your sample like your writing more than they like the other 95-98% of what they've received that year -- at a "less selective" school they have to like it more than the other 85-90% of what they've received that year. And, sadly, there are always some people who apply to 17 schools, spreading them out over the many tiers of selectivity, who still get rejected from all of them.

One of my good work friends is applying to law schools right now and I'm so jealous of her ability to gauge statistically/historically where she falls in the pack of applicants. And she can apply to safety schools where her scores, grades, gender and underrepresented minority status can put her in a more desirable position. How can I do that with poems?

Melissa said...

I got my applications done by Thanksgiving, so I know what everyone is going through! Good luck!

As for application statuses, Washington University sent me an email saying they received my writing sample and my file was complete. Syracuse and Illinois did the same. I checked my status online for other schools and there were 2 I had problems with. Wisconsin said if anything was missing they would contact me. When I emailed Indiana, they told me what was missing.

If you can't check your status, I suggest emailing to make sure. :)

Hope that helps!

MommyJ said...

To all of those who are worried about not being able to apply to 17 schools ... to make you feel better I've applied to one, the one in driving distance. I am debating about several low res programs, but would have trouble with the timing of the residences conflicting with my job duties. Maybe I'll just suck it up and apply to the local university for a phd program even though it's not exactly what I want. At least I'd probably get in there. They just don't hire any of their grads. Blech!

Seth Abramson said...

low-res rankings

Geoffrey said...

Kaybay, I applied to UCF as an undergraduate and had a similar problem. I paid to have my transcript sent TWICE, and they claimed not to have received it both times. I gave up because I was already admitted where I wanted to be, but it was still frustrating. I know my story probably doesn't help, just know your not the only one.

fishy said...

Regarding confirmation of application materials- I know this doesn´t help anyone who has already sent their materials, but I placed a self addressed postcard in each of my application packets and so far 3 have come back.

Cate said...

Now that my applications are in (just submitted the last one) I have a lot of time to think about those 5% acceptance rates. Does anyone else get depressed thinking about the numbers, especially with the small programs? In some cases, being 7th or 8th (out of hundreds) won’t even get you an acceptance. Sorry. I'm being such a downer, but I can’t stop worrying about it. It feels sort of hopeless.

Stranger said...

need answer asap !!

Hi first! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I'm sending an application to Iowa, and it says it should be postmarked by Jan 3rd. So does that mean i can take my manuscript to the post office on the 3rd? Also, I'm from a different country, so it might reach them 3-4days late. Is that ok.? Help!!! It's already Jan. 2nd 1:37 AM here
Thanks in advance

Brenda said...

Stranger, yes indeed. I'm also mailing my Iowa app tomorrow (aka the 2nd). It says on their site here: http://www.uiowa.edu/~iww/admissions/requirements.htm
that it's a postmark date, so no worries!

Brenda said...

Just to clarify, Stranger: that means that as long as the post office stamps it as having gone out on or before the 3rd you are fine even though it won't reach them for a few days yet.

Stranger said...

Brenda,

Thank you!! You are a lifesavor! Hopefully we'll both get accepted!!

Brenda said...

Fingers definitely crossed. It's my first choice. Good luck!

Stranger said...

Brenda,

It's the only university I sent an application to! Good luck to you too!

Stranger said...

A question about the application for graduate award at Iowa

What's the difference between Tuition Scholarship, Fellowship, Traineeship, Teaaching Asst., and Research Asst.? What does each excatly mean? Thanks

Trilbe said...

@Cate - I don't find it depressing yet -- although I'm scared I'll be crying on April 15th. Instead, I find the process humbling because I know that there are killer poets out there who are competing for these spots and I'm not sure I'm in that league. And also frightening because the process is so subjective.

Despite the odds, though, SOMEBODY gets in. Somebody fills those spots at every school on my list and at this point in the process I am incapable of telling myself that one of those people WON'T be me. April will prove whether or not my hope reflects reality, but right now I feel like I'm going to be accepted somewhere. And I feel like I'll be happy wherever I go because I am totally up for a new adventure. I'm totally ready to meet that core group of new poet friends who will be my literary posse for the rest of my life. I mean, I knew the numbers going in and if I didn't absolutely believe I could beat those odds, I wouldn't have spent so much time and money and effort sending out these applications. You know?

Basically, I want time to speed up so I'll know the outcome. But I also want time to freeze so that I won't get any bad news.

RugbyToy said...

Did y'all see the "response time" list SA posted for 2008? Looks like FSU started to respond in late January. How is that possible? It's a huge program. Its deadline is in early January. How does anyone get through it all?

Which leads me to ask for more elaboration from some of you heavy-hittin', knowledgeable folks: What HAPPENS to our manuscript applications once they come into most program offices? Who usually read what, and how, and then ... then what? I hear rumors, but is there anything more concrete out there?

kaybay said...

Just FYI, other early notifiers are Alabama and Indiana. Any others I'm forgetting?

I didn't realize FSU notified to early, which is a good thing because I also applied there :). I read somewhere though, that that notify people with fellowships first and then notify everyone else later.

chad said...

i have been pounding away at this for a couple of weeks now. does anyone else feel like a zombie at work or, well, really anywhere other than in front of a computer screen? people have been asking me why i'm suddenly so quiet. i just have no more energy to give.
if i am rejected across the board, all 12 schools dumping a pile of **** on me, then there is one thing i do know, one thing that isnt subjective: if i have to go through this again I will not wait until the deadline to send in every application. perhaps that is my New Year resolution, one that will not be realized until i realize where I'm at come next.

I am also sending my Iowa app out tomorrow. and then Virginia on Monday. then done. finished. Monday will be my New Year's Eve.
Because last night i was sending in my online apps to UNCW and Syracuse while kids on the street were doing what kids on the street do.

Iowa's app process is very eerie. i like their non-specificity. they're kind of saying, "have at it!"

Brenda said...

Chad, I know just how you feel. I've had a really rough year and my decision to apply to schools was last-minute, so I was down to the wire on everything too. And I've spent the past few weeks literally absorbed in applications... barely functioning outside of them. I'm gonna be really curious to see what results I get from them.

Brenda said...

Stranger: I'm not 100% on this, so perhaps someone can correct me, but here's how I defined those based on what I read/ know:

-Tuition Scholarship: pays for the cost of tuition.

-Fellowship: pays cost of tuition and also gives you a stipend, aka some money to live on so that you can work less/ write more. Some fellowships are teaching fellowships, where you teach in exchange for it, others are just awarded to good candidates. In this case, per the Iowa website at http://www.uiowa.edu/~iww/admissions/financialaid.htm, they make mention of both teaching and non-teaching fellowships available.

-Traineeship: this isn't mentioned anywhere on the Iowa site, but I'm fairly certain that a traineeship is when they give you money (for tuition/ living expenses) so that you can do further research in a field or go out and have an advanced experience of some sort. Not sure how this ties into Iowa, but that's what I believe is the general definition of it.

Teaching Assistant: You teach some classes, either Rhetoric or Lit Analysis, in exchange for tuition and/ or living expenses. This is mentioned on the site I linked above, complete with the amounts they give you.

Research Assistant: I believe this means you help faculty/ writers complete research in a certain field, also in exchange for tuition/ living expenses. Kind of like a job where you work for them but also gives you the training of working with a writer on advanced research, so it's still beneficial. I have heard of this done at other schools although I don't think Iowa mentions it specificially so again, not totally sure.

But hopefully this helps...

Eli said...

@Trilbe and Ashley Brooke- thank you guys! I appreciate the reassuring words...well, Trilbe, perhaps not entirely reassuring ;) but i'm with you on the frustration of feeling like you're completely in the dark about how your writing compares that of the however many hundred other applicants...and i dig your point about the fact it's got nothing to do with number of schools applied to. you just need one acceptance.

Cate - You ain't alone! you can see my whine and some kind words upthread. I'm just sending good vibes to all MFA blog people and hoping we get in somewhere...

Brenda said...

Sigh. Guys, it's 4 am where I am, and I'm still working on stuff. I don't actually mind. It's weird, but the total absorption of doing these apps gives me a sense of purpose and forward momentum. :)

But I'm kinda bummed because Iowa is my first choice, by far, and I just hit two snags right in a row. One: I picked up a stack of transcripts from my undergrad school last time I was there. I swear I had two left to send to Iowa, but there's only one. It's going to the Workshop, but the Admissions dept. wants their own copy, too. So I'm short a transcript, and the postmark date is Sunday. My college is too far away to get there tomorrow, and closed on weekends anyhow. So that means I'll have to have them send a transcript directly to Iowa on Monday (the 4th). Do you think something like a postmark date, on a single piece of material, that's not even sent by me, is that big a deal? I tend to think not, just wanted this to be perfect.

Also, after all my worrying about applying to both fiction and poetry, I finally figured out the rules, submitted both manuscripts, then accidentally submitted the online app with the area of interest just filled out as "fiction." Shoot. I've already emailed them to fix it. I hope they do. I suck. :)

Stranger said...

Brenda,

Thank you. This certainly helped a lot. I also did only one online application to iowa...did we have to do two?

Brenda said...

Nope, just one application and two manuscripts (and cover sheets). It's just that on the first page of the app, there was a line for you to write in your specialty area, and I meant to write "Fiction or Poetry" so that it was clear I was applying to both. Just forgot to change it. Augh. Am hoping that me sending both manuscripts will make it obvious enough, but I did email admissions and ask them to change it for me as well.

Stranger said...

I'm sure it's okay Brenda, if they like both your Fiction and Poetry manuscripts you'll be fine. I forgot what I chose myself even though I'm sending to both Fiction and Poetry lol..Oh well, we'll see

Brenda said...

I know... don't you love how nitpicky you get with the little details? I keep telling myself it's all about the manuscript, but it just makes me feel better to worry about the small stuff too!

Stranger said...

do i send one gradaward application and financial aid supplement for both poetry and fiction or do i have to have one for each? thanks

Brenda said...

As far as I figured (and from what they told me), you just need to send one of everything. Just two manuscripts, each with a cover sheet - the cover sheet is the only thing you send in duplicate (one for poetry and one for fiction). On the financial aid/ award stuff, where it asked for my area of interest, I just wrote "Poetry or Fiction" and sent a single copy.

Stranger said...

yeah i'm finding myself obessing about small details too lol. thanks

Emma said...

If you send something by Fed-Ex, is it still considered "post-marked"??????

Emma said...

Is anyone else in a panic over the fact that all post offices are closed today??

Emma said...

ANDDDD another question -- does anyone know if it's okay to answer Iowa's financial aid questions on a separate sheet of typed paper instead of writing them out?

Brenda said...

Emma, I sure think Fed Ex is a postmark! Just make sure they date it somehow, preferably with a stamp. I think they do that anyhow. But why are the post offices closed? The ones where I am (Minnesota) are not, they close at noon.

I did the fin aid questions by uploading the PDF at this site: www.pdftoword.com. It's free, and it emails you a copy of your doc as a Word file. Then I just typed in my answers. It ended up requiring an extra page (my answers weren't long, there just isn't much room) but way easier than squeezing answers into that sheet by hand.

Brenda said...

Edit: for some odd reason that site I mentioned is coming up with intermittent errors right now. If you Google it and click on it from the search results it works. Or just Google "PDF to Word free online converter" and there are a million sites that do the same thing, it's really handy.

Eli said...

Emma, the date on a fedex label (ie. the day you send it) is definitely the equivalent of a postmark. i checked this a zillion times when i fedexed applications from abroad. good luck!

4maivalentine said...

Wait, so Iowa needs two transcripts? UUUUUUUGH! These tiny details are killing me!

Brenda said...

Yes, they want copies sent to both the Workshop and the Admissions office. I know, it's super confusing. But yup yup, that's definitely what I got out of it: http://www.uiowa.edu/~iww/admissions/requirements.htm

Note that transcripts are listed under both locations.

I even read on someone's blog that they thought Iowa also wanted duplicates of the GRE scores, one sent to each location. I drew the line on that one and didn't do it, mainly because the Workshop is lists school code and department code, and then Admissions lists just a school code. One, you need a dept. code to submit scores, I think; and two, it's the same school code given by the Workshop, so surely they don't need two copies sent to the same identical place.

I hope that makes sense. I'm off to the post office for Iowa right now myself. :)

Emma said...

BRENDA really???
I am in Minnesota too! In Minneapolis.
But it's a national holiday because Gerald Ford died -- or am I reading completely wrong information??? Are you CERTAIN the post offices are open??

Tim Noble said...
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4maivalentine said...

Tim-I filled mine out with ink. I guess I could have used that program that let's you type on PDFs but it actually felt good to handwrite.

I think I should do it more often, before I forget cursive!

Laura B. said...

Brenda -
Genius! I wish I’d thought about googling a PDF to Word conversion site. For the sake of the reader, I didn’t handwrite it (my handwriting is horrific). So, I cut and pasted (literally. we’re talking scissors and glue) and then photocopied. I felt like I was in 5th grade doing a book report. It looks alright, but it was a tedious process. Not to mention a few of the lines are not quite straight. Oh well.

Luke Skywalker said...

Guys,

Is there any update about Columbia's funding situation? It seems like most of the information on this blog is at least a year old.

Is it only second year students that get any substantial aid, with the exception of one or two people?

Also, why do NYC schools have such ridiculous application fees?

Brenda said...

Emma, I just got back from my post office! They're open until noon.

Brenda said...

And Emma, I'm in Northfield, not even 45 minutes away from you. Not that it matters for federal holiday purposes.

Here - check out these locations in Minneapolis. Most of them are open until 1 pm, buys you some time. And the usps.com site also says 'normal hours resume January 2nd' so I'm sure you're safe if you can make it by 1 pm:
http://usps.whitepages.com/post_office/search?s=mn&z=minneapolis

Also, I'm pretty sure that since the postmark date falls on a Sunday, they'll give you the following business day to mail things. Of course, none of us want to bank on that because we're perfectionists, but if it comes down to mailing a less-than-perfect app because you're rushed, I'd personally wait till Monday.

Brenda said...

Laura, they should seriously give you extra points for effort. I know I'd let someone into my program who showed that kind of dedication. :)

Trilbe said...

@RugbyToy, RE: "What HAPPENS to our manuscript applications once they come into most program offices? Who usually read what, and how, and then ... then what? I hear rumors, but is there anything more concrete out there?"

One of last year's Indiana acceptees wrote (on P&W) a sweet, interesting post about the selection process after discussing her acceptance with one of the readers who accepted her. She begins: "It took me about half an hour to decide where to post this and I hope that I've made the right decision and future MFA applicants find this useful. I recently visited Indiana U-Bloomington and had the good fortune to meet with all of the fiction professors who were on the admissions committee. One of them said the most enlightening thing to me. I'd read it before in Kealey's book but hearing it from the source (i.e. directly from an Admissions committee member who voted for my acceptance), it became salient and usable information for me."

The rest is at this link:

http://www.pw.org/speakeasy/gforum.cgi?post=280555;#280555

Ashley Brooke said...

In theory, UNCW, UNCG, Wyoming, Vanderbilt, Ohio State, Penn State and Kansas will all have pretty early results in late January and early February... I've got apps in at four of those, so a bit of early good news would be NICE....

Also, Florida was early last year but hasn't been as early in the past, so it could really come at any time. I guess we'll starting hearing on the mailbags in a few weeks from the earliest schools!!

Ashley Brooke said...
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Eli said...

Thanks Trilbe, that's a good link. I'm surprised no-one really responded to it on that thread! Kinda scary though - i see Khalilah said that all the professors have to have you on their acceptance list. ALL the professors? shit, i was hoping one professor somewhere would say to another - 'look, you might not like this kid's turn of phrase, but i do. you don't want to spend two minutes with it? Fine - i wanna spend two years with it. Leave her to me.' I didn't realise you had to seduce 'em ALL...!! Tough stakes.

*bites fingernails*

roll on april already, i wanna get this over with!

Trilbe said...

@Eli - I know! I thought that was SUCH a sweet, thoughtful post and it was just completely ignored by the following posts.

I hope you don't think I'm a stalker, but... Khalilah is one of the people whose application tribulations I followed last year. She ended up getting into two really competitive programs despite some initial concerns, which gives me hope.

Emma said...

Brenda!!!
You saved me.
I don't -- I don't even know what I was thinking. It was one of those moments of insane, pointless panic where I was like, THAT'S IT I'M NOT APPLYING TO IOWA WHO NEEDS IOWA? Then you were like, "Wait, what?" and my roommates were like, "Emma, Gerald Ford died four years ago. What the hell are you talking about?" and then all the post offices were open and I mailed my shit.
ANYWAY, thanks. Thanks so much.

laura said...

Just realized I never actually submitted my online application payment to U of Miami. Apparently my computer stalled and it didn't go through. Ughhhhh. So, despite having mailed my application materials way in advance, my online application was submitted a day after the fellowship deadline.

So frustrating.

laura said...

Also, is there a way to check admission status (such as which materials have been processed, etc) for University of Arizona? Their email doesn't mention anything about it. Hmmm.

Eli said...

@Trilbe - no, i totally get it! I've been scouring the P&W boards (for demystification and epic procrastination purposes) myself for months. it's fairly quiet this year though - all the action's happening over here, it seems...

Lauren said...

Hi, everyone.

I'm applying to a bunch of programs in Florida and Ohio (for personal reasons -- long story -- I'm looking to live in the Cleveland area or the Jacksonville area).

Couple questions:

1. Is it even worthwhile at all to spend the time attending an "unranked" program? i.e., I am applying to the NEOMFA here in Cleveland. Will my degree mean nothing in terms of clout, future teaching, etc., if I get in there? (This would be a sad thing, since the program looks really neat, and the fiction professors seem awesome.)

2. Thoughts on Florida State's acceptance rates? And thoughts on attending such a "large" program if I'm lucky enough to get in? It seems a little overwhelming -- so many students.

Best of luck to everyone. What a process. Nobody understands the 100s of hours that have gone into this. I've got a huge binder with a tab for each school. Overwhelming. I've only officially submitted to two schools -- the other 6 are in the works.

Looking forward to hearing good news on this blog in a few weeks' time :)

RugbyToy said...

What's everybody's top choice of all the schools they've applied to, and why? Don't forget to mention your genre.

Ashley Brooke said...

Lauren,
I did my undergrad at Cleveland State. What is your genre? One of my professors got her MFA at the NEOMFA, as a playwright, and she had positive things to say about the playwriting program and she was able to get funding. I don't think that is the case for most fiction and poetry students, though, and as a fiction applicant I couldn't find many changes for funding. I might be biased, but Cleveland State has a pretty good faculty - Imad Rahman in fiction and Michael Dumanis in poetry. I decided ultimately not to apply to NEOMFA, though, because I decided that funding is important to me and that a new school would be a good idea. I've also been advised that Cleveland State isn't the best choice for a home school because Kent State & Akron offer better funding, but I'm not really sure how accurate that is. I think there is pressure from the home school to take as many classes there are you can, so you might want to decide based on faculty.
As far as clout, no, you're going to have the same amount as if you're graduating somewhere that is ranked higher, but NEOMFA is a new program. It's only as good as its students, so the more good writers than enroll there the better that it will become. As far as Ohio goes, Ohio State and Bowling Green are both better choices for funding and selectivity.
As far as if it's "worth it" to attend NEOMFA - I say yes. Especially if you aren't able or willing to move and can afford to pay your own way. You have to make the program work for you, which I think you can do.
Good luck!

Lauren said...

@ Ashley Brooke,

Thank you for your response! I do appreciate and understand what you wrote. I'm applying to Cleveland State, U. of Akron and Kent. I need funding -- without it I can't attend (I'm really truly poor). I guess I hope if the NEOMFA committee wants me, they'll make sure one of their schools offers me funding.

I am also applying to Ohio State, of course.

Thanks again for what you wrote :)

Lauren said...

@ Rugby Toy,

My #1 school is University of Florida. I'm applying for fiction.

Ashley Brooke said...

Lauren,
Good luck! I'm sure that some people are able to be funded, and there are always loans. Did you apply to Florida Atlantic?

RugbyToy,
I'm not sure that I have a top choice. All of my schools have different strengths. My first choice will be where I end up going. :)

Brenda said...

Emma, it sounds like your brain is about where mine is these days! No problem and I'm really glad you got it done. High five across the forty or so miles between us. :)

phil said...

Anyone applying to Georgia State's MFA program?

This is the portfolio requirement:
"a minimum of 10 poems; or 3 short stories totaling no fewer than 30 and no more than 50 pages"

Sounds pretty definite to me, but I'm really only confident with my 23 pages of material. Should I throw in another?

chad said...

top choice is hard. most of my schools are ranked in the top 15. any acceptance will be a surprise. only schools out of top 15 are UNCW and Alabama. and those would still be a top choice. but if i had to choose. either iowa or texas. oh, and i'm fiction.

Geoffrey said...

Thanks everyone for sharing your information, I am currently an undergraduate in literature looking to apply to MFA programs next fall. My top five choices are Oregon State, University of British Colombia, University of Colorado (Boulder), Portland State, and University of Guelph in Toronto.

None of these are top 10 schools, so hopefully I will be accepted by one, but the process is daunting. I am hoping to take an online creative writing class this summer to help me with my portfolio which will be nice considering my university doesn't offer writing.

I was just hoping for some advice. Is five schools enough, or should I apply to more to be safe? Also I think only one of those schools requires the GRE, should I take the test? Would it benefit my chances with the others?

Thanks

Amy said...
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Amy said...

@Brenda,
I read about your NYC tribulations somewhere up there and I hope my input isn't too late. But there's one school in the city that I'm pretty sure are very generous with their fee waivers: New School.
You might try emailing them about it and see what happens. It's also a pretty good school!

To all:
I just wanted to share my latest stress-out moment. I sent my Michigan writing sample on the 12/26, priority mail with delivery confirmation, and I just checked the website and it says it has not been delivered yet. Boo-to-the-hoo. Because their website stresses that all materials must be IN by the 1st. This saddens me immensely because Michigan was undoubtedly one of my top choices, and if I'm out of the running because of a post office snafu, that would be heartbreaking.
Anyway, I've already emailed the grad dept and will call on Monday. I think I just needed to share to feel a little better.

Hope you're all hanging in.
I'm six down, four to go.

Brenda said...

Amy, thanks. I'll look into New School for sure.

Re: Michigan, I turned in my online app right after Christmas and mailed everything on the 26th. And I haven't even yet been given an online ID to SEE if anything made it in, because I think their site says they are closed from the 25th to the 4th. So your stuff may have made it, they're just not doing updates/ office stuff at all right now.

Laura B. said...

Amy - One thing I’ve learned during this process - DON'T trust the USPS online delivery tracking system! Two separate envelopes (going to two separate schools) are still “undelivered” according to the UPSP website. Although when I frantically emailed the programs, my envelopes had been received (and just two days after I sent them!) ...moral of the story – don’t lose hope. Your application could easily be there.
Clearly things get delivered without being scanned on delivery.

Laura B. said...

Does anyone know how many fiction writers UMASS Amherst accepts?

Eli said...

yay, just finished my final application (Syracuse, which seemed to take forever)!

@RugbyToy- top choice? Any of the seven I've applied to. If any of them take me, I'll be over the moon.

@Laura B., i think Amherst accepts around 20 altogether (possibly slightly more?) - quite a big cohort. Not sure of the fiction/poetry split though; presumably half-half or thereabouts.

4maivalentine said...

I actually say that if you can afford it, send everything fedex or even UPS. They're a hell of a lot more reliable than the post office.

I sent my overseas apps via international fedex and everything else was certified mail...and as has already been recalled, their tracking system is a crock of smelly succotash!

And you know what the really problem is? USPS is always overwhelmed during the holiday season. I really need to do my application to Oxford. I'm just sitting on it right now. BLARG!

Laura B. said...

@Eli, THANKS!
Do you know the numbers for Michigan?
For some reason, I have the number six in my head. But I may have just made that up.

WanderingTree said...

Laura, Michigan accepts around 6 in each genre for a class of around 12. If I remember correctly, the acceptance rate there was around 12%.

beedeecee said...
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Laura LP said...
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WordShift said...

Oh my! I had no idea how intense the process would be. Everything at the last minute too, just adds to the stress. Someone mentioned Michigan, I realized that two days before 'the deadline' when I was ready to overnight the post office said it would cost $30 because of distance. Coming up with funds is killing me, and $125 for Hunter. That was on my list, that's so steep. Four down five to go. There's quite few deadlines coming up in the next few days. It makes me wonder with how many questions, can be asked. I feel like a little mouse in a maze.

I'm still sad that I couldn't apply to Irvine because I didn't have the application fee.

Elissa Cahn said...

Hi, I've lurked here for months but never posted. This is bugging me, so I thought someone might have some insight. I checked my application status on Ohio State's website, and it appears that they need transcripts for classes I took a a community college while I was in high school. This hadn't even occurred to me- in fact, I was like, wait, how would they know I took classes there? Then I realized that it was on my college transcript because I got college credit for it. Similarly, they seem to want a transcript for a class I took (just one class) over the summer during undergrad at a local school. My inclination is to just sort-of...ignore it unless an actual person contacts me about it? Does this seem reasonable?

Michael said...

Anyone else applying to CCA? Do you know if you're supposed to upload your manuscript on the additional information page? That's my guess, but they don't make it very clear.

Michael said...

I guess I should have read the instructions. In the letter from the VP, it's suggested that you mail your portfolio along with your transcripts.

Laura LP said...

Elissa:

Definitely get a transcript from all institutions attended. Otherwise, you are technically committing some type of academic fraud, and it could cause you problems even after you have been accepted.

Amy said...

Laura B & Brenda,

Thanks so much for your assurance. The thing is that I've used the USPS delivery confirmation thing and it's been good to me thus far (with three other apps), so I just figured that it ought to serve me well with Michigan too. But you're right about it being crazy at the post office this time of year, so I'll just have to wait until it's Monday to call the grad offices.

I'm worried, but there's really nothing I can do about it. Just gonna call them up, be cordial and nice, and see what can be done from here on out.

Now, if only I can figure out how to print this University of Florida manuscript cover sheet so all the info in the data boxes are viewable...

Jamie said...

Does anyone else just not care any more? I have had the sleepless nights, the shaking hand as I addressed packets, the thoughts that my MS was hackwork, my personal statement alternately pretentious, generic, or vague, the drama with cajoling recommendations, the last-minute "I have to do this too?" cold-rush-of-shit-to-the-heart moments, and now I'm just done.

I still have 5 out of 15 apps to finalize and submit (to those late schools). I'm prepared to do the work this requires, but the thrill (mainly of terror) is mostly gone.

Is this a good thing? I put everything I could into my presentation; I ran my race; I made my case. Is it a sign of my inner slothful nature? Or that I don't "want it" enough?

I began this process with some ambivalence about MFAs, and it hasn't gone away. It's something I really want to do, but at the same time, even if you take only the top programs, an MFA itself seems as arbitrary a thing as the MFA application/admissions process, and ultimately as arbitrary as being a writer is.

Of only the top tier programs, probably one or two hundred people graduate each year in a genre. Do they all make it in their art? Seems not. In trying to network and get info for this whole process, I have talked to several grads of top programs. It seems many go into their MFAs, love their time, then are back in the work-a-dollar world plugging away, trying to make time to write. Which is exactly where I am now.

Not to say I don't want to do a degree, but when I'm not stressing mightily over apps, it strikes me as funny that we'd worry so much over something with such a chancy outcome. It's weird. An MFA is not nothing, but it won't set you up like other degrees will, not by a long shot.

Echoing EM Forster, two cheers for MFA programs.

WanderingTree said...

An MFA isn't any less arbitrary than any other degree really. In this day and age, it's really up to you to the individual (and not the degree) to seek opportunities out and make things happen (esp in this economy). Are all Philosophy majors working at Taco Bell? Doubtful : -9 (Although I'm sure there's the occasional one taking pride in his gorditas)

I think a lot of people going into the MFA are still figuring things out for themselves. And that's probably part of the function of programs - to give people a chance to figure out if this is really something they want to do, knowing all of the obstacles and rejection they will face before any success.

Ashley Brooke said...

Elissa Cahn,
Once again, send the transcripts. To ALL schools that specify "all transcripts." This will be most of them. Otherwise you are committing academic dishonesty. I took a semester of community college when I took a year off during my undergrad, signed up for 4 courses, withdrew from 2, and obtained sub par grades in the others. I never transfered any of these credits because I never intended to use them toward my degree. I still sent these transcripts to any school that required all transcripts because I don't want to be accused of omitting anything. Michigan also knows that it is missing and they are specifically asking for it. If you don't send it, your application is not complete and may not be reviewed. I struggled with this for a while; I didn't want to pay for and deal with the transcripts, especially since they don't look too good. But ultimately, I'm really glad that I don't have to sit around and worry I'm going to be kicked out of school because I omitted something on my application.

Also, whoever said that Michigan's acceptance rate was 12% has some outdated information. Last year they took 23/700 for about 3% yield-exclusive. Petersons.com, which always seems too optimistic to me, has them listed as 6%. Good luck.

Michelle said...

I'm feeling awfully defeated at the moment, like this has been a terrible waste of time and money that is going to end in my receiving tons of rejection and questioning whether I should even be trying to do this whole Writing Thang. Anyone feel that way too?

Eli said...

Interesting point, Jamie. I love your description of 'cold-rush-of-shit-to-the-heart' moments! i'm wary of fetishizing MFA's too. Of course they're not the be all and end all, far from it, but I think everyone realises that.

I've reached the 'fuck it' stage loads during this process (especially revising maths for the GRE). Kept on giving it all my best shot but i've had SO many people say to me, 'why do you need an MFA to be a writer'? It's a good point, of course, and discussed a million times before here and on the P&W board. Seth has talked extensively and fascinatingly about it - it's no new discussion. But like everyone, i have my reasons for working my ass off to get in somewhere, despite knowing fully well nothing is guaranteed. And also knowing that if i don't get in anywhere, it takes nothing away from my writing. I'm 29 and I've been writing for years, and MFA's are hardly an institution here in the UK - I have my reasons for hugely, hugely wanting to do one, but i have the perspective to realise it's not everything. Far from it.

Also, Michigan...i'm pretty sure Ashley's right. i remember from sizing up that kind of info when i chose my schools - michigan was mad competitive. 2% sounds about right.

Eeyore said...

Michelle, we're all familiar with that despair. But try to see this process itself as part of making you a better writer. That's what is getting me through it. I'm seeking so much more feedback and pouring over my work because of the accountability of really great writers seeing things I might otherwise consider good enough. And deadlines really do motivate.

Regardless of what happens, at the end of this road, you'll have a manuscript or portfolio that is better for the time you spent trying to take it to the next level. That makes it worth it.

Jamie said...

Well put, WanderingTree. I agree.

Perhaps my "ambivalence" is also a defensive tactic, a way to manage my own expectations/hopes.

On the plus side, applying has given me a great feeling of "here's where you're at in life." That's a good in itself. Though I wish I could have done something else with those app fees!

Good luck to all.

4maivalentine said...

Michelle,

I understand the feeling, but I think you have to remind yourself that this is all part of that great step forward. What Eeyore said is 200% correct. Even if you don't get in, your work will be in better shape than it was last year.

You'll take the opportunity to learn from your mistakes and if you can garner courage, shape up to apply for the upcoming year.

Or maybe you'll get in, and have a whole new set of problems to worry about :).

I guess we are all blessed that at least we're writing. We're trying to do something with are situation. There are many others who aren't even as far as we are.

But take some comfort in the fact that you're not the only person who feels that way.

Now to completely contradict everything I just said, who here hasn't been able to work on their projects since this whole app process started?!

*raises hand*

I tried to write another chapter, now I swear that I can't write at all. The mind is a torturous place. Oh boy.

kaybay said...

I think everyone's reservations are completely normal. I hear very few people say "my writing sample is great and I expect to be accepted by every top-tier school I applied to." I had applicant's remorse for about a week after I finished, but I'm now at ease. It's not because I think my sample is perfect, or that personal statements are exciting (in fact, just the opposite, I think I still have a long way to go writing-wise and my personal statements were so blah!), it's just that I did the best I could and it's now out of my hands.

Furthermore, I don't look at rejections as being indicative of my talent. I'm certainly not saying that I'm super-talented (that's a subjective statement anyway), but I firmly believe acceptance has to do with a combination of talent and "fit." I don't want to work with a program that I don't fit in with, and I would certainly expect ad coms to feel the same way towards their applicants.

If you feel you have the talent, but not the polish and do get a slew of rejections, keep writing and workshopping until you feel you have that combination. Then apply. I never workshopped in the past and did it for the first time this year, and my writing improved DRAMATICALLY. I truly feel that this whole writing things as more to do with perseverance than anything else.

I personally think that the degree is worth it, but also think that it depends on the person. Not every writer needs an MFA, not every person needs to return to school. I really have nothing to lose in the process. If I go back to my job afterwards, then I do. If I publish and make money as a writer, than I do! I guess this whole process takes a little bit of a "go with the flow" mentality :)

Good luck to everybody!

frankish said...

It's been really great reading everyone's posts. I've been a bit overwhelmed myself. My job position changed the week before Christmas...have mixed feelings about it, but at least it means I'm free to go back to school. :D

Anyway, so I had to take the GRE on Christmas Eve and have been scrambling to get recommendations, transcripts, etc., together since. And digging out writing samples. I definitely feel behind the eight ball. But a couple of schools were nice enough to allow me to send in some supporting materials later, so those applications go in the mail tomorrow. Other than that, I think I'm limited to programs with Jan 15 application dates or later.

It's been pretty fun, though, even if ridiculously rushed.

Best of luck to everyone in the admissions process!

Lauren said...

Hi all,

I love reading here. I feel so much better knowing I'm not the only one who's worried/lost sleep/sweated/prepapred/second-guessed for months about this process.

Today's question:

The University of Florida's "MFA Cover Sheet" asks two questions that are really stressing me out. One is something like, list your favorite writers. The other is (I'm paraphrasing): How did you hear about us and why do you want to attend our program specifically?

I'm stressing because, no matter how I answer these, they seem to be risky questions. I want to let them know how much I want to attend (they're my "favorite" school. Also SO selective I understand I have a snowball's chance of getting in) -- without sounding like I'm laying it on thick.

Anyone else stressing about this right now?

WordShift said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
laura said...

Lauren:

I answered those yesterday. Just be honest. I decided on a list of my favorite writers (rather than explaining why they are my favorite) because it seems like they just want to glance at the cover sheet before they open it up to the writing sample. Florida is firm about not wanting a personal statement, which shows how little weight the cover sheet must have in comparison to the sample. Don't worry about it. Your sample is what will or will not get you in, and maaaybe your letters of rec. :)

WanderingTree said...

I think for me, I look at the writers I admire and almost all of them have been through MFA programs. Does that mean anything? Probably not as much as some people might think. Most writers don't publish a book until years and years after their time in an MFA program and at that point, life experience and years of writing/submitting to journals/polishing on their own has much more to do with their success. But, the MFA is still a part of their history and growth as a writer. It gave them either the first of many steps or the final push (depending on when they entered a program in their career) in discovering who they are as a writer.

WordShift said...

Michael good luck with CCA, I'm applying as well:)

Curious if everyone has a back up plan?

I guess I'm more relaxed [anxious] to find out what happens. everything hangs in balance, I'm a single mom who would have to be separated from from my child if I got accepted and chose a program out of state.

Back up plan: No acceptances, or acceptance without assurance of funding: work, take extension classes (UCLA) and reapply for next year, or, apply to some low res programs.

cb said...

I think this was touched on before, but does anyone know what the protocol is in terms of contacting schools to see if all your materials have been received? Unfortunately, I can't check online using the IDs sent in letters because I'm on break from school right now, and those letters were sent to my college (I'll be back at the end of the month). Oy. Seems like emailing is the only other option, but I know they've got tons of apps to sort through right now and don't want to be a nuisance... anyone have experience here?

Ashley Brooke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ashley Brooke said...

My "back up plan" is to teach English in Taiwan for a year while reapplying for 2011. This is something I want to do eventually anyway, & it helps me to know that no matter what, I'm excited for whatever is going to happen.

Amy said...

Update on my Michigan dilemma: I checked the USPS Track & Confirmation site again and see that my writing sample was JUST:

"Processed through Sort Facility, January 02, 2010, 7:57 pm, ROMULUS, MI 48174"

I'm going to guess that it gets delivered to the University of Michigan on Monday (you know... THREE days after the deadline. Ugh). I had sent it out on the 26th with Priority mail, which should take 2-3 days, but it just didn't happen. I'm gonna call the grad offices on Monday and ask very nicely if they'll reconsider taking in my writing sample.

This is heartbreaking.

WordShift said...

I've been cutting it close on deadlines, but always err on the side of caution. Overnight, but even there check the delivery date.

With the newer programs they may be flexible, as it happened to me I got the online app in on time and the program let me send my manuscript via pdf. My advice call the program head [Michigan] and explain. It won't hurt your cause. Best of luck!

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

I just had a minor heart attack. Am I really supposed to submit a transcript from the community college where I took ONE writing course this past semester? I took the class “for fun,” and it has no bearing on my undergraduate degree. All the deadlines have passed - is it too late to send that transcripts? Are all my applications going to be invalid? I got an A in the community college class - it’s not like I’m hiding something. It just never occurred to me to have that transcript sent. Any advice

Brenda said...

Re: the community college thing, at least one of the schools I applied to specified that they only wanted transcripts "from schools where I got or intended to get a degree." So I have not been submitting them from a community college class I took; it was just one class. Read the fine print, but I really don't think it's a deal breaker in a case like that.

kaybay said...

Out of curiosity, where did everybody end up applying? I set out to apply to 14, but ended up applying to ten (those fees killed me!). Here's my final list:

Cornell
Vanderbilt
Iowa
Syracuse
Florida
Florida State
University of Central Florida
UNC Greensboro
Alabama
Notre Dame

Cate said...

Most of the schools say,
"One set of official transcripts of courses taken and grades from each college or university attended."
I took that to mean colleges/universities attended WHILE WORKING TOWARDS A DEGREE.
I had transcripts send from a college where I took summer courses that I applied to my undergraduate degree. But courses taken solely for personal enrichment- I never considered sending those transcripts. I mean do I have to send a transcript for the yoga class I took at a junior college in 2003?
I love this blog, but right now it has me very perplexed.

Brenda said...

Kaybay, here's my list. Mine, too, was truncated due to application fees.

I meant to apply to Irvine, Madison, Massachusetts, and Minneapolis, but was too late on all of them (this was a very last-minute decision for me).

Applications Done:

-Michener
-Michigan
-Virginia
-Iowa

Applications Yet to Do/ In Progress:

-UMass Boston
-Eugene/ Oregon

Probably skipped because I can't afford them: Hunter and Brooklyn. Out of those two, though, if I can swing one, it'll be Brooklyn because they've been kinder, I think, in their communications so far with me. Better vibe. Just a personal opinion of course.

Oh, and my main genre is fiction, but whenever possible without having to do two applications/ fees, I've been applying under both fiction and poetry as I do both equally.

Michelle said...

Thanks for all the encouraging words, guys. I just feel like I've initiated this referendum on whether or not I Am A Writer - and I'm a bit afraid of the results coming in.

Brenda said...

Cate, I did see at least on the Michener/ Austin site this line:

Transcripts are not required from junior colleges and community colleges.

I personally took one class at a community college, back in 03. It was a Photography class taken for personal development only (although it did count towards my undergrad in the end). I haven't submitted any transcripts for it anywhere. And so far I haven't had any complaints. If someone does want it, I'm assuming they'll contact me, but I just felt like it was outside the scope of my degree itself personally. Hopefully that was the right assumption. I guess what I'm saying is don't stress too badly, it seems to me a logical assumption that such a transcript isn't necessary. You can certainly call them and ask, too. But I hope this helps.

Cate said...

Brenda - Thanks, that does make me feel better. The bit on this blog about "academic fraud" had me a little freaked out. Now that my applications are finished, I have a lot of time to worry. =)

Ashley Brooke said...

I checked around online quite a bit before I ultimately decided to send out my CC transcripts. Even for schools whose deadlines have passed, I think you should just send in the transcripts. Some schools might not care, but this is the sort of thing the college and the graduate school could dig up down the line and it can get you kicked out of the school or you could have you acceptance revoked before you start attending. You always sign an application saying that to the best of your knowledge the information is truthful and complete. If it says "all post secondary work" or anything like that, you are omitting something. The only schools I know of that didn't need it were University of Texas and Virginia Tech, who both state that they only need transcripts for where you get your degree. Good luck, I doubt this will cost you your admission, but I like not having to worry about it.

Don't worry too much, but I would send out the transcripts ASAP.

Cate said...

I applied to:
University of Wisconsin – Madison
UMass Amherst
University of Michigan
Iowa
Brown
Minnesota
UNH

I regret not applying to more programs. I'm not sure what I was thinking. Based on acceptance rates, I have the sinking feeling I can say: next year...

beedeecee said...

kaybay - i applied to the following programs in fiction:

brown
george mason
michigan
syracuse
wisconsin

yet to be completed: hunter

i would have liked to apply to more, but it wasn't in the cards.

and re: the question about a backup plan ... i'm not sure. i've been out of school for some time now (8 years) and have been working as a full-time writer and editor (magazines and financial industry) since then. i'll likely just continue down that path until i come up with some other brilliant career move. i would probably apply again next year if i was rejected from all of my schools, though i really don't know at this point.

Ashley Brooke said...

Kaybay,
I ended up with 14 applications. They're all done! Now I... wait.

University of Iowa
Brown University
University of Montana
Syracuse University
University of Wyoming
University of Kansas
Southern Illinois University
Florida Atlantic University
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Georgia College & State University
Penn State
University of North Carolina, Wilmington
Texas State, San Marcos
Virginia Tech

Trilbe said...

Now that I'm all done, and since I have my recs in Interfolio, I might add a couple more late-date, lower selectivity programs to bump up my odds a bit. But I might not. I've already spread myself out fairly evenly across the selectivity spectrum. Besides, sometimes the odds don't really tell the whole story.

I remember a P&W poster from 2 or 3 years ago who only applied to four schools: Cornell, Iowa, Michigan and Mills College. I remember her because she was one of the first people notified that year out of the whole process -- the very first person in blogland to report that Cornell called. But then she gets rejected by Iowa shortly after that. Okay, well, it's Iowa. Right? And then she gets rejected by Michigan. Okay, well, Michigan's really selective, not a lot of spots, so what're you gonna do? She was pretty cool about it, breathing a sigh of relief, "Thank God I'm already in somewhere or I'd be freaking out right now..." Finally, she gets waitlisted by Mills College, her back-up plan. She was, like, "F* you, Mills College! F* you! I've got a date in Ithaca this August!"

And I remember when Seth, who compiled the selectivity stats, applied. That was about the time I first started reading these blogs. He only applied to 6 or 7 schools, all highly selective. Then he got accepted by two of them, UMass (I believe) and Iowa.

Some people roll like that, high odds with great outcomes.

Brenda said...

I'm definitely unsure about great outcomes, but I set myself fairly high odds. Reason number one, I want grad school but if it doesn't happen this year it can also happen next year. Number two, I talked to a professor of mine about the idea of safety schools and the fact that I couldn't think of any. He quite reasonably said that if I'm not desperate to go this year (and I'm not, I just really, really want to), I shouldn't apply to schools where deep down I wouldn't want to be. So my list is definitely absent any sure-fire acceptances, but if I don't get into the schools I applied to, basically, I'd rather wait a year than accept enrollment somewhere else.

Lucas said...

Hey all...another lurker here. I'm applying (in fiction) to:

Indiana
Alabama
UNCG
LSU
Ole Miss
Southern Illinois
VCU
Bowling Green
Arkansas
Old Dominion

I have a dumb and (hopefully) amusing question. I looked back over my writing sample last night (after a few beers...) and I found that I'd misspelled a word on the third page or so. I misspelled "attendance" (for some reason I put "attendence"). I am a comp instructor and pass out an "attendance" sheet every day I teach. Ha. Do you guys think that this kind of typo/error plays much into the process? I don't mean to sound hysterical (I'm not, though, of course, I want to get in some where). I doubt I had any other real typos/errors. Do schools demand perfection? I'm happy with my sample and feel good about my chances getting in somewhere, but I thought it was an interesting question to share.

Heck, while I'm at it, I have one other question. I have unimpressive GRE scores and an unimpressive undergrad gpa, but I also hold an MA in Lit (with a 4.0 gpa and I had a taship). The story is that I played in bands and screwed around as an undergrad, moved back home and enrolled in the University there, made good grades until I graduated, and got into their grad program. I took the GRE after I already knew I would be accepted and didn't try. Anyways, would the latter achievement negate the former low scores/gpa?

4maivalentine said...

14 apps here and I'm finished sorta.

Cornell
NYU
Columbia
Hunter
Brooklyn
Boston University
Sarah Lawrence
USC
Florida International
University of Miami
Iowa
University of East Anglia
Goldsmith's College
Oxford

Michael said...

Thanks WordShift, good luck to you too. I'm an East Coastie, so I'm not entirely sure how I'd feel about moving cross country, but I'm sure that San Fran would be amazing.

Who else is applying to the NYC schools? 4maivalentine, looks like you're applying to a lot of the same ones I am. My list (I'm 10 deep right now):

UC Irvine
UMass Amherst
Michener
NYU
Columbia
Iowa
Rutgers-Newark
Brooklyn
New School
Hunter
CUNY Queens
Sarah Lawrence
BU
CCA
Emerson

I was going to apply to Penn State as well, but my list is already so large and I might not really be interested in going anywhere other than NYC. But we'll see; I certainly wouldn't say no if Texas came calling.

Good luck everyone.

Mike

WordShift said...

Glad to know I'm not the only one. It feels that way sometimes. Lucas, I've made a few grammatical snafus, most important is your writing sample: creativity, potential. Congrats to everyone who got all their apps out, I'm still toiling away. I missed Brown, Arizona, Irvine and Wisconsin:( So far my list all fiction except UCLA.

UC San Diego
UC Riverside
UCLA (Screenwriting)
CCA
Iowa
Michigan
Hollins
Hunter
Vermont

laura said...

Cate:

Yes, send your yoga transcript. I sent mine!

-Laura

WanderingTree said...

Since everyone is posting lists now:

Texas-Austin
Brown
Syracuse
WUSTL
Southern Illinois
Penn State
Arizona State
Wisconsin-Madison
Indiana
Illinois
Notre Dame
Iowa

Kerry Headley said...

Lucas,
I suspect that typos present a problem only when they create the impression that the writer didn't take proofreading very seriously. So, just a couple shouldn't be a problem. One on every page? Well, that depends on how kick-ass the sample is, probably, but it wouldn't be good in tie-breaker situations.

Unimpressive GRE scores aren't a problem unless a program/school indicates that they have a rigid policy on minimum scores. (And apparently most do not.)

That's the short answer. See past posts here and on the P&W board if you want lots of other similar points of view along with the occasional rabid, fear-mongering opinions of people looking to start fights on the Internet.

My math score falls into the percentile better known as Was-she-drunk? I will let everyone know if any school tells me that this specifically was the reason they said no to me...

Rose said...

List for Fiction...

Submitted:
Wisconsin
Montana
Wyoming
Colorado State
Fairbanks
Alabama
Vanderbilt
UNC Wilmington
Minnesota
Texas-Austin
Cornell
Iowa

In Progress:
UFlorida
Eastern Washington
Anchorage

Cate said...

Iowa must make a fortune in application fees. I can’t wait to see you all there...

Lucas said...

Thanks for the reassuring responses, folks. Best of luck to all.

Brandi Wells said...

applied to:
wyoming
wisconsin
alabama
arizona
syracuse
brown
illinois
iowa
southern illinois
florida
mcneese

Vi Khi Nao said...

i applied to six:
a. brown
b. syracuse
c. wisconsin-madison
d. miami university
e. mcneese
f. university of oregon

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