Thursday, September 02, 2010

Mailbag (Sept. 2)

This is the place for your general questions, concerns, rants, comments, observations, etc, etc.

507 comments:

1 – 200 of 507   Newer›   Newest»
Marti said...

Hi there,
A gpa question: I attended three undergrad schools. School 1's gpa pretty awful, school 2's even worse, and school 3's stellar. So, what I'm wondering is, will grad schools use the cumulative gpa from my last school (3.5), or will they average the gpas from all three (2.6)?
AND if they do calculate all three, as I suspect, am I wasting money applying to programs with funding, as most require 3.0s?
Would I even have a shot at being considered for admission, let alone funding?
Thanks a bunch for any advice!

rch1601 said...

I'd like to second Marti's question. I've been out of school for 5 years, I'm applying to MFA programs this winter, and the GPA issue is really making me sweat--with a GPA under 3.0, are reputable MFA programs just a pipe dream? Can a strong enough writing sample and statement of purpose overcome a horrible GPA? I've heard that some programs take on students as "provisional" for the first semester if they like the writing but have concerns about a questionable academic background. Can anyone comment on this?

vegascetic said...
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Blob said...

subscribing.

Bookfraud said...

just my two cents -- i think what really matters is the quality of your writing (especially if you have any publication credits to your name). an mfa program that cares about GPAs and GRE scores more than the quality of your work probably isn't worth attending.

Marti said...

@rch1601: Thanks for the support!

@vegascetic & Bookfraud: Thanks for the advice!

I'm mainly worried about funding. Money is a big issue for me, so if funding is just a pipe dream (as rch1601 so aptly put it), I'd rather know up front.

I went to get info on free apps (here if you need it), and when they told me I wasn't eligible w/o a 3.0 cumulative, I guess I kinda freaked out. :)

Ali said...

When given both options, is there an advantage to mailing a submission vs. submitting electronically? Will electronic submissions be read electronically, while mailed submissions are read on paper? If so, it seems reading on paper is more pleasant than reading on a computer. However, the paper and gas (not to mention the time lag) used to mail a hardcopy is less desirable. Thoughts please!

Seth Abramson said...

Hi all,

I hope some more folks will post their application lists here -- there were a bunch posted in the last mailbag, and I know everyone (definitely including myself) appreciates having a sense of where folks plan to apply!

Be well,
Seth

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

@ Marti and rch1601 - Don’t worry about your GPA. I had a terrible GPA (less than 3.0) and was accepted to three out of the six programs I applied to. I might mention that all of the MFA programs were in the top 25. Was I rejected from the other three because of my GPA? I’ll never know. However, I suspect that 98% of the decision (both the acceptances and rejections) was based on my writing sample. The personal statement and letters of recommendation are important too - GPA, not so much. That said – if your GPA isn’t so hot, it can’t hurt to have high GRE scores.

kaybay said...

Subscribing. And Vegascetic, you seem pretty awesome. Just thought you should know ;) Btw, are you a vegetarian, an ascetic, or both? I have to know!

Calle said...

ayo. been lurking a long time. i'm applying this year for poetry at the following places:

vanderbilt
ut-austin
maryland
cornell
university of florida
syracuse
virginia tech
washington university in st. louis
wisconsin-madison
michigan
arkansas

though i'm debating switching arkansas with iowa, as they require a 10 page critical writing sample, and i don't have anything that long that i feel is high enough quality. thoughts?

Gwen said...

Here is my list for "fiction"-

North Carolina Greensboro
Rutgers, Camden
Penn State
Iowa
Johns Hopkins
Hunter
Virginia
Emerson
Syracuse


Does Seth or anyone else have information on what the average age of an incoming MFA student is? I'm 27, soon to be 28, and wondering if this is older than average?

kaybay said...

Oh, and someone here asked about re-applying. This will be my second time applying. I was waitlisted at three places last year (seems like I was low on the list at all three, though). I applied to 11 schools, some of which I regret sending anything to. I would say that my sample wasn't bad, but wasn't where it should have been (obviously :D). I feel a little bit more confident in what I've been working on lately and do feel confident that with a new and improved list and sample, I have a better shot. Nothing is a guarantee with this thing, however, so I'm not expecting jack.

I've heard it's pretty common to be rejected the first time. I talked to several people last year who were rejected the first time and reapplied, getting accepted to some very good programs the next year. I certainly don't think it says anything about potential and talent, although it might say something about polish. You do have to be pretty accomplished to get accepted to the top programs. That doesn't mean you have to be published, just good at what you do. That means make sure you send your best work in its best state and then light some candles and pray a few Hail Mary's :)

Seth Abramson said...

Gwen,

About 26.5 for full-res (from 2007 polling).

S.

Blob said...

My list for poetry isn't finalized yet. I'm trying to keep the list at 10. Right now I have a first tier of schools I'm definitely applying to and a second tier out which I need to choose a few to make out my final 10. I'd love to hear others thoughts on my list thus far:

Tier 1:
UMass
Iowa
Michigan
Alabama
Wash U
Vanderbilt
University of Florida

Tier 2:
UT-Austin
Wisconsin-Madison
Notre Dame
Oregon
Purdue
Cornell
University of Washington
FSU

rch1601 said...

Thanks everyone for feedback on the GPA issue! Here's another question: I read today that the standard ratio for the studio credential signified by the MFA degree is 75% writing courses and 25% literature courses. Does anyone know what the standard ratio is for academic MFA programs?

Claire said...

Does anyone know where I can find a list of MFA programs by date established? I have looked around online for one, but there doesn't seem to be one anywhere. Some school's websites list their dates of founding and others do not. (This is for something I am writing.)

Jonathan said...

@rch1601

Hopefully someone will correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that the standard ratio for academic programs is 50-50 (half writing, half lit).

vegascetic said...
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vegascetic said...
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Anti- said...

Hello,

I am about to start applying to fully-funded programs, and wanted to know which do you recommend for a writer of experimental fiction. Brown is definitely on my list, as are all the big dogs on the 2011 MFA Rankings, but I'd like to know if there are any great, underrated programs out there I should keep my eye on.

Also, as far as the GRE is concerned, do programs only take the verbal part of it into consideration? I'm bad at math, so I hope not.

- J

Renee said...

I'm seconding Anti-'s question. Do programs that might take the GRE into account for funding just look at the english section? I certainly hope so. Math is a bit of a lost cause for me, and while I've been studying vocab (mostly because I want to), I haven't even looked at the math.

Also, in the MFA book, it says, " send your
recommenders all the materials they'll need in one package." What, exactly, do they need? I'm assuming stamped addressed envelopes, instructions about deadlines, and any forms from schools, but what else? My writing sample? CV? Personal statement? I want to have enough time to prepare this stuff before I have to send it off.

kaybay said...

Anti-

Definitely put Southern Illinois - Carbondale on your list. They are fully funded and I know that they are open to experimental writing.

I'm thinking you probably have Alabama on your list, too, but they are fully funded and lean experimental.

Notre Dame is open to experimental writing, but is only fully funded-ish (you get a tuition waiver, but only 1-2 students get a stipend).

kaybay said...

I don't think that the vast majority of programs will even look at your math score, and honestly, I'm not sure how many will even look at your verbal score. Some schools obviously set limits (most are only verbal score limits, though), but even those that do set limits have some sway when it comes to admitting students below the minimum. In other words, don't stress about your GRE score. Mine sucks (math and verbal), but I'm not worrying about it.

Last year, I gave my recommendation writers a packet that had instructions on how to complete each letter for each school, stamped and labeled envelopes, and any forms required by the school. That worked just fine for me. You might want to put a gift card or something to say thank you in there, too :)

Blob said...

Along the lines of a recommendation packet:
I've noticed a lot of schools specifically ask that recommendation letters be sent with the rest of the application materials together.

So I've been thinking of asking my recommenders to send me all the letters in sealed envelopes with the seal signed so that I can then put them in with the rest of my application materials. But I'm not sure whether this will slow down my process and I'll be stuck waiting for recommendations.

I plan on sending my packet out in the next 2 weeks once I fully finalize my list.

As for GRE, I've had a hard time letting go of things like GREs and GPAs because numbers to me are at least tangible and give me some reassurance of where things fall. But I've been told over and over again from every source I've asked not to worry about GREs. I've heard that some schools that do have a total minimum, but I've heard if a place really likes you're writing sample even that shouldn't matter too much.

I take my GRE on friday. I'm trying not to stress about it. I just want it to be in the past!

kaybay said...

Sorry for over-posting, but I'm being lazy this weekend and don't want to get off the couch and away from my computer :D

Blob -

This year, unless a school specifically requests letters to be sent online, I'm going to send them myself as a hard copy. It's just so much easier to control and it simplifies the process. Have your letter writers print out their letter, put it in the envelope, sign the seal, and then give them back to you. That way, you don't have to chase after them to go online for school A and remind them that they haven't uploaded the letter for school B. Once you get your letters back, you're basically done with the hard stuff, since everything else is in your control; You send them and know that they've been sent. You will have to wait for a while to get your letters back and might have to get on your writers about that, but once you get them, you get all of them, and you're done with that part of the process, which is by far the most annoying and frustrating part of the process.

Anti- said...

Thank you, kaybay.

Awesome advice. Hope I get more.

What test books would you guys recommend for anyone studying for the GRE? I plan to go book shopping this week, and want to know which test books to check out (and if possible, which to avoid).

Hope the question isn't too broad.

- J

Blob said...

Anti-
I got Barrons and Kaplan. The Kaplan Premier book has an online and cd component which equals to a lot more full length tests, which is key for me.

But I found barrons tutorials to be pretty helpful. Though I will say that kaplan's math seems to be easier.

mfawritergirl said...

Hi Everyone-
I have a transcript question.
I was a transfer student from a community college to a 4 year University. I completed a transfer agreement, IGETC while at the community college and I believe that essentially my grades and records were transfered into my record at the 4 year school In researching the different schools I'm thinking about applying to, I've noticed that they say to send transcripts from all colleges attended.
This says to me that I should gather official transcripts from my community college, but when discussing in with other people, they have said that since all my information became a part of the record of the school where I earned my degree, I only need to provide transcripts from there.
Can anybody give me thoughts on this?
I appreciate any help!

Blob said...

hi Mfawritergirl,

You should get your community college transcripts also. Some schools will probably be fine without it, but some are real sticklers and it's probably safest to send to all. I know some schools even want my study abroad transcripts even though none of those credits went towards my major or graduating requirements and all are on my college transcript. Since at least 2 out of 4 schools I've called have wanted those transcripts, I've decided just to send them everywhere.

Better to be safe than sorry.

Sebastian_Josephs said...

Bit of a broad question, but here I go:

What are the best fully funded MFA programs that don't require the GRE? I'm a terrible test taker juggling two jobs, so finding time to even write is a miracle in itself, let alone finding time to study for the GRE. Brown and Michigan are my top two, but I'm also realistic.

lalaland626 said...

Well, I think I have a 90 percent set list. I'm planning to apply to all these if my finances are OK, but it's starting to look like some things might come up that could force me to whittle down the list, since I'm looking at around $400 in app fees. But, I'll burn that bridge when I get there. For now:
LSU
Florida
Southern Illinois
Illinois
Vanderilt
Wash U in St. Louis
Iowa
Indiana
Texas State
Minnesota
Oregon

I'm tempted to add Texas because I love the Austin area, and 25k a year is more than I'm making now, but I kind of think Iowa should be my "shoot for the stars" school. Oh hell, they probably all are to some degree.

Had to remove Oregon State, even though I love the looks of the program, because their stipend doesn't seem like enough for me to live on, and I have too many undergrad loans to take on more for an MFA. I'm being a really hardass about this, partly because Sallie Mae will haunt me until the end of my days. I'm fairly certain I could live on all the aforementioned programs' stipends, even if I have to get a roomie, cut off cable and Internet, eat ramen noodles, etc.

Still have to ask for my third recommender. Been putting it off because it's an old boss and I left on weird terms, even though she liked me personally and liked the writing I was doing. Not bad terms, just weird terms. But she complimented my writing several times (even though it wasn't creative) and even brought up the idea of me going to grad school for creative writing, so I'm hoping she'll be open. I have no other creative writing profs I can ask, so that seems like the best shot.

Seth Abramson said...

Rankings Update.

Based upon a recent review of data (including unpublished data), it appears UNLV is now the 35th fully-funded full-residency MFA program in the United States.

FYI for those forming application lists (which I hope you will continue to share with the rest of us!).

Best wishes,
Seth

NicalenaRose said...

Hi. I have a rather odd question. I am researching MFA programs and am wondering if anyone knows of any programs that are "less libral" than most academic English programs. I am a very strong student with a background in English and feel confident in my poetry, but I am afraid that I will not find a program where I will "fit in" because my political and religous convictions are rather conservative. I want to find someplace where I can study the craft of writing, with out worrying about politics. Any ideas?

kaybay said...

Nicalena -

I don't think there is such a thing, heh. Every group is going to have different beliefs and values, and graduate programs are no different. There's no way to measure whether you'll be accepted by a group of people. Hell, even if you did find a school that shared your beliefs, you're still going to have to battle individual personalities and behaviors. It's just an intangible that you cannot, in any way, measure.

I'm a firm believer that one's beliefs and values should be respected (unless super extreme and hateful/harmful) and are completely irrelevant when it comes to education. I have many students that I disagree with fundamentally, but I would be a poor teacher if I let that interfere with their education. I would imagine that most professors share the same belief and focus more educating their students than proselytizing. I'm sure there are plenty that don't, but there's not much you can do about that. I think it's best for everyone, however, to keep personal opinions and beliefs to a minimum. Quite frankly, they're nobody's business. If you keep your beliefs private and don't wear them on your sleeves, I can't imagine you'll have any problems.

I'd recommend you send your stories to programs you admire and then gauge how you feel about a program after getting accepted and attend the school. Don't say anything about your beliefs in your personal statement and don't write stories about conservative values unless that's exactly what you want you write (honestly, I find most stories written with an agenda kind of suck, though). Seek acceptance based on your talent, not anything else.

Now, if you're asking if Liberty University has an MFA program. No. No...

Renee said...

kaybay- that's awesome advice about the letters in hard copy. The online letters just seem like a pain and a half.

lalaland626- I, too, keep going back and forth about adding michener to my list. do I really want teaching experience? would I be okay living in austin? ack.

For those who care, I discovered yesterday (god, their website is bad) that UMass requires teaching one class one semester and two the other in order to receive funding.

Jonathan said...

@Nicalena, kaybay

I'd have to respectfully disagree with kaybay a little here. For many people, their beliefs are a significant portion of who they are as people. What one believes about life's biggest questions is central to his/her identity, and shouldn't be irrelevant to the practice of writing. I don't think you should feel any pressure to try to make belief-neutral stories for your application or in your workshops.

However, I COMPLETELY agree that wrapping a story around an ideological agenda is a bad idea.

And while we're at it, thank God that Liberty doesn't have an MFA program. :)

l.rosenfeld said...

Hey all,

So I noticed in the previous thread there were brief comments on how "useful" the MFA is in the world of writing. My main goal with the MFA is to teach at the college level and if I remember correctly from the thread (correct me if I'm wrong), that the MFA's that carry the most weight are from the Ivy's or other high ranking programs. I was just wondering if anyone else had any more information on using the MFA as a stepping stone to teaching at the collegiate level. I'm in the midst of compiling my list and would like to know if there were specific schools I should keep in mind...

Lindsay said...

@Nicalena : I don't know what your exact religious beliefs are, but I do know Brigham Young University has an MFA program. I don't know much (or anything) about it, but since it's one of the most conservative college campuses in the country, I'd say it's a safe bet that the MFA students are similarly religious/conservative. Maybe Seth knows more about the program at BYU in terms of quality, faculty, funding, etc.?

kaybay said...

Whoa, whoa, whoa, Jonathon, who said you could disagree with the Kaybay, however respectfully! Blargh!

Nicalena, you might want to also consider Notre Dame if you can handle the Catholics. We're a rowdy bunch, I must say. I think the program might lean a little to the left, but the school is apparently conservative, aside from the rampant Irish drinking that persists. Pro-life and pro-whiskey. Yeah!

John said...

Hey, I have a question:

I'm still in high school right now, and I'm really wondering what the steps to getting an MFA is. I can't find any information or help online to answer this question. I'm really curious as to how one obtains one. I know I want to write for a living and right now an MFA is one of the few ways I'll be able to do that (the other being break into the industry as if I were the next Kurt Vonnegut) but I don't know what to do. There are four colleges near me that do the program.

Really, I'm wondering (because my family is not on the wealthy side) if I could take lower level classes at a community college and then transfer those into one of the state colleges when I have enough money to complete it. I'm curious as to what those lower level courses would be.

That, and what the undergraduate requirements to getting an MFA is. If there are any. And if so, if I can do those at a community college and then transfer in.

I'm really confused about the whole thing and any and all help will be extremely appreciated. Thank you.

NicalenaRose said...

John - hi. I don't have an MFA, but am just graduating from college and looking into one. I can tell you what I know so far. First of all, it is great that you are in high school and already have an idea of what you want to do. Good for you!! Don't worry about not being able to go to a 4 year school right away, community colleges are great. I don't know what state you are in or exactly how things work there, but where I live, most community college classes will transfer to any state school. From what I have seen in my research, most MFA programs are open to applicants from any major or background, though a degree in English is helpful. If you want to study English, (or journalism, or communications, or whatever it is you are interested in) you will want to check out the state universities that you may go to later. Go to each state school web site and find their list of required classes for your major. If you don't know what major yet, that is okay too, because most majors have the same basic requirements (english, math, science, history, etc). Then take that list to your community college and find the classes that they also offer. For example, if I am going to go to University of Texas (because I live in Texas) and I know that I want to study English, I will go to UT's web site and find out that they require Intro. to Lit., Freshman Comp, etc. Then I will go to the community college and ask an advisor if they have those classes. They may be called something different, but they may be the same class. Just to double check, I can then go back to UT and ask if they accept classes from the community college. Most schools do, so it should all be fine. So you take most likely 2 years at the community college, then you apply to go to your state school. Your credits transfer in and you graduate after two more years. then you have your degree and you are ready to apply for your MFA program. Like I said, I don't have my MFA yet, so I may not be too much help here, but what I can say, is just to worry about your undergrad first. You know what you want to do, so study something that seems logical to you. MFA's, from what I have seen, just look at your writing, not so much your previous degree. Though, I will say, if you want to get funding for your MFA, you will probably have to teach, and teaching positions are given most often to those who have experience in literature. Also, to those who have experience teaching or tutoring, so get a job at the writing center on campus, help your friends, anything and everything to be around writing. Good luck!!

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Lindsay said...

@John -- some programs require an undergraduate major in English, or at least 18 credits in English, but many will take students with undergraduate degrees in any discipline. Regardless of what major you pick, I'd definitely recommend taking several literature courses (especially 20th century lit, so you're exposed to a lot of writing that could help/influence you along the way) and writing workshops wherever possible. At least a minor in English would likely be helpful. These classes will give you a good background, help you polish writing samples, and give you people to ask for recommendation letters.

I also recommend taking out as few loans to pay for college as possible, so in that case, community college might be a really good idea. (The less debt you have after graduation, the more likely it is that you'll be able to get by on what little money you'll make as a writer just starting out, or at some sort of side job that allows you time to write.)

I'd look at colleges with good English departments, especially those with creative writing programs. Not all schools offer creative writing workshops, so that's definitely something to look into before you decide on a school.

starrlit71 said...

@NicalenaRose,

I don't think anyone can tell you what you should/should not be writing. I'm not even sure that's the question you're asking, but if you're worried that your writing is shaped by your beliefs...well, I wouldn't worry. Your writing is part of you, so naturally your beliefs will play some role. As a reader, I probably wouldn't be interested in a story/essay that aims to sway me to a particular religious/political ideology. However, I would be interested in the experience of the piece. So if you have an interesting story that happens to deal with religion, I say dive in. I don't think writing should have any taboo subjects. Bare it all.

Was that what you were asking about? As far as schools go, I'd say send out your applications and then upon acceptance, visit the school and get a feel for the environment.

Hope that was helpful!

Ashley said...

@ kaybay
Are you interested in a low-residency program? Seattle Pacific University is a Christian school that offers an MFA program with an emphasis on religion and spirituality. I talked to the director when I was still looking at low-res programs, and she seemed nice and enthusiastic about the program. You might want to check it out: http://www.spu.edu/prospects/grad/academics/mfa/index.asp

Here is my list--I think it's final, but who knows. Any thoughts?

Amherst
Irvine
Hunter
Vanderbilt
UNC Wilmington
Arkansas
George Mason
Syracuse
Florida
Oregon
New Hampshire
West Virginia
Saint Mary's College
McNeese State

Any thoughts on the last two?

Ashley said...

Oh, and I'm probably also applying to Purdue.

bookholm said...

Oh, and I meant @ Nicolena Rose at the top of my post. Sorry.

Renee said...

@ Ashley: you're applying to New Hampshire? I wanted to, but I've heard that the funding is pretty bad. (On their website it says that they redetermine financial aid every semester, and you're not allowed to teach while you work on your thesis.)

Seth or others, what do you know about UNH's funding?

bookholm said...

@ Renee: I got off the phone with Jennifer Dubé this morning, and if I recall correctly she said that they do have two TAships per genre which include a stipend and tuition wavers, as well as other scholarships. They also have a writing center where grad students can work if they don't get a TAship. I was basically given to understand that while it's not fully funded many people get something. I could be wrong, but my understanding of New Hampshire is that while their funding isn't amazing, it isn't horrible, either, especially if you get a TAship. And they don't really take academic grades into consideration, which is kind of necessary for me, heh.
Basically, with my application list I'm trying to include a balance of schools with great funding (like Vanderbilt); schools with okay funding (like New Hampshire, as I understand it, but I could be wrong); schools that don't care about iffy academic records (like Purdue and Saint Mary's); schools with awesome faculties (like Hunter); and schools in where I know people who might be willing to put me up for cheap or otherwise finagle some sort of deal if I absolutely had to (Saint Mary's.) I also have a $10,000 Americorps scholarship going into this process, though, so I have a little leeway.

But I could be totally wrong. Seth, what do you think?
-Ashley

Anti- said...

Hello again,

Is there a list ranking all the full-funded full-residency programs? I've seen the 2011 Ranking, but no listing of the fully-funded. Would help a lot.

-J

Twenty-Something Cohabitant said...

Hi everyone,

I'm a nonfiction MFA student at the University of San Francisco and just wanted to share a "call for submissions" with all future and current MFA'ers. Switchback, our online literary mag, is looking for poetry, fiction, nonfiction, critical essays, and art for our next issue--nonfiction is particularly in high demand! Deadline is October 1st. Details are here: http://swback.com/call/ Good luck!

Seth Abramson said...

Hi all,

I've got a new article up at The Huffington Post that I think is relevant to this community:

Six Myths About the Creative Writing Master of Fine Arts

I hope you'll read it and pass it along to others (via Facebook, Twitter, &c)! So many folks misunderstand the degree and why it's something all of us here are interested in.

Best to all,
Seth

Writer Dude said...

@Seth,

Great article. Drecky dreck dreck. Couldn't agree more there.


@the world,

The list has changed pretty much so I'll post the new (mostly final) one now:

Iowa
Michigan
Vandy
Washington U
Indiana
Purdue
Oregon
Alabama
Mississippi
Brown

Go in peace

kaybay said...

Writer Dude - did you apply last year? I could have sworn you got a couple acceptances last year? I hope you don't mind me asking that, I'm just curious. In any case, good to have you back ;)

Almost always said...
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Prospector said...
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Ruin Christmas said...

@bookholm, @renee, @ashley:

While it's true that UNH has a limited number of TAships, no students get one their first year. Almost everyone I know was able to get a job at the Writing Center or elsewhere on campus, though. ( My information is based on attending UNH and I am 95% sure that I am correct.)

Seth Abramson said...

Ruin Christmas (and others),

Many programs with poor funding are able to find odd jobs for certain students who don't have TAships. The problem with these jobs is that they typically involve zero tuition remission and no health insurance; in other words, they take substantial time away from students' writing while doing virtually nothing to dent the cost of attendance. I'm in many respects a New Hampshirite, and I have a soft spot for UNH, but the facts are the facts: The program is not well funded. As a mid-size program, two TAships per genre simply doesn't cut it, particularly as the OP pointed out that these may well be non-renewable TAships not necessarily available to first-year students. Hopefully UNH will update its website (ideally, per the advice in this article) to make crystal clear what it can and can't offer students. But without that clarification, the assumption should be -- or, I should say, the current data tells us -- that UNH is not well funded. It is not amongst the core group of poorly-funded programs, but it is on the cusp -- when we're speaking of "okay"-funded programs we generally mean programs like UMass-Amherst, Texas State, Oregon State, Memphis, &c (i.e., "Honorable Mention" or "low-top-50" programs in funding as per 2010-11 data).

Cheers,
Seth
Six Myths About the Creative Writing MFA

Writer Dude said...

@kaybay!

Must have been a different writer dude -- but good for him ;)

I applied very half-assedly my senior year in college to two universities -- one close to home and the other close to this girl I had to see about (wha wha whaaaaaaa). That was almost 4 years ago and I didn't know this wonderful resources existed. I wrote my SOP a week before deadline and it read like a dear diary entry...Oh the stupidity of youth.

Now I'm slightly older, slightly less stupid and planning ahead. Still haven't started on the SOP though...(wha wha whaaaaaa)

I wish you (and everyone else) the best of luck! But if I am wait-listed I will hunt you and your family down, all of you.

Go in peace.

Raine said...

@Anti-, awhile back you asked about experimental programs that might be off-the-radar. Do you have UC - San Diego on your list? They describe themselves as a program "designed for students who are interested in innovative and interdisciplinary approaches to narrative and poetics." Plus, they're #31 in funding, according to Seth's P&W rankings.

@everyone else,

My list, for fiction:

Arizona State
University of California - Davis
University of California - Irvine
University of California - San Diego
University of Colorado - Boulder
Iowa Writer's Workshop
University of Minnesota
University of New Mexico
New Mexico State
University of Oregon
Oregon State
Syracuse
University of Utah
Washington University

Ilse B said...
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IB said...

Applying this year; here's my tentative list of programs for poetry. I'd welcome feedback.

UMass-Amherst
Iowa
Hopkins
Brown
Virginia
NYU
Texas (Michener)
Sarah Lawrence
Indiana-Bloomington
Syracuse
Mills

Maybe:
Wisconsin
Virginia Tech
Minnesota

Caleb said...

Hi all! It's good to see some familiar faces on this board.

I applied last year and got roundhouse-rejected, save for one waitlist. This year I'm a little older, a little wiser about the schools I'm applying to, and overall more prepared.

I posted a tentative list on the last mailbag, but here's the final application list for fiction:

Iowa
Cornell
Wash U
Colorado State
LSU
U of Alabama
U of Minnesota
U of Virginia
U of Wyoming
Ohio State
UNLV

Good luck to everyone on applications this year, and as always, thanks to Seth for all the information he's made available to us applicants.

Eric said...

Hi all,

Just an FYI re: NYU (where I'm starting this semester, in poetry): it's true that the program isn't fully funded and that living in NYC is expensive, but NYU guarantees half-tuition to all accepted students, and I didn't find it too hard to find enough outside money to attend the program for free.

For NYU specifically and non-fully funded programs generally, just because the school doesn't fund you 100% doesn't mean you can't be funded 100%.

Blob said...

@Caleb,
I'm curious as to what different approaches you're taking this year as opposed to last year. If you don't mind sharing some of your new strategies, I'm sure it'll be a huge help to many of us!

@IB
We have several cross-overs on our poetry lists (good luck to both of us)! But I was curious about UVA and John Hopkins, both are schools I've gotten very mixed reviews about. I was wondering if you'd heard much about the programs and what your reasons were for picking them.

IB said...

@Blob, good luck to you, too! Hopkins and UVa aren't my top picks, but they made the cut because I'm currently based in DC and wanted a few nearby options on the list.

Seth Abramson said...

Eric,

Good point about NYU -- there's a reason it's reached "Honorable Mention" status in the funding rankings in the past, and why it's remained a top 10 program even as other programs in the City have dropped substantially in the rankings.

That said, tuition at NYU is over $61,000 for two years, according to the University website, so even the half-tuition credit for both years ($30,500) plus the second-year course one is allowed to teach ($4,620) leaves one with $25,880 to pay for a 21-month program -- and of course one hasn't eaten yet, paid rent, &c. Assuming it takes one $15,000/year to live and eat in New York City (and this is pretty darn conservative), that means a person going to NYU under the standard package would be $55,880 in debt after 21 months.

While I can appreciate that one can try to track down other funding streams, a) many of them will involve precisely the sort of time-intensive, non-creative-writing-related employment that absolutely destroys the MFA experience (which is about having time and space -- mental as well as physical -- to write), and b) I'm thrilled to hear of your success in closing that approximately $56,000 gap, but I worry that you saying "I didn't find it too hard...to attend the program for free" might give people the false impression that it's not hard for a young, aspiring poet or fiction-writer to find $56,000 lying around. I think, in fact, it's very tough, and that most of your classmates -- even at a program that's to be lauded (I mean it) for trying to fund their students as best they can -- will be graduating with over $40,000 worth of debt. Meanwhile, students at fully-funded programs are nearly guaranteed to leave their (often three-year) programs with between $0 and $10,000 of debt. And again, they often get (depending on the program) an extra [third] year of study, too.

But I really do think NYU is the class of the NYC programs, so if one is going to go down that road, which admittedly I can't advise, NYU would be one of the better places to do it (Hunter-CUNY and Brooklyn-CUNY cost much, much less, but also have less aid available, so it's probably a wash as between the amount of debt these programs require and the amount of debt NYU requires for, we do have to remember, a non-professional, largely-unmarketable degree).

Best,
Seth

honeyless said...

@Eric

Which outside funding sources did you find? I'm applying for the coming year and am also trying to find scholarships or the like that could help make up the difference at programs where provided funding leaves a gap. Thx!

CharlieGordon said...
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kaybay said...

Writer Dude, you must have a doppleganger! How will I know if it's the real you and not your arch nemesis? Duh duh duhhhh...

But seriously, good luck this year. Same to you Caleb! Same to everyone out there in internet world. I'm really hoping that everyone here gets the news they want.

I'm starting to finish POS's, er, I mean SOP's, and I'm trying to straighten my spine to ask people for letters of recommendation, so things are starting to get rolling and I'm happy to be sharing that experience with everyone here :)

CharlieGordon said...

I'm just finishing up my recommender's packets and I have decided on my schools:

Oregon
UT Austin
Virginia Tech
Oregon State
SIUC
Michigan
Iowa
UC Irvine
Alabama
Montana
Wyoming

I wish everyone the best of luck and I can't wait to see all of the acceptance start coming in for everyone here.

Anti- said...

@ Raine

I actually do have it on my list. Is UCSD fully-funded?

@all

Am I the only person starting a new writing sample from scratch? The one I used before got me into a few programs, but I just had to do something else for this round... it ain't perfect, but I'm digging it.

Raine said...

@Anti-, I think they are, though they don't provide a whole lot of detail on the website. This is what it says in the overview: "The intimate nature of the program allows students to work very closely with the writing faculty, as well as to receive support in the form of Research Assistantships and/or Teaching Assistantships."

I'm putting together a new writing sample this year, too, but I'm definitely far ahead of where I was at this time last year. My goal is to have every application in a month ahead of the deadlines (I cut it pretty close last year). Best of luck to all us second and third-timers! (And best of luck to the first-timers, too!)

Renee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kim E. said...

heya,

this is the final version of my list.

in fiction:

the new school
brooklyn college
cuny
iowa
brown
umass, amherst
boston u
umass, boaton
bennington (low res)
american

Renee said...

so, since I'm just sitting here with the MFA blog open on my browser while I look up schools from other people's lists, here is my more-or-less final list for fiction:

UMass Amherst
Minnesota
Brown
Cornell
Syracuse
Wyoming
Michigan
Oregon

Ambitious, I figure, but I'm in no hurry.

A silly question- it is okay to have transcripts arrive at a school around now and then not fill out an application for another month or two?

Rags said...

+1 to Renee's silly question.

My 3 referees have all agreed to recommend me. Yay! 2 writing prof.s and 1 superior at my prev. job.

Now, what is the best way to send these letters to schools? I live in India, my 2 writing prof.s live in the US and the superior lives in India as well. I've heard arguments for and against online v/s snail mail, but considering this location disparity, what should I do?

Also, I'm taking my GRE next week. Do I have to tell them then and there what schools to send my scores to? My list isn't ready; so I'm hoping I can come back and do it in peace.

Blob said...

Sigh, I too just got swayed by University of Wyoming. Damn, here I was trying to shorten my list...


I wanted to share this article (in 3 parts) I stumbled on today about tips for applying. There's one I'm clearly ignoring (hint: it has to do with blogs), but otherwise I think it might be helpful for people:

http://bestdamncreativewritingblog.com/2010/08/16/the-neurotic-writers-guide-to-applying-for-an-mfa-part-1/

http://bestdamncreativewritingblog.com/2010/08/26/the-neurotic-writer%E2%80%99s-guide-to-applying-for-an-mfa-part-2/

http://bestdamncreativewritingblog.com/2010/09/02/the-neurotic-writers-guide-to-applying-for-an-mfa-part-3/

FireSnake said...

Does anyone know if Iowa State is CGSR complaint? Also, does anyone know much about the program, other than what the website says? Does anyone know what the selectivity rating on it is? It sounds like an interesting program.

bookholm said...

Okay, here's my revised list:
Amherst
Irvine
Hunter
Vanderbilt
UNC Wilmington
Arkansas
George Mason
Purdue
Syracuse
Florida
Oregon
Indiana
Florida Atlantic
McNeese State
West Virginia

Anyone else freaked out by Amherst's 12-1 deadline?

King said...

Is the MFA System defensible?
I say not.
See the arguments at my "Attacking the Demi-Puppets" blog.

Blob said...

@king
I think you missed the point. I don't think Seth has ever said an MFA is necessary or even an advisable thing. I think the only real reason he's given in favor of the programs are that it gives writers an opportunity to have 2-3 years fully devoted to their writing. I disagree a bit, as someone who WANTS to teach, getting an MFA also holds that strong purpose as well.

It seems like your blog is mostly devoted to knocking down the mfa, particularly Seth's work on mfa programs. I'm not sure why it matters that much to you even if programs were nothing but a room full of egoists pretending to be writers and engaging in mutual intellectual masturbation. That's now how I see mfa programs, but even if that is what it is, how does it impact anyone other than those who willingly choose to attend the programs?

King said...

?? You sound like Seth isn't really in favor of the programs himself-- when he's clearly investing his time into explaining, defending, and improving them. What do you think his Poets & Writers cover story is about??
Why should writers, esp non-MFA writers, be against the widespread proliferation of MFA programs?
A.) They enforce the ever-increasing mindset that the only way to be a writer is through the MFA system. This attitude is promoted through the endless series of parasitic entities, like Poets & Writers, devoted to feeding off the hapless writer.
The non-MFA writer is an endangered species. Look at the contents of lit-journal after lit-journal. They're filled with MFA writing. A more worrisome factor is that the editors, agents, and publicists who decide what is to be considered literature in this country are themselves well-schooled, from upper-middle class backgrounds, to whom the outside writer who doesn't fit their demographic is an alien species.
Reinforcing this is the workshop aesthetic. On my blog I show-- it's easy to show-- the conformity of workshop fiction. Check under "Fun Stuff" at the upper left part of it.
What does this mean?
People with MFA's learn, in Francine Prose's phrase, "how to read"-- how to appreciate slow-paced overly-detailed and solipsistic fiction which is the trademark of the workshop art.
No disclaimers please of the so-called variety among MFA writers. it doesn't exist.
The fact that these conformity factories are distorting the art is a sound reason to oppose them.
B.) A second reason is that they're cranking out too many "writers" who but for the degree wouldn't be writers at all. They're clogging the marketplace, devaluing the position of all writers.
Would that these programs were small and irrelevant in number. They're not.
C.) The main reason to oppose them is that they don't work. For all the enormous investment being made in producing these writers, America is doing a poorer job of creating great writers than the Twain-London-Hemingway days when virtually all writers were Do-It-Yourselfers.

King said...

A further point: Education is supposed to be about challenging your own assumptions by examining all sides of the issue.
An example of the current System's inability to tolerate dissent-- any dissent-- is how quickly Seth got me off his blog after I posted two comments there-- "we're done here." Well, I guess we are. But the issue is done only if you close your heads to contrary thoughts.

ChrisLes said...

@ FireSnake

I wish I could find some selectivity data on Iowa State for you, but no luck -- however, it looks like it is CGSR compliant.

Chris
Driftless House

honeyless said...

Recommendation question!

Why do the programs make it so difficult for recommenders?? If I could use Interfolio for all programs, I certainly would but it seems like each program has their own way in which they want to receive the recommendations, many with a program specific cover page. Anyone have any insight or help to offer? Thx!

Seth Abramson said...

King,

You are trolling here and I suspect you will shortly be dealt with as is appropriate and befits a troll. Going onto a discussion board aimed at providing information to MFA applicants and railing against the MFA is the textbook definition of trolling. If you want to point people to your blog, that's fine -- they can go over to your webspace and see the hot mess you've got going on over there. You can play crazy on your blog 24/7/365, that's your right. But to come here and denigrate the degree all the folks here are working hard to pursue is horrid and cruel. Again: Link to your blog, that's fine, but if you have nothing positive to contribute to the mission of this board you are not welcome here. I tolerated some comments by you on my blog, because that's my own webspace and I don't mind engaging with folks there. This, in contrast, is a public discussion board with a very specific communal goal and your antics are inappropriate.

S.

Seth Abramson said...

P.S. As you well know, I didn't censor any of your comments on my blog -- I simply said I no longer wished to engage you. That's my right, sir.

Gena said...

So as to ignore Kingy (though I do believe he truly came here to insult Seth and not the rest of us who have applied previously or are now applying to MFA programs, though that was accomplished) I'm going to repost my list, which has been again overhauled. I've decided DC is a flippin' awesome place to live, excepting the dollar signs, so some not-so-well funded programs in that area have been inserted.

I can't believe this time is on us again, so soon.

Fiction:
U Alabama
American U
Arizona State U
U Colorado
U Iowa
Johns Hopkins U
U Maryland
U Minnesota
Portland State U
U Texas Austin
Washington U St. Louis

and I'm looking to round it off with one - three of these schools, of which I am not yet sure. Suggestions/opinions are invited.

Maybes:
Purdue, Notre Dame, Florida, LSU, NMSU, UNM.

PS- Finally landed a one-year teaching gig. Huzzah!

Blob said...

@Gena

What genre are you applying for?

I don't know much about American U's program, but one of my favorite contemporary poets is on the faculty there: Kyle Dargan.

As for your maybes list-- New Mexico is one of my favorite places, if you're thinking in terms of location. But from your maybes, the two I've been considering for myself are Flordia and Notre Dame, though I worry if Notre Dame will be a bit too isolated.

It's funny I originally started drafting my list without a thought of location, but now with winter approaching I'm starting to worry about all my cold locations and I'm starting to worry about throwing this city blob into small town, usa.

Granny And The Bunny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gena said...

Blob--

I'm applying for fiction, and this is my second time around the application fount.

I spent some time in Tucson over the last two years and really fell in love with the character of the place. I figured New Mexico would give me some of that Western attitude combined with the adventure of a new locale.

Notre Dame is very tempting. Their practicums look cool, the hands-on approach at the publications, etc etc. I am a little worried about their relatively few required electives (I was hoping to get some language courses in) and their two-year schedule (though I do already have other two-years on the list).

I applied previously to Florida and George Mason, and the aspects that appealed before are very much still in play. I've heard intriguing things about NMSU having an "out-there" aesthetic.

Also, I hear you on the weather. It's getting chilly in Pittsburgh (last year I was applying in balmy Western Florida) and I'm slowly rethinking everything above the Mason-Dixon. But, in the end, I think I could suck it up for two-three years, no matter where I went. If it weren't for those dry cabins, Alaska-Faribanks might've nabbed a seat on my list. :).

Blob said...

@Gena
You might also want to look into Uni. Colorado-Boulder and University of Washington-Seattle, both are in awesome places, have language requirements, and were appealing programs. Though both, I believe, only fund a few students.
Good luck to you!

@Granny
If you think you can discipline yourself to write without a program to ease you into the process, than, in my opinion, you don't need an mfa. I think, depending on where you are, you can definitely network and find yourself a writing community without the program. For someone who doesn't need to the funding and doesn't plan to teach, the only real value I see to an mfa is structure and discipline. But of course to be a successful writer you'd have to be able to maintain this beyond the program.

Most importantly, it seems like you're ready to write and not work in IT anymore. So either way, give yourself the time to write and pursue what you want to try, especially since you have the financial freedom to take the risk.

(sorry for all the posts today)

etrangette said...

Go Seth! I am a fan of this response. I am all for class.

@kaybay, I remember seeing you on the blog last year - you were one of my faves :) Good luck!

This is my first round applying, I wasn't planning to apply this year, but due to dissatisfaction in my current job I figured, what they hey?

I'll get back to you on my list of schools. I was trying to keep it round 5-7 so as not to waste too much money on the schools I will most likely not get into. That being said, I am not planning to stoop for anything less than the best - hence the small likelihood of getting accepted this round. But I thought I'd give it a go - the excuse to write and all this buzz is already getting me excited!!

Two things: @Anti- I too am working on an entirely new writing sample. I have so far finished my first draft of a story that I'm pretty happy about and plan to write a second story as well.

Question: Does anyone know if Universities hold on to the supplemental material in your file in case you apply the following year? (ie. saving letters of recommendations, transcripts, test scores so you dont have to send the same ones again the next year).

etrangette said...

PS. @Gena - Go DC!!! I myself am from the area, went to Maryland undergrad, and have seen their MFA program from close up - even taking a grad-like 400 level advanced writing workshop with a faculty member in the program. Let me know if you have any questions (I might have some idea of how to answer).

About American U - they have an MFA??? What is it like - does anyone have any info on it? funding?

Gena said...

@etrangette--

Check it! http://www.american.edu/cas/literature/mfa/

:). I might get back to you with U Maryland questions, thanks for the offer. Some schools do hold on to some materials. Some schools hold onto none. I suggest contacting the specific schools and asking. And then telling us. :).

@blob-- thanks for the suggestions. Colorado's definitely up there for me, but I didn't even consider Seattle. While funding is definitely a main concern, I want to sprinkle a few "easier" (ha, right) admits on this list.

Seth Abramson said...

Blob,

Colorado fully funds 70%; Washington fully funds well less than 20%.

Cheers,
S.

Angie said...

Well put, Seth, and I think I speak for all of us when I say I hope that's the last we'll be hearing from King.

I haven't posted this before because I was still on the fence about a few programs, but now I'm pretty sure these will be the places I'll be applying for fiction:

Iowa
Indiana
Arizona
Alabama
UVA
Memphis
Vanderbilt
GCSU
Washington (ST. Louis)

Calle said...

so i decided to switch arkansas in favor of iowa and add wyoming to the mix (what a convincing website!). final list, for real this time, in poetry:

vanderbilt
ut-austin
maryland-college park
cornell
florida-gainesville
syracuse
virginia tech
washington university in st. louis
wisconsin-madison
michigan-ann arbor
iowa writers' workshop
wyoming-laramie

i was supposed to have the GRE done by now, but i got in a car accident on the way there. now i'm wading through the ETS bureaucracy, trying to reschedule without repaying (god forbid).

anyway, i'm not working on a new writing sample, but there will likely be a new poem in it, and the rest will be heavily revised.

FireSnake said...

Here's my wish list of programs. I'm hoping a few of them are open to experimental fiction. Though I have nothing like that in my portfolio, I do have several stories I'll eventually get to that are experimental. I like playing with different forms that are stylized, but some require a bit of research.

University of Iowa
University of Texas
Brown University
University of California, Irvine
Indiana University
University of Minnesota
University of Illinois, Urbana
Ohio State
Purdue U.
Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
University of Wyoming
Iowa State

I might forego all the other universities (except Texas and Brown) for Iowa State just because it looks like they have an interesting program. But this is just a wish list. Hopefully I write well enough and interestingly enough to get in somewhere this go around.

Jennifer said...

Granny:

Blob says the only value of an MFA is "structure and discipline" if you don't want to teach.

I think that is way off. I'm going into my second year now and I have learned so much from the faculty about writing that my work has improved ten-fold. I wouldn't have improved anywhere near that quickly if I were working on my own. I think the real value of a program comes out of working with a good faculty.

NJ said...

First time spammer here:

My friend has organized an Ebay literary auction benefiting Jennifer Derilo, an uninsured young writer with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. The auction contains manuscript critiques, signed books and a few other pretty neat things from some high-profile writers (Yiyun Li, Daniel Alarcon, Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum, Randa Jarrar, and more) If you have a few bucks and you want to get your writing evaluated by a famous writer and/or want to support a noble cause -- please visit Team Jender on Ebay!

(Sorry for the spam, but I thought people here would be interested.)

http://shop.ebay.com/teamjender/m.html

Maia said...

@Granny --

I suggest Option B, the MFA. Do you have an agent? I hear they scope out campuses sniffing out the most promising writers; one might find you. I disagree strongly with Blob that the main purpose of an MFA is to provide structure and discipline. MFAs also exist to provide community, mentorships/apprenticeships and literary connections, all of which are essential, I think, in a thriving writer's life.

I think a degree would be wonderful step in your ultimate vision of "becoming a writer already, especially if you have already been published and your writing sample is therefore likely to be very strong.

Anti- said...

I'm so busy coming up with new material (the kind I'm REALLY enjoying) that I'm finding it hard to see if I can have time to study for the GRE. I'm thinking of applying to fully-funded programs that have no GRE requirement. My top program, Brown, is def. in that boat (but so, so selective. Gotta be realistic). You guys think it'd be wise to just go take the GRE without studying? I did the same for the SAT years back and did... well.

What fully-funded programs don't require the GRE, btw? I know Michigan doesn't, and Iowa is kind of an optional-but-you-might-as-well-if-you-want-a-teaching-gig deal. Some I'm forgetting?

Blob said...

@anti,

I would advise taking the gre without studying over not taking it at all. If you don't do well at all, you can still apply to schools that don't require it and not send in your scores. But by not taking it, you limit your options.

I just took my gre earlier this morning and didn't do so hot. I actually did much better on the math than the verbal. But I went back to my list and re-checked gre requirements for my schools. More than I thought/remembered didn't require it and not a single one had a requirement or minimum score.
The one place that seemed to stress some weight in the gre was cornell, but they were a maybe for me as it is.

My advice would be to take it-- it can't hurt you.

Gena said...

@anti,

With or without studying, take the GRE. If you have the funds, that is. Don’t expect a score as high as the SAT as a given, however. I also did... well on my SAT without studying. While my first GRE attempt was not bad... it was not as stunning by a significant degree. Still, I'm glad the writing is coming easily to you. In the short and long run, it's more important. But sacrifice a morning to the testing center. It's worth it.

Writer Dude said...

@anti

I second Blob. You might as well take it and see how it goes. I know a few of schools on my list mention fellowships are generally offered to those with outstanding academic records or GRE scores.

I took the GREs in the fally/winter-ish kinda time in 2006 and didn't know studying was even an option. I winged it hard and I got a 1340 (620V, 720M) and a 5.5 on the writing section and I didn't study a lick. Not amazing but good enough. I don't say this to brag because if we are being realistic, there's nothing to brag about -- I was an idiot for not taking it more seriously and studying. I should be scolded -- and if my mother reads this blog, I will be (hi mom, love you!). Who knows how much better I could have done?

HOWEVER, I bring it up because if you are a relatively good test taker and have done well in school in the past without studying (raises hand)then it's not impossible to do OKAY without preparing (I didn't even know what kinds of questions were on the test or how it was divided...my contribution to preparation was showing up).

Conversely, if you can study just a little bit then why not? I know you never want to stop a flowing inky filoplume -- but it can also be a dangerous (a bit histrionic?) rationalization or avoidance technique rooted in a fear of failure. Study if you can, kick the test's ass, and then you have way more options.

imho

Go in peace

Blob said...

Sigh, way to make my mediocre score seem/feel even worse!

I'm trying to keep my chin up about it though, I've been told too many times it doesn't matter much and I have a really good gpa I can lean on a bit.

But I know that at the end of the day, if I don't get in anywhere, I'll curse that damn gpa. Sigh. This process is really stressful and awful at times, made worse by program websites that are so hard to navigate!

Writer Dude said...

@blob

Ha-ha, sorry! I contemplated whether I should post scores or not but felt my point would be made more with numbers -- there is enough anonymity here. I honestly still don't know anything about that damn test. I washed my hands of it -- don't know whats good or bad.

But, to get to this post's main point: most websites are TERRIBLE and the process is ridiculous. I think they find sick pleasure in making minor adjustments to the process to, I don't know why? Deter a few hundred from applying?...Or maybe just to annoy us.

A statement of purpose AND a personal statement? What in the hell is that? And the requirements Letters of Rec, which seem more of a technicality than a real deal breaker, all have specific and random methods.

They are selective as hell (making the dangerous assumption hell is indeed at all selective), but if you haven't checked out Vandy (all of you) I recommend you do. Easy to use website and free if submitted online. I welcome the competition ;)

Go in peace.

Peter said...

Hey Guys, first time posting, been reading for a while...

Anyway, re: the posts about UC San Diego, is there anyone here who can speak specifically to the funding the program offers? The website seems to imply that all students are funded, but mention the extent of said funding. Does this program offer full tuition waiver + stipend to any of its students? Or is the funding only partial?

Granny And The Bunny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Granny And The Bunny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
klairkwilty said...

Hey guys. Thought everyone might like to know that I just downloaded the new McSweeny's app and it's super rad. Narrative magazine has one too.

And The Iowa Review is now on Twitter @theiowareview

Good luck to everyone this MFA season!

Blob said...

I'm starting to feel increasingly overwhelmed at how competitive these programs are is there a smart way to determine your competitiveness? The whole process just seems so difficult. Finding colleges to apply to was easy, I could use numbers to determine, my reach, my fit, and my safety schools. But I don't know how to do that for this process. I'd hate to spend money on apps for places I have no shot at. Womp.

I have a question about Poetry at Oregon, for anyone that might know more. I've heard some stuff about the poetry program not having the best atmosphere in the past and there being some tension. Does anyone know if this is still the case? Or have any more information on this? The program seems otherwise appealing to me.

Marti said...

@ Blob
I hear ya. It is worrisome spending all this money, wondering if we even have a shot. But I've decided it's worth spending the cash to find out. I'd kick myself if I didn't.

Also, I think this is my final list. I'm applying for nonfiction.

University of New Mexico
Florida State University
Old Dominion University
University of New Orleans
University of Baltimore
University of Iowa
University of Minnesota
Louisiana State University
Pennsylvania State University
Chatham University

Marti said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Seth Abramson said...

Blob,

The faculty member who is the cause of that reputation still teaches in the program at Oregon.

S.

hopefulscribbler said...

Hi all,
I'm a first timer and I'm rather concerned that it's already September and I just can't seem to finalise my list! I wonder if anyone out there can give me some advice on my current method of prioritisation which is:
1. Funding - if by a slim chance I got in, could I actually afford to go?!
2. Do I want to live there? I know I need something a little bigger / livelier than Charlottesville, VA, and I loved living in Philly...
3. Reputation and structure of the program

Does this seem sensible? I'm from the UK and skint so funding is a HUGE thing for me! Especially since I won't be able to work off campus / over a certain amount of hours thanks to visa restrictions. I simply can't incur ANY more debt if I do this! Sadly, I think it's knocked NYU off my list because although I think it would be an amazing program for me (I'm really interested in the community aspect) I don't think I could afford to live in NYC, even if I got funding which is a shot in the dark anyway. I live in London at the mo and can't afford it even with a decently paid full time job!

This is my list for Fiction as it stands. Is it too much of a wishlist and should I whittle it down further? I have an MA in English from UVA and I don't know if that helps my chances, but was lucky in that I did a lot of work with the creative writing faculty there and feel that my samples have really benefited from that.

Firm (sort of! Aargh!)

UT Michener
Cornell
Brown
U Oregon
Ole Miss


Tentative

USC - PhD (I have no idea if I could handle LA but I like the PhD)
Iowa Writers Workshop (I know, I know, but why not, right?! Not sure about living in Iowa City though, any thoughts on that gratefully received!)
U Mass & U Michigan (for some odd reason, I feel like I have to choose between these two! Once again, it'll come down to funding.)
Indiana U (I like the program but have no idea about this part of the U.S.)
ASU (worried about funding but loving the idea of the SW).
U Colorado Boulder
Georgia State - PhD
UC Irvine

I want to get my list to ten, I think. I also want to be able to use the MFA as a springboard into teaching (especially if my stellar career as a writer does not materialise!) I was a TA at UVA and loved it!

Thanks for any advice and for this amazing resource!

Rags said...

@ Marti:
I'm considering applying to Chatham for fiction. Their travel element is really intriguing, but I think their poor funding is going to get them off the list.

@ hopefulscribbler:
I'm in exactly the same boat as you. I have 17(!) schools that I need to cut by half. I'm trying to rate schools on a 5 point scale, with criteria important to me, like stipend, cost of living, coolness of city, weather, teaching load.
I picked Michigan over Mass due to funding. What's Ole Miss?

Blob said...

@hopefulscribbler

I can't say much about funding, but I do know a bit about some of the locations you mentioned and thought I'd share my thoughts, in hopes it helps. But do keep in mind this is just my opinion and others might greatly disagree.

You said Charlottesville was a bit small for you, which makes me think Cornell might also seem a bit small. I don't know if you've been to or know much about Ithaca, but it's upstate new york, several hours away from NYC and really anything else. Its a fantastic school and actually a nice campus. But it's pretty isolated and it's the one place I removed from my list based on location. Certainly don't eliminate it based on that, but I do think you should look more closely into Cornell's area, since that seems to be an important criteria.

USC-- I actually like LA, but I know not everyone does. But one thing to keep in mind there is the cost of living is higher than a lot of other places. Plus, unless you confine yourself to campus, a car is necessary in L.A.

Georgia State-- I'm actually from Atlanta and love, love, love it. It's a big and affordable city. But just so you know Georgia state doesn't have a traditional campus, instead the campus is scattered throughout downtown. This may not be an issue, but thought I'd share.

But, if you're looking at PhD programs, have you looked into University of Georgia and University of Denver? Both are in good places and are good schools. I've heard great things about UGA's program and I believe Denver is highly ranked.

Raine said...

@hopefulscribbler, You mentioned being concerned about funding at ASU: unless there's an announcement somewhere that I missed, ASU is fully funded and ranks 10th for funding in the P&W rankings. On the other hand, I believe U Colorado Boulder is not fully funded, though as Seth mentioned up above in the comments, they do fully fund 70%.

I grew up near Iowa City and think it's a pretty cool place. I haven't lived there, specifically, but maybe I could answer some of your concerns.

Lynn said...

Gran/Bunny,

Southern Illinois U. - Carbondale is also another fully funded program that does not require the GRE.

kaybay said...

Granny, thank you for posting that list! I've got a lot to think about. I think I'm going to put Syracuse back on my list :)

Marti said...

@ Rags: I really like Chatham's travel element too, but yeah, the funding is bad. I still might drop them for that reason. But the online app is free, so I might apply for kicks and giggles.

rubenssw said...

I've been skimming these comments and the blog, and I haven't seen this question asked yet, but I apologize if it has been . . .

I'm in my senior year of undergrad studies, 21 years of age. I'm noticing that the average ages of people in MFA programs are several years older. Is it customary to wait a few years before applying? If I apply now, will my chances of acceptance be lower because I am so young?

kaybay said...

Rubenssw - I think it depends on the program, but honestly, if you have a great sample that reflects a mature perspective and knowledge of "the craft," you'll have success. The recommendation is to wait until you've racked up some "real world" experience, but if you feel comfortable with where you are right now with your writing, then go for it! In the end, it's pretty much all about your sample.

kaybay said...

Blob - I feel compelled to write in response to your feelings of being overwhelmed. This is my second year applying and I felt overwhelmed last year and STILL feel overwhelmed this year. But, I don't have any real regrets from last year (little ones, maybe, but not major ones). I'm not embarrassed that I didn't get accepted anywhere last year, although a tinge of disappointment remains. It does suck to blow appx $700 on application fees for nothing, but it's a risk I was, and still am, willing to take. I think it depends on how much you really want this, which is all about you. That being said, make sure you really spend a lot of time on your sample and personal statements. Get your sample critiqued, put some "safety" schools with higher admit rates on your list, and really put some effort into your entire application. Also, make sure you're really ready to compete at this level; I know I wasn't there last year and I'm honestly not sure if I'm there right now. I feel like I'm walking around with my left hand in front of me and my right hand over my eyes. I'm sure others do, too. Call me crazy, vain, or just really naive, but I'm going to take a chance at it anyway :)

I wish you the best of luck with whatever you choose!

Blob said...

@Kaybay

I appreciate your response. You, having been through the process before, are an incredibly valuable resource for the rest of us!

An mfa is something I've been thinking about for the last 3 years. I finally feel very ready. And I don't doubt that I'm ready. My writing sample is also essentially complete (I need to do some deciding of which poems to send depending on various school sample sizes). And it's something I'm happy with and proud of. But I feel a bit daunted by the process: navigating the confusing websites, trying to find those 'safety' schools (where are they?!?), trying to get a feel for programs based on those websites, and trying to make sure I have time to do everything. And I think yesterday after a less than great GRE, I felt especially overwhelmed!

My biggest concern right now is making my list and finding schools that are good and smart choices. I sort of feel like I'm doing the equivalent of applying as an undergrad only to Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and MIT, which is madness. And then of course in the back of my mind my personal statement (which I haven't started) is nagging.

I've already warned my friends I'm going to be a crazy person for the next couple months, maybe I should warn you all too!

Scott L. said...

Hi all,

Long time lurker, first time poster. This is my "final" list of 9 schools, but I can probably afford to add at least 2 more if anyone has some good suggestions of sleeper programs or under the radar programs. I'm considering adding either Notre Dame or OSU and could possibly add both . . . Any other ideas of sleeper schools, preferably in the midwest or west coast?


MY LIST FOR FICTION:

U of Iowa
U of Illinois (Champaign-Urbana)
U of Montana
U of Idaho
Cal Arts
UCSD
UC Irvine
UC Davis
Portland State

Jeff said...

This is a tentative list. I'm going to file it down to 10-12 programs.

Texas (Michener)
Montana
Iowa
Oregon State
Arkansas
Alabama
Ohio State
Syracuse
Washington University
Minnesota
Arizona State
Wyoming
McNeese State
Texas State
Ole Miss

hopefulscribbler said...

@Blob

Thanks for your help. Pretty much overnight I've decided to stick to MFA programs rather than the PhD, and while I think I'd love Atlanta, I would like a campus feel so Georgia State hasn't made the cut. Neither has USC, just because of the location. Cornell is staying because it's just such a great school (I have friends there) and if I can, I'll opt to spend my summers elsewhere.

Here's my new list. The only wobbler on there is U Oregon - for no reason other than I'm not feeling it this morning!

UT Austin
Brown
Cornell
U Michigan
U Oregon
NYU
UC Irvine
LSU
U Colorado Boulder
UNC Greensboro
Syracuse
Ole Miss
ASU

It's more than I wanted to apply for but I can afford it, just about. I've thrown NYU back in there because I just love the program and I could live off beans for two years...

That Catch-22 said...

I've worked for a part of the US government for the last couple of years that is a little polarizing politically-speaking. It looks cool on paper and I've learned a great deal while working there that has really enhanced my writing, but I worry that playing up or highlighting that experience in my personal statement may really work against me, especially if people have strong feelings about the organization. At the same time, I don't want to omit it completely-- it's taken me to crazy locations, I've done some exciting things, and it's what I have to show for my five years since I graduated from undergrad. Any thoughts?

Ben said...

I'll be applying in poetry to . . .


VA Tech
Alabama
Montana
Minnesota
Iowa (Writers Workshop)
Arizona State
North Carolina, Wilmington
Houston
Texas State

Rags said...

Since everybody is putting up lists, I'm throwing in mine as well.

Sure:
Indiana U, Bloomington
U of Texas, Austin
Wash. U, St. Louis
Cornell, Ithaca
Brown, Providence
U of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Iowa Writers' Workshop, Iowa City
UVA, C'ville
Syracuse
Vanderbilt, Nashville
Johns Hopkins, Baltimore

Unsure:
U of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Purdue, West Lafayette
U of Florida, Gainesville

Any thoughts, esp. on the Unsure ones? It's working out to be quite expensive, but I figured I'd just go for it.

Lynn said...

My list for Fiction:

Brown
WUSTL
Notre Dame
Arizona State
Southern Illinois
Alabama
Illinois
Iowa
Syracuse
UT - Austin
San Diego

Blob said...

@That Catch-22
I think you should be yourself and talk about your influences without worrying too much about turning people off. MFA programs are small and you work very closely with the faculty. Any program where your previous experience is looked at negatively is probably not a place you're going to fit in or be very happy. I've decided not to worry about trying to cater my riding aesthetic to what I think a school wants or worry too much about whether something in my personal statement is the 'right answer' because the faculty is responsible for choosing and if my writing isn't what appeals to their aesthetic than it's not the right program for me.

Be yourself write about who you are and what your influences are.

Having said that, obviously any subject matter should be treated with tact.

Good luck.

many many birdies said...

@ granny

I quit my job in my mid-twenties to write (for about a year, then I had to go back to work), and I recently started an mfa program.

Not working and devoting time to writing DEFINITELY helped. It was after this period of time that I had my first small successes with publishing, and I saw a huge improvement in my writing. I definitely learned discipline and I did make connections with other writers.

But, I already feel like I've learned a tremendous amount in my program, and I've only had two weeks of classes. honestly, the two workshops I've had have already made a big difference. And there's a big difference between being connected to other writers through conferences and on-line communities and LIVING with a bunch of writers that you get to see almost every day.

Does it have to be either/or? What about taking a year off from work and working on your writing, and then considering applying to an mfa next year? If you're not sure you want to go, it might make sense to wait -- but I wouldn't rule it out just because you don't have to teach in order to have time to write.

As far as wondering what institutions would think about the fact that you could pay for a program -- they're not going to ask. It's none of their business, really. If/when you apply, they'll accept you on the basis of your manuscript, and if you never have to take out loans it's not like anyone has to know that -- and even if they did, only total weirdos would judge you on something so trivial.

jeffga72 said...

I struck Syracuse, Minnesota and Ole Miss from my list.

Minnesota's cold, and Minneapolis is a too large of a city for me.

Syracuse has a $75 application fee.

Ole Miss has a foreign language requirement.

None of this is good for me.

many many birdies said...

re: more info about UNH's funding.

It is indeed very poor, but it's not entirely accurate that first-years never get full funding and you can't teach while you write your thesis.

This year six incoming students received full-funding through a TA (two students in each genre), out of about 30 incoming students. So roughly 20% of first-year students had full funding, which is pretty sad -- but genre matters. There are many more fiction writers than non-fiction writers -- so if you're applying in non-fiction, your odds of getting a fully-funded spot are much higher.

There are more TA's available to second-year students, but I don't know how many more. There is some money for tuition remission, too, but it varies -- this year one person in each genre was offered some kind of tuition remission, which meant that three people per genre were offered *something,* either full-funding or tuition help.


In the program's short history everyone who receives a TA gets to keep it until they are no longer enrolled in classes - so if you take all your classes in the first two years and spend a third just working on your thesis, then yes, you can't teach. But if you spread your course credits and thesis credits out in such a way that you still take a single class your third year, then you can keep your TA position.

I'm by no means defending this - it's still bad funding no matter how you look at it - but I wanted to jump in an clarify since it seemed like there was some vague information out there.

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

I'm finishing up my M.A. in English & Creative Writing at Kansas State University (awesome experience, by the way), and my unfinished list looks like this (for poetry):

*MFA*
NYU
Sarah Lawrence
Minnesota
Iowa
Syracuse
Penn State
Purdue
Indiana
Pittsburgh

*Creative PhD*
Ohio
Illinois Chicago
Missouri


SUNY-Binghamton, by the way, appears to be bad at communicating their funding information. I had to email three people to find out "we have teaching assistantships and you should ask for one when you apply" (with absolutely no detailed information), and a buddy of mine was told they funded their M.A. students and only found out he was misled after he already got in.

ChrisLes said...

@That Catch-22

I'd agree: I think any “cool on paper” institution you were previously a part of, no matter how politically polarizing, is likely to be seen by programs as a potential positive source of unusual experience and thus singular material. (Assuming you're a prose writer, anyhow.) Programs aren't going to go and conflate you and your beliefs with the beliefs of those that make the institution divisive. For a random example, if you'd worked for, say, Customs and Border Protection, I think that's much more likely to be viewed as a well of experience that good narrative can be drawn from than a sign that you yourself are an anti-immigration good old boy in the making. Would Orwell shy away from including “Shooting an Elephant” in a nonfiction application for fear he be thought a bloodthirsty imperialist huntsman? One hopes not. I think you can have faith you won't be pigeonholed here.

Chris
Driftless House

I said...

Poetry List, Take Two

Hi all, I'm trying to finalize my list, and I wanted to post today's version for any feedback. My main criteria are: livable location, good funding, and a queer-friendly town and school. I'm also trying to mix up the selectivity to maximize my chances of getting in somewhere. I'd really appreciate some feedback on the following: Is this a good list? Any suggestions for additions/deletions? Any votes on the 'maybes' given my criteria?

In no particular order:

UMass-Amherst
Iowa
Hopkins
Brown
Virginia
Texas
Michigan
Syracuse
Wisconsin
Indiana-Bloomington

Maybes:

Hunter
Wash U - St. Louis
Ohio State
George Mason University (?)
University of Maryland (?)
Mills (?)

Thanks, all! Stay sane.

Lindsay Hansen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lindsay said...

@I -- I definitely recommend moving Ohio State up on the list -- honestly, it has everything you listed as a "must have" and it's a great program, from what I've seen so far. I'm really happy to be here.

If you have any questions about the queer-friendliness of the program/city, feel free to shoot me an e-mail. Short version: it is, very.

pdg said...

Seth,

Here is my final list for fiction:

Iowa
Oregon
Texas
Indiana
Kansas
Missouri-Kansas City
Louisiana State
Syracuse
West Virginia
Alabama
Washington U (St. Louis)
UNC Wilmington
Vanderbilt

Michael said...

@I:

I'd urge you to consider putting Minnesota on your list. Minneapolis is a very queer-friendly (and wonderful) city and the program is excellent. And I assume that you aren't terrified of winter, given the inclusion of Wisconsin and Syracuse on your list.

I'd also urge you to try and ask some Iowa alums or students about how queer-friendly they are if you get in. I've heard, anecdotally, that they may not be the most welcoming school/city/program for students of color. I wouldn't take that warning very seriously at all, but look into it a bit more, eh?

Blob said...

My revised and close to final list. I'd love to hear suggestions/thoughts/comments. I'd also love to add one or two more schools that are less selective/more under the radar.

For Poetry:

U Mass-Amherst
Alabama
Michigan
WashU
Iowa
Vanderbilt
Florida
Texas-Austin
Wisconsin-Madison
Oregon
Florida State University

I recently eliminated Purdue; Arizona; Cornell; and Wyoming. But I'm thinking about possibly putting Wyoming back on the list. But after someone reminded me that Matthew Shepard was a student at Wyoming, the thought of being in Laramie has been increasingly less appealing. Though I keep telling myself not to be silly, I just can't shake it.

I said...

@Lindsay-- Thanks for the info! I'm glad to hear it.

@Michael-- Good idea about Minnesota, thanks. And I actually grew up in Iowa City and did my undergrad at Iowa (that's how I toughed up against winter...), so I could try to speak to that for the benefit of others-- Iowa City and the University of Iowa are very, very queer. And pretty white, yes... but also, perhaps surprisingly, diverse/multicultural/what have you.

Jacks said...

Anyone know anything about the MFA programs at University of Arizona (Tucson), San Jose State, or San Francisco State? Or Mills?

Jeff said...

I've heard that Arizona's funding has taken some hits due to the recession, but don't quote me on that.

Oh, and I think that's in Sheriff Joe's jurisdiction. No big deal unless you get locked up. Then you'll be sleeping outdoors in a tent alongside a nest of scorpions...

Seth Abramson said...

Jacks (and all),

Just wanted to stop by to suggest that we put the "anyone know anything about" questions to rest -- they used to be rampant here in 2006, and since then they've petered out but we still see them from time to time. The point of a community like this is that you do some research before you contribute, so that when you ask questions about a program you're asking specific questions rather than asking total strangers to provide a lengthy narrative about a particular school when they know nothing about your interests, needs, or even your genre.

The schools most commonly asked about in these situations are poorly funded programs in areas it wouldn't take any research whatsoever for one to decide one would like to live in -- which means the only research done by the person asking the question is determining that (say) San Francisco is cool (yay!) so going to Mills, which is nearby San Francisco, might also be cool (yay!). That Mills is one of the worst-funded MFA programs in America takes almost no research to determine, but as no such research has been done by the applicant asking the question, the expectation of the questioner is that others will provide such basic data.

This is the best reason yet for people using the rankings (see top of sidebar here) as a secondary resource but one that is used, if at all, at the beginning of one's application process. The rankings help folks narrow down which long-list of schools they want to investigate, begin to understand some important factors to look at, discover which schools are strongest in some of the areas that matter to them, and so on. I hope people will consider doing research before participating here -- mind you, I don't mean there's any high bar to be set whatsoever, I mean only that one's level of knowledge should be slightly higher than merely knowing the name of a school.

S.

Seth Abramson said...

P.S. Just ten minutes with the rankings (see link above) will provide more info on Arizona, Mills, &c than could be provided here by any ten query respondents -- not only does any top 50 program (like Arizona) have 16 data-points associated with it in the rankings, but merely looking at those categories and then seeing that Mills isn't ranked among the top 50 in any of them gives you a pretty good clue about what's going on there -- e.g., every program in the country that rates at least an Honorable Mention in funding is listed as such in the rankings, and it takes fully funding (approximately) between 25% and 33% of students to be in the Honorable Mention category, so if a program isn't listed there you can reasonably estimate that they're funding less than 20% of incoming students. Add to that what everyone knows about the Bay Area being expensive to live in, and the fact that one can look up many if not all of the 16 ranking measures on Mills's website (and can judge them harshly for not releasing some of the most important ones, like acceptance rate/selectivity) and I think in less than 10 minutes any applicant could do so much research on even a non-top-50 program like Mills that the question, here, "anyone know anything about Mills" would seem like not the best use of our communal resources. I'm not trying to give Jacks an excessively hard time, I'm saying the answer we should give the Jacks of the MFA applicant community is, take a gander at the rankings and the accompanying articles, do some research, then see if you still have questions. So I'd rather (just my personal preference) we gave such individuals web-links than lengthy answers.

Jennifer said...

I second what Seth says about folks doing some real research before posting questions here, and I want to add that I believe that research should include reading the work of the faculty and perhaps contacting current students to get a feel for how accessible faculty members are. I know this is time consuming, but it can be very helpful in the long run.

As far as contacting current students, you can find an awful lot of them over on the MFA Chronicles blog.

Minnow said...

Hello again all,

So I, too, am beginning a personal statement (one of my recommenders wants a copy somewhat early), and am beginning to sink into despair. What are your thoughts on "hooks"? Some people advise to include a small personal story at the very beginning to grab the reader's attention, but is it really so bad not to have one? It feels unnatural to me, but then how should one begin? "Hello, my name is "?

I'm wondering whether there are any people on the blog who have run this gamut before who might be willing to post or e-mail their personal statements that have worked? There is an example someone provided on the blog before for a Stegner fellowship, which is very useful, but he took quite a few risks with his tone and informality, so I was hoping we noobs might be able to get some more examples...

Thanks to anyone at all interested. I'm no good at this type of writing!

Minnow

Minnow said...

Oh, my, some of that grammar is atrocious. Sorry about that.

Tory said...

I second what Lindsay says, I. Columbus is a very gay friendly city and the MFA program is also very queer friendly. Case in point, 4 of the current students in the program, including myself, are GLBT, as are two of the faculty in poetry.

I am originally from California and I thought I'd have a tough time out here, but Columbus is a very surprising city, and despite what you might think, it's a program that is very welcoming to non-heterosexuals and heterosexuals alike.

etrangette said...

@many many birdies,
You were speaking so highly of your program earlier, I hope you don't mind me asking what program you're attending.

I am feeling very overwhelmed with this process of applying. For one thing, Columbia's application fee is $110!!! That was the last straw for me. I'm guessing getting into Columbia will be considerably less competitive this year, if that app fee, the tuition, and the fact that hardly anyone has put it on their list plays any role.

I think location plays a big role for me. But sadly, I have not traveled much in the US - and have never even been to the mid-west. I'm looking at the fully funded programs and trying to decide what area I will enjoy living in. Some background: I'm a vegan/vegetarian who is very earthy and into nature, food, and fun community events. I love an area that is catered with this type of lifestyle - with many quirky coffee shops and such. I'm thinking about Indiana, Wash U, U of Wisconsin, U of Minnesota, Purdue, U of Illinois, Penn State, and Ohio State. Do any of these programs (which all seem great) seem to fit in with this type of culture I described?

Marti said...

Hi Minnow,
Here's an example of an SOP from someone who goes to Cornell:
http://mramireztalusan.blogspot.com/2007/11/mfa-statement-of-purpose.html
I prefer a more an anecdotal approach, but hey, this worked!

@ etrangette:
I'm not sure about the other places, but I wouldn't recommend Purdue for the kind of culture you're describing. From what you say, we've got some stuff in common, and I lasted exactly four months at Purdue. (It was my first undergrad experience.) Of course, this was in the '90s, so maybe things have changed. If you're considering Indiana, Bloomington is the quirkier, more liberal town.

Seth Abramson said...

@etrangette

Madison's only admitting in poetry this year. But Iowa City (the IWW), University of Miami, and Boulder (University of Colorado) are all worth looking into re: local culture. Can't understand why more folks don't apply to Miami. Also, maybe look at UNLV? It's fully funded for all now.

S.

etrangette said...

Seth,

The Miami MFA program seems to be fully funded - judging from the brochure on their website. Is this true? And if so, what's keeping it from being on your top 50 ranking?

Seth Abramson said...

It is fully funded -- and I suspect we'll see it in the top 50 within the next 1-3 years. It's just a question of the word getting out -- this is one of the three most attractive big-city fully-funded programs in America (alongside Irvine, UCSD, and Minnesota), so it's a fait accompli that it will be ranked in the top 50. That's my own personal guess, but obviously applicants (as ever) will make the final decision.
S.

etrangette said...

Thanks Seth! I'm now seriously considering applying here. Please let me know if there are any other under-the-radar schools that fit my description and have good funding.

Seth Abramson said...

@etrangette

I'm hoping to publish an article entitled "The Top 20 Underrated Creative Writing MFA Programs" in The Huffington Post in the next few weeks. Spread the word -- every program listed will fully fund more than 70% of incoming students.

S.

etrangette said...

Well I will be avidly waiting for that article to come out! Until then I will hold off on my final list.

Thanks!

rini said...

I'm hoping to apply to a few different schools for fiction... I've only applied to Roosevelt previous, and I think it was for NF.

This is my current list:
SAIC
Northwestern
Columbia Chicago
CalArts
California College of the Arts

Maybe:
Roosevelt
Lesley
Baltimore

I'm really not sure, though. I'm dealing with medical issues, so funds are low due to those bills. But I'm pressing on regardless. Earning an MFA is important to me.

For now it's just trying to put together my portfolio, get my letters, and see what happens. A friend of mine (who's at Northwestern) is encouraging me to include some graphic novel/graphic short stories. I'm a little nervous about doing so, but it may be worth a shot a few of these schools. Thoughts? Anyone have thoughts on submitting a script for graphic works if I don't feel comfortable illustrating the entire thing myself?

kaybay said...

Rini, if you have medical payments to make, you may want to seriously rethink your list. Those are some of the most expensive schools out there, and your chances of finding funding would be very low. Just a thought :)

Btw, Notre Dame doesn't guarantee a stipend, but they do offer tuition remission, and one of the faculty members is known for writing hyperfiction.

Blob said...

Seth,

Forgive me if this is covered somewhere in your P&W methodology (which I did read) or listed elsewhere and I've just missed it, but I was wondering when looking at partially funded programs in your ranking, whether there is a way to determine which schools offer tuition remission.

I understand your definition of full funding. And I assume partial funding means anything from a low stipend, to no stipend, or simply a tuition remission. Where/how do schools that don't offer any stipend but do offer full tuition remission fall on the funding scale?

The reason I ask is that while of course full funding is the ideal, I am ok with schools that at least provide a full tuition remission. What I really cannot afford is to pay tuition and my living costs.

I know going to program websites can answer this. But since I'm trying to add a few more schools and don't have a short list to choose from yet, I was hoping this might help me.

I hope what I'm asking makes sense.

And thanks again for being such a great resource.

Seth Abramson said...

Rini,

If funds are low, why not apply to one of the nearly 50 programs nationally that fully funds 70% or more of its incoming students (full tuition remission plus a stipend)? The programs you've listed will all leave you in substantial debt for a degree with limited market value.

S.

Seth Abramson said...

Blog,

Only one program offers full tuition remission to all without also offering full TAships to all, and that's Notre Dame. As to other programs, "partially funded" programs don't mean what you might think -- a "75% funded" program, for instance, means that 75% of students are fully funded (the equivalent of full tuition remission and an $8000/9 mos. stipend), not that all students are 75% fully funded. Programs that don't offer full tuition remission for their TAs have their stipends reduced by the amount of tuition for which TAs are responsible, so you can be confident that "75% fully funded" really does mean that, after paying all tuition costs, those 75% of incoming students will still have a minimum of 8,000/9 mos. left over. Hope I've understood your question correctly.

Best,
Seth

Peaquah said...

Hi all -

I just wanted to pop in here in response to Minnow's request to see an SOP. I was a big mess last year wondering if all my stuff would measure up - the SOP, the stories etc.

Last year after acceptances rolled around a lot of people requested to see stories and SOPs that worked for some of the more selective programs. I was a bit loathe to jump into that fray as it seemed really counter-productive since all the applications were already in.

But it's now fall and people are antsy, and I'm a nice lady - if you would like to see my stories (2) or SOP, I'm willing to share. They got me into Michigan for fiction, and I'm happily about to head off to my first workshop of the semester. I don't think this is "hot stuff" - just the opposite. It might help boost your confidence to read it and think, "well, I can do better than *that*."

Drop me a line (I'll activate my email link in my profile) and we can go from there. I really do wish everyone the best of luck!

Blob said...

@Seth,

Thank you for your prompt response. You did mostly understand and help with my question. But I guess what I'm also curious is about schools that might fund, let's say 75% of their students but that funding amounts to less than $8000 as a stipend, but does include a full tuition remission, how would they fall in funding ranking?
To me, the fact that 75% or even 50% might get a full tuition remission makes a school appealing even if the stipend is relatively weak.

I am fortunate to have some flexibility with my finances (mostly because I went to college for free and am loan and debt free), but paying full tuition plus living costs will be difficult. In an effort to sort of find the schools that might work for me, I was hoping I might see where those schools that might have a weak stipend but a decent rate of tuition remission stand.

Minnow said...

Thank you so much Peaquah and Marti! I'm sure both the examples will help a lot. I really want to get this aspect of the application done (or close to done) so I can concentrate on the writing sample, so thanks again!

@ etrangette - I did my undergrad at Madison, and if for any reason you choose to apply next year, you should consider it. It is a fantastic writing program in a very liberal, European-esque type city. There are many small cafes. I've heard Eugene, Oregon is about as earthy as they come, and their program is typically ranked pretty highly.

l.rosenfeld said...

@etrangette

I did my undergrad at Miami and worked very closely with the faculty there, albeit in poetry mostly, but I know a lot about the culture, feel, and over all tone of the city. let me know if you have any questions. If I could apply there, I definitely would. Unfortunately, they don't consider undergrad to grad MFA'ers.

Estella said...

Hi All,

I don't want to steer the conversation in totally different, Wyoming-centric direction. But. Because of the appearance of the name University of Wyoming that I see popping up on people’s prospectives lists with increasing frequency (which is good news), and because of the apparent close association between the name Laramie and the name Matthew Shepard (which is an unavoidable truth, following a very real tragedy), and because of the concerns I see being voiced in regards to what kind of place Laramie is... as a current MFA student here, I do feel the need to speak up.

For the town of Laramie, and the university community, the death of Matthew Shepard is innately more complicated than a decision to apply to our program or not. I can say, in all honesty and in my personal experience, that the town of Laramie is not ‘unfriendly.’ But what do we have to say, really, to prove that we are queer or queer friendly? What are applicants looking for? Does it help to hear that we have gays, lesbians, transgendered – and probably a variety of other minorities, sexual or otherwise – inside and outside the program, on faculty at the university, walking around our sidewalks, drinking at our bars and cafes? We have craigslist personal ads for residents of Laramie who are seeking partners for sex that could be classified by some as queer. The town hosts an annual event called Drag Queen Bingo. Girls have been seen here kissing girls. People do not stop being people because they are in Laramie, Wyoming.

After the death of Matthew Shepard, Laramie became defined – from the perspectives of outsiders like myself – as the setting of The Laramie Project. And it was. And it is. But because of the work of the university and the community, including the director of our program Beth Loffreda – with her book Losing Matt Shepard, her undergraduate courses in queer theory, and work on behalf of the LGBTA on campus – the university and the town has been forced into a position to face its prejudices, to engage dialogue about how that could happen here, and take action to better itself. Like anywhere, there’s more to be done and more improvements to be made… but being completely realistic, even though it is a small college town in Wyoming, Laramie is still a college town. There is still a university here and the discourse that a learning institution attracts. And frankly, it isn’t a terrible place to live (if you don’t mind 8 months of winter).

This isn’t to say that I don’t understand the concerns for safety, the fear of losing your sense of community particularly if you are a part of some kind of minority. But I would like to say, that it’s not an unsafe or threatening place. There is more diversity than I expected, with my preconceived notions (as a twenty-something coming from Los Angeles) of what Laramie, and Wyoming, would be. This is obviously something on people’s minds and something to be addressed. Because of this, our MFA blog (in its infancy: http://ibrokemythesis.com/) will have upcoming posts mulling things over. Feel free to check us out and join in the conversation on that forum at any time.

Thanks,
-Estella Soto
MFA Fiction Student, UW

H.Blevins said...

Well, since people are sharing, I thought I might as well throw my hat in the ring too. I have two lists, definites and maybes. I also have certain geographical restrictions that prevented me from adding a lot of schools outside of the midwest.

Definites (in no particular order) for Fiction:

Minnesota
Iowa
Indiana
Penn State
Bowling Green State
Columbia College-Chicago
Western Michigan
South Illinois-Carbondale

Maybes:

Pittsburgh (though funding doesn't look too great)
West Virginia
Missouri-St. Louis
Washington-St. Louis

ParTimer said...

Hi folks,

I posted on this board just once last app cycle. Was a little too late in figuring out it was what I wanted last year but will be applying for poetry this fall. (And I will post my list of schools once I'm a little more convinced that it is a definite list)

I'm wondering if anyone here is considering MA programs for creative writing as well. I've started to consider this because like a lot of folks, I'm not psyched about my chances of getting in, even throwing a few schools on there that have more reasonable acceptance rates / are less well-known.

Anyhow, I was wondering if anybody knew anything about the MA in Creative Writing ------>> MFA program path. I had an undergrad professor who took that path, and I don't doubt that after a year or two that program my work would improve a lot, and I could feasibly more competitive for the MFA. HOWEVER, I'm noticing on the Michener website (for UT's mfa), it's written that they consider applicants with MA's in creative writing on an "ad hoc basis" which seems to imply that one's chances of getting in would be adversely affected because of the MA. (Am I understanding "ad hoc" right? I think I am; I understand its implication generally). Anyhow, do other schools tend not to like that in an applicant (having already gotten an MA in creative writing)?
...Thoughts welcome. Thanks.

Rags said...

@ Minnow:
http://thecreativewritinglife.blogspot.com/ (he is now at Illinois)
http://www.uni.edu/~gotera/gradapp/stmtpurpose.htm

@ ParTimer:
Brown asks you to submit a separate letter if you've got a CW degree. Check out their website.

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

After Seth's post, I realised I needed to parse my questions better.

I'm a veggie, like the outdoors, physical activity (I love biking & hiking), fun community events, live music, cafes. I don't do well with real cold (I've never seen snow) and I'm looking for an inexpensive city. If the US map were divided into 4 quadrants, I'd like to be in the first (North-East). And I'm Indian; so, I'm a little worried about race issues and safety.

Now, based on these, I'm having doubts about the following schools.

1. Washington U, St. Louis (I haven't read many good things about the city)

2. U of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
3. Purdue, West Lafayette
4. U of Florida, Gainesville (I dislike gators and swamps)

Please do give me your inputs. I'm having a really hard time making up my mind about these 4 schools.

Déborah N Kabwang said...

Can anyone please tell me about ASU (Arizona State) and university of Arizona. But mostly about ASU, who's been rejected, waitlisted or accepted? Any details I should know about them? SPILL IT! thank you!!!!!

Elaina said...

@Rags

I grew up in Missouri, and if you're looking for some place that doesn't get too cold, I wouldn't go to St. Louis. It doesn't get as cold here in the winter as, say, Minnesota, but we definitely get snow, ice, and below 0 temperatures.

St. Louis overall isn't a bad town, and parts of it are nice. You just have to avoid East St. Louis over in Illinois. Otherwise you should be fine. WashU is a good school, though, so if you can brave our winters I wouldn't totally rule it out quite yet.

Nancy Rawlinson said...

Just wanted to post a quick reminder that my webinar on MFA applications is tomorrow, Wednesday Sept. 15, at 1 p.m. Eastern time. You can find out more and sign up here.

Déborah N Kabwang said...

Can anyone give me details about Arizona State? anyone been accepted there? rejected? waitlisted? anything? Any info will be appreciated. thanks!

Marti said...

@ Rags: If you're not down with the cold, maybe the Northeast isn't the best place for you? The Midwest, too, gets chilly/icy/snowy in the winter. Purdue and Illinois will be cold—not overwhelmingly so, but still cold. And I noticed that Syracuse and Cornell were on your original final list—you will freeze in those places! Cornell even has a special web page about surviving the winter (http://www.isso.cornell.edu/ithacalife/winter.php). Upstate NY gets buried in snow.
Just in general, I've also found that http://www.city-data.com/ is useful for getting information about cities I'm not familiar with.

Marti said...

@ Déborah: Most of us are currently in the application process, so we won't know if we are accepted/rejected/waitlisted until the spring.

Déborah N Kabwang said...

@ Marti, well of course I know that, but I am talking about people who may have previously applied (last year). I noticed that many on here apply more than once.

Marti said...

@ Déborah: Sorry, I misunderstood your question :)

ParTimer said...

@ Rags, Thank you for the Brown comment.

hopefulscribbler said...

Okay, so I need a place to vent my frustrations...Sorry in advance!

Is anyone else out there slightly (or massively) resentful of programs who insist upon receiving hard copies of official transcripts directly from all previous institutions as part of the application process? I have attended three universities, one of which is in the UK and the costs associated with ordering and shipping these documents can get way out of hand.

What on earth is wrong with uploading / posting scanned copies of official transcripts and then stumping up the real goods if you’re actually accepted to the program? Surely you wouldn't go to the trouble of splashing the cash on the application if you didn't have the credentials to back it up...?

U Colorado Boulder has just been ousted from my list, in part because I realised they require TWO official copies from all three of my universities amounting to a not insignificant cost of $66 on top of the $70 application fee, not including any annoying international money order charges I’ll have to foot. I don’t mind paying more for my application because I’m not from the U.S. at all, but the transcript thing just seems even more like throwing money down the drain than my hopeful applications to Michener and NYU!

Sorry for the rant everyone!

NYCBrat said...

Does anyone have info on Southern Illinois- Carbondale? Someone said that the program was open to cross-genre, experimental, and even some genre work. Can anybody confirm?

B. Cleark said...

Seth,
I want to pursue an MFA but in the time following that I also plan to pursue a PhD. Are two terminal degrees overkill?

ChrisLes said...

@ParTimer

I'm not sure about Texas's attitude toward writers going MA to MFA -- they aren't much helping themselves with that "ad hoc" comment -- but widely speaking there isn't a bias against writers with MAs applying to MFA programs. I'm not sure exactly how many people in my class at Iowa had a creative writing MA, but it was more than one.

Chris
Driftless House

WanderingTree said...

NYCBrat,

I go to Southern Illinois, and I think it's safe to say that the program is pretty open to experimental/ borderline genre/ cross-genre stuff. I've seen stories in workshop that pretty much run the gamut in terms of style and genre. I'm still pretty new to Carbondale, but I think there's a lot to like about the town and the program. For those of you still putting your lists together, SIU-Carbondale is a fully-funded 3 yr studio oriented program with a good spread of opportunities in terms of editing, teaching, community outreach etc. And the town isn't half bad either. Sure, it's not Chicago but there's a decent selection of just about anything you'd want/need and it's plenty liberal enough for me (and I've always lived in very large cities). So, there's my answer plus a little plug.

ParTimer said...

@ChrisLes,

Very much appreciate the insight. That is the answer I was hoping for. Thanks!

And here's my list of schools for Poetry (for right now). I can't quite call it definitive yet, but it's pretty darn close...


West Virginia Univ.
Univ. of South Carolina
Virginia Commonwealth
Oregon State
Virginia Tech
Wyoming
Houston
Alabama
Vanderbilt
Iowa
Michigan
Brown
Virginia
UT-Michener
UT-Austin-MA

honeyless said...

@Rags

The North-East definitely gets cold and snow! I did my undergrad at WashU and it isn't at all like the rest of St. Louis and is really an island there. It is very academic with a good Asian and Southeast Asian population. Also, the writers I worked with there are great.

Betsy said...

here is my list for poetry, finalized, more or less, i think...

cornell
virginia
nyu
iowa
jhu
houston
montana
arizona state
tx state
alabama

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