: A Creative Writing Community
I took part in a MFA Application Advice Panel at SIU-Carbondale the other day. Here's an excerpt from the session. (The volume is a bit low, so you'll have to turn up your speakers a bit.)MFA Application Advice Panel at SIUCI'll be posting some of the notes concerning what was covered on my blog as well this weekend.
@ WanderingTreeVery cool. I wish my undergrad program did stuff like this. I'm applying to Carbondale, so it's nice to see this coming out of the program. One of the things I'm most hoping to find (beyond the focused time to write and learn) is a literary community like the one that is thriving where I live.
Hey guys--I don't know if anyone has posted about this, and I'm sorry if it's already been said, but I just heard about a new assistantship that's starting up this app season in the MFA program at Mills College. Poetry applicants this cycle can opt to be considered for the "Graduate Assistantship in Community Poetics." Instead of teaching, "candidates for the assistantship will design and implement a poetry-related community project during the course of their two-year degree program." Apparently it comes with a tuition waiver, and a stipend of $6000/year. More info on their website: here.I don't go to Mills, so unfortunately I don't know much about the program--I just heard about this through my own MFA program (Emerson) and thought it would be something the blog might be interested in!
This is good to hear about Mills, Laura. San Francisco Bay Area programs aren't exactly known for funding, so if others in the area follow this example (and go even further) that can only bode well. I know someone that graduated from Poetry at Mills a while back, and I believe she had to pay her whole way (upwards of 30k a year). Of course, funding at programs in large metropolitan areas is a tricky thing. People have to be aware of cost of living, for instance. Still, the faculty urban programs can attract is often formidable.
6k is a drop in the bucket as far as cost of living goes in the S.F. area (even Oakland). Other considerations as far as large metropolitan programs go include cohort quality (although there will always be talented writers everywhere, one has to keep in mind how funding has affected rankings/selectivity esp. in recent years), how disciplined you are in terms of being able to write with "distractions", and cohort size.Personally, I'm from the San Francisco area. I'd love to end up back there eventually even knowing the cost of living. It's home. The writing and arts community overall in the area is dynamic to say the least. If there were programs out there that provided full-funding, they would have def. been on my list.
I just posted notes from the SIUC MFA Application Panel . . .ClickyHope people find it useful.
Subscribing!Does anyone have any suggestions on reapplying? I have no idea what to say in my personal statement... And is it okay to submit the same pieces in your writing sample? Or at least some of the same pieces?
Whoops. Didn't actually subscribe the last time. Subscribing now!
The Dec 1 deadlines are a real killer. @wandering treeThanks for the link. I'd love to see notes on the session when you get a chance.
Subscribing. Got Minnesota's app in yesterday. Thirteen more to go.
I'm following up on a question I raised in the previous Mail Bag, about Minnesota's writing sample requirement. I emailed them to ask, and got this in reply:"You can include a short paragraph about your writing background (publications, awards, etc) if you choose, but it is not required. It should not be part of your writing sample. You can upload it as an additional document."(As background, the question I'd asked was about the requirement on their website that states: "Your website reads, "For the MFA, the sample should be a substantial example of your creative work (25 pages maximum); include a description of your writing background, and the genre in which you are applying.")Hope that helps anyone who may run into the same question!
Basic question: should SOPs, in general, be single-spaced or double-spaced?
thanks, I! What I don't get is why programs don't just say what they mean...
I'm in the Bay Area. . .thanks for the Mills tip. Back to stressing about SOP/samples/deadlines/USPS.
Question about letters of recommendation: Does anyone use an online service to send your letters out for you, so that you only have to have your recommenders write to once? I know that's standard for law school applications, but I don't want to sign up for it if it won't work with the Creative Writing application process.
I read an extensive convo about that last year on here. I haven't used it, so you should double check with your schools of course, but it looks like everywhere will allow a service like interfolio except florida state.
Robin, many people use services like interfolio. If I had it all to do again, I certainly would have used that last year to avoid a LOT of headache, as I had one recommender who didn't send letters to all my schools. I know at Vanderbilt the faculty are in favor of these services, and it seemed like most schools last year were. There are very few schools who have an additional form you have to include.
@ ManasiYes, it's okay to use some of the same pieces in your portfolio, assuming you've made significant changes to them in the intervening year, and feel they're stronger. Submitting the exact same work to the same programs and expecting a different result would be a questionable venture, but I don't think that's what you're talking about here.@ IDouble-spacing the SOP is standard. ChrisDriftless House
I sent in my application to UT Austin yesterday. Today, I got access to an on line area where I can check my application & material status. There, it says they haven't received my GRE and TOEFL scores yet. Should I be worried? I sent both scores from the testing center - Sep 16 and Oct 17.
Vanderbilt would not let me use Interfolio. Neither will Western Michigan University. Everyone else will, including Cornell, U. of Wyoming, U. of Texas, Texas State U., U. of Florida, U. of Iowa, Indiana U., Ohio State U., Washington U. - St. Louis, Syracuse U., U. of Michigan, Colorado State U., Purdue, U. of Virginia, and Louisiana State U. I e-mailed all of them and asked.U. of Minnesota said I should use theirs, but I was welcome to try Interfolio if somehow I could use the service to upload directly to the U. of Minn site. Whatever that meant.
Thanks, Chris. So I guess what I'm wondering is whether they'll have last year's application to compare with. Or will they be reading this year's afresh. My samples have definitely undergone significant rework, but I'm not sure I want them to be compared with previous versions. Hope that makes sense. :-)
@ChrisDouble-spacing the SOP is standard? Wow, I totally missed that (and this is my second round)! I'd somehow gotten it into my head that it was single-spaced. That makes a difference on some of the length requests...
RE: SOP spacingI think it depends on the school. Several schools specifically request SINGLE spaced, while other appear to have no preference. I'd say unless the site says otherwise, you should double space your SOP.
subscribing!i have a question: i'm getting ready to send my first application this week [!!!] and i need to know how to format my sample!obviously i know times new roman, 12 pt, double-spaced, page numbers with my last name at the tops, but what else do i need to put? anything in the header?
I can't seem to download the UT cover page. Very strange. Anyone else having problems?
@ Blobfor Michener? I just tried and was able to without any issues. Let me know if you still can't. I can save & email it to you.
grumble, grumble it looks like my computer isn't downloading ANY pdf forms. Clearly a problem on my end. I'm going to try re-downloading adobe before crying.
@Blob - how's your MFA boot camp coming along? I must say, I'm jealous of your stick-to-itiveness. I have this whole week off and promised myself that I would be doing what you're doing (barreling through all of this stuff). Yeah, not so much. I keep getting distracted; this is really starting to feel like work! Bah. Me no want to work...
My roommate just had that problem. Try this In Adobe Reader or Acrobat, choose Edit, Preferences. Select Internet. Deselect Display PDF In Browser, and then click OK. Choose Edit, Preferences, Internet, select Display PDF In Browser, and then click OK.
@kaybayI wish I felt more confident about my ability to actually do this bootcamp! I've also flown home for the bootcamp, which means I've filled my schedule with tons of friends I want to see. But, I'm trying to convince myself having at least one outing a day will make me more productive...I'm working on getting together checklists for each school I can attach to their respective envelopes right now (I think this was your suggestion from a while back). My next and BIG step is to do my statement of purpose, oy. Once I have at least one good version done, I'll feel much, much better. I've told myself that I have to AT LEAST get all my decemeber applications (7 out of 14) done this week or I'm screwed. But I'm hoping to power through more of them.
Not sure where to put this, but wonder if anyone can help...I'm using interfolio to send materials out, most importantly the letters of rec. A problem I'm running into is that most of the schools I'm applying to have individual cover sheets that are supposed to accompany the letters.So, two questions:1) Do these cover sheets really matter?2) Would a generic cover sheet (since they all seem to ask the same stuff) be acceptable?TIA for any thoughts on this
Here's a question I hope has never been asked before:Unless the program's web site states explicitly that materials must arrive in a certain sequence, is it okay to fill out the online application, send GRE scores, send transcripts, and mail the bulk application package (i.e. writing samples and personal statements) in any order I wish?What worries me is that my GRE scores and transcripts might arrive before my online application has been submitted and processed. Hopefully, the department and/or grad school files this stuff away.What do you think?
@Jeff it doesn't matter. They'll open up a file for you as soon as they receive a single piece. Question for the crew: I've noticed that a handful of the cover sheets ask for a title for the manuscript. What are you guys doing about this? My manuscript/writing sample of poems isn't a manuscript for any purpose other than applications and doesn't really have a name...
Blob:With poems, I would just use some identifier to connect that cover sheet with your collection. It's kind of like writing your account number on your check when you make a credit card payment. So if the two get separated they can be rejoined.Maybe you can use the title of the first poem, or something along those lines.
Oh SoP, Oh Sop,How difficultis brevity....Sung to the tune of Oh, Christmas Tree... No? Well, that's alright. I can't sing, and I'm Jewish. So... yeah.I just realized that Michener wants the statement of purpose to be under 350 words.I've written two drafts, so far. The first: 1250 words. The second: 851. And I still feel like I'm circling the wagons.Erm. Yikes.
Washington University - St. Louis requires a "Writing Sample and Writing Sample Cover Sheet (downloadable PDF) (please note that the Writing Sample Cover Sheet should be downloaded, filled out, and then added to the front of your writing sample to be uploaded online)."How would this be done, exactly? Would I fill out the pdf, scan it, save it as an image, and then paste it into Word? That seems cumbersome, but it's the only thing I can think of. Other ideas? Thanks!My back-up plan currently consists of finding a job where I can heat up soup, make kick-ass grilled cheese sandwiches, and bake brownies from a box. LOL.
@ XThanks. I've got that part covered. I just don't know how to attach one to the front of a word doc that needs to be uploaded. (That is what they are asking for, right? I used to be so tech savvy, but then I went for an English degree.)
@ X (and anyone else applying to Washington U) So, on the actual application (under Writing Sample Attachments) - the attachments need to be in pdf format. So, I guess we need to figure out the way to combine two pdfs. I saw that somewhere recently, was it here?Also, there is room to upload three different attachments. Maybe it could be loaded separately? Thoughts? The brownies are ready... :)
@thereandbackagainRe: the 350 word SOP for Michener, I actually had some luck with Microsoft Word's Auto-Summarize function. You can set it to scan your document and spit you back out __% highlights and key points. It's NOT perfect, by any means, but its imperfections gave me a way in, if you will, to figuring out what was crucial and what could be cut. It helped me get my 1000 word draft down to 300-some for Texas.Re: combining PDFs-- I'd posted about that in the previous Mail Bag. Basically, http://www.mergepdf.net/ is pretty easy. If you can turn your writing sample into a PDF, and fill out the cover sheet PDF, just upload them both onto that website, hit a button, and download the newly merged PDF.Good luck! My first applications are going out this week, someway, somehow. I know others are in the same boat. Here's to us. *Clink*
Re: WashU cover sheet/sampleChildren, children, this is easy. Print you writing sample and scan the cover sheet and sample together-- easy as pie. The other option is merging pdfs which can be done on some websites with software or with full adobe, which I don't have. Womp. @thereandbackagainAt least you have too many words of your SOP. I have 0 words.
whew. just sent out my first complete app, for Cornell. Now, Cornell's deadline is farther away than UMass or Minnesota, but its requirements are *so* much simpler. All I had to do was doctor up my SOP. Thank goodness. (At least once I get these two out of the way, I'll be set for almost every other program...)I already submitted the online part of my UMass application. Does anyone know if there's a way to check whether my recommenders have submitted their recommendations? I don't want to bother them unless necessary.
@ BlobI finally just sat down with paper and pen, set my alarm for 15 minutes and didn't pick up the pen until time was up. Sometimes tricking myself into writing things I'm feeling stressed out about works when nothing else will.My SoP is awful right now, but I think (I hope) that I'm on the precipice of not so awful.
I keep seeing people mention envelopes and packets...so far only one of my schools requires documents to be sent in hard copy. Am I missing something?
@pensive monkeyhmm, maybe. I'm applying to 14 schools, of the list only the following are entirely online: Cornell, WashU, FSU, and Oregon. I also know that Vanderbilt is all online since it was only relatively recently removed from my list. The rest of my schools ask for writing samples (and sometimes the SOP) to be sent in hard copy.
Interesting, interesting. Granted, I've still only written out a list of each school's requirements and haven't gotten far past the generic online app with any of them, so maybe I'm not remembering right. I can't believe how quickly December has blown in.
@pensiveWell if it helps, the following all require at least some hard copy materials: iowa, uci, florida, alabama, michigan, wisconsin, university of washington (seattle), umass, lsu, ut-austin
Thanks, Blob. None of those are on my list (Wash U and Cornell, however, are), but I went back and looked at my list of info and I believe 2 of my schools require hard copies of some of the items. Meh, I will get this straight when the time comes. I'm not in panic mode...yet. Probably should be, but I'm not. No holiday shopping next weekend for me...my post-Thanksgiving festivities will be devoted to these apps.Just slightly nervous that none of my recommenders have responded to my email asking them to make sure they'd received requests for letters from all of my schools...they were all very enthusiastic about writing the letters for me, so I'm hoping that no news is good news and that they just didn't contact me because they had indeed received all of the requests. I'll be double checking soon, just in case...
Wash U peeps- I just did this today. I actually took a picture of the sheet with my phone... but if your scanner's not on the fritz, you can scan as a picture file and insert it into the word doc, then transfer the whole thing to pdf. I used Adobe's free trial converter to do it.Three down, eleven to go.
@ ManasiI wouldn't worry about anyone pulling out your application from last year and comparing that year's version of a story to this. I can't claim to know how everybody's procedure works, but I think programs have neither the inclination nor the time to do a side-by-side comparison. Is it possible the same person is reading your application this year as read it last year? Yes. But, even then, this year's work would be “compared with previous versions” only in the reader's memory, I would think.@ RaineI guess I should qualify what I said about SOP spacing, although I think Bryan's answer is a good one. Double-spacing is standard for any prose document, which is why I say it's standard for the SOP, and I'd certainly double-space by default whenever the program states how long they want a SOP to be in terms of a word-limit, as opposed to a page-limit. The one instance where single-spacing seems reasonable (apart from when it's requested) is if the program wants a SOP to be one page at longest, and doesn't give a spacing preference. In that case, well, then there's wiggle room for you to treat the instructions like those for a resume, and jam as much into that page as you can. I guess the same logic could be applied where they say no more than two pages, so long as you stay compact. When we review SOPs, we want them under a thousand words, and if they come in near that mark, we're often trying to hone them down.ChrisDriftless House
Don't know if this affects anyone but me, but I just checked the ETS site and my scores from the General Test on Nov. 6 are up, so if you took it that day yours may be up as well. I'm happy to have managed a 5.5 in writing. I was worried about that part since I didn't connect with either question. I hope to get those mailed out Tuesday. Now I just need to wait on my subject scores. Gulp.
@thereandbackagainI feel you on the SOPs (I started calling them SOBs).I've FINALLY finished all of mine- 10 different statements for 7 schools. I think it took me 3 weeks. At this point I still have to edit another story for my portfolio and I'm actually looking forward to it. @ Rags:I, too, sent my GRE scores to UT Austin waaaay back and they still haven't shown up. Nor have my transcripts. I think I may have to smack a bitch. In other news, I have complete confidence in my future as a writer and teacher. If I don't get into a school this year, I'll try again until I do. I'm excited and happy for this. On the other hand, I may have to spend the rest of my life alone because my personal life is in shambles right now. If it's not one thing... gees.Hang in there, everyone. I don't know you but, being writers all, I love you.
I'm glad to hear other people are about to send in their applications. I'm getting ready to send in my first, and man, it's stressful. I just want to send everything so I can stop focusing on tweaking everything and get on to the waiting part of this game.
Ha, this made me laugh. Check out the middle career on the list:http://education.yahoo.net/articles/jobs_for_haters.htm?kid=1ATWUhehe. And they say creative writing degree don't offer job prospects ;)
question about sops/sobs/pos:Most of the question/guides ask us to write about our academic goals. I'm halfway through a first-draft and I'm realizing I'm talking a lot about my past and how I got to where I am now/why i want to get this MFA in the first place. How much are other people balancing past and present with future?
@ BlobI think that I'm not doing a good job of balancing at all - yet. Mine still seems a little past heavy and not enough focused on my writing. These things are tricky. BUT! You started writing yours! YAY!
Yeah, mine last year was past heavy... this year I tried to ease some of that by speaking more in depth on writing projects I'm currently engaged in and programs I want to become a part of in the future (I'm a big supporter of nonprofit literacy aids/councils/etc). Even if these don't apply to you, if you spend enough time speaking to specific things about the MFA or the School, you're bound to talk about your present. I'm of the opinion that they're probably used to people coming into the MFA without a grasp of exactly what they want to do coming out of it.(4 done, 10 to go).
@ Gena Do you think it's okay to mention projects you are working on that are not a part of your writing sample? I've been hesitant to bring up things that are just being worked on now. (Am I making sense?)
@thereandbackagain (Huge Tolkien fan, btw)You definitely make sense. I took that into consideration, but decided it was good to indicate to them that I had a larger project underway that I was bringing with me. Considering I don't have any fiction publications, I hope it will convey my seriousness of intent. I didn't send any of the project I mentioned because it's too rough, at this point. I can see, at most, a few raised eyebrows over not sending it in. But if you guys think differently, PLEASE let me know... so I can get those last 10 in with better SOPs. :).
is it terribly foolish of me to not talk about my undergrad experience? I was a creative writing major, so it was all relevant. but there are other aspects of my 'past' that are more unique/monumental, I think.
@ GenaThanks, that helps. While some of my work that I'm sending in is thematically similar, the projects that I am working on are very much at the beginning of a long, long process. And yay for Tolkein. This was one of the names I was considering for a travel blog I wrote a couple of years ago when I was teaching abroad. I wound up going with a different site/name altogether, but this has been handy here. :)
RE: SOPMine does this:The first few sentences are why I want to go to the program -- my writing/career goals. Then I discuss what excites me about MFAs (and I am quasi-specific in regards to the school I'm applying to). Then I talk about my past work. Then I talk about my writing influences. It's more organic than that but basically that's it. It is not formatted as an essay or a letter -- so we'll see how that goes.Carry on!
I have now finished draft one out of what will likely be a 100 of my sop. Sadly, I have to say other than my 'hook' my SOP is a real POS. But at least I have something to work with now... It's about 850 words. grumble grumble. I also need to figure out how to do two things for Michigan and UCI. AAAHHH. Feeling very overwhelmed. My application bootcamp already feels like a fail.
@ UT Austin/Michener folksI just spoke with a rep from their graduate admissions office and found out it takes FOUR WEEKS for documents they receive to get posted as "received" on UT's online app. status site. I have no idea why the turnover is so long, since it leaves us poor prospies wondering for four weeks if they received our GREs/transcripts, but this could be why many of us haven't seen our materials marked as received on their website.Guess we'll just have to take it on faith.
I'm really kicking myself for not getting my SOPs done with earlier. I think I already know that if I don't get in this year, the thing I'll regret is my SOP. womp.
Reposting the following question in hopes that someone has any thoughts on the matter. Will not repost again, and apologies if this is annoying, just trying to figure out what to do...Not sure where to put this, but wonder if anyone can help...I'm using interfolio to send materials out, most importantly the letters of rec. A problem I'm running into is that most of the schools I'm applying to have individual cover sheets that are supposed to accompany the letters.So, two questions:1) Do these cover sheets really matter?2) Would a generic cover sheet (since they all seem to ask the same stuff) be acceptable?TIA for any thoughts on this
@AOP-- Any school that says they accept Interfolio should be aware that their accompanying form will not be used. The schools which do not accept Interfolio will expect their forms to be used, generally. The language on the website will usually tell you how important it is. Some of my schools even said "Here's the form, but recommendations on institution stationary are also accepted." You really just need to ask the individual schools.
@ AOPCaveat: I have no clue about anything and am in no way an authority on any subject.With a process that is just so damn competitive...I would be reluctant to not try to follow every instruction and would not assume it's OK to not turn in your app or LoRs exactly how they ask unless you contact the school yourself and they tell you otherwise.They may disregard it and if they love your sample you're good to go. They may also not even read your sample (I know literary agents can be this ruthless when it comes to format and guidelines) and throw your app in the "maybe pile" because you did not apply exactly how they ask.I have no idea one way or another -- but I personally don't think it's worth risking it. It's a lot of time and money to be disqualified or even have the smallest negative presumptions about you as a candidate just because of LoRs and interfolio.That's just me.
Thanks for the advice guys!
I have an odd question about the critical writing sample some schools request. I'm including an essay I wrote for an American Religious History class and while I know the humanities prefers MLA (which, correct me if I'm wrong, has a works cited page at the end), but I like footnotes(call me crazy :D), which I think is APA style. Does all of this matter? Am I wrong anyway? I think I'm wrong about all of it, but I figure y'all are a bit more up to speed on this stuff than I am.
@ KaybayYou are correct about Work Cited for MLA...that's the extent of my knowledge. I THINK I worked briefly with APA for a paper (as a history minor) but they usually let me do MLA in history courses.Whether or not it matters for the sample I do not know. I can see them wanting it in the accepted format for literature analysis -- but I can also see them just reviewing the sample for content and not caring about format (especially if they do not specify).I don't think I helped any at all ;)Carry on!
@KaybayWhat Writer Dude said. They do usually prefer MLA, I've worked in MLA, APA, and Chicago. If you prefer footnotes, fine! (I do too, actually). As long as you're consistent with a style, I don't think they'll hold one superior in the writing sample. This, however, is from someone who has no proof. Only suppositions.
Ha! I'm happy to be right about that, I thought I had them confused :). Do history classes prefer APA? If so, I might keep it in APA style because of the subject matter. I'd love to include a paper from an English course, but I just don't have any. I kept one from a World Lit course on the "Rape of the Lock," but I don't know how in the world I could expand that pithy 5-pager even one more page, hehe.
Thanks for the advice, btw.
@kaybaySince I teach research writing, I like to think I actually have a bit of expertise on this subject. APA does not use footnotes; you're probably thinking of Chicago. APA is very similar to MLA, except that APA emphasizes the year of publication and MLA kind of doesn't. A citation in APA would look something like this: (Smith, 2008). Anyway, I'm sure the only thing that really matters is that you're consistent. The Purdue OWL is a great resource for this type of info: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/2/Hope this helps!
@ KaybayNow that Chicago was brought I'm second-guessing what History's accepted format should be.But I still think it was APA.I thought basically MLA is for humanities courses, while APA is more scientific/research...To sum up -- either should be fine unless the school asks for one or the other specifically. I mean, do they want insightful writers and readers who can string critical analysis together or an ape who can follow a format guideline.
Thanks, Courtney. Do you think it would be okay to use footnotes, or are they a big no-no?
@Writer Dude......both? Give me a banana :D.
Thanks to whomever mentioned that their GRE writing scores were up... I checked mine and was THRILLED to see that I got a 6.0!! :)
@ KarissaNo one likes a bragger, Karissa ;)Congrats and good luck!Carry on!
5 done, 9 to go. AND one of my recommenders contacted me telling me his recs were in. Huzzah!Man, I love Thanksgiving Week. Free time at last!And congrats Karissa-- I'm uber jealous! :)
I haven't used MLA since high school. When in doubt (à mon avis): Chicago Manual.E
HAH, I figured after my HORRIDDDDDD verbal scores, I could use a bit of self-stroking of my ego ;)
I've worked for my campus writing center so I've tutored students on mla/apa/chicago format many times.Kaybay-- use MLA.Reasoning: APA is more for papers where "timeliness" is key (hence the emphasis on date). For example, a scientific paper where an article published in 2010 would be more relevant than one published in 2008 (because of new info, new finds, what have you, etc.).MLA is good for the humanities because the work doesn't change. Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms will always be A Farewell to Arms. Hence, you'd be more interested in page numbers ie (Farewell to Arms, 37) or (Hemingway, 37).Chicago format-- you can use it if you really like it (I know some old school profs that will only use Chicago themselves), but I believe MLA is the safest way to go.Hope the above was not confusing.
BTW,Finished my online apps and went to the post office to send out my packets for AZ and IA today!Only have ID, USF and SJSU left. I'm only waiting on these because the deadlines for these are in Feb. ID is the only one not completely ready, as I am putting the finishing touches on my damned academic paper, which I had to write from scratch (didn't save any of my college papers).
Thanks, guys :) and no, MFA Draft, not confusing at all. You guys are making me feel so behind! But, it's okay, kudos to you :D. I'm just not comfortable sending my samples out yet. It's my second story that I'm still fiddling with. I need to let it sit for a few weeks to see what's missing and where. It just doesn't feel whole, like something's still not developed enough. I really don't think I'll be able to send anything off until maybe mid-December. I wanted December 1st, but poop, that's next week! Argh. My first deadline is the 15th :*(
@kaybayDon't worry I don't feel anywhere near ready to send anything out despite my grand plans. And I DO have dec. 1st deadlines!
you know, when my brother was applying for grad school two years ago, I thought the SOPs were soooo easy. I helped him with his and I remember thinking 'man, I could do these all day, sooooo easy.' Lies! They are not easy. I guess maybe if it's not your application they're easy. But they're really starting to turn my brain into knots.
@ Karissa - That was me. Did you take the subject test on the 13th? We seem to be on the same schedule. Congrats on your 6. I'm impressed. :)@ Blob - With the exception of a poetry outing, all I'm going to be doing is working on my SoPs for the next two days. Friday, Saturday, & Sunday will be given over to editing my poetry. I"m hoping to have my first applications in next Friday. Hang in there. We can do this! :)
@thereandbackagainThanks, I definitely need the pep talk and the support! My goal was to come to my parents house for this week and just work work work. But after getting here, I've realized just how many SOPs I have to write and how difficult they really are for me. And I've scheduled way too many things for myself also. I have lunches with my old professors, bosses, etc every day, not to mention thanksgving will likely be a wash. I know I can do it, I have to. I just wish I was a little further along. Here's to all of us getting applications we're proud of out soon!
Holy poop! I just had a breakthrough and may have finished my second story. We'll have to see how it looks in the light of day, though. It's going to be really funny when I read it tomorrow and wonder if I was high. Let's hope not, I'm starting to go crazy with all of this. And trying to rewrite a stupid essay from like five years ago is a lot harder than I thought it would be. I'm hating this critical writing requirement (although I do like that it might work against my crappy GRE scores and mediocre GPA). It's going to be a whole lotta bullcrap in the end.
And Blob, you can do the personal statement! I know it's a pain in the ass, but once you get the first one done, the others follow pretty easily. I know it's been said before but don't think about it too much, it's totally not worth it in the end. You can dooooo it!
@thereandbackagainThanks so much!! :) I actually didn't take the subject test because at the time I took the GRE, I was pretty sure I was only applying to MFA programs, but alas, my plans have changed and now that I've decided to apply to some of each, I'm only applying to MA programs that don't ask for the subject test. ;)
I've got my writing sample ALMOST chosen. I have seven poems that I know I want to include -- some because they're indicative of my growth, some because I know they're my strongest pieces, and some because they're part of the project I plan to purse while in a program... But I'm struggling to select the other few. Grrrr.Are you guys (poets, in particular) tailoring your samples to programs or just picking one sample and going with it for all programs?I know they say not to tailor it, but my boyfriend did it last year and it seemed to work pretty well for him (he got into 6 of 8 places he applied, lol)...
@ KarissaMy bad. I thought that you were applying to Cornell's joint MFA/PhD program (which is why I was assuming your were taking the subject GRE). I must have been thinking about someone else!
@thereandbackagainYeah, 'twas the plan until I stupidly realized that I had been looking at the MFA application page the entire time and therefore didn't register for the subject test. Oops. :(
@ KarissaOh! I'm sorry! I didn't realize. There is way too much stuff to keep up with in this process. :/
@kaybaythanks, you're right. I know you're right!What schools on your list ask for a critical sample? UWashington does for me, but it's the only one (not counting UMass's TA app).@KarissaI'm not tailoring any of my poetry samples. Some will be a bit different but only because of size. The main reasons I'm not worrying about tailoring are these: 1. It's hard for me to really determine what a program's aesthetic is; 2. I'm afraid that if I try to pick and choose who should get what I'll look back and think 'oh, if only I'd sent 'Big Giant Dog' instead of Small Pretty Mouse' to Iowa maybe I would have gotten in!'; and 3. I just don't have the time or energy to worry about putting together different sample packets (beyond where it's necessary). Another question for poets: does anyone know how many poems short of a sample size you can get away with? For example, Michigan asks for 15. I have 15 poems, but the more I add beyond 10 the more I risk weakening my sample.
hey all, quick/possibly dumb question: if the school you're applying to has no instructions as to how the letters of rec should be sent, is it safe to assume that the referee can just send it directly to the school?
ok, i promise I'll stop asking SOP questions eventually. But here's one more:I'm not sure whether I should talk about my plans to eventually get a phd. I'm not applying to any joint programs or phd programs to start. But, I want desperately to teach at one level or another. Whether that means I'll follow up my MFA with a Masters in Education or with a phd, I don't know. But I want to be able to teach. But I'm afraid expressing another degree might be a turnoff... thoughts?
@blakeeva: These application fees are just too high to leave anything to chance. I would scour the program's website to find the info. If you don't find it, e-mail the program. Ohio State has pertinent information located on different sections of their web site, so sometimes you have to browse a bit.@Blob: I would "touch" (key word) on your plans to earn advanced degrees beyond your MFA, but I wouldn't go apeshit talking about it. These MFA programs seem to be focused on what you're going to do once you get there, Now, if there web site asks, specifically, if you intend to work on degrees beyond their MFA, then you may want to do more than just touch on it.
I'd like to ammend my list. Idaho's gone because:crappy typing skills + cramped keyboard on crappy netbook =lost academic sampleI don't have the heart or the time to write another one.Damn it. My list just got shorter. 4 schools for nonfiction, absolutely final (these apps are already on a mail truck somewhere:U of IowaU or ArizonaU of San FranciscoSan Jose StateJust goes to show ya, the lists aren't really final until you actually send out the apps.
wow. i'm just frazzled. I meant to post this in the "where are you applying?" thread. sigh.
Anyone applying to Ohio State? When I called the grad department with a question, they said the deadline was December 1, but on OSU's site, they have the deadline listed as: "For all 2010-2011 applicants, the deadline is December 15, 2009." Confused...
@AmyDon't you love that? It amazes me how so many of these websites are complete messes. It took me forever to find all of the info I needed to apply to Ole Miss, for example, some of it contradictory. So frustrating!
@Amy Can I second your question? Ohio State is high on my list of places I'd really like to attend, and I'm banking on that Dec. 15 deadline to get everything done on time.If the deadline really is Dec. 1, my application is going to be a lot weaker because I'll likely not be completely ready to send my third and final sample story for fiction. Ugh. Not sure I want to blow $50 on an application if I'm not confident in it.
Blob- Ohio State, VCU, NCSU, and Bowling Green require a critical sample. I didn't have to do that for any of my schools last year, blarg. Amy- God bless you for writing that, although now I'm a little freaked out. Maybe the person was also confused and gave you the wrong deadline? I'm just going to send it in on the 1st, just to be safe, but the problem is I haven't received any of my recommendations back (!). I asked them to have them finished by the 1st, heh. Oh well, I'm assuming that if I have send the letters in late, but have everything else in on time, that I'll still be considered. Hopefully!
Boy are we a lucky bunch, since we're the only ones likely to know about Ohio State's deadline, which is indeed the 1st. Here's the email I just got back:"Unfortunately our website is still out of date. Indeed the deadline is December 1, 2010. If I receive materials after the deadline and you have completed the application, I’ll add them to your file."THANK YOU Amy for letting us all know!
oh my god. I'm not even applying to OSU and I'm horrified that they didn't even have the right application deadline on their website!
@ Blob: re: sample sizeSince Michigan asks for up to 15, I'm sending them 12.Minnesota is a tough one, as they ask for up to 25 pages. I ended up sending 15 to keep the sample strong.Good luck!
I know! Honestly, though, I can't imagine them not looking at applications turned in before the 15th. They seem like a really awesome bunch there and very professional (quick, informative responses every time I've emailed). I'm still going to send all the materials I can by the first, but if my letters don't come back in time, I don't think it will be a problem to send them late. I just can't imagine they would really disqualify a lot of people because their website is not updated. I think they'll take applications until then. Just a conjecture!
Maybe I should apply to OSU? The usual application pool might be... smaller. Lol.Naw... at the end of the day I just couldn't bring myself to apply there. My undergrad maize and blue blood runs too deep :)
I was up past 2am last night writing my SOP. I went to bed feeling good about it. I woke up this morning and less than half of it was saved....or maybe I was hallucinating all along...argh.
@ Amy THANK YOU for alerting us about OSU & @ KaybayTHANK YOU for emailing them.This woke me up much faster than coffee.I still don't have transcripts from 2 schools, and I gave my LoR people until Nov. 30 for this batch of recs thinking that I had until the 15th to get them in. @ BlobI dream about the stupid GRE literature subject test every night, still, even when I took it two weeks ago. Hang in there. Sounds like more than a few of us are working on those statements today!
My SOP is pretty much finished, although I think I'm going to tweak the last paragraph. It's rather boring at the moment. And my LOR's are done! That's a huge relief. LOR's are probably one of the most aggravating parts of applications to anywhere. Now to edit my writing sample...
WTF OSU?! I am so glad I read this blog regularly! Jesus. Thanks, folks, for uncovering that crucial detail and SHARING it! Yikes. I need to get on that one.PS: to those of you referring to "application boot camp" - it's heartening to know I'm not the only one who's resorted to military metaphors.
Hi Everyone,I've been lurking around for quite awhile now, and thought i'd finally post. This has been an invaluable resource. I have my list of schools, and am confident in my writing sample, as well as my letters of rec.However, I'm having a hell of a time with my personal statement/statement of purpose. I am 27, and I am a founding member of a theatre company as well as an actor. I never went to college proper (I went to an acting conservatory in ny straight out of high school). I found writing through acting, which isn't so unusual, except it's more common and perhaps makes more sense to become a playwright. That's just not where my talent lies. My question is (sorry this is so long!): what is the best way to address this in my personal statement? I find I keep apologizing for it, but I have a feeling that it comes off as 1. disingenuous and 2. simply not an effective way to get in. Any help would be *greatly* appreciated. Thank you and good luck on your applications!
@kaybayYou are a lifesaver re: OSU. I'm not so far behind to be freaking out about the Dec. 1 deadline, but it's still pretty startling that they don't have the most updated information on their site. It's almost enough to make me second-guess the information on other programs' sites.Like lots of people here, I sent my freebie GRE scores to all creative writing programs, and I'm just now learning that some schools want the scores in the English Department, general grad school, etc.I'm in the process of emailing OSU, Indiana, Illinois and Purdue about whether I can transfer my scores. If anyone's interested, I can post those responses.
I'm not sure I understand the amount of angst going on re: SOPs here. Every last thing I've heard about the MFA admissions process has led me to believe that programs decide almost exclusively on the basis of writing sample, full stop. Does anyone think an SOP is going to make or break them? Honestly, every part of the admissions process minus the writing sample feels like bureaucratic busy work to me, but who knows, I guess.
@AOPThe short answer is yes. I think the writing sample will get everyone in to one of two piles: 'things we like' and 'things we don't like.' If you end up in the 'don't like' pile I think absolutely nothing else matters no matter how stellar it is. But I also know that the 'things we like' pile is going to likely be much larger than any school can admit. So, while some people might become definite yes's because of their writing the majority will become maybe's. And to distinguish those maybe's I think other things will matter a lot, namely the SOPs and LORs. So yes, I do think my SOP could keep me from getting in.
first time applying and just starting my research: which schools would you categorize as "safeties" i.e. decent, but not terribly difficult to get into?also, what do most schools look for in personal statements? most of the instructions i've read on schools' websites is very vague, i.e. introduce yourself and tell us why you want to come to this school. they must want to hear more specifics than that...
@Louise - do you have a Bachelor's degree? I was under the impression that that was a minimum requirement. Maybe I'm wrong? I don't think, by the way, that addressing your acting past is necessary. I majored in a non-creative writing field and I'm opting not to talk about it because I just don't think it's relative. @Leanne - there's a "top 25 sleeper programs" posting on the main page of this blog that should be helpful.
Guys, just an fyi, make sure you call programs or double check through your online application that your GRE scores have been received, just called 3 of my schools that supposedly got my GRE score reports on September 22nd according to ETS and not a single one has my scores, which means I'll have to re-send everything. Just a heads up for others
Blob--two things:1) I think you're overestimating the probable size of the "things we like" pile.2) Whatever the size of the "things we like" pile, that pile will then be turned into a smaller "things we really like" pile, and then a "things we love" pile, still on the basis of writing sample strength. It's not as if they're going to do one vetting and then throw their hands up and let SOPs/LORs battle it out.I mean, I can imagine a case where a committee is deadlocked on two stories and the SOP or LOR might come into play, but my sense is that that's rare. These opinions, btw, are partially informed by my current CW professor who used to run a major program.Which is all by way of saying that it seems like it might be misplaced energy to kill yourself trying to get an amazing SOP, when maybe you should be revising your sample for the billion and first time. But also, I could be wrong.
@AOPWell it looks like our lines are a bit crossed, my information comes from a similar source. I think how much LORs and SOPs matter varies on the program and also from individual to individual. I'm sure some members of a committee pay more attention to some than others. I don't think I'm overestimating the size of the we like it pile. It's not that it's necessarily huge, but that the programs are so small. Yes, the writing sample is the main part, but that doesn't mean the other aspects are ignored or not considered or factored in. If it was a matter of choosing which to spend time on, then yes the writing sample deserves more time. My sample is done. There's no reason for me not to attempt to give my SOP the same kind of attention, especially given that I've been lead to believe it could be a make it or break it factor. That could be wrong information. But I'm not willing to risk it.
RE: AOP versus Blob ;)I think you are both right. On one hand, there really isn't any reason to stress over the SOPs because they are probably not deal makers or breakers. (I've heard of people who got into grad school with SOPs as simple as "I want to go to XXXX because I want to be a lawyer"). It really is the writing sample...On the other hand...this is a very subjective process and, in essence, very crap shooty (in the sense that even great writers are turned down plenty I'm sure)...so it's okay to stress about every little thing and make sure it is all the best it can be before sending it in.Carry on!
haha, I didn't mean to turn it into a situation that required a 'vs.' And writer dude is definitely right, at this stage it's not worth not obsessing over anything and everything.
Can anyone riff authoritatively about the stapling & paper-clipping situation for our packets? No programs seem to specify, and I'm unsure about how much it matters, particularly in packets where distinct items are going in-- i.e. writing sample plus TAship application with multiple components. Thoughts?
@IFor all the material or just for the writing sample? UT-Austin specifies that the sample should be stapled together with no binding or paper-clips.
I'm currently taking a break from working on my SOP and found this -- thought I'd share.So You Want To Get an MFA in Poetry?http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDkn5FqdGP0"I am going to kill myself." "That is the first poetic thing you've ever said."
@ Karissamy favorite lines:"How much did this anthology cost?""$50 and it has gold-edged pages.""What a bargain."tee. So, a question for those of y'all who have gone to multiple schools.... How did you calculate your major GPA? Should I only count those courses that were counted for my major requirements or every class I've ever taken in my major? (Let me know if I need to clarify, and thanks!)
Sheesh, this whole thing is such a process. I've had a bit of a difficult time with OSU. I called today because the grad school has received one of my transcripts, but not the English department. I (finally) got through to someone today via the phone, and yes, the deadline is Dec 1. Surprise!*stares* However, the woman whom I spoke with was very nice and told me that as long as your materials get in during the month of December, they will be added to your file. The review process begins in January, so they need all materials by then.Let's hope my transcript appears...
@AmyIt seems like most schools are ok with things like transcripts, LORs, and GRE scores kind of trickling in. I spoke to a woman at Alabama today very concerned because NONE of my ETS GRE score reports that were sent back in September arrived. And she assured me that the deadline was a 'soft deadline' and that they always expect things like LORs and transcripts, etc to take a little more time. Though I also know one of my schools with an earlier deadline said on the website that if LORs are late, so is your app. Eep! I have to check which one that is.
Hi all,Thanks for freaking out online. It makes me feel better.I feel totally lost on where you send what, to the program or the graduate school, what needs to be hard copy and what doesn't, etc. There's been a lot said about the hard copy thing, but does anyone know if there's a general rule about what's sent the program and what's sent to the graduate school? I did want to mention too that if you are a former Peace Corps volunteer you can get a lot of application fee waivers. There are a lot of reasons schools give waivers so don't be afraid to ask!
Regarding the Umass requirement for a "short essay demonstrating your skill as a writer of expository prose."Does anyone know if it's acceptable to send a 2-3 page excerpt of a larger essay? I haven't written a 2-3 page essay for years and they are all pretty bad. I was thinking of sending Umass an e-mail, but wanted to check here first. Thanks!
@PauletteIt varies widely by program as far as what goes to the grad school and what goes to the program. Almost every program to which I'm applying has different requirements.
967 words later, I officially have a first draft of my MFA SOP.I'm mentally exhausted.
Attn: KaybayHave you completed your reapplication to Syracuse yet? I'm a bit confused as to how this works. I've got the reapplication e-mail, but how can I upload new personal and teaching statements as well as recommendation letters? Or am I stuck? I'd much rather just reapply and pay if that is the case. I'm not on here often, so would it be possible for you to e-mail me?phlgrlnd [at] gmail [dot] com
Does anyone know of other MFA (MA) Creative Writing Programs that allow independant study? UNLV allows you to enter the Peace Corps while you're in their program... I've tried looking for other grad programs like this however I've come up nil.Comments?
I'm going to e-mail one of higher-ups in the MFA program at Ohio State today concerning the mixed-up deadlines. To me, two weeks is the difference between getting the application in, or not.Plus, I need something in writing. For a variety of reasons Ohio State is one of my primary picks, and I want to make sure my application is accepted.Personally, I think they should post an apology to prospective applicants for the confusion, and agree to accept applications through December 15th. I'll let you guys know what the response is. I suspect it will arrive after Thanksgiving.
kudos to anyone who has completed their UT-Austin SOP. Bringing anything down to 350 words or less is quite a feat. I've made it down to about 550 and can't imagine how it would get any shorter. @Open SpacesI don't know the official answer to your question. But I've always been under the impression that excerpts are ok as long as they make sense alone. I'm planning on sending an excerpt myself. I think the idea is to showcase my best critical writing and if that happens to be a part of something larger, than so be it.
Paulette,Southern Illinois allows students to do independent study (you do your own research/ project/ study etc. and occasionally meet with an faculty member who helps guide you/ provides insights). I know some people do this sort of thing for novel/story research, for exploring interdisciplinary possibilities, and for broadening knowledge about a particular region, school of writing, particular author, genre etc.
Also, for a lucky couple of students each year, there's the Ireland semester abroad which essentially translates to full-time travel and writing time plus an independent research component.
I'd like to send one humorous story as part of my writing sample package (the applications for the schools I'm applying to call for two samples.) I don't usually write humorous fiction- so this is not a representative story. But I also think it is one of my better fiction pieces. The other story in my package is part of a larger work that I will be working on in the program I eventually get into.Do folks here know if committees are likely to view humorous fiction as flippant?
@ cinequillShit, I hope not. IF it's good it's good.
Does anyone know if Alabama (Tuscaloosa) accepts letters of rec via Interfolio? I'm going to email the program assistant, but I figured I'd ask here first.
@ those applying to the Wallace Stegner Fellowship- is the Statement of Plan more like a SOP or like a mission statement in standard fellowship applications? I've been writing mine like a mission statement but now I'm having a rethink...Input appreciated!
@cinequillI believe there's such a thing as "literary humorous fiction." Take for example John Updike's A&P. I laugh all the way through that story, but at the end the tone changes and it turns very dark.I think the reason why many programs want multiple stories is because they want to see if an applicant has diversity in his/her form(s). Including a humorous story with one that is strikingly different shows that you're flexible, and you won't just keep writing the same story over and over.If it helps you, I'm including a humorous piece of flash fiction along with my larger "more serious" stories. What's important, I believe, is that they're well written. After all, it's VERY HARD making someone laugh through written words alone.
Cinequil,Imho, humor is always a plus if you can pull it off well (i.e. a la Steve Almond or Etgar Keret). Of course, pretty much anything would be welcome at an MFA program if you do it well. If you feel like this particular story speaks to your writing ability the best, by all means send it. (BTW. my primary story last year had quite a bit of humor and absurdity woven into it.) Maithili,I think Tom has his Stegner essay somewhere in the archives if you poke around. GDSgrl24,See my response to Paulette above regarding ind. study. I mistakenly replied to her instead of you.
question for the crew:For the pdf supplemental forms some schools have, are people just handwriting in the information? I don't want handwriting to look unprofessional but not all have fillable pdfs and I don't have full adobe. Are there other options?
@Blob: I've been using http://www.pdfescape.com/account/, which is a free service that lets you upload PDFs and add text, and then download and/or print the new version.
@IAMAZING. Exactly what I was hoping for!
I'm done! I'm bloody done with the critical writing sample! Hurrah! Thank Jesus, that was annoying. It's much harder to add to an essay written five years ago than it is to start one from scratch, I think. Anyway, just thought I'd announce that :P
Yay! Congrats Kaybay! That is a huge accomplishment! I'm still chipping away at words...down to 479. I'm wondering if I should start over and just write two great sentences.
@ WanderingTree (Sequoia N.)Thanks for pointing me to Tom's Stegner essay. Maithili
Does anyone know what the MFA application deadline is for McNeese State?I searched high and low but couldn't find anything on their site.
343 words! Bahahah! I am so concise!
I don't think McNeese has one. I gave them my app last year in mid-January (or early Jan, can't remember) and heard back in late February. Love that program, by the way. I might apply again but I just don't know if I want to live in Lake Charles...And Blob, CONGRATS!
I know what you're saying kaybay.I ran Lake Charles through wikipedia, and it said many of the people who live there work for a nearby plastics factory.Boy, I bet it just smells great!
I was just looking through my old stuff and found a "book" of poems I made when I was in third grade. I also found a bunch of my projects from that same year. I have a paper called "My Future" it starts out with: "I would like to be a teacher when I grow up because I feel that to teach is like being a hero." Think I can say that in my SOP?!? I don't really have a question. Just sharing. Hope everyone's getting work done and has a great thanksgiving tomorrow.
@WanderingTree, Jeff, and Writer DueThanks a lot for your feedback. And a very Happy Thanksgiving to everyone here!
I apologize! I meant Writer Dude. My brain's spilling out in all directions from working on the SOPs...
Well, I e-mailed Kelli Fickle at Ohio State. She holds the title Academic Program Coordinator (Creative Writing), so I hope this includes the MFA Program.@Amy: Do you remember who you spoke to at OSU? I want to make sure it's not a janitor, or a sit-in secretary from Fly By Night Temporaries telling us we can send in application packets past deadline.Hopefully they'll correct the web site and include an extension.
I'm sure everyone is busy with family and recovering from turkey comas. but just in case there's someone out there:After much anguish I've come up with an SOP that's complete but meh. It touches all the major points it should. But it's utterly forgettable. Even I don't care about it/remember what it says. I've tried writing statements that are more edgy, interesting, or emotional. But none of them are coming out in a genuine voice. I'm trying to decide now if it's worth it to keep trying to strike SOP gold, or if I should just say 'it is what it is' and go with my fine but bland statement. I'd hate to wonder/think that I didn't get in because of my SOP. But I'd also hate to stress and work and work on it and not get anything better.I know somewhere in me there's a good statement. I just don't know that I'll be able to produce it in time. Sigh, what would you do??
@ BlobHave you had anyone read it over? That might help to see how it hits someone who hasn't been staring at the same paragraphs for four days running.I'd be happy to look if you'd like. Just lemme know. I managed to overcome the turkey coma and spent the evening scanning transcripts from 5 of the 6 schools I have them for.... Fun times here. :)
@thereandbackagainI had my best friend and her sister take a look at it. The sister just finished her PhD in English Literature, so I sort of feel like she's has a valuable opinion. Both said exactly what I knew: there's nothing wrong about. But there's nothing special about it either. My friend's sister thought I did a good job of balancing my past with my future, which I was glad to hear. And she felt I hit all the factors that might be 'on a checklist' so to speak. But in a stack of essays, no one's going to remember it. I've written about 5 different drafts since that trying to be more personal and unique. But they just sound hokey. And not like me at all. Ooof, transcripts are no fun. But it's good to get some progress done. I've been making good work on my writing sample selections and my forms, so I feel good about that at least!
@ BlobLet it sit for a couple of days. Maybe inspiration will hit when you aren't working on it. I'm going to be finalizing poems this weekend and working on Statement of Purpose 4.0. :)
@thereandbackaaah 4.0, that's a very desirable model, I here! Good luck!It's been sitting for a couple days and now sadly, I have until sunday to get 4 of my applications done, given my schedule. I just don't want the process to linger for months and months. I've already been trying to write this thing since september. But at the same time, I hate to settle on 'meh.' but you're right, what I need to do is not think about it...if only it were that easy!
OKAY. I know we're MFA applicants here, but just in case anyone is also applying to MA Lit programs (like I am), I am having a major freak-out.I'm moving to Virginia in... six weeks (I currently live in Iowa), so what with being about 30 minutes from Virginia Tech, applying to their MA program seemed natural, since it's A) close, and B) they have a great MFA program.Well, turns out after doing some research on their faculty, there is absolutely no one there whose academic interests mesh with mine even a little bit. I'm scared. Enter expletive here.
@karissaDon't panic! Disclaimer: I'm not applying to MA programs, but I'm responding anyway.How specialized are your interests? How difficult do you think it'll be for faculty to relate to them? Part of education is discovering new ways to pursue your interests and new ideas that drive you. And part of being a good teacher/professor is helping your students pursue their passions and interests, even if they're not yours. This might seem like a silly example, but bear with me:My former riding instructor is a very, very different rider than I am. Her strengths will never be mine. And my strengths are her weaknesses. But, she was still able to improve my riding tremendously by recognizing my strengths and weaknesses and working to make me better, rather than more like her. A good professor will do the same thing. i think when it comes down to deciding which school to go to, these are the type of things you should factor in. But at this stage, I don't think it should keep you from applying. i also don't think you won't be able to still get a lot of fulfillment out of the program. disclaimer 2: I've written 3 statements in the last hour. If they're typos all over this, I apologize. I didn't have the strength to go read it before hitting 'publish your comment.'
@BlobI think your SOP can reference the paper you wrote in the third grade about wanting to be a teacher--you just might want to come at it from a different place so it is vivid and memorable. What else was important when you were 8 or 9? Some of that stuff is still important and some seemed important at the time, but no longer matters. Things that were important to me when I was 9: Learning to jump rope (finally), being a lunch table monitor, making sure my parents turned off all the appliances before we went to bed so the house wouldn't burn down around us while we slept, curling my bangs, walking to the neighborhood playground by myself, and dinosaurs.Point is, maybe give some examples of what turned out to be not so important, then turn it around and say "But my desire to teach, that has endured". I think the tendency in SOPs is to say a lot of abstract crap, but then you don't feel connected with them. Toss in some stuff you can touch and see and smell and sometimes it wakes you back up.(It might just be that I am fascinated by what people were into when they were kids, especially the weird stuff and the fears, because it's so magical when that stuff overlaps with my own or other people's experiences. It might also be the post-three-slices-of-pie sugar delirium talking. OR the fact that I just wrote and trashed two POS SOPs of my own. But I hope this helps!)
@BlobWhew, that was refreshing!! My interests are at least decently specialized -- I want to study the Early Modern period, and in particular, how poetry acted both as a way of drumming up support for European capitalist-imperialist projects and as a tool of colonization in the "New World" and beyond. Most faculties will have an Early Modern person, but my concern is the theoretical approaches of the faculty... I'm a pretty hard and fast Marxist/Cultural Material/New Historicist, so when I look at departments and see NO ONE who utilizes any of these critical lenses, I get scared.But nonetheless, your post was genuinely a push in the backside for me -- I'm definitely going to still apply and wherever I'm meant to be, I'll be, I guess! :)
UMass question:Does anyone know if we're supposed to submit a hard copy of our SOP for them? It's part of the electronic application, but I can't figure out if they also want a hard copy along with the writing sample and TOship application.
@ Blob,does it say to anywhere? I can't see any mention on the TA application. I already submitted my application, and the thought hadn't even occurred to me, but I suppose I could have overlooked it.
http://www.umass.edu/gradschool/prospective_students_application_information_domestic.htm"If you are completing the on-line application, you have the option of submitting your Personal Statement at that time or mailing it via surface mail within two days of the electronic submission of the application."
@open spacesThank you!
y'all are so much further along than i am, ohhhhhmuhgawd. i'm home for thanksgiving and haven't looked at this/my stuff in a few days... and now i feel terrified! still don't have my sop totally polished.... and now i find that ohio state has a different deadline?! excuse me?!i'm back from my thanksgiving break tomorrow at 4ish, i know what i'll be doing all night! [after i finish a 20 page story for another one of my classes... ngh.] who's joining me on the drunk-and-crying train for the next two weeks as we push through these deadlines?!
oh for the love of god the oregon online application is a nightmare form.
What is up with Colorado? They won't send the recommendation forms until you finish the app? They haven't set up a Graduate portal yet? How the heck am I supposed to make sure the online recommendation forms are sent??! GAH!
Is anyone else frustrated with the schools who absolutely do not allow you to mail in letters of rec? It just feels like these schools do not take into consideration that writers may be out of town, or for applicants who have been out of college for several years, that it's inconvenient to ask writers to upload things, instead of keeping the letters with a dossier service./end rant
colorado (boulder) also won't answer any of my emails or phone calls. i might just cross them off my list. it seems pretty screwed up.
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