Monday, September 01, 2008

New Mailbag for 09.01.08

September is here! Questions...concerns...musings? Cheers!


Matthew Mahaney said...

i really thought i was done with my list a few weeks ago,but recently began considering adding one or two more 3 year schools (like UF and/or UMASS-Amherst, UMASS-Boston) and maybe dropping a really hard to get into 2 year program (like UVA, maybe Montana)

I have a balance of 9 to 6 in favor of 3 yr programs as of now (yes I'm applying to at least 15 schools), but 2 my worst fears are a) not getting in anywhere and
b)getting 4 or 5 acceptances, but all unfunded spots at 2 year programs.

I guess I don;t reall yhave a question, just happy to be able to vent and hypothesize on the blogs, since I don't have many people in the real world I can talk to about this whole process.

I guess I don't really have a question, just

MightyArmadillo said...

I have a question that's been driving me crazy for a few months now. I can't find any information on the University of Georiga's MFA program. Their website is less than helpful. Does anyone know anything about this program? I know they have a Phd program... but that's about it. I'd love to know about funding info or from any current students. Thanks so much!

No One New said...


from what little research i've conducted, georgia state seems like a pretty good program. it seems like a larger program than most, and is connected to five points, one of my personal favorite literary journals (many of the poems i like in the annual 'best of' books come from this journal). it also seems like a very well-established program.

i would say, though, that the program seems very ph. d oriented (its a very well-regarded program) and the funding is a complete mystery to me based on the information i've gathered.

hope this isn't too redundant, or at best, reinforces what you all ready know.

Just_Another_Poet said...

I'm finally done with my list! And I manage to do this exactly twelve months from the time I'll be applying for these programs. So here they are:

Poetry (in order of preference)
UMASS Amherst
Michener Ctr. @ UT-Austin
Ohio State
Johns Hopkins
Southern Illinois
Bowling Green
Western Michigan
Miami University (MA)

If anybody has any information on Miami University's Master of Arts program, I'd be glad to know. Based on the website, theirs seem like a great place to attend.

Also, with the exception to BU, UMissouri-Colombia, and U So. Mississippi, does anybody know of any excellent programs (with funding, impressive faculty, etc.) that offer just the M.A.

I know (rather, heard of) Indiana and UT-Austin offer MFA applicants (who weren't accepted into the MFA) admission to their MA programs.

Of course, this has to be with creative writing emphasis, or at least a dual creative writing/literature program.

Anybody know? Thanks in advance!!!

Kerry Headley said...

I know I saw a post about this a while ago, but I would love more feedback about applying to both fiction and creative non-fiction programs. I could submit samples of each to their respective genres or I could decide that one school gets fiction and another gets creative non-fiction. I already chose more schools that encourage additional genre work (like UNCW, Hollins, Iowa, Riverside and Arizona.) However, I am wondering if I might increase my odds overall by submitting samples to non-fiction programs too, knowing that in the end I will be able to take both genres regardless of which one becomes the full focus of my thesis. I am torn because I am pretty confident in my satirical memoir-ish stuff. I have more recent experience with it because I made it a focus of my BA in Communications. However, when I read my fiction samples I feel they are quite strong also. So, would it be wise or unwise to submit to both programs at my top picks? I have to admit that the marketability of non-fiction appeals. Can anyone relate to this dilemma?


Liz said...

Dear Seth,

This blog is so great, and very helpful. Thanks for sharing your knowledge, especially on this individual level. It must take a lot of time to respond personally.

I have been thinking of applying to MFA programs in Poetry for the past year and a half. I have been paying off a small student loan, while saving money for grad school (I will be paying for grad school without the assistance of my family and, hopefully, without any loans).

By the time I apply to schools this year, I will qualify for Virginia residency, and therefore I would like to apply to as many schools here as I can. At the top of my list is George Mason, followed by VCU and Tech. I'm pretty sure that I could get funding from all of these schools, as I have friends at GMU and VCU in the programs who were able to get teaching positions. However, I am not worried about paying for in-state costs, if my tuition is not waived.

I would also like to apply for schools outside of this state, but I'm not sure how to find the "Best Education at the Best Price." Alot of people are telling me not to look at the price tags, because most places will take care of me, but I'm a little hesitant (or afraid) to look at schools that could possibly accept me, not provide funding for me, and then wind up swimming in debt for several years.

Schools I have considered outside of the state of VA are UNC Greensboro and Oregon State University (not to be confused with OU). The reasons for these selections being, mainly, their excellent funding and their peaceful locations. I just visited Greensboro this weekend, and I loved it! The writers are very friendly and helpful - and they also sort of disillusioned me about just how many schools I should apply to. Most of them applied to about 10-12.

So my problem are these:
1. I have my heart set on a number of schools, but just a small number. I want to find more small programs similar to UNC Greensboro, but wasn't sure, until now, that I should even look outside the state of Virginia. I didn't know I could find programs that had excellent funding.
2. I have received alot of information about Oregon State University, and I am planning to visit Corvallis, OR this fall. I never heard of UO, which surprises me, because it's mentioned in so many of these posts. Can someone tell me what some of the differences are? You needn't feel obligated to speak gently to me - I'm still planning to visit the state of Oregon in the fall, and can squeeze a visit in to both OSU and UO to see for myself the differences. I'm attracted to OSU because of the program's small size, good funding, and small city location. I also read one of the poet's books, which is what lead me to the school.
3. I'm not worried about prestige, and I have not considered applying to any schools in the top tier, or schools located in big cities. I would like to warmly embrace a community of strong writers passionate with helping each other with their individual goals. I feel like a big city might tempt me away to many fleeting gratifications, and I might lose sight of what I'm really there to do. Can you think of any strong programs that don't have a huge price tag and instead emphasize the strength gained from the writer's community?

Thank you for reading, and thank you in advance for your help.
Good night,

stacey s. said...

I have been waiting to post my list until I was sure about all 10 programs on it. I feel pretty o.k. about it at this point, I think. All are at big universities--not necessarily big programs--which is what I would prefer.

For POETRY (in order of 1st choice to last choice)

1. Iowa
2. Houston
3. Arizona State
4. Arkansas
5. Western Michigan
6. Colorado State
7. Colorado
8. Kansas
9. Iowa State
10. Texas Tech

latecoffee said...

application list for phd programs with a poetry concentration:

florida state
univ of southern miss.
univ of georgia
univ of houston
univ of tenn
univ of illinois at chicago


univ of utah
univ of denver
univ of southern california
univ of wisconsin
univ of cincinnati
georgia state

i'd love to hear opinions about my list but also about the degree itself...i'm still not entirely convinced it's the way to go. my ultimate goals are to publish a book and to find a permanent teaching job, both of which i feel the phd could help me with. i graduated two years ago with my mfa and feel that i'm making a pretty decent living so far (between a full time job and adjunct work, i'm looking to pull in just under $65,000 for the year) but the main problem is that to make such a good living, i have to sacrifice time to a program requiring a creative thesis would really help in that regard. i'd be looking for a program that is pretty much fully-funded, however. i'm not willing to deplete my savings at this point in my life. thoughts?

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

During undergrad, our English department focused more on traditional Lit than Creative Writing and I feel the need to have more experience in the latter now that I am applying to MFA programs. Also, my list of recommenders isn't as strong as I'd like, so having another professor that is familiar with my writing wouldn't hurt. I would love to enroll in a well known writing workshop but I can't afford it. Instead, I am planning to take a creative writing course (or two) at one of the local community colleges.

Is this a good idea? I'm open to all answers!

PARTISAN said...


I think that is a great idea. Classes at community colleges/adult ed centers etc can be hugely beneficial to your writing (and obviously help secure a nice recommendation or two.) You might also want to check out some online writing courses (some are quite costly, others might be comparable to a community college credit.)

Personally, I've taken part in both some fairly well-known workshops and other, unknown workshops at my local adult ed. I gained a ton through the latter, including a lot of individual attention I might not otherwise have received, and a great recommender to boot.

MightyArmadillo said...

Tory, thanks for the information! I could be even more confused than I thought, but aren't Georgia State and University of Georgia two different programs? The program I'm looking into is the one in Athens, GA. Maybe that is the same one you're talking about? I don't know! I'll throw it out there again, though-- any info on UGA? Thanks so much!

Monica said...

Hi MFA gurus! Thank you for answering our questions :)

I'm applying to five MFA programs for next fall (I know that's very few, but I'm really happy where I am and don't want an MFA for its own sake, so I feel okay if I don't get in anywhere).

I feel really confident about my writing, both on my own part, and because several authors I really admire have praised my work highly in workshop. What I'm most concerned about is my background. I have little formal training in writing; I have degrees in biochemistry and geochemistry instead. Again, I don't consider any of this detrimental, but I worry that MFA programs will.

So my question is, do MFA programs welcome those with variegated backgrounds? Or are they more welcoming to those who majored in English, get all of their recommendations from undergrad writing teachers and apply straight from undergrad? (I get this sense because of programs' web sites saying things like, "Letters from your writing teachers are best..." when I don't have any!)

Any thoughts would be most welcome. Thank you!

Lizzy said...


It's normal to have those fears. The best you can do is to try to maximize your chances of admission by getting a good list together and making sure your writing sample is as rootin' tootin' as you can make it. The sample is (almost) everything.


When I asked at FSU recently, about whether people's backgrounds counted for anything in acceptance, the answer was a resounding "It doesn't matter, so long as we like the writing." I think most programs might tell you similarly. Don't let it worry you at all, unless the program makes a bugaboo about it on their website. Do make sure, however, that you're applying to programs that don't *require* a BA in English. Check with the individual programs. After that's out of the way, don't fret at all about whether it will affect your chances. It won't, if your writing is strong enough. It also sounds like your recommendations are going to be strong, which should help make your application even stronger.

Lizzy said...

Oops, Monica.

I mistakenly assumed you'd have LORs from the authors who've praised your work.

Strong letters of rec will help in cases where there are two or more applicants whose writing is equally good, it's my impression.

If you didn't take undergrad classes in writing, how about a workshop outside of academia?

My letters, by the way, were from editors I'd worked for and from an author I'd worked with. Because I'd been out of school for ages, I did not have access to the one CW instructor whose class I was in back in college.

Kerry Headley said...

Hi Monica,
I've seen plenty of programs that say they don't require an English or even a specifically writing-oriented BA. Look at the admissions page requirements for verification on this. If you aren't sure email the contact person listed. I too have the impression (from what I've read on programs' sites)that it is the writing sample that makes or breaks their decision. Having a diverse background gives you more to draw from as a writer. Good luck!

-- Kerry

No One New said...

my humble apologies mightyarmadillo, i read you post as georgia state university instead of university of georgia. where was my head at ;-P

well, the university of georgia is connected with the georgia review which is one of the best literary journals in the country for my money, and the opportunity to work on a journal like this sounds like a great one.

Just like georgia state, though, it seems like this program is Ph. D. heavy, or heading in that direction (their Ph. D. program seems to be a recent innovation of their MFA program), and this program seems smaller than the one at georgia state.

once again, we see that they are not forthright with the strength of their funding system--the small size, though, leads me to believe that at worst the system here is tiered, ensuring around half or more students receive partial-to-full funding, at best, perhaps everyone receives some sort of aid. this is all interpolation.

overall the program seems to be a pretty strong and well-connected one.

No One New said...


I think you get the idea all ready, but some programs do make it a point to say that you do need to have had a BA in English or Creative Writing. Off the top of my head, Minnesota, for instance, requires this, and doesn't seem to give you any outs in regards to this requirement. Other programs that say this, though, are more flexible and will take a test score (like the GRE lit test) as enough proof of your abilities to do graduate coursework in English. Ultimately that's what supplements the workshops at most MFA programs, graduate literature courses taken with the regular MA and Ph. D candidates. Most but not all. My advice is, in cases of confusion or ambiguity, email the program director and ask them what the real deal is.

Unknown said...

When does Tom's new book come out?

undertheeaves said...

Hi -
I'm planning on applying to Fiction programs this year and had a couple questions I'm hoping you super knowledgeable folks can help with.

1. I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts on Oregon. I've been reading a bit about faculty turnover and some funding issues. Can anyone offer any insider information?

2. How key is the GRE? It's been years since I submitted to any kind of standardized testing.


MightyArmadillo said...

Thanks Tory! I hope I didn't come across wrong before. I've been trying for so long to find out about UGA's program, that I was almost starting to think that it didn't really exist. :) Thanks again!

Unknown said...


1. No clue on Oregon (not my part of the world as I'm a tried and true Midwesterner)

2. The GRE is not going to be the "key" to get you in to any MFA program. Most of the schools that require it do so because of overarching requirements from the grad school they are associated with. In some places they make blanket statements that "a student must get a combined 1000 to be admitted" but in most MFA programs your writing sample is so important that if you dazzel (really dazzel)them with the sample they will make exceptions for you with the grad school. That said, when you sign up for the GRE it comes with at least one free test simulation (possibly more) which I found extremely helpful to help me remember what standardized tests are like. And the GRE is nothing like that ancient SAT you're thinking of -- for one it's now administered on a computer! It seemed so strange! (and I'm not even that "old")

Monica said...

Thank you so much Lizzy, Kerry and Tory! I'm glad to know I don't have to be a "purebred" ;)

I might ask for a letter of recommendation from one of those authors who liked my work, even though each taught only a week at a six-week writing workshop I just attended. The other sources I was considering were (1) the senior producer of a public radio show I used to work for, and (2) the director of a play I was just in. They may not be able to address my writing directly, but they can address my character as a person and an artist. I hope that'll work - !

Thanks again for the responses.

Unknown said...

Word to POETS looking at Western Michigan University:

Word on the street here at WMU (I'm starting the fiction MFA) is that they graduated something like 6 or 7 poets in spring 08 and brought in a class of 3 or 4. That means that they still might be offering "more than average" poetry spots this coming year. Keep in mind that "average" in this economy is 3 and that WMU tries very hard to fund all it's candidates however if you are a Michigan resident the department provides smaller inscentives that might not make a difference if you had to pay out of state tuition but for an in-state resident are very, very nice.

(And I'll gladly take WMU questions if submitted through my blog, and answer them if I am able)

Kerry Headley said...

Alternative view on the GRE:

For most of us it's best just to study a bit and then take it. It does limit options to not take it. However I am thinking of skipping it. Here's why:

Only one of my favorite picks (Cornell) actually requires it. To spend $140 to take a test to apply to a school I have 1% chance of attending seems unwise. I'm broke, and I could apply to three great non-GRE schools for that amount of money. Additionally, I don't really want to spend time I could be using to revise my writing samples on trying to guess the relationship between "shovel" and "disillusionment." (Yes, I had done a little studying already.)

If anyone wants to play devil's advocate and tell me why this is a bad idea, I welcome that. I'm still trying to decide absolutely on this.

Anyone? Anyone?



Abbie said...

I'd love to get some feedback on my list! I'm applying for fiction.

U of Minnesota
Louisiana State U
U of Alabama
Minnesota State U-Mankato
Texas State U
Syracuse University
U of Mass Amherst
Washington U St. Louis
U of Florida
Southern Illinois U- Carbondale

I realize that my list is a little top-tier heavy, so are there any suggestions? I'm considering the following programs as well, but I don't know which I'd drop to add them to my list.

Purdue U
Indiana U
Penn State
Columbia College
U of California at Irvine
U of Memphis
U of Missouri- St. Louis

Thanks in advance!

No One New said...

The GRE is my bane right now. Not because I am worried about failing, as I have no doubt my math score will be fairly abysmal, but because I hate subjecting myself to standardized testing as I feel it is a monumental waste of time, energy and money. That being said, if your schools require the GRE (as most of mine do) then you should just take it and be done with it. Buy a prep book, make sure you have a handle on what score you need, etc...

It seems that the GRE really only matters in cases where a student's GPA may be in doubt. High performance in upper division English classes should make the GRE scores near meaningless. Plus, I doubt the math score is really relevant unless the MFA program requires calculus as a supplement to workshops!

NoBS said...

Hi, everyone. I know Tom's book kind of discourages it, but I'm applying to creative nonfiction programs for next fall after I finish my undergrad study in May (I will have taken 6 nonfiction workshops and 1 fiction workshop by the time I graduate). Are any of you currently undergrads as well?

Here's my list at the moment. It hasn't changed in a while, so I'll probably stick with it. Any comments would be greatly appreciated.

U Arizona
The New School
Hunter College
Sarah Lawrence
Emerson (for the publishing and writing MA)
U Iowa
Notre Dame
U Minnesota
Florida International
Florida State

Good luck to the rest of you with your applications!

Lizzy said...

The math score won't matter except that sometimes the graduate school has minimums for admission. Make sure you check up on individual programs.

The verbal score will matter if, again, the GS has minimums. Sometimes programs also use GRE scores to figure out who gets funded.

But the writing sample will trump almost anything, if it's strong enough and a program wants you.

PARTISAN said...


I'm right there with you. GRE prep and the subsequent books (pricey!!), online practice tests and little decks of flash cards are crashing my last days of summer.

And I'm actually wondering if I'm becoming too consumed with it. I'm hardly spending any time on the math portion but I'm at the point where I'm actually studying those damn vocab flash cards on my lunch break. And my coworkers think it's a fun game they can take part in. (Crushing sigh.)

I thought for a split second about forgoing the whole thing, but realized I simply could not cut out several schools that I really had an intense desire to attend. Will I have an ulcer at 25? Well, if this test prep and the impending 15 applications have anything to say about it, then yes, yes I will.

That said, I think it will be worth it.

Oct. 27th is d-day.

No One New said...

sonya b

I am an undergraduate too, and I think the whole "life experience" argument he makes in the book is valid, but relative. How much "life experience" am I going to get working as a receptionist in LA for a year? Office work, I have learned, isn't my thing.

I have been through a lot in my life, more than the average almost-21-year-old, and I feel I have developed my writing to the point that an MFA is the next step for me. by the time I graduate, I will have taken at least 6 workshops in poetry, twice the amount required to get the creative writing concentration at UCLA. Plus, I am also writing an honors thesis that will be my first full-length chapbook of poems.

I think his advice is meant for people who haven't done much, or been through much yet, or who haven't had the opportunity to have their work workshopped yet. But yeah, you're not the only one here!!!

Go us ;-P

No One New said...

sara e.g.

What a coincidence, my death day is 10-25!

I agree, it should be worth it--only 1/4 of my schools don't require the GRE, the other 9 do. And as most of them are also indispensable programs, I must weather the storm.

It won't be that bad though...I hope.

Kerry Headley said...

Sonya B and Tory,

Yes, go you! If you feel ready, go for it. However, you *would* learn a lot by being a receptionist or anything else for a few years. I am an undergrad, but I did the reverse of you guys. I started journalism school (in 1987!), did two years and dropped out to live life and "build my character," which usually means working crap jobs, being poor and dating wildly inappropriate people. Now I am 39 and in my last semester of my undergrad in Communications. I am definitely well-seasoned and have much more to draw from than when I was in my early 20's.

I wouldn't discourage anybody though. Some people really are ready at a younger age. Good luck!

-- Kerry

Anonymous said...

Hello everyone.
Great blog!

Here is my list so far:

UNC Wilmington
U of Arizona
U of Wisconsin, Madison
Washington U
U of Texas, Austin
UC Irvine

Anyone know of programs that have good funding that don't expect you to teach. I really don't want to teach, not even a little bit. I am also not interested in taking a single literature class (only interested in writing classes and flexible elective choices). Can someone recommend programs that fit my criteria. I know I have some on my list that don't, I may be removing those soon.


pablo said...

About the GRE, I recently found out that the schools I'm applying to will not only receive the scores from the test I'll take in a few weeks, but also the ones from the one I took in 2004. I didn't do well at all in 2004.

Will that matter or will they only take into account my latest scores?


joel said...


I am new to this blog. I finalized my list last week and I would appreciate any critiques, suggestions or comments. If I am way off base with any of these programs, please let me know. I chose half in New York, where I currently live, and half outside.
My application will be for Fiction.

Brooklyn College
New School
Arizona State
New Hampshire

No One New said...


Unfortunately almost all MFA programs with average-to-fabulous funding require you teach as the primary means of that funding. It makes sense since it gives you work experience in a profession you might likely take up, and it allows the university to pay you for work. I see that you have UTexas Austin on your list, it is probably the best funded non-teaching program out there, I know of no others that offer what the James Michener Center does in terms of funding without teaching. Best of luck getting into that program.

As far as literature classes go, unless the MFA program you are applying to is not part of the English Department, as it is in most Universities, I think you'll find it hard to find programs that accommodate that need of yours. My only advice on that would be art schools, like the School at the Art Institute of Chicago, or CalArts (though I am personally distrustful of such programs; it's largely my own aesthetic preferences of course).

Hope this is in some way helpful, if just to give you a perspective.

Kerry Headley said...

Continuing the GRE thread a bit...

Just a few hours later I am having to reconsider my great reasons for avoiding the GRE. Upon further research I see that some schools who do not require it and don't even want to see the scores DO suggest taking it to maximize financial aid options. Crap! I was so close to getting out of it. So, since funding is a major issue, I guess I have to reconsider.

Oh, and to the person worrying about their 2004 scores, this is a total guess, but I bet they won't care.


Matt D said...

So, this is my first post on the blog, and I've found all the information here and in the book very helpful so far. I've compiled a preliminary list for applications for Fall 2009, but I'm not sure if I'm tapping all my options. Or whether I have a balanced list at all. I'm going for Fiction, and as of right now, I'm restricting location to the Northeast (extending to Penn. in the West, and either Maryland or possibly Virginia South...) Here's what I have:

U. Maryland
Johns Hopkins
Pennsylvania State

*The program just intrigues me, so I think I'll apply there anyway.

Here's some I know less about, but want to learn more about:

Rutgers at Newark
Brooklyn College
Hunter College

What I'm worried about is that my primary list is the ones I'm really excited about right now, and it's also full of schools that are either extremely selective (i.e. Syracuse, Brown, Cornell, UMass) or not well-funded (i.e. U. Maryland). Is there a good way to formulate my list, possibly with additions I haven't considered, given the geographic constraints I may have?

Abbie said...

Matt D -

I looked at Hunter for a while, and the thing that eventually turned me off of the program was the size of the thesis. According to their website, it's a little on the light side, and it ends up being about 70 pages or less for fiction. My undergrad thesis was 130, so it just didn't fit with what I was personally looking for. I suppose that someone who's attended the program would be able to tell you more about it.

Luke Johnson said...

Hey Matt--

I'm currently in the MFA program at Hollins--were there any specific questions you have about the program? I've made a few posts in past threads about my own Hollins experience and I hate to bombard yet another mailbag with Hollins propaganda...but I will say I've really enjoyed my time here, so far, and think the place has done wonders for my writing.

Feel free to shoot any of your questions my way, or to look back at the past mailbags for more general info.


Unknown said...

GRE: don't spend money on the prep books. Just use the free test that comes with your registration to familiarize yourself with the format -- there is no way you are going to get smarter by studying for the GRE. Although the free stuff in the registration packet does come with a refresher on all that high school math you've forgotten by being an English major. My point is that standardized tests are specifically designed to test your aptitude and therefore specifically designed so that you cannot study for them. I've taken the LSAT and the GRE and I studied my butt off for the LSAT only to find I got exactly the same score I got on my first practice test. For the GRE I did one practice test the week before the exam, read the math booklet, and got the same score on the real thing (give or take 10) as I did on the practice.

KERRY: I'm betting that if it's not required for admission that it's not really considered for funding either. For several schools I had to write essays on teaching in hopes of a TA position - and didn't get offered it because those positions go to the people that were first pick of WRITING SAMPLE. Once you're in a program this spring (or just accepted) talk to the people running it and see what kind of additional funding they can dig up for you. This method has worked the best for those people I know who wanted to do their MFA now even if someone wasn't paying their way.

REAL LIFE EXPERIENCE - it's in the MFA Handbook because it's somthing admissions committees think about. If you have oodles of real world experience then make sure it shows in your WRITING SAMPLE and your statement of purpose. The last thing an MFA program wants is someone who's only material is relationship issues set in frat parties (and those are not my words).

rjcoye said...

I bought a prep book for $35 and did about 30-90 minutes every other morning for six weeks before the test. I did fine. I had mounting anxiety beforehand but then it was over and I was relieved.

One thing: For the computer based test you are allowed to send your score to four schools. Be sure to know which schools require the test and which you want to send your scores to before you go into the room. You're not allowed to bring anything with you, these four schools should be memorized.

PARTISAN said...

Continuing on with the GRE:

Despite my anxiety towards the test, I will say this: my scores in practice tests have risen sharply since studying from books and especially with the top 500 vocab words with my Kaplan box of flashcards. I agree with Eileen that the test is mostly an assessment of you test-taking techniques, but there is no way you are going to do well on it if you don't expand your vocabulary.

And hey, learning new words is never a bad thing, anyhow.

Eric said...

Re: GREs

At the risk of repeating what others have said, I think preparing for the GRE, especially the Verbal portion (duh), is doable and certainly important.

I bought a GRE prep book and took the practice test under the same conditions the test normally would have been conducted; time limits, no calculator, etc. I scored horribly on the first go around, which makes total sense. I didn't have the proper time management and wasn't used to the format or questions. Needless to say, the preparation I've done over the past couple weeks have significantly raised my score.

Is the test a reflection of my actual ability of my intelligence/vocabulary/writing ability? No, of course not. It's a reflection of my ability to take the GRE Verbal test. But I want to stress that you can learn how to take the GRE test, and that there are definite patterns, strategies, and approaches one can take to their questions, as stupid as they all are. Yes, you have to play their game, but I think it's something I'm more than willing to do, especially when funding dollars are involved.

Enzo said...


I think I keep posting this in the wrong catagory, so will try the mail bag and see if anyone has any feedback!

I've noticed a lot of group discussion and comparing of notes every March and April, as everyone's waiting for acceptances. My question: is anyone else applying for the Low res programs RIGHT NOW? I just put in apps for Bennington, Warren Wilson, and Vermont at the September deadline- to begin in the winter residency. I really have no idea when to expect to hear back from the schools, how the size of the applicant pool in Sept. compares to the number they get in March, etc.

Know it's a lot less common to apply this time of year (from what I see on the blogs). If anyone has experience with this, or is experiencing it NOW, I'd love to hear from you.

undertheeaves said...

Thanks to everyone for their GRE comments. I'll be looking into books and making some flashcards... I loathe the idea of the test but if it'll help with funding, I'm with eric - I'll play their game.

Emily said...

I love all the information on this blog, and now that I'm trying to narrow my list, I thought I'd solicit everyone's thoughts.

As of now, I have I think 18 schools I'm looking at and would like to trim it to 10-12.

I'm in poetry.

Midwestern - I'm happy in the midwest so my list is heavily weighted to this geographic area:
Penn State
Ohio State
NEOMFA (Northeast Ohio Consortium)
West Virginia University
UI-Chicago (MA not MFA)
Roosevelt University
Columbia College (Chicago)

I have a close friend in San Diego, so I'm also looking at programs there:
San Diego State
UC San Diego

And these just appealed to me regardless of location:
UMass Amherst
Colorado State
UNC Wilmington

And for what it's worth, I have a BFA from Bowling Green. I loved that program, so I'd like to hear of other places you think might have a similar climate.

Emily said...

re: my last comment

I don't mean weather climate. I mean the social/academic climate, or the overall program atmosphere.

Just read that over and thought "the weather in Bowling Green kind of sucked". Ha ha!

Unknown said...

GRE REMINDER---The neighborhood library down the street has GRE prep books that can be borrowed. The library is an alternative to coughing up the twenty to forty dollars needed for such prep books.

Anonymous said...

hello again.

anyone know what's up with the funding situation at Cal-Arts. Has anyone who enrolled in their program received any funding? Their website says they have teaching fellowships and editorial internships available. Anyone have any details about those opportunities. I know most people aren't apply to this school but i just that I'd ask just in case someone knew anything.

Kerry Headley said...

Can I beat the GRE horse to death?

I've reversed my opinion. Now that I know funding can be affected. I'll freaking take it. I had already started studying anyway, and yes, those guide books are available at libraries, which is where I got mine. One even came with a disk of practice tests.

It's just hard to budget enough time to finish my BA, study for this test, revise writing samples and do all the applications. Nevertheless, I've decided to play the GRE game, which is as much of a racket as the price of text books.

Totally different subject: Is it still free to apply to Vanderbilt?

-- Kerry

PARTISAN said...


I'm curious about this Vandy fee, too. I saw last year that they waived the fee for online apps, though this year it seems they are charging?

Anyone have any info on this?

No One New said...

Okay I think this is my final list of schools to apply to in the Fall. It's almost time for the free-for-all to begin...and I'm pretty excited since I'm very on top of things (studying for the GRE, on the third draft of my personal statement, revising poems for the manuscript, emailing recommenders, etc.). Nailing this list down has been pretty tough though. Anyway, without further ado, here it, in order of preference:

Massachusetts (Amherst)
Ohio State

I guess I just wanted to see this "in print" on the blog, but if anyone would like to comment that'd be fine.

I'm getting to the point that the indecision and nervous dread is turning into excitement and humble bravado. My tune will change come January when the waiting game begins.

Bsquared86 said...

sara e.g.:

Thank you so much for your speedy reply and assistance! I just enrolled in an online Creative Writing Course at a local community college today today.

Adrienne said...

What? We can only send GRE scores to four schools? Ihave 18 on the list and probably 13-15 of them require the GRE. How do I get my scores to them?

Oh, one more thing to stress over...

Monica said...

I have a question...

At present, my best story is 5300 words. It's accumulated a handful of gracious personal rejections from literary journals, which is great (fingers crossed that it'll actually sell at one of the other forty markets it's out to!).

Anyway, it's a good candidate for my MFA writing sample. But two of the places I'm applying have page limits that are really, well, limiting - twenty at Cornell, and thirty at UT-Austin. My story is twenty-seven pages long in standard manuscript format.

Given that submitting two stories is always better than submitting one, do these schools really expect that everyone writes stories only 2000-3000 words long? Or that their best stories will necessarily be that long? It seems absurd to me...

Another option is, if I DO get this story published, I can reference them to it in my application, and submit another story. Does that sound like a good idea?

Thanks in advance :)

undertheeaves said...

sara and kerry:
The Vandy website says the online app for the Fall 09 season is still free. Hope that doesn't change!

you can pay extra to have your scores sent to additional schools. Took me forever to figure that out on the ets' website.

And a question: any opinions on the fiction faculty/program at Oregon?


Kerry Headley said...


Thanks for the Vandy update! A free application? What a concept.

Is anyone aware of any other places that don't charge to apply? I'm doubtful that they exist.

This blog is fabulous!

-- Kerry

PARTISAN said...

Wonderful! Thanks for the info.

Kerry--Last I heard Hamline waived their fee if you applied online. You might want to check this out.

Christopher Arnold said...

There have been a couple of questions about Oregon. I studied there as an undergrad from 1999-2003 and took both poetry and fiction classes from creative writing faculty who, at least according to the program website, are still teaching in the program.

I can't speculate on whether the faculty or funding has changed, but but I can say that the many of the faculty members listed on the website are outstanding.

Also, Eugene is a lively college town with great arts and music. It's also a short drive away from the mountains, the ocean, and the city of Portland.


undertheeaves said...

Thanks for the info, Chris!!

j.p. said...

like tory, i feel some strange need to publish my list officially. so, this is what it turned out looking like. i tried to stay claose to home (california), but chose a few in the midwest that appealed to me.

ok, for fiction, this is where i'll be applying in '08

cal arts
st. marys
sf state
uc davis
uc san diego
ohio state
washington university, st. louis

Adrienne said...


Thanks so much. I was totally freaking out.

And you just put in the university's codes, right? Sort of like the SAT?

No One New said...

for the GRE you have to put the institution code (the name of the school) and the department code (for the English or whatever department houses the creative writing program of your choice). Most programs list these codes somewhere on their website, usually on the admissions page.

Adrienne said...


Sorry to be asking so many questions, but...

Do you pay in advance for the schools you want to add in addition to the four you get to send your scores to for free or do you add them when you take the test and they bill you later? Or do you fill the codes in when you register for the exam?

No One New said...


My understanding is that you fill out the score reports for your first four schools at the testing center, then order all additional reports after taking the test.

Unknown said...

On Cornell's website, writing samples are limited to 20 pages, yet they want 6000-12000 words...well, 20 pages, double-spaced, 12pt TNR is just under 6000 words.

Has anyone found an answer to this contradiction?

Leanna said...

I've almost finalized my list. I'm trying to decide whether to cut Purdue or Wash U in St. Louis from my application list, though. I'm applying in poetry.

Reason for the cut--my list is already pretty big and these are my least favorites on my list (although I do think both programs sound great!).

Any thoughts??? I know very little about either city. The programs seem comparable.



No One New said...


my sense is that they are both about the same size (accepting about 5-6 in poetry) but i think washington university is a bit more well known and prestigious, which translates to a larger, and therefore more competitive, applicant pool. i think the funding is also the same, though washington might have a leg up on that front too. however, the program at purdue seems very interesting in as much as students seem to have a lot of clout in the program, filling posts such as assistant director, whereas most programs just have you teach. their locations, washington u in missouri and purdue in indiana, also give them difference, especially as washington u is in st. louis, the biggest city in the state.

i hope that helps put things into perspective somewhat.

Gwyn said...

Tory (or anyone else who knows):

I noticed you said that Minnesota's MFA program requires that students have a B.A. in Creative Writing or English. Are you talking about the University of Minnesota? I'm not seeing anything about this requirement on their website. What's your source for this info? I hope I don't have to cross this one off my list...

No One New said...

It isn't spelled out that way, but if you look at the supplemental documents that Minnesota requests from prospective students, one of them is a tabulation sheet that you're supposed to put down all your English courses + grades received in those courses.

scroll down to the part that says "GPA in English courses only"--it's all there:

I think it may only relate to the MA and Ph. D applicants, but it suggests that MFA applicants also have to fill it out. So, by proxy, applicants to Minnesota's program are expected to have majored in English as undergraduates. I hope that doesn't change your plans if you weren't an English major and are applying here.

Gwyn said...


MFA applicants do need to fill it out, but the UMN website seems to exclude them from the English unit requirement here (

"Use this form (PDF) to calculate English course grade points and GPA. Do not include creative writing or composition courses, even if you are applying for the M.F.A. For the M.A. and Ph.D., a minimum of 12 semester undergraduate credits (or 16 quarter credits) in English, American, or Anglophone literature or language is required. The courses should be widely distributed, and at least three courses must be at the upper division level."

Since it specifies that M.A. and Ph.D. applicants need 12 English/lit credits, I'm thinking MFA applicants get to dodge that bullet.

No One New said...


it's still relatively vague though. i'd email the program director if i were you and get the skinny on what that form means to us MFA applicants. since it doesn't flat out say "MFA applicants do not need to complete this form," i wouldn't count that out quite yet.

just double check to be safe.

Jess T. said...

So, being that I majored in journalism as an undergrad and took only one english lit course, I'm totally stressed about the critical writing sample many schools require. So far, my best bet is an essay I wrote senior year, one that talks about the relationship between the media and contemporary writers in the post 9/11 world. It's one of the few English essays I wrote as a undergrad, but I was wondering if this topic isn't what the departments are looking for. Should I start from scratch and just analyze a novel I recently read?! My only fear with starting from scratch is that I won't be able to get any professor feedback on the essay. Any advice on my dilemma would be much appreciated!

Gwyn said...


I'm saying the website indicates that MFA applicants DO need to fill out the form; they just don't have to have completed 12 units of English/lit courses. Of course I'm going to check with the program to confirm.

I would just appreciate it if you didn't make definitive statements like "Minnesota requires applicants to have a BA in English" as though you know what you're talking about, when you clearly don't. I think the last thing this forum needs is people carelessly disseminating false information about the application process.

Kerry Headley said...


I also majored in journalism. Anything critical that I wrote in the past few years has been related to the media. Somebody else might have a more informed answer than me, but I will probably start from scratch with a novel just to be safe. I have a good enough relationship with my reference letter writers that I would feel comfortable asking one of them to give it a quick scan. Or maybe a good friend who has some writing knowledge? I bet others on this site might have additional helpful tips for you.

Good luck!


No One New said...


Clearly you need to learn how to write a response to a post that doesn't come off quite so bitchy (i struggled with the right word and think this appropriate given the claims you're trying to levy against me) and ungrateful. And, while I am capable of acknowledging that I did make a mistake when i said the Minnesota required the BA in English (I had meant to say that it seemed implied given select statements used on the application page), I wonder if you might come to understand how much this last post of yours bothered me, since it implies I am trying to dissuade people from applying to certain schools under false pretenses. Show some confidence in your own researching abilities, and if a claim doesn't sit well with you then bring it up with some consideration and tact; castigating me for trying to help out with this thread serves no purpose aside from making you look unnecessarily mean.

I wasn't being a dick to you, so don't be a dick to me. Thanks.

in other news....


If this helps at all, I am using an essay I wrote two years ago for the U of Washington application (they ask for 15 freaking pages! A tall order for me since the average length of my essays tend to hover around 6-8, 10 at the most). What I am doing is revising it. If you trust someone close to you to be a good reader you could use the old paper or write something new. Obviously if you got a good grade on that paper, that will help the decision a bit. That's my two cents.

Unknown said...

How do we stay sane until this is all over?

I have to be at work in five hours and I can't sleep because I realized I hadn't done anything for my apps this week. On the bright side, this led to the creation of what may be my final list.

Lately, I've had a hard time writing because I get so anxious thinking about whether or not whatever comes out will be good enough to get me into a good program. It's not writer's block; I still have plenty of ideas. It's like writer's paralysis. I freak out and freeze up. Is anyone else having this problem?

Unknown said...

One of my profs told me the MFA is the new MA and the PhD is the new MFA. It's a lot easier to get a good teaching gig with a PhD these days. It would also give you a lot of time to focus on your writing while you complete the program.

1. Location. Which place sounds like a better fit?
2. Faculty. Read some more and see whom you like better.

Gwyn said...


I don't think, and did not try to imply, that you were deliberately misinforming people for personal gain - hence my use of the word "carelessly." I do not believe you're being malicious or devious.

That said, I do think it's irresponsible of you to take the role of an authority in these comment strings, which you've done, and then post inaccurate information. In this particular case, your misrepresentation of Minnesota's applicant requirements (based on a careless reading) might have dissuaded a number of totally viable applicants from applying because they believed themselves unqualified. Yes, people should rely on their own research, but many applicants come to this blog as part of their research, looking for reliable information. I would simply like for you to be more careful in checking your facts and stating your claims when posting here, especially given your new "expert" status. Is that unreasonable?

SeeMoreGlass said...

Hey i have a question...when is the earliest that one can find out about each school's visiting faculty for fall 2009? do schools announce such things?