Friday, November 13, 2009

New Mailbag, Friday November 13, 2009

I thought I'd start a new mailbag as it's close to the deadline for the first applications for many of you and I'm sure the questions are piling up.

You can hold off on lists of schools for now as that was part of Seth's research, which is on hiatus.


Andrew Sottile said...
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Andrew Sottile said...

Hello, all--

I'm curious as to everyone's thoughts on a creative writing MA as a gateway to an MFA. My current application list includes only one MA program (Western Washington). I'd like to teach community college and, of course, publish my fiction and an MA seems like it may be a wise choice for the short term. I would then consider a low-res program down the line. I'd like to hear some input. Are there many well funded MA programs out there? If so, which ones? Are the acceptance rates any higher for these programs in comparison to MFA programs?

I looked around the website for a donations link and couldn't find one; so let me know if I need to do so.

Thanks for all your work.

Mickey Kenny said...

Hey Andrew,

I'm applying to a lot of MFA's and one MA as well, which also happens to be Western Washington. I got my undergraduate their and have spoke a lot with the faculty and administrators about their program. To answer your question, YES, Western's MA program is a great entrance tool into teaching at the community college level (especially the local one--good reputation). The TA package is somewhat fair. I've heard the workload is heavy and there's been some complaints about the actual amount of creative writing int the MA. Hope some of this helps, and good luck with the fiction.

Jenna Laffin said...

Anyone applied or is applying to Michener (Austin Texas) who can help with a question? I'm frustrated by the fact that the website has different information than Michener's website. It seems like applytexas doesn't allow recommenders to submit recommendations online, but Michener pretty much requires them to be online...ahhhh, am I missing something?

Dani B said...
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Dani B said...

Andrew - the MA from Western WA will be good for teaching, but as a "gateway to MFA" probably fairly useless, unless it helps you polish up your writing sample. MFAs take applicants largely based on their writing sample, and not because they already hold grad degrees, or have taught before.

Mickey Kenny said...


I just finished my applytexas application a week back. I had to provide them with the email addresses of my recommenders. After I completed the application, they sent some information to my committee, and I assume an online document for them to write in. Hope this helps clear something up.

pnasty said...


I've also recently finished the applytexas application and can confirm what Mickey said. Beyond that, earlier in the year, I e-mail the MCW for information about mailing in hard copies of letters--I knew that at least one of my recommenders prefers to send in actual letters. This was the response

"Mail them to Graduate and International Admissions (GIAC) at P.O. Box 7608, Austin, TX 78713. Make sure your name is clearly identifiable and the program to which you are applying (WRITING--Major Code 6-93500)."

So if you have some unforeseen difficulty with the online process, know that you have another option.


lis said...

I have a question—does anyone have advice or thoughts about the craft essay required for many low residencies? I have some resources, and a pretty good idea of how to proceed, but the instructions are fairly broad.

Also, regarding Texas—they won't email the your recommenders until after you've submitted your app and payment (I found this annoying, because it means you can't see when your recommenders have submitted and can't send them a reminder email, and you have to fork over your application fee super early to give them ample time, but oh well). Luckily you don't have to submit your writing sample and your personal essay online with that one, or I'd be in trouble!

Dinty W. Moore said...

I'm Director of the Ohio University MA and PhD Program. To be honest, before coming here, I always told my undergrads to "go for the MFA," and I didn't see the use of an MA degree (since it isn't much of a credential.) My mind has been changed on this matter, however, mainly by seeing the students' successes. Students who are right out of a BA, who are still quite young, and/or who need time to improve their writing sample can do quite well in an MA program, and our Ohio MAs have gone on to some pretty impressive MFA and PhD programs after earning the MA. We fully fund everyone, at both the MA and PhD level, so you don't have to go into debt (if you can live frugally). So yes, the MA is one option on the table, and for certain students, I think it might be a better option.

Nancy Rawlinson said...

Hi Dinty -- nice to see you here. Thanks for stopping by.

To Andrew, I would say, if you are thinking about getting an MA as a way to stay plugged into academia, get some funding, and develop some reading and writing chops before undertaking an MFA, fair enough, go right ahead with some MA applications. But don't think it's necessary for an MFA. The only real gateway to an MFA is strong writing -- and there are other ways of developing that outside of an MA.

Some MAs are more writing-based than others, too -- be sure to check that out before sending off any applications.

I don't know too much about funding and acceptance rates, unfortunately. You'll have to dig around for info on that.

MFAguy said...

I did an MA before my MFA and I found it useful in preparing my creative sample (5/10 classes in CW), but also improving my knowledge of literature, theory, and the historical continuum. Accordingly, my MFA classes are a lot easier, and I'm set up if I ever want to go the PhD route.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone used a letter of recommendation service for their applications? Where your endorsers send their letters to a company who then sends them to your school? Like Anyone had any problems having them accepted?

Sequoia N said...

Sweet Ennui,

I looked into doing something like Interfolio, but I really don't think it's worth it and a few of my programs just didn't want to deal with anything like that. If you send your recommenders organized packets with deadlines, envelopes (or a heads up on when electronic forms will be sent), you shouldn't have any complaints from your recommenders.

alana said...

Just wanted to be 100% sure, but writing samples are supposed to be double-spaced, correct? Out of my three schools, only Iowa specifies this, Arizona and New Mexico do not.

Also, should the SOP be double-spaced as well? I've heard conflicting things.

Andrew Sottile said...

Hey, all--

Thanks for your kind insights. I have another questions. I was talking last night with a friend applying to anthropology programs. She mentioned that she had been in contact with several different faculty members in prospective programs and that her admission will be based heavily on these relationships made before the deadlines. Is this common practice for MFA applicants? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks again.

Daniel said...

I have a question about resumes/CVs for applications. Should they always be limited to 1 page? Is 2-3 too long for a CV?

I read one other post on this site that mentioned the author had a resume for work and then a CV for academic stuff. Is that standard operating procedure? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

insertbrackets said...

Before I applied an acquaintance of mine who was doing a Geography graduate program suggested I do the same thing. I told I felt it might be off putting or presumptuous because the two disciplines are different and, as admission rests largely on the portfolio and personal statement, these programs get to know what they need to know about you from those materials. My sense is that it is not common practice to contact MFA faculty for anything beyond answering questions about the program. Certainly the more exclusive/elite programs are unlikely to engage in that kind of back and forth, but other programs, perhaps may be open to it. I would suggest contacting the program coordinator, usually a staff person, to see whether they think it's something the faculty would be interested in.

Sequoia N said...


You want to double space your stories - that's standard practice for submitting any story (to a program, magazine etc.). It doesn't matter so much for your sop.


I don't think this is necessary for writing programs. Anthropology is such a large discipline with a multitude of specialities and sub-disciplines that people really need to do a lot of research depending on what specific area of anthropology they plan on pursuing. As such research interests between applicants and professors as well as institutional support/resources for certain kinds of research is important. This doesn't just go for anthropology but for a lot of other fields like Chemistry and Physics. A lot of my friends had done internships at the labs of the universities they wanted to be accepted into. The only thing that really matters for MFA programs is your sample.

Sequoia N said...

Daniel, a resume is 1 page (ideally) and a CV is as long as it needs to be. The first is for "the real world" and the second is tailored more for academia. As most applicants have little to no teaching, presenting, research or publishing experience, I think what programs are looking for is more of a hybrid approach. So, do include any work experience but esp. highlight work or community service that would be applicable to teaching, editing, research. There's no one way to write a CV but typically, the following is included:

- Top of page (Name/Contact info)
- College/Degree
- Other applicable classes/workshops
- Work Experience (w/ brief descriptions for applicable points)
- Publications (use MLA works cited format)
- Works in progress
- Presentations, reviews, interviews
- Computer skills
- Research interests
- Community Service

Daniel said...

WanderingTree - Thanks for the quick response! A hybrid approach is kind of what I've settled on. I think I'll try to condense it to 2 pages.

Emily X.R. Pan said...

I think I remember seeing similar questions mentioned in past mailbags but I'm having trouble finding them so I will ask here: Let's say I apply to a school who asks for a 25-page writing sample and my absolute best piece of work is 18 pages. Beyond that all my stories are a) nowhere near as good, b) way too long to total 25 pages, and c) basically impossible to cut down.

Would it be bad if I turned in just the 18-page story? Or should I sacrifice overall quality for quantity, and submit excerpts to get as close to 25 pages possible?

Have any of you out there gotten into programs by submitting writing samples far below the page limit?

Dani B said...

Andrew - MFAs are different. I work in the sciences at a University, and it's much more about finding 'matches' between professors and students, often because relationships of 3-5 years will have to be built for grad school.

Plus I would suspect the admissions processes are different - for example, for our dept's MS, enterprising students need to find "lab matches," and so would contact professors directly with reasons they wanted to join their lab. Then, and only then, would the professors drop in and ask to see an application. Otherwise the apps just get viewed by a small committee.

For MFAs, I think it's a often small, standard committee that wends its way through most of the apps. Maybe they drag in some of the big name profs for the final selection. But it would surprise me if one could contact a prof to convince them that they should go to the CW director and bug them to see a specific application because "this student reeaaallly wants to work with me." Maybe Dinty will have more on this topic.

Dani B said...

epan - I did a full story and two excerpts for my 20 pages. My hope was that the excerpts would leave the adcomms wanting more - as in "I wish I had the rest of this story, because I would keep reading this." Worked for me - I'd say, try excerpting.

Sequoia N said...

Epan, I know for a fact that people have gotten into top programs with way below the page max. 18 pages for a 25 max isn't that bad at all. If you're confident with those 18 pages I say go for it. I'd be wary sending excerpts of short stories (a novel is a different story). It might be okay for some programs, but I think it's pretty risky.

Unknown said...

This is a pretty specific one--

It says on UC Irvine's website that you can submit the Statement of Purpose either with the online app or as a hard copy when you mail in your autobiographical statement, writing sample, etc. My question is... do they mean it? Can I click through and submit the online application without a statement of purpose? It feels so very, very wrong.

ajcourtney said...

Lis--you can submit the applytexas application for UT Austin before you provide a writing sample/SOP? This would be music to my ears, as I figured I'd have to have the whole shebang submitted before they contacted my reccommenders who're providing letters. Can you (or anyone who's familiar with this conundrum) confirm? Many thanks! cheers, c

SamStod said...

Carrie -

That's what I did. I knew I wasn't going to two statements ready for a bit, and I weighed putting those in the packet, and not having my recommenders be able to fill out the forms until the last second. I went with the former.

Laura said...

universalchampion--I also just completed the UTexas online application, and they most definitely accept the online application without the writing sample/SOP. When you go through the application, there's a section called "Essays" that instructs the applicant to send the writing sample/SOP in paper form rather than uploading it online. Don't worry, it's true!

ajcourtney said...

Laura--Big thanks! I'm gonna hop to that right away! Cheers, c

Mickey Kenny said...

I read a similar post somewhere but now I can't find it.

How much does it help to have a recommendation from an awarded author, specifically the Whiting Writer's Award? I don't know much about the award itself, but it seems quite the compliment. Anyways, they offered to write a letter of recommendation for me. Should I use this instead of a past instructor? Do committees look highly upon letters like this? Would they even mention the award in their letter? Any light shed would help tremendously, thanks to all.

Joshua Gottlieb-Miller said...
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Joshua Gottlieb-Miller said...


The fact that the award-winner suggested they would want to write you a letter is crucial. If the person is someone who genuinely knows you and can speak about you, then it won't hurt for him/her to write you a letter of rec. (But his award-winning ways aren't really going to help you much, either.)

In general, recommendation letters are a formality. They might help complete a picture of a student, but they are more often used for negative reinforcement, as when a student is mentioned to be hard to work with or obnoxious in workshop. Or if they got some big name writer to phone in a recommendation that doesn't seem to speak compellingly about the student at all.

So really, the question is will this teacher/friend write you a better letter of rec than your other options. If so, great. If not, definitely don't assume that his/her writing credentials will help you get in anywhere.

Good luck.

wEEman33 said...

Two questions:

1) Is there a list of schools with no application fee?

2) Is there a list of schools that don't require the GRE?

If anyone knows of schools that meet both of the above criteria, do share.

Andrew Sottile said...

Hello, all--

What do people know about the Oregon State and Portland State programs? Both of their websites are quite unclear and I'm curious about funding opportunities.

I'm applying to both, along with Oregon, because my girlfriend wants to move to Oregon. I'm a little hesitant, however, if funding is questionable.

Thanks for your time. Good luck to all!

Eli said...


I've been in touch with the MFA administrator at Portland State (about problems with international applications) and he's lovely and extremely helpful - so if none of us can help you out I'm sure he will - you should definitely ask him to point you in the right direction.

Though, yes, funding at Portland State looks pretty lame. I think they only have a handful of fully funded places...that's as much as I could figure out.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

weeman--some schools that don't require GRE scores:

UMass Amherst
U of Arizona
Arizona State
UC Irvine
Virginia Tech
U of Oregon

cath said...

If you apply online, Vanderbilt waives the application fee.

Andrea said...


I'm only applying to schools that do not require the GRE. Yes, I realize it's a no-no, but here's my list.

Colorado State
U Wisconsin
Boise State
Oregon State
U Oregon
U New Mexico
Northern Michigan U
U Idaho
Southern Illinois U
Minnesota SU @ Mankato
Wichita State

Brown also doesn't require the GRE.

laura said...

Anyone feeling disappointed about their GRE score should read Bruce Snider's "The Certainty of Numbers," which happens to be posted on How a Poem Happens:

It made me feel better about being a poet who is absolutely terrible at math. Oh, how I loathe the GRE.

How a Poem Happens is a great blog, by the way, for those of you who haven't read it yet.

S.J. Kourlas said...

We're getting close to deadline time and I'm finding the process to be a little more pleasurable than I thought. I'm fine with writing samples and letters and SOP's but feel a little insecure about the teaching side of things. Obviously I would like to teach for financial reasons but have been working in business for 13 years since graduating with a BA in English, so I obviously don't have any explicit teaching experience.

I'm curious if anyone else is in the same boat when writing the accompanying essays and/or statements about teaching experience/philosophy. I think I'd make a fine teacher with my English major background combined with real-world experience (my GRE's were decent enough, too), but can't go on and on about all my experience in front of classes. I don't want to get screwed out of funding but also don't want to BS these apps.

The MFA Guidebook seems to indicate teaching awards have more to do with how much they want you (ie, writing sample), so how concerned should I be here and how much attention should I devote to proving my case that I'd make a good teacher? Thoughts?

Unknown said...

If it makes you feel better, my GRE math score put me in the 44th percentile. I blew off preparation completely, and I don't think it'll matter much. Wound up in the 96th percentile for verbal and 90th for writing. Who the heck cares if I don't know how to do obscure computations? See you on Parnassus, where you and I will rain number-shaped poems onto unsuspecting mathematicians.

wEEman33 said...

Thanks for the lists guys. I will look into those programs for sure. Money is very tight right now so I'm just trying to apply to as many schools as possible without accruing extra expenses from GREs and application fees.

Sequoia N said...

Nicholas, that's actually a pretty decent math score for a humanities person. You should see the verbal scores for math/science people!

Yarduni said...

Hi All
I completed my BA studies last year, and, with a year to kill before hopefully moving to the US and beginning my MFA, I decided to enroll to an MA program in creative writing in my country. It's a two year program, but if I get in to an MFA I'll quit after one year. My question is this: should I include these studies in my application? I want to include them, since I think it's good academic experience to include, but I'm worried about not being able to provide transcripts or recommendations from that program (my recs. are all from teachers from my undergraduate studies). Can including this information cause a problem for me? How should I explain it.


Seth said...

Quaestio: where does flash fiction fit into the writing sample... I know the mantra of "send your best work", but would flash fiction be looked down upon by an application reader (like genre fiction would)?


Jennifer said...

Hi Seth, I had a piece of flash in my writing sample. It was in addition to two full length stories.

Miller deForges said...

I noticed that the Arkansas program initially asks just for a writing sample as part of its two stage application process. I think this makes a lot of sense. Are there other programs that do this?

Unknown said...

Thanks for the reassurance. Good luck!

McNeese State University also asks for the writing sample (and personal statement) before you do anything else. I don't know of any others, but there might be some.

Emma said...

At certain schools, I am thinking of applying for both the fiction AND the nonfiction programs.

Is anyone else doing this, applying in 2 genres?

Iowa, for one, has a nonfiction program that is separate from its fiction program -- what are the risks of applying to both? I would RATHER study fiction, mind. In the glorious off-chance that they both want me, do you think there is communication between the departments? What if the fiction department is like, "Ah, she's nothin' special, you can take her."

Emma said...

... and, in terms of excerpts: I am planning on excerpting a novel-in-progress. But the premise of the story is somewhat fantastical, psychics and ghosts and shit like that, and in description it sounds a bit ridiculous, though (I hope to God) it's not actually.

It's NOT fantasy, it's NOT sci-fi, it's barely speculative fiction... I like to think it's your normal literary fiction, except a bit on the bizarre side.

but I am worried that my summarizing paragraph will turn off the selection committee and they won't even bother reading the story.

What's a girl to do? Leave out the story altogether? Begin the summary with, "Okay, just trust me on this one... so there's this psychic chick who..."?


Montana said...

People, I'm panicking over here and need some advice.
Deadlines are coming up (Dec. 15th is my first one) and I just spoke with one of my recommenders who informed me that he is about to get on a plane to Europe where he will be giving readings for the next month or so. And although I gave him a very organized packet of my materials well over a month ago, it sounds like he hasn't started on my letter yet. It's too late to ask anyone else now, and besides, he knows my work as a student/teacher/writer and can give me flattering comments. Pretty much, I was counting on him and his recommendation is not one that can be replaced.
He told me that I should tell the schools about my situation and that they will be understanding about receiving a late recommendation.
Yet I can't shake the feeling that my application won't even be read if it's incomplete, and I don't really want to waste hundreds of dollars...
Does anyone know how lenient schools would be in this situation? If I pay the application fee, will they wait for a letter to be faxed? Should I make a note of this in my application or contact the programs directly? Better yet, should I just give up?

My list of schools:
University of Texas-Austin
Arizona State
U of Arizona
Florida State
Wash U
Eastern Wash U
U of Oregon
U of New Mexico
U of Montana

I appreciate any input, and also thank everyone for posting useful information.

Sequoia N said...

Emma, I wouldn't summarize your excerpt so much. Let the excerpt stand on its own as much as possible. Also, I think almost any program would welcome magical realism/ slipstream etc. so long as it's first and foremost literary. Ask yourself - is this more like Johnathan Lethem or Asimov? more like Aimee Bender or Jeff Vandermeer?

Emma said...

Wandering Tree, thank you for advice.

The thing is, it does need just a note of explanation, as short as one sentence, because my main character has a very specific psychic power that dictates the rest of the story. (SEE??? I may as well say "This story is about THE MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS!!! rawwrrr)

It's definitely more Aimee Bender and Kelly Link, except, y'know, not as good. I'm not worried that it's too fantasy-ish, I'm just worried that that one darn sentence is gonna kill it for me.

Eli said...

Emma, two of my stories sound very similar to yours and I'm also writing a short explanation of WTF is up with them...and I'm absolutely convinced these things are gonna count against me...but so it goes (as a certain great absurdist once said). But there's Aimee Bender & Kelly Link, as you said, & many more doing nonrealist things. Such stuff is clearly acceptable in MFA land. And WanderingTree is also right - if it's more skewed towards proper scifi you might wanna be heading in the direction of the Clarion workshops, but from the sounds of it, you're not exactly writing space opera so don't fret, I'd say!

I do agree that genre is always a thorny issue with MFA applications and toning down the bizarre shit might well work in your favour. But ultimately, if that slipstreamy stuff is what you want to write, you (or at least I) don't want to end up in a program where you have to repress it. I know it sounds pretty bonkers to say this, but I'd far rather go to a 'lesser' program where a few faculty members love my writing and encourage me to keep on mining the fantastical than an elite program where you get chastised for doing so. Obviously an top program where they love what you're doing would be best, but hey...

Two things for ya-
Michael Chabon on trying to write sci-fi at Irvine and being met with hostility (granted, this was obviously years ago):

Excellent link from Jeff Vandermeer's website on MFA programs that are sympathetic to non-realist fiction:

I think it's best to take the long view - go with what you've got, and if someone thinks you're good enough and wants to work with you, never mind how bizarro you get, sweet! Otherwise, it might be worth waiting for those circumstances.

Good luck!!

Kerry Headley said...


Wow, that sucks about your letter writer. I absolutely would not take his word for it that schools will be okay with getting his letters late. I think the general expectation is that it is the responsibility of applicants to make sure letters arrive on time even if someone flakes (which is why the LORs can be so stressful.) I don't think you have anything to lose by emailing schools and asking them, but I would also dig up someone else AND see if this off-to-Europe writer is willing to write you letters while he's away. Many schools prefer the letters to be submitted online, so unless he doesn't have Internet access, he should be able to do it. I would hope he would feel sort of obligated to keep his agreement with you even if it's inconvenient to be doing it right now. Anyway, just my opinion...

Emma said...

Eli: I'm glad to hear I'm not alone in this rickety little boat. That was helpful and reassuring. I send you a virtual embrace.

Montana: I don't mean to be crude here, but that dude can suck it as far as I'm concerned. He agreed to write you a letter, he MUST as a decent human being follow through. And you're a writer, so I have no doubt you can articulately express that to him. And if you can't convince him, find someone who cares more about you to write the letter. My suggested draft to him would start, "Dear Sir, WTF." But that's just me.

kaybay said...

Jonathon - read the Arkansas requirements very carefully. On the second page of the application, they ask you to send the writing sample, an SOP, your GRE scores, and recommendations. I thought the same thing too, but alas :(

ajcourtney said...

Hello beloved MFA blog community,

11th hour question: So some apps ask for you to list "awards, financial assistanship, honors, fellowships, scholarships," etc. Do publications count as awards or honors? Or are they just publications? (Specifically, an anthology I was a part of won a Lambda award--worth mentioning???) My instinct is that it's a bit of a stretch, but I wanted to put it out there. cheers, c

Sequoia N said...

universal champion, I think listing publications in this section is perfectly fine. I did the same.

Daniel said...

One more CV/Resume based question. I don't have any official "publications" but I do have some serious articles published on a respected web journal - one a rewrite of a senior thesis another the first in depth English language book review for a new foreign book. In addition to these I have other smaller ones.

My questions: Are these ok to list under publications? Assuming yes, do I go for volume and just give a list or choose highlights and give short descriptions of the articles.

Thanks so much to all the commenters and repliers. It's nice to feel like there are other people in the same situation.

Sequoia N said...

Daniel, you should list everything of this nature (follow standard MLA format) but describing what each article is not necessary. Most CVs don't go into detail about individual publications. You can, for example, just place a sub-headings in your publications section that says "non-fiction", "book reviews" or the like.

Jason Bradford said...

This is probably a silly question but, has anyone filled out the application for tuition/fellowships/TAs etc... for Iowa yet? What did you put in the Department of ___ area? Iowa Writers' Workshop?

Unknown said...

Does anyone know anything about Wichita State University's program? I had been planning to apply, but I got a strong warning against the school today.
Anybody have anything to counter this, or should I cross Wichita off my list?

Andrea said...


I am applying to WSU, despite its low rankings just about everywhere I've seen. Everything I read on their website indicated that they are big on teaching, and that you can do a lot of electives within the English department- both of which appeal to me personally. Also, according to their website, only 25% of the classes are workshop. I think it all depends on what you're looking for, and what you make of the experience once you're there.

I'm curious to hear about the strong warning you received- details?

cb said...

Potentially silly question: do you guys think it looks bad to NOT apply for a TAship? On Iowa's app, for example, you can rank your preference in terms of research assistantship/fellowship/TAship/etc., and I'd rather not teach. I'm applying right out of undergrad and am not sure I'm ready for that yet, etc--but I don't want to appear stubborn, rude or un-open to that possibility. My hope is that they give you the option for a reason... any thoughts?

wEEman33 said...

Not sure about the actual program, but I crossed WSU off my list based on the fact that it's in a bad part of town with a high, on-campus crime rate.

Courtney said...

I asked this over at the PW boards, but didn't seem to get an answer. Last year I was waitlisted and told by the director of the program to apply again this year. Should i mention this in the SOP? I see two possible things happening:

1) They are reminded that I just didn't make the cut last year.

2) They see my Field of Dreams-like tenacity and my much improved manuscript and we live happily ever after.

Does anyone have any experience with this? Opinions? Thank you!

(I miss Seth!!)

SeeMoreGlass said...

chloe - someone might contradict me on this, but i don't think it would affect your chances of getting in. the only thing i think it might indicate to them that financial aid is not a priority for you.

Sequoia N said...

Courtney, I decided against reminding programs that I was wait listed because 1) it probably doesn't matter and 2) they are very unlikely to remember. I'd rather just start "fresh".

shift + a said...

I just submitted my first application of the year! I just needed somewhere to announce that because it feels so good. Thanks!

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

Hi all,

I'm scrambling to get someone to write me a letter of rec last minute, and I'm hoping the person I've asked gets done in time. Problem was that I had to dump a letter written by a longtime editor of mine at two newspapers I worked at. She had wonderful things to say, but her comments on my creative work seemed half-hearted, and sort of generic. I decided not to use the letter. But now I'm worried about getting the application process done in time.

Second, I just got a letter in the mail from Otis College of Art & Design. It was encouraging me to complete my application soon (send my manuscript, transcripts, etc.) since the school accepts students on a "rolling basis." It said something along the lines of, "complete your application soon for a prompt decision." Does this mean that they'll judge applications based on their individual merit? Or is it like most schools where they wait until the application deadline passes and judge applicants relative to their peers? Anyone know how this works?

Good luck everyone. The eleventh-hour madness is upon us. =)

October Revolution said...

I'm really freaking out. It's getting towards deadlines, i really want to apply, and I haven't finalized a list yet. Can someone, anyone contact me and help me out before it's too late?!

Maybe this is better here, this seems more active.

Anonymous said...

Dani, it's not too late yet. What have you completed so far? If you need to have a finalized list of schools then make it your priority. Maybe you should make it a goal that you can reach by the end of the day. What else are you struggling with?

Anonymous said...

shift+a, I'm really excited for you and super jealous (I'm no where near ready to send out one). Good luck!

Chelsea said...


I'm in the same boat as you; though I'm not straight out of undergrad, I am young(er) and am not particularly interested in teaching my first year in. Since it's an option to opt out of the TAship application, you're not seeming stubborn by choosing it.. it's there for a reason. You have your reasons for not wanting to apply and I think you're smart for stickin' to them, even if it (potentially) means less funding.

If you know what you want (or better yet, don't want) then by all means do not apply for the TAship. Most schools, if not all, will let you apply in your 2nd and 3rd year as well. So all is not lost!


Courtney said...

Way to go shift + a! Ok, I feel inspired to complete one today!

ATRee said...

Montana - Get someone else to write the recommendation. Choose anyone that you have worked with on a semi-professional basis, just make sure that they are NOT flakey.

One of my recommenders from last year was a friend of mine that I had worked with in finance, so, he was not even part of academia, and I got into a program.

Things people should also not even give second thought to - GREs & grades. You could go into the testing room and play Tetris the whole time - it wouldn't matter, as long as your writing sample is good.

Good luck everyone. I remember this as such a stressful but exciting time. Hang in there!

October Revolution said...

Letters of Rec, mostly. I have a masters and a bachelors, and I have no idea who to ask. What to look for, etc. Help with that will make me feel better.

That and I have a manuscript to work on, eek.

Luke Johnson said...

Anyone here applying to creative writing PhDs? If so, any insight as to the tenor of the SOP? I'm guessing it's more formal than what someone might send for an MFA app...what about the critical sample--showcasing analytical reading skills? lit. theory?

Feel like I'm wandering in the dark a bit...if only it were just about the poems...

Eli Lindert said...

I finally went through all of my schools and discovered that only 3 out of 15 will accept letters sent by my schools letter service (similar to Interfolio). This seems like a huge hassle for my poor recommenders--has anyone had luck negotiating this? I'm going to give some schools with more ambiguous wording a call tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Eli -

That stinks! But that you for sharing that. It saves me a lot of hassle.

Sequoia N said...

Eli, just make sure the packets you send your recommenders are organized and very clear. My recommenders didn't bat an eye.

kaybay said...

I have a question about online applications. If a school has a deadline (let's say December 15th), and I send my application online by December 1st, but one or more of my recommenders fail to upload their letters by the deadline, am I disqualified? More importantly, do I get my $70 back? :)

MFQ said...

Hi folks,

Any wisdom on whether I should list nonfiction publications (the only kind I have) on applications that ask for a list of pubs? I have some fairly writerly features and dispatches in magazines, but no fiction. Thanks and best of luck with deadlines.

Danielle Wheeler said...

Kaybay- are you talking about Brown? I think it mentions somewhere in the FAQs that, as long as the sample, application form, and SOP are in, the other materials can arrive late.

If it isn't Brown...I'd just email the program :) Can't hurt!

Sequoia N said...

Kayaby, the majority of programs are pretty understanding when it comes to supplemental material like LORs (which are out of the applicants control).

kaybay said...

Danielle - I'm actually concerned about Cornell in particular. I would imagine it's mostly the same everywhere, so if others are saying that it's not problem, then hopefully it's not a problem at Cornell either. Thanks for your response!

Michael said...


I'm taking a creative writing course / workshop right now at Harvard Extension School that is finishing up in a few weeks and it just occured to me that schools might want to see a transcript for this. It just seems to be an extra hassle to me and not neccessary. I'd like to put this on my resume / CV, but I don't want to go fetching the transcripts, especially since I haven't even finished the course yet and I'm sending apps out now. Thoughts?

Sister Ray said...

Hi Michael,

I took a class at Harvard Extension a few years ago and I am having all the transcripts sent - mainly because I got a good grade in it and hey, it's Harvard. :P

Most places do seem to want transcripts from everywhere you've attended - but I'm not sure if the case is different if you've already graduated from undergrad. (I am personally not done with undergrad and the Harvard course's credits are on my undergrad transcript.)

I know Harvard gives you the option to have the transcripts sent after the grade comes in - perhaps that might be the best option. Otherwise I'd probably email the programs specifically to see what they say.

Michael said...

Thanks Sis Ray. Yeah, I received my BA a few years ago from another school. The other thing is, I took an INTRO to Creative Writing Course, mainly so I could get my ass in gear for the application process, and I'm not sure that I want schools seeing the 'intro' part. Maybe that doesn't matter and I'm overthinking it.

rosephase said...

Okay I have a question. I'm applying to MFA play writing programs. I have a good GPA, okay letters of recommendation (no one famous, no known writers at all) an okay resume (been working in theater for years as a designer. And I have had had three readings, three workshops, and two productions of my plays) and I believe I have a very strong play that I am submitting.
How much do you feel like letters of recommendation help or hurt you? They are glowing from teachers at school (but I got a BFA in design NOT writing although my design teachers are wonderful and taking the time to read my play and give me feedback, after all they read plays for a living too) and directors I have worked with but not with anyone who has an "in" at any of the schools.
I'm also fighting with my personal statement I honestly feel like I don't understand what I'm even supposed to be addressing. Each school says a different thing and some of them just say Personal Statement without a clue as to what I should write.
I guess I’m just scared. But do any of you have an idea about the level or importance of each piece of the application? I’ve heard a lot that your writing sample is by far the most important, but what comes next? What undergraduate degree you have, your GPA, your letters of recommendation, your personal statement, your resume? And why?

Michael said...


I could be wrong, but I think your background will help you to stand out. If you are a good writer and you're from a non-traditional major, then I think that's intriguing.

This could very well vary by school and reviewer though, who knows. It seems like a lot of schools want your recommenders to comment on your writing, which is not possible for all of my letter writers.

I actually went to a music school for my BA and I'm having my guitar instructor of several years write me a recommendation that will address my passion and dedication that helped me in studying the arts.

cb said...

I've sent out a few apps and was wondering whether to expect confirmation of receipt of some kind for the writing sample/personal statement/etc. I probably should have enclosed SASEs even for schools that didn't request them, but since I didn't, would I receive an email of some sort when they've processed those materials? Just don't want to worry they haven't made it there!

Jennifer said...

Chloe -- I wouldn't expect any confirmation. I applied last year (I'm in a program now) to 10 schools and didn't get confirmation from a single one.

Eli said...

i was worrying about the SAE for UC Irvine - you can't send SAE's for international addresses (I'm in the UK) to be sent from the US.

I wasn't sure whether it was for a notification they'd received it or for a cruel, cruel rejection somewhere down the line.

Given that notifications seem to be few and far between, can anyone clarify this?

thanks - and hope you're all hanging in there and just about keeping on top of things!!

SeeMoreGlass said...

eli - the SASE for Irvine is just to confirm the receipt of your materials.

the only schools i applied to that asked for that were irvine and iowa.

Eli said...

awesome, thanks for letting me know. in that case i'll trust fate, my caffeine-jittery envelope stuffing paranoia and my $65 fedex charge to have done the job as it shoulda been done :)

kaybay said...

I love that I'm doing application stuff on Thanksgiving... oh well, it did get me out of the obligatory family hike that everyone else in the family is forced to go on.

My question is about Florida State admissions requirements. Is it really true that I have to submit only one story? That seems like sch a gamble! What would happen if I sent more than one????

alana said...


I think there is a great deal of importance in following application instructions. If they ask for one, I doubt they'll read two, and they might very well be mad at you for ignoring the guidelines. I'd say just send one of your best works and not risk trying to send more material than they've asked for.

Unknown said...

does anyone have any advice or suggestions if i want to apply as a multigenre writer? i write nonfiction and fiction, and my MA thesis is a mixture of both. some of the places i'm applying for phd welcome it (denver, georgia) but i'm worried about whether other places will look down on that or think that i'm a dabbler (i'm very serious about both). i really don't want to be tied down to a single genre, but i do want to get into good programs. any suggestions or insight would be really helpful, thanks!

Joshua Gottlieb-Miller said...


You say, "if only it were just about the poems." I don't know which creative writing PhDs you are applying to, and I can't speak for all of them, but it is my understanding that we at the University of Houston are, as you say, only about the poems, as much as any MFA is. What I mean is that it's the sample that will get you in, although the SOP will be a good measure for whether you will fit in. I don't think it's as much about showing you are serious academically, since the very act of trying to be in one of these programs demonstrates some seriousness.


The writing sample is the most important part. The statement of purpose is I think undervalued, and certainly has importance once you are in those final rounds, but it is the writing sample that is the most important thing, by far, no matter the genre.

Xu (Sherry),

I don't think anyone will consider you "a dabbler" so long as the writing is strong. Where you can apply as inter-genre, do so, and where it is less explicit that you can send in your work as inter-genre, send it in as whichever genre you think you should (I'm guessing fiction, since a little non-fiction in a fiction piece is looked down on less than a little fiction in a non-fiction piece).

And be clear about your goals in your statement of purpose--any school that wants you will accept that you have those goals, any school that doesn't want you you're better off not going to...

That last statement is true for all applicants, by the way--it's less a popularity contest than trying to find the right fit (both in your view and the programs' view, although everybody's always striving, no harm in that...)

cb said...

Another quick question, this time about the University of Washington's fiction MFA. I feel like I've heard mixed things about the student life at the program (something about tense faculty relations?), though maybe this isn't true. Does anyone have any thoughts about or personal experience with the program there? It would be great to hear from a current student.

kaybay said...

What do I do when a program asks for a curriculum vitae or a resume? I don't have any real academic accomplishments, mediocre GRE/GPAs, no research, etc... I've been teaching high school for the last two and a half years. Should I do a resume detailing my work experience or write a curriculum vitae? Should my resume be like a resume I send to a job interviewer?

Joshua Gottlieb-Miller said...


Yeah, don't worry about not having much for the CV. Just go the resume route--it really will have the most minimal impact on your application, if at don't even worry about it!

Andrew Sottile said...

Hello, all--

Does anyone have information on Portland State or Oregon State's funding situation? Both of these programs are nearly impossible to get in touch with and I can't seem to find a detailed breakdown. Thanks,


Sequoia N said...

Joshua/Luke, It's my understanding that the creative writing PHD is a bit of a different ball game than applying to MFAs since PHD programs are really English/Literature degrees with a creative dissertation and therefore tied directly to the bureaucracy of English departments. The sample is first and foremost for the MFA and in some cases could very well lock you in for an acceptance. A few directors have stated in interviews that the strength of your sample alone isn't enough to get you into a PHD program. Grades, critical abilities and test scores matter more since you'll be doing the same work as any other PHD student until your final years. I'm sure it differs from program to program, but this is the feel I'm getting from the available info on this matter.

Montana said...

Where did you see that Florida State asks for only one story? I just haven't seen any specifications on their website...but then again these websites are pretty good at hiding the important info.

I'm also wondering about the personal statement. I know it should be professional and concise, not all cutesy. Would it be appropriate to discuss the themes in your work, your strengths and weaknesses? Also, is it bad to say you're interested in teaching? I mean, my number one motivation for an MFA is to maybe have like, a real job in the future. I'm hoping that they prefer honesty over bullshit...right?

ajcourtney said...

hey everyone: a friend of mine who's applying to mfa fine arts programs just sent me this link of statement of purpose suggestions. i've found parts of it super helpful and thought i'd pass it along. good luck! cheers, c

raphe said...

I have one quick question: Nearly all the schools I'm applying to ask this question in some form in their application packet: "List all graduate schools to which you are applying." Should I answer this question? Do schools communicate this information to each other? I'm not sure I like the idea of one prof calling up another and saying, "Do you want this guy, or should we take him?" .. "Okay, I'll reject him here, so he's got no choice but to attend your program. What about this girl..." I'm a conspiracy theorist by nature, forgive me... but it's a serious question!

Anonymous said...


i didn't come across that in any of my applications but if i had i would have left it blank. it's none of their business where you are or aren't applying.

Eli said...


I'm sure someone (calling WanderingTree!) will be able to advise you with more authority, but this is something I wouldn't spend more than a few minutes on. I've left this question blank in a few applications and answered it in others...i highly doubt think the schools communicate about us. They got more important stuff to do! I'd say do whatever you want, but don't waste a second wondering about whether you're doing the right thing. I doubt it matters.

kaybay said...

I'm also having problems with their online application system. I uploaded my PS, story, and resume, but when I went to submit my application, it said that I needed a 4th and 5th document. I tried to upload a PDF of my transcripts, but it was too big, and I don't know what to attach for the fifth document. I'm guessing they want a copy of my GRE scores, but how I upload it? How to upload my transcript if it's too big?

Montana - I second your frustrations with FSU's website, it's very unclear. If you go to the site ( and scroll up the top of the page, it lists their requirements under "MA and MFA Degree Requirements." They want three letters, one story, a personal statement (250-500 words) and CV/resume.

insertbrackets said...


I would recommend you not list your other schools there. I didn't when I applied. It seems unnecessary and as someone else said, none of their business. Instinct tells me no. Just say no.

Sequoia N said...

Listing other schools is more than likely just for statistical data used by the graduate school. I listed schools. Makes no difference to me.

raphe said...

Thanks for all the opinions! I will leave my other schools out of it & let other folks drive the unstoppable statistical data engines.

inkli__11 said...


I am applying to UMass (application must be postmarked by tomorrow--kind of last minute, I know), and I just have a quick question. The website says to send 10 pages of poetry. This seems like too little to me. How many extra pages do you think I can send without seeming obnoxious? I was thinking 15 would be okay. What do you think?

Thanks in advance.

Unknown said...

NYU highly recommends that recommendations get submitted online. However my professors (who are both respected, one of whom is a pulitzer prize winner) requested to send them via mail. Now I am having trouble receiving the status of their letters. I am extremely nervous that the mere fact that they are sending them by hand will ruin my chances. I also went to a perspective students q&a and one of the guys on the committee said it's better to base your recommendations on people who are willing to submit them online, but by that point it was too late. am i being overly stressed for worrying so much?

Jenna said...

I turned in two applications yesterday...

And I still feel queasy. 7 more to go, and I figure it can only get easier from here (well, except for the long wait).

I just wanted to share.

Mickey Kenny said...


I've come across a few schools asking for ten pages. My advice is stick to the limit they give. Good luck in the last minute!

K said...

Three applications down:

UC-San Diego

and Stanford (for the Stegner Fellowship).

Just NINE more to go! Ack. Hope to get Michener out this week, and perhaps NYU and San Fran State...will post here when I do.

Good luck everyone!!

Pet & Gone said...

nine down, two to go

Pet & Gone said...

nine down, two to go

Terrence said...

Recommendation Question:

I've completed all of the applications, but I have not added the writing samples or anything yet. I worry that the online recommendation systems in-use by these universities will not send notifications to my recommendation-doers until i click submit. Is this the case? Or, as soon as I enter the email addresses, will the system shoot out the notifications?

I hope I'm clear,


Jasmine Sawers said...


For mine, it depended on which schools used which application systems. OSU, Penn State and I believe Amherst waited until I submitted the whole application, and they all had their own little systems. Other schools which used the applyyourself or embark systems notified recommenders right away. So I think you should find out which schools notify right away and which schools wait.


Rohit said...

Poetry applicant. Have sent out the online applications to:

UMass Amherst
UVA - Charlottesville

Sent out the transcripts and writing sample to UMass on Saturday. Have prepared the packets for the other schools; just need to check if any covering documents are required for the Graduate School (UT Austin asks for one, their format).

Also considering two other schools; should finalize those by this weekend.

Rohit said...


i'd stick to the ten page limit. send out the best, if that's what they ask.

Eli Lindert said...

I am still fussing over my rough draft/general personal statement/SoP. If anyone else is in the same boat, let's workshop together! E-mail me yours and I'll e-mail you mine, and we can rip each other's apart. Contact me at elindert at gmail

Terrence said...

Oh yeah, I just applied to UT-Austin. The season has officially begun for me.

Seth Abramson said...


(didn't want to leave you guys high and dry)

About said...

Just received an e-mail from the MFA Writing Program at CalArts, addressed to people who have expressed interest in their program. Apparently they didn't blind-copy the recipients, because all 200 recipient e-mail addresses were listed. It was an invite for a launch part for the school's in-house publication, but still, I found it a little unnerving. You hear of schools getting a lot of applications. But to see it up close makes me very nervous about this whole process ...

Eli said...

Thanks, Seth!

Useful yet terrifying.

Eli said...

Ok, I'm getting LOR jitters. I'm sure someone asked something similar upthread (or maybe I hallucinated it - such things are happening), but please can someone advise me - can LOR's come in a week or two after the stated deadline? Or is that Doom?

I have hassled my LOR people so much I can barely bear to hassle them more right now. I'm just hoping they remember at 4am one night very soon they promised me a lil' something.

thank you again, guys!

Michael said...

I'm about to send out my first packets to programs, and I'm wondering about the specifics of how to proceed. I like to use USPS. Should I mail priority? Delivery confirmation? Or just regular old first class? What are you guys using?

Also, I'm wondering about using post cards to confirm that everything has been received. If I include something like this, will the programs actually send them back to me?

My thanks to any wise soul with answers.

Dolores Humbert said...

Michael, I'm planning on doing Priority Mail and Delivery Confirmation for most, and just a postcard for the school that explicitly asks for it.

Question for anyone applying to ILLINOIS-URBANA:
The personal statement description on the application itself has a limit of 1500 words and asks for the applicant to list their honors and publications. But the English/MFA site limits the personal statement to 300-500words and seems more, well, more like the PS I'm sending out to my other schools. Not so technical.

I don't get it. Are they asking for 2 separate statements? One for the College and one for the English program that I should send with my Writing Sample? Should I just upload the shorter,literary PS (and maybe send them a hard copy, JIC) and not overanalyze this?

Wooh! This is fun.

Pet & Gone said...

I uploaded the shorter one. 1500 words didn't sound reasonable. I hope that was right.

Kerry Headley said...


I sent a couple of my apps with delivery confirmation, but to me it seemed unnecessary and was going to get expensive quickly. So, I sent the rest using regular USPS mail. One school said they would return a postcard if I enclosed one, so I did that and got it back. An actual live human at Hollins emailed me to tell me that my application was now complete and to wish me luck. As for the rest of my apps, as far as I can tell, they are all considered complete. I guess it's a judgment call. I had indulged my neuroses in many other ways in this process, so by the time it came to mailing the apps I just wanted them out of my sight.

On a different note: I am really sorry to hear about some of the folks whose LOR writers seem to be flaking. I would encourage anyone who is in this situation to straight up stalk these people at this point (in the most diplomatic way possible.)

Jeff said...

Hi Dolores,

For the Illinois online app I did not upload any personal statement or resume for that section because of some technical difficulties. I submitted the app sans all that stuff and emailed them to ask if that would affect the processing of my application and they said:

"I'm sorry you were unable to upload your personal statement and resume to your online application. It will not affect the application process in any way."

So it sounds like you don't need to stress yourself out any more than necessary for that part of the app.

the mountain king said...


i'm in the same boat. 1 of my recs got to me within 2 weeks. the other 2, i'm waiting on. 1 didn't fail me last year, 1 is new. i sent them emails sunday with no response yet.

i say- don't worry about it. with everything the schools want from us, i think they are most flexible with LOR since that is the one thing we have the least control over. as long as everything else is in on time, you're probably set.

Dolores Humbert said...

Thanks, Brandi and Jeff!
Sounds good; in fact, I might print out the statements/samples for all my schools and send them in that way. Screw technology! And screw trees, too! :)

kaybay said...

I just finished me first application! Yay for me! God, I can't believe how difficult this has been... I've been preparing my writing sample since last April, and I'm just now finishing up one application. I still have 11 more to go!

Oh, and hi Seth :)

Mickey Kenny said...

So I know this has been asked in every forum in some form or other...

but what if I only feel confident with 11 poems and a school is asking for 12? Most programs are around the 10-12 poem scale, and this I love. B

Will it look sad if I miss the minimum requirement by one poem? close to sending these away!

Montana said...

Has anyone else decided at the last minute that they should scrap an old story and start an entirely new one for the writing sample? I just have this really interesting idea I'm excited about, but I'll never have time to do a million revisions. So it would probably be crazy to send something that hasn't been totally polished in, right?

As for the LORs, I've talked to some people and the consensus seems to be that schools use them mostly to check whether or not you are a social freak with a horribly disfigured personality. And that's only if they don't throw you in the trash first after reading your stuff.

Kalaiha said...

does anyone know how strict most schools are about gre subject scores arriving on time? i wasn't sure yet about which schools i was applying to when i took the test, so i never filled out the codes. now since i took the test in nov, the scores won't be out until dec. 18th! even if i order the scores right away ets says they won't mail them out until 5 business days afterwards. i'm freaking out, especially about georgia, who seems iron clad about everything arriving on time.

Terrence said...


We are in a similar boat. Everything I'm submitting is less than 5 weeks old. I may actually write something this weekend. Then again, I'm a risk taker.

Eli said...

Kerry, The Mountain King and Montana, thank you! Good to hear.

And, trying to return the favour -Kalaiha, i know GRE scores are not a priority - I was specifically told by Cornell it was ok to get them in after the deadline. It says that on their FAQ but i also emailed and asked, being neurotic n'all :) As for the others, if a program like Cornell is relaxed about not getting 'em on time, bets are the rest aren't total fascists - I'm pretty sure there are past posts on this blog somewhere testifying to that. No idea about Georgia though, I'm afraid. Email 'em, I'd say.

Danielle Wheeler said...

Short and stressful story about mailing: I used delivery confirmation and priority mail for an app that had to be postmarked by Dec. 1 (U-Mass Amherst.) I sent it before Thanksgiving, and didn't check on the status until last Friday, where I discovered that it was being held in a post office in MA, and a note had been left at the college office requesting pickup. You can imagine how I freaked. And, USPS won't arrange redelivery for anyone but the recipient, no matter how much you beg. And I wasn't going to ask the dept. to go pick it up.

So, I ended up re-mailing my app on Monday. It sucked, because there was a bit that was handwritten in the TA-application bit. Moral of the story- always check your delivery confirmations! I won't be sending any more of mine priority, however, as I think that may be why they took it back to the post office, instead of leaving it there.

apcb said...

Two questions about UMASS, for anyone who has applied:

1) Are any of your recommendations – recommendations that you know were uploaded – not appearing as verified? (Only one of mine is there!)

2) I downloaded the Teaching Associateship application from the writing program website - on the form, in big letters, it says that all applications are due on January 15. But on the MFA website, it says to include it w/ your portfolio (to be postmarked yesterday). Has anyone asked the program about this? Is a hypothetical someone who hasn't mailed in their TA app now unable to get a TA funding package, even if they get it in by the date specified on the form (or well before)?

Ben McClendon said...

You can send the packets via USPS First Class rather than Priority and still get delivery confirmation that you just check online, but it doesn't require a signature. Adding delivery confirmation only costs 80 cents on First Class mail. The trick is that the envelope has to be a certain thickness. Buy some padded mailing envelopes, and they'll be thick enough. The little bit you spend on the envelopes will save you on the mailing costs. I mailed everything (10 fat envelopes) for less than $30.

Danielle Wheeler said...

apcb- One of my recommenders isn't showing up yet either, and I KNOW he has already submitted it. I'm going to give it another week before I call. I think they are just backed up and haven't gotten everything updated.
Wish I cold help about the TA thing. I just mailed mine in with my sample.

xataro- thanks for the shipping info! I'm going to do the rest of mine that way.

Danielle Wheeler said...

also, apcb- Umass Amherst is super nice, at least in my interactions with them, and they respond to emails pretty quickly.

About said...

Sent out packets for five more schools, today. A total of ten sent out so far. Got three more left to do:

Univ of Oregon
Oregon State
Arizona State

Just had to tell someone. I'm so excited ...

Joshua Gottlieb-Miller said...

Wandering Tree,

I agree that the creative writing PhD is going to vary from school to school, although less because it likely has more of a literature component (though it certainly does) and more because the creative writing PhD is so new that there are less established guidelines for the "right way" to go about doing it. As you can see from my post, I was speaking specifically about the program here at the University of Houston. My understanding is that at the University of Houston, this is the case.

I will admit that I have no idea how it goes at other schools. I only have a few suppositions, based on the assumptions that creative writing PhDs (note, I don't mean PhD's with creative writing concentrations, but creative writing PhDs) are most interested in the quality of the writing, and then after that qualifiers that will make the student a good fit for the program (statement chief among them). Grades, a critical sample and test scores very well may matter for some of these schools, and I would advise applicants to take them seriously. But I do doubt it will make the difference at most of these programs.

That being said, I appreciate your sharing what you have heard that a few directors have said, as the more we know about this process, the better.


MommyJ said...

I too have applied to UMASS-Amherst (the only place, actually) and am not seeing one of my references. However, that prof. said it would be done right after the holiday ... If the LOR is late, does that mean I'm out of luck? Everything else is there and was in on time.

I'd be more anxious if I wasn't so busy with two teaching jobs and my kids.

Michael said...

MommyJ, I spoke to Sylvia in the creative writing office at UMass and she was very nice and said not to worry if your LORs are late.

Rose said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Franzine Kafka said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MFQ said...

Franzine Kafka--If you mean the Michener Center at UT Austin, they're pretty clear about excerpts: "Novel excerpts are strongly discouraged unless they stand alone as short stories."

Franzine Kafka said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sequoia N said...


re: Brown being experimental

I think it's esp. important to read the work of faculty and alumni for this program. Faculty: Brian Evenson, Robert Coover, Thalia Field etc. Better known Alumni: Shelley Jackson, Stacey Richter, Ben Marcus, Edwidge Danticat. Most have work online in addition to interviews.

Emma said...

1-2 pages over the page limit -- we talkin' a dealbreaker here? Are they going to toss the last few pages of my story? Because I gotta say, the ending is kind of important. Help?

laura said...

So, I'm almost ready to mail my first batch of applications. I'm just stuck on one detail: the academic paper requirement. I did really well in school, but my GRE scores are kind of meh. So, if I get into a larger program that funds some of its MFAers and I am *somehow* tied with someone else in every way, my academic paper might actually have weight on my funding package. Sooo, I'm trying to pick the strongest paper I have to offer.

But I didn't take a lot of "conventional" classes as an undergrad. I was a Comparative Lit major, so half my papers are in French. Can't use those, obviously. Then, I had creative writing and visual media concentrations, but most of my creative writing academic papers are super short or very risque. I wrote my longest paper on queer erotica in poetry, for example. And it just so happens that my best paper (or at least what I believe to be my best paper) is written on lesbian cinema and has a lot of film terminology in it. I also have the choice of a weaker paper on Brechtian theater in South Africa, and I don't have a lot of time to rewrite it.

Do you all think it would be a mistake to send a film studies paper since I would obviously be teaching composition or some kind of literature-based writing course? I suppose they just want to verify that we won't be telling our students to use commas incorrectly or something. But. But. But. I'm nervous and have nothing better to worry about. :(

Emma said...

@laura --
just out of curiosity, what schools ask for academic papers? Am I missing something?

Emma said...

also @Laura --
i think queer erotica in poetry sounds awesome! I don't see why the subject matter should matter (matter matter) if it's at least kind of related.

ajcourtney said...

Laura, I'm in the same boat! less than stellar gre scores, and seeing as I was an individualized studies major in college, my "critical" papers aren't very, well, critical. however, I'm just going to pick the paper with the best thesis/support/critical vibe (even if it is a paper that involves my own tangent on gender queer politics, or an ethnography of a le Tigre show), polish it up, and just hope for the best. what my app lacks in English-major-style smarts I hope my writing sample and other awesome qualities make up for it. good luck!

Emma: the 2 programs I'm applying to which ask for critical papers are purdue and Colorado (I think).

Kerry Headley said...


I don't have any authority on this subject, but I can tell you that I submitted a critical paper that was an analysis of a print advertisement. It was my best paper by far. I knew it was a little risky, but I decided that if what they really wanted was to see that I could write and think critically (and therefore teach with competence), then this was the paper that proved that I could. I wasn't unwilling to write something new, but I decided that if the media analysis piece didn't prove my abilities than nothing new would either.

Also, I asked myself: What would a bleary-eyed selection committee rather read -- themes about playing God in "Frankenstein" or the sexual symbols contained in an ad for cognac? I think the paper you mentioned sounds fine, but others may disagree.

laura said...

Emma: A relatively small amount of schools ask for academic papers, and they seem to hide the requirement under "extra" application for a teaching assistantship that some schools require, so I'd check there for requirements when you're applying.

George Mason is nice enough to let you send an academic paper after you are accepted to help them place you with a class or something. But George Mason kind of makes me happy in every single way, so I might be appreciating their "generosity" a little more than they deserve. :-P

Sequoia N said...

Arizona State and Purdue are also programs that ask for critical samples.

laura said...

universalchampion: Good to know I'm not alone! I was an English minor. You'd think I would have plenty of papers to choose from, but I only registered as a minor to get early registration in the new media and film studies courses that the English department offered. :-X

Kerry: I think media analysis is part of what composition classes focus on, so you probably chose the perfect paper! Good luck.

Mickey Kenny said...

U. Washington also asks for a 15-20 page expository essay. They're getting a 9 page paper on epistemology. Like Laura said, I think they're just interested in grammatical soundness.

On another note... wanted to add this tidbit of reality.

You know you're losing it when you think the angle of your staple will somehow influence their decision. Can't believe where my mind is going with these apps! So soon, so soon.

Eli said...


I'm submitting a novel excerpt too, and read somewhere on Poets & Writers it leads to rejections. But you just have to bear in mind that if admissions committees like what they read and want to work with you, you might get accepted. I figure my novel excerpt's a pretty decent example of what i want to be doing (which is a bit outside the box), and if i'm not chosen at any of my 7 schools then i know that i've avoided spending two or three years somewhere where the profs weren't 100% behind me and where i had to struggle to write what i wanted.

I think that's a fairly helpful way of looking at least for me!
good luck!

Seth Abramson said...


(still trying to make/keep everything I have available before/as I go into "retirement"; more forthcoming)

Franzine Kafka said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eli said...

hey franzine, i just realised i didn't say that with much panache and it probably sounded more scary than it was meant to. It was only one person's experience so it only counts for that...and also, i believe she got in somewhere awesome anyway!

i should be working at work, not pissing around on P&W and scaring people :) Here's the link:

but as Sibyline says there, it's all so subjective anyway, ya never know...

apcb said...

Okay - who's finding mistakes in portfolio stories, SOPs, etc. that they've already sent out?

What a feeling!

Rohit said...

so the packets are ready and out to go:


Kerry Headley said...


I refuse to even look at anything I have already sent out. At this point I don't want to know if I've made any stupid mistakes or typos since it's out of my hands. And I can relate to the person obsessing about whether staple placement is a make-or-break issue. Like the selection committee would refuse to even read my sample after saying, "Wow, what a crappy paper clipping job. Screw her."

Gummy Bear Sacrifice said...

OMG I submitted my NYU application and I want to go cry now.

kaybay said...

I'm halfway done! Party!

About said...

Anyone applying to SFSU? I sent my transcripts off to them a month ago and their online system still shows that it is missing.

Sequoia N said...

I mailed my payment for one program a week before the application got to them. Everything is clearly labeled. I hope the kindly admissions folk put two and two together. This will be my final freak out.

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