How about a new mailbag for all your last minute, the-deadlines-are-upon-us questions!
I also wanted to draw your attention to this guide to personal-statement writing, drawn from the comments in the last mailbag.
Finally, I had an applicant contact me looking for information on playwriting MFAs - not a topic that seems to get discussed much around these parts. Does anyone know of any resources on this? Leave that info, and your other comments, below.
393 comments:1 – 200 of 393 Newer› Newest»
Is anyone else applying to U of New Mexico? When you apply for the teaching assistantship, it says you need two letters of rec. Will they just use the ones provided already for the MFA app? Thanks everyone.
Oh goodness. So, I finished my NYU application, which has me all twisted in a knot because I'm a few pages over the max limit. Now I'm working on Cornell and I have no idea if I should just send 25 pages of 1 excerpt that shows a great deal of character development or send the combination and try to cut down on the pages again. BAH HUMBUG!
MJ: I interpreted that requirement as an extra two letters of recommendation that address your teaching potential/experience rather than your writing ability.
Carol: Personally, my portfolio is way below the page limit for certain schools. I'm applying for poetry (which is different than your prose applications, obviously), but I decided that I am only going to send work that I know is incredible. I have a lot of work that doesn't feel "finished" (I'm really anal about revision), and I decided not to send any of it. So, I'd go with your most incredible story rather than trying to cut down your second story to abide by page limitations. I read somewhere (no idea where, really, I've read so much about MFA apps over the years) that shorter is better anyhow if the alternative is sending a less than perfect story/poem in an effort to satisfy page requirements.
You can do an advanced search for MFA writing programs who offer playwriting as a genre on www.gradinsider.com
Right now I am feeling like I shouldn't be looking at the MFA program at all. I've applied, but I've been looking older comments about working while in the program and wonder if I'll just be overloaded. I did my MSED while writing and working full time ... I may just be psyching myself out so I won't feel so bad when I don't get in.
I am second-guessing everything now.
Laura-Thanks for the advice, but now my question is this. Hunter College prefers that you send the beginning of your novel excerpts, which honestly makes sense to me, but would it be better to send the part of the story that may have some action in it? I mean, we're competing to stand out, and will one stand out with beautiful prose or intense action?
MommyJ-Looking at old comments on this blog is the easiest way to just take a metaphorical gun to your head and shoot. Try not to think too hard about everyone else's situation. It's not your situation and I'm sure you'll be fine.
In order to be eligible for fellowships and financial aid, do I have to apply for FAFSA?
Also, what are some of the schools everybody is applying to that allow recommenders to submit letters online? I'm adding 1 or 2 schools and I've already had my recommenders deal with paper letters and I don't want to burden them further. I'm already applying to Brown, Syracuse, and Penn State with the online system. I know there's a good number that allow this so I'd like to be able to look only at those schools to add.
I would strong recommend sending something that can stand alone. You want to send your best writing, but it needs to be able to be understood and appreciated on its own. If your later segments are really your best, make sure that without the context of the rest of your novel that they are still your best.
It also depends on what you mean by "action."
Ashley, FASFA is just for federal aid and work-study. The majority of programs fund via fellowships and teaching assistantships which is another matter entirely. A lot of programs recommend that you submit a FASFA application anyway to give yourself options. There are a few interesting posts on the MFA Chronicles blog about how the amount of aid a university gives you via fellowships/assistantships can affect how much federal aid you receive.
Glad others found the personal statement writing link helpful, too!
Ashley, here are some schools I'm applying to that take online LORs: UT Austin, UNCW, Purdue, U of Colorado, and Hunter College.
How are you guys dividing your personal statements up (or writing something new) when schools ask for a personal statement and a statement of purpose? I've heard that the SOP should cover your research background while the personal statement is more of the personal journey that led to an mfa, but as I'm 21, my personal and research (aka academic) life are pretty intertwined! Does anyone else have this problem?
mj & laura:
I emailed the U of New Mexico people a while ago and they said that you do NOT need additional letters of rec for the TAship. The letters already provided will count.
Sent out my first two apps yesterday! It was much more terrifying than I thought it would be. Twelve to go...
Thanks, WanderingTree. I saw on a few websites that I should fill out FASFA forms and I got confused!
Thanks as well, universalchampion. UNCW and U of Colorado were all on my shortlist (it was a long shortlist!). I'm going to take a look at them again.
Does anyone know what exactly Michener means by primary and secondary fields? This is an excerpt of their SOP instructions.
"In it, clearly state what your primary and secondary fields of study will be (in bold or underlined, or as a header)."
Michael--Michener requires that you study two genres, one primary and secondary. The generes are fiction, poetry, playwriting and screenwriting. Your writing sample only needs to be in your primary field, though (from what I understand).
universalchampion - Thank you! This makes a lot more sense now.
I was under the impression that you only need to submit one transcript, even if you attended multiple schools, so long as grades for both institutions are listed on the one transcript. Is this true, or only for specific schools? I'm going to send some emails, but I was hoping maybe you guys would be able to answer my question first :) Thanks!
kaybay--some schools I'm applying to ask specifically for two official copies; others sometimes ask for one official and one unofficial (photocopies ok). The schools that I'm applying to that ask for two official transcripts are U of Florida, U of Colorado, and Purdue. Hope this helps!
I think the only conclusive answer is the most inconvenient one: each university is different. Some schools require two official transcripts, some allow one official and a copy. Some schools specifically say that you must include originals from every institution that you've attended, even if they appear on other transcripts. Other schools explicitly say that transcripts from junior colleges are not necessary.
It would be nice if there was some consistency across the board, like there is when applying to law school.
Completely small and probably obvious 11th hour question: when you staple your writing sample, do you staple the two stories together, or staple each story separately? Any insight would be so appreciated (as I sit her at my desk, stapler at the ready).
Hi, I am applying to PhD programs in English with Creative Dissertation. Some of the programs ask for a CV and some a resume. I only have a few publications, prizes, etc. and am going in with an MFA (so, no "scholarly works" like papers, extensive research, presentations, etc). I have been out of school for a while and have good amount of life experience. So, I was going to do a sort of CV/Resume hybrid. I think something like this was recommended to an MFA applicant on a previous thread. Anyone have any advice? Will a suped-up resume (that illustrates both my professional experience AND my publication/prize background) be sufficient?
I'm stapling each one individually and then paperclipping the two/three stories together. I think/hope that works across the board!
The University of Miami does not ask for a personal statement, but the online application form has a place for one. The MFA page does say to fill out the online application. So, I'm going to write a *surprise* personal statement. The MFA committee, I'm assuming, will probably never read it, but I figure including one will be better than not including one. What has everyone else decided on this issue? I should probably email/call to ask, but there's a chance I just haven't found the answer buried deep in their website. Hmmm.
I just want to be excited about this somewhere: I finished my first application today!
Twelve more to go.
I really wish U of New Mexico had been more specific about the TA application. I had my internship supervisor and one of my main recommenders write letters specifically for that purpose. I suppose I might as well send them along anyway, but knowing that would have saved me some trouble.
One app out, seven to go.
Had a computer scare yesterday, so I'm getting the rest out tonight come hell or high water.
I sympathize - my computer broke over the weekend! I'm now sneakily completing my applications at work, though I think they know something's up...
ps. never buy an acer aspire!
alana - I agree, that UNM TA info is really misleading. I had actually decided to skip the whole thing because of those extra letters... will have to reassess now!
laura - I read somewhere on the Miami site that they do expect a personal statement to be submitted as part of the online application.
ashley brooke - my recommenders actually found the online rec forms to be much more of a hassle than just printing out copies of a single letter (each forms is a little bit different, not generally a simple doc upload, but instead asking specific questions with word limits, etc). If you're decided on the matter though, UNC-G, Vanderbilt, and UVA also take online recs.
Question about the SOPs-
The MFA handbook mentions writing them in the format of a formal business letter. I'm assuming I need to do this for U of New Mexico since they request a formal "Letter of Intent," but what about the other schools that just want a personal statement? Should I still format those like a business letter, or can I just write "Statement of Purpose" at the top with my name?
@ dolores humbert and universal champion:
Since the tone Michener has set on their website is just so authoritative (and downright off-putting, at times!) I'm sort of using their instructions as a gold standard for how to submit to every school. When they say no paper clips, I am using no paper clips whatsoever. I'd just staple each story individually and make sure your info is on everything.
@ alana, I haven't looked at UNM yet, but for my other SOPs I'm just putting my name and "Statement of Purpose" at the top, and formatting it as a brief essay. My feeling is that this is what most people are doing. ...Right?
That's what I did...
ack... I mean as far as the Statement of Purpose is concerned. I just realized that you commented on 2 different issues.
Is Montana asking for two copies of GRE scores? The codes are mentioned online for both the creative writing department and the English department. It seems silly to send GRE scores twice, and it never particularly mentions it, but with these two codes it looks like that's what they're asking.
Also, thanks, Marielle. I'm deciding between the North Carolinas.
Never mind, the English department code was actually the school code.
Dropped my UT Austin/Michener packet in the mail today (then stood by the drop box feeling vaguely nauseous). One down, eleven to go! cheers, c
I mailed my application (the writing sample portion) certified priority mail (USPS) on November 30th, yet its status indicates it hasn’t left CA (it's going to MA). The post office is giving me the run around - San Francisco claims it left their office on November 30th. The Amherst PO says they never received it.
I emailed and called UMASS but haven't heard back.
What should I do?
Has anyone else had problems with the postal service?
Try not to panic. I mailed a packet from Honolulu to San Francisco on Nov. 18. And I kept checking the status for two weeks, and nothing. Then it was delivered on Dec. 7. Sometimes, it just takes time, however annoying it might be.
I read a post either on here or on the Speakeasy forum claiming that first-class mail sent with confirmation usually takes just a little longer. I have no idea whether there is truth to any of that
Also, the tracking Web site only reflects the acceptance and delivery. It will not show the stops along the way.
Anyway, point is, have a little hope. Stay positive. And if you really are freaking it, see if you can remake the packet quickly and overnight it.
Also, the USPS is already dealing with the holiday mailings, so you should expect some delays.
If I have a 2.7 GPA, is there any point in applying to top programs? Is applying to small programs (like Brown)a waste of time and money? Is a low GPA going to be a deal breaker for most schools?
Sam, a 2.7 GPA won't make or break you. Also, minimum GPA requirements are often just for the last 60 credit hours (last two years) of college. While there are some programs that exist that might not budge on minimum requirements, the vast majority of programs won't put much weight on GPA or GRE.
BTW. I know of one instance where Brown accepted someone without an undergraduate degree at all. I'm sure this is a rare occurrence but take that as you will.
Don't let your GPA stand in your way.
I just checked my UTexas Austin (Michener) application and it says my transcript from my current institution is "incomplete" because it's missing classes from Spring 2009. I took a term off in the Spring in order to work, and apparently my transcript fails to show that I'm actually enrolled in school right now. Am I just going to look like a bum who didn't finish their undergrad who's now applying, or will they put two and two together? I tried calling, multiple times, to no answer, and sent an e-amil that I'm still waiting on, but I'm freaking here. Help?
This sounds like a stressful situation, but keep in mind that programs are handling hundreds of applications, and the folks behind the scenes have a lot on their plates this time of year. I'm sure someone will be in touch with you soon to help sort this out. If not, continue following up until you reach a human being.
Best of luck,
Assistant Director of Creative Writing
I seem to remember that not too long ago, there was a ranked list of schools on here, under a variety of headers (well-funded, best response time, that kind of thing). However, I cannot find it. Where, oh where has it gone?
To anyone applying to Virginia Tech,
After you've uploaded the materials,are you able to see the files? You know, to check if they uploaded normally? I've had experiences with word/rtf getting all funky on me in the past and most application-systems allow you to 'preview' or check your stuff, but not this one...is it just my computer acting up or....?
Of the following schools, does anyone have a thought for who would be most open to experimentation with pictures/comics in stories? I have solid standard short stories I can send out, but I really wish I could include some comics I've drawn that I'm particularly proud of. Would anywhere be excited to see this sort of thing? If I've done some weird other art projects that don't exactly fit in a genre, would anywhere be interested in seeing a snippet of that? My guess is no to all these questions, but I figured I'd ask! Thanks everyone. Good luck getting everything sent out!
Manly, I strongly advise against sending any kind of drawings/comics etc. as part of your portfolio. You can address your interest in blending artistic mediums in your statement of purpose. As far as the schools you've listed, I think Brown would be a safe bet. The program has graduated many people working across mediums and I believe Brown even has courses focusing on interdisciplinary work. You might also want to consider Notre Dame if only because of Steve Tomasula who is known for blending different artistic mediums. I'd put a question mark next to Syracuse.
Okay, Virginia Tech asks for GPA on their online appli. Does anyone know what people who did their undergrad/grad studies under different systems are supposed to do? The degrees at my uni then were scored on a class system (e.g. First Class)...and I've been told to just send out transcripts as they are (conversions are not accepted). But re the online appli, they just have a GPA field...
Mailed the program, they haven't responded yet. :-(
Is anyone else coming from a non-GPA system?
@Dolores Humbert: I don't think you can :-( I tried as well, but couldn't. Once they're up there, all you can do is cancel and reupload.
Okay, I am starting to freak out. I submitted all of my application material on or before December 3rd to MN and WI, so they should be there by now. My online application check is telling me that both of those schools haven't received the materials I mailed to them. Does anyone know if there is a considerable delay in the update? When should I consider resubmitting the materials?
Also, did anyone else use the four "free" GRE score reports to send to MFA programs? There wasn't an option to specify addresses--there was only an option to pick a specific department, and I'm afraid they ended up in the wrong place. Has anyone run into issues with this?
Sorry of the stream of questions...I'm just growing concerned....
All the detailed rankings are gone right? I can't even find them on google cache. I'm curious about the funding one particularly.
@Jessica, from Wisconsin's website: "Please allow 14 days for your program to check off receipt of materials. We update the status check at 7:00 a.m. each work day." Can't speak to the other school.
@John Gilmore, are these what you were after?
@Jessica -- re: the GRE scores. I had an issue where I requested the wrong department code (I gave 2503 instead of 2501, for the Dept. of English), and a short e-mail to the university said that they both would end up at the Dept of English. I'd check the code that you requested them sent to against the department code that the school asks them to be sent to.
@devan and universalchampion:
Does anyone know if Seth Abramson's fiction selectivity rankings are still available? I think it was for 2009 and showed numbers for applied/admitted students. (I can find other rankings on google cache, but not this one.)
Thanks -- unfortunately, no, I'm looking for the old extremely detailed discussion of the funding packages offered by schools, divided into three tiers etc.
just wanted to mention that i will be putting all the rankings back up on feb. 1 so applicants still have access to them -- for the moment they are down due to contractual obligations to P&W
response dates and program lists are back up on the site now tho
Sent out my first application. Pretty excited about all this.
Jessica - how are you doing the MN app check? I haven't seen a way to do that ...
But yeah, all my apps are in, and all of those checkers are indicating that something or another (or most things) are missing.
This seems like a silly question, but what kind of envelopes is everybody sending paper applications in? Are you sending them in padded envelopes? I don't want my envelope to be overloaded and fall apart on its way...
Just in case clarenceaferrante has just posted the secret to getting into an awesome MFA program in a language that is sadly completely impenetrable to me, im babelfishing that shit right now!
Ashley, maybe padded envelopes? do what you gotta do. i´m fedexing mine from the UK and was worried about that being a bit annoying but seriously, whatever. Although i do note in Brown´s FAQ they say something like: if you courier your application to us, you´re a dickwad. Oh well. Luckily, that was online anyway. I´d say do what you gotta do so they get there safely.
ps. Cheers Seth!
Does anyone know if UNLV wants the writing sample attached to the online application or mailed in hard copy? The online application doesn't say one way or the other, and the pdf with applications just says, "send it" without specifying how they want it. There's no mailing address included, though, so maybe that means they want it online? Any thoughts?
@apcb - Sorry, I sort of misspoke. You cannot check the status of your MN application materials online (says tech support of the online app), but I received an e-mail when I submitted my online application that said I would receive another confirmation email when all my materials arrived. I sent the English department an inquiry e-mail last night, but received an automated message stating that it would be 2-3 business days before I heard back. I will keep you posted as the situation develops. When did you send your materials? I'm assuming you haven't received the confirmation e-mail either.
Ashley: I am using the $1.49 USPS envelopes that are intended for photos. They are the cardboard envelopes (not the padded envelopes) that say DO NOT BEND. They are the 9x12 envelopes, which is the size that a few university websites recommend.
Today I mailed my first complete application, which happened to be for my top-choice school. Eee!
I feel like a Crazy asking this question, but -- if I'm including two short stories in my writing sample, do you think it matters in what order I put them? Do I need to sit here agonizing over which story is better and therefore should go first?
I totally fell you on that one, Emma. I don't know but I think that you should just do whatever makes you feel better; if you like one over the other, put it on top so you won't lose sleep all through February about it.
MRS - I'm finding myself sort of confused by the instructions at UNLV as well. I've kind of put that application to the side, though its one of my top schools, because I figured I'd deal with the ones with earlier deadlines first. Let me know if you figure it out.
Laura, thank you. That sounds like a good option.
Emma - I'm doing the same thing. My thought is that if your stories are significantly different in style, you might want to put the more experimental story first at, say, Brown, and the more traditional story first at Michigan. Otherwise, put the one you like best, or the one more representative of what you want to write in the program, first.
Quick question for fiction and nonfiction applicants: are you indenting the first paragraph of each section of your stories/essays? I noticed in a lot books and magazines they don't indent the first line of a chapter/section, so I used that formatting style to differentiate the sections within my essays, but I don't want the committee to be confused by it. I know there aren't any hard and fast rules, but I don't want to stick out or for them to think I made a formatting mistake. Thoughts on this?
Sorry to obsess about this –
If UMASS has not yet received my writing sample (I mailed it on Nov. 30th), should I overnight another copy to them? Of course, I’d include proof of the original postmark and a letter explaining the situation. Will that annoy them? At this point, should I be patient or proactive?
@alana -- I indented all my paragraphs, even the beginnings of new sections in a story. It's not how I like to format my stories, but the grammar nerd in me took over when prepping my writing sample, so indentation it is. Hope this helps! Cheers, c
Was Xavier talking about typos before those comments got deleted? Because, YES! I sent in my Irvine and Amherst apps with several terrible typos and i've basically ruled those two schools out because i think they'll think i'm a retard.
So yes, Xavier, you aren't alone!
Mistakes! Found over a dozen annoying typos in the version of my portfolio that I sent to at least one of my top choices ("every" for "ever", "them" for "the" - other such things that happen during retypings). Also found several infelicities (words repeated too close to each other, and so on) in my template SOP ...
All very agonizing. But: they're sent, it's over.
You are a brave soul. Once my manuscripts are sent out, and things are out of my control, I'm not looking at them until I receive an acceptance letter.
best of luck though,
I also caught a couple typos in mine right after I sent it out to Iowa's NWP. That wasn't completely my fault though, I had sent it to two people to read over and they hadn't sent me their feedback yet. I panicked with the deadline coming up and just sent it in. Luckily it should be fixed for the other schools.
Has anyone else found typos in their manuscript after sending it away.
I found some typos ("Dad" not capitalized even though it's used as a name) in one of my stories, and it's worrying me to no end. Is it possible my application will be thrown straight in the trash because of it? I'm freaking out.
I have three more schools to send out, so I'm fixing it for them. But I feel like all is lost for the other ten I applied for.
This blows. I could die.
I refuse to read anything that I have already sent out. I don't want to know if it's too late to fix.
Hey, even the Constitution has a typo. I'm sure a few wouldn't be so bad, as long as they're not too egregious (I once sent out a work where I'd changed a character's name, but hadn't caught all the instances of the old name, rendering the whole thing extremely confusing).
Just sent my apps for Michener and Colorado State. The only scare so far... at the last second I realized my transcripts were in the wrong envelope. If anyone is as late as me for Michener, remember the transcripts go to Graduate Admissions, not Michener Center.
Good luck everyone!
For anyone who is submitting an excerpt as part of their writing sample, are you using any specific format for the one-paragraph synopsis most schools ask for? Do you think it should be included on the same page as the manuscript, or attached. At the beginning of the excerpt, or at the end?
I'm wondering if submitting a writing sample online if preferable to a hard copy. I am in the camp of readers who prefer a tangible piece of text in my hands--not running my eyes over a screen. On the other hand, perhaps departments find the ease of electronic submissions better for transmitting the documents between readers. What's everyone else doing? (I'm finally making headway! Almost halfway done! Woohoo!)
I'll just be honest and say I haven't sent any apps yet, not even the ones due the 15th... uh, anyone else this behind?
Another question -- related, and probably over-panicky and ridiculous, BUT I know you all understand -- when programs say they want everything postmarked by december 15th, does that mean that ostensibly I could send everything December 15th and it would still be considered in the running? What exactly does "postmarked" mean? I mean, I do *plan* to send everything at least by the ... uh, 14th... but on the off-chance that I don't... ????
Postmarked refers to when the mail is accepted for processing, so yes you could send it on the 15th, but make sure it is early in the day.
To be safe, send it on the 14th. That's what I'm doing.
I'm a late bird too. I haven't sent off a word. Actually, I'm sitting here editing for content and typos.
Question: My friend, a high school counselor who works with dozens of seniors applying to colleges, is repeatedly advising me to contact my grad schools and arrange phone or personal interviews with them. The idea is that it shows I'm truly interested, might be a good fit, all that.
Has anyone else heard this advice for CW MFAs, or done it, or whatever?
Aaand I have another question.
In my personal statement, how much, exactly, ought I to be mentioning the professors at the various schools? I am applying because I want to work with certain writers, of course, but how much of that desire and elaboration upon that desire should be included in my statement? It feels uncomfortably like namedropping to me... help?
Jeremy: Interviews are not standard practice and considering how many people apply, it's asking quite a lot of the faculty. Some programs do conduct informal interviews but these generally happen after a program has 99% made their decision about you.
Emma: Mentioning specific professors is a tricky business. First, you really, really have to make sure that the professor you want to work with will not be on a sabbatical and/or actually teaches (and is not just on the website). Also, what if the professors reading your application are not the ones you mention? Personally, I'd veer more toward mentioning the specifics of the program that you like, the overarching themes shared by some of the faculty vs. naming names.
I only mentioned professors in my personal statement for U of Oregon because their instructions specifically asked you to talk about why you want to work with their faculty. Otherwise, in the rest of my statements, I talked about the programs in much more general terms.
In regards to my problem with UTexas/Michener, I called the grad program office and the people were super helpful. Major kudos. Hopefully the admissions committee is the same!
We have a few college students online from University-of-Iowa and we love your blog postings, so well add your rss or news feed for them, Thanks and please post us and leave a comment back and well link to you. Thanks Jen , Blog
Hey Guys : I was obsessive about this blog when I applied last December. I applied to five schools, and got into two! I just finished a very satisfying first semester at California College of the Arts in San Francisco. About those typos- I had a few ones that really antagonized me for months, but in the end -if your story is good,its good!
Just want to throw that out there guys- don't sweat the small stuff, the admissions committee is used to reading dozens of work and I am pretty sure,with us all being human and all,that even the most well prepared packets will have a mistake or tow. Just give it your best shot and you will be surprised!!
Good luck guys!
I applied to CCA, among several other "art schools." Thanks for the reassuring words about the typos. Friends keep telling me it's minor stuff that people may not even notice.
Awesome to hear that you got into two of your five. Impressive stuff. And I'd love to hear your thoughts on the CCA program, faculty, the city, and other insights. I'm crossing my fingers big time on that program.
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Question regarding novel excerpts:
If a school does not specifically state in the sections of their website/viewbook/etc. detailing required application materials that you provide a synopsis, should you send them one anyway?
novel excerpt people, i'm no expert, but i just included my one paragraph synopsis at the beginning of my excerpt, above it on the same page. I provided a synopsis in all cases, as a reader would be lost without it - but i'd say it's your call if there's no specific instructions. I'm sure they won't penalise you either way as long as what they're reading makes some sort of sense to them!
I second Rose's opinion. The people at UT-Austin are fantastic!
Does anyone know the approximate ratio of poetry applicants to fiction applicants? I have found data on acceptance rates, but it seems that detail was left out of the discussion. Are they roughly equal, or does one genre apply in higher numbers than the other? Does any one have some fact on this?
i've been avoiding this blog. i didn't know about last year until all of my aps were in...then i went crazy from january-april checking it every few minutes for acceptance news.
i've decided to apply to all my schools at once this year. just did as many online portions as i could yesterday. just waiting for my last recommender to get the envelopes to me so i can mail out the physical portions of my application.
oof. this is nerve racking. constantly worried about typos and such.
best of luck to everyone.
This is almost complete conjecture, but I would guess there are more fiction applicants than poetry applicants. I estimate this because most schools seem to offer more positions for fiction writers than for poets. A common ratio I've seen is: 5 fiction writers to 3 poets. If this represents the pool of applicants, then for every 500 writers who apply to, say, the Michener program, 300 poets apply. (I'm sure they get more apps than that, right?)
It would also depend on the school. I'm sure U of Houston close to the same number of poets and fiction-ers because their reputation for poetry is better than it is for fiction.
hope this helped,
One of my recommenders (an busy professor and head of department at a big and prestigious university with two young kids) has just told me how epic and time-consuming uploading recommendations is and that you're required to answer a bunch of extra questions alongside uploading, etc.
I feel extremely guilty. i thought they'd just have to upload a letter. Is it really fair to make busy people go through so much hassle when our chances of getting in are so low anyway? I don't think I can bring myself to ask them again next year if i don't get in. These are super-busy professionals who owe me nothing and are doing it because they're also kind people.
Anyone got any opinions on this? Am I out of line to think there shouldn't be anything other than simple uploading of a letter?
just ranting, dudes...as you were :)
I didn't know there were extra questions either until after my profs had already agreed to recommend me.
It sucks. I plan to give them a gift card and a letter of thanks in January.
Eli - Don't feel guilty about it. Not to say that it isn't a hassle for them, but writing letters of recommendation is part of the job of being a professor. They get paid to do a lot more than just teach.
I think we all owe ourselves a deep breath and a glass of wine. I know that writers are neurotic, but mfa applications take it to the next level. The writing sample is all that matters and it will (mostly) speak for itself and us. If they don't like the writing, then no personal statements, staples, grades, gre scores, letters from celebrity writers will make a difference. I've talked to a lot of professors about this and that was the mantra.
Now that I've accepted this, the whole process has become much less stressful--pleasant almost. I think there's some freedom in knowing that you sent your work into the world and now it's out of your hands. If they like it, great, and if they don't like it, then obviously you shouldn't be writing there anyway. Whatever happens, you can always write as long as you've got paper and a pen.
I think it's also worth remembering that programs are interested in potential, not perfection. (If you're an amazingly successful writer that has already published everywhere, then what can they really teach you?)
And if you care enough to agonize over tiny details on this blog, then chances are you've been very critical in your own revisions and your work will reflect that. I would bet that every person here will be accepted somewhere.
On that note, I'm driving across the country to all my schools to personally deliver each manuscript. Just kidding.
cheers guys. high-fives to you all from across the pond (im in london)...you're all undeniably correct! Terrence - nice idea with the thank you cards. Sam - yep, you're right. And Montana, i hear ya. The sample is all.
Time for wine...
I've been meaning to respond on this forever.
Laura: It's crazy because I know that it's not quantity, it's quality but still, it's so haaaaaard when everyone says, "Really, any of your sections will do!" I mean yes, on one hand that's great. On the other hand, that's not answering any of my questions!
Typos: Okay so, let us all rejoice in Typo hell! I've found two, both of them capitalization errors, oddly. But it's the opposite of the norm, I capitalized two common nouns (wtf?! Right?). So I read over this: http://creative-writing-mfa-handbook.blogspot.com/search/label/Faculty%20Forum
The Faculty Forum is so helpful and essentially they all say the same thing. Talent trumps a few typos, but a mine explosion of typos to the extreme of distracting/hard to read may convey laziness or poor work ethic. That is very unfair to someone who has worked hard to polish his or her own samples. So let that rest your souls...unless you belong to that second option D:
Novel Synopsis: In some cases, I've snipped off the first chapter and opted to send the second, in which I definitely wrote a paragraph synopsis, much like you see on psychoanalytical essays.
NOW for my question: I uploaded all my samples to NYU, no hard copies sent...should I call and make sure they got it?
Xavier: I love CCA ! The faculty is a crazy mix of stunning talent and eccentric artists ;) The mentorship program is just wonderful. As a writing student I think that this is the programs strongest feature,. Meeting up with a well seasoned writer every two weeks and doing a project with him or her can really facilitate some amazing work from your self.
The students here are very supportive and I was surprised by the talent and uniqueness of every person in my fall batch.
San Francisco also is an amazing city.needless to say it offers many complimentary things to add to your writing career. The only drawback to CCA is the price. Even with the scholarship they give its a hefty tag to come out of school with. I
highly recommend CCA to you, if you want to butter your writing in an atmosphere of art,artists really wonderful faculty and have plenty of opportunities to meet upcoming writers int he bay area.
What other schools did you apply to? Why did you apply to CCA?
I'm about to chop down my stories for schools that request shorter writing samples and was wondering, what do people think is a reasonable length over the schools' guidelines, if any? I have two 15pp stories. The schools I'm wondering about are UVa (which is clear: ballpark 25, absolutely nothing over 30), Virginia Tech (says 20-25pp. would 30 be too much?) and Louisiana State (says 20pp., I'm assuming I've got to get down to at most 25 or so.) Thanks and good luck all!
@Ashley: I emailed UNLV to ask how they wanted documents sent, and they said that we can either upload the SOP and writing sample to the online application (in the "supporting documents" section) or we can mail it in hard copy. They have no preference. So that's good to know.
@Eli: Regarding novel excerpts: I wrote a synopsis paragraph (as short as possible) and put it in italics at the top of the first page. However, I'm sure that schools won't mind if it's on the first page or on a cover page or on a separate page.
I submitted my last application to Syracuse from Iowa City. Good Luck everyone!
Sent off 2 applications so far! Hopefully I'll finish the rest this weekend...
-CarolHenny: I'm also applying to NYU and uploaded my samples online, too. You can check to make sure they look the way you want by clicking on "preview" and seeing a pdf of your work. As long as it's there, it will definitely get to NYU!
-Matt Q: I'm not sure if any page over the limit will even be read. I know that some of the schools I'm applying to specifically say they stop reading at their maximum page limit whether or not your story has finished. While that may be a little harsh and not true for all the schools, I know I wouldn't want to risk it. It might be a safer bet to take the 15-page story you think is absolutely the strongest and just use that (for Louisiana at least, with the shortest page requirement). Good luck whatever you decide to do!
Matt Q, you might consider excerpting your story if it goes over the limit? My primary sample is going to be an excerpt from a 60-page novella, so I'm right with you on the chopping block.
I just wanted to share that I'm done with my applications! Now, I wait.
I'm finishing up Cornell today. I might try and finish Columbia, Boston and Iowa next week. Got plenty more though, and I need start doing my overseas applications :(
So who else is having issues with their recommenders? One of mine missed the online deadline, now it's got me twisted in a pretzel.
I'm at the point where I'm triple checking to see if all the programs I applied to actually have EVERYTHING. Just because your packet gets to the university unharmed doesn't mean it won't get lost in inter-office and departmental mail.
Just a note to let everyone know that Northwestern has deadlines throughout the year and a new blog.
Spring 2010: January 22, 2010
Summer 2010: April 23, 2010
Fall 2010: July 23, 2010
The official web site is http://www.scs.northwestern.edu/grad/cw/.
The unofficial web/blog site is http://northwesternmamfa.blogspot.com *and you can ask questions" and sign up to converse w/ a student.
--Sandi Wisenberg, co-director
Quick question about San Diego State....
Does anyone know how seriously they consider GPAs and GREs? My GPA is not so great, and I don't test well, but I should have a solid writing sample, statement of purpose, and recommendations.And, for those of you who already go there, how difficult is it to get financial aid/TA-ships? It looks like, from their site, that they have a lot of opportunities awarded on a "competitive" basis-- what does that mean?
I should probably e-mail the department but I think they might be harried with all the applicants. I'll probably end up doing that anyway, but I just wanted to see what you guys thought.
Oh, and I'm applying next year-- that's why I haven't taken the GREs yet.
I already posted my quetsion in Nov. and got no reply. Now is the point when I'm really stressing out, so if anyone has any input on this pleeeease speak up.
During this year, instead of "passing the time" until fall 2010, I started a creative writing degree in my home country. It's a two-year program, but if I'm accepted to an MFA program I'm out of there. I can't really send transcripts from this degree (cause it's too early for transcripts) or have LORs written for me from there (cause professors there hardly know me). Should I just not mention these studies in my application? I think it's good experience to mention, but am afraid of complications.
It's my understanding from various applications that you MUST list all schools attended, otherwise it's technically considered fraud if they accept you. Certain programs are more strict about this than others. I would email the programs directly if I were you, because they may have different policies because your degree-in-progress is from another country. Contact the graduate school admissions office rather than the creative writing program- they're the ones that care about/know more about these kinds of things.
Basically, I don't think omitting schools from your application is a good idea, especially if you're currently enrolled. That's just my opinion- anyone else?
I agree with DigAPony. You should probably contact the schools and ask how they want you to handle this. If you simply mention your current program in your statement of purpose or application they will probably ask: Well, where are the transcripts then? And then you risk coming across as sloppy or suspect. So, find out directly from the schools. That's what I would do.
I've already finished all of my applications, so I have no control over this, but I was wondering if it's bad to mention in your SOP that you want an MFA because you want something that forces you to accept writing as more than just a hobby and to place it above career, etc? I was thinking about it, and I'm wondering if it makes me seem like I don't take writing seriously. I was trying to say that right now, writing is definitely in competition with my job, which I have to make first priority.
It's probably not that big of a deal, but what do you think?
It's probably best for applicants not to mention deadlines and such, but we get this all the time. I don't mind, but another person on our committee does. I'm someone who does need outside reinforcement. What we want to know above all is how you see your writing now and how you would like it to grow and change in our program. And what you read and admire!
Northwestern MA/MFA, co-director
Carol, one of my recommendors is running late also. She has said she would get it done on time, which is in three days. Fingers crossed.
Thank you Kerry and DigaPony! That's very helpful.
One more question - some programs only give a page limit for the writing sample, others state something like - 40 p., 2 short stories or excerpt. Most of my stories are very short (2-3 pages). In that case do you think it's better to stick to the page limit and ignore the story limit?
That's a tough decision. I imagine that admissions committees are looking for story arcs and what not--that's pretty hard to create in 2-3 page stories. I would be quite hesitant about submitting stories that short. That said, I obviously haven't read your stories.
I would submit enough writing to meet the page requirements because 6 pages of writing wont tell the admissions committee much about your skill.
Yarduni--flash fiction is growing in popularity, so I wouldn't worry about submitting many shorts rather than one or two longer pieces. You could always e-mail or call the program, but I seriously doubt they would want 4-6 pages as a sample.
Done! Like someone earlier I just wanted to get excited about turning in my first application for fall 2010, to SFSU!
So far I'm 1 for 3 in acceptances...way back in 2005 when I first applied (didn't get to go because of other stuff). I'm applying to 8 programs this time so hopefully by april I will be somewhere in the ballpark of 6 of 11... or something like that.
Good luck everyone!
Here´s my zillionth question, and hopefully it´ll be useful to someone else too - do UMass Amherst & Irvine alert us by email when our recommenders have submitted their LOR´s? (like the Embark-using universities do). I´m having some trouble with some of my recommenders and not knowing about these two schools is stressing me out. I´m probably being dumb and this is easily solved...
thanks guys, as ever!
@Eli: Irvine doesn't. You have to log in to the Application Progress Rreview page and check. They send you the link once you submit the application.
Eli--UMass-Amherst does not alert you. You need to use the link to the site and type in your ID and access code to check. Here's the website: https://webapp.spire.umass.edu/admissions/cgi-bin/applicant/gradapp_processcred.pl
You should have received your ID and code in an e-mail when you applied.
You can also call and check. That is what I've done, as only one of my LORs has shown up. At this point I think I am out of luck as my second prof has not sent in the reference and has not responded to my e-mails. I realize this is a busy time (end of semester) but I teach full time AND adjunct plus I have a family so I have NO sympathy with the delay. I gave her plenty of time; and she promised, in October, she would write the letter for me.
I guess I'll be calling UMass tomorrow to find out what to do now. Will they still consider my application, can I find another person, or can I have a generic letter from my credential file sent?
If the answers are no, no, and no, I guess all I can do is curse and find someone more reliable next year.
Oh I'm sure they won't say No to a reasonable request MommyJ. I'm sure they know this is one aspect of the application that's not in our control at all. I still have one recommender who hasn't!
Thank you so much guys! That should have been obvious - i just think i've used up all my (limited) common sense on the rest of the application process. I hope that helped other people too. For me, I've checked and seen that it's time to kick more LOR butt. Again. Yawn.
Columbia has the following guideline for poetry: "No more than ten single-spaced pages of poetry, with no more than one poem per page."
My favorite poem is almost two pages long. What would be the least annoying way to squeeze it all onto one page? Make the font very small? Manipulate the margins? Has anyone formatted a longer poem in columns to fit it all on one page? Advice is much appreciated. Thank you.
Just occurred to me that manipulating margins obviously wouldn't even shorten the poem since the lines don't even reach the edge of the page--so disregard that option in your advice. Thanks.
"no more than one poem per page"
is not the equivalent of
"no poems longer than one page"
they mean "don't put two poems on the same page"
"don't sent us any two-page poems"
When I applied this year, I had read all of the comments from last year about rogue professors who can't get it together to write a letter before a deadline. Determined to avoid that anxiety, I notified LOR people in JUNE, got them to commit in AUGUST, and sent out all of the necessary materials to every recommender by Sept. 1. By October, everyone's stuff was in, and I could focus on editing instead of freaking out about my apps being incomplete. I am absolutely not the kind of person who gloats about such things, and I'm a total procrastinator, usually, but I just wanted to say: if anyone reading this forum is considering applying for Fall 2011, do as I did! It will make your December 2010 so, so much better. Happy holidays.
I just submitted my online application to Florida State, and it never asked me to make a payment. The submission complete page says, "You will receive an email from University Admissions regarding payment of your application fee. This email will include instructions for fee payment." This totally threw me off. At first I thought I skipped a huge portion of the form. Eee!
So, anyone else applying to FSU, don't freak out. I still haven't received their email, but I assume it will come. Eventually. :-X
Last year in applying for the MA I am currently in, my first line, in referencing Quaking Aspen -- a tree, right? -- read Quacking Aspen.
Haha, if you didn't get in, I'd suggest re-using your app statement for the University of Oregon (the ducks). :-PPP
Hey all –
I have three questions that I was hoping someone could answer.
1.In the personal statement should I talk about literature, movement, etc. I studied in College…and how studying this influenced my writing? Or should I talk more about personal experiences that have influenced my writing? Do I need to mention college, literary history, and/or specific authors at all?
2. Will not having taken the GREs hurt me when schools say they are “recommended but not required” – I’m worried because my GPA isn’t the best and good GREs could really help me. Do you think not having GREs could cause a rejection?
3. When talking about career goals (aka: why the mfa) do I need to talk about how specific aspects of writing will improve. For example, “I struggle with dialogue. I think (fill in program) will help me craft realistic dialogue.” …or whatever. Do I have to critique my writing? I really don't want to!!!
I'm wondering if this has been suggested yet:
Is anyone interested in exchanging writing samples? Critique would be nice, but I'm not necessarily even looking for that -- I just want to see what other people are submitting, or have submitted (samples that got you accepted would be very helpful).
I'm poetry; if you're interested, comment here or leave me a PM.
1. All of these sound fine. Anything that has influenced your development as a writer is fair game. If you name authors, you should name a few just to cover your bases.
2. NO and NO ; - ) Don't worry about GRE or GPA at all.
3. Talking about future goals post MFA and about what you want to get out of the MFA are both good pts to cover. Some specifics regarding your writing and what you would like to work on (i.e. areas you want to explore or improve on) are always good.
mj - that's a nice idea in theory and all, but I did that this year to accommodate a professor who was going to be abroad starting September, and had a bloody heart attack when I saw in October that Virginia had CHANGED their letter of recommendation requirements abruptly. I ended up having to beg the professors to send stuff at the last minute electronically, looking like an irresponsible asshole. sometimes you can't win.
Hey, under lists of published materials, should I include stuff I have in my undergrad publication, or should I stick with "real" publications? Also, I was the head of my school's lit mag, so I feel like it'd look kinda silly to say I was also published. Like, LOOK I PUBLISHED MYSELF.
What say you?
I would say you are correct, Emma. UG pubs are usually pretty poor quality and not worth mentioning even if you aren't the editor.
The editorial experience, though, is worth bringing up in your SoP, I think.
Quick question about the Rutgers-Newark writing sample. They ask for 30 pages of fiction and then also note that it should be "3 stories". How strict do you think the 3 story requirement is? I'm pretty close to the limit with 2 stories.
I have a question about the GRE. I'm taking mine tomorrow (the 15th) because none were available during the month of November where I'm currently traveling. I'm done with all of my other application materials, and I'm only worried about UT Austin. The Grad School asks for GRE scores to arrive on the 15th and says they can't consider your application if anything is late. At best it would take a week for my scores to arrive (because of the writing section evaluations), do you think this means my application won't be reviewed? Would it do good to talk to them, or should I just wait and hope they won't notice?
Also, I wanted to say how reassuring it's been to read your posts here and know that there are other people going through the same things I'm going through. It's good to feel I'm not alone in this.
Good luck everyone!
My tardy LOR writer finally e-mailed me. She has the form and will complete it tonight. The deadline was Dec. 1. Does anyone know how strict schools are about everything being in on time? This was the ONLY thing that was late.
Also, I didn't bother to have one transcript sent. It's one three-credit photography class from a community college forever ago. I took it for fun. Who cares?
Now I have to finish my grading. After tonight I have a month of evenings free!!!
i actually JUST talked to the UT Austin people, because while I ordered my scores two days ago, I didn't realize that it takes five days for them to be sent, which means they'll probably arrive about a week after the deadline.
The woman I spoke to at Michener was incredibly reassuring -- she said that it won't hurt me, as they have things like GRE scores and LORs trickling in. As long as you get the writing sample and personal statement in by the deadline, you should be all right.
One of my LOR writers never bothered to write the rec and never bothered to tell me she wasn't going to, so I ended up getting an email in February from my first choice school asking me what was going on with my recs. While I was able to get another LOR, the school didn't have it until the second week of February. But you'll be happy to know it made no difference being that late. I was accepted. My understanding is that most programs, if they want you, will provide a reasonable amount of leeway.
I spoke to the Rutgers people about the same thing, and that sounds fine.
Hi, All, is anyone currently enrolled in Northwestern's MFA program? I am somewhat confused about the funding situation, as the website implies that the last few classes may have tuition waived, but does not elaborate. Would love to chat if you're willing to trade email addresses. Thanks! (PS - good luck to all applicants, especially in light of deadlines coming up! The end is near.)
Daniel and Michael,
2 stories is definitely fine, but any idea whether we have to send in three COPIES of our recc letters if we're sending it by mail? Rutgers-Newark wants 3 copies of pretty much everything and on one page it mentions the same for reccs, but on another, nothing. Thoughts?
Yikes! I dug around for what felt like AGES on the Hollins site and couldn't find any information about the maximum length for a statement of purpose. So I filled out my forms, and submitted online, using what I think of as my "long" personal statement — one I used for the 1-3 page essay requirement for another school. Now, I've submitted the form, and after about five clicks found the 500 word max! (For what it's worth, it was tricky to find on the Hollins site...)
What to do? Should I just let it slide, knowing that my statement is OBVIOUSLY over the limit? Should I try to swap out my statements? Should I send a hard copy of a shorter statement?
I'm on app 6 of 10, and everything was going incredibly smoothly until now... I guess I was due to hit a stumbling block.
I don't think they need three copies of the rec letters.
Three of everything else though--you're going to need a big envelope!!!
So the only guidelines I can make out on the U of Alabama MFA/Graduate school pages for the statement of purpose are, well, "statement of purpose." Has anyone found anything more specific? Any leads would be grand, thanks!
Three applications down, nine to go.
I have seen nothing official about how the statement of purpose should be formatted.
In some places, buisness letter form is recommended, but then I've seen things like a cover letter, etc.
If anyone has any clue, please let me know!
So now that the applications are all in, a whole Summer and Fall of writing and revising of two stories complete, part of me is starting to doubt whether I'll have what it takes to get an acceptance letter. And even if accepted, whether I'll be able to produce the volume of work MFA programs might expect. I've literally been trying to write a story for the past three weeks that I just can't seem to find a structure for. Nothing. Completely incapable of producing coherent work. It's so disheartening to be having these second-thoughts right after submitting twelve grad school applications.
Xavier — I know what you mean. I'm wondering whether or not I even WANT to go to grad school anymore — that is, if it isn't better to just write on my own, stay in the place I love, and figure it out.
But friends and loved ones are reminding me not to second guess now; second guess in the spring when you have choices to make. Wait and see what happens. Applying doesn't mean you'll get in, but getting in doesn't mean you have to GO. As for productivity, give yourself a break; applying to these schools is draining. My plan once my apps are all in is to take a break from writing for a few weeks, catch up on my long abandoned reading, and relax a little.
Xavier, I was just thinking the exact same thing as you. I reread my writing sample and just realized that I still have a long way to go. Now, I've come a long way in a year or so, and I feel that my stories are at least unique, but they're still no publishable. I just don't know what's in store for me. When I think about all of the samples coming in with stories about "murder on the high seas" or "grandma's cat," I think I'm a shoe-in for Cornell. But, on the other hand, when I think about the already published writers applying, I wonder if I'll get anywhere. Basically, someone's going to have to take a chance on me, pardon the ABBA reference.
It's not that my world will be over if I don't get accepted anywhere, but that it will really, really suck. I want to move on from my job, I want to move from where I live, I want to go back to school, I want to write frequently, and I want help with my writing. I also don't want the $700 I spent on applications to be for nothing.
If I don't get in anywhere, I'' probably move anyway for a change in scenery and for an escape from my job. Maybe I'll get an easy job with a meager salary, live cheaply, see how far I can get with my writing on my own, and go from there... :(
Come on everyone, cheer up! All of these schools are looking for potential, not ready-to-be-published material. While I, too, am doubting myself, while I'm sickened at the idea of spending $1200 on applications with the possibility of 14 rejection letters, I also know that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." Which is my way of saying that everything will work out as it's supposed to, and we will all find the little spot where we're allowed to nestle and thrive. Let's send some good vibes out into the ether.
Or at least get a little drunk, whichever works.
Michelle -- When I applied my sop was in the form of a letter to the admission committees. I think that is what most people do.
I, too, and a gloomy and anxious MFA applicant. I still have 8 of 10 applications to send off--I can't afford to doubt myself right now. We all know that we've put everything into our submissions. And we all anticipate that admissions committees are gonna view our file and say "this one has no personality," or, better, "it's like his type writer has a mind of his own, two typos on one page! Sloppy = slush pile." This is gonna happen to a majority of us.
On the bright side, writing isn't going anywhere -- there is always next year -- They aren't looking for perfection, but close -- time off will improve you, hands down -- hell, now you can get back to your reading. If you can't find contentment in this, have a drink or four.
Katie: I applied to Hollins and I don't think I ever came across the word limit. Or maybe I am so fried at this point that I just don't remember finding it. I know I had to look really hard. I think I just guessed that I should keep it to 500.
I doubt you will be the only one who went over the limit because the department didn't make it visible enough. You could email them about it if you are compulsive like me, but if they like your sample enough I doubt they would hold it against you.
Universalchampion: I didn't see anything more than "Statement of Purpose" for Alabama either.
Universalchampion: I was wondering about Alabama's statement of purpose as well. I finally noticed the small print at the bottom of the cover sheet, which says the statement of purpose should be 250-500 words. Hope this helps!
kerry + sessily, thanks! i finally stumbled upon the word limit fine print on the cover sheet (right after i submitted my 578 word SOP to the grad school online--yikes!) am paring it down for the cw program.
The cover sheet says:
"a 250-500 word statement of purpose".
And the Statement of Purpose page for the grad school says:
"Indicate your reasons for wishing to undertake graduate study, your reasons for choosing The University of Alabama, and your plans for a professional career. Describe your background and strengths and weaknesses of your preparation for graduate study. If you are presently in a graduate program at The University of Alabama or at another university, explain why you plan to change.Applicants should consult their intended major department for any additional information to include with the statement of purpose."
Anyone know the word or page limit for Iowa's Personal Statement?
@Emma- Thank you for UT Austin GRE info! That's wonderfully reassuring to hear. I just took the exam today, and it feels great to be done!
Amy, if you don't see a word limit you should just figure on no more than 600 words at the very most. Closer to 500 would be even better. I stressed about word counts for sops last year and after calling my programs, I realized I was worrying for nothing. Just keep it within reason and you'll be fine.
Terrence, my fear is that some 2nd year grad student will be screening applicants before passing applications to the committees. While I understand that there are hundreds (sometimes close to a thousand) of applicants, I really hate the idea of trusting someone that is ill-experienced and workshop trigger happy to be handling our fates.
Yep, that's a fear I've also got (amongst many others, like why hasn't my package fedexed a week ago arrived at Wisconsin, etc). 'Workshop trigger happy' indeed. Yikes. But does anyone know anywhere where this actually is the case? Rationally, I can see that busy adcoms can't go through hundreds & hundreds of applications themselves. But equally rationally, I can't imagine they'd leave it entirely up to external readers to decide who makes the first cut.
I have a feeling that if there are external application readers in certain instances, they're not usually grad students...i think they're farmed out to people with a bit more experience. I think. Can anyone corroborate? (and no offence to mfa students intended!!)
I hear you on that one. I do not like the idea either. But, we can look at it this way: that angry, bitter, mildly depressed, and overly critical grad student has to hand over quite a pile, I'm sure. If there are 500 applicants, the committee has to get at least 150 of that, right? Do you think your submissions rank in the top 150, no matter who is critiquing? (I think mine do. *crosses fingers*)
As far as who's in charge of that first round of reading, everything I've read is "it depends." Some schools use graduate students in the admissions process. Some schools don't.
Someone said it earlier but I'll say it again: when it comes to MFA applications, the most complicated answer is usually correct.
On another note, does anybody have any pointers on the personal essay for Michigan? There's both a statement of purpose and a personal statement. The description on the app page is pretty detailed, but even still - I tackled most of this stuff in my statement of purpose.
@Eli I expressed this same fear to my creative writing professor, and she could only assure me that the applications are NOT farmed out to graduate students at the University of Michigan (her alma mater). She said in some instances, they do get outside readers, but they are accomplished, respected writers.
She also told me horror stories about friends from other MFA programs (I will not name names, since I can't prove the accusations) in which grad students were given the responsibilities of "weeding out" applications. Their response? "Reading Parties" that consisted of getting drunk, ragging on writing samples, and not taking them very seriously at all. No offense to grad students at these programs! A grad student has enough on her plate (balancing teaching and thesis writing) without the added stress of reading hundreds of applications. I wish programs didn't do this...
(oh, btw, I was exaggerating about the mfa student --couldn't resist the image. Of course, they aren't all that way.) :-)
Also, if anyone applied to Minnesota, did you get an e-mail confirmation about the department receiving your manuscript etc? I mailed out over 3 weeks ago and haven't heard anything aside from the little e-mail that told me they'd let me know when everything came in.
@Rose, I e-mailed the program in a panic a couple weeks ago because I hadn't received the confirmation e-mail. I told them I had sent all of my materials and I would have expected them to be there by now. The program replied that they had matched my GRE scores with my packet, and "thank you for sending your transcripts. We will let you know if we need anything else." But I did NOT get an official confirmation e-mail.
I think U of Michigan wants the personal essay to get more personal that a statement of purpose allows. In the personal statement, they want all life experiences, personality, and style, absent of sentences like "And when I first read Richard Bausch, I knew I should create a literary magazine and become a writer." You know? I only know this because my prof is alumni. In my personal statement, I wrote about my hometown and my family, tried to show my humor and how humor works in my family life.
hope this helps,
My inside info: I knew a professor at a New York MFA program who personally read all 300 applications to his school a season or two ago (and am thus assuming he would continue doing so). He is a highly regarded writer, has some pretty awesome prizes under his belt, and is a very careful reader. Why psych ourselves out? Just assume every program is as careful as that one. Some may say that's naive, and I say, who cares! I'm going to trust that the hard work I put in will be considered seriously.
Now the gossip-blog-reading side of me really wants to know which school has students who throw "reading parties"!!!!
(Wow, that sounded like a blind item...)
Some of you guys are crazy. Most of us applying to MFA programs are adults. The people reading your applications are definitely adults. Everyone in an MFA program knows what the application process was like and the amount of time and money that goes into it. So even if it is students reading some of your work, your applications are being read. Your candidacy is being taken seriously. And everyone knows how much it costs to apply. STOP FREAKING OUT. Don't worry about statements, or page lengths, or whether you HAVE to send 3 stories or not. Go with the flow. You're supposed to be writers.
Hey, Frank, i think 99.9% of us aren't freaking out. We're just getting on with our lives. This blog is the one place where we can be neurotic about MFA-related stuff. So you chill, too!
Hey Frank --
you wrote "stop freaking out" in capital letters, which makes you a freaker-outer. Let these people panic in peace, huh? Their friends and lovers are probably sick to death of hearing The Fear out loud, and this is a forum in which to express concerns. "You're supposed to be writers" -- aren't writers supposed to be crazy? And grown-ups get just as nervous as young 'uns.
Long story short: stow it, buddy.
I've heard numerous times that Iowa uses grad students to weed through the applications. They rate them, apparently, on some kind of scale and then pass them on to faculty, who then have an idea of what to expect. This doesn't really bother me, honestly... They're not making final decisions and Iowa is likely to get over 1200 applications. Ideally, this wouldn't have to happen, but we can assume that grad students at least have enough sense of what is good and what isn't to give a preliminary rating.
I'm assuming that other schools do this as well, especially those that receive large quantities of applications.
Here's the thing: I was the president of my lit mag all through undergrad, and our selection process involved a filthy basement, a case of PBR, several packs of cigarettes, and an elitist, judgmental, epically bad attitude. I'm not going to lie -- shit got real down there.
But even through our drunken, smoky haze, we recognized good writing when we saw it, and I feel confident that what we published was the best of the submissions. Our lit mag was the worst-case scenario of what could happen to your writing.
I am sure you guys all know good writing -- you can look at a story or a poem and know within the first paragraph whether or not it's worth anything -- and you no doubt trust your instincts. Remember, no matter who reads your application, they will be more qualified than you. So on this front, I'd say, rest easy.
My roommate says this blog is poisoning me.
It's true, I am turning douchebag.
NICOLE ARE YOU MONITORING MY COMMENTS??? I KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE.
I'm not trying to come down on anyone. Just wish there were some super positive and confident comments in here. Is anyone else sitting back this season and thinking to themselves how tough its going to be to choose just one program's offer? How about we talk about how awesome our submissions were and what we chose and why?
Anyone else really enjoy printing out three copies of their writing sample? Screw trees; I love seeing all that paper gone to good use. Makes me feel like a real writer :)
As for anyone applying to Arizona State, are you guys having trouble with the TA Form? They recommend uploading that doc, along with your teaching statement and critical sample, BUT their actual application doc is being a real jerk. Not letting me "sign" the designated area OR continue on to the next page. I guess I should just print out it instead, eh?
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