Monday, July 26, 2010

Mailbag (Jul. 26)

Throw out your new questions and comments, in the heat of this brutal summer...

283 comments:

«Oldest   ‹Older   201 – 283 of 283
Seth Abramson said...

Hi Chris,

Thanks for the comments. The placement ranking is based on a twelve-year assessment, so it's definitely not just looking at last year's graduates. At some point that will become a rolling window, but probably not yet (i.e., next year it will be a thirteen-year assessment, etcetera).

As for your suggestions about the polling cohort, I hear you--there's definitely a certain sense to the suggestion, and it's one I've considered. OTOH, I don't want to make methodological changes merely on the basis of perception; i.e., if a change should be made it's because of a flaw in the methodology, not because the rankings might be misread. Case-in-point: With 148 full-res programs nationally, even a 7.4-spot drop or increase for a program is only 5% movement off the previous year, or slightly above the MoE (Margin of Error) for even the best political polling in the world (usually 3% MoE). And thus far most movement is within that 5% on a year-to-year basis--the 2011 rankings are actually the fifth year the rankings have been compiled, and the consistency of program placement over time is remarkable. Yet there's also the possibility for real movement, which isn't the case with the usually static USNWR rankings. With USNWR, if the undergraduate program at UW-Madison drops ten spots from 35 to 45 as it did this year, it feels upsetting, as you say, but then you realize that that's only because the USNWR rankings are not set up to register such dramatic changes. The P&W rankings are.

Having said all that, your suggestion is a significant and serious one, and definitely one I will be considering. Folks are used to the USNWR model, and so I agree that even a less-than-5% drop in the rankings could seem catastrophic. You've given me a lot to think about, Chris--thank you. I'm not sure whether I'll do this or not, but I might. There's definitely an argument for it. One other possibility is to let the rankings "shake out" for a couple more years--achieve a sort of equilibrium representation of the national consensus--and then "lock it down" somewhat using the method you've proposed. To do so too early would disadvantage programs that, until the rankings listed all programs in the world in one place (one of their best features, I think) no one had heard of. But after five years of ranking, say, at least all the programs that existed when the rankings started would have had a chance to promote themselves on the applicant market.

Cheers,
Seth

Chris N. said...

Seth,

Thanks for your quick response. I'm so pleased that you're open to considering my suggestion, as I personally think a five-year poll would only increase the strength, validity, and, most importantly, the consistency of your rankings in general.

Just to reiterate my argument, here are some of the potential benefits:

1. Consistency. As I see it, the only thing that could ever really damage the validity of your rankings is inconsistency. For example, let's say a program is ranked #12 one year, falls unexpectedly to #20 the next, then returns to, say, #14 the year after. If this were to happen, it's much more likely that people would dismiss the rankings as inconsistent, erratic or inconclusive. On the other hand, with a five-year model, the fluctuation would probably be less than two spots at the most. Maybe not even that.

2. Fairness to the programs themselves. The other significant benefit would be to the programs themselves, as well as their current students and graduates. Let's say, for example, that a good program like UMass Amherst has an inexplicably poor showing in your poll one year and drops out of the top ten. And let's say that this poor showing has nothing at all to do with logic. No change in financial aid, faculty, or general reputation. In other words, it's just a random aberration, a bad year. In a one-year ranking system, this could have serious ramifications for the program. They could find themselves not only struggling to get back into the top ten, but also terrified that they might slip even further, and of course confused by how this even happened in the first place. In a five year poll, however, this would never happen, and a traditionally strong program like UMass Amherst would inevitably be able to sustain the injury of one aberrant year in the polling.

3. Significance for lower-ranked programs. As I said in my last post, a five-year poll would give lower-ranked programs an opportunity to make real progress over a significant period of time. As I mentioned, the lower the number of votes a program gets in a particular year, the more likely it is that that program's ranking will fluctuate erratically. Thus, a five-year model would allow us to see real trends among the less prestigious schools and help applicants make sense of how those programs are actually perceived.

4. It would only hurt those programs whose ranking consistently declined. In other words, even brand new programs could make significant leaps in the rankings over the course of five years. They might not be in the top 50 their very fist year, but they could get there pretty quickly if their program was attractive.

Thanks again for entertaining my suggestions, Seth. I'm actually a big fan of the rankings, which is why I even bothered to mention my concerns. I know you've taken some heat over them, but I honestly think that the more consistent they are the more people will stop questioning them.

Best,
Chris

'11 MFA Draft said...

@ Dani

By University of Nevada, do you mean Reno (UNR) or Las Vegas (UNLV)? I don't know about UNR, but I received my undergrad degree from UNLV and I haven't heard about any problems like that. It's definitely not an unstable program, anyway. If you have any specific questions about UNLV or Las Vegas in general, feel free to email me.

@ Rags

I'd say go with studio if you don't particularly want to take a lot of literature classes.

Some of the MFA students I've met don't like academic programs because they feel that the literature classes "take away from their writing time." But, most students don't feel like it's that big of a deal.

Unknown said...

Hi Seth,

I'm in the final stages of nailing down my school list for fiction. So far, I'm planning to apply to 10; your Suburban Ecstasies funding/fiction/selectivity rankings contributed heavily to the formation of that list. Thank you for making that information available.

I'm looking to add another school, in hopes of maximizing my chances of acceptance this year. In no way do I want to go through the application process again unless I must! However, I noticed that the links to the rankings lists on the right margin of your blog are down.

Are you doing maintenance on those lists, or did you remove them due to the recent publication of your P&W 2011 Top 50 rankings? Either way, might I be able to take a quick look at those individual lists in the coming days or weeks?

I hope you don't mind this request. Like I said, this process is quite unnerving, and I'd like to proceed with a full list of schools -- created with the most comprehensive info available.

Thanks,

Amanda

Seth Abramson said...

Hi Amanda,

Yes, the rankings are down due to my contractual obligations with Poets & Writers. That said, Poets & Writers has put nearly everything online for free, so apart from a few specific figures (e.g., specific acceptance rates, specific funding packages, specific applicant-pool sizes) the relative standing of the nation's 194 MFA programs is pretty fully accounted for in what's available. For instance, any program not ranked in the top 50 overall but ranked in the top 50 in any of the rankings' constituent categories is listed as such on the P&W website. If you go to my blog, the post at the top has all the relevant links to the P&W online data.

Best of luck,
Seth

Seth Abramson said...

P.S. You might also try looking for cached copies of TSE blog-pages on Google, or try using Way Back Machine (link) to find what you need. Needless to say, P&W can't and doesn't prevent applicants from trying to track down cached pages from my blog. --S.

Andrea said...

@ Rags

You had University of Wisconsin on your list- if you meant Wisconsin-Madison, just a heads up that this year is for poets only. They alternate between fiction and poetry applications every year.

If you can afford to apply to all the programs on your list, go for it! Also, I second what @vegascetic said about studio vs. academic. Good luck!

Rags said...

@ DigAPony:
It was Madison. Thanks for the heads up.

@ vegascetic & DigAPony:
There are only 4 Studio programs in that list, & they'll be favoured, I guess, when the acceptances come rolling in! :)

Unknown said...

Thanks, Seth! Your help is much appreciated.

I'm sure compiling all that data is pretty time-consuming, so I hope you realize how much you're helping prospective students like me as we try to navigate this tidal pool that is the application process.

Thanks again.

x said...

Hi again,

I'm trying to figure out how many letters of recommendation UVirginia wants, and from whom.

The Creative Writing site only says LORs have to be electronically submitted, the Dept of English website says (ostensibly to MA/PhD in English applicants) to submit 3 LORs from English professors, and the grad school site asks for a minimum of 2 LORs from professors in your major.

Does anyone know anything more exact about how many LORs their MFA program wants? Thanks!

Dani said...

@ vegascetic

Thank you! I did mean UNLV.

Nick said...

@ Chris and Seth

To add to Seth's clarification, I'm guessing the answer as to why Michigan's vote gain exceeds the increase in voters is pretty simple: individual applicants applied to more programs on average, hence the total number of applications at Michigan, and to all programs, was greater in 2010 than 2009.

Chris presents an interesting idea about using a five-year pool of voters. I'm not sure what I prefer. Seeing the dramatic shifts of certain programs in the rankings makes the list compelling. Does it skew reality to present only one year's worth of applicants' valuations? Perhaps. Then again, it is important to register these vicissitudes. When a program jumps substantially in the rankings (because many more applicants chose it relative to the preceding year), it points to one or more factors: a new website that sells program strengths effectively, funding increases, notable faculty added, curricular changes deemed exciting or conducive to the growth of writers, etc. Sure, it might be somewhat unfair to base the rankings on one class of applicants, but Seth identifies them with the current year (2010, 2011, etc.). He doesn't claim they are to be the rankings for the 2010s -- hey, sort of like when we had to use the 1997 US News rankings for a decade. One simple solution could be to have both single-year rankings and composite rankings averaging votes from the last few years or five years, once such data is available. What do you guys think?

Okay, back to work on my writing samples ... I think I might be in the process of reinventing the short story. ;)

Seth Abramson said...

Nick, I may do that -- an overall 2012 ranking and then a more stable three-year ranking. One thing I will say is that thus far virtually no program moves without a reason -- UMass, for instance, while a great program, is in the same boat as NYU and Hunter and Brooklyn. These are the only four non-fully-funded programs in the top 20, and all are "endangered" as top 20 programs because of it. Plus there are other, more esoteric reasons for the change. In any case, the point is that the rankings haven't "shaken out" yet -- i.e., reached the point where we can reliably "know" where a program "belongs" based on the present methodology (keeping in mind that I use "belongs" only to refer to the ranking methodology; the absolute quality of any program is unknowable, as always). For instance, in 1996 UMass was #10, which would equate to something like #25 now due to the dramatic increase in the number of extant programs. Perhaps #25 is UMass's equilibrium-point? I don't know, my point is that the drop from #4 to #12 is a roughly 5% drop, which is not much but may also reflect a movement toward the "natural" positioning of the program -- the previous #4 ranking was the equivalent of being #1 or #2 in the nation in 1996, which UMass was not. And having said all that, of course the program still has a shit-ton to crow about:

* Top 5 in Poetry
* Top 20 overall
* Top 20 in Selectivity
* Top 25 in Fiction
* Top 25 in Placement
* Top 50 in Funding

The 1996 equivalencies would be something like:

* Top 2 in Poetry
* Top 8 overall
* Top 8 in Selectivity
* Top 10 in Fiction
* Top 10 in Placement
* Top 20 in Funding

S.

Chris N. said...

Hi Seth,

Oh jeez. I had no idea that UMass, Amherst actually HAD fallen out of the top 10 when I wrote my previous post (I hadn't studied the list very closely), but now I realize that I must have come off like I had a bone to pick with that particular drop, which I can assure you I don't. In fact, from what you wrote about UMass being "unfunded," it seems like that type of drop was not only justified but probably inevitable. Maybe a better example would have been a school like Michigan or Virginia.

My point was simply that dramatic shifts from year to year can be disconcerting and confusing to both applicants and current students. When you decide to invest two to three years of your life in a degree, you want to feel confident in what you're investing in. You want to feel that a highly ranked program will remain highly ranked or that a top 50 school will remain in the top 50. Personally, I'd be nervous to commit to a program whose ranking seemed to shift a lot. And if this seemed to be a consistent trend in the rankings in general--surprising and unexpected leaps and drops year after year--I'd worry that the rankings themselves would lose some of their value as a helpful tool for applicants. And this was all I was trying to say in the way of friendly advice to you. Simply put, consistency over time increases validity.

Finally, I do agree with Nick that a one-year poll is maybe more exciting, or compelling, but I'd personally sacrifice excitement for consistency, and I think that most applicants would too.

Thanks for hearing my thoughts, and sorry again for the confusion about UMass, Amherst. I honestly had no idea that had actually happened when I wrote my post.

Best,
Chris

S.A. Williams said...

Hey,

Does anyone know the what the application fee is for the University of Texas at Austin's program?
Also, what is "tuition remission?

Thanks.

Seth Abramson said...

Hi Chris,

It's no problem at all -- I hope my last message didn't seem like I had a chip on my shoulder or anything, I didn't mean it to come off that way at all. Honestly I really do think your idea is a good one and it's exactly the sort of constructive feedback about the rankings that's great to hear. Your suggestion is thoughtful and sensible and you've argued for it very well and persuasively. Best wishes,

Seth

Rags said...

@ FireSnake:
Application fees are $90 at UT, Austin.

According to my understanding, every student receives the Michener Fellowship of $25,000 apart from a waiver of tuition and other fees. So, 25k incoming and 0 outgoing.

Others, am I right? Validation from someone else will be helpful.

王辛江淑萍康 said...

時間就是塑造生命的材料。......................................................................

Amy Bernhard said...

@Lmeerts

As a former student of U. Iowa, I can tell you that the program is very heavily focused on memoir and the personal essay. Just thought I'd weigh in!

Jonathan said...

@Firesnake, Rags

The $90 application fee for UT Austin is for international applicants. It's only $60 for US applicants. Phew!

Janet Miller said...

I just noticed that the Iowa app asks you to attach a manuscript cover sheet that lists all the creative writing classes you've taken, including the institutions' and instructors' names.

Does anyone know why they want this info before they read your work? I can understand it as part of the entire application, but it strikes me as odd to require it as a cover sheet for your fiction.

Thanks so much for your info/insights.

pdg said...

Seth,

I had no idea about UMass as well, and it is a school near the top of my list. So I am thinking of replacing it with either NYU or Brooklyn College. Would you happen to know either school's recent success in funding incoming students? Thanks so much for what you do around here.

Seth Abramson said...

Hi PDG,

UMass is better funded than either NYU or Brooklyn -- some students who don't get funding the first year are given funding the second year and then allowed to keep that full funding for two additional years (making the program 4 years in total, 1 unfunded, 3 funded). Brooklyn is more or less unfunded -- though also, relatively speaking, inexpensive -- and NYU has a very complicated funding scheme discussed in some detail on this blog a while ago -- I think if you search for "NYU" and "funding" on this blog, and then scroll through the entries, you should find my discussion of it. Keep in mind, too -- of course -- that quite apart from funding these are all very different schools: UMass is a mid-size program in a rural college town, Brooklyn is a small program in NYC, NYU is a large program in NYC, &c &c...

S.

Rags said...

Hi Seth,

In your reply to PDG, you said that at UMass, some students are allowed to keep that full funding for an additional 2 years, making it a 4 year program.

I don't understand what this means. Are students 'paid' for two years after graduating?

Seth Abramson said...

It's a three year program -- and in some instances those who don't get funding the first year are able to stay an additional year in the program. --S.

FZA said...

Hi all, I have a writing sample question:

Most of the poems for my sample sort of go together. They would make sense together in a collection. However there is one that I would really like to include that is entirely different. While on one hand I think the diversity is good, I don't want to disrupt the collection or make that one poem seem out of place. But including it would make my portfolio the strongest, I believe.

What have others done? Do your portfolios 'go together' in one way or anther?

Anonymous said...

I was thinking about applying to Pittsburgh's MFA program. It seems good, but I have noticed that it never comes up on this or any other blogs or rankings. Is there a reason for this?

Seth Abramson said...

Re: Pitt--

No funding. Many get in, most refuse their offers -- because they're unfunded. Cohort quality has slipped substantially as a result.

S.

FZA said...

Does anyone know much about the program at University of Washington (seattle). I know they can only fund a few through TAships. But other than that, I was wondering what thoughts people had about the program.

Jonathan said...

@Blob

I was tempted to apply to Washington, but ultimately decided against it. The primary reason (which you seem to be aware of) was the lack of funding. And for me, that's a pretty big reason. Also, as a side note, they have a foreign language requirement that I wasn't interested in fulfilling.

However, the program remains highly ranked (relatively), though I think it's dropping because of the aforementioned funding issues. And I've known several people who grew up/lived in Seattle, and they've unanimously praised it as a great city with a thriving arts community. I would love to live in the Pacific Northwest and wish Washington were a better option.

FZA said...

RE: UWashington

@Jonathan,
Thanks for your feedback. I must admit that Seattle is part of the draw at UW. I did check their website about funding and it seems like students that get accepted for TAships get waived tuition, stipend, plus insurance benefits. I figure if it's otherwise a good program it might be worth applying to in hopes I am one of the lucky TAship kids.

I hadn't noticed the foreign language requirement, which is a big deterrent for me too. But as someone who plans to hopefully finish my PhD, I know it's a requirement I'll have to fill sooner or later.

I guess I'll keep weighing options. Sigh.

Seth Abramson said...

Blob,

Just to be clear, I think the last reported "% Funded" stat for Washington was around 10% -- i.e., even of those few admitted (probably, even with yield, around 9%), 90% don't get the funding Washington so prominently advertises. I.e., of all those who apply, we'd expect approximately 0.9% to get in with full funding. With 34 fully-funded programs and counting, many are concerned that a 0.9% overall chance of full funding may be too low to warrant an application fee. Particularly if the lack of funding leads to, as it appears to be, less selectivity and a weaker cohort -- even for those admitted with full funding. Seattle's amazing, but so is Madison, Austin, Ann Arbor, Bloomington, &c &c. Perhaps do an MFA and then move to Seattle after?

Cheers,
S.

Victoria said...

Anyone in NYC applying to MFA programs? I'd love to be in touch with locals. We could meet up, exchange writing samples, and discuss different programs!

Rags said...

@ Claire:
When you say Pittsburgh's MFA program, what university are you referring to? Univ of Pittsburgh?

FZA said...

Victoria, I'm in NYC and would be interested in meeting up.

Thanks for the comments, Seth. I'm trying without much success to fill in some schools that are a little more under the radar.

I also have another ranking related question. I have the mfa handbook (2008 edition) which has U. New Mexico ranked, but I noticed that they weren't on this year's P&W ranking. What is the reason that a program might disappear from the rankings? I understand the shifts for the most part, but that one in particularly seems dramatic.

Seth Abramson said...

Hi Blob,

UNM is alive and well.

The 2008 rankings in the Kealey book that you're referring to were "Comprehensive Tiered Rankings," i.e. a combination of hard data, polling, and researcher discretion. As it's a different methodology, the result, as one might expect, is somewhat different than the P&W rankings. UNM dropped out of the straight-up top 50 polling back in 2008, I believe.

Be well,
Seth

pdg said...

Any word of UMKC's funding situation? On their website they offer teaching positions as well as a few scholarships and internships. I like the idea of Kansas City. Any help would be appreciated!

Pedro said...

Dear all,
I am building a blog project on writing activism through anthropology, open to all. You will find me here: http://chainsofdifference.blogspot.com/
It would be great to have your input about it and who knows, collaboration?
Regards, Pedro

lalaland626 said...

OK, so I just about have my list down to the final 10 or 12. The final spot may come down to Boise State or Oregon State. I believe Boise State was ranked last year as being about 33 to 39 percent funded, which isn't terrible but not great. I know DigAPony is going to OSU, can she or someone tell me if all of their people are funded, or most, or what?

I may just end up applying to both. I really don't know. My current list of schools is gonna run me between $300 and $400 just in application fees.

Kristen said...

Hi all,

I've got a quick one to ask your opinion on: some schools want 3 recommendations. My first is my undergrad professor who taught me in writing classes and directed the Writing Center (where I was a tutor). We know each other well and have kept in touch on Facebook.

The second will be my section editor at the local weekly for which I've been freelancing for 5+ years.

The third....still up for debate. Which do you think is better: a "friend" (I know, I know..) who is a working writer and was in a few writing classes with me and can speak to what I'm like in a workshop, as a fellow student OR a writing professor who I last communicated with via email in 2006 who doesn't know me that well but will probably say nice things if asked nicely?

I know most writing programs seem to suggest a writing professor is the most helpful reference for them, but I thought maybe the fellow student would offer a variety of perspective...?

Thanks ever for your informed opinions!

Geoff said...

Phew...just finalized my list of programs this weekend. I had to cut off five from my original list for financial reasons (some of these app fees are pricey) and another two for geographic ones. I ended up with an even ten. Not as large a number as I would have liked, but whatever.

So, for those who may be interested, here's where I'll be applying this fall for poetry writing.


Iowa
Washington-St.Louis
Indiana
Purdue
Virgina
Va Tech
Hollins
Vanderbilt
Syracuse
Cornell

FZA said...

I'm hoping to revive the MFA seekers google group that was set up in what looks to be 2008 and hasn't had much activity since then.
Here's the link, in case you're interested: http://groups.google.com/group/mfa-seeker

Hi K, it looks like you and I will have some overlap schools for poetry :)
For a recommendation: I've been told by every source possible that a professor, particularly a creative writing professor, is the way to go even if you don't have a particularly close bond.

FZA said...

I'm hoping to revive the MFA seekers google group that was set up in what looks to be 2008 and hasn't had much activity since then.
Here's the link, in case you're interested: http://groups.google.com/group/mfa-seeker

Hi K, it looks like you and I will have some overlap schools for poetry :)
For a recommendation: I've been told by every source possible that a professor, particularly a creative writing professor, is the way to go even if you don't have a particularly close bond.

kaybay said...

@K - Just to play devil's advocate here, I think it would be better to go with someone who knows your writing and knows what you're like in workshop. Most program directors don't care about who you know, but ask for letters to get an idea of who you are and how you'd fit into a workshop. Also, keep in mind that letters of rec are pretty low on the totem pole of things that matter. Just my two cents! I'm sort of in a similar situation and I'm going with a friend who knows me over a professor who doesn't and hasn't talked to me in three years. Plus, I like making my friend suffer :D muahahaha...

Dani said...

Hi!

I'm working on a personal statement. They want me to talk about my academic background. I know they don't want a regurgitation of my transcripts but I'm not sure what are they looking for here. Can anyone elaborate or point me in the right direction?

Thanks,

Dani

Dani said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kaybay said...

@Dani - I wondered the same thing! FSU asks about your "academic background." I just said that I my degree was in philosophy and that I like to explore philosophical ideas in my stories. I don't really know why they would want to know that, but it's all I could think of. I guess they want to know about your academic interests and successes? Maybe if you've worked for the school's newspaper or literary journal? Maybe if you have a Master's degree already? I don't know! I'm nothing special in that department, so I have nothing to brag about. Oh well, here's hoping you do :D

Andrea said...

Hey @ lalaland!

Everyone who is accepted at OSU gets funding- tuition waiver, health insurance, and a small stipend. The stipend isn't really enough to live on, so I am taking out some very small loans, though some people are able to find jobs to make up the difference. (I just didn't want to attempt that right off the bat- I'd like to get used to being in school again first!) Last year six prose people were accepted. (Unsure of poetry.)

Boise State is also a great school! They offer tuition remission and fully fund everyone (don't know if they have insurance though), but because of this, their acceptance numbers are teeny- last year I was one of only two fiction people accepted. On the plus side, they have a pretty good stipend- $13,000 as of last year (4k more than OSU). It was incredibly tough for me to choose between OSU and Boise State.

I encourage you and everyone to apply to both of these great programs! Also, Brady Udall who teaches at Boise published a great book this year called "The Lonely Polygamist" that his garnered much attention and praise. Check it out. I also recommend "The Trouble With You Is," a great short story collection by Susan Jackson Rodgers, who teaches at OSU.

Jonathan said...

@DigAPony

I'm surprised to here you say that both Oregon State and Boise State fund all of their students (BSU fully, OSU less so). I know it's a little difficult to debate Seth's data when it's currently unavailable, but I do know that last year's funding rankings had Boise State listed under 45-74% funded, and Oregon State was not listed in the top 60 or so. Also, neither program's website mentions their funding status (which would be odd if they both guaranteed some funding to all admitted students).

Has something changed? I would be very, very happy if these programs did fund their students well, as I would love to apply to one or both of them.

Also, if you don't mind me asking, how can Boise State only admit two fiction students a year? Do they really only have a cohort of six at a time?

lalaland626 said...

@DigAPony, thanks so much for the info. I confess to being a little curious, like Jonathan, about if the situation has changed or if last year was an odd year for both programs. I remember Boise State was ranked last year as around 33 percent funding. And two fiction writers does seem awful small. I thought even the smallest of small at least admitted three or four people.

If both programs are going to be the same way this year, that's a toughie. I really don't want to take out any loans, which would make Boise a better option, but admitting only two people gives me a really depressingly small chance, especially for a $55 app fee.

But thanks so much for the info! I hope you kick butt with the Beavers this year.

Andrea said...

@ Jonathan & lalaland

To be honest, I was also confused about OSU and Boise when I received info about the offers as compared to Seth's data. It's my impression that both schools funded everyone that they made offers to last year.

At both schools, I was on the waitlist, and both program directors gave me all the info about funding and what an acceptance would include financially if I made it off the waitlist. There was no "You're accepted to the program itself but on the waitlist for funding." (That was the case for me at U Idaho, another school to consider applying to btw!)

OSU later told me that they were able to admit six prose students, while Boise told me that budget constraints allowed them to admit only two fiction students. This indicates to me that all students admitted at both of those programs were fully funded, otherwise wouldn't they have admitted more but not necessarily funded them all? Of course, this is just my own personal experience, so I wouldn't want anyone to take what I'm saying as a hard and fast rule of how OSU and Boise work. Perhaps they change procedure from year to year depending on funding- who knows? There could also be a part of the picture that I'm missing, so take this all with a grain of salt.

Everyone I met at OSU was funded via their TA stipend and received a tuition waiver; only one student didn't teach classes, but that was a personal choice- she was older and could afford to pay out of pocket (she might have been paying for tuition too, I don't know).

The bottom line is, this is all incredibly confusing! Don't be afraid to email program directors and ask specific questions- most of them will be happy to help you, and the ones who aren't might not be worth your time and application. I truly do sympathize, because I was in your exact place a year ago. Stick it out- it's worth it. Good luck!

lalaland626 said...

Thanks so much, @DigAPony. I probably will end up e-mailing one or both programs (and of course, if you hear whispering about OSU's funding this upcoming year, do tell).

I really wanted to apply to Idaho and was planning to, but this tripped me up: "M.F.A. applicants who are applying for teaching assistantships need also to send an analytical essay, 8-20 pages.)"

It's been over three years since I left college; I don't just have one of those lying around the house, unfortunately. Between the SOP and other stuff required, I'm not inclined to write a new essay, either. Which sucks because several good schools like Purdue and Ohio State require a critical writing sample.

But I'm obsessed for some reason with Pacific Northwest schools. I suppose it's because I probably won't be applying to any schools in California, despite loving a visit to see friends there, so the Pacific Northwest feels like the next best thing yet also something new?

Anywho, here's my list so far:
LSU
Southern Illinois
Texas State
Oregon
Iowa
Vanderbilt
Florida
Minnesota
Indiana

Probable to possible are Wash U. in St. Louis, Boise State and Oregon State.

Jonathan said...

@DigAPony

That's good advice you give. I'll also probably end up contacting Oregon State and/or Boise State directly, as I'd love to know more about their programs. And I'm interested in the Pacific Northwest as well.

Thanks for the response! Good luck at OSU!

Unknown said...

http://guide.awpwriter.org/rankings.php

Andrea said...

No problem! Thanks guys for the good wishes.

'11 MFA Draft said...

I can't be sure, as Idamski didn't comment on the link he/she provided, but I would venture to guess Idamski is insuating that we're placing too much emphasis on the P&W rankings.

Which might be true, or not, depending on how you look at things.

Personally, I think the rankings are useful in the way that all lists and organized data are useful. I also think D. W. Fenza's opinion is useful in the way that all opinions are useful when regarding a topic of interest.

Both are interesting, something to consider, but that's it. In the end, people will apply where they're going to apply, and do what they want to do regardless. I'm not saying the rankings or anti-rankings are insignificant, I'm just saying, in the end, they won't make up people's minds for them.

Yes, this post came out of nowhere. Yes, I'm just an unemployed guy with too much time on his hands. Yes, I'm getting off the soapbox and taking it with me. Yes, this is the internet. It happens.

x said...

@vegascetic Agreed.

Also wanted to give my 2 cents on this claim by AWP:

"If you are looking into attending a creative writing program, you know by now that an artist must often stand aloof from crass considerations, or away from the shallows of a spreadsheet. The rankings of colleges and universities are annual features of a few magazines partly because such rankings combine mass-appeal and cash-appeal. Rankings sell advertising; rankings sell magazines. But rankings are superficial indicators of what may be best for your own artistic development."

Artists need to eat. Artists need a roof over their head. If wanting to ensure the availability of a stipend for these basic things is to be crass and to take "the easy way out", then I'm crass and lazy. ;)

pdg said...

I feel I've settled on my last and final list.

Texas
Washington U
Alabama
Kansas
Indiana
UNC Wilmington
Iowa
Syracuse
Vanderbilt
Oregon
West Virginia
Missouri-Kansas City
LSU

Trying to broaden the range from last year's applications, when I applied to only 6 mfa programs and 2 ma programs.

'11 MFA Draft said...

Snap. I meant "insinuated." I hate typos.

@x Yeah. Funding/stipends play heavily on my mind, as well. And the thing is, it would've anyway, ranking system or not.
end @x

I think Fenza was trying to go for something akin to "When it comes to persuing art, money shouldn't be an issue" which is certainly one way of looking at things, I suppose, except that in this case it sorta plays on the whole "you must be able to sacrifice all in order to become a true artist" stance, which is where it starts to seem less about the rankings and more of a defense of people who have spent (or are willing to spend) money on the MFA.

Which, actually, is totally fine. I'd defend someone's right to spend money on a MFA. (There are definitely worse things you could spend money on, that's for sure). But, why couldn't he just say that "It's okay to spend money on a program-- I did, and I'd do it again... Ps: I don't particularly agree with ranking MFA programs" and be on his way? I don't know. Maybe I just didn't like the way it was worded. Kinda snippy. But then again, the internet is inherently a snippy place.

Will I keep going? I guess so. Does anybody care? Doesn't matter.

I think arguments over rankings are based on the perceived importance of the rankings. In my opinion, rankings are something to look at, consider, et cetera, but it's not like I'm gonna base whether I apply to such and such a program based soley on rankings in a magazine. Just not gonna happen. Somewhat insulted that some think that's even a possibility.

That said, the rankings aren't my favorite thing in the world, but they're interesting. Personally, I would like more of just a list-- not a ranking-- of schools and an approximate range of how much their stipends are, and perhaps additional info like class size and teaching load. I couldn't care less about post-grad placement, trends, ranking in general. But then, again, I could do this research myself, so I guess I could just stfu too.

Sigh, I don't know. Mostly I'm just being an asshole because it's like almost 4 AM and I was trying to write stuff and it just wasn't happening so here I am eating triscuits and an avocado and typing like a jerk off. Good night.

'11 MFA Draft said...

Snap. I meant "insinuated." I hate typos.

@x Yeah. Funding/stipends play heavily on my mind, as well. And the thing is, it would've anyway, ranking system or not.
end @x

I think Fenza was trying to go for something akin to "When it comes to persuing art, money shouldn't be an issue" which is certainly one way of looking at things, I suppose, except that in this case it sorta plays on the whole "you must be able to sacrifice all in order to become a true artist" stance, which is where it starts to seem less about the rankings and more of a defense of people who have spent (or are willing to spend) money on the MFA.

Which, actually, is totally fine. I'd defend someone's right to spend money on a MFA. (There are definitely worse things you could spend money on, that's for sure). But, why couldn't he just say that "It's okay to spend money on a program-- I did, and I'd do it again... Ps: I don't particularly agree with ranking MFA programs" and be on his way? I don't know. Maybe I just didn't like the way it was worded. Kinda snippy. But then again, the internet is inherently a snippy place.

Will I keep going? I guess so. Does anybody care? Doesn't matter.

I think arguments over rankings are based on the perceived importance of the rankings. In my opinion, rankings are something to look at, consider, et cetera, but it's not like I'm gonna base whether I apply to such and such a program based soley on rankings in a magazine. Just not gonna happen. Somewhat insulted that some think that's even a possibility.

That said, the rankings aren't my favorite thing in the world, but they're interesting. Personally, I would like more of just a list-- not a ranking-- of schools and an approximate range of how much their stipends are, and perhaps additional info like class size and teaching load. I couldn't care less about post-grad placement, trends, ranking in general. But then, again, I could do this research myself, so I guess I could just stfu too.

Sigh, I don't know. Mostly I'm just being an asshole because it's like almost 4 AM and I was trying to write stuff and it just wasn't happening so here I am eating triscuits and an avocado and typing like a jerk off. Good night.

'11 MFA Draft said...

Snap. I meant "insinuated." I hate typos.

@x Yeah. Funding/stipends play heavily on my mind, as well. And the thing is, it would've anyway, ranking system or not.
end @x

I think Fenza was trying to go for something akin to "When it comes to persuing art, money shouldn't be an issue" which is certainly one way of looking at things, I suppose, except that in this case it sorta plays on the whole "you must be able to sacrifice all in order to become a true artist" stance, which is where it starts to seem less about the rankings and more of a defense of people who have spent (or are willing to spend) money on the MFA.

Which, actually, is totally fine. I'd defend someone's right to spend money on a MFA. (There are definitely worse things you could spend money on, that's for sure). But, why couldn't he just say that "It's okay to spend money on a program-- I did, and I'd do it again... Ps: I don't particularly agree with ranking MFA programs" and be on his way? I don't know. Maybe I just didn't like the way it was worded. Kinda snippy. But then again, the internet is inherently a snippy place.

Will I keep going? I guess so. Does anybody care? Doesn't matter.

I think arguments over rankings are based on the perceived importance of the rankings. In my opinion, rankings are something to look at, consider, et cetera, but it's not like I'm gonna base whether I apply to such and such a program based soley on rankings in a magazine. Just not gonna happen. Somewhat insulted that some think that's even a possibility.

That said, the rankings aren't my favorite thing in the world, but they're interesting. Personally, I would like more of just a list-- not a ranking-- of schools and an approximate range of how much their stipends are, and perhaps additional info like class size and teaching load. I couldn't care less about post-grad placement, trends, ranking in general. But then, again, I could do this research myself, so I guess I could just stfu too.

Sigh, I don't know. Mostly I'm just being an asshole because it's like almost 4 AM and I was trying to write stuff and it just wasn't happening so here I am eating triscuits and an avocado and typing like a jerk off. Good night.

x said...

@myself

*Artists need roofs over their heads. Sorry, was caffeinated.

@vegascetic

You're not an asshole.

Anyhoo, I think this is my final list of schools. 10...10 is a nice round number, I think

Wash U St. Louis
Vanderbilt
U Michigan
Iowa
U Wisconsin, Madison
UC San Diego
U of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Indiana U Bloomington
U Minnesota
Virginia Tech

FZA said...

@vegascetic

I think the rankings matter (or don't matter) depending on what you plan on doing with your mfa/why you're getting an mfa. For those that are using the mfa primarily as a chance to work for 2-3 years on their writing then the only rankings that probably matter are funding ones. But some people want to use the mfa to hopefully get one of those very competitive teaching jobs than ranking does matter. A school with good post-grad placements and a strong reputation will likely give the candidate more of an edge.

But regardless of that, I'll tell you where the rankings are very useful for me: showing in one nice neat spreadsheet how long the programs are, how big they are, and whether they have more of a poetry slant or a fiction slant, which are all things that matter to me regardless of how highly ranked or well known a program is.

Sean Patrick Cooper said...

Looks like Rutgers Newark will not be taking applications for non-fiction for 2011. Not sure if anyone mentioned this yet, but I saw it today on their website.

http://mfa.newark.rutgers.edu/howtoapply.htm

Sean Patrick Cooper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kaybay said...

I think I've also settled on a list (it's changed since I last posted it and will likely change by time I start sending stuff in :)):

Iowa
Notre Dame
Florida
Florida State
Ohio State
Bowling Green
West Virginia
North Carolina State
Virginia Commonwealth
Michigan
Vanderbilt
Penn State
Alabama
South Carolina (I'm debating about this one because I've heard it likes a very traditional aesthetic. While I would send my most traditional work, I'm worried that I'd feel stifled)

Might knock one off and put Syracuse on there but they haven't emailed me back to answer my question about re-applying, so I'm not sure yet. We'll have to wait and see :)

Seth Abramson said...

KayBay,

Another option, re: USC, which really does have very strong funding and is under-applied to (i.e. a great "find" for applicants), is to send your favorite (i.e. representative) work, and see what happens -- if they accept you, they pass the "test," i.e. they're interested in your favorite work and willing to work with you on it. If you send "traditional" work you're setting yourself up, because if admitted they'll be expecting to work with you on a type of work you're less enthusiastic about. I think programs don't try to "change" applicants from the sort of writing that got them into the program in the first place -- they try to help them augment what it's doing and make it more effective at what it (and thus the poet or novelist or memoirist) wants to do.

Cheers,
S.

kaybay said...

Thanks for the advice, Seth. Are most programs open to styles other than their own, even those leaning towards a particular aesthetic? I've "heard" (and by that I mean I have read a post on this blog, hehe) that even Brown has traditional writers and Iowa has experimental-ish ones. In other words, is it okay to apply to a program because they're pretty dern awesome, regardless of supposed aesthetic? By the way, I'm beginning to hate that word...

Seth Abramson said...

KayBay,

Absolutely -- every program is far more diverse than its critics think. Iowa's poetry program was (I can say from experience) stunningly diverse. I'm sure USC is much more open than many think, and indeed often the range of a program's applications helps determine the range of its program cohort -- as USC gets more apps, it will almost certainly get more aesthetically diverse, and I'd wager they'll see a big spike in apps this year (though it'll still be a huge under-the-radar value for applicants).

Cheers,
S.

LA Falcon said...

Are there any thoughts on whether having an mfa in fiction vs poetry is better in regards to job prospects and prestige?

Seth Abramson said...

There is more or less no prestige to be had in having an MFA, period. Nor does the MFA assist one with job prospects, unless one has a lot of publications to go with it. As to non-teaching employment, the MFA mostly gets ignored except to the extent it suggests you're creative. The most valuable MFA degrees in such contexts--though it's all relative--are degrees from schools with strong reputations generally (Brown University, Cornell University, University of Michigan, University of Notre Dame, Washington University at Saint Louis, and so on). The only minor "prestige" bumps one might get in securing a teaching job would be with an MFA from either an Ivy, the Writers' Workshop, or maybe (at a stretch) Michigan -- and the genre should be whatever you do your strongest work in. Generally, poets don't care where you did your MFA; fiction-writers barely do, and fiction agents somewhat do.

S.

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

Any other nonfiction MFA'ers have a hard time finding good lit journals to publish in?

George Mason's "Phoebe: a journal of literature and art" (http://www.PhoebeJournal.com) is now accepting submissions, hosting a monied contest, and sporting a brand new website. Check it out!

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

Hello, everybody,

I'm new to the site and have three questions:

1. Approximately what percentage of MFA applicants per year get rejected from programs across the board? Just skimming this mailbag, my unscientific impression is that nearly every other poster talks about this process as if they're veterans to it. What are the odds, literally, of getting into any program at all? Any ballpark estimates at least?

2. If you are one of the posters here who applied to several programs before and got in nowhere or nowhere you found suitable, what was your "Plan B"? I know this is a personal question, but I myself am in the midst of drafting Plan B's, and C's and D's, and would like inspiration.

3. How important is previous publication to MFA admissions committees? I have never been published. Should I forget about applying to any, say, "Top 20" program?

And: @Robin, who posted a question about SFSU a couple of weeks ago -- it isn't a well-funded program, but if you have the money I have heard great things about it. I took a Gotham workshop class in New York, and my instructor Evan, an SFSU alum, was a wonderful writer who brought in as guest speakers many of his wonderful writer MFA friends:

www.evanrehill.com

Thanks, everyone.

L.G. said...

Seth,

I would like to address your comment above, as I think you might be underestimating the value of an MFA from a prestigious school when it comes to securing an academic job.

Like you, I have a degree from Iowa, and I can tell you that this degree helped me enormously in my path to becoming a tenured professor of creative writing. How do I know that my degree from Iowa played a factor? I know because, even as a young adjunct instructor, I was given the opportunity to teach creative writing when similarly qualified colleagues were not; I was also able to secure several one-year full-time visiting writing positions with only a few publications; and I routinely made it to the final rounds of tenure-track job searches without a book publication and was eventually even offered a tenure-track job (my current job) without a book publication. Moreover, I can think of at least four of my Iowa classmates who were also offered tenure-track jobs before they had a book. And in case you're assuming that I'm speaking to you from the "dark ages," I can assure you that all of these things happened within the past eight to ten years.

I know that the academic job market has become increasingly competitive--and you're right, it's very hard these days to get a tenure track job without a book--I do think that the prestige of the degree can be a "significant" factor. In addition to being on the market myself, I have also been the Chair of several tenure-track search committees for creative writing positions, and I can tell you from firsthand experience that applicants with degrees from places like Michigan, Iowa, Cornell, and so on, always caught my eye, especially if they also had impressive magazine publications. Having a book is always a big plus, of course, but it's not the only thing search committees are looking at. That is to say, they're not just looking at what the applicant has done, but also at what the applicant is likely to do in the coming years. In this way, a recent Iowa grad with publications in highly regarded magazines like the Paris Review or Ploughshares is often more attractive than a more seasoned candidate with maybe one or two unremarkable books. The reason is that with the latter applicant you know exactly what you're getting, whereas with the former there's the suggestion of "promise" or potential" for truly great things. And for a lot of universities and colleges, especially those in less desirable locations, there's something very alluring about the idea of securing a young writer at the start of his or her career, before he or she has become "big," so to speak.

Again, I am speaking only from my own experience, but I can honestly say that my degree from Iowa helped me at every stage along the way--from struggling adjunct to tenured professor--and though it wasn't the only factor, it certainly helped me get my foot in the door at times when I might have otherwise been ignored.

Finally, I'm sorry this is so long-winded, but I hope my comments have provided some insight.

FZA said...

@Maia
This is my first time applying. But in terms of a 'plan b'--- part of the reason I'm applying now is that I have a job, one that I like, that I can hopefully continue if things don't work out MFA wise. I think that my getting in is about 50-50 just based on what I have seen/heard from others who have applied and not gotten anywhere. I think that after a certain point the process really is sort of arbitrary. Though, the one thing I'm not sure about is whether I would try again. I don't think my writing will change/improve that much within a year. So my writing sample's quality will likely be the same. And I don't know that they're that many more schools I would want to go to that I'm not already planning on applying to this year. Of course, I won't really know the answer to that question until much later. And really I'm just hoping I get in this time around!

FZA said...

@LG
Thank you for your perspective. As someone who plans/hopes to teach, this is simultaneously reassuring and discouraging to hear. I'll make the final verdict in April.

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

L.G.,

Your point's well taken. And I'm not necessarily in disagreement. As I mentioned above, "The only minor 'prestige' bumps one might get in securing a teaching job would be with an MFA from either an Ivy, the Writers' Workshop, or maybe (at a stretch) Michigan." I think your experience is in line with this, though maybe "notable" rather than "minor" bump would have been more appropriate. I'm thinking more of top 20 programs whose grads might not see that advantage: Hunter? Brooklyn College? Oregon? Florida? Indiana? I'm more suspect of whether these pedigrees open many doors in and of themselves -- I suppose it would have been fairer to say that there certainly is a point at which, when one has attended a less well-known program, where one is going to be disadvantaged as compared to someone with a top 20-program degree. I just think that most situations are where one person went to Hollins, one to UNLV, one to American, one to Emerson, and it's like, who has a huge advantage here? No one, really, so the committees look at pubs (as they would do anyway). No one's getting a job because of a twenty-spot rankings differential, it's just that certain programs have a special history and track-record: Again, the Writers' Workshop, Michigan, Brown, and Cornell might be special situations, and perhaps one or two others (Irvine in fiction, for instance, or, increasingly, Texas in any genre).

S.

L.G. said...

Seth,

You're absolutely right. I don't think that prestige plays a major factor outside of Iowa and a few other schools, but I do think that if students are lucky enough to get into one of those schools, then they should recognize that the prestige value will almost certainly help them out, at least in the academic world.

I also think it's important to recognize the fact that the path to obtaining a tenure-track job is often a long and difficult one. Few, if any, MFA graduates are offered tenure-track positions right out of grad school. More often than not, they either enter a Ph.D. program, like you, or start teaching part-time at various universities, like I did. Putting yourself in position to be offered a TT job requires a lot of work, and of course a little luck. You need to gain some experience teaching creative writing on the college-level, you often have to take on one-year visiting positions, and you certainly need to gain a lot of experience doing MLA and campus interviews. And that's where the prestige factor of the degree can often be very helpful. It can help you get your foot in the door at some of the earlier stages of your career. Now that I have tenure and book publications, my degree from Iowa is far less significant to me professionally, but early on, when I was struggling to get my foot in the door, it helped me out again and again. And I think that's something that applicants, especially those admitted to top ten programs, need to consider. Not just the value of the degree in terms of obtaining a tenure track job, but also the value of the degree as they're trying to gain the type of experience they'll need to obtain a tenure-track job.

Nancy Rawlinson said...

New mailbag, plus some other posts, are up.

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