Thursday, March 14, 2013

Applications, Etc. Part 6

As we approach mid-March.......


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JR said...

I am also looking for advice. I applied to 10 top programs this year, and have so far gotten 7 rejections. I am, however, in at an honorable mention school with good funding. Would it be ridiculous to turn this down with the hopes that next year I can make it into a program I really love?

K said...

@JR and Contessa,

You know, I would ask the directors of these programs how they feel about your writing, if they haven't told you already. If it is in line with how you feel about your writing then that says something great. If it's not, then maybe you should think twice.

I spoke on the phone with a director of a program and he told me he especially loved one of my stories--the weirdest, but my favorite of my stories. I knew going into the application season that people would either get it or they wouldn't. He got it. That meant a lot to me and suddenly the program seemed like the greatest in the world, regardless of rank.

S.A. Rivkin said...

I want to just echo what has been said already. Got into a 20-25 program two years ago when I applied for the first time. Unfortunately I was one of the only members of that class not offered full funding. Didnt go. Applied for the second time around this year. Got in elsewhere with funding, but not that school. Not even wait listed there. It wasnt because I didnt accept that offer 2 years ago. I spoke to professors at that time and they told me to reapply. They encouraged me to.

This process is a crap shoot. One reader with biases can mess up your mean score and application chances at any school to which you're applying. Their is absolutely no objectivity in the process, so I wouldn't assume to automatically get in somewhere (no matter how talented you are) simply because you did this year. If you're in no rush to go to school, and you have enough emotional strength to go through another application cycle, then I say go for it. But do understand that nothing is guaranteed.

nairb454 said...


My personal opinion is that rankings do not even come close to my desire to go and engage in an MFA program right now. I think there are far too many variables that go into rankings, and too many personal preferences that go into whether or not you would like a particular school, for one to hold out for any of the 'top' schools. Plus, there's always funding, location, etc. In fact, when choosing where I wanted to apply, rankings were not really of the most important aspects of why I chose the schools I did. Prestige is great, but make sure it's truly the place you want to be.

S.A. Rivkin said...

two more cents:

The rankings change dramatically every year. Certain schools have jumped or fallen 15 spots in one year. It's so fluid that who knows where a school will be in 5 years when you're applying to jobs and fellowships. It only takes one big book by someone (alumni or faculty) to give a program notoriety.

Adonai said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nairb454 said...

Just so I can utterly contradict my rankings rant, what does a star symbol mean in the Poets and Writers Top 50 MFA Programs? for example, under selectivity rankings, some schools have been assigned actual tangible numner rankings, some dashes (which I feel means not in the top 50?), and some stars. Any clues on that?

Dylan Brown said...

Stars: honorable mention.
Rankings: best taken with a grain of salt.

Penelope said...

@nair "[star] (honorable mention); — (unranked)." So I believe a star means the school received an honorable mention in that category.

@JR and Contessa: I would say that the P&W ranking has a limited value. But I would also say that reputation, fellowship/job-placement rankings, funding, and networking opportunities have a huge value. If you're substantially more excited about the school(s) where you're waitlisted, or if you think the schools that waitlisted you are in a much better position to open up doors to you post-MFA, then I would say it's worth considering trying again next year. You give 2-3 years of your life to an MFA, and it will probably be the only MFA experience you have, so you want to be super excited about the program you accept. Some lower-ranked or unranked programs can still be wonderful, but if it's going to feel to you later like you settled - if you're always going to wonder if you would have been happier elsewhere - then that's going to make it harder for you to enjoy your experience. My advice would be: don't go somewhere you're not super excited about and don't go somewhere if you're concerned they can't give you the post-MFA options you want to have.

Unknown said...

I also don't mean to be discouraging, but taking a year to publish and improve your resume, so to speak, is absolutely zero guarantee of getting into a top program next year, even if it's a program that waitlisted you this year! Seriously.

It concerns me just how much focus is put on the rankings. They are a useful tool in many ways, but really the difference between a school 20 spots higher up on the list and another one, or an honorable mention, can come down to how many people reported that they were applying to said school. Based on how the rankings are created, it's really kind of ridiculous we all put so much weight on them -- but I also recognize it's also hard to try to shut out the black-and-white rankings in a process that is so incredibly subjective.

I think it would be a huge shame to turn down a good, fully funded MFA program because you heard "only" 150 people applied. If this program has the capacity to give you the time and education to become a better writer, then who cares how many people applied?

Plus, there is absolutely no way to know the quality of your cohort until you actually begin a program. Yes, it might be more likely you're in a program with superstars at a Michigan or Cornell than at a lesser known program, but guess what? I've heard horror stories from students complaining about their horrible or ruthless or unhelpful fellow students. You simply cannot know how it will go until you get there. And perhaps the students who chose to attend the fully funded but slightly less prestigious program for all the right reasons are exactly the people you need right now.

Go visit the school that accepted you. Wait for the waitlists to pan out. But don't let your insecurity about rankings mess this up for you.

Austin Translation said...


I would not worry about the quality of your fellow students. If you could end up there, there's a good chance that somebody else with just as much talent could end up there under a similar set of circumstances.

If you want to get a feel for what your workshop partners might be like, I would suggest heading to the program's 'people' page. A lot of schools that offer TAships have bios for their grad students. And of course, you should absolutely make an attempt to visit.

Contessa said...

Thanks, Alex, K, and everyone for your comments and congrats. I'm definitely going to wait as long as I can, but the school that made the offer is CGSR compliant so I have to notify them by April 15th. They're applying minimal, friendly pressure to let them know as soon as possible. I've published pretty widely and have a chapbook out that's been fairly buzzed about over the past year. I've done the book tour thing, AWP panels, etc, and I've had requests for a book length manuscript from a couple of pretty big pub houses. One of the schools where I'm wait listed teaches my book in a publishing class. Publications are clearly no guarantee of entry. I've put off the MFA thing for a long time and I'm at a point in my life/ career, where if I'm going to do it, I need to do it now. A big part of the appeal is just having the time to write more and sort of capitalize on whatever momentum I have going. I'm not sure it really matters how well known the program is or isn't unless, you know, it's Iowa. Which it isn't. Blah, first world problems, I guess. Thanks for listening.

Contessa said...

Also, I completely agree with all of you about the absurdity/ uselessness of the rankings. I only mentioned it as a substitute for actually naming the schools. They are all legitimately great programs though, with faculty and opportunities that appeal to me personally or I wouldn't have applied. That said, the school that made the offer has a lot going for it as well, and the writer on faculty there that drew me to it in the first place is really on my team. Talking this out with you guys has been really helpful. Thanks again.

Unknown said...

Got accepted to American today!

So far I'm 3/6, with 5 more to go.

New School
NEOMFA - Cleveland State


Brooklyn College

@Noel The New School called and then sent a letter.

Contessa said...

@Fancy Nancy. You're right, of course. I'm sure I came off like an ass when I said 'only 150'- it's a smallish number compared to the other programs, but they only accept 3 in each genre, so I'm sure the students there are just as on their game as anywhere else. That number has also doubled in the last couple of years, so I'm sure their submission numbers will only continue to rise. Anyway, thanks for saying exactly the things I needed somebody to say.

JR said...

Thanks to all for your advice and feedback. This community is amazingly supportive and I am very grateful to be a part of it. The program I've been accepted to, which I referred to in my previous post, is pretty unconventional, and I have some reservations about it despite funding... I recently found out that the grad students take classes with undergrads (had I known this earlier I might not even have applied) and despite being offered funding the process (including admitted students day) has felt rather impersonal. I guess I am just wondering, as an applicant on the younger side, if it is worth it to hold out for somewhere that 'feels right.' You've all given me lots to think about!

Unknown said...


Thanks a lot for the response! I'm guessing that I was not accepted since I have not received any type of phone call from The New School yet, and it seems a bunch of people have already received their acceptances. Darn, oh well.

Shank said...

Received the official no from McNeese today. A big blow. I had a dream last night that I they accepted me. I've been accepted one place thus far, sans funding, and I'm having a huge crisis of faith. I'm 34, and just returning to my writing, and I want to make it my life, but I'm scared without a little assistance somewhere, I might not be able to.

Had to vent. I don't know why I held out such hopes for McNeese, but their rejection has had the greatest sting.


S.A. Rivkin said...


I'm so sorry about McNeese. If its any consolation, the whole process (by its nature) is a crap shoot.

If you don't mind me asking, how did you get the rejection? Mail or email? And are you poetry or fiction?

SnackAttack said...

Been playing a drinking game involving New School acceptances posted here. Drunk dialed Kansas.

inandoftheworld said...


Congrats on your successes!

I feel the dilemma, but at this point, it's really all about fit. Ranking can't tell you that, and can in fact blind you from investigating aspects of a program that will make or break it for them.

I think if name is really important to you, that's one thing, and that's a reason to hold out. You don't want to go somewhere feeling like you rushed into it.

But really review the school that accepted you--it may be better for you than whichever school was ranked x points higher. And as Fancy Nancy said, you don't know what's in store for you with a cohort. Getting in somewhere selective does promise, hopefully, a certain level of talent, but that doesn't mean the converse is true. And personality can be as important as talent, honestly, and you could get a bad seed anywhere.

Talented people apply to the top-ranked programs; so do very ambitious, competitive people; so do people who have a very high level of confidence about their own work. None of the latter are bad, in and of themselves, but in programs with a lot of prestige sometimes these things can be fed until they turn negative.

I'm not at all saying the programs you're waiting on are bad or undesirable--I'm just saying it can go both ways, and you really have to do some digging to find out whether you'll thrive somewhere. At this stage a ranking would be pretty far down on my list, compared to things like location, department structure, interactions with students and faculty, opportunities outside of coursework, etc. These are the things, day to day, that will help or hurt you.

YMMV, of course--just my former experience as a grad student, which varies for everyone.

Terrence said...

I got accepted today for Fiction by McNeese. This is my third round for MFA programs, so it's a relief (and a shock) to get in.

Good luck to everyone, I've been rejected to everywhere I applied two times before, so I know it feels....

Jamie III said...


You sound like you've already had a wonderful career in writing. I wish you the best and hope you get into one of your top programs!!

And, not to play the guessing game, but...3 students in each genre, fully funded, CGSR compliant, on Seth Abramson's list of 25 underrated programs a few years ago...should the school that you've been accepted to perhaps be Boise State, as a very hopeful member of their waitlist, I am sending ALL of my good vibes your way to get off one of those other three waitlists. Good luck!!

Austin Translation said...

Has there been any fiction news from UNO, BU, or NC State?

S.A. Rivkin said...


And anyone else who has heard from McNeese,

How did you hear?

Dirtman said...

@LNL McNeese is notifying by email - I'm still waiting to hear as well. Good luck!

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

I've been periodically lurking here for a while, and I thought I'd share my tally (in fiction), since i'm all done this year:

UT (both programs)

Northern Arizona U
U of New Orleans

Thank you all for the helpful discussions here :)

G said...

Ah, @Austin Translation - I heard from UNO today via email. I haven't had a chance to speak with anyone yet though.

genealogy journeys said...

@Ann, any word from anyone else?

bipsy said...

I am always amused by people who get into programs and then question whether they want to attend them. If you didn't want to go to that program why did you apply there? This is not rocket science people.

Roberta said...


Congrats on your New School acceptance! I got the "yes" call from Columbia early last week.

And the "no" call from Hunter two days ago. Le sigh...

I'd love to go to Columbia, but I need to figure out how I can pull it off financially. And I wish I knew more about New School's program. That's a lot of money for a school that doesn't seem to have much of a reputation.

I just want to make the right choice. Why is this so hard?

Kind of thinking about trying again for Hunter next year...

Ann said...

@Genealogy Journeys...accepted at VCFA today. No word from WW. Are you leaning in any direction?

Jamie III said...


I agree that when applying you should only do so to schools that you would actually attend, but I also think that as you learn more about certain programs throughout the process (usually after having applied) sometimes what you originally thought was a fit actually isn't. For me personally, two of the schools I applied to (and thought were great fits) turned out not to be. Maybe that means I didn't do my due diligence, but who knows. I think it's important to find the right place, given that this will be the next 2-3 years of your life. And learning what attracts you to certain programs and what turns you off from others is all part of the process.

2gunjohnny said...

@Shank - Sorry for you NcNeese news - I got the same last night via e-mail.

@Terrence - Congrats on McNeese, your perseverance paid off!

@those still waiting to hear from McNeese - Hope you get a yes.

3 schools left to hear from and my plan B is looking more like plan A everyday.

2gunjohnny said...

@Alex Mack - want to confirm what I read - you are wait listed for Boise? 1. congratulations and 2. I wonder if that means I have another "no" lurking out there.

Jamie III said...

@Johnny. Thanks! Yes - recently received word that I was on the Boise wait list. I have still yet to hear from five schools, three of which I've already seen some acceptances/rejections so I assume I am in some invisible wait list limbo with them, and two of which haven't reported anything. However, would take a spot at Boise over any of them. Am really drawn to the program's size/faculty/location/curriculum/general approach to the craft. Keeping my fingers permanently crossed and hoping that the cards fall in my favor.

genealogy journeys said...

@Ann. Congratulations! I'm still in the throes of decision-making. I've talked to several people who have divergent experiences. It's confusing. Much about both programs are very appealing. Nothing yet from WW. Are you still set on Bennington?

Ann said...

Thanks, Genealogy Journeys. Turned in some missing paperwork yesterday and was called within a couple hours. Not sure if the two are connected, but I was happy to hear from VCFA.

I'm still set on Bennington. I've been a middle school teacher/admin for years and have zero background in writing. I don't have a writing community, other than a treasured mentor, so I've researched the schools a lot without any 'conversation' with peers. Bennington feels right to me. Something in me responds to it. The whole experience has been a dream.

No word from WW, but someone on this thread said his/her wife was alerted weeks ago.

Good luck with your decision. I don't think you can go wrong either way, and I'm sure you'll choose the one that's best for you. It's a good problem to have!

nairb454 said...

@Roberta, do you know if Columbia is all done notifying acceptance/waitlist?

Vanessa Flores said...

@nair I was accepted to Columbia last week (Tuesday). They are giving me till the 25th to make my decision, so I imagine those on the waitlist will hear after that date.

Contessa said...

@Alex Mack- No, sorry, Not Boise. Sorry to be so secretive, I come from a long line of paranoid non-sharing types. I just wasn't made for these times. Good luck on your wait list, though. I imagine there will be a little bit of movement there.

U of SC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Virginia said...

Ok, I'm breaking down and getting in the mix. For poetry...

Rejected from:
Wash U

Accepted to;

Wait listed at:

Confused by zero contact from:

YOUNG said...

for those of you who heard from McNeese... what genre was it for and what region are you in... this trickling hoopla is infuriating

Aging Writer said...

Anyone hear from UVA yet?

Aging Writer said...

Waiting to hear from MFA programs feels a lot like waiting for the birth of my first child - she finally arrived after 9 1/2 months of waiting 26 years ago tomorrow.

Maybe I'll be lucky again.

PS Happy birthday, baby!

John B. Burke said...


Heard from McNeese (fiction) via e-mail late Friday. I was wait-listed, if that makes a difference. I'd submitted everything electronically, so region may be immaterial, but I live in Florida for a few more months.

McNeese is my one already-heard-but-still-waiting school so far. In at Arkansas and two others; have not heard at all from three. It isn't just the slow trickle of acceptance or rejection and funding info that I find frustrating; these schools have the audacity to go ahead with their spring breaks as scheduled!

Best of luck, everyone.

Alyss said...

Have any poets heard from McNeese?

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

Have any poets heard from McNeese?

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

Can anyone point me in the direction of where to find information on applicants' rights? Like commitment deadlines etc...

Amanda said...

@Virginia - Is this helpful?

Dirtman said...

Still haven't heard from McNeese, though people apparently started getting notified on Friday. Anyone care to speculate on my chances?

2gunjohnny said...

Anyone have any other info about Boise - I know @AlexMack got wait-listed but any news of acceptances or rejections? - Lookng for Fiction.

hamchugirl said...

Still looking for intel on LSU and Iowa State re: nonfiction. FBers, anything? I'll send ya homemade brownies/blondies/lemon bars. You pick.

Moll said...


A friend of mine got an Iowa State (non-fiction) rejection around March 7-8. Don't know the mechanism. Hope that helps!

Ann said...

@Genealogy Journeys...any decision?

hamchugirl said...

@Moll -- thanks. I still haven't heard a word from them, and I know they sent out some fiction acceptances last week. Oh well. Winding down to decision time, and I'd sure like to tie up these loose ends. Hope all goes well for you.

HoraceQ said...

Has anyone heard from Irvine?

S.A. Rivkin said...

Irvine's website states that if you're not notified by March 25th, you weren't admitted. Wait lists, however, could be notified until April 1. I'm holding out hope as well...

YOUNG said...

@John B. Burke

thank you for getting back to me, though i still have heard nothing... my back up, if i dont get into McNeese is getting my MS in Industrial Psychology which I'm still waiting to hear on those schools as well. All this waiting is making me the epitome of anxious but its my first round for both so i shouldnt complain... i wish i got a spring break from life... oh well, there's always been winners and losers

John B. Burke said...


I hear you. I submitted a few applications last year and got no bites. This year I have options and love or like all of them. Who knows why these schools like my stuff and those schools didn't; I like it, so I guess these schools are better fits than those would have been.

I'd think twice about settling for the other degree (any other degree) if you know writing is what you burn to do. I'm 37 and only now coming back to fiction; I've written about sports more or less continuously since finishing undergrad ('98) and also practiced law for several years, but the whole time I was miserable and -- the worst part -- I always knew exactly why.

I won't pretend to have any special insight into your situation, but I can tell you my way of doing things, just kind of killing fifteen years, was dumb. Be better than that.

genealogy journeys said...

@Ann,yes, Bennington. How about you?

Ann said...

Congratulations! Same. :)

Dauntless said...

Hi, buddies. Has anyone heard anything about Arizona State University in Tempe? Has anyone else even applied there?

SnackAttack said...

If in the Boston area, take a break from the wait and hear Louise Gl├╝ck, Robert Pinksy, Ha Jin, et al. read at BU tonight. More info on dept. website.

Dauntless said...

Oh, SA. I wish you hadn't even mentioned that. I DO live in the Boston area, but I'll busy tonight seating people and busing tables at a chain restaurant.

I had some trouble navigating BU English's site. For anyone who doesn't have a shitty job, here's a link to the event:

Elsa said...

Received my "no thanks" from Columbia via email/check your admission status on the site [,bitch!]. Just now.

I'm [not] in love with her and I feel fiiiiiine!

Alchemy16 said...

I have a yes from Sarah Lawrence and Columbia. Poetry btw.

And rejections from Cornell, Syracuse and Stegner.

On the other side of the globe, I have a yes from East Anglia. Less money, greater repute etc.

NO clue what to pick.

Elsa said...

Right now choosing between Sarah Lawrence and New School. Unless Brooklyn says yes and gives me loads of moola. (Still waiting on their decision.) New School is probably winning just based on location.

Have any of y'all decided on your schools yet?!

HoraceQ said...

I'm choosing between Johns Hopkins and Warren Wilson. I also got into Columbia University and Pacific in Oregon -- so it's the battle between the low-res and the full-res.

I'm leaning toward Hopkins because of the stellar faculty, the pro-research mentality, and the full funding and stipend. WW of course also has a stellar faculty, but there is no funding available for me. A plus is that I wouldn't have to uproot my life; attending a full-residency program would turn my relationship into a long-distance one.

Still, going into $30K+ in debt...even with a full-time job, that is a difficult proposition.

Haven't yet checked my financial aid package from Columbia, probably because I'm not ready for that level of sticker shock today...

In any case, I'm glad I got in somewhere! My experience started with a stream of rejections, so I was losing hope. I'm fiction, btw.

Is anyone else deciding between a low-res and full-res? Last night was the first of many sleepless ones. There's something about the freedom of being able to live anywhere and still be able to pursue an MFA (while working one-on-one with a professor/author) that is appealing.

But on the other hand, actually having a school want to invest your writing...

K said...

@Horace Q

Seems like there's a lot of emotional math to calculate.

Personally I wouldn't give up a fully-funded full-res for anything. About your relationship,I guess it depends how far is far. At least Hopkins is only two years instead of three. If I get off the wait list I'm hoping to I will be moving two hours away from my boyfriend of four years. He's not happy about it but some people commute to la, nyc, and chi for two hours each way every day so it's all perspective.

letters said...


Don't know where you are located, but if I were you, I'd visit JHU (major congrats, by the way) and see how you feel in the space, city, campus. There are rumors of cw departmental isolation and tension against the rest of the hopkins "way", but it seems like the easiest/most obvious way to tackle that is to feel it out first hand.

Good luck! Congratulations again!

Dirtman said...


First time applicant, only accepted to CUNY Queens out of five schools.

I've connected with a current MFA student who has nothing but good things to say about the program (referred to me by program director, so of course); especially attractive is the network of CUNY students / faculty, as well as the location. Campus in Flushing, Queens, NYC is basically a commuter campus, but MFA students are stilla tight knit group. Approximately $20k in tuition for a two year program, with possibility of a professorship in second year. Student indicated high ambitions among peers as well as strong post-grad job placement at universities, small presses, etc.

All things considered, the program sounds great but the expense is significant - especially for a non-professional degree. Should I wait and go through another application cycle, or just go for it? Thoughts, anyone?

Jason said...

OK, so I accepted at Ole Miss a few hours ago. I've learned that the Poets and Writers ranking only means so much when you get down in the trenches with this offer versus that offer, this group of people in this town vs. that group of people in that town. The nearly-final results, applied in Fiction:

Indiana: Rejected
Alabama: Accepted
Ole Miss: Accepted
Virginia Tech: Accepted
McNeese: Waitlisted
UNLV: No word

I called Indiana today to get my rejection from them over the phone. The admin girl graciously checked the list of their waitlisters and acceptees, and let me know that I wasn't on it. I did this so that I could officially accept at Ole Miss knowing that I had all my options in front of me.

Ole Miss is offering a stipend that beat the shit out of everyone else I applied to, plus Oxford is cool, so it's off I go. McNeese waitlists should be out by email, I got mine from Griswold 4 days ago. UNLV, who knows what their deal is. Congrats to everyone who got in, and anyone on Virginia Tech, McNeese, or Alabama's waitlist, a spot will be opening up by the end of today.

YOUNG said...

@John B. Burke

i hear you... i shouldn't have said backup... im not sure what it is but, thank you for the advice nonetheless... i am 27 and have made a series of bad decisions that i'm still trying to recover from... turns out i was accepted into an I/O program today but i do think i will take a year to determine what it is i really want, try and get over this cognitive dissonance thing ive mastered so well...

wish i would've heard something from McNeese however, good or bad

@Dirtman did you ever hear from them, get that email?


Hello! I've been reading this blog for weeks, and so I guess I'll finally join the fray.

I'm a first time applicant for poetry.

New Mexico State
UNC Wilmington
(waitlisted for funding for both programs)

Ole Miss
Arizona State

Now, I don't know how legal this is, but a very sweet, awkward man from New Mexico called to tell me that I was at the top of the waitlist for funding (which is exciting), but NMSU is still the program that I know the least about. Anyone out there with any insight on the program outside of what I can find on the NMSU website? Help!

Thanks, y'all!

Mango Nebula said...

@Brett Zelman - I got into San Fran State University. What do you know about their writing program?

R.T. said...

Affording the MFA is a free resource on programs that fully fund all students equally!

Theatre Geek said...

If you haven't heard from McNeese, you didn't get into the program. I called John Griswold. He finally returned my call. All acceptances have been sent and people have accepted and filled any open positions.

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