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So maybe this is a bit early, but I thought I'd give it a go! Hopefully this can be a place for us to ask questions & commiserate during this crazy process. Many thanks to all that commented in the 2020 Applicant Forum--I lurked for a long time, then finally decided to apply for this upcoming cycle. Your insight was invaluable and I hope that ya'll are doing well despite this very strange time. 

A bit about me: I'm twenty-eight years old and applying to mainly poetry programs. I went to a prestigious undegrad at 18, but ended up leaving due to outside circumstances. After taking several years off, I transferred and received my BA in English. I think that I'm ready to apply because I've had quite a bit of life experience and can say that I now fully know what I want in life. Besides student publications, I have two poems forthcoming in some small lit magazines and won a contest this spring. I'm currently interning at a poetry non-profit and helping to produce their podcast. Since most of the fully funded programs have a 2% (or less!) acceptance rate, I'm hoping this will help my chances. However, I hear that it mostly comes down to the writing sample.

 

My list so far looks like this:

Iowa Workshop (Poetry & Fiction)

University of Virginia (Poetry & Fiction)

Michener Center (Poetry)

University of Oregon (Poetry)

Vanderbilt (Poetry)

UMass Amherst (Poetry)

University of Minnesota (Poetry)

University of Washington (Poetry)

Still considering NYU, Brown and Cornell but it seems like those are some pretty big names. I don't think I could afford to live in NY, and I feel like Cornell is definitely 

 

Obviously please feel free to introduce yourself and ask questions! One question I would like to ask concerns the MFA Statement of Purpose. I have written a template--the last paragraph will be tailored to fit each program.  How personal should you get? Obviously the admissions staff doesn't want to relive our worst trauma, and shock value isn't always a great thing (especially if it doesn't relate to your work or the program.) However, we are writers. Our human experiences shape the way we craft narrative and may directly apply to the novel or book of poems we wish to write during that time. Could some folks who have already applied perhaps give some examples about what they wrote about? 

 

 

 

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Nice to meet you! Looking forward to applying to programs focusing on Fiction.

Thus far I am pretty committed to applying to: Iowa, Brown, and UMich.

Interested in gathering feedback from Alumni/Perspective Student on that Creative Writing Programs (Fiction) they hold in high esteem!

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On 8/8/2020 at 3:30 PM, teasel said:

One question I would like to ask concerns the MFA Statement of Purpose. I have written a template--the last paragraph will be tailored to fit each program.  How personal should you get? Obviously the admissions staff doesn't want to relive our worst trauma, and shock value isn't always a great thing (especially if it doesn't relate to your work or the program.) However, we are writers. Our human experiences shape the way we craft narrative and may directly apply to the novel or book of poems we wish to write during that time. Could some folks who have already applied perhaps give some examples about what they wrote about? 

An SOP should be less personal than a college admissions essay. This is a professional situation, so don't say anything you wouldn't be comfortable saying in a job interview. It's fine to mention personal struggles or marginalized status in passing, but remember that you're hoping to work with the people on the admissions committee. Keep explicit personal details to a minimum. You should differentiate yourself through your writing practice, not your life story.

Here's an example:

Good: "My writing draws on my personal experience confronting misogyny. It seeks to express... [insert theme drawn from lived experience]" 

Questionable: "My writing draws on my personal experience confronting misogyny. When I was an undergrad, I had a professor who... [insert deeply personal story here]"

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Round two poetry applicant here, still deciding on colleges for this round, though I’m most likely applying to these:

George Mason (hi @feralgrad), Virginia Tech, U Florida, Rutgers (Camden), U Maryland, U Minnesota, Minnesota State

Hopefully I’ll finalize my list by the end of this month (maybe I’ll add some colleges, or take some away). Also, I’ve made the decision to not apply to any of the colleges I applied to last round. However, much like last year, I anticipate freaking out about application and notification season again haha.

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Hello, 

Is there anyone applying to Canadian universities for a PhD in Health Sciences for 2021 intake? I am a Ghanaian looking to apply for a PhD in Health Sciences, 2021 however all the supervisors i have contacted in my field of interest in five schools are not accepting students. My research areas are HIV, adolescent sexual reproductive health, lower middle income countries.  I need some comfort or advise.

 

Thank you 

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13 hours ago, rl123 said:

Hello, 

Is there anyone applying to Canadian universities for a PhD in Health Sciences for 2021 intake? I am a Ghanaian looking to apply for a PhD in Health Sciences, 2021 however all the supervisors i have contacted in my field of interest in five schools are not accepting students. My research areas are HIV, adolescent sexual reproductive health, lower middle income countries.  I need some comfort or advise.

 

Thank you 

Hi, this is the place to discuss the MFA in creative writing. I’m not sure where the PhD in Health Sciences discussion is. I looked but I can’t find it, I’m sorry.

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2 hours ago, rl123 said:

Hi, sorry i intruded on your thread but i couldn't find anywhere to seek comfort. 

Thank you for responding and for looking. 

Wishing you the best. :)

I hope you find the comfort you’re looking for somewhere. And thank you, I wish you the best as well.

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On 8/12/2020 at 11:20 AM, feralgrad said:

An SOP should be less personal than a college admissions essay. This is a professional situation, so don't say anything you wouldn't be comfortable saying in a job interview. It's fine to mention personal struggles or marginalized status in passing, but remember that you're hoping to work with the people on the admissions committee. Keep explicit personal details to a minimum. You should differentiate yourself through your writing practice, not your life story.

Here's an example:

Good: "My writing draws on my personal experience confronting misogyny. It seeks to express... [insert theme drawn from lived experience]" 

Questionable: "My writing draws on my personal experience confronting misogyny. When I was an undergrad, I had a professor who... [insert deeply personal story here]"

Thanks so much for your response! I really appreciate it. One of the reasons I asked is because I hear a lot of conflicting information about the SOP, especially for Poetry MFA apps. I also noticed that some apps require a SOP as well as a Personal Statement, so I can see how the SOP overall should be more professional.  I feel like my identity as a writer is linked to my experiences as a bi-racial adoptee, which is what I want my first book of poems to explore. Anyway, this is all to say that your examples of good/questionable structuring were helpful!  

Random question, but what is your program going to look like in 2021? Are you doing remote learning? Hope you're doing well! 

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On 8/13/2020 at 12:44 PM, Ydrl said:

Round two poetry applicant here, still deciding on colleges for this round, though I’m most likely applying to these:

George Mason (hi @feralgrad), Virginia Tech, U Florida, Rutgers (Camden), U Maryland, U Minnesota, Minnesota State

Hopefully I’ll finalize my list by the end of this month (maybe I’ll add some colleges, or take some away). Also, I’ve made the decision to not apply to any of the colleges I applied to last round. However, much like last year, I anticipate freaking out about application and notification season again haha.

 

All of those sound like great choices! Our list looks different but I definitely checked out all of those programs, tho I don't know much about Minnesota State. However, I am apply to UMinn! Random question, but are you planning on sending GRE scores to them? I noticed that it's "suggested" but  not required, and since it's the only school I'm applying do that doesn't explicitly state that they don't want them I'm wondering if it's worth taking just in case. 

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So I know no one asked, but I have some advice from last year’s failed application season. For reference, I made the mistake of only applying to 4 top tier, fully funded, absurdly selective programs (Iowa, Cornell, WashU, Syracuse) and 2 other highly selective, fully funded schools (UNLV, VCU).

1. Research. This is something I did extensively last year, but Poets & Writers MFA program database is a wonderful tool. It lets you search by state, degree type, and by residency. So if there’s a state or residency you want to avoid then there you go. Personally, I went way too far and looked at every school in every state I wanted to live with all my specifications and kept logistics in mind. It was brutal, but it was worth it.

2. A good mix of schools. I know this may seem dumb, but I would try to get at least one school without a full funding guarantee in the mix. Last year I was turned off by the idea that my writing wasn’t worth a guarantee of being fully funded. There are schools that fully fund a decent chunk of their students without funding everyone fully. George Mason, for example, fully funds 70% of their students. If, for some reason, you don’t get into any of your top choices, you’ll have a better shot of getting in one of these types of colleges.

3. Spreadsheet. This is so much easier than referring to websites every time you want to know about final submission dates, important notes, and materials needed. You can organize by submission dates so you don’t end up losing track of a specific school.

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7 minutes ago, teasel said:

 

All of those sound like great choices! Our list looks different but I definitely checked out all of those programs, tho I don't know much about Minnesota State. However, I am apply to UMinn! Random question, but are you planning on sending GRE scores to them? I noticed that it's "suggested" but  not required, and since it's the only school I'm applying do that doesn't explicitly state that they don't want them I'm wondering if it's worth taking just in case. 

Nah, I’m not gonna take the GRE. I chose programs that didn’t require it because I really don’t feel like studying for it. I studied for a month and still felt like I didn’t know anything at all. And I always get super excited when people are applying to the same school as me, if we both get into UMinn I hope we have class together!  The GRE is typically used for university wide fellowships and scholarships, but if you’re applying to a fully funded program you probably won’t need those other scholarships anyway.

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On 8/16/2020 at 2:50 PM, teasel said:

Thanks so much for your response! I really appreciate it. One of the reasons I asked is because I hear a lot of conflicting information about the SOP, especially for Poetry MFA apps. I also noticed that some apps require a SOP as well as a Personal Statement, so I can see how the SOP overall should be more professional.  I feel like my identity as a writer is linked to my experiences as a bi-racial adoptee, which is what I want my first book of poems to explore. Anyway, this is all to say that your examples of good/questionable structuring were helpful!  

Random question, but what is your program going to look like in 2021? Are you doing remote learning? Hope you're doing well! 

I'm glad my response was useful! I agree that there's a lot of conflicting information, which I found very frustrating when I was applying. I've heard the SOP described as "proof that people will want to work with you," and I think that's the best thing to keep in mind. This may sound strange, but when writing my statement, I wanted to demonstrate that I had strong personal boundaries -- meaning that I could bring in an incredibly personal piece of writing without making the workshop into a group therapy session.

At any rate, I think it makes perfect sense to discuss your experience as a bi-racial adoptee, because you're already addressing it in your writing. And I’d be happy to look over your statement when the time comes. I’ll be popping in semi-regularly throughout application season.

This semester, my program is fully online. My GTA duties will be conducted remotely as well. I'm hoping for in-person instruction on the spring. Thankfully my program is 3 years, so the sacrifice stings less.

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Question for everybody: Do you ever try to explain what you’ve written, but sound like you’ve totally lost your mind? I tried explaining my most recent poem to some people (without making them read it) and all of them looked at me with blank stares. For reference, my most recent poem is about motherhood, reincarnation, and a Silkie Chicken.

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@teasel you’re still applying to Michener yeah? What’s the secondary field you’d do if you were accepted? I’m stuck between Fiction and Playwriting. I’ve written both, fiction for much longer, but I can’t say which one I’d want more.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hey friends! Joining this chat. I was originally planning to apply to English PhD programs but a combination of factors have led to me to deciding to pursue the MFA route or a combination of PhD/MFA programs for the upcoming cycle. My career plans as well as my desires align more with MFA route but I always thought I'd do a PhD because it seemed the most straightforward on paper. I feel like I'm scrambling to get stuff together as I just decided to apply so having support here is significant!

I'm applying for poetry and hybrid programs and looking to stay on the east coast or north/east coast.  

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On 9/2/2020 at 2:00 PM, riverbender said:

Hey friends! Joining this chat. I was originally planning to apply to English PhD programs but a combination of factors have led to me to deciding to pursue the MFA route or a combination of PhD/MFA programs for the upcoming cycle. My career plans as well as my desires align more with MFA route but I always thought I'd do a PhD because it seemed the most straightforward on paper. I feel like I'm scrambling to get stuff together as I just decided to apply so having support here is significant!

I'm applying for poetry and hybrid programs and looking to stay on the east coast or north/east coast.  

Nice to meet you! And you’ve come to the right place. I’m sure that this thread will be the same as last year where everyone was super supportive! I’m hoping I can stay on the northeast coast, so I could maybe travel to see my friends once in awhile, but knowing me I’m probably gonna end up anywhere else. Have you decided what schools you’re interested in yet?

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Hi guys! I'll be applying to masters programs waiving their GRE requirements, for this cycle at least. I'm looking to go into the bio/biotech field, so the intended program is pretty variable, therefore I'm mostly focusing on school location for my choices.

My list of schools so far, ranked in terms of where I want to go the most:

  1. Northeastern University - Biotechnology
  2. Boston University - Biology and Biomedical Engineering
  3. Tufts University - Biology and Chemistry/Biotechnology
  4. New York University - General Biology
  5. The City College of New York - Biotechnology
  6. Hunters College - Biotechnology

    So, basically, I'd want to end up in either Boston or NYC, but Boston more preferably.
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  • 2 weeks later...
On 8/24/2020 at 1:12 PM, Ydrl said:

@teasel you’re still applying to Michener yeah? What’s the secondary field you’d do if you were accepted? I’m stuck between Fiction and Playwriting. I’ve written both, fiction for much longer, but I can’t say which one I’d want more.

Sorry for the delay in replying! What a crazy year it's been... anyway, I am still apply to Michener! But I am a little concerned--I  know someone who recently dropped of of New Writer's Project (which has the same faculty essentially) and was told that there's some misogyny and other issues she encountered from a specific, rather well-known poetry professor. Anyway, it got me thinking. Still, I am planning on applying to concentrate in poetry, with fiction as my secondary field.  

Edit: I also wanted to add that a poem about motherhood, reincarnation and a Silkie Chicken sounds really interesting and compelling! I feel ya though--it's hard talking about one's own writing

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On 9/17/2020 at 8:56 PM, teasel said:

Sorry for the delay in replying! What a crazy year it's been... anyway, I am still apply to Michener! But I am a little concerned--I  know someone who recently dropped of of New Writer's Project (which has the same faculty essentially) and was told that there's some misogyny and other issues she encountered from a specific, rather well-known poetry professor. Anyway, it got me thinking. Still, I am planning on applying to concentrate in poetry, with fiction as my secondary field.  

Edit: I also wanted to add that a poem about motherhood, reincarnation and a Silkie Chicken sounds really interesting and compelling! I feel ya though--it's hard talking about one's own writing

It’s been a pretty awful year, for both personal and global reasons. And oh dear, I hope that professor isn’t the one I’m excited to work with...That would suck so bad. Misogyny is unacceptable in every context and I’m not sitting down and taking that bullshit from anyone, regardless of how highly regarded they are. And I was stuck between fiction and playwriting, but now I’m leaning towards playwriting and screenwriting. I can’t say the chances of getting into Michener are great, so more than likely I won’t have to deal with that professor.

And thanks, I’m glad someone finds it interesting (besides my professors who’ve read it) because my friends don’t really care about poetry haha. I really like the way it came out. And it’s super hard to talk to anyone who doesn’t care about poetry, I know it’s in one ear and out the other. I have to remind myself that my hard work and me as a person are separate. I put so much effort and care into each poem and when no one close to me reads it, it hurts.

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Hey all, I was a late-night lurker last year (still am, judging by the time on this post), but I decided to make an account, if only to provide one more cautionary tale and perspective.

Did all the research last year, fell in love w/ every place I applied to, as I am wont, knowing full well the odds were against me, but despite it all, I managed to get accepted into a fully-funded fiction program!
Well, sort of...

Due to the pandemic, I never got a call, just emails from one professor (who was very nice) letting me know that I was in--they wanted me!--but that everything was in disarray what with the country going to hell as it was. So, as the days of limbo dragged into just past the April 15th resolution date, I was eventually informed that the school had decided to cut their assistantship funding to only one person. And though I was apparently second in line, the first person accepted. I'm happy for them, though sad at how small their cohort may be.

Anyways. What with everyone working from home or considering career changes, I'm slightly (selfishly) worried that there will both be a giant influx of applicants this year combined with a tightening of budgets. That these previously reported fully-funded programs are no longer. Maybe not, though. Hope not. As far as I can tell, I may be the only one round here that went through such as this. 

So, I'm working a little in reverse here and will be applying to a bunch of mostly new, bigger schools that I didn't have the gumption to try last time. As pointed out, though, even those that are not listed as fully-funded DO fund some students. I'm not from this kinda academic world and didn't understand that the first time. So maybe there's some more hope. As long as we all keep working, writing, gotta believe there's always hope.

tl;dr: Got accepted last year, lost funding; trying again this year.
P.S. I think it's funny that the only place most internet people know about semicolons is through tl;dr

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8 hours ago, Graceful Entropy said:

So, I'm working a little in reverse here and will be applying to a bunch of mostly new, bigger schools that I didn't have the gumption to try last time.

I think this is a good strategy. I'd highly recommend applying to large state institutions this round, as they'll be more financially stable than smaller/private institutions. Additionally, if you're dead set on going this year, larger schools have more "non-traditional" funding routes. My university has a ton of TA positions in other departments (for example, I know someone who covered their tuition by working as a grading TA for a business course). I'd recommend getting in touch with students in your program of interest to ask about this sort of thing -- and how supported they feel by the institution overall. 

This will likely be a very competitive year, and strong research will give you an edge.

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Unfortunately, mine was a large state institution, at least to my relatively rural reckoning (around 21k students w/ 17k+ undergrads alone).

How would you go about even finding out who students are in the programs you're considering? Twitter is my best mode of communication w/ the literary world, but even then it can be hard to find those currently in a specific program. And from what I've seen with the few I know in those non-massive programs, things aren't going great anywhere. 

I'm also wondering, what does strong research mean to you? While I search out and gain cursory information about all professors in a program and their works--except for the major ones like Saunders, Kiese Laymon etc.--I can't possibly read all their collections. And SOPs really seem to only want a paragraph on the program, which doesn't leave for much other than an honest statement for how you might fit, as well as some personal flattery.

Oh well. Thank you for the commiseration all. Deep-end dives and good luck to everyone.

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And @feralgrad, thank you for the recommendation to see what other avenues of tuition coverage there might be. Obviously this spring was a bit of hell for all institutions, with everyone scurrying, but I often have trouble advocating for myself--or even knowing when I should. (My best effort? Saying: without funding, I will be unable to attend this fall.) It's good to remember that other solutions may be available. 

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