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2022 Creative Writing MFA Applicants Forum


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On 10/5/2021 at 7:26 PM, Leeannitha said:

Hey @Ydrl! If you don’t mind, what kind of reservations are we talking about here that got you to the point of reapplying to another program??
 

Good luck to you as well. I hope you find someplace that feels more like home. 

I'm not entirely sure if this will make sense, but most of your feedback and a good majority of what you learn comes from your classmates. I don't feel like I'm learning very much, and my feedback is only okay. Don't get me wrong, the people here are very nice which I appreciate, but my friends are nice, and I need to learn.

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Checked my email because I couldn't sleep – in for Fiction/Prose at St Andrews. In total shock. How am I supposed to sleep now!? 1a/0w/0r/12p

Don't need to worry about housing when I'm living in your head, rent-free.

So, I took a break from posting on here to check my email, and guess what I found in my inbox--an invitation to advance to Stage II of my application for poetry to University of Mississippi! I know th

Alright, let's get this party started. 

@mrvisser Last year Feral said you should stop being a fool by applying to only the top 10 schools. He said apply to 5 from the top 10, and another 5 that are ranked 30 to 40. There are many ways to characterize this. He is telling you to be realistic and rankings are overrated. Or he is telling you to give up all your hopes and dreams and accept your mediocrity. But the clock is ticking. Are you taking his advice? 

@Ydrl If we take away the sugarcoating, you are basically saying your classmates aren't smart enough. You are saying you want to leave school number 40 and go to a top 10 school. Your issue is mrvisser's issue. All I know is there was a post this week on draft. I was surprised by it. People there pretend to be so holy, but this time the veterans were telling a transfer applicant to lie about being currently in a program. Being already in an MFA certainly lowers your chances. You don't have a Hampshire transcript yet, so the lie would be smaller. This gal ain't no grand moralist. She can't tell you whether to lie.  

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On 9/22/2021 at 9:42 PM, panglosian said:

That helps a lot, thank you! Can you speak at all about the funding situation, or finances at large? I was skeptical about applying at first because a lot of people have been shafted in terms of funding in the past five years, and it seems fewer people have their tuition waived than they advertise. Is this true?

I've heard some things about funding that aren't great tbh. My friend had applied, gotten half tuition remission initially, but had also gotten into an Ivy league school for an unrelated degree so they went there. Halfway through their degree at that university, then UNH emailed them a TAship offer though they didn't send in any new material.

As for my full tuition remission, it's probably pretty uncommon. The classmates who have mentioned their funding to me (despite me never asking) have mentioned half tuition scholarships.

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14 hours ago, Mukhil said:

Alright, let's get this party started. 

@mrvisser Last year Feral said you should stop being a fool by applying to only the top 10 schools. He said apply to 5 from the top 10, and another 5 that are ranked 30 to 40. There are many ways to characterize this. He is telling you to be realistic and rankings are overrated. Or he is telling you to give up all your hopes and dreams and accept your mediocrity. But the clock is ticking. Are you taking his advice? 

Good to have you back. I have not changed on my top-10 stance (well, it's more like top-20). I have a good life here in Seattle, and it isn't worth leaving unless I have good funding and can live in a place I enjoy.

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6 hours ago, Ydrl said:

@mrvisser Despite everything that happened with last year's admission and forum troubles, you're back. I'm glad you're trying again.

Thank you. Ain't no thing. I probably won't try again after this year. If it doesn't work out I'll just keep working and living and give the traditional writing route a try.

Sorry that UNH isn't working out, and I hope a more preferable pops up this year.

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Hey all! Applying this cycle for Fiction! Looking at a few low-res programs and a few in cities I really like on the East Coast. 

Would love to know if anyone here has any opinions about The New School? I can't find any discussions about it...!

Applying to:

Columbia, NYU, The New School, Brown, Emerson, Boston University, University of British Columbia

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18 hours ago, Rm714 said:

@MukhilWell, it's definitely good to have a wide range. I can't believe the acceptance rates are that high at Columbia and New School; in fact, I doubt they are...I'll actually be adding a few more schools to my list, too.

They're high at Columbia because the school costs a fortune and offers little to no funding. They have more spots open and fewer people applying to those spots. Columbia makes little sense unless you're a trust-fund kid.

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@Rm714 Cady is a veteran, and she doesn't make stuff up. I doubt she knows Columbia's exact admission rate, but she has been around long enough to have a lot of data. Her estimate is the best evidence we got. Anyone who has been around one year has seen people who get rejected everywhere but Columbia, New School, and Emerson, which Cady calls the open admission, rip off schools.  @mrvisserrefuses to consider even school #11. He wouldn't go to Columbia even if it waived its $70K tuition and gave him a stipend.  

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47 minutes ago, Mukhil said:

@Rm714 Cady is a veteran, and she doesn't make stuff up. I doubt she knows Columbia's exact admission rate, but she has been around long enough to have a lot of data. Her estimate is the best evidence we got. Anyone who has been around one year has seen people who get rejected everywhere but Columbia, New School, and Emerson, which Cady calls the open admission, rip off schools.  @mrvisserrefuses to consider even school #11. He wouldn't go to Columbia even if it waived its $70K tuition and gave him a stipend.  

I wasn't trying to say she was making anything up - it just seemed surprising to me that an Ivy League would have such a high acceptance rate. This is my first admission cycle, so she very well may be right! 

It still seems like those schools have talented faculty and good programs, though, from what I have seen. Hm. This is definitely something I want to look more into...

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@Rm714Columbia is the most fraught topic with MFA Admissions. You'll see it come up a lot. 

Ivy league does not mean anything in MFA or Engineering land. 

Basically, schools build their glory in two ways: by having professors who write good stories, and by having alum who write good stories. Some schools use the first tactic a lot more than the second. The way to do tactic one is to get money to pay a salary. 

Take the top ten schools. They do a lot more of tactic two. They fully fund for instance. It makes sense that the top schools would rely more on tactic two. They have better students to work with. 

Now, take Columbia. It charges $70K tuition for most students. The rumor about Columbia is that the students don't get much time with professors. Basically, Columbia leans on tactic one more than any other school. Teaching is to get money for the faculty. Teaching is not to get glory from alum publication. 

Emerson and New School are the other big tactic one schools. (NYU slightly less so; it fully funds a small group, and charges the rest a scandalous price, though less than Columbia. )

And basically, the fully funded schools are more tactic two schools, the higher the rank generally the more they do tactic two. 

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@Mukhil Is the stance generally the same about Columbia? You mentioned it was a fraught topic; does that mean it is divisive in the MFA world? 

A mentor of mine went to Columbia, and is a fantastic writer with several publications. He suggested I apply, he benefitted greatly from the program. I'll have to try to talk to some current students to see if the rumor about professor time is accurate. Professor time is important to me.

The tuition is definitely scary to me. The idea of a fully funded program makes sense for a terminal degree, and it fits with the idea of investing into the students which obviously leads to better alum publications. 

A big reason I am applying to most of the New York City schools is because my partner is an artist. I don't want to move somewhere without opportunities for that. 

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38 minutes ago, Rm714 said:

I wasn't trying to say she was making anything up - it just seemed surprising to me that an Ivy League would have such a high acceptance rate. This is my first admission cycle, so she very well may be right! 

 

The Ivy League is a sports conference at the undergrad level. It means nothing more than that. There are also a number of colleges that "rank" better than the ivy league even at the undergrad level. And some are even harder to get into than the ivy league. Comparable schools to the Ivy League include MIT, Stanford, Chicago, California Institute of Technology, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, Vanderbilt and Washington University in St. Louis (WashU). All of the above schools rank better than one or more schools in the Ivy League. Additionally, acceptance rates at the undergraduate level differ from the Graduate level.

The top school for an MFA in Creative Writing differs but Iowa always ranks towards the top. In no specific order: Oregon, Cornell, Arizona State, Michener, WashU, Michigan, Brown, Indiana, Alabama, Wisconsin and Syracuse are also considered top schools depending on what your specific focus and writing style is. I think you'll notice that the majority of these schools are not a part of the ivy league.

It's common for members of the ivy-league sports conference and other "name brand" schools have higher acceptance rates at the graduate level because they often use funding from MA/MFA programs to fund their PHD candidates. A lot of these schools have no trouble selling their brand name for cash. Most people in the know are aware of the poor reputation that these schools that sell their names in this manner have. This is part of the reason why the acceptance rates are so high on these schools that offer no funding despite how well known they are. 

ETA: Any school worth its salt will fund.  Oregon, Cornell, Arizona State, Michener, WashU, Michigan, Brown, Indiana, Alabama, Wisconsin and Syracuse fund all their students. Some might fund their students better than others. But all will provide students with the opportunities to engage with their professors.

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@Rm714 

Well, here is the problem. The veterans like Cad and Jess, will invariably tell you that Columbia is a rip off and only has student who got rejected from all the top 40 schools.

But MFA land is a politically correct, safe space. So you get people who don’t want to ruin the day of the suckers who are paying Columbia $70K/year for a degree that has zero earning potential. The vast majority of MFA graduates do not ever publish anything or earn a dime from writing. And these noble safe spacers won’t let truth stand in their way. So they give a lot of fluff, claims that for the right person Columbia might be the best fit.

Here is another issue. Columbia used to be a lot harder to get into than it is now. Today, there are 40 fully funded MFA schools. Ten years ago there were much fewer. Back then, Columbia was not open admission the way it is now. Your mentor might not know things changed.

If you read Draft enough, you’ll rule out Columbia on your own.  It is inevitable. Columbia students are not the most objective source; they are a biased pool. I’ve never heard of a person who turned down a fully funded program in order to pay for Columbia.

There is another rumor that Columbia breaks down the class: the vast majority are paying something close to the $70K tuition. A few people are paying almost nothing, but no one really knows how much. And this funded group allegedly get more professor time than the rest.

New York City does not have any fully funded MFA school. My theory on that is rent/salaries are higher in New York. And every student wants to live in New York, so the schools have more leverage.  

@Leida There is one exception to your rule that the unfunded schools are all crap. Hunter is top ten. It waives tuition. It coaches the out of state students to pretend they are NY residents for the tuition waiver. But it doesn’t pay a stipend. How does a top ten school get away with no stipend? It is in New York.

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12 minutes ago, Mukhil said:

There is one exception to your rule that the unfunded schools are all crap. Hunter is top ten. It waives tuition. It coaches the out of state students to pretend they are NY residents for the tuition waiver. But it doesn’t pay a stipend. How does a top ten school get away with no stipend? It is in New York.

I personally would avoid applying to any school that doesn't fund its students 100 percent. Most people will walk away with a few publications from a few different literary magazines but most won't have a career in writing. It's just irresponsible for schools to expect students to write and not pay them a stipend while the students work further enhance the prestige of the university at large. Part of the reason the problem exists is because students keep applying to unfunded programs because of big names even if superstar professor is rarely on campus or hasn't taught in years. Hunter benefits from being in New York City, but I imagine that one could go even farther if they networked with the right people by being at the right place at the right time.

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@Mukhil @Leida Hm. Lots to think about here, for sure. Really, what I'm looking for is a good sense of community, and a place where I can hone my craft, since I learn best in academic environments. And this needs to not come at the cost of my partner's career. Which is why my options become significantly more limited. 

I'll keep a watchful eye on the Draft group. I will probably still apply to Columbia. I think my decision to apply to Hunter is more solidified, now, though! And I'll keep my fingers crossed for good results with applications from more funded programs. I am trying to cast a wide net.

Random other thought - I thought Jess goes/went to Columbia? Was she unhappy with her experience there?

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@Leida, you have a misconception of MFA schools. If a student becomes a tenured professor or is published in Best American Short stories, the school he graduated from benefits. Their reputation is aided. But small time bullshit publications, which is what most alum's will end up producing, benefits the school zero. It adds nothing to their glory. Most Columbia students contribute to Columbia only through tuition dollars. The fundamental problem is basically no one reads literary fiction, so there is no way to make money in it. This is why you have almost no writer making a living at writing literary fiction. Universities have to pay professors to write what no one wants to read. Columbia knows it is dooming most of its students to financial ruin, but artists should know that is what they are signing up for. There is no money in high art.

@Rm714 I don't think one school is going to have less of a sense of community than another. Jess goes to MFA Vandy, a top 10 school. She pretends she went to Columbia College undergrad, but she went to the Columbia School of General Studies. That is Columbia's money generating, open admission undergrad. (It is kind of like Columbia MFA.) This is the only area Jess misleads; otherwise, you can trust what she says. 

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26 minutes ago, Rm714 said:

Which is why my options become significantly more limited. 

If your goal is to be around NYC, there are ways of accomplishing that without needing to go to a school there and still benefiting from the city itself. Rutgers University - Newark is commutable and offers full funding. (https://www.pw.org/content/rutgers_university_newark)

If you're just interested in schools within cities that offer full funding and has relatively low unemployment rates, there's also:
Syracuse University https://www.pw.org/content/syracuse_university 
University of Pittsburgh https://www.pw.org/content/university_pittsburgh
Johns Hopkins University https://www.pw.org/content/johns_hopkins_university
North Carolina State University https://www.pw.org/content/north_carolina_state_university
University of Maryland (access to DC) https://www.pw.org/content/university_maryland
University of Houston https://www.pw.org/content/university_houston
University of Kentucky https://www.pw.org/mfa/university_of_kentucky
Washington University in St. Louis https://www.pw.org/content/washington_university
Vanderbilt University https://www.pw.org/content/vanderbilt_university
Ohio State University https://www.pw.org/content/ohio_state_university
University of Minnesota https://www.pw.org/content/university_minnesota_0
University of California in San Diego https://www.pw.org/content/university_california_san_diego

 

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So I thought I was going to be applying for both fiction and poetry, but now I’m thinking that my poetry sample is a lot stronger. Do you think I should go with my gut and not apply for fiction or spend the fees and the time doing it anyway in case I am just second guessing myself?

I’m not sure which I will regret more— not having tried to see where my fiction sample could get me or worrying too much about the fiction sample that my poetry apps suffer.
 

Any advice? Has anyone changed their sample significantly since first deciding to apply?  

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1 minute ago, Leeannitha said:

So I thought I was going to be applying for both fiction and poetry, but now I’m thinking that my poetry sample is a lot stronger. Do you think I should go with my gut and not apply for fiction or spend the fees and the time doing it anyway in case I am just second guessing myself?

I’m not sure which I will regret more— not having tried to see where my fiction sample could get me or worrying too much about the fiction sample that my poetry apps suffer.
 

Any advice? Has anyone changed their sample significantly since first deciding to apply?  

I haven't touched my sample, honestly. I finished it a few months ago, got good feedback, and decided not to overthink things by obsessing over it.

Besides feeling like your poetry sample is stronger, do you have a preference between fiction and poetry? Or do you just want to write both equally?

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2 hours ago, Leeannitha said:

 

Any advice? Has anyone changed their sample significantly since first deciding to apply?  

In my opinion, it depends on if it's financially responsible for you, and how much you can bend your budget if fiction means a lot to you, these things can get pricey. There are many colleges that will let you take fiction course work in addition to poetry. If that's what you want, just look for those schools that allow some amount of cross genre exploration (UNH does this).

And I'm still putting together my sample, will be going over the basic contents tomorrow, and editing it until mid November (except for Iowa which will be earlier due to mailing it in). I didn't know if I would have three recommenders until yesterday, but now I can start my applications way later than everyone else haha...

Edited by Ydrl
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@mrvisser I used to think of myself as just a fiction writer, but now I am also obsessed with poetry. My problem is that my fiction always needs to have a rhythm to it and my poetry is always narrative. I think I’ve realized that I like poetry just a little bit more right now. I might just take an extra fiction class like @Ydrl  said. I kind of forgot that was an option.

Thanks both of you for your help.

I am actually still writing my sample— ooof 😣. I am trying to just focus on what pieces make me the most excited and some of those are new. 

And yeah… I have only had communication from one of my recommenders. I think the other two will have to be from work (and I work in shipping!)

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42 minutes ago, Leeannitha said:

@mrvisser I used to think of myself as just a fiction writer, but now I am also obsessed with poetry. My problem is that my fiction always needs to have a rhythm to it and my poetry is always narrative. I think I’ve realized that I like poetry just a little bit more right now. I might just take an extra fiction class like @Ydrl  said. I kind of forgot that was an option.

Thanks both of you for your help.

I am actually still writing my sample— ooof 😣. I am trying to just focus on what pieces make me the most excited and some of those are new. 

And yeah… I have only had communication from one of my recommenders. I think the other two will have to be from work (and I work in shipping!)

It's still very early, so I wouldn't worry about where the sample is at this stage. Last year I submitted apps earlier than almost everyone and I didn't have my sample ready by this point. This time around I just happened to have spent the spring and summer working on a piece I'm excited about.

Applying to poetry doesn't seem like a bad idea. It's not like you'll be pigeon-holed into only writing poetry for life. Poetry is less competitive for apps at least! If you can get your poetry to be really beautiful and keep those narrative elements working, you'll be a strong novelist.

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