Sunday, February 21, 2010

Rejection Road: First MFA Responses

Got my first two responses from MFA programs - a rejection from top choice Austin on Friday, and another from the University of Wisconsin the Friday before that. Even though I have seven more applications pending, I am predictably more nervous now about my prospects of getting into any program at all. Just gimme one in the bag so I can calm the F down!

At the very least it has spurred me to begin formulating -- if only for the psychological benefit -- a Plan B that I can live with, in case I get into none of these programs.

One detail included in the note from Wisconsin that surprised me that was surprising is that they received over 600 applications, for six spots!  Less than a 1 percent acceptance rate. Wisconsin's MFA program is unusual in that it only accepts applications for fiction every other year, but I wonder how much this reflects the economy. Did the recession inspire everyone to become a writer?

These responses from schools arrived much earlier than I anticipated. Some how I got it in my head that answers would come starting mid-March and through mid-April. But Seth Abramson's generous application response time database -- which helps one estimate when they'll hear from various MFA programs based on their response times from last few years -- tells me that I am actually more likely to get most of my responses between now and mid-March.

It seems Indiana University is already making acceptance phone calls, but according to the discussions raging over at the MFA Blog (over 4,000 comments in the last two weeks!) Indiana hasn't finished their selection process either.

I may very well hear from UMass-Amherst and Michigan this week. Brown and UC-Irvine in mid-March. UVA will probably come last in late March.  And Florida's past response times were all over the place, so who knows?


AshleyM said...

O no! Don't be discouraged...even if you don't get into any of your top grad school choices, you've already written a wonderful novel (well, from what I've seen of it anyway). And THAT's what makes you a writer!

spurkalurk said...

hey there,
i've been following your posts a bit. i applied to similar schools (fiction), and got my first rejection today (UMass)...then i read the comments on the MFA blog ( and saw that most acceptances for the schools i applied to have been received by now. looking pretty grim.

maybe you didn't get the letter from UMass (mailed Feb 26th) and you got a more inviting phone call. i hope that's the case! and though i don't know you i wish you the best with the rest of your schools; i'll be checking back to see the final results :)

Jim Cooney said...

Thanks Spurkalurk, my brother (sister?) in arms. I got my official UMass rejection today too, though I saw a few days ago that my status online was "denied."

That's three official rejections, two presumed, and four pending: Brown, UC-Irvine, Florida and Virginia. Best of luck to us both, eh?

spurkalurk said...

Waiting for things you want is tortuous. Examples:

-waiting for parents to wake up on Christmas morning
-waiting forty minutes for a rhubarb pie to bake and cool
-waiting in line for the Crazy Swings Ride at the Annual Montgomery County Greek "Opa!" Festival.

Yet, in the past week I have learned that waiting for things you DON'T want (e.g. "assumed" rejection letters") is far, far worse.


Anonymous said...

Hi. Sorry to see you are going through this. I am in pretty much the same boat. I really had no idea how competitive this would be. But one of my recommenders basically acted as if
I was definitely going to get into my top choice (Michigan). Well, I have been rejected by Michigan. And Wisconsin. And Syracuse. And, today, Cornell. I have given up hope four my last 4--Va Tech, Fla, LSU, and Indiana. Worse, I had a great plan B that just fell through the other day. And unemployment runs out in June.

BTW--I read somewher that the economy DId inspire a lot more applications. My attitude, though, was: how good could these other-wise not-focused on an MFA people be?

The way I am trying to cheer myself up is to read blogs of those who have received their MFAs and are still as lost as we are. Which seems not nice, of course, but reminds me that the MFA might not have been the answer anyway.

Good luck,
Mike in Brooklyn

Jim C. said...

Thanks for writing Mike. Sorry to hear you're in such a tight spot. Bad enough to endure the sting of rejection without these other pressures mounting. I'll be hoping that one of your remaining four turns to gold. Do let me know if you think of it.

And yeah, while I would like to think an increase in application numbers has a lot to do with my lack of success, I came to the same conclusion that the additional, recession-induced applications probably don't represent top tier candidates. Thus, they merely add to the total number of applications and not necessarily to the level of competition.

Melissa Soderquist said...

Hi Jim,

So I'm wondering...How many people does Florida accept into their MFA program? And what do you actually do in an MFA program? It seems like a broad generalization to group all the fine arts together. Are you writing all the time?

And for all of those rejections...Just think, if you had made it to Austin or some other place like that, you never would have gotten to teach all of the wonderful freshman at UF!

-Melissa Soderquist

Ink and Beans said...

Melissa: Usually UF accepts 6 fiction writers per year, although last year (my year) they only accepted 4 due to budget constraints.

And believe me, I couldn't be happier about where I've ended up. If I'd ended up at Austin, I wouldn't be teaching at all, which I'd considered an advantage before I came here --- now teaching is one of my favorite parts! Go figure.