It’s the Monday before Thanksgiving, and I’m sitting at LAX getting ready to fly out to New Orleans. We’re off to spend the holiday with my boyfriend’s family in Baton Rouge. The airport is crowded. It feels too early to be out among people, fighting for a spot in line at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. My eyes are gritty, and I can tell that no amount of caffeine is going to cut it when it comes to really, truly waking up. But on some level, all this shuffle and bustle is a welcome change.
Over the last few days, I’ve been living in a perpetual fog of writing sample edits, application submission checklists, SOP proofreading marathons and what I hope and pray aren’t too many LOR reminder emails. In airports and shopping malls across America, it’s the start of the holiday season. But for MFA applicants, it’s something else too: it’s deadline season, and we’re heading for the thick of it.
For me, the first deadline falls on December 1. That means I’ve spent the weekend getting everything in early so I can relax and enjoy my almost-in-laws’ company. After this trip, I’ll send in the rest of the December applications; then start the process over again to get my January apps in before I leave to visit family for Christmas and New Years.
In some ways, the decision to align graduate application deadlines with this always-busy time of year seems downright cruel. In others, it seems like a blessing in disguise. With so much to juggle—finishing outstanding freelance projects, soliciting new clients, planning for tax season, brainstorming ideas for new business growth in the New Year and somehow finding the time to see my mom and dad and their respective families, not to mention my boyfriend’s—the application process simply cannot take over my life. Sure, at the moment, it’s my top priority. But it also has to be streamlined and made to fit in with the rest of my schedule—and I’m beginning to realize that this is a good thing. That it is healthy. That we’re at the point now where logging on to MFA Draft on Facebook or reading endless articles on how to avoid application pitfalls can only do so much good. That now is the time to consult checklists and proofread personal statements and give those all-important writing samples one last pass with a red pen and a critical eye…and then hit “Submit,” exhale, and move on to the next application in the stack.
I don’t want this to come off blasé or careless or disengaged. Let me assure you: I’m just as nervous and excited and paranoid about screwing up or uploading the wrong file or learning just after the deadline that one of my transcripts has gone missing as the next kid. But I guess what’s different for me compared to the first year I applied is that, this time around, I’m thankful for life’s distractions. For the balancing act they force me to practice—one that, I’m sure, will be just as relevant should (when!) I find myself enrolled in an MFA program in the fall.