Applying, Interview
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So You’re Waiting to Hear Back from MFA Programs: Post Application Advice With Caitlin Neely

For the next two months we’ll be asking some of our first year contributors to talk about the post application period and how they dealt with it last year.

What did you do to get through the post application period?

I was finishing up my last semester of undergrad so my classwork helped distract me. Also, Netflix, lots of Netflix. I actually was terrible at getting through the post application period. I was constantly checking my phone and email. Draft was both helpful and unhelpful—some joy but also lots of anxiety and fear.

What’s the best piece of advice you received about applying?

To submit the poetry I loved and was interested in. At one point I was considering including a couple of longer, narrative poems in my sample. Most of my poems were short and lyrical and centered around nature. I was worried my sample didn’t have enough “range” and was too narrow in terms of style and aesthetic. Right before one of my applications was due, I was still debating on whether or not to keep them. My undergrad mentor told me point blank how silly it was to include poems I wasn’t in love with and wasn’t excited about. So I took them out and replaced them with poems that limited my range but were poems that I felt were stronger. I was much happier sending my sample out with them in it.

Biggest high? Biggest low?

Biggest high: The acceptances, the waitlists! Introducing myself to a program director at AWP, them recognizing my name, and telling me I’d gotten in. Getting waitlisted at UVA and then getting accepted at 4:00 AM three weeks later (via email, btw). Visiting Miami University, and getting to talk with professors and students at UIUC. It was a lot of fun getting to interact with different programs.

Biggest low: Seeing people on Draft get accepted into a program I loved dearly. I cried a lot and watched Legally Blonde and House of Cards to make myself feel better. And then I got a fully funded offer a couple of days later, and was eventually waitlisted at the former program.

What would you do differently if you could apply all over again?

I’d probably base my applications less on location. It’s important… but I also ended up leaving out some interesting programs.

Image: David Deutsch

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