First year, Interview
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So You’re Waiting to Hear Back from MFA Programs: Post Application Advice With Devin Koch

Image credit: Moyan Brenn

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?

That anxiousness you get after you’ve sent your applications in is always present. You’re waiting to see if you will be potentially moving across the country. That kind of news is huge! The key to surviving is diverting that anxiousness by keeping busy. I was lucky enough to be working full-time after I was done with my applications. I was one of those people who constantly checked the MFA Draft and Gradcafe. I got so obsessive that I ended up leaving the Draft and then requesting to get back in (multiple times). To those admins on the page, I’m truly sorry! For the post application period, I did mainly stress-free things: I read books, worked at my job, watched reality TV and spent time with friends. It was definitely my escape.

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

I know it’s been discussed multiple times, but I think it’s something that needs to be stressed. Don’t be generic or what the kids are saying these days basic. This applies to your cover letter and even your writing sample. Take risks. If you give the typical “I’ve been writing since I was four” story in your cover letter, there will be eye-rolls that are sure to follow. Instead write a concrete example or relate a personal experience in detail about what pushes you to write. Show yourself. Even in your writing. The professors in the program are going to be working with you for the duration of the program. If they have a sense of who you are and what you can offer, they will get excited!

Also, don’t be afraid to use other people as resources! Talk to those who are attending or have been in an MFA program. Talk to English professors that you’ve had. They’ve been a huge help to me! For me, my professors have a great grasp on my writing style, so they informed me about programs in which they thought would be a great fit!

Biggest high? Biggest low?

My biggest high would be my wait list at Minneapolis. It was the first news I’d received with the pool of programs I’d applied to so it made me excited to hear from the other schools. The biggest low would be the rejections of some of the programs I received from schools that aren’t considered to be as “prestigious.” It just shows the subjectivity of programs on who they select and what they are apparently looking for.

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

If I could do it all over again, I would have taken the GRE. I’m one of those cheapskates who decided otherwise. There are amazing programs that don’t require it but the GRE would have allowed me to cast a wider net when applying to programs. There were some that I would have definitely applied to if I had taken it.

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