All posts tagged: statement of purpose

Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now?

Image: Beat Tschanz Every summer hundreds of newly accepted MFA students box up their books, gas up their cars, and make the trek to programs across the country. It’s a sort of crisscross dance with writers zipping off to places they’ve never been before, or, have only briefly visited. More often than not, things work out—we endure the foreign weather and different accents; the local charm either grows on us or becomes grist for mill. But sometimes, for any number of reasons, things don’t go as planned and a change is in order. In my case, I had received tuition remission, but no stipend. I was working full-time for minimum wage in an expensive city, which in many ways defeated the whole purpose: more time to hone my craft and build a community. That fall, I applied to another round of schools and received an acceptance phone call outside the door to that week’s fiction workshop. No one else knew, but that didn’t stop me from feeling incredibly awkward. But transferring shouldn’t be the faux …

How I Wrote My Statement of Purpose

Hey, Cady here. Just want to let you know I read the message boards. I’m active in one Facebook group for applicants, and I help moderate another. I am aware that every last one of you is panicked about the statement of purpose. I’ve been known to show my statement to people, but that’s not what I’m going to do here. I know this is a strange thing to say about a document that I sent out to a bunch of strangers at one point, but it’s personal. What I’m going to do instead is more helpful to you. I’m going to break my statement down paragraph by paragraph, giving instructions on how to write one like it. There are even quotes! Let’s go. Paragraph 1: 164 words My opening sentence was “I write stories about women, class, and power: which women have power, which don’t, how women and men negotiate power, and what the consequences of that power distribution are.” I then proceeded to explain why this topic interests me and to mention how it relates …

Crafting a Beautiful Statement of Purpose

My own Statement of Purpose for my MFA applications was groomed better than my own hair, and it was all structured around a conversation with one of my undergrad professors. “Gillian,” my professor told me, “The SOP does not solely determine if you’re accepted to a program or not—we put far more emphasis on the writing sample and the letters of rec. The SOP is used to determine if the candidate is a jerk.” I thought about this for days. How could I write a strong SOP that told the world that I wasn’t a jerk? What did I want my SOP to stand for? (Also, what did I stand for?)

Gillian Douple Introduction (Columbia College Chicago ’16)

The chronic bad dreams started when I was 17. They continued for the next seven years all the way to last night, where I had a dream that two of my family members died on the Fourth of July. During my years as an undergrad, I had much of what my father calls “exam dreams”—that is, the genre of dreams where you suddenly are forced to take a huge, future-determining examination you haven’t studied for (and maybe you’re naked, too, just to spice things up). During my volunteer year at a soup kitchen, some mornings I would wake up with bad dreams blending with the calling of the homeless three floors beneath my window, which had me wondering what was actually real and what was a dream. And while working and traveling through Europe, whether sleeping on some stranger’s floor, in a hostel, or in my tiny caravan, I would get complaints that I kept talking in my sleep. The dreams were just as bad as ever, and they ranged from me bleeding out pounds …

Lauren Westerfield Introduction Post, Applicant ’15

Note: Throughout the 2015 application process, we will be following and featuring writers who are currently applying to creative writing programs. This fall marks my third foray into MFA applications. By the time I submit the last batch of samples, transcripts, tears and hope, I’ll be thirty. I’d like to think there’s something auspicious about all these “3’s” — that they signify manifestation of dreams, maybe, or even good old-fashioned luck. But looking back, I’m mostly just grateful: for the false starts, trials, errors and confusions of the past two cycles that have landed me here, finally ready, finally clear on what I want to explore as a writer and how an MFA best fits into that dream. Of course, there are those who think it’s crazy, applying three years in a row. Those who, in the thick of their first “draft season,” take to Facebook with a chorus of, “how does anyone ever do this more than once?” and “I would never survive the stress.” If you are or have been one of these folks, …

Researching the MFA

Image: astronomy_blog When you’re applying to MFA programs, research is your best friend. Taking the time to figure out what you want out of a program will help you narrow down your list, find places you love, and maybe even keep your application costs down (it can get expensive, believe me). There are a myriad of things to consider when you’re compiling a list: What’s your desired program length? Do you want to teach? How much do you want to teach? Do you want to be able to take classes outside of the creative writing department? Does location matter? Do you want to do cross-genre work? Are you interested in a specific cohort size (large, small)? And on and on and on… that’s why it’s helpful to ask yourself these questions early on. While I was finalizing my program list I created an Excel document that contained all of the application information for each program. I was better able to keep track of deadline dates, sample lengths, which schools had received my recommendation letters, and everything else. I’d recommend …

Minda Honey Introduction (University of California, Riverside ’17)

Hi. I’m Minda and I’m three months away from completely changing the direction of my life. Again. Won’t you join me? A year ago, I wasn’t doing so well. I was (and am) in a city I hated, I had just kicked my relationship with my neighbor cold turkey (Mr. Rogers could have saved me had he done just ONE episode on appropriate neighbor relations…), I had practically no friends and the end was not near. I was committed to being in this city for at least another 11 months. I felt helpless. Feelings of helplessness led to lots of lying in bed and staring at my ceiling painted in that perfectly neutral shade luxury apartments paint everything in. It meant fighting the temptation to walk down the stairs and up the block to the liquor store on the corner, but thankfully when I kicked my neighbor; I kicked many vices by association as well.