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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Very Special Christmas Blogging!

With Christmas verily nie and the universities I’m applying to closing shortly (the employees have already shut down) I’m settling in for my long winter’s nap.  With seven applications submitted and four to go, all of which aren’t due until January 15, I’m pretty okay with this.

So as pertinent and actually on-point as this blog has been over the past few weeks, I’m taking a break this week from writing, thinking, or doing something about grad school applications.  It’s a good thing.  So for your yuletide pleasure--and mostly mine--here are some occasionally deep thoughts about the holiday season;

 *Nobody ever wants pants as a gift, even if they need them.  Giving someone pants for Christmas is like saying, "I was too lazy to consider what you’d really like and felt too awkward to just give you money so here are some slacks".  It’s Christmas; get over the awkwardness and give the money.

*I wish Michael Buble and Justin Bieber would just get it over with already.  This is worse than watching Ross and Rachel.

A forbidden love... because the Biebs is a lesbian.

*Traditional eggnog is a wiley beast.  Copious amounts of dairy and alcohol mixing together in one’s stomach, usually over the duration of a party, sounds like a reasonably horrible idea.  So much for reason, right?

*If Santa is real, why doesn’t anyone look for the reindeer turds on the roof?  Every other animal can’t seem to walk ten feet without dropping some coal into the stockings so how are we to believe that these deer can go a whole night keeping it to themselves?  If I was a good little gentile boy or girl, I’d be up on the roof December 26th looking for what didn’t come down the chimney—click, click, click.

*Apparently it’s only cool to wear sweaters during Christmas season and Cosby Show marathons, so get your fill now because I haven’t seen Rudy and Theo for a while now, unfortunately.

Which is better?  Can there really be a loser?

*Stop trying to make Hannuka happen.  It’s not going to happen.  The only people who Hannuka is a big deal for are christians and commercial retailers, trying to assuage their guilty consciences for ramming Christmas down our collective throats or trying to find way to turn the jews into buyers during December.  I’m not even entirely sure that Hannuka is a Jewish holiday!  Sure, I learned about it in Sunday School, but really, I have skepticism. 

*Is there anyone that does not think “Do They Know It’s Christmas Anyway” is a piece of condescending, ethnocentric crap?

*The Muppet Christmas Carroll is the greatest Christmas movie of all time, hands down.

I'll take suggestions for runner ups, but you look into those felt faces and tell me they aren't #1.

*Wish everyone 'Merry Christmas' because it shows that you care (how horrible, right?) and it's the only holiday that anyone cares about this time of year--seriously.  Not sure?  Feeling guilty?  Experiment Time!  Wish jews Happy Rosh Hashana in the fall while wishing christians a Happy St. Eusebia Day and see who cares about which holiday.  Go!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The End is Nie-ish

Let’s let the application counter roll over to five.  Six more apps to go.  As per usual, I’m behind my targeted pace, but I run on the ‘Speed Limit Theory”.  If I set my goal as submitting six applications in a week, I’m not going to reach six, but I’ll hit four or five where I probably would have only hit one or two if I had set my goal as four.  The results speak for themselves.  By the by I have to attend driving school this weekend because of a speeding ticket I received so perhaps the Speed Limit Theory only works well in the theoretical, and not so much in the practical. 

You'll go 35, but not 45.
Now that I’ve developed templates for most of my application items—statements or purpose, curriculum vitae, writing samples—the remaining applications should go relatively smoothly.  I just submitted my app to the one MA program I applied to, which required altered variations of everything that is designed for MFA applications, and I’m about done crafting those items for the Creative Writing and Environment MFA I’m applying to (the big difference there is that I insert the words “conservation” and “wild fire” in regard to my AmeriCorps experience about a dozen more times each).  So now, relatively smooth sailing as long as I stick relatively close to that Speed Limit.

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ll mention it again now that I’m seeing this ploy come to fruition.  In each application that you mail in, include a post card, thank you note, some small, free-standing, pre-stamped, self-addressed piece of mail that thanks the program and then asks them to mail it back to you to confirm that they’ve received everything for your application.  It provides you with some peace of mind when you get it back in the mail and keeps you from clogging the program’s in-box with paranoid e-mails about the status of your application.  It’s also a nice gesture that shows the program that you care and sets your app apart form others—maybe the biggest obstacle to achieve with any application. 

I also paper clipped a few photos that I took while in Joplin, MO to my article about the tornado that struck the city last spring.  A little showy and glammy?  You bet, but it's an attention-grabber.  No matter how good your stuff is, if the reviewer is indifferent or comatose when reading your app, your stuff is going to be perceived as mediocre, or maybe not even looked at.  It sucks and is unfair, but that's life and thems the breaks. 

I still have six more apps to submit and miles to go before I sleep.  Robert Frost must have been applying to grad school to when he wrote that little poem.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

In the Midst

Four out of my eleven applications have been submitted.  Seven more to go.  Based on past experiences, I know it’s way too early to pull out the champagne and light the cigars, but still, damn.  Woot.

Some apps are submitted online, and though clicking ‘submit’ is sort of satisfying, it’s the ones that require physical copies, the ones that you package up and drop off at the post office that truly offer that sense of accomplishment.  It’s like dropping off a letter to Santa, letting it slip through the mailbox slot, turning away and knowing that you’ve written your best list and most convincing letter of appeal.  Now it’s all in Big Red’s hands and out of yours.

Dear Santa Grad School, please love me.
With multiple applications—particularly with eleven—it’s easy for the whole process to become chaotic.  I’ve already hashed and rehashed—painfully—all of the minor and not so minor differences that run from one application to another; length of statements of purpose, inclusions of curriculum vitas, etc.  And though completing these sundry items is rough, keeping them organized can be worse. 

Throughout my entire application process I’ve kept a separate document detailing the requirements of each program’s application—a checklist with phone numbers and e-mails I can use for help.  Without it, I’d just be toggling back in forth between admission guidelines pages and probably absolutely getting things mixed up.

Then when it comes time to actually submit an application—if it requires a hard copy mailed in—you can print off this checklist and label it as a “Table of Contents” listing all of the items that are included in your package (writing samples, statements) and all the required items that the program should receive separately (GRE scores, academic transcripts, letters of rec). As confusing as it is for applicants dealing with 5 to 10 to 20 applications, each school has to deal with 100 to 200 to more applications and when they mix an application, that applicant is simply dropped without remorse.  So the more organized and reviewer-convenient you can make your app, the better—for you and them. 

I still have seven more apps to go and hopefully I’ll get in another two this week.  If I do that then the remaining five aren’t due until January and I'll have some breathing room, not that I’ll be using it. 


Table of Contents: Launchpad McQuack

List of application items included in this package
1.)  English Department Applicant Form
2.)  Statement of Purpose
3.)  Curriculum Vitae
4.)  Writing Sample (26 pages total)
a.      My Drugged-out American Dreams (personal essay, 13 pages)
b.     Storms of Humanity (article, 13 pages)
5.)  Letters of Recommendation (signed and sealed before I received them), from;
a.      Writey McWriterson
b.     Recommedra St. Recommenderton
6.)  Pre-stamped, self-addressed Thank You card to be mailed back to applicant to verify that all materials were successfully received

 List of application items that should have been received separately from this package
1.)  Online application
2.)   (2) Letters of Recommendation mailed from:
a.      Dr. Sues
b.     Bill Shakespeare
3.)  Official academic transcripts from State University sent to:
a.      Department of English
b.     Graduate School
4.)  Official academic transcripts from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizzardry sent to:
a.      Department of English
b.     Graduate School
5.)  GRE scores

Please let me know if I’ve omitted anything that is required—thanks!