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So You’re Waiting to Hear Back from MFA Programs: Post Application Advice With Whittier Strong

Jenny Pansing

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 still had my final semester of undergrad to do. But it was a lighter semester–a paper-making class and an independent study in drawing to finish my art minor. I also started a part-time job as a writing tutor in the tutoring center at my university. With what spare time I had beyond that, I got a Netflix subscription and watched my favorite shows (old Britcoms for the win). I played my video games (Star Trek Online is my most-played). I continued my involvement in social groups, even making new friends just as I was (possibly???) moving. And I spent time with old friends, not knowing if I would be in Minneapolis much longer.

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

I think the best piece of advice I received was to relax. This does not come easily for me. But one of my professors, who was very much a mentor to me, was convinced I would get multiple offers, and kept reassuring me of this fact. And that is what happened.

Biggest high? Biggest low?

I’d have to say my biggest high was getting the funded offer from Alaska-Fairbanks. This school had been at the top of my list for a while, even when I was reluctant to call it such. And so far it’s been the perfect fit.

The biggest low was when I got word that, despite my being first on the waitlist for funding for the University of New Hampshire, which had risen to my #2 spot, everyone who had been offered funding accepted. I was trying to figure out how to make it work, but it was a no-go. I was already very much imagining myself living on the New Hampshire coast.

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

I’m not sure I could have done anything differently. I had a lot on my plate at the time, and only so much time to devote to researching schools. I think maybe I should have been more realistic about my (in)ability to fund my education at the Canadian schools I applied to (as much as I still want to move to Canada). I think I would have thought a bit more about my application to Emerson, since I ended up withdrawing it–I was enamored of living in Boston, even though Emerson would not have been a good fit for me. I might have applied to Columbia College Chicago because I absolutely adore Chicago and because it would have put me close to my family. My nephew is growing up and my mom is aging and I don’t get to see either of them nearly enough.

But I did okay with what I did. I gave myself plenty of time, starting research on schools and work on my sample in May. I officially contacted my recommenders in August, though a few of them I’d floated the idea to before that. I revised my sample as many times as I could. I got all of my applications in with days or weeks to spare. And in the end, I got several acceptances and some nice offers. And, biggest of all, I ended up in my dream program.

Image: Jenny Pansing

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Whittier Strong is an MFA student in creative writing at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, with a focus in nonfiction. He graduated from Metropolitan State University with a BA in creative writing. He has special interests in sociology and philosophy.

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