I’ve become addicted to grad school forums. Particularly one on LiveJournal. Anyone with an account who adds the forum can post their nervous-Nelly fears, their less than brilliant questions, and their Statement of Purpose drafts for comment. Today I "un-friended" the forum so that I'll stop spending time there.
The state of chaos there almost makes me feel good about myself. Sometimes because I am the wise mentor figure who sooths their fretting minds, and sometimes because it is an ego boost to know that I figured out these same questions all on my own.
I may not be a nice person, but at least I’m honest.
I understand that much of what is posted is just applicants who want a second opinion about this or that -- something tiny that it’s easier to post a question about than sit and contemplate for half an hour -- and that for most of the important aspects they have already figured everything out. I do question, however, those who choose to post their Statements of Purpose (shorthand: SOP*) for strangers to critique. (1) Do you really want everyone to read it? (2) Do you really trust these stranger’s opinions? (3) Is there no one in your life who is willing to edit something that is two pages max? And then I hope that they're applying to the same programs I am because it will increase my odds of getting in.
Told ya I wasn't nice.
At this point, I have completed six of seven Statements of Purpose (and not posted a single one for strangers to read). I have chosen to apply to six schools, so why seven SOP? Because one grad school has decided to weed out the weak of heart by adding a second, "personal journey" SOP. After I complete it I get to hold hands with the other applicants and sing kum-ba-ya until we all feel the trust and love that comes with sharing our personal journey with the strangers of an application committee.
But that is on hold, singing and all, as I piece together my writing sample (read: 25-30 pages of fiction) for my two December 15 deadlines.
The best part about getting an MFA? The deadlines. People say it again and again, that the artificial pressure to get your writing done is extremely helpful because it means that you have to make writing a priority in your life. I haven’t even gotten in to an MFA program – I haven’t even applied yet! – and already I feel the power and benefit of deadlines. Two stories that had languished since Summer are now getting careful reviews and revisions. They are lovingly being brought into maturity to become part of my writing sample by week’s end.
Would this have happened so quickly without the outside deadline? I suspect not.
*Note: When I first read “SOP” I immediately thought Standard Operating Procedure. Apparently I am the only grad applicant that thinks in military terms first.
Edit: Of course, about a year after posting this, I posted my SOP here on my blog where anyone could see it. But at the time I put it online, I was already attending an MFA program, and I posted it here on my blog, not on a forum where I asked for a critique. Hypocritical of me? Maybe.