Having lived in southern California my whole life, and feeling frustrated with seeming to encounter the same types of people (read: actors, screenwriters, directors in Los Angeles; retirees and hippies in Santa Barbara), I decided I wanted to go the East Coast for grad school. I applied to 11 programs: eight in New York and three in Massachusetts.
The deadlines spread out over December, January, February, and even one at the beginning of March. The waiting began with the submission of my first application on December 15.
As the prospect of moving to the East Coast became an actual possibility, I started freaking out. The cold, the extreme humidity, being so far away from friends and family, having to deal with being in big cities with so much going on, not knowing my way around… was I really ready for this? I’d be walking to class on the beach or hiking with my dog and I’d think: Am I really giving this up?
Then the rejection letters started coming in. I questioned myself. Why? Why not me? What did I do wrong in my application? How else should I have done the personal statement? And then, the worst – Perhaps I am not really meant to be a writer after all. Perhaps I should just give up now. The same form in the same few sentences in the same slim envelopes: “We have not been able to recommend you for admission” and “admissions were exceptionally competitive this year.” Which, of course, never makes you feel any better. I did appreciate the note of encouragement from Syracuse: “Their consensus not to recommend admission to the program should in no way be interpreted as a discouragement of your writing.” After dealing with the usual emotions associated with rejection, I started to feel an intense relief. I could stay in SoCal, be near friends and family I didn’t want to leave.
A couple of people in my writers’ group in Los Angeles introduced me to Driftless House, a blog dedicated to providing info about application responses from graduate writing programs across the U.S. The idea is that you’re not chewing your fingernails through February and March when the decisions aren’t even made until April. For me, it functioned as added stress. But ultimately, I was gladder to know. Rather than waiting, having the rejection letters come one by one to the mailbox, I was prepared. I still have not received all my letters, but I’ve reached a point where I am happier finally just to know.