Applications, Cover Letters, and Stress

Applications, Cover Letters, and Stress

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It’s Winter. February approaches. The 15th was the last day to apply to the Creative Writing – Poetry MFA program at Columbia College Chicago for fall 2013 admission. I know it’s late, but for some reason it didn’t hit me until I had to field some questions from prospective students. If there’s one thing I can recommend, it’s this: chill, take a breath, and don’t over think it.

Filling out applications of any kind is time consuming, frustrating, and incredibly stupid. (One time, a manager I worked for at Home Depot told me that the applications aren’t really about assessing who is best for the job but about filtering out the people who don’t finish the application or the crazy ones.) I’m not saying that Columbia’s application is doing that, nor any other application that I filled out when applying for grad school. In fact, I remember a pretty easy time. Most of it is just about getting your info down, dotting your i’s, and crossing your t’s.

The thing I freaked out about was my self-assessment essay. I did, like, ten drafts before I finally took it to my fiction professor and mentor, Kate Trueblood. She said, “Look Josh. You want your essay, just like any cover letter you write, to do three things: 1. Make you sound like a total pimp without bragging. 2. Make sure you tell them why you belong there and what you offer them. 3. Make sure you tell them what they will do for you and why you’re drawn to them. And for Godsakes, PROOFREAD!”

But I think, like Kate said, this applies also to cover letters (if, like me, you’re applying) for teaching positions, fellowships, jobs, grants, scholarships, etc. In fact, when I query presses or agents trying to place my work, I do the same thing. I think Kate showed me how to write a cover letter and gave me the form and structure that I use with everything I write.

I know, I know, JOSH WHERE WERE YOU A WEEK AGO? Sorry, I was buried in my own cover letters and job applications and teaching materials, BUT I think this is relevant to you all now, as well, because there are scholarship and fellowship and grant and contest and all these other deadlines approaching. So, get to it.

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There’s a lot of people going out for the same thing. You just gotta turn in an application that makes you stand out. I just do the three things Kate told me to do.

But seriously, wouldn’t it be great if there was no app? You just send in ten poems, your CV, and a letter outlining how awesome you are? That will never happen, so really work at becoming efficient at applications and all the materials involved. You WILL have to do it again. TRUST ME.