Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dear ______ : Remember Me?

I have just entered the second scariest stage of my MFA application process (the first, naturally, being the period after I submit the applications and await responses): letters of recommendation. This has been a bug up my butt since I made the decision to start applying. I'm fine doing everything else (making a submission, filling out forms, writing cover letters, etc.) because it's all me. But asking people to write and send out written documents on letterhead attesting to my greatness makes me very, very uncomfortable.

Don't get me wrong - I was a good student. I had a 3.7 average in both my majors. When I took class with the teachers to whom I sent requests, I showed up, spoke in class, and did good work. But that was 2-4 years ago and, because we were on a quarter system, the classes only lasted 10 weeks. And while I understand that writing such letters is a part of an instructor's job (as well as an employer's), it seems one-sided to take a class, disappear for several years, and then pop up one day asking for a favor. I won't be the first or last to do this, no doubt, but I would never dream of asking if it weren't a requirement for admission.

I drafted preliminary requests and finally worked up the nerve to send them today, right before I went to lunch. I gave my instructors plenty of time to respond, but clearly nothing is guaranteed. Ideally, I hear back soon with resounding choruses of "Of couse!" Or, maybe, "Jog my memory, will ya?" Or, frighteningly, "Who are you?" or, "No, because I don't like you and your writing is abysmal."

I would have felt more comfortable asking work references because they have all known me for a year or more and could attest to specific things about me and my work ethic. But I'm at an awkward post-college stage: I've been out long enough to create distance, but not long enough to forgo academic references (most schools ask for references from instructors if you've graduated in the last five years). If anyone declines, it won't be the end of the world - I have backups. But if I could just have one less thing to worry about...

When I saw just now I had an e-mail, I freaked out and opened my inbox, only to find Sallie Mae's latest pearl of wisdom about paying down loans. I guess I haven't really left undergrad, have I?

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