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Hi all!

Graduated last year with a BA in Cinema Studies and English Writing. Am applying to this year's round of Screenwriting MFAs. I'm from NY so I'm really trying to only do USC, UCLA, and Michener. Was wondering if any acceptees were still lurking around and could offer up some general advice with applications.

As well as, any thoughts on sending a fiction excerpt in for the USC sample instead of an excerpt from a script. AND, thoughts on sending in poems (along with scripts and fiction) for UCLA. I have some published poems and thought maybe they can help me out?

Anyhow, hello every one! and we're all in this together right?

Hi Alison,

I don't think it'd hurt to throw in a few poems along with your application to UCLA, especially considering it's part of your undergraduate degree. If anything, it'll help set you apart a bit. I'd keep them short and sweet, though. It'll be great to show them that you're a good, well-rounded writer, but they're also focused on finding good storytellers as well. As for USC, this has been a point of contention for a while on this site. I'm on the side that suggests submitting only a screenplay excerpt for your sample because they read so little of your writing to begin with. They've got four pages of essays and up to ten pages of "Creative Challenge" writing, but that's it. I wanted to show them as much screenwriting as possible, so I chose that. I also didn't get in to USC, haha, so you'll have to decide for yourself. UCLA read 120 pages of my writing and accepted me, so who the hell knows... :)

As for general advice, I'd just re-write, re-write, re-write. I started my application process in January 2014, so I had almost a year before I had to turn things in. By the time the application deadline came around, my application looked mostly unrecognizable to the work I had in May-- all for the better, I think. Make sure your personal statements are oriented to the point-of-view of each school, too. Don't pull the classic trick of applying to undergrad where you leave a paragraph or so to show them that you've googled their school a couple of times. Take a few days to really research the kind of person they're looking for (this site is a great resource), and then write a personal statement towards that. Keep in mind, too, that these programs are very writing-intensive. UCLA is on the quarter system, so you're writing a full feature screenplay in 10 weeks when you're in a 434. Let them know that you're up to the task, and prove that to them with any evidence you've got.

Ultimately, there's no real way to game the system at all, and you seem like a pretty grounded person who's already fully aware of that. A lot of these professors have been reading hundreds of applications each year for decades. They're able to spot insecurity and insincerity from three miles away. Be confident in yourself and respectful to the process, and that'll go a long way in the end.

Best of luck!

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