The Re-Application Situation: What Should You Keep?


Staff member
Supporting Member+
Hello all,

Feels good to be back on these threads again after such a long time! Granted, it would feel better if I was returning as a grad student in my program of choice, passing on wisdom to all those new folk applying...but I guess I shouldn't complain. Anywho, my question is simple.

After being denied last round, I am currently in the process of gathering up application material for this year's attempt. But in doing so, I started to question just what I should and shouldn't change. It's of course impossible to know why you were denied from a program (frustratingly), but should you just assume everything you did was junk? Should one throw it all away and start anew with your samples, statement of purpose, letters of rec, etc? Or is it perfectly okay to include things that you already sent before, just slightly touched up a bit?

Obviously I don't intend to just send the exact same material, and fully plan on changing the writing samples and such to new, fresh material. But do I have to find new people to write letters of recommendation if I'm comfortable with the ones who already did it? Do I have to find a completely different subject for my statement of purpose, even if I don't think I can come up with a more compelling subject? Can I just improve the things I liked, rather than junk it all entirely? Or will the commitees frown on something like that?

Huh. Guess that question wasn't as simple as I thought, since I devoted like two healthy paragraphs to it. Oops.

Anyways, I would of course love to hear from people who got in to their university after a couple attempts, although I imagine not a lot of them are probably still around the site at this point. So I'll open the floor to everyone else who is reapplying for a program this year: how do you intend to tackle this issue?


New Member
Hey man, I understand completely what you're going through. Myself, I was rejected from the program that I wanted to attend three times and on the fourth, was accepted. Each time I was rejected, I asked myself the exact same question.

What I did each time, I re-wrote my personal statement and sent a new video. Everything else, I kept or updated. As for the letters of recommendation, once I received some that I really liked I asked if they could re-submit the letters or update them.

Through the journey of re-doing my application four times, what I understood to be the most significant was the personal statement and video, obviously, everything is important. A personal statement should be, very personal. However, show them why you would fit in with the program and why you are the best candidate. What do you bring to the table that is unique? Why you're a leader. What are you willing to give back once you've been accepted? Etc.

Pair all this with your good letters of rec, and a killer portfolio piece and you definitely will have a great shot!

Good luck! If you ever have any questions, just send me a PM.


Contributor Writer
I'm going into round 3 and changing things up a bit this time around, I'm not sure if my experience will help considering I haven't actually been accepted but maybe we can at least commiserate!

A quick recap of my MFA application and personal history:
First time out, I can admit I applied because I was feeling lost in my career and frustrated and stuck. I was waitlisted at LMU for WPTV before being rejected and accepted to an MA creative writing program near me that I turned down.
Second time (last year) I applied to some additional schools that I hadn't been able to meet the deadline for on the first try, but skipped LMU. I was interviewed at UCLA and rejected. I used new writing samples and two new recommendations, and new SOP.
Those first two rounds were screenwriting applications. Since then I've attended workshops at Columbia University in NYC and I'm currently in the UCLA Professional Program, and my pilot has gotten the some semi-finalist placements in reputable screenwriting contests and film festivals. (Which if you listen to Scriptnotes Podcast, you'll maybe agree isn't a big deal, but it was validating). I also wrote and directed a short film earlier this year, the experience and how that came about is detailed in a blog post on this site if you're interested. I have worked in the film industry for almost a decade as a PA and AD on dozens of movies and commercials, not just learning the ropes but also loving my job and career. I now also work in film education at a small campus for a major university.

Long story short, what could have been a disheartening experience to be rejected two years in a row really helped me explore my own faults, failures and passions. It sounds hokey, but without the rejections my applications this year wouldn't be as strong.

First - I'm now applying as a director. My short film made me finally embrace that desire within myself. And my journey to recognizing that fiery passion for directing, is a much stronger statement of purpose.

Second - I am still applying to UCLA for screenwriting, but because I have been directing most of this year I asked a faculty member I've met if it would be bad for me to re-use my samples. His advice was 'well it got you an interview last year so why would you remove those scripts from your portfolio?" I think he makes a good point. If you happen to know a specific element of your application was strong based on feedback, don't skip including it just because it isn't fresh.

Third - I haven't deviated from one of my recommenders for a reason - he has been with me through this entire journey. He's my current boss at the university, he was my mentor as his student, and he knows my work very well both creatively and in terms of being a professional. He has written a NEW letter each year that updates what he feels my accomplishments are and how I've grown. I think that part is important.

I also evaluated what exactly I want out of films chool and why I want an MFA. For me, this will be my last round regardless of if I'm accepted. If I wind up being rejected from every school, I will be taking the creative energy I have and gearing it towards directing a feature. I want an MFA to teach, because I love education, but like all things, there is more than one way to skin a cat. I have developed industry connections both to be able to have a great creative team around me and so I can hopefully find the right person to gain financing. I'm a big fan of education, but I can also qualify to teach at the college level by getting projects made and you can also find industry connections through other avenues such as attending festivals, the UCLA professional program is great and so other other workshop programs.

sorry for such a long post! I have been thinking about this a lot too clearly!

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