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Messing Around with Margins


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6 replies to this topic

#1 taybaxter

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 05:14 PM

Ugh...anybody else here screwed up by Yale's requirement that writing samples need TWO INCH margins at the top of each page! That pushed me over the Yale History Department's 25 Page Limit. I managed to go back under the limit by screwing with the other margins (.72 inch bottom, left and right margins...) but still feel uncomfortable about it. Do you guys think messing around with margins like that instead of trimming a section out is a good idea? I don't see any requirement anywhere that the other margins have to be 1 inch....
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Applied: Yale, UNC-CH, Duke, UVA, Rutgers, UPenn, Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, NYU, WUSTL

Accepted: WashU (funded PhD + extra fellowship in American Studies), NYU (Unfunded MA).
Rejected: Everywhere else.
Attending: Wash U!

#2 Safferz

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 05:33 PM

Where does it say Yale's writing sample requires two inch margins?
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#3 taybaxter

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 06:13 PM

On the upload page on their application:

"Please use a margin of 2 inches at the top of the page to allow room for the application system to automatically print your name and Applicant ID in that space. Click the Upload Document button below to attach it to your application."
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Applied: Yale, UNC-CH, Duke, UVA, Rutgers, UPenn, Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, NYU, WUSTL

Accepted: WashU (funded PhD + extra fellowship in American Studies), NYU (Unfunded MA).
Rejected: Everywhere else.
Attending: Wash U!

#4 Safferz

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 07:49 PM

On the upload page on their application:

"Please use a margin of 2 inches at the top of the page to allow room for the application system to automatically print your name and Applicant ID in that space. Click the Upload Document button below to attach it to your application."


Oh wow, I haven't looked at the upload page so I had no idea. I think I'll just use the 20 page sample I've used for other applications -- I had a 25 page version ready for Yale, but the 20 page will work too. I see you're applying to Columbia, which has a 20 page limit, so perhaps you can do the same?
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#5 taybaxter

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 08:26 PM

Oh wow, I haven't looked at the upload page so I had no idea. I think I'll just use the 20 page sample I've used for other applications -- I had a 25 page version ready for Yale, but the 20 page will work too. I see you're applying to Columbia, which has a 20 page limit, so perhaps you can do the same?


I guess I'll have to.
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Applied: Yale, UNC-CH, Duke, UVA, Rutgers, UPenn, Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, NYU, WUSTL

Accepted: WashU (funded PhD + extra fellowship in American Studies), NYU (Unfunded MA).
Rejected: Everywhere else.
Attending: Wash U!

#6 surefire

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Posted 07 December 2011 - 03:40 PM

I'd go standard 1 inch for your bottom/left/right margins.
My reasoning has to do with my experience on an MA admissions committee (disclaimer: this experience was for incoming MA students, in a specialized social science program, at a Canadian University... everything is context-specific).

When I was flipping through writing samples and I came across ones with tweaked margins, an overbearing, uninvited thought would pop into my head: "Who IS THIS person that thinks that their thoughts are SO SPECIAL that everything needed to be included at the expense of my eyesight/sanity?!"

That's not a nice thought. But after the twentieth or so application, these types of thoughts emerge unbidden.
Let's be clear: I read ALL components of EVERY application, regardless of formatting and would not have considered whether or not someone messed with margins a make-or-break element of a decision.

But... there are reasons for standardized formatting. Ideally, everyone gets equal space to shine and time for consideration. When you mess with margins, you are demanding more space and more of the reviewer's time. Even if they don't conciously fault you for it (and how could they if, in your case, only the top margin space is explicitely specified), taking liberties with the margins (considering that 1 inch is the generally expected/accepted format) might put them in a foul mood. That's not the mood that you want while under their purview.

Tweaking with the margins isn't worth it. Where possible/appropriate, footnote thoughts that you can edit out but don't want to do without and go with your 20-pager.
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#7 taybaxter

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Posted 07 December 2011 - 06:12 PM

Heard back from Columbia on this issue and they said they want "standard formatting." I realized that in the first chapter all of the individual sections are too long to adequately reduce in size so I went back to the third chapter, which has shorter sections that I could excise. That one is my favorite by far and I wanted to use it originally but it was WAY too long at 42 pages double-spaced. I ended up reducing it by the necessary 22 pages by taking out sections and essentially writing one paragraph replacements for the excised sections in brackets where they used to be detailing what they were about and what sources I used to make my argument. Also, I reduced the text size of the footnotes by one point...still quite readable though. I'm quite content with the ultimate 20 page result and I'm probably going to use it for other schools too.

Does this sound like a good way to go about it guys?

Edited by taybaxter, 07 December 2011 - 06:14 PM.

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Applied: Yale, UNC-CH, Duke, UVA, Rutgers, UPenn, Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, NYU, WUSTL

Accepted: WashU (funded PhD + extra fellowship in American Studies), NYU (Unfunded MA).
Rejected: Everywhere else.
Attending: Wash U!




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