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Writing Sample- Same writing sample to all Universities?


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Long time lurker and a first time poster. Here's hoping people have made it to their respective programs of choice and that this cycle has been quite kind to you! 

I am an international applicant who plans on applying to Sociocultural Anthro streams this year for Fall 2020. I have been going through a range of Anthro department pages over the last few months with the intention of having a long shortlist for the departments that I think are good 'fits'. Reading through some of the earlier posts on here has made it abundantly clear to me that figuring out which departments are good 'fits' is basically one of the most important things that applicants need to consider while applying. And although a lot of attention has been paid (quite rightly) to the SOP's and recommendations and GRE scores, I was looking for some clarity on the writing sample. Basically- assuming that most applicants apply to more than one department, how does one go about tweaking/changing drastically the writing sample? This would obviously vary depending on the applicant's situation but I highly doubt it would be feasible to prepare NINE drafts of the same sample, if one is applying to say nine places.

Also, how do you select your writing sample? Do you focus on the ethnographic work you might have done (if any)? 

Appreciate the help!

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Your writing sample should be your most polished piece of work, preferably something presented at a conference and/or peer-reviewed or published, even if it is in conference proceedings. Barring that, I would go with your strongest paper (perhaps a senior thesis if undergrad, MA thesis or capstone, etc) that connects the most with your program(s) of choice and/or highlights your specialization and skills. So if you are writing for a program with faculty who specialize in gender, select something in that area. If you are writing about popular culture and nationalism, you could potentially frame that in your SOP for departments focused on media, youth culture, nationalism, popular culture, etc. Your sample is just that, a sample. IMO I would probably take your strongest work and submit it as last graded or as published. If you have revisions from a trusted advisor's input, then go for that. However, I think your writing sample is less important then showing in your SOP how your previous work connects to the department and your current plans. Search committees and admit committees will probably not read and entire sample, so it can be risky trying to tweak a 20, 30, 40, etc page paper at the cost of your letters of rec and SOP. IMO your SOP is your campaign platform and sales pitch. It is written for that program, or should mostly be original and written specifically for them.

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