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Can Critical Writing Sample be from only 1 source?


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I hope this isn't obvious. As I'm scanning Grad applications with a critical writing requirement, just wondering if it's okay to submit multiple examples. For example, if a school requires a 15-20 pages sample, can I submit a 5-page sample of one subject with a 10-page sample from another? This seems like it would be beneficial for me considering I want to study creative nonfiction as well as cultural studies.

Thanks.

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My understanding is that the length requirement is in part a way to see if you can construct a deep, thoughtful argument. Writing a 5-page paper is less demanding and requires different skills than a 20-page one.

I hope this isn't obvious. As I'm scanning Grad applications with a critical writing requirement, just wondering if it's okay to submit multiple examples. For example, if a school requires a 15-20 pages sample, can I submit a 5-page sample of one subject with a 10-page sample from another? This seems like it would be beneficial for me considering I want to study creative nonfiction as well as cultural studies.

Thanks.

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Read the instructions provided by each school carefully. Some say that it's OK to send them two shorter papers instead of only one longer paper. Some won't accept two papers. In either case, it's always preferable (this is usually in the instructions) to send one paper, because, as the above poster noted, writing a longer paper demonstrates a much more substantial work of writing and thought than two shorter pages.

In other words, it will vary from school to school, but generally they prefer one sample.

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Just seconding what others have said - this varies from program to program and you need to check carefully. Some top programs want 2 different samples that showcase your range as a writer, others want a single, sustained argument. ALL are serious about the page requirements, and the 25 page limit is almost always inclusive of works cited, i.e. you are expected to turn in 25 pages or less, total, not a 25 pages paper with extra pages for the works cited. (I have been told that if you go over by a page or two, they won't be terribly upset, but more than that might be an annoyance).

Remember - ostensibly, they are supposed to read all of this. That's a lot of reading.

Also, in many cases the 25 pages is a limit, not the number of pages you "have" to turn in - so a strong, 15-page paper in that case would be fine as a sample.

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The only program I have seen that says it wants to see two shorter (5-10 page) writing samples is USC. I think, anywhere else, your chances of being admitted are severely limited if you send two shorter papers simple because, as was said before, longer papers require an entirely different skill set that is much more similar to that which you will need to successfully complete a PhD.

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Note also that UVA insists upon 2 different papers:

"Applicants to the MA and PhD programs must submit two critical papers. Applicants may submit an excerpt from a thesis or longer paper as one of these samples, but are still expected to submit a second writing sample."

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The only program I have seen that says it wants to see two shorter (5-10 page) writing samples is USC. I think, anywhere else, your chances of being admitted are severely limited if you send two shorter papers simple because, as was said before, longer papers require an entirely different skill set that is much more similar to that which you will need to successfully complete a PhD.

Also, USC allows you to combine both papers and send in a longer sample if you want. Oxford does the same thing.

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Brown also welcomes more than one sample, saying that 25 pgs would not be too much, but that a 5 page paper is much too short. I think I'll be send them my 15 pg writing sample, and then an excerpt from my MA thesis, hopefully totally around 25 pages (maybe a little more).

For the rest of the schools, my sample will be about 15 pages (for those that require 10-15, like Yale! (why on only fifteen...) and perhaps 18 for schools that want 20 or less.

About the works cited...I thought that it wasn't usually included in paper length? Eep!

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When I applied a couple years ago, I submitted two 10-12 page papers to the schools that wanted a 20-25 page sample, and I did well in admissions. The papers were on related topics, and in my SOP I explained the connections between them and showed how they explored facets of my broader interests. It was a gamble, but it was the best work I had, so I went for it. As a consequence, though, I spent a big chunk of my SOP talking about my senior honors thesis (and asked my recommenders to focus on it as well)--my samples weren't from that project, but I tried to show that I was capable of coming up with and sustaining a longer, more complex argument than my writing samples presented.

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