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Writing Sample


noir_it_up0716
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Okay, I'm new here but I've been reading over the forums for the past couple of days and it seems like this is a great place for me to find things out. I'm about to finish my BS in Psychology, but I, more or less, breezed by my whole program. The work wasn't challenging, I could do sub-par work (I feel at least) and still get an A on just about every paper I turned in, and we do not have to write a senior thesis.

I will be applying to graduate schools for next fall, but I want to get started now on what I am going to do about a writing sample. The longest papers I have are somewhere from 6-8 pages and they are not closely related to the programs I am interested in-- nor do I think they are anywhere near as impressive as they should be. I want my writing sample to stand out, since the programs I am applying to are in the humanities... but I'm not sure what to do. I'm tempted to write something myself and have some professors help me to fix it up. Is that a terrible idea? The programs, from what I have seen, did not specify that the works had to be submitted papers... but it looks like that's what they typically want? HELP. :o

Edited by noir_it_up0716
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Okay, I'm new here but I've been reading over the forums for the past couple of days and it seems like this is a great place for me to find things out. I'm about to finish my BS in Psychology, but I, more or less, breezed by my whole program. The work wasn't challenging, I could do sub-par work (I feel at least) and still get an A on just about every paper I turned in, and we do not have to write a senior thesis.

I will be applying to graduate schools for next fall, but I want to get started now on what I am going to do about a writing sample. The longest papers I have are somewhere from 6-8 pages and they are not closely related to the programs I am interested in-- nor do I think they are anywhere near as impressive as they should be. I want my writing sample to stand out, since the programs I am applying to are in the humanities... but I'm not sure what to do. I'm tempted to write something myself and have some professors help me to fix it up. Is that a terrible idea? The programs, from what I have seen, did not specify that the works had to be submitted papers... but it looks like that's what they typically want? HELP. :o

A couple of questions first: What humanities field? Are you prepared for an advanced humanities degree since your undergraduate degree will be in psychology, and by your own admission, did not require much writing?

Your writing sample does not have to be a paper from a class, but it would probably be better for you if the paper was a class assignment. Would it be possible to take an upper-level course in the humanities field you want to study further? Pick an advanced class that aligns with what you want to study; I would think that you would have to write a longer paper in a class like that. This would produce a paper that aligns with your research interests, and you would have outside validation about its quality.

You might also consider an independent study with a professor in your field of interest.

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Well, the field is cinema and film studies and I am willing to work as hard as I need to in order to make up what I have missed. I do have some time before I submit any applications that I will use to strengthen my German skills (as two other language proficiencies are required for the program once you enter) as well as take a couple of film classes. In that case, it would be better to wait and use a paper from there as a sample? Also, the programs I am applying to do encourage students from other disciplines to apply, so I'm not sure if they might actually prefer to see something psychology-related? Thank you for your feedback, also! Any more advice you have is more than appreciated.

A couple of questions first: What humanities field? Are you prepared for an advanced humanities degree since your undergraduate degree will be in psychology, and by your own admission, did not require much writing?

Your writing sample does not have to be a paper from a class, but it would probably be better for you if the paper was a class assignment. Would it be possible to take an upper-level course in the humanities field you want to study further? Pick an advanced class that aligns with what you want to study; I would think that you would have to write a longer paper in a class like that. This would produce a paper that aligns with your research interests, and you would have outside validation about its quality.

You might also consider an independent study with a professor in your field of interest.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I ended up putting together a completely new writing sample, outside of class. That's partly because there was a gap after I finished my undergrad, but mostly because I just wasn't happy with any of the class papers I had. They weren't long enough or fully developed, and more importantly they weren't tied closely enough to the area I wanted to study.

I probably spent four months on the writing sample, and did significantly more work than I ever did for any of my papers. I thought it would be easier in some ways because I was writing about something I really loved, but it was actually tougher -- the open-endedness of it was a little intimidating. And as history_PhD pointed out, you get outside, academic feedback on your work when it comes from a class. I don't think I appreciated that enough when I started working on my paper, but in retrospect it would have really helped.

If you're taking film classes, I'd wait and develop one of those assignment papers as your writing sample. Even if you can't use the paper as-is, it might give you a focused starting point, and you might be able to get additional feedback from the instructor on how to develop it further.

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