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Stupid Question


Emelye
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Sorry if this is a really stupid question, but I was just wondering if the writing sample has to be "graduate level" in terms of quality in order to make an applicant competetive. Or can it just be a really good undergraduate-level paper that shows potential for future development? Will adcomms be expecting graduate level work from applicants before they've even been accepted? I keep reading people on these boards who have published multiple times and brought original research to conferences, and I can't help feeling a little behind. I do have one really solid research project (which I plan to use as my writing sample), but I know it's not quite up to graduate level standards yet, though I am in the process of significantly revising it. Stressing out a little too much, I think...but I know for the humanities the writing sample is one of the most important parts of the application (along with the SOP, of course).

Thanks!

Em

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Sorry if this is a really stupid question, but I was just wondering if the writing sample has to be "graduate level" in terms of quality in order to make an applicant competetive. Or can it just be a really good undergraduate-level paper that shows potential for future development? Will adcomms be expecting graduate level work from applicants before they've even been accepted? I keep reading people on these boards who have published multiple times and brought original research to conferences, and I can't help feeling a little behind. I do have one really solid research project (which I plan to use as my writing sample), but I know it's not quite up to graduate level standards yet, though I am in the process of significantly revising it. Stressing out a little too much, I think...but I know for the humanities the writing sample is one of the most important parts of the application (along with the SOP, of course).

Thanks!

Em

Reading the deatils of other people's application can drive you mad! Just keep working and revising your best piece of work, and try to trust in yourself.

I think that if a student *has* been in graduate school, the expectations might be higher for that individual (I've read as much regarding GRE schools), so I think that schools factor in grad/undergrad experience when they look at an applicant.

Either way, though I think one of the most important things about this application process is trying not to stress about the things you can't control.

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Not sure whether this will be comforting (hope it is!), but the expectations for the "level" of your writing will partly depend on what degree you're applying for. That is, adcoms will have different expectations in mind for applicants for MA programs than they will for applicants for PhD programs.

Either way, given that you haven't done graduate-level work yet, it is possible they'll focus on "promise." (This would be all the more true if it's a program that regularly accepts B.A. students.)

Edited by runonsentence
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  • 3 months later...

Sorry if this is a really stupid question, but I was just wondering if the writing sample has to be "graduate level" in terms of quality in order to make an applicant competetive. Or can it just be a really good undergraduate-level paper that shows potential for future development? Will adcomms be expecting graduate level work from applicants before they've even been accepted? I keep reading people on these boards who have published multiple times and brought original research to conferences, and I can't help feeling a little behind. I do have one really solid research project (which I plan to use as my writing sample), but I know it's not quite up to graduate level standards yet, though I am in the process of significantly revising it. Stressing out a little too much, I think...but I know for the humanities the writing sample is one of the most important parts of the application (along with the SOP, of course).

Thanks!

Em

Em--

Three quick comments. First, it seems that in your mind's eye, there are qualities that a "graduate level" writing sample that your sample does not have. Might it be possible to make a short list of what those features are and make them part of your "to do list" for the revision you're currently preparing? If some items on this list are beyond expertise to complete--such as an in-depth literature review that captures every nuance of a specific theory--you could still demonstrate that you know how to execute the basics of such a review.

Second, I want to underscore what rainy_day said about trusting in yourself and not driving yourself bonkers by comparing the details of your application to others.

Third, IMO, the only stupid question is the one you do not ask.

(FWIW, I submitted my undergraduate thesis [without any revisions] as my writing sample. It did not have anything resembling a literature review. In this regard, it was nowhere close to being a "graduate level" work. Yet, it demonstrated basic proficiency in other skills and things still worked out all right.)

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