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Is 5 pages too short?


snes
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I'm currently trying to decide on my writing samples to send to schools, 90% of which want more than one. I'd be happy to just send them my gigantic senior thesis (150+ pages) and tell them to read what they want, but what I want to do is take a chapter from there and then something else.

I have some mediocre 10/15-page papers but I have this one five-pager that I think is the most accessible and better written than the other ones. I'm talking 5 pages double-spaced. It's just a short analysis of a movement of a piece.

So, too short?

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Yes. They want to see evidence that you can make a sustained analysis such as the kind you'd make in grad school (i.e., most seminar papers are 10-15 pages min.) in your writing sample.

Yeah, makes sense. I guess I figured if I sent them a long one and a short one then they would balance each other out, haha.

This leads me to my next question(s), and perhaps I will make a new topic, but....

1) Is it terrible to submit one writing sample if the program doesn't specify a number?

2) How important is it for the writing sample to be super accessible? I have written a lot (200+ pages in three separate essays) on a very very specific topic that is also what I'm proposing to continue studying. My other options for writing samples are either too short (4-7 pages), or in the 10-20 page range but just mediocre and very undergrad-ish, as in, nothing really new or interesting, just exercising my ability to assimilate other people's ideas with some banal analysis of my own. Ugh, I really don't want to revisit those and make them special, especially since I'm years out of those classes.

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To hedge my last post a bit, I mean, the 5 page piece might not be terrible as a second paper, but my gut still says that it isn't doing the work of the writing sample (showing your capacity for sustained argument).

But to your most recent questions: I think it's safe to assume that one writing sample is expected if a number isn't specified. Are your programs specifying the number of pages they're looking for? (Most of mine for English last year asked for 15-20 pages.)

Accessibility: I personally wouldn't worry about an esoteric topic. In fact, it seems like it would be an advantage to submit on this topic, since it's related to your eventual course of study and you can demonstrate your chops. But in any case, your goals are to demonstrate that you write well, to show off your skills at analysis, and to show off your ability to create a sustained argument. As long as the paper does these things well, I wouldn't worry about it being on a well-known topic.

Edited by runonsentence
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To hedge my last post a bit, I mean, the 5 page piece might not be terrible as a second paper, but my gut still says that it isn't doing the work of the writing sample (showing your capacity for sustained argument).

But to your most recent questions: I think it's safe to assume that one writing sample is expected if a number isn't specified. Are your programs specifying the number of pages they're looking for? (Most of mine for English last year asked for 15-20 pages.)

Accessibility: I personally wouldn't worry about an esoteric topic. In fact, it seems like it would be an advantage to submit on this topic, since it's related to your eventual course of study and you can demonstrate your chops. But in any case, your goals are to demonstrate that you write well, to show off your skills at analysis, and to show off your ability to create a sustained argument. As long as the paper does these things well, I wouldn't worry about it being on a well-known topic.

Yeah, most are either 10-15 or 15-20. I suppose I'll have to work a little harder at chopping things up, but it does make me feel a lot better to not worry so much about topic.

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