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Is there a place to read others' writing samples?


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I remember as a high school senior, there were many books on "how to get into college" that contained successful admissions essays. Is there any way to find examples of others' writing samples for graduate programs, in order to get an idea of the competition and expectations?


I'm trying to apply to Philosophy MA and PhD programs, mostly to study Hegel and Marx, and I just have no idea what would be appropriate for a writing sample. And I mean that very literally-- no idea at all, no frame of reference whatsoever. People say that it should be your best work, that it should demonstrate writing and reasoning abilities, blah blah blah. None of that means anything without some sort of context. :/


I know most of the students in my undergrad department write pretty bad essays, but I'm not competing with people from my department alone. The problem is that I feel like I can probably write a very good essay, if I only knew what "very good" meant! It's not that I don't want to try my hardest or whatever; it's that I find the very idea of "trying my hardest" per se rather incoherent, or at least pragmatically.... impossible!

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This is probably the most comprehensive guide: http://schwitzsplinters.blogspot.com/2007/09/applying-to-philosophy-phd-programs.html

It's from 2007, but it's been updated (that, or there's a more recent one on his blog elsewhere). it goes through all the parts of the application. There are definitely some example SOPs; I don't think there are example writing samples. 

Several people linked to their writing samples in their signatures on the philosophy forum. See here:    and here:   for some discussion of writing samples, generally, as well as some links. 

I'm not sure what 'context' you're looking for, though. No one is expecting you to have written a masterpiece, but it should show you have some understanding of the arguments other people are making about your topic and your view on it, whether you agree, disagree, propose something new, whatever. Your best work is likely whatever paper you've worked on the most; it should be something that has been revised from suggestions of a professor you trust and possibly other sources. 

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