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How do you know when it's done?


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Although I did not need to submit a writing sample for my graduate school application, I think this is a common theme for a lot of things graduate students face (e.g. homework assignments, term papers, research articles, grant applications, dissertations, etc.)


In my opinion, the answer is "when you have other things you need to do and the time spent on this is no longer worth it". For things like this, we can always keep editing and working and after awhile, you quickly get to "diminishing returns". At this point, the time you spend on this is probably better spent on other efforts (SOP? studying for exams? relaxing to maintain sanity? etc.). 


But how do you know you got to this point? Mostly past experience -- you probably wrote a ton of papers in undergrad leading up to this point. You know when you've done a "good enough" job. Trust your instinct! An important part of graduate school is knowing when to let go and spend your efforts elsewhere.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Well, I don't know if it's EVER quite done, and that's the problem we all face. For me, there will always be something that I could have/would have/should have changed. I chose what I felt was my strongest essay (and most pertinent to my application), and then went through it with a fine-toothed comb once or twice. I spruced it up a bit, added a little more content in areas that I felt were uneven, and then just decided to let it go for my own sanity. That's kind of how it was with all the portions of my application; I obsessively re-read and edited my writing sample and statement of purpose over a course of four months, and finally, now that the deadlines are here, I just had to let it go and hope for the best. I think that's all we can do.

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I agree that at some point you have to let it go if you have other worries or you are starting to question your sanity.


Ideally, though, I consider myself done after I have read the paper aloud and found zero mistakes or awkward phrasing and had a trusted peer read it through and sign off on it. This ensures that the paper not only makes sense to me, but to somebody else who wasn't there for the whole process of composing.


At that point, I am confident in saying it is the best possible job I could have done at that point in my life and given the circumstances, and I can be proud of the piece. I will save or print or whatever and walk away, preferably into the sunset.

Edited by ToldAgain
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  • 5 weeks later...

They're like movies:  they are not released; they escape.


I only had to write one personal statement. Knowing that, I knew I had to make it perfect. I planned to submit my full application on November 1 for the December 1 deadline. I started on my personal statement in August and had a draft by September. After reading it so much, I started to have "tunnel vision" and started to over-think every sentence. I then took it into my university's writing center (my first ever visit to the writing center my tuition was paying for!) and just having another set of eye's read it and give feedback was extremely helpful.


Anyways, I don't think a personal statement can ever be perfect, but they can be pretty darn close!

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