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Maya

Choosing my writing sample

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Hi everyone,

I am currently trying to choose which writing sample to submit for my applications. I have narrowed the possibilities to three, and am strongly leaning toward a paper I wrote during my undergrad--well, a section of it, since it's over 50 pages. This paper is probably my strongest work, and in terms of the topic and methodology, it ties in very well with the research project I want to undertake in my PhD, and which I have been discussing with potential supervisors at the schools I am applying for.

However, I wonder if submitting an undergraduate paper, when I have since done a graduate degree, might raise eyebrows among the app committee. I don't want to send a message that I did not improve my skills as a grad student; its more just a matter of not having had the opportunity in my MA to do an in-depth research paper like the one I did for my BA (I didn't do an MA thesis). Mind you, neither of my degrees were in Sociology (they were in PoliSci), but I won't go there right now....

Is anyone else submitting older, rather than more recent, work?

Good luck with your applications!

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Would other parts of your application (e.g. CV) identify the undergrad paper as, indeed, an undergrad paper? I assume it was your senior thesis, and so you have likely described the project somewhere else on your application. But if not, and it is your best work, then it seems that adcomms wouldn't necessarily know whether you completed it as an undergrad or a Master's student.

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Do they give any detail as to what they're looking for in a writing sample? I've seen a couple that say the sample should be on the topic you'd like to study in grad school (which would support sending in your undergrad sample) and others that recommend something from a masters program if you have a masters. Of course that's just recommended so it's not like in your case you'd have to draw from your masters work. If you use your undergrad sample, they'll still see your transcript from grad school, right, so they'll see that you thrived!

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Do they give any detail as to what they're looking for in a writing sample? I've seen a couple that say the sample should be on the topic you'd like to study in grad school (which would support sending in your undergrad sample) and others that recommend something from a masters program if you have a masters. Of course that's just recommended so it's not like in your case you'd have to draw from your masters work. If you use your undergrad sample, they'll still see your transcript from grad school, right, so they'll see that you thrived!

yes that's a good point, my transcript should hopefully rid them of any suspicions! Thanks

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Hi,

Most people I've come across don't put much weight into the writing sample.

Chances are, you'll change your ideas once you enter and (unless you've taken some grad courses during high school), what you're attempting to study would need to be refined. My advice is simple: send your writing statement to two copy editors, and be done with it. In my experience, students spend too much time on things that dont matter......(i.e., writing statements, statement of purposes, etc.).

The committees tend to look at gre scores, letters, and grades (in that order). GRE scores are the best proof (in their minds) of your ability to succeed in a program, holding all else constant. Letters will likely confirm their original suspicions created from your statement and letters.

Grades are grades. I wouldnt do horrible, but an A at Berkley isnt an A at your local community college (in their minds). A "Sociology of Culture" class taken with Ann Swidler is not the same as a "Sociology of Culture" class taken online.

That's my two cents......

spaulding

Edited by spaulding

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Hi,

Most people I've come across don't put much weight into the writing sample.

The committees tend to look at gre scores, letters, and grades (in that order). GRE scores are the best proof (in their minds) of your ability to succeed in a program, holding all else constant. Letters will likely confirm their original suspicions created from your statement and letters.

That's my two cents......

spaulding

Hmmm, I'm not sure I would agree with you, and certainly the professors I have been talking to at the schools I'm applying for have not emphasized the order you have. But, thank you for your input.

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Most people I've come across don't put much weight into the writing sample.

In my experience, students spend too much time on things that dont matter......(i.e., writing statements, statement of purposes, etc.).

The committees tend to look at gre scores, letters, and grades (in that order). GRE scores are the best proof (in their minds) of your ability to succeed in a program, holding all else constant. Letters will likely confirm their original suspicions created from your statement and letters.

Everything I've heard is contrary to this. Yes, GRE and grades might be the first things they look at, but that is just to make the initial cut. According to every professor and DGS I've talked to, ad comms are more interested in SOPs, LORs and writing samples. The GRE is certainly NOT the best indicator of success in a grad program--not by a long shot.

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Everything I've heard is contrary to this. Yes, GRE and grades might be the first things they look at, but that is just to make the initial cut. According to every professor and DGS I've talked to, ad comms are more interested in SOPs, LORs and writing samples. The GRE is certainly NOT the best indicator of success in a grad program--not by a long shot.

Exactly - it is contrary to all of the advice I have received, as well. After the initial cuts, why would any prof ever value the GRE over a writing sample? You're going to grad school to research and publish, not to find antonyms and the hypotenuse of a triangle.

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Exactly - it is contrary to all of the advice I have received, as well. After the initial cuts, why would any prof ever value the GRE over a writing sample? You're going to grad school to research and publish, not to find antonyms and the hypotenuse of a triangle.

Thank goodness!! Great quote. :)

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I have been speaking with faculty all over and I also feel that this is contrary to my experience. Moreover, my current advisor chairs the committee of the doctoral program at my current graduate program and while she has certainly not minimized the importance of GRE scores, they are by no means the most important factor in the process. She has placed FAR greater emphasis on grades, LoRs, and SoPs. She chairs the committee at one of the best schools and is a world renowned sociologists, so i place much weight on her opinions.

Maya, I am in a similar situation: I do not have representative graduate work because I have not had the same opportunities to engage in original work in my graduate studies. I have decided to submit my undergraduate thesis as well (parts of it) because it is my strongest piece of work. I think they want to be sure that you are capable of scholarly writing and critical thinking. I do not think they will think it suspect if you submit an undergraduate thesis over graduate work. And, as socialcomm has mentioned, they will have access to your graduate transcript and will therefore have a sense of your graduate coursework and skills.

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Thanks sa854, it's nice to see there is at least one other person in the same boat as myself! :)

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