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Importance of the writing sample for Spanish PhD programs


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This week I attended an interview for a doctoral program in another national literature department, and they told me that they choose candidates solely based on the writing sample. I also applied to Spanish literature PhD programs, and this is making me very nervous, because I thought that grades and letters of recommendation also came into play. Is this the case for Spanish lit PhD programs as well? Is the writing sample the deciding factor?


Thank you!

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I have no idea about Spanish PhD programs, but for most of the humanities, in most departments, it seems that writing sample is either the most important factor or closely follows the SOP. The program that interviewed you would, I'm pretty sure, be very unusual in having it be the sole consideration, but I heard about at least one application where writing sample was my deciding factor. I think that's a bit unusual, though: although I can't generalize to Spanish for certain, in the humanities I believe the most common model is for SOP to lead, followed by writing sample, rather than the other way around. Letters of recommendation are always a few steps of importance down the scale, and GRE and grades are basically only negative factors. (Places may have bars you need to clear, and the height of those bars varies tremendously, but once you've cleared them, a 3.85 GPA will prove no more helpful than a 3.75.) But although I assume your interview was based on a different writing sample than the one you used for your Spanish applications....isn't it a phenomenal sign about your writing that, in at least one case, you literally did just get an interview based on your writing alone?

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Thank you for your reply! Actually, that was not the case. The program has not read my application yet. They just asked all prospective students to visit at some point in the fall, so I scheduled a visit. I do not know if my writing will make the cut. 

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