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Writing Sample Length- Help!


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Hi guys! Just a quick question about writing sample lengths-- how strict are they? For around 5 of the schools I'm applying to, they are asking for a length of 10 pages. Unfortunately, I don't have any short papers (or if I do, they're from my first or second year of college-- no thank you!). I have one paper that I have edited down to ~11.5 pages. Would this work? What is y'all's experience in not adhering to the guidelines? 

I don't know if it matters, but I'm applying to MA programs. 

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I'm assuming this is for next year's cycle, since it's almost certainly too late to be thinking about that for this year. The WS is arguably the most important aspect of your application, so selecting it with a deadline mere days away would be an interesting choice... So if this is indeed for next year's cycle, you should have time to trim down your papers or write something new over the course of the year. In fact, thinking about your programs this far in advance should give you an advantage, as you will have time to hone it and put it through as many rounds of revision as needed, and show it to as many sets of eyes that will look at it, for it to be successful. This year at least eight people -- six of them professors -- read my writing sample at least once, and commented at length. It went through seven or eight rounds of revision over the span of a month, and I'm already thinking of ways I can expand it in the future.

As to your main question, however, the advice I've heard most often from professors on this topic is that it's better to be under than over. Ten pages seems rather short, even for MA-only programs, but you should really make sure that it's no more than that (not including works cited and any endnotes, of course). But again, you've got lots of time to make this happen, unless you are talking about this application cycle, in which case I don't really know what to say...

 

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This is my first application season, so I can't speak from experience about this, but the advice I was given by my advisor throughout college and for grad school apps in particular is that you should aim to be within 10% (so in your case, that would be between 9 and 11 pages) for any length requirements. A caveat to this is if it is strictly stated that nothing beyond the requested page count will be read -- in that case I would err on the side of caution and get it as close to 10 as you can. If you have a professor you feel comfortable asking, I'd definitely check with them and see what they think!

And if this is for this application season, all I can say is... GOOD LUCK!! Even if that app is due tomorrow! I certainly wouldn't agree that it's "too late" to be thinking about that for this season; everyone works on a different timeline and you have to do what's comfortable for you! Definitely don't let that discourage you from applying this year if that's your plan. That said, if it is a close deadline and that's stressing you out, there's nothing wrong with waiting another year. You do you!

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I would also add that emailing or calling the graduate assistant might be another good course of action -- I emailed a few for clarification about different aspects of applications and they sometimes add in some additional helpful information that's not otherwise readily available!

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Thanks othersamantha! I'm not too worried-- everything is done and the apps that have a shorter page limit aren't due for a few weeks which I think should be enough time to shave off a page. I think I should be fine, thanks for the encouragement :)

For anyone else who is interested-- I have emailed the schools and most said that if it is within two pages it is okay. I am guessing that these schools in particular are lenient because the writing sample is so short. It is probably school by school, though. Thanks for everyone's feedback! 

Edited by meh16
typo
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