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Hi, all

Since we've started the application process (I know some have already applied and many of us are likely preparing this week to begin), we are all (I assume) done with any and all WS/SOP major revisions and are focused now on polishing (that is, at least, where I am in this whole thing.) While I sometimes feel like my tweaking is good, I also have a sense that it is not really necessary - while my SOP and WS could, of course, be "better" and definitely different, they are what they are at this point and I'm largely proud of them, regardless of outcome. 

So, how do you all determine when "good enough is good enough"?

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The point of diminishing returns for me: when readers uniformly say that whatever I sent them to look at is good to go, and make suggestions that are either minor or conflict with what others suggest (e.g. A says "move XYZ to the top" and B says "I think XYZ would be best at the bottom", unless one of them actually has a compelling reason for their view). Caveat: that last typo will remain there, no matter many people read your draft; you'll find it 5 seconds after you submit (or, embarrassingly, 5 years later).

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Thanks, @fuzzylogician - that is not only sensible but easy to apply to my own peer/professor edits. I appreciate it! 

Also, lols@ the future typo - I look forward to it stepping out from behind the curtain and giving me the ol' razzle dazzle after I've submitted everything.

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Oh, this reminds me. For the love of all that is holy, PLEASE, do NOT re-read old drafts of submitted statements. That's one of the best way to add useless agony to your life. Put them behind you when you're done and move on. (Caveat: unless you're back to work on new drafts for a new cycle. But even then, what's done is done.) Old statements will be embarrassing to you no matter what you do. For most people, all of their old writing is like that. It shows all their flaws and inconsistencies, or so they think. But the thing is, no one else resides in your head and knows these things, and anyway -- what's done is done. 

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Thanks again - @fuzzylogician ... if I may ask: how did you, as an applicant, balance between knowing the SOP/WS was strong while knowing your writing and research skills would grow as you progressed in your program (I'm sure you could write a far "better" SOP/WS now than you did as an applicant.)

I ask because, in my case, I know that I will grow as a scholar and writer. Heck, I know some programs really want to see that interest in growth - which makes a ton of sense. But because I have an MA, I keep fixating on polishing so that it looks like it is at the PhD level (which I can't do since, you know, I'm not actually a PhD student).

Edited by a_sort_of_fractious_angel

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Well, seeing as I am generally pretty terrible at predicting the future, I just go with the feedback I get on my actual product at the actual time I produce it. Yes, I expect my writing to mature with experience (specifically, I've definitely adopted a style of writing and presentating/teaching that I didn't have when I was just getting started), but for sure I wouldn't have been able to predict that before grad school, or even as a young grad student. At any given point in time, you do your best with what you've got. For that reason, I don't think it's wise to aim to "sound like a grad student", whatever that means. Aim to sound your best, given who you are now. And again, learn to identify that point of diminishing returns, where you might make very small improvements at very large costs that aren't obviously worth it. That's the point to accept a product that is "good enough" for this particular purpose. (For homework, that point would be much earlier for me, for example). 

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8 minutes ago, fuzzylogician said:

Well, seeing as I am generally pretty terrible at predicting the future, I just go with the feedback I get on my actual product at the actual time I produce it. Yes, I expect my writing to mature with experience (specifically, I've definitely adopted a style of writing and presentating/teaching that I didn't have when I was just getting started), but for sure I wouldn't have been able to predict that before grad school, or even as a young grad student. At any given point in time, you do your best with what you've got. For that reason, I don't think it's wise to aim to "sound like a grad student", whatever that means. Aim to sound your best, given who you are now. And again, learn to identify that point of diminishing returns, where you might make very small improvements at very large costs that aren't obviously worth it. That's the point to accept a product that is "good enough" for this particular purpose. (For homework, that point would be much earlier for me, for example). 

Thank you! Intellectually, I totally get it but needed (personally) to hear it from another source. I appreciate it! 

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That's how I largely feel about the application (especially the Writing Sample). My last section of my writing sample is very meh. I know it's meh, at this point in this amount of time I don't know how to fix it without redoing the whole thing and I don't think the meh section is going to put me out of the running for any programs. If a program were to say that they would have let me in if I'd just fixed that one typo or just included one more summary sentence on the sop, then honestly it's not a program I want to be in.

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26 minutes ago, renea said:

That's how I largely feel about the application (especially the Writing Sample). My last section of my writing sample is very meh. I know it's meh, at this point in this amount of time I don't know how to fix it without redoing the whole thing and I don't think the meh section is going to put me out of the running for any programs. If a program were to say that they would have let me in if I'd just fixed that one typo or just included one more summary sentence on the sop, then honestly it's not a program I want to be in.

That's a good way to think about it, @renea that I hadn't considered - I don't adore every section of my WS or every sentence of my SOP but if a kiss-of-death moment is a superficial issue like that, it is probably not a department I'd flourish in. 

Plus, if any section is going to be a bit meh, I'd imagine it's far better to have it be the last section instead of the intro or first big section - strong first impressions and whatnot.

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On 12/1/2017 at 7:53 PM, a_sort_of_fractious_angel said:

Hi, all

Since we've started the application process (I know some have already applied and many of us are likely preparing this week to begin), we are all (I assume) done with any and all WS/SOP major revisions and are focused now on polishing (that is, at least, where I am in this whole thing.) While I sometimes feel like my tweaking is good, I also have a sense that it is not really necessary - while my SOP and WS could, of course, be "better" and definitely different, they are what they are at this point and I'm largely proud of them, regardless of outcome. 

So, how do you all determine when "good enough is good enough"?

Make sure the intro of your writing sample is glowing. It needs to come out of the gate storming. They are not going to read the middle (at least not until you're in the final rounds, and maybe not even then) but the conclusion should be strong as well (though the intro is most important). 

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15 hours ago, Bumblebea said:

Make sure the intro of your writing sample is glowing. It needs to come out of the gate storming. They are not going to read the middle (at least not until you're in the final rounds, and maybe not even then) but the conclusion should be strong as well (though the intro is most important). 

Thanks, @Bumblebea - I've heard that elsewhere previously and am happy to hear it again - I've poured over the first 10 pages of the essay to make sure the intro & first section are exciting, well-written and accessible (my greatest fear is losing them after two pages) - onto the conclusion, now! 

Interesting about the middle section - not that I'll slack on polishing it but it makes sense that the middle is the (relatively) least important part. 

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