Writing samples for grad school applications

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Applying to grad school can be a tedious process with many different elements. Your application will consist of such items as your previous transcripts, GRE scores, your resume or CV, a cover letter or letter of interest or personal statement, and, for most programs, a writing sample.  A lot of applicants, even highly qualified applicants with a high GPAs and GRE test scores, do not spend the needed time nor employ the appropriate strategy when preparing their writing samples. A writing sample is an important part of the application that will demonstrate to the admissions committee your writing competency, which is a critical indicator of your future success in grad school and thus weighted heavily by the committee.

Writing sample

I am a grad student studying for my MFA in creative writing, so for me, the writing sample was likely the most important part of my application. Before I began applying, I got together one sample of about four short stories and planned on including all of them in each application. This was a mistake. It turns out that each school has a different requirement. Some schools do not want more than 15 pages, while some do not want less than 30. Some schools only want two short stories, but specify a certain number of pages. Some schools want a particular layout, a certain header style, etc.  My point here is READ DIRECTIONS. I applied to one school with a 35 page writing sample full of two short stories and two pieces of flash fiction, only to find out they would not consider any student who sent in more than 15 pages.

Depending on the program you are applying to, think about choosing a previous thesis you have completed, or a previous term paper. You won’t want to use an entire thesis, but you can select a section of it as your writing sample. Make sure you are aware of any specific requirements and length limitations. If your length limit is 30 pages, aim for between 25-30 pages… don’t submit just 10 pages.

Filling out applications may seem tedious, but it is so important to follow all of the directions and make sure everything you submit demonstrates that you have researched the program and are passionate about studying there.

If you need further help with your writing sample, there are some review services you can purchase online. One of the best sources for grad school application help is GradSchoolHeaven.com. They have a range of services available for purchase starting at $79.99. I highly recommend their services, but if you just can’t afford or need a faster turn around time, then contact me to review and edit your application materials. Head over to my Fiverr profile if you’d like to enlist my help in this way.

[Photo by Flickr user westconn, used under CC licensing]

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Melissa DiGiovannantonio

Melissa DiGiovannantonio

Melissa received her Bachelors in English and Creative Writing from West Chester University. She is currently pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing and Publishing at Chatham University.

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