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The Writing Sample for Graduate School

Writing Sample among the essays

Applying to graduate school and choosing academic writing that showcases your academic excellence can be challenging. Don’t worry! Although your writing sample is crucial, it doesn’t need to be perfect. It should effectively communicate, demonstrate your potential for advanced academic work, and importantly, show your ability to specialize in a program’s field of interest. We offer tips to help you select the best writing sample for your graduate school.

Use an Appropriate Professional Style Guide

Your writing sample should show topical expertise, but also an understanding of professional research. Find the standard style guide for your chosen field, and make sure it’s applied consistently–not just citations, but also any formatting for cover pages, pages numbers, and bibliographies.

Keep it Relevant

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Select a sample that closely reflects your areas of potential interest. This means the sample with the highest grade may not be the best. It may be worthwhile to revise a B+ paper and use it a writing sample if it’s more relevant to the field you want to study than that A paper from a different academic area.

Take your time!

If there’s no obvious pick that’s OK. Don’t rush when selecting a writing sample. Instead, take some time to review your options–pick something that will make an impression on the admissions committee, and don’t be afraid to revise. You may be tempted to write something new for submission – this is almost always a bad idea. Remember that previous work has been written for a reason and has likely seen feedback from trusted advisors.

Make Sure it is Free of Errors

As already hinted, you may need to edit the sample you choose. Remember you want to express your professional readiness for advanced studies with your writing sample, so triple check for typographical and other errors before submitting it with your application package.

Follow the Instructions!

ay close attention to any requirements set out for you application materials, and make sure you meet the required length. Typically, you don’t want to exceed them either–more is not always better. Remember that graduate applications are also about showing that you can follow directions.

Structure and Organization Matter!

Academic writing should be a well written with a concise beginning, clear middle and an effective end. Make sure that each part of your essay is clear, compelling, and, well, present in your writing sample. Even the most brilliant ideas and research get lost in a poorly structured essay.

Showcase Your Research Skills!

This can take different forms depending on your field. If you’re applying to an experiment-driven program in physics or sociology you may need to demonstrate your grasp of research best practices in field. In a scholarly program such as history or literature you may need to demonstrate a meaningful grasp of research with primary documents, or applying specific methodologies in analysis.

Demonstrate Your Critical Thinking

A strong writing sample showcases your critical thinking skills, which means evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of a prevailing view and drawing conclusions based on evidence. Your writing should engage with existing work in the field. In the writing sample, you show the reader what you already know and what questions you want to explore.

Reveal Yourself as an Effective Communicator

Finally, choosing a well-written academic paper for your application involves communicating complex ideas effectively, whether your own or others’ (with proper attribution). The best samples balance engaging with existing ideas and introducing your own. This balance is crucial for grad school success, offering a chance to showcase this skill and engage your reader through your writing sample.

Graduate Admissions Support

In conclusion, we know that applying for graduate school can be a stressful process. We’re here to help you navigate the ups and downs. Check out more helpful tips and articles demystifying graduate school admissions on our blog. Looking for help with your application essays? We have samples of real Personal Statements that got people accepted to graduate programs – with our expert feedback to help you write your essays.


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