Friday, December 09, 2005

Calling all those in the know

Having attempted to be responsibly early in completing my graduate school applications - and failed - I am now scrambling to get things in order asap. Alright, I still have a bit over a month and a half until things are due, but I can forsee this becoming a problem.

I got Carleton's application in the mail today (thanks, Dad) and am saddened to see that I need to send a writing sample there as well as U of T. But I don't have any decent writing samples. Except for something. And I want to know what you guys think about its appropriateness.

I'm not sure how long these samples are supposed to be. I'd heard 20 pages but then I also heard 10. The papers I have that are well written and well supported come from a theory class that focused on one theorist. (Irving Goffman for the curious). I wrote a series of four five page papers that reference only Goffman's varied works. But they're interesting and read well. Can I submit two or three of these five pagers as one writing sample? There is no stipulation about length or composition.

While I think I might score points for creativity and craftiness (I have to say, they're quite crafty) I might lose out for submitting something too light and effortless; something that doesn't show my abilities of research and structure. 'Cause I got none of them - my abilities at those things are the pits.

Flaunt what you've got? Or submit a more traditional essay that's not very good? What do you think?

I'm banking on Western...


At December 09, 2005 4:20 p.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a graduate student myself, I would suggest different strategies for different schools. In general, more conservative schools like the University of Toronto want to see a sample in the discipline you are applying to that reflects your handle of the material above skillful writing, but writing skill is still important. More liberal schools might enjoy seeing pieces of well described writing over research, but in both cases I would only submit senior-level work (ie courses you took at the fourth-year or graduate level).

At December 09, 2005 7:42 p.m. , Blogger Shells Bells said...

Hey Jess we're hitting Hongdae tonight if you girlies end up in Seoul you should come meet up with us!!!!

At December 09, 2005 10:21 p.m. , Blogger Jessica said...

Thanks for the comment. I wish I wrote a decent paper last year.

Shelly, thanks for the invite! Sadly tonight is reserved already. Boo!

At December 10, 2005 1:28 a.m. , Anonymous seadragon said...

I agree with the first commenter. While they might enjoy reading something sort of fluffy and they might be able to see from it that you can write well, ultimately they probably want to see something that is specific to the discipline you'll be studying. (If you don't have anything in that particular discipline, I'd pick something close.) I don't think it's the content specific knowledge they care about, but they do care to see if you're likely to be able to reason and make your points clear in the discipline you'll be in.

In addition to the essay I had to submit explaining why I wanted to go to each university, I also had to submit a writing sample. This was for pysch (theoretical / experimental) programs and so I submitted part of my senior thesis. It was boring, but it showed them that I had direct experience in the field and that I was able to write within that field (rather than being a "good" writer in literature or something else).

Now if what you have isn't very good, it might be worth working on it to make it better. If you don't have anything at all, then I would ask someone else for advice who knows your field a little better and can tell you what people would be looking for. I really think it's worth asking your undergrad professors for advice since they have likely been on application committees and can tell you exactly what people want to see.

At December 11, 2005 4:06 a.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suspect that whatever you send, the person going through it will only look at the first page (or two at tops). Submit a well-presented product with a decently written introduction.


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