So you want to go to grad school?
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Advice on writing sample? 
31st-Jan-2014 01:40 pm
Hey, so I'm looking to go back to school and apply to some grad programs. I am concerned because I do not have a writing sample. Sadly, all my final year writings disappeared in a computer death. It's been awhile since I wrote anything in a serious academic manner and am worried about crafting a writing sample from scratch.

I have some of my sophomore year writings, which are, well, sophomoric, but I suppose I could take one of those and tweak it. I'm just unsure what direction to take my writing.

I have a B.A. in philosophy and want to go back for that, though I have been working in a different (if vaguely related) field.

So, fellow applicants, what do you suggest? Start fresh with something or tweak a weak piece of writing?
31st-Jan-2014 06:53 pm (UTC)
I would whip up something new. It's tough to edit most sophomore writing into something that hints at grad-level capabilities, basically. You also want to show familiarity with new thinking in the field, which if you graduated a while ago will have shifted slightly. If you're worried about sources, Google Scholar and are great for working papers and copies of journal articles, and a lot of books you can get on Google Books or Amazon look-inside preview.
1st-Feb-2014 02:34 am (UTC)
Either do something new or use a sophomore paper as more of a prompt than a first draft (i.e., write the better / expanded / more mature version of a paper on that topic). Also, if it's at all possible, email one of your potential letter writers and ask them if they might be able to provide comments and suggestions on a draft (or even grad applications more generally). Good faculty advice is invaluable if you can get it.

-Philosophy PhD student

P.S. Are you applying to MA programs, and/or waiting until next year? Imho, generally funded MAs are great for people feeling a little "out of the game," as it were.
1st-Feb-2014 02:46 am (UTC)
I think I'll be looking at MA programs not only cause I'm out of the game, but my undergrad grades aren't going to impress, so I think it's more strategic to do an MA and shine and then go for PhD (if after MA I want to continue...)
16th-Feb-2014 05:31 am (UTC)
I did an MA myself, and it's really a great idea, for pretty much anyone imho, but especially for anyone who feels like it would be productive to have a sort of "bridge" thing between undergrad and a PhD program. I didn't even bother applying to PhD programs the first time around -- my undergrad grades were, uh, confusing (As and W/Fs with nothing in between) and even if they weren't, I wanted some time to figure out how to orient myself to the whole thing. I managed to get into a very good MA program and I think it really "matured" me as a prospective academic in any number of helpful ways. I also ended up getting a PhD spot at a really great department after that, so hey.

Anyway, all that is to say, anecdotally, that good phil MA programs are a great way to go about acclimating or re-acclimating yourself to the field, so I'm all in favor of people attending them when possible :)
6th-Jun-2014 04:22 pm (UTC)
Any ideas for funded philosophy MA programs, perhaps with more of a continental twist?
6th-Jun-2014 06:00 pm (UTC)
Depends on what you mean by "more of a continental twist." For 19th Century stuff (esp. Hegel, Nietzsche) GSU can't be beat. (Full disclosure: that's where I went, and part of what I worked on while there). I'm not sure where to recommend for funded MA programs that are *primarily* "continental" (which GSU is not), or with an especially strong 20thC / contemporary contingent. It may be worth nothing that students at GSU can take courses at Emory, for whatever that's worth. (I did a phenomenology seminar with David Carr while I was there, though he has since left Emory and at least partially retired, iirc).
1st-Feb-2014 03:26 am (UTC)
Can you contact professors you wrote a paper for and see if they still have it? Or, did you keep a hard copy of anything printed out that you can scan? Just because your file is gone, doesn't mean the papers don't exist!
5th-Feb-2014 01:45 pm (UTC)
If you have access to an academic library, write something new. I wrote my writing sample from scratch, and, to date, it is still the most thoroughly researched piece of writing I have ever written because I had the time to linger over ideas and make connections and chase down sources.

Stressful? Yes. Worth the effort? Totally. I got into all the programs I applied to, and even got fully funded at one.

Don't put yourself at a disadvantage with a sub-par writing sample.
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