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Introducing a New Expert Content Section: Careers!

Supplementary Writing Sample: Worth it?

coffeeicecreamcoffeeicecream Registered User Posts: 190 Junior Member
edited July 2008 in Harvard University
Hi guys!

I wrote this research paper on a famous feminist author in junior year for my english class, using creative ideas, or so i think...(in fact, the entire paper was proving the symbolism of a paticular item (a vegetable) and its relation to the author's life and work, using various literary criticisms). I recieved a solid A on the paper (the highest in the class) and its my best work up to date, and I want to know whether it would be worth it for me to send it off to Harvard as a supplementary writing sample?

Do a lot on kids send off writing samples? Do you think the idea is somewhat new in order to get me in, or something that will detract from my application? I'm afraid there's nothing special enough to get me in, and I'm hoping an original, somewhat A-HA! paper could help? I want to apply for a BIO major, but with a minor or perhaps double major in english...

thanks guys!
Post edited by coffeeicecream on

Replies to: Supplementary Writing Sample: Worth it?

  • olgitaolgita Registered User Posts: 505 Member
    Hmm...I don't know. When I applied, writing was one of my major ECs. I received national and regional writing awards and had my English teacher write my rec, but I didn't send anything in. My interviewer, however, made it clear that that was a mistake. I was still accepted, but I now realize that sending a writing sample wouldn't have hurt. I'd imagine that unless you're just unbearably horrible, it probably won't have any negative effect on your application. So, if you're confident in your skill, you can probably send it. Another factor to consider, however, is whether it would be at all relevant to your application. Are you interested in pursuing writing? Is it one of your major hobbies or talents? If not, then I question the impact that a writing sample would have on your application.
  • Cato91Cato91 Registered User Posts: 181 Junior Member
    Yeah I'm authoring a fairly advanced article on political and legal theory, which will eventually be presented at a conference.

    Should I consider sending it in?

    In other words, what are the trade-offs?
  • PoisonousPoisonous Registered User Posts: 580 Member
    The trade off is rather simple. The admissions officers in charge of your application will read it, and if they think its good enough for consideration they will send it to a faculty member to review. If the faculty member responds negativley after reading the paper it could kill your application, especially if the paper was in your intended field. But, if the reader loves it, your application could get a strong boost.

    For Cato, I don't know how long your paper is, but it might be easier to send them the abstract instead of the entire article. I know that a lot of applicants with science papers opt to send the abstract because their research could be tedious to an admissions officer with limited time to review applications.

    For coffee, it would carry more weight in the admissions committee if the paper was in your intended field, if it was published, or if you showed a passion for the subject. Other than that I think the paper would probably act as a way for the committee to evaluate your writng and analytical ability in conjunction with your essay and SAT scores. If you think the paper is really solid have your english teacher, or someone similar, review it extensivley for grammar mistakes, and then submit it.
  • Cato91Cato91 Registered User Posts: 181 Junior Member
    Thanks Poisonous!

    Unfortunately, abstracts can't be done as well in my field, political and legal philosophy. They may be great for the natural and applied sciences, but an abstract of a philosophical work ends up being a bunch of assertions. A lot of people can write one page of some things they believe; not as many can write a paper that defends them.

    Ahhhh...who knows? It's a trade-off I suppose, a calculated risk. You gamble that the prof is going to like it. It's especially risky in my field because people, ahem, tend to have opinions on matters of political theory. Especially professors: they are paid to have opinions. There are a lot of noble professors out there, but there are also a few corrupt ones...

    For me, I'm probably just going to list on the application that I authored it, that it is being presented at an international symposium, and (possible) being published. Plus I'll send in a supplemental rec from my mentor, who is a professor himself (not at H, alas). That way, no risk, and most of the reward.
  • coffeeicecreamcoffeeicecream Registered User Posts: 190 Junior Member
    would it make sense to send it if im applying as a bio major, but then definately want to pursue english as a second major? how could i make this apparent to them, since im trying to not only boost why i should get in as a bio major (i have research stuff, but not a supplementary abstract or anything i want to send) but also as an english second major?
  • coffeeicecreamcoffeeicecream Registered User Posts: 190 Junior Member
    also, would it be slightly stupid to send something, since i havent won any national writing awards? ive won english awards at the school level and authored some pieces for a group newspaper, as well as been 1 of 5 students to be able to job shadow a surgeon based on an essay contest, but thats it...and thats nothing comparitively...

    i just really love english i want them to be able to see that through my writing, but you guys are making a point...it kinda doesnt make sense with the rest of my application, which is more geared toward the biological sciences...

    what do you think? is a diverse app better in hopes that something will catch the committee's eyes, or a single, focused one (for ex, for me, just on biology)? thanks :)
  • Cato91Cato91 Registered User Posts: 181 Junior Member
    You know, unless you think it would impress a Harvard professor, and you are sure that you have not overlooked an alternative way of thinking that the professor may have and may skewer you with, I would advise against it.

    The worst-case scenario is that the professor calls it (with all the condescension a Harvard English Professor can summon) "pseudo-scholarly, pretentious drivel, glazed with a veneer of sophistication which cannot hide its rotted logic." OK. That's the absolute worst case scenario that you will hopefully never even approach. But still, do you want to accept the risk? Even of a more minor derision: "Good effort, but she doesn't know what she's talking about." THAT certainly won't help your chances in a pool of 28,000 (probably this year) other students.

    Especially if you plan to be a Bio Major.

    Perhaps ask for a rec from your English teacher. I'm sure your paper is awesome, and you're teacher probably shares my opinion.
  • PoisonousPoisonous Registered User Posts: 580 Member
    ^ Haha, well put.

    @coffee: Putting the paper in perspective in seems somewhat useless. I would heed the posts in the Yale room's thread on this subject. Unless it has some value to your specific case, you might want to leave it out, but ask your teachers to make some nice remarks about it.

    @Cato: I'm published in the field of Historical analysis, and I plan on writing an abstract of my work for admissions purposes. When I wrote my paper I organized it so that my thesis would answer a series of questions about the topic. If you did anything similar, you could write your abstract so that it just had a brief preface, introduced the main questions, provided you answers with a little bit of background, and then had a short conclusion. Works well for history papers, maybe you could adapt it for poli. science. You don't have to defend yourself in an abstract, just talk about what the paper is on.

    Now, the really tricky part is whether or not I should include some of the art I have made. I was self-taught, so I have no teacher to write me a recommendation without submitting anything, but I have also had some of my work pubished, so I'm not terribly bad. I don't intend on pursuing a degree in art, but I would like to continue the hobby while I'm in college, and perhaps take some classes or enroll in some artistic extra-curriculars. The admissions board doesn't have to read art, only look at it, so it won't be time consuming, but I run the risk of having them hating it, thinking that its superfluous, or sending it to a Harvard art critic that trashes it. We're all in the same boat.
  • Cato91Cato91 Registered User Posts: 181 Junior Member
    Sending in supplementary research materials is a catch-22.

    If it's good--good enough to be proud of, good enough that a H professor would comment favorably on it--it's probably already been recognized with publication, awards, a supplemental rec, etc. that you can already put on your application and which will already speak to your abilities. If it's good enough for an H professor, it's probably good enough to receive enough recognition to get you in anyways.
  • Cato91Cato91 Registered User Posts: 181 Junior Member
    With art, I'll admit it's considerably more muddled, but I don't think a bad piece of art will kill your application the way a negative comment would.

    In fact, when I was at an H info session, the admissions officer (clearly one of the higher ups, to boot) basically said of art or music supplements, "Send 'em in! It can't hurt!"
  • PoisonousPoisonous Registered User Posts: 580 Member
    Yea ^ thats always how I thought it would be until I found out that faculty will sometimes report on submissions. If they report badly that HAS to have some impact on the committee. If your future professors already thinks that your work is garbage, why would they want you in there?
This discussion has been closed.