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Application Advice

Supporting Documents for the Application

We take a holistic approach to our admissions process for the MA in English & Writing Studies. This means that we consider a broad range of candidate qualities, including your personal attributes, past experiences, and future goals, and how those might contribute to a good fit with our program and its values and objectives. That is to say, for our program your undergraduate GPA or your score on a test does not define you and will not exclude you from consideration. (We do not require or consider GRE scores for admission.) Our holistic approach to admissions means that you should put a lot of thought into your supporting documents, such as the personal statement and writing sample. Below, please find some advice for crafting these important documents.

Potential Prompts for the Personal Statement

Here are some potential prompts that you might choose from to craft your personal statement to give the admissions committee a sense of who you are and where you’re headed.

  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
  5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
  7. Respond to a different prompt of your own design that you think helps us get to know you, your experience and your goals for the MA program.

Tips for the Personal Statement

  • Thoughtful content and careful attention to quality writing can be compelling in admission decisions.
  • Demonstrate your ability to organize your thoughts by keeping your statement focused on the topic you’ve chosen.
  • This is not a writing sample or academic paper, it’s an opportunity for us to get to know you. Make it personal by sharing information specific to your experiences and perspective.
  • Be sure the words are your own and (appropriately) reflect your personality. We want to get to know YOU, so use a “voice” that’s authentic.
  • Plagiarism is grounds for immediate rejection of your application.
  • Remember: approximately 500 words is your limit, not your goal, though your response must be at least 250 words.


Tips for the Writing Sample

  • Choose a piece of writing of 5-10 pages that showcases your ability to think critically and articulate your ideas in writing.
  • You don’t need to write an entirely new piece, but definitely clean up the piece you choose in terms of content, style, and structure so it demonstrates your writing and thinking at its best.