The admissions process is constantly evolving, keeping parents on their toes! Graded writing samples are one of the latest admissions trends. For middle school and high school applicants, many schools now require a writing sample from your child’s current school year that has been graded by a teacher and/or includes teacher comments.
Why do schools ask for graded writing samples? They’re another data point that admissions committees can use to assess your child. Your child’s writing is also on display in student essays, but those pieces of writing are constructed over a long period of time (throughout the fall application process). Schools are interested in seeing a piece of writing that more authentically reflects the student’s in-school writing abilities. Admissions committees will take all of the help they can get in painting a holistic picture of your student, assessing how they would contribute to a new classroom environment next year.
Of course, schools also leverage standardized test scores (including the ISEE on-demand essay) to assess your child’s language and writing proficiency. Between all three writing samples (the graded writing sample, student essays, and ISEE on-demand essay), the key is consistency. A school should get a holistic sense of your student’s voice and writing capabilities between long-form, multi-draft essays and short-form, on-demand pieces.
For your child’s graded writing sample, you should be looking for a recent, graded piece of analytical writing from an English or history class. Book reports, research essays, or reading responses are great options. Science lab reports can sometimes work, as long as they include a significant written portion. Creative writing pieces aren’t a great fit for graded writing samples, because schools are typically trying to get a sense of a student’s conventional academic writing abilities. However, creative writing samples might be a great addition to a supplemental arts portfolio if your student is submitting one.
To locate a good writing sample, first review assignments that your child has completed thus far this term. Have they received top marks on any analytical essays? If not, don’t worry: there’s still plenty of time. Have your child ask their current English and history teachers about any upcoming writing assignments for this term. Are there any major essays coming down the pipeline? Will it fit what schools are looking for? If so, you’ve found the perfect writing sample. Encourage your student to show their best work on this assignment (as they always should). Ideally, they’ll receive a top mark on this essay, with glowing comments from their teacher.
If a writing assignment is a good fit for the writing sample requirements, but your student’s teacher didn’t leave extensive feedback, feel free to ask the teacher if they’d be open to re-grading the essay with additional commentary. Most teachers will be more than happy to oblige! It’s also a good idea to include any supplementary rubrics that the teacher used in grading the essay; again, most teachers will be happy to provide these upon request.
Logistically, it’s simple enough to submit a graded writing sample. You can scan a physical essay printout (with grade/comments in the margins) and submit the PDF along with your child’s application. If the essay is in Google Docs and the teacher’s comments are digitally embedded in the document, download it to a Microsoft Word version so the comments transfer, then download as a PDF. Include any supplemental grading rubrics if applicable, also converted to PDF form.
Remember, graded writing samples don’t need to be submitted until December. You and your student have plenty of time to strategize an appropriate writing sample, work with teachers to get comments, and handle the logistics. Admissions committees will look forward to reviewing your child’s work!