What is a writing sample and why is it necessary?
In today’s competitive job market, applicants—even those applying to positions not related directly to writing—may be required to submit writing samples. These are primarily used to determine writing ability, show literary and grammar skills, and reflect one’s overall writing style.
What should I consider when selecting a writing sample?
- Follow employers instructions; it is fine to ask for clarity if you are unsure.
- If the employer does not specify, submit a sample that closely matches the subject matter or position.
- If you have no relevant work experience (i.e., you are applying for an entry-level job), you may submit a school assignment. A lab report would work for a science-related position. An assignment from a business or technical writing class would also be appropriate.
Are certain samples inappropriate?
- Submitting outdated samples (older than one year) is not a good idea. Doing so communicates that you have not kept current.
- Avoid samples that have no relevancy to your industry/expertise. For example, a creative or narrative writing sample would not be appropriate when applying to a scientific or technical position, whereas it might work well for other positions or graduate programs. Try to match your sample to the kind of writing you will be doing on the job.
- Blogs are discouraged unless they are professional sounding and relevant to your field.
- Avoid sending samples on political or religious topics.
What if I don’t have an appropriate, recent sample?
- Write one! There is no rule that your writing sample must be something you wrote for work or a class.
How long should a writing sample be?
- Samples should be concise and succinct: one to four pages are usually sufficient. In many cases, reviewers are primarily interested in how well you convey your ideas (structure and grammatical accuracy) as opposed to content.
- You may provide an excerpt of a longer paper, as long as the excerpt makes sense as a stand-alone document. If your sample is an excerpt of a longer work, be sure to note that on the first page.
Can I submit a sample I co-authored?
- It is permissible to send a sample that was a collaboration between you and another person; however, it’s best to do so if collaborative efforts are a part of the position for which you are applying.
- It is best to also include other samples where you are the sole author.
Are there any precautions I need to take when submitting samples?
- Be sure to protect confidential information included in your documents. Change or remove names, company names, addresses, etc., to protect the identity of those referenced.
- Edit your sample! Just because you received a good grade on a paper doesn’t mean it’s free from errors.
Start gathering samples now!
You never know when you might be asked to submit a writing sample. Consider developing a portfolio of well-written pieces so they will be accessible when needed. Choose samples that represent a full range of skills: samples of how well you summarize and convey complex ideas, research papers, editorials, articles, journals and blogs (relevant ones). You can keep a few of your best writing samples in UMBCworks.
Adapted from, “Tips to Get Your Writing Sample Right for a Job Application” by Margot Charmichael Lester)
If you want to get in, the first thing to look at is the acceptance rate. This tells you how competitive the school is and how serious their requirements are.
The acceptance rate at UMBC is 59%. For every 100 applicants, 59 are admitted.
This means the school is moderately selective. The school expects you to meet their requirements for GPA and SAT/ACT scores, but they're more flexible than other schools. If you exceed their requirements, you have an excellent chance of getting in. But if you don't, you might be one of the unlucky minority that gets a rejection letter.
Many schools specify a minimum GPA requirement, but this is often just the bare minimum to submit an application without immediately getting rejected.
The GPA requirement that really matters is the GPA you need for a real chance of getting in. For this, we look at the school's average GPA for its current students.
The average GPA at UMBC is 3.73.
(Most schools use a weighted GPA out of 4.0, though some report an unweighted GPA.
With a GPA of 3.73, UMBC requires you to be above average in your high school class. You'll need at least a mix of A's and B's, with more A's than B's. You can compensate for a lower GPA with harder classes, like AP or IB classes. This will show that you're able to handle more difficult academics than the average high school student.
If you're currently a junior or senior, your GPA is hard to change in time for college applications. If your GPA is at or below the school average of 3.73, you'll need a higher SAT or ACT score to compensate. This will help you compete effectively against other applicants who have higher GPAs than you.
Each school has different requirements for standardized testing. Most schools require the SAT or ACT, and many also require SAT subject tests.
You must take either the SAT or ACT to submit an application to UMBC. More importantly, you need to do well to have a strong application.
UMBC SAT Requirements
Many schools say they have no SAT score cutoff, but the truth is that there is a hidden SAT requirement. This is based on the school's average score.
Average SAT: 1280 (Old: 1792)
The average SAT score composite at UMBC is a 1280 on the 1600 SAT scale.
On the old 2400 SAT, this corresponds to an average SAT score of 1792.
This score makes UMBC Competitive for SAT test scores.
UMBC SAT Score Analysis (New 1600 SAT)
The 25th percentile New SAT score is 1180, and the 75th percentile New SAT score is 1370. In other words, a 1180 on the New SAT places you below average, while a 1370 will move you up to above average.
Here's the breakdown of new SAT scores by section:
|Section||Average||25th Percentile||75th Percentile|
UMBC SAT Score Analysis (Old 2400 SAT)
The 25th percentile Old SAT score is 1640, and the 75th percentile SAT score is 1940. In other words, a 1640 on the Old SAT places you below average, while a 1940 puts you well above average.
Here's the breakdown of old SAT scores by section:
|Section||Average||25th Percentile||75th Percentile|
SAT Score Choice Policy
The Score Choice policy at your school is an important part of your testing strategy.
UMBC has the Score Choice policy of "Highest Section."
This is also known as "superscoring." This means that you can choose which SAT tests you want to send to the school. Of all the scores they receive, your application readers will consider your highest section scores across all SAT test dates you submit.
Click below to learn more about how superscoring critically affects your test strategy.
For example, say you submit the following 3 test scores:
Even though the highest total you scored on any one test date was 1000, UMBC will take your highest section score from all your test dates, then combine them to form your Superscore. You can raise your composite score from 1000 to 1400 in this example.
This is important for your testing strategy. Because you can choose which tests to send in, and UMBC forms your Superscore, you can take the SAT as many times as you want, then submit only the tests that give you the highest Superscore. Your application readers will only see that one score.
Therefore, if your SAT superscore is currently below a 1280, we strongly recommend that you consider prepping for the SAT and retaking it. You have a very good chance of raising your score, which will significantly boost your chances of getting in.
Even better, because of the Superscore, you can focus all your energy on a single section at a time. If your Reading score is lower than your other sections, prep only for the Reading section, then take the SAT. Then focus on Math for the next test, and so on. This will surely give you the highest Superscore possible.
Download our free guide on the top 5 strategies you must be using to improve your score. This guide was written by Harvard graduates and SAT perfect scorers. If you apply the strategies in this guide, you'll study smarter and make huge score improvements.
UMBC ACT Requirements
Just like for the SAT, UMBC likely doesn't have a hard ACT cutoff, but if you score too low, your application will get tossed in the trash.
Average ACT: 27
The average ACT score at UMBC is 27. This score makes UMBC Moderately Competitive for ACT scores.
The 25th percentile ACT score is 24, and the 75th percentile ACT score is 29.
Even though UMBC likely says they have no minimum ACT requirement, if you apply with a 24 or below, you'll have a harder time getting in, unless you have something else impressive in your application.
ACT Score Sending Policy
If you're taking the ACT as opposed to the SAT, you have a huge advantage in how you send scores, and this dramatically affects your testing strategy.
Here it is: when you send ACT scores to colleges, you have absolute control over which tests you send. You could take 10 tests, and only send your highest one. This is unlike the SAT, where many schools require you to send all your tests ever taken.
This means that you have more chances than you think to improve your ACT score. To try to aim for the school's ACT requirement of 27 and above, you should try to take the ACT as many times as you can. When you have the final score that you're happy with, you can then send only that score to all your schools.
ACT Superscore Policy
By and large, most colleges do not superscore the ACT. (Superscore means that the school takes your best section scores from all the test dates you submit, and then combines them into the best possible composite score). Thus, most schools will just take your highest ACT score from a single sitting.
We weren't able to find the school's exact ACT policy, which most likely means that it does not Superscore. Regardless, you can choose your single best ACT score to send in to UMBC, so you should prep until you reach our recommended target ACT score of 27.
Download our free guide on the top 5 strategies you must be using to improve your score. This guide was written by Harvard graduates and ACT perfect scorers. If you apply the strategies in this guide, you'll study smarter and make huge score improvements.
SAT/ACT Writing Section Requirements
Both the SAT and ACT have a Writing section that includes an essay.
UMBC considers the SAT/ACT Writing section optional and may not include it as part of their admissions consideration. You don't need to worry too much about Writing for this school, but other schools you're applying to may require it.
SAT Subject Test Requirements
Schools vary in their SAT subject test requirements. Typically, selective schools tend to require them, while most schools in the country do not.
We did not find information that UMBC requires SAT subject tests, and so most likely it does not. At least 6 months before applying, you should still doublecheck just to make sure, so you have enough time to take the test.