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I have had undergraduates contact me from other institutions and ask if I would read a draft of a paper related to my work. I have, in the past, agreed to read such papers. But no one has followed up, and sent the paper along.
I would suggest ONLY contacting people who you discuss in your paper. We all have too much work as it is. But you may find people are responsive.

Alexandra Gustafson

I came from a small and relatively unknown undergraduate program, so I'm happy to share my process with OP. Even though my topic was also quite niche, I began by having as many faculty from my own department read it as possible. I then cold-emailed faculty at nearby institutions who worked in the same general field as the paper (with good success, I should add--I was wowed by how generous faculty were with their time). I did not send the paper to any graduate students, but had it occurred to me, I would have...perhaps even before/instead of sending it to unknown faculty. Not that graduate students are any less busy than faculty, but they are often closer to/more familiar with the application process and thus can give more targeted advice.

A word of caution that I had to complete an MA before I was admitted to a competitive PhD program. This is, in my experience, often the case with students coming from lesser-known programs. Thus if OP hasn't added any MA programs to their list, I'd suggest they add at least a couple (if possible).

I'd be happy to speak with OP more about my experience if that would be helpful!


Absolutely fine, if a bit unusual. A few people might be put off, but at least as many will be impressed by your dedication.

Because you're still an undergrad, it may be better (but not mandatory!) to have someone well-connected reach out and make contact for you. They're more likely to get a yes, and also more likely to know who will be a good reader. Would your advisor be willing to recommend some readers and reach out to them?

(A tip if you reach out on your own: ask people to either read the paper themselves or recommend another reader. Then if they say no, you've got a new - ahem ... volunteer and a name to drop explaining how they were volunteered).


It might be a bit weird to ask someone at a University where you are applying to read your sample. That might look like you are trying to get an in, and in a way that looks devious.

Current PhD Student

Quick take: I probably would hesitate to ask graduate students to read writing samples. I am a current PhD student, I am pretty well versed in providing feedback (like a lot of us). However, I have never been on an admissions committee before--I don't know what plays well for them. I am happy to give writing advice, but hesitant to say that such advice will have a good admissions outcome.

That being said, current grad students will more than likely have helpful insights for improving the paper, and that could hardly hurt.

Another current PhD

To OP's point that "All other mentors and colleagues that have volunteered to read through my writing sample work in completely different areas than the topic of the paper": have you taken them up on this offer? Most graduate admissions committees will have many members who work in completely different areas than the topic of your paper, and it will be of the utmost importance that they understand and are impressed by your work.

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