Regarding Ph.d. applications, how important is the writing sample? I am in a top-15 Master's program right now, 3.83 GPA, but the best part of my application is my writing sample. I got a perfect grade on it from a tough grader, and I've fixed up anything that could possibly be "wrong" with it. It's definitely my best work to date. I need that because there are a couple of weaknesses in my application that I need to "make up" for, and I'm hoping the writing sample will do the trick. Thanks.
Given that I do not teach doctoral students I can reply with complete confidence that I have no clue what "magic hat-trick" makes admission committees tick! You've done your best to present your case; innumerable factors are at play, many of which have little to do with you. So what to do? Perservere. That is it in a nutshell. The reality is that it is harder to complete a Ph.D. than to get into a doctoral program, so if you let a rejection discourage you, you may not manage to make it through...so keep trying! By now, I hope you have many acceptance letters coming your way! Bon Chance! -bjm