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hector549

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About hector549

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    Espresso Shot

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  • Gender
  • Location
    Pittsburgh, PA
  • Interests
    ethics, philosophy of science, philosophy of mind
  • Application Season
  • Program
    Philosophy

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  1. Doing poorly early in your college career can sometimes be offset by excellent grades later. If you earn a 4.0 in your remaining semesters, what will your cumulative GPA be? Getting a very high GRE score would also be necessary. I understand that you're not a philosophy major, but have you taken some philosophy courses, particularly upper-level ones? If so, what were your grades in those courses? Can you complete more advanced courses in philosophy and do well? If so, that will help to offset the fact that you're not a philosophy major, show some promise to admissions committees, give you more options for letter-writers, and connect you with professors who can help you with your writing sample. My sense is that MA students, even at very good programs, often come from no-name schools. My advice? Focus on bringing your GPA up as much as possible and taking more advanced philosophy courses.
  2. I'd very much doubt that it would count against you. If the letter is from a philosophy professor with whom you took an upper-division class and had some degree of interaction, she or he should be able to accurately assess your philosophical ability, and that assessment should carry weight, even if that professor's approach to philosophy differs from that of the admissions committee members who will read the letter. I think you're right to choose the professor with whom you did your best work, rather than someone you interacted with less and/or in whose class you struggled a bit.
  3. I'd say the rule of thumb is that it's best to get letters from philosophers when possible. In this case, your choice of whom to select for letter-writers may depend on some of the following factors: what was the nature of the course you had with the philosophy professor? Was it a higher-level course? Did you have much interaction with the professor? Did you do well? If the answer to these questions is yes, I might be inclined to go with the philosophy professor. Otherwise, it does sound as though the Religious Studies professor would write you a good letter. Depending on the nature of the work you did with that person, though, it may still count for less than a letter from a philosophy professor. If you're unsure about whether the philosophy professor will have enough information to be able to write you a strong letter, it's acceptable to ask. Will your other letters be from philosophy professors? If the other two are from philosophy professors who know you well and will be strong letters, and you're just trying to find a third writer, it may also be less of an issue who you select. It may also matter to a lesser degree who you choose for your third writer if you're applying principally to MA programs rather than PhD programs.
  4. I have to agree with @Glasperlenspieler, I don't think admissions committees for PhD programs care a jot about whether you've published something or not, and whether you've presented at conferences. I don't know if sub-par publications could hurt your career in the long term or not; perhaps that's so. In any case, I think there are more useful things on which to focus time and energy. The most important things with respect to PhD admissions are that you have an excellent writing sample and strong letters. Also important are GRE scores and grades. @philoguy, at this point your undergrad GPA is beyond your control anyway, as is the prestige-level of your MA institution. As for your GREs, my sense is it's probably not worth putting in lots of study hours to possibly raise them a couple of points from where they are now. They're already decently strong. I think if I were you, I would focus on getting strong letters, working on your sample, and getting good grades in your remaining coursework.
  5. Will you have earned a degree in philosophy when you graduate? If not, you might consider waiting to graduate in order to earn the undergraduate credential in philosophy, particularly if you haven't yet done much coursework in philosophy, and you're considering doing more coursework in philosophy after graduation anyway. It'll give you more practice in crafting a strong sample, and more time to obtain strong letters, as well as put some more solid work between you and the withdrawals. Also, it's worth keeping in mind that it can be more difficult to get guidance on your writing sample or to obtain letters after you've left academia (in the case of taking a gap year) if you're not nearby or in contact with professors. As for the specific issue of the W's on your transcript, I think I would do everything possible to make your application strong, as you've mentioned: earning good grades in your remaining courses (particularly in philosophy), obtaining good letters, scoring well on the GRE, and writing a strong sample. I'd consider asking your letter writers to explain the W's; if there's a reasonable explanation that your letter writers can address (a death in the family and mental health challenges), then that will help. Also, a strong finish on your part will help show that you've put these issues behind you.
  6. This is the philosophy sub-forum Here's the psych sub-forum: http://forum.thegradcafe.com/forum/8-psychology/ Good luck!
  7. Ideally, yes, all your letters should be from tenured philosophy professors with whom you have worked, in order to be strong letters. However, I wouldn't be discouraged from applying if, say, getting all three letters from tenured philosophers isn't possible. MA programs, I believe, in particular are accustomed to students from somewhat less straightforward backgrounds. When I applied, I had one letter from a VAP in philosophy, one letter from an English professor, and the third from a tenured philosophy professor, and I was successful in obtaining admission to a number of programs. In the case of the OP, her situation is complicated by the fact that she graduated ten years ago, and has a very low undergraduate GPA. In her case, I think I would take several courses and try to get some up-to-date letters from philosophy faculty who would be able to write stronger letters, especially in light of her GPA.
  8. You mention that you're employed at an Ivy League institution. Perhaps you could consider taking a philosophy course or two there, perhaps a graduate course if you're able to do so. This would give you more recent grades on a transcript to help offset the low GPA from your BA (especially helpful if it's from a great institution), would help you get stronger letters, and could also give you a starting point for a new sample. If it's been 10 years, it would also give you a chance to see what it feels like to be doing academic philosophy again, and would probably also help you to feel less rusty in preparation for a graduate program.
  9. There's some good advice in this thread. I think a very important consideration, one that other posters have mentioned, is how much intrinsic value one places in a graduate education in philosophy. If you only finish an MA, or get a few years into your dissertation process, and leave (as many people do; attrition rates are high) because you realize it isn't for you after all, or because you're tired of being really poor, or because of other extenuating circumstances, will having studied philosophy for some years be worth it to you, even if you didn't finish the PhD? If you complete your doctorate in 7-9 years (from what I've read and seen, taking this long is very common, and could be eleven years or more if you first do an MA), and the job market forces you to leave academic philosophy, will the process of obtaining the degree still justify the opportunity cost? Put another way, are you willing and able to give yourself new skills and start over with a new career after completing the PhD, even if you're in your mid- or late-thirties (or a bit younger or older, depending on your age), and have few resources? What if you need to get another MA, or something of the sort? If starting over is what you have to do, how much will it bother you? This is probably the harder question, since it's difficult to predict the person you will be in 7-9 years, and how your values might change, as well as what you're willing to put up with in a job/life. In other words, I think sometimes if you're earlier in your twenties, it's easier to think that if you have to work some shitty jobs in ten years while you reinvent yourself and start a new career from scratch, that that won't be a big deal. It's really not when you're, say, 23. As one gets older, I think that thought often becomes less attractive (it has for me). I think it's useful to do a kind of thought experiment, in which this has happened to you. What will you do? I say this, because it's easy, I believe, to think hypothetically of the outcome, but not really grapple with the reality of being in the situation as much as you're able to imagine it. The necessity of finding a post-PhD career outside academia is, probably, somewhat more likely if you're coming from a lower-ranked or unranked program, and therefore, how much intrinsic value you place in the graduate study of philosophy is an important consideration if you're attending such a program, but it's really important to think through this even if you attend a highly ranked program. I went to a top-10 (PGR) program for undergrad. I was friends with the graduate students in the philosophy program, and I know some of them who languished on the market after finishing their doctorates. One took a corporate job. Another cobbled together several part-time academic-related jobs. This is anecdotal, sure, but the point is, competition for jobs is so strong, that attendees of even top-10 programs should, I think, consider what they'll do if/when they leave academia. Finally, I don't think it's enough to look at current outcomes for programs in which you're interested. You also should consider where the job market will be in 7-9 years. Obviously, this is impossible to predict with great accuracy, but I do think it's almost certain to be as bad as it is now, and likely to be worse. I'm no economist or expert, but the economic downturn post-2008 hasn't exactly been kind to the humanities, including philosophy. While the economy writ large has rebounded somewhat, growth has happened more in some sectors than in others. Academia hasn't rebounded to where it was pre-2008, and it's not likely to do so. A lot of administrators at universities were forced to think about the bottom line more than ever because endowments took a hit in the Great Recession. It's not clear that that has changed. Looking around at the humanities/higher ed blogosphere, you're likely to see a lot of talk about an increasingly corporatized environment, shrinking autonomy, and, sometimes, departments that are consolidated or shuttered. All this being said (and I know it sounds pessimistic), I think it's still possible to choose to go to graduate school in philosophy if the intrinsic value of the degree is high enough for you that you will still believe in five years, or eight, or ten, that studying philosophy at the graduate level was worth it. It could also happen that you could choose not to pursue academic philosophy, enter a different field, and then end up making a career-change in ten years anyway. Or you may feel that you just don't have anything to lose, since you're not sufficiently interested in any careers other than academic philosophy, and that you feel you must take the risks associated with your choice. In any case, I believe that these are factors to consider as you're thinking about programs and your eventual goals.
  10. I don't think that will matter at all, as long as your GRE, grades, paper, and letters are good. I went to a tiny branch campus of a state university for several years. Then I briefly went to a different campus, left for a few years, took some classes at a community college, went to a different branch campus of the state uni, before finally transferring to a different university, where I changed my major and finished up my undergraduate degree in philosophy rather quickly. I was worried that so much bouncing around would hurt me, even though my grades, etc were good. That ended up not being the case. I don't think anyone took notice or cared. I wouldn't worry about it much. I grew up in central Pennsylvania, though I have lived in Pittsburgh for a long time. Culturally, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are very far removed from the more rural and suburban areas in the center of the state. Obviously, your concerns are yours, but if CMU is a good fit, it might be worth applying and visiting, and seeing what you think first-hand. Pittsburgh isn't perfect, but it's a very liveable and progressive city with some great universities, and it's far more cosmopolitan than its reputation might suggest.
  11. That's a good question; I've been trying to figure it out too. We'll likely spend the winter and summer breaks together, which should make the time apart a little easier to deal with, especially if we're also able to visit each other at least a few times a semester, which we should be able to do. It's a long drive (about 8 hours), but an easy enough flight, although that could get expensive, I suppose. In any case, it will be an adjustment from seeing each other daily.
  12. I'm excited to move to a different city and dive into my MA program. It's been three years since I've been in school, and like @Ibycus I'm looking forward to doing something I find meaningful after years of less-than-meaningful jobs. I am going into this a little bit older than some, and that had caused me some concern when I was applying, though it concerns me a little less now. Still, I know juggling TA responsibilities and my coursework will be demanding, and it will be difficult to be in a different city from my partner. Nonetheless, the excitement, at least right now, is stronger than the anxiety!
  13. A low GPA will be a strike against you, but you can make sure everything else is as perfect as you can get it (GRE, sample, letters, SOP) to help offset that. I'm not sure about the utility of retaking a class; you could, however, see if the department will let you take a graduate course. That would probably look better. I'm not sure if you've already finished your degree. If not, perhaps you can still pull up your GPA. If you're already finished, I'd get the other parts of your application as perfect as you can, and talk to your letter writers; they may be able to address the lower GPA in their letters in a way that makes it a little less problematic. As for how competitive you'll be, I'd agree that applying to MA programs is a good idea, but it's very difficult to speculate about your competitiveness for PhD programs. If you dig through old threads, you'll find stories of acceptances by students with low GPAs. Apply widely, in any case.
  14. I agree. I think it'd be cool to see more questions/discussion in this forum related to graduate school in philosophy after the application process. I know some of the other Grad Cafe forums discuss graduate school more generally, but they're not philosophy-specific.
  15. Did anything come of those wait lists for you?