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hector549

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About hector549

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    Double Shot

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  • Location
    The Middle West
  • Interests
    German Idealism, philosophy of mind
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    Already Attending
  • Program
    Philosophy

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  1. It's not clear that the GRE has much or any predictive power for graduate school performance. And taking it is tedious and expensive. However, specific grad programs (like philosophy depts) are generally beholden to the demands of graduate schools more generally. GRE scores are used to compare students across disciplines for funding allocation, fellowship eligibility, etc. I agree, the GRE sucks. However, even if phil depts want to eliminate the GRE, they'll more than likely be compelled to continue to consider the scores by the graduate school, so I doubt things are going to change anytime soon.
  2. hector549

    How to kill the MA

    I've been thinking lately about what it takes to be successful coming from an MA, since I'm wrapping up my own this year. I have a few thoughts: 1. I think your choice of advisor matters significantly--way more than the rank status of your program. If you end up working with someone who doesn't really take the time to mentor you, you're not going to be able to produce as polished and nuanced a writing sample. One might also think that someone who isn't invested in your success might not take the time to write you as strong a letter. I'm lucky; my advisor is great. Not everyone fares so well, though. Take your time to evaluate the faculty before you pick someone to work with, and choose with your eyes open. 2. It can be tricky to do this in an MA, but I think it can be useful to try to get letters from faculty with whom you've done more than taken one class. Maybe you were also a TA for the faculty member, etc. Again--can be tricky to pull off in an MA, but if you can do it, it gives you a better chance to get to know each faculty member a bit more, and (hopefully) they'll write you a more informed letter as a result. 3. Don't be afraid to consult with your advisor (as long as you know she or he is in your corner) about your choice of letter writers. She or he may have better insight than you about who may be a good choice if you're trying to pick between several options. 4. Start your writing sample early (summer after first year at the latest, though it's not a bad idea to be thinking about what you might want to be working on before then). 5. Perhaps this goes without saying, but I've found that doing an MA first brings with it an extra burden; when you apply to programs the first time, many people apply to MAs as a backup. But when you're applying out of an MA, there's no MA as a backup. You may feel increased pressure on yourself. I think it's extra important as a result of that pressure to manage that stress well. So do something other than philosophy while you're doing your MA to keep yourself sane!
  3. hector549

    How to kill the MA

    How unranked are we talking? What's placement like for your program? Are you applying to US PhD programs when you apply out? All-continental SPEP schools, or analytic?
  4. hector549

    Significant Gap from Undergrad, Significant Gap in Interests

    Here are my thoughts on your situation: 1. I applied after a gap of about two years. I had, from what I can gauge, only one strong letter from a philosopher. Another letter was also from a philosopher, but I know it was really short and uninformative. The third letter I'm certain was glowing, but was from an English professor, not a philosopher. I got into some programs. My point is, if you can get at least one strong letter, the other two might not matter so much, at least for MA programs. Even a brief letter from a philosopher who taught you five years ago would be better than a letter from a non-academic. Some further advice: it can be nice to stop by and ask professors in person for letters if you're nearby. That can help to jog memories, especially since it has been five years. Have you saved any of your old work for those other courses? If so, show it to your potential letter-writers. That will also help them remember you and your work. 2. Are you planning on applying to all-continental schools (ie the SPEP institutions)? If you're wanting to study Deleuze, I'm supposing so. My sense is that it's not just the subject matter that differs at these sorts of programs, but also the methodology. So yeah, I'd imagine that a paper with an analytic approach might signal that you're not a great fit. Your options seem to be: a) adapting a paper you've already written, and explain in your SOP that your interests are evolving, or b) write a new project. Option a) might be better if you were applying to pluralistic programs; then they could assess your sample, and understand from your SOP that you might want to work with their continental scholars rather than their analytic people. As for option b), could you work on a new slightly more continental-friendly project? I know it's August, but there's still some time. Do you have anyone who could give you feedback? Your current letter-writers? Friends who are in grad school now? It might be tricky if they're all analytic scholars, though. The other option is of course to take a few upper-division or grad courses as a non-degree student somewhere, get some letters from people who know your recent work, and generate material for a sample that fits with your current interests.
  5. hector549

    Weak academic record. To continue or not continue

    I didn't mean to suggest that my point applies with any specificity to your low-GPA situation, just that if a TT research job is necessary for one's happiness and fulfillment after obtaining one's PhD in philosophy, then it might be time to rethink one's goals, because it's so unlikely that one will end up with a TT research job, even if one goes to a top program. My advice is just to consider if you'd be happy with a teaching job, possibly non-TT, or non-academic employment after the PhD. So it sounds as though your last two years were the ones in which you did badly. So you might be able to have your letter-writers explain why your first two years and your recent coursework at UCLA are more representative of your abilities (because of extenuating circumstances X, Y, Z). I looked at the graduate school at my own institution (I'm at one of the Leiter-ranked MAs), out of curiosity, and the requirement is a 2.75. There's also the option to do extra coursework to prove yourself if you're under the threshold. I suspect that institutions will vary, so you'll have to check each and, if you're under the required GPA, see if you can use your extra coursework to have that requirement waived. I'd imagine that for PhD institutions, if you're applying with an MA, the minimum-GPA requirement would apply just to your MA, not to your undergrad. You might want to make sure of that however, with particular graduate schools. I mean that there are a range of more-and-less prestigious MA programs, even if you're just looking at Leiter's list of the top MAs. He ranks them according to a few tiers. So yeah, you should apply to Georgia State, UWM, NIU, etc (if they fit your interests), but also to Houston, Ohio U, Texas Tech, etc. Houston, TTU, et al are good programs too, with good placement, but they may also be less competitive than say, NIU or GSU, especially for funding. In your situation, I'd apply to as many of the good MA programs as you can.
  6. hector549

    Weak academic record. To continue or not continue

    A few thoughts and questions: 1. It's not exactly related to your question, but it's not really realistic to aim for a research job in philosophy, unfortunately, even if you're going to a top program. Jobs like that are incredibly hard to come by these days. For example, I went to a program ranked in the PGR top-5, where I did my undergrad, and I was friends with a number of the graduate students. Of the 4 I know pretty well who graduated in the past few years, one is at a post-doc, one left academia, one has a teaching position at a SLAC, and one has a research job at a low-ranked PGR program. Again, this is at a top-5 program. Check out placements for top programs; most people are getting teaching jobs if they're getting TT jobs at all. Teaching jobs--definitely hard to get, but definitely possible. Research jobs--very, very difficult to obtain. 2. Is the 2.8 an overall GPA, or just a major GPA? What was your major? It's going to look worse if your low GPA is in philosophy courses than if it's in, say, the mathematical sciences. Were the courses in which you did poorly all during a certain part of your education? E.g., were they all during one or two terms in the middle, due to extenuating circumstances? Or, e.g., did you start out doing very poorly, but end strong? These kinds of situations are easier to explain than if you consistently did badly throughout your undergrad. 3. You have the right idea by taking some classes to show that you can do good work. However, what sort of phil classes are these? Are they upper-level courses? 4. It's generally a good idea to get your letter-writers to do the explaining for you when you apply if you have some kind of mark on your record. Perhaps the biggest obstacle to getting into a program, though, even if you have strong letters, a great sample, and have proven your ability to succeed in upper-level philosophy courses at UCLA is that many graduate schools will have a minimum-GPA requirement that all applicants will have to meet. Even if the phil department is willing to take you, they may not be able to based on the admissions requirement from the graduate school. I'd look into this more if I were in your shoes. You may be under those thresholds. I'm not sure if there's a way around that or not. 5. There are stories of people who have GPAs in the low 3's (i.e. 3.1, 3.2, etc) getting into an MA, and then doing well. In this thread from a few years ago, one person had approximately 3.1 in undergrad, went to an MA, got something like a 3.9, then got into Arizona: https://forum.thegradcafe.com/topic/52008-anyone-here-have-a-low-gpa-success-story/?tab=comments#comment-1058094403 edit: this same person (the Arizona student) claims in another thread to have had a 2.9ish GPA...which is a bit closer to you: https://forum.thegradcafe.com/topic/56117-chances-with-a-291-gpa/?tab=comments#comment-1058153078 Your GPA is a little lower than that, but you've also done some additional coursework and done well. If you're set on trying, I'd say do more advanced coursework at UCLA, have the best letters possible, a great writing sample, excellent GREs, and apply to a range of MA programs. I'd also strongly recommend having a backup plan, because what you're thinking of attempting seems to me a long shot, in my honest opinion.
  7. hector549

    Changes to the GradCafe

    Changes to the GradCafe are apparently happening. See here. I'm not sure how this might affect the philosophy forum, but even if's just that the volunteer mods are gone, that's a shame. @TakeruK offered great advice here, and was always super helpful. It would also be a shame if old threads are lost or become otherwise inaccessible to future applicants. I can't tell you how many old threads in the phil forum I dug around in during my first application cycle, and I learned a lot doing so. There's a sense in which sites like this one help make the possibility of graduate school more accessible. Students who don't have top-notch support, guidance, or pre-existing familiarity with the application process can use GradCafe to make up for that deficit.
  8. It depends. It's better to get a letter from a philosopher if at all possible. However, if you need a third letter, and you have no other options, you could get a letter from someone outside the field. I had two letters from philosophers and one from an English professor. I got into all the MA programs to which I applied, and a 40ish-ranked PhD program with those letters, so it is possible to get a letter from a non-philosopher and be successful applicant. I suspect that having a letter from a non-philosopher is far less of an issue for MA programs than for PhD programs; they're used to people applying with atypical backgrounds. Do you have other options?
  9. hector549

    Pittsburgh GRE Recency Requirement

    I don't know about their specific requirement, but if I were in this situation, I think I'd consider getting in touch with whomever handles graduate admissions at Pitt, and inquire as to whether this is a hard requirement or not given the specifics of your situation. If your scores are, say, three years old, perhaps they'd be willing to accept them anyway. It might be worth a shot.
  10. hector549

    2019 Graduate Entrants

    I don't know much about SJSU, but I did notice that CSULB is now on Leiter's list of best MA programs for the first time, which is located here: http://34.239.13.205/index.php/m-a-programs-in-philosophy/
  11. hector549

    Scholarly Track-Record vs. Prior GPA (Grad)

    That sounds like a good strategy to me. Getting feedback from faculty on how much of your situation to discuss in your SOP sounds like a good idea.
  12. hector549

    Scholarly Track-Record vs. Prior GPA (Grad)

    I'm a current grad student; I haven't dealt with or known of a situation like yours, so take my advice for what it's worth. A conference or two can be nice for your CV if you're applying. Beyond that, I doubt they mean too much with respect to graduate admissions. I suppose it might show that you've been doing something, but I doubt that it would do much to address the main issues with your application. If I were in your situation, I think, first of all, I'd probably try to get my letter-writers to address the elephants in the room--you have a low GPA and you dropped out of your graduate program. Neither of those things look good, but perhaps if your letter-writers can explain the circumstances, it might help your case. If you want to show that you're serious about doing graduate work again, and that you can succeed in doing so, perhaps you could take a grad course or two somewhere as a non-degree student, and do well in those courses. I don't mean to sound disheartening, but I suspect it might be hard to get into another philosophy graduate program once you've left one (with the exception of transferring). I know of a few instances of people leaving programs, but they left philosophy entirely. In any case, is there a reason you're applying to PhD programs now instead of MAs again? Perhaps you'd stand a better chance of doing an MA first, particularly with your history. The bar for entry is usually lower.
  13. hector549

    2019 Graduate Entrants

    Yes! And that! And not everyone is on/wants to be on FB.
  14. hector549

    2019 Graduate Entrants

    I'd like to make a case for using this website's forum. There's a lot of useful information and discussion that I've found by searching and digging around in old threads. Discussion in a closed FB group won't be accessible to future philosophy applicants. I'm not saying don't use the FB group; one could use both the forum and the group of course! However, I do think there are distinct advantages to having discussion and the like on this forum rather than a FB group.
  15. hector549

    Grad Work Prior to Grad Application

    I didn't take grad courses in undergrad, but I know some people at my institution who did--though I think for most of them it was just a few courses. I seriously doubt that having done more extensive graduate work would count against you. If anything it should work in your favor, since you've further demonstrated your ability to handle graduate level work (assuming that you've done well in the graduate courses you've taken). If you're concerned about it, you could always have your letter-writers explain why you've done extensive graduate coursework at your undergrad institution, but without actually pursuing an MA.
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