Big Ariana

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  1. Rejection Thread

    are y'all coming straight from undergrad, and, if so, did your undergrad institution have a phd program, and, if so, how many classes did you take with graduate students? my understanding is that the 'pedigree' stuff is ambiguous between the fancy shine of good grades from a good school/good letters from a famous person on one hand and the hard-lined evidence that these students can handle graduate coursework. A letter from a moderately well known prof at a program in the 30s saying "this student took a graduate seminar, made some contributions discussions, and did well on a paper held to graduate level standards" will go way further than any number of conference presentations or extra curriculars. the sad truth is that not everybody has the opportunity to take these sorts of classes as an undergrad. that's unfair and a bummer. but adcoms are mainly asking the question "will this student succeed in the program?" and if you haven't done graduate-level coursework that leaves a huge question mark. so if you have the opportunity to do a quality MA (or even just audit graduate-level seminars somewhere and try to write a paper, many professors will let you do this if you have an undergrad degree in philosophy), you're showing that you can succeed at the graduate level, even if you don't end up writing a significantly better writing sample. it's possible to still excel coming straight from an undergrad-only institution, and maybe things like conferences will help in this case. but the best way you can show you're ready for graduate-level coursework is taking graduate-level coursework, and for many people, this means an MA is the best way to shore up their application, even if you don't think it'll result in an astronomically better writing sample. that said, if you're applying from undergrad, that means you've been doing quality philosophy writing for, what, three years max? more realistically maybe two? it's hard to believe that your writing and philosophical abilities won't improve drastically in the intervening year and a half before you apply again, since that's so much time to improve relative to your upper-level philosophy career.
  2. Rejection Thread

    I totally understand if this person isn't interested in responding and I feel bad asking somebody from the survey page to 'out' themselves, but I'm really curious about the Fullbright scholar with a publication who applied to a combination of T5 analytic programs and more continentally driven programs. Maybe people would have advice for what this person could do to boost their chances next year, seeing as it appears as if all the pieces are there and it's just a question of how to fit them together properly to make a good application. Downvote this to oblivion if this is in improper use of the thread.
  3. Venting Thread

    Idk, I think it depends on what your background in philosophy is, the placement record of the MA, and what your goals for admissions are. If you went to a school with a graduate program in philosophy, took more than the minimum required phil classes for the major and got what you believe to be solid letters from at least moderately established faculty, then it's probably wise to believe that an MA won't help your chances a ton. But if you went somewhere, say, where taking graduate-level courses wasn't an opportunity, then right off the bat there's a question mark on your file as to whether you can handle graduate level coursework. This doesn't mean that just going to any MA guarantees a better offer. But you might think that going to Tufts, NIU, UWM something in that caliber and maintaining a 4.0 will give you a very significant leg up in at least that one respect. And if you go to a two year program, it's hard to imagine your eventual writing sample won't be greatly improved, and your personal statement more focused, etc. The placement records of schools in the 30-50 range of the PGR are significantly better than a lot of the unranked programs, at least for most specialties. If you're concerned about the placement record of the unranked PhD program you got into, then even if you don't think an MA is going to get you into NYU, you might still think that the tangible advantages that come from doing well in a good MA will make you a much more competitive applicant for schools with better placement records. An important question is, do you think you will excel at the MA? Hopefully you do and hopefully you will, but a lot of the students at these places are applying to the same programs, and most don't already have offers from (unranked) PhD institutions, so there's good reason to think that playing it safe is preferable.
  4. Rejection Thread

    that post was for religious studies
  5. To what extent do extracurriculars even matter?

    To be clear, I'm not suggesting that any presentation is not worthwhile. Getting feedback on one's work and meeting with philosophers outside of your home department almost certainly makes you a better philosopher and is worth doing. But I get the sense that if you're not getting your conference papers accepted over serious PhD-having professors, presenting in that conference won't impress an adcom that much, and certainly isn't what most of them are looking for (after all, they're reading your work themselves, so they don't need to rely on other people's judgments of your work's quality). So yeah, an undergrad or MA presenting in a general-session APA would almost certainly count for something. Graduate conferences likely do not (even though they can be as competitive or moreso). But the optimistic reading on all of this is that the person who had the time and institutional support and funding to travel to a half-dozen conferences isn't in a much better position than the applicant with the equally good writing sample without these lines on her CV. The benefits would come from having a half-dozen groups of philosophers give feedback on her work, not from the lines on the CV.
  6. Rejection Thread

    Is this for the philosophy phd or a rel studies program? And condolences.
  7. Meeting with professors during campus visit

    Their goal in these meetings is to court you and convince you to come to their department. This is true even if you have no other options and even if they know you have no other options. They are by no means interviewing you. If anything, you're interviewing them. It might be a bit of an overstatement to say you can do *no* wrong, but it's not that much of an overstatement. Nobody is going into these meetings with the mindset of making sure they didn't make a mistake on you, or trying to test your knowledge base. That said, philosophers in general can be pretty socially awkward, so don't be too surprised or discouraged if you don't get much more than "so, what do you want to talk about?" from some of them. Maybe the most useful question I asked professors was: so, what sorts of projects are your graduate students working on? This is a good question because it can give you a picture of the sorts of projects you could work on with that professor, and allows you to have a conversation with them about those sorts of projects without having to pretend like you already know what your dissertation project is going to be. I like asking this more than asking what that professor is working on, since some professors advise some dissertations on topics they've never published on, so it can give you a more full sense of their areas of interest than asking about their own work would. It's also useful because some professors only advise projects that perfectly line up with their interests, and that's good to know.
  8. Venting Thread

    my partner went to a small state school in the south and got into a T10 the other week (their application cycle = why I'm lurking as a 3rd year PhD student). they did get an MA from a good-not-great philosophy MA program though. and there's somebody in my cohort at a T10 program with an undergrad degree from a cal state system school and no MA in philosophy. it can be done! but then again over half of my cohort when I entered was Ivy/Oxbridge. it might be helpful to parse apart the reasons why pedigree has such a big hold, since some are not insurmountable. the insurmountable ones are since you can show you already got into an elite university, you don't have to dazzle the adcom with stellar GREs, possibly. more to the point, it means your letter writers are more likely to be taken seriously in the profession, which can go a long way. it also means your grades will be more impressive, whatever they are (wow, they got an A in David Lewis's metaphysics class!). but getting a letter from a professor at a nearby school might not be impossible, if more prestigious schools nearby exist (audit a class or two, ask them to read your paper). or if you're considering the MA route, consider MAs near good PhD programs and insert yourself into classes there. some programs will even have official ways for you to take classes at nearby PhD granting institutions. this can be a great way to get a couple of grades from a big-name professor and possibly a letter. a lot of the folks i know who broke into T20s from unknown undergrads have done this or something like it in some way shape or form. all to say, the lack of prestige will be a disadvantage, but some of the other disadvantages coming from going to an unknown or unranked undergraduate program are not insurmountable.
  9. Spare time?

    Weirdly, I too binged PLL after finishing applications. I guess we were about to start season 5 that year, and I got through the first four seasons I think within the first week of submitting applications.
  10. To what extent do extracurriculars even matter?

    Thought it might be helpful to disambiguate ways that "extracurriculars" like conferences, workshops, clubs etc can matter. i) These things can matter in that they make your application more likely to be selected for admission than somebody with a similar quality writing sample, scores, letters, etc. ii) These things can matter in that they can help you become a better philosopher and improve parts of your application The general sense I've gotten from my faculty at both my undergrad and grad departments is that while you ought to try and do all these things because they will likely help with (ii), they really don't contribute to (i) at all. It's possible that publications will help with (i), but only in high quality journals. And possibly a big name conference would fit with that, too. But talking to people at other programs and people I've met elsewhere who are applying, I've definitely gotten the sense that people think that, at the very least giving conference presentations is an important part of a good admissions file, and that doesn't square with what I've heard from faculty. Since presenting your ideas in philosophy clubs, getting feedback from philosophers outside your program, workshopping your papers at conferences etc will all make you a better philosopher, you ought to do it as much as you can. But the seemingly widespread belief that this is what admissions committees are explicitly looking for or that they even look favorably on it seems mistaken. The best explanation I've heard for why this is is that while people applying are looking to completely dedicate themselves to philosophy, it's not a prerequisite for applying that one already have completely dedicated their lives to philosophy. Not everybody comes from programs that can fund their traveling to conferences, or has the time to run workshops or clubs or the like, especially if they were working jobs while they were completing their degrees. So if somebody completely lacking in extracurriculars took the time to produce a high quality application and had letter writers speaking to their dedication, it's unlikely that anybody would notice the lacking extracurriculars, let alone hold it against the applicant. That said, it might be harder for such an applicant to produce as high quality an application as somebody who was regularly workshopping their ideas at conferences and the like.