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SexandtheHaecceity

Dear 2020 applicants...

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So the old thread is a treasure trove of advice, but I think half a decade and mostly dead discussion calls for a new iteration of this thread. As March is now underway and people are getting a good idea of their cycle, I'd like to get your perspectives on what went right, what went wrong, and what has been helpful/unhelpful to you. If you could, please provide what your aspirations and/or expectations were going into the cycle and how you believed you performed relative to those goals. What advice would you pass on for someone going through this process at the end of the year? This can cover anything from the start of the process until now that you think might be helpful to the novice applicant. 

 

Also, big shout out to @MtnDuck for maintaining that behemoth of a spreadsheet this year. 

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I concur with the shout out to @MtnDuck! Thanks for all your work! I regularly looked at the spreadsheet and appreciated the weekly briefing notes. 

 

I will give it a couple more weeks before I feel confident in my advice for future applicants. 

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I hope my experience might be helpful especially to someone like me who has spent close to 6 years out of the academy and is looking to go back.

I'll start off by mentioning that my cycle has been a bloodbath so far. Given that my GRE/GPA was good, the obvious culprits are a deficient writing sample, bad LoRs, bad SOPs and/or just a lack of easily referenced experience compared to someone coming out of an MA program or undergrad with publications. I suspect all played a part, but I'll address them all briefly. 

1. Writing Sample - find a professor, or someone as close to the academy that you can find that can both edit and advise what kind of paper you should submit. This will be harder if you are removed from school or your professors aren't interested in related fields. Both of these factors were a problem for me, so I recruited a friend who was a doctoral student in English and an expert in a related but nonphilosophical field to read and give my paper notes. These were helpful, and my paper was much better for it, but it probably was still not up to journal quality, which is what you should be aiming for, and I feel as though only the guidance of an actual philosophy professor with familiarity of the topic could have gotten me there. Take advantage if you are still in undergrad (or graduated recently) or have such a professor in close proximity. For the rest of us, you're gonna have to work much, much harder. Go to conferences, go to office hours of professors you don't know, take off/skip work if you have to. Otherwise, you better be really really good if you want to go straight to a PhD program. 

2. LoRs - not much to be said here. Soliciting professors who half remember me from 6-7 years ago was always likely to be a problem, but there was not much else to be done here. Get to know your professors and keep in regular contact with them if you think grad school is even a remote possibility. This was probably significant given that I would assume 2/3 of my letters were "this student took my class and he was fine," but I don't know what else I could have realistically done on this front. The only way to realistically fix this problem is to get your MA first or audit classes locally.  

3. SOPs - I'm curious to hear what advice people have on this subject. I don't have much to add here. 

4. Experience - Attend conferences (if you can), address on going projects (if you have them), mention your publications (if you have them). If none of these apply, try to get them ASAP. 

 

Other thoughts: 

  • Get your sample paper done early and leave plenty of time for editing.
  • Be ready if you need different versions of your paper for different length requirements. 
  • Save ~$85 per application (don't forget you gotta send your GRE scores)
  • The accepted wisdom is definitely true that good GRE/GPA is (basically) necessary, but far from sufficient. These aren't law school apps. 

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Posted (edited)

It has been my pleasure to edit/fix the spreadsheet for this cycle--and I'm already planning some tweaks for the future based on the feedback I've gotten over the past two years :) 

For next year's cycle, be on the lookout for a tab/spreadsheet (currently the "work in progress tab") that will have deadlines, application fees/fee waivers, info on GREs (needed or not), unofficial vs official transcript requirements, and the like for most of the universities that have been flagged for inclusion on the spreadsheet. 

Edited by MtnDuck

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Posted (edited)

HEREWITH I PRESENT MY WISDOM

 

Sizzling Tier of the Making-or-Breaking-of-Application-Glory-or-Doom: Writing Sample / Letters of Recommendation (quality + fame) 

Hot Tier of Great Importance: GPA (in philosophy) / Higher Education Pedigree (in philosophy; can be very convincingly argued that this belongs to the Sizzling Tier)

Lukewarm Tier of Afterthought: GRE / Statement of Purpose [both of these, if significantly awful, will wreck your chances; if very good, will not go very far towards securing anything on their own]

 

Edited by Prose

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I've had pretty good luck in my applications (accepted at USC, UNC, UT, Northwestern, Davis; waitlisted at Rutgers). So, maybe what I have to say will be of use. 

I focused all of my energy on my writing sample. I treated it like a full-time summer job. It was more or less done before the fall semester started. I solicited comments from each of my letter writers (obviously) and also from other faculty who work outside of my discipline (philosophy of language). I also sent it to a friend for copy-editing. I recommend formatting papers in LxY or LaTeX: they look a million times better than MS Word double-spaced in Times 12. This shouldn't matter but it does. 

My GRE scores were acceptable but not remarkable (162V/155Q/4.0V). If I had it to do over again, I'd have retaken it. But they seem to have been fine. I think my time was better spent on my writing sample. 

I put minimal effort into my SoP, and I used a boiler-plate version for all the school to which I applied (I changed only the name of the university). Again, I think my time was better spent on my writing sample.

I had four letters from professors who (1) knew my work, (2) knew a bit about me, and (3) guaranteed to provide strong letters. Don't be afraid to make sure of (3). The last thing you want is for your LoR to say "they've got excellent handwriting."

W.r.t. applications: start early, apply for fee waivers where possible, and be sure to save as much money as you can (I averaged ~$100/application).

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38 minutes ago, SexandtheHaecceity said:

2. LoRs - not much to be said here. Soliciting professors who half remember me from 6-7 years ago was always likely to be a problem, but there was not much else to be done here. Get to know your professors and keep in regular contact with them if you think grad school is even a remote possibility. This was probably significant given that I would assume 2/3 of my letters were "this student took my class and he was fine," but I don't know what else I could have realistically done on this front. The only way to realistically fix this problem is to get your MA first or audit classes locally.  

FWIW, I did not have any of my undergrad professors write LoR's.  I've been out of school for nearly 5 years, and I didn't think I would be able to get any strong letters that way. 

Instead, I contacted one colleague who oversaw a project I excelled on last year, one former supervisor from a position I also did well in, and an engineer I interned under for two summers and a semester.  Now while I don't currently work in the field I'm going to do my grad work in, all of these people do have at least a BS (and one MS I believe) in various engineering disciplines. 

I talked to one program coordinator about it early on and asked if something like this would be acceptable, and he basically said in cases where you've been out of school for some time it's fine.  They still want to see strong letters that demonstrate you have the skills and aptitude to be successful in grad school - for example, strong time management, independent work, handling ambiguity, etc.  

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Posted (edited)
28 minutes ago, brightorangesocks said:

FWIW, I did not have any of my undergrad professors write LoR's.  I've been out of school for nearly 5 years, and I didn't think I would be able to get any strong letters that way. 

Instead, I contacted one colleague who oversaw a project I excelled on last year, one former supervisor from a position I also did well in, and an engineer I interned under for two summers and a semester.  Now while I don't currently work in the field I'm going to do my grad work in, all of these people do have at least a BS (and one MS I believe) in various engineering disciplines. 

I talked to one program coordinator about it early on and asked if something like this would be acceptable, and he basically said in cases where you've been out of school for some time it's fine.  They still want to see strong letters that demonstrate you have the skills and aptitude to be successful in grad school - for example, strong time management, independent work, handling ambiguity, etc.  

Think you might be in the wrong thread forum. Philosophy is a very different ballgame in this respect. 

Edited by SexandtheHaecceity

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Posted (edited)

I don't claim to be an expert, but I've been incredibly fortunate this cycle, so a few thoughts for future applicants:

As others have said and as is the received wisdom, the writing sample is paramount. Before this process, I didn't understand the virtues of rewriting. I did an independent study in spring semester of my third year of undergrad to produce a draft of my sample, which I thought I'd just revise somewhat, but then I ended up rewriting it from scratch in November, and it came out a lot better, albeit still with flaws. Those flaws will always remain, but it's so important to commit to one's argument and show why it's so interesting. I also learned through this process the importance of a good topic; my advisor guided me well in encouraging me to pursue a topic based on a recent paper on a topic common but not overdone in the literature, so I felt like it was easy to understand how I fit into the discourse and could make an interesting point. Seeming professional with citation style can also be so important (though I didn't go in for the professionalism of LaTeX). Another interesting lesson I learned from this process is that less can be more regarding footnotes; I love them, but some of my advisors rightly told me to only keep the ones that actually advanced my argument or showed a relevant source that directly agreed or disagreed with me (although interesting, the "Cf. X for interesting discussion of this concept"-type footnote just isn't so helpful in this sort of paper; it's important to seem knowledgeable about the literature, but no need to flex). One more repetition that the right topic is so key.

I stressed about the statements of purpose before my sample was solid, and that was a mistake. SoPs are important but can come later. Show multiple drafts to profs and particularly ask what will pander to the folks in a certain type of department. As one of my profs told me, SoPs are a game that everyone just has to play, and no one remembers afterward what's in them. I tailored the last paragraph for each program, mentioning a couple profs whose work seemed cool (using language, on the advice of a prof, like "I'm interested in the work of X" or "I've taken inspiration from X," *not* "I want to work with X").

It's so important to have different types of advisors throughout the process. My main advisor, who's a respected professor in my AoI and has been helping me since my first year, is nearing the end of his career and knows little about the application process (though he gave generally good advice and wss fortunately honest with what stuff he had no idea about). A current (late-stage) grad student in my AoI helped me a lot with sample and SoPs, particularly because his editing/comment style is very different from my main advisor's, and another prof helped me a bunch with SoPs.

Getting a broad swath of experience in various philosophical disciplines sometimes isn't talked about, but I'm guessing it gave me an edge. (My main advisor encouraged me to do this throughout undergrad, and it took me a while to see the wisdom of the advice.) Taking grad courses as an undergrad isn't necessary, though.

I'm fortunate to have good GPA and be a good test-taker, so GPA and GRE only helped me, though as others have noted they're not make-or-break as long as they're past a certain threshold.

I have no idea if it helped, but in my mid-late third and early fourth year of undergrad, I submitted for undergrad journal and conference opportunities, and I was accepted to an undergrad journal and presented at an undergrad session at a larger conference. Even if it doesn't directly help applications, the revision process can be a warmup for that required for the writing sample.

If anyone wants to ask a question privately or see my sample or SoP, feel free to PM.

Best of luck to those still waiting this cycle and to those applying in the future!

Edited by Marcus_Aurelius

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Future applicants, if you read this early enough to reconsider which schools you're applying to, I hope you may consider my advice. 

Your credentials and achievements are no guarantee of admission. That's been my big takeaway from this cycle. If I could do it all over again, I'd have applied to more MA programs (ones with a good record of placement in a PhD program and with high likelihood of good funding). A lot of people go into a PhD program from MA--there's nothing wrong with that! Just try to avoid paying too much for it. 

thought (naively now, I know) that I was good enough to get into PhD programs. I assessed my financial situation, got a partial scholarship to cover application fees, and got a waiver for 1 and paid around $550 - $600 for 10 schools after the scholarship. (Side note--You'll see a lot of people here do more than 10, but please don't go broke doing this. Instead, be honest with yourself and apply to schools that are a good fit for you. Not schools that have a great reputation--don't apply solely on the reputation. If your AOI fits and they have a good reputation, awesome! But focus on fit above all else.) In my case, I decided to apply to 9 PhDs and 1 MA because I thought that is where my application money would be the most effective, and I thought my chances of getting into a PhD program were quite good. 

I'd been told by several professors at different schools that my Fulbright would be a major boost to getting me into grad school. Not quite a golden ticket, but almost. I had a 4.0, I was valedictorian of my graduating class, had a few published papers and presentations, spoke a second language. I'm waitlisted at two schools, waiting on an interview/preview weekend for a third, and accepted in an MA program. That's it. My point is not to brag about my accomplishments (they didn't get me much of anywhere, did they?) but rather to advise future applicants that nothing is guaranteed, no matter what anyone told you. This process is going to suck. There will be people who get into 5 top schools, but most of us don't have that kind of choice. And it's not your fault. It's not a judgment on your capacity as a philosopher or scholar at all. This is a highly competitive process, and sometimes things just don't work out--your POI is going to be leaving or is on sabbatical,  last year's cohort had too many people with your AOI, etc. So many things are outside your control, and the chances you'd know about them in advance are slim, depending on the circumstance.

But if you read this early enough, add those MA programs to your list! Assuming you are coming straight from undergrad, that is. They'll give you a leg up and a chance to come back with a stronger application next time. They're a nice fallback plan if the PhD apps don't work out.

Best of luck to everyone! 

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3 minutes ago, ringoandme said:

Your credentials and achievements are no guarantee of admission. 

I'd generally agree with this and re-emphasize (1) honesty with yourself and (2) the writing sample: 

Unless you're from a top undergrad, 4.0s won't matter. Unless you've published in respectable professional journals, publications won't matter. Languages won't count for much of anything unless you're working in a specific area of the history of philosophy where a certain language is crucial, and experiences like Fulbright also similarly really don't matter. The only things people really care about are your writing sample and whether or not you went to elite institutions. This latter point is especially important as the guy who got a 3.9 from Rutgers will almost always be looked upon more favorably than someone who had a 4.0 from an unknown school. The former's grades will carry more weight as they were from classes taught by famous philosophers, and he'll also have letters with similar prestige. Depending on the competition at the programs to which you're applying (yes they're all competitive; no they're not all as competitive as the others), you need to ask yourself, "Am I really, on the basis of my sample and pedigree, one of the top 3-4 epistemologists/ethicists/etc. applying this cycle?" It requires a lot of brutal honesty and shunning pointless compliments like how strong your application supposedly is - I've been through this myself. Don't believe me on pedigree? Take a look at the undergraduate BAs of the graduate students at top programs.

That is all to re-emphasize, again, the writing sample. Your pedigree is set in stone by the time you complete your BA/MA, or near the time of completion - your writing sample is not. It's the only thing you have full control over, and, luckily the most important component of your application. It can trump both lackluster pedigree and even grades. 

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Writing sample, writing sample, writing sample. Spend all the time you can manage on it. Get honest feedback on it. If your advisors aren't prepared to be ruthless, find somebody who will be.

Obviously don't phone the rest in but you can get away with relatively weak aspects of your application elsewhere just as long as you have produced something that is near enough publishable quality. And while there is some degree of talent required to write well, it is most definitely a skill that can be developed through hard work. Re-write as often as required, be ruthless with yourself, if your paper doesn't stand up to the quality you see in the best journals in your area then try again.

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14 minutes ago, SexandtheHaecceity said:

@Marcus_Aurelius @Prose how would you advise applicants choose a "good topic"? Some things (clarity of writing, interesting and forceful argument) seem like givens if you want to succeed, but how does one determine what topic within their field of interest is a good basis for a paper? 

--Responding to recent literature but also addressing a relatively established problem within the literature that one can (subtly) demonstrate understanding of and professors can envision one doing more work on

--An argument one can make thoroughly in 16-18 pages without much fluff

--Critiquing a position is probably better than arguing for it

--Something one won't get bored of, but doesn't need to be one's biggest interest, since it's more important to position oneself well in the literature

--Something one's advisors/editors will be able to help with/have familiarity with (assuming one has, which definitely helps)

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Plugging the guide to grad school apps I lived by:
http://schwitzsplintersunderblog.blogspot.com/2007/10/applying-to-phd-programs-in-philosophy.html

Get a lot of feedback on your writing! Try and settle into a research rhythm with your sample with a professor you can count on, ideally a letter writer--not just have a few professors look it over a few times.

Similarly, rewrite and rewrite and rewrite your statement(s). The only way to get pieces of writing that stand up to applications is brute repetition.

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Posted (edited)

This is and probably will be my third and last time I will going through this process. I got into a MA program first time then shut out the second time (to be fair I only applied to 5 schools because I knew my application was weak), this time I've had some success. Accepted at 1 and wait listed at 2. I will second @Prose comment on pedigree. It plays a huge role - fairly unfairly... doesn't matter .. because you nor I can change the minds of the selection committee. But there are ways to balance that. Your GRE scored DO matter.. I dont care what people say, they do matter. They are not by any means the most important but they matter. Why? The next bit is something that I've heard from a good amount profs on selection committee (this may not be true for all schools but it is for many).

1. For the top schools, it is a good way to weed people out initially.

2. The graduate school, not the phil department, gives out funding and that is the only thing they look at for applicants across the university. So, if the phil committee thinks your GRE scores will not pass their threshold or just aren't good enough, then they are unlikely to offer you a spot since they can't fund you. Especially, if other areas of your file aren't exceptional.

Sample Paper:

3. This is the most important bit of advice - do an independent study with a professor in you AOI where you only work on a sample paper and maybe even your SOP. SOP is very important for most schools. The only way they know how to gauge your seriousness and your mental preparation for PhD work.

4. Spend a lot of time on this bit. Because it is well known that if you make it past the initial "trashing the app stage" by the department secretary your SP is going to be read.

5. A term paper with a 100 is NOT nearly good enough to be a competitive SP.

LOR

1. Get to know professors, talk to them about your academic endeavors and personal lives. The better they know you, the better the LOR.

Where to apply:

1. Unless you're coming from a top 20-30 BA program apply for many MA programs. Sometimes even if you are still apply for funded MA programs. For example, univerist of wisconsin - Milwuakee, University of Arkansas, tufts etc.

2. I promise you, the chances of you being competitive for PhD spots coming from an unknown school are pretty low. Do not listen to people who tell you otherwise, they aren't doing you favors by making you feel good. Be honest with yourself.

3. Get ready to go spend money. Apply to at least 15 schools if not more. Again if others tell you that isn't the case, then chances are they are probably coming from a top program and had decent luck in application. And do research and make sure your are a good fit or a decent fit.

That's all I can think of for now. I'm sure many will disagree with me but... meh. lol jk

Edited by Moose#@1%$
Missed somethign.

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Posted (edited)

Hi! I've done decently so far given that I only applied to 8 top-10 schools (Pitt Acceptance/Rutgers Waitlist/Yale and MIT Rejection) so far. Granted I came from a leiterific UG, but I wish I'd applied more carefully, so please don't follow my example and apply on impulse.

I don't have much to add in terms of improving the chances of admission, but in terms of reducing the anguish of the process, here's some things I think I did well/wish I'd done:

1. Take your GREs early. It's an archaic and expensive test etc., but it still can take up time and unneeded stress. You are already going to doubt just about every bit of your application. Don't add any extra variables to fret over if you can help it. 

2. (along the same line) PACE YOUR APPLICATIONS/APPLY EARLY. I edited most of my sample surreptiously at work/on the floor of a hotel room at 2am on vacation. Don't do that. Deadlines get missed, and typos happen, and important details get treated with a lack of care. It's also unnecessarily stressful.

3a. Spend some time away, if you can. This isn't just for apps, but also for academia in general. Most of my professors recommend this, just because it gives you perspective, and helps keep you a little bit more sane in grad school. Also, if you realize you still really like philosophy, then you'll know it's not because you didn't know anything better! 

3b. Keep in contact with your professors / grad student friends if you take time off. Make sure they remember you, that they're constantly engaged, and that they're still invested in you. This also helps you stay invested in philosophy! I heard a professor say 'this person wants my rec but I don't remember them anymore'. Umm, don't be that poor kid. 

4. Find something to throw yourself into after you apply. Waiting and lack of control are the worst. It might help to distract yourself with working out, a new group of friends, a new pursuit, etc. Refreshing tgc won't make the results come faster, as much as it feels like some semblance of movement. Keep forcing your body to produce those tasty endorphins!!

5. Know that philosophy admissions are not necessarily a reflection of your ability and worth as a philosopher. Do the best schools pick amazing philosophers? Yes. Do all the amazing philosophers get into the best schools? Not necessarily. The process, as outlined in previous posts, is multifaceted, and sometimes involves things that are a function of privilege. Control the things you can (sample sample sample), and acknowledge that getting through the admissions process alone is something to be proud of. 

 

Edited by Very Hungry Caterpillar
grammar is hard

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Hi future applicants! Time to repay all the advice I read online over the last year or so... 

I was admitted at MIT, Michigan, NYU, Rutgers, and some other places, waitlisted at Princeton, and rejected at Berkeley, Pitt HPS, and I assume Toronto. At least one of the schools that admitted me (NYU) mentioned my writing sample as the reason, and I think it's true that the sample is the most important part (though I'm sure I benefited from a somewhat well-known undergrad, etc.). So here are my two pieces of writing sample advice. I think they go somewhat against the prevailing advice on this thread so far.

Polishing and presenting is important, but not essential (my sample had typos, was in MS word, and worse, had math in MS word!). Feedback is great, but not the only way (I had a bit -- one prof read the first half). The best use of your time (I suspect) is preparing to write! That is, brainstorming, thinking, reading, and so on. I didn't plan it this way, but I spent about 9 months scratching my head over my topic: talking about it with my advisor, coming up with ideas, abandoning ideas (3 or 4 'grand theories' in the trash), writing class papers on adjacent problems, reading books on it, and so on. The result was that I had a good understanding of my problem, and some fairly cutting edge things to say about it. Then I wrote for a month and edited for a couple weeks. My point is that for your paper to stand out you need a comparatively deep understanding of your topic, and lots of feedback-revision cycles are not as effective a way of getting there as reading and thinking (especially if your profs aren't experts on your particular problem!).

Here's a second piece of advice which may be more controversial: if a "publishable paper" is consummately self-contained, thoroughly situates itself in the literature, and develops all its points without leaving gaps, then the ideal result is not a publishable paper. In particular, it might be better to do something slightly more ambitious (that to properly argue for could take 40-80 pages!) than something that meets all these criteria. This is what I did -- thought I was overshooting at first. I had enough stuff to say that I addressed very few counterarguments and had lots of explicit "this requires development that I won't give here" footnotes. By the end, I was fully in sketching mode: "I hope I have suggested how such an account can do X (even though fully showing that would take another 30, shh)." The theory is that (a) it's more compelling to demonstrate your philosophical creativity than your ability to flawlessly present an argument, (b) these two things are in tension because of the page limits, and so (c) you should err on the side of demonstrating creativity so long as the ideas are good and you don't come off as utterly undisciplined. My evidence for this theory, of course, is anecdotal at best... But if you find yourself 3 weeks before deadline thinking "oh no this should have been a 50 pager," don't despair. (This is more of an academic rhetoric problem, in that you have to write it so the reader doesn't think 'uhoh, big gap neglected there.' I don't mean try to pull one over on them! But address the omission and make it seem reasonable.)

So taken together, these come to: don't spend all your effort revising and tuning in hopes of getting the perfect journal-quality article. Instead, spend a lot of time trying to come to an understanding of your topic so that you have a lot of good ideas to write about. Otherwise, I second everything the very hungry caterpillar said above, especially taking time off after your BA. Best of luck and don't let it get you down!

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To add some more anecdotal support to @crunderdunder's writing advice: a grad student told me once that he opted for a non-published sample chock-full of clever insights over a published journal article in a relevant sub-field as his sample. Your goal with the sample is to showcase how philosophically clever you are to the committee.

But I think that's compatible with spending an ungodly amount of time revising the thing if you can. A major part of thinking it through and coming to all those clever insights is writing it out, after all!

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Writing sample: if you’re in a highly technical field (phil physics, maths, etc.), it might be better to refrain from using too technical a writing sample. It might even be a better choice to write something in a different subfield. I got into quite a few top schools with more philosophers doing technical work (like oxford Dphil), but got rejected from some lower ranked ones.

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A lower GPA, at least outside of philosophy, is not a death sentence. This something a lot of people tend to stress over, and there’s a) no point to doing so once you’re applying and b) at least anecdotal evidence that some adcoms will forgive a weaker transcript. I have a 3.69 (3.89 in phil) from an unranked (in phil) undergrad institution and I got into Pitt, UNC, Arizona, and Georgetown, and was waitlisted at UT Austin, UVA, and Wisconsin. I was also rejected from UCSD, Toronto, Cornell, and Chicago. All this is just to say that I did quite respectably and got into some of the best schools I applied too, in terms of rankings, despite my 3.69. Of course, I don’t want to say it doesn’t matter—i’m sure it does, and probably more for some schools. By all means, excel as much as you can in undergrad, especially in philosophy classes. However, don’t count yourself out just because of your poor grades.

Also, i’ll repeat what’s been said: take a year off. I did, and it helped me realize that I really did want to go to grad school, because I really missed the intellectual stimulation of college and found my life a little empty without it. It also gave me the time to really work on my sample, though I probably did still less than some of the people on here (you guys are incredible!)

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I really hope a moderator pins this thread; I've benefited greatly from the inside scoop of all those who have posted here: spanning contemporary writing samples to the evident contentiousness of GPA/GRE numbers. This thread synthesises the gradual change and near mystical nature of philosophy graduate admissions. As a novice applicant, much appreciation for next years' cycle. 

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17 minutes ago, DoodleBob said:

I really hope a moderator pins this thread; I've benefited greatly from the inside scoop of all those who have posted here: spanning contemporary writing samples to the evident contentiousness of GPA/GRE numbers. This thread synthesises the gradual change and near mystical nature of philosophy graduate admissions. As a novice applicant, much appreciation for next years' cycle. 

I really don't think it's very mystical - there's just a lot of misunderstanding that causes too much uncertainty than is warranted about what should be pretty uncontroversial things. Won't get into it, but this being my second cycle, my view has changed a lot to thinking that it's really not nearly as unpredictable as people think.

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Posted (edited)
12 minutes ago, Prose said:

I really don't think it's very mystical - there's just a lot of misunderstanding that causes too much uncertainty than is warranted about what should be pretty uncontroversial things. Won't get into it, but this being my second cycle, my view has changed a lot to thinking that it's really not nearly as unpredictable as people think.

I think you're wrong. There are clear precursors of a good applicant, but those precursors are not indicative of a successful applicant. And this is precisely due to the nature of the crapshoot* of philosophy admissions.  

Edit: *Typo

Edited by DoodleBob

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1 minute ago, DoodleBob said:

I think you're wrong. There are clear precursors of a good applicant, but those precursors are not indicative of a successful applicant. And this is precisely due to the nature of the crap-chute of philosophy admissions.  

I never said it's easy to look at markers of success and predict your outcomes. Just a lot easier than a lot of people think. The 'lottery'/'crapshoot' (not 'chute', LMFAO) narrative is really simplistic, cliche, and misleading, even though it has some truth to it. 

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