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Should I accept a philosophy MA as "consolation" for being rejected from philosophy PhD programs


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I've applied to some philosophy PhD programs, and I'm waitlisted in a couple. While being accepted for PhD is my first priority, regardless of university (out of the ones I applied to), Two programs have answered my request by inviting me to apply to their MA programs. CUNY's philosophy MA, and NYU's bioethics MA. My final goal is still to complete a philosophy PhD. What do you think? Should I accept? Will it eventually increase my odds of getting in to a PhD? Has anyone made this transition and can provide insight? I already have an MA, but it's from a much less known institution. 

Thank you in advance

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The fact that this has happened twice tells me that you may not have the publications/portfolio most top-tier PhD programs want. In my opinion, you have two options:

- Try applying to some less prestigious programs next year

- Take the offer and improve your CV

If they offered you funding, it's not a bad idea to get a second MA. If they didn't, I think the first option is better.

Edited by feralgrad
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There's nothing wrong with MAs in philosophy, but DON'T DO THOSE MAs!

We all got recommended to NYU's terrible cash cow bioethics MA with our rejections, and CUNY, UChicago, etc. all put out similar offers. These are attempts to cash in on prestige that the discipline broadly agrees won't treat you very well. Save yourself!

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So speaking from my own experience, I think you should do it. I applied to various art history programs for fall 2016 and got rejected from all but accepted to the UChicago MAPH and Columbia's EALAC MA (which was my second choice). It felt shitty and was hard to come to terms with, but I ultimately accepted the spot at Columbia. It turned out to be a really great idea. While I was there I took a lot of neat courses that culminated in a very interesting (if I do say so myself) thesis topic and presented at two graduate conferences with different papers. On top of that, I was ultimately able to get what I believe were stronger recommendations than I could after undergrad only. I took a year off after completing the program but it all worked out because I received three PhD offers with funding from two top programs and one very good program. If you do decide to enroll in one of the programs, I would say make sure you're choosing the more prestigious one and the one that makes the most sense for your purposes. I choose Columbia because the program was two years and would allow me to really work on my language skills (which had been a big issue the first time I applied).


That being said, your situation is a little more complicated because you already have an MA from a lesser known institution. Was that institution in the US or abroad? Grad programs tend to make a really big deal about their PhD students being used to American pedagogy and academic standards.

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I did the NYU Bioethics MA myself, so I'm gonna make a few comments based on that experience, and knowledge from second-hand sources. Full disclosure: one of the Bioethics department staff recommended that I post here, but they're not paying me. Nor is it the case that I felt like I had to help them market in any way. 

Basically, an MA can be really useful in prepping you for PhD applications, the PhD in general, and a philosophy career if you can afford it and depending on the program.

I have heard, as fromthearmchair mentioned, that some MA programs don't treat you well. But my experience differs. The faculty at the NYU Bioethics department was incredibly attentive and helpful when it came to PhD applications. The program itself, the discussions, and the opportunities to interact with a lot of fine academics was also awesome. So I've got no complaints (and many commendations) about how the program itself is run. One possible difference maker here is that the Bioethics program is a "terminal" program, in the sense that the department doesn't also offer a PhD that the MA is supposed to lead to. So the faculty actually does give you their full attention. I've heard similar things about other terminal programs vs non-terminal ones.

That said, just having the MA will not increase your chances of getting into a PhD program, or even a PhD program from that university. It may be useful in terms of getting strong references and a better writing sample though. The networking opportunities and the ability to develop more ideas count in the long term too.

In short, some MA programs are great. But it's honestly a tough call whether it's worth the amount that you pay for it, just because it's such a hefty amount (a year in NYU will set you back about US$60K). I am in a PhD program now (first year), and I'm still working on ideas that I wrote about during the MA, so only time will tell if it really pays off for me.

All the best in your applications. 

Edited by JamesEdgar
Added a sentence.
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