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Carnegie Mellon University Sees Applications Increase by Between 40% and 60%


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Hey everyone,

An already competitive process is about to become unbelievably more cut-throat due to the increase in applicants for few spots overall.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. This morning Carnegie Mellon philosophy professor Kevin Zollman stated on Twitter that their department has seen a rise in applications that is completely unprecedented in their history. He estimates that the total number of applicants has increased by 40%-60%. A few other philosophers have said that their departments are also seeing sharp increases in applicants, though this is not universal (Rutgers is one example). 

I think it is safe to assume that his will be the case for most programs. I think that the increase is primarily due to the lack of GRE requirements at nearly every department. In my own case, I felt emboldened to apply to more places because I wouldn't have to pay $27 per school to send out my mediocre scores. What do you think is the cause of this increase? 

I have linked to the Twitter thread below. 

 

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So what ought we think about this news? 
 
1) I think that we should all be encouraged that we spent so much time working on our materials and developing ourselves as academics preparing to enter an advanced degree. Applying is no easy feat, and I am sure that we have all grown because of the process.
 
2) We should also be resigned to the fact that once we submit our applications, they are in the hands of the Ad-Com Gods. Regardless of the total number of applicants, we still have no control over the process. Just be glad that you did your best and that we all are going through this together.
 
3) Finally, our worth as thinkers and people does not depend on whether we get into a PhD program this year. You are all incredibly talented people who will do well in any field. So use this opportunity to think about what careers outside of philosophy will give you a sense of fulfillment and drive. 
 
These are the best suggestions that I have to not follow the path of despair.
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Makes sense that more people would be applying because the GRE is waived for most programs. When I first applied out (this is my second round) I was attracted to apply to the few programs that did not require the GRE for financial and prospect reasons (my GRE scores were no bueno). 

This does squelch the hope that fewer people would be applying because of the pandemic, though.

We probably shouldn't read too much into this news. I think you've made great points about how to take it. But also, 50% of this potato is despair. 

EDIT: It is possible that people who had jobs lined up might have decided to apply to grad school now because those options are no longer available. At least if someone gets into a funded Ph.D program they have (however measly it is) a source of stable income. 

Edited by Potato Cactus
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1 hour ago, HomoLudens said:

What do you think is the cause of this increase? 

Economy goes down, applications to grad school go up.

Also, since several grad programs are not accepting applications, the number of programs that you can apply to is lower. It's thus not too surprising that the programs accepting applications will see an increase in applications.

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I agree with Glasperlenspieler; also, increase in applications =/= increase in competitiveness. A number of these applications are likely to be from people who decided to throw their name in at the last minute due to the ongoing recession. I also believe that CMU does not have an application fee, which may have contributed to the drastic increase in applications. Either way, I'm trying not to dwell on it too much at this point and just focus on the things that I do have control over. 

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3 hours ago, Potato Cactus said:

At least if someone gets into a funded Ph.D program they have (however measly it is) a source of stable income

Uhh, piping up to say that what a PhD guarantees is years of financial instability and hardship. Even good stipends stop during the summer, and having to come up with new ways to make ends meet every summer is one of worst parts of a PhD. It’s kind of wild to me that this is the standard. 

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3 minutes ago, Olórin said:

Uhh, piping up to say that what a PhD guarantees is years of financial instability and hardship. Even good stipends stop during the summer, and having to come up with new ways to make ends meet every summer is one of worst parts of a PhD. It’s kind of wild to me that this is the standard. 

My ignorance is hard to conceal. 

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If my memory serves me well, didn't CMU require GRE this year?

Btw, HomoLudens, are the following the schools you are applying to this year? I believe many of them are not admitting funded PhD.

UCSD, Princeton, Pitt, Toronto, UT Austin, NYU, Boston University, UCR, UCLA, Cornell, IUB, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Harvard, Vanderbilt, Yale, UNC, UVA, Wisconsin, USC, Boulder, Johns Hopkins, SUNY Stony Brook

 

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36 minutes ago, Vague Donut said:

If my memory serves me well, didn't CMU require GRE this year?

Btw, HomoLudens, are the following the schools you are applying to this year? I believe many of them are not admitting funded PhD.

UCSD, Princeton, Pitt, Toronto, UT Austin, NYU, Boston University, UCR, UCLA, Cornell, IUB, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Harvard, Vanderbilt, Yale, UNC, UVA, Wisconsin, USC, Boulder, Johns Hopkins, SUNY Stony Brook

 

GRE are optional for CMU.

 

As far as I know, all of the schools are admitting this year (some just have reduced admissions). Which schools do you think are not admitting?

 

If you are unsure which schools are admitting this year, you can refer to this spreadsheet. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1yb_yciijFGEp5roVKYJ40U4eiREo3ZQTeSQkEjGMSsg/edit#gid=1490070808 

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3 minutes ago, HomoLudens said:

GRE are optional for CMU.

 

As far as I know, all of the schools are admitting this year (some just have reduced admissions). Which schools do you think are not admitting?

 

If you are unsure which schools are admitting this year, you can refer to this spreadsheet. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1yb_yciijFGEp5roVKYJ40U4eiREo3ZQTeSQkEjGMSsg/edit#gid=1490070808 

Oh, you're right. I thought Yale and Princeton are not admitting.  Sorry about that.

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Meh, I wouldn't worry about the possibility of more applicants. It isn't like getting into philosophy programs is easy when there isn't a pandemic. It is always going to be hard. Just control what you can control. If you have a solid application and you applied to a decent amount of schools, you should be fine. Just because there are more applicants does not mean that the quantity of quality applications has also gone up.  Of course, applying to grad programs can be a crapshoot, but I think that if your writing sample adequately demonstrates your philosophical skills you should be alright.

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On 1/4/2021 at 11:19 AM, Vague Donut said:

If my memory serves me well, didn't CMU require GRE this year?

Btw, HomoLudens, are the following the schools you are applying to this year? I believe many of them are not admitting funded PhD.

UCSD, Princeton, Pitt, Toronto, UT Austin, NYU, Boston University, UCR, UCLA, Cornell, IUB, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Harvard, Vanderbilt, Yale, UNC, UVA, Wisconsin, USC, Boulder, Johns Hopkins, SUNY Stony Brook

 

CMU initially required it for the start of this application cycle, but changed their mind. At least that's what I seem to remember.

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20 hours ago, Cloudsofrain said:

Meh, I wouldn't worry about the possibility of more applicants. It isn't like getting into philosophy programs is easy when there isn't a pandemic. It is always going to be hard. Just control what you can control. If you have a solid application and you applied to a decent amount of schools, you should be fine. Just because there are more applicants does not mean that the quantity of quality applications has also gone up.  Of course, applying to grad programs can be a crapshoot, but I think that if your writing sample adequately demonstrates your philosophical skills you should be alright.

I generally agree with you. The sharp increase of the number of applicants in each school may attribute to the possible fact that every one is applying to much more schools, for everyone has a lower expectation that she will be admitted. So the overall applicants in the pool might not increase too much. Also, it really takes a long time foe me to prepare the application materials. If one started to prepare the application simply after March due to the pandemic, Idk, it might be too hasty?

The biggest threat to me is that many programs suspend or reduce admission this academic year. This definitely influences a lot, making the admission much more competitive. Well, I'm an international student, only having my Master in the US in a non-elite program.  If I fail this time, I will have no way but to go back my country where the philosophy academia sucks.

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