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Hey folks, it's decision time and I'm struggling.

I applied to a ton of PhD programs this cycle. I ended up with one acceptance (WashU PNP) and three waitlists (UCI LPS, UT Austin, UMass). My AOIs are: the Philosophy (nature and ethics) of Artificial Intelligence and its intersection with Phil of Mind + Cognitive Science. I'm super grateful for these decisions that did go in my favor but I regret not applying for MAs. In hindsight, I was arrogant and felt I had an unreasonably good shot at a T10 PGR school.

It's decisions time and I'm not quite sure how to proceed. On the one hand, I feel I could improve my writing sample (by how much I don't know) and reapply, including to MAs which could hopefully be a stepping stone to a T10 school. On the other hand, I know the cycle is getting harder every year and there's never a guarantee.

Advice appreciated

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9 minutes ago, csandphilguy said:

Hey folks, it's decision time and I'm struggling.

I applied to a ton of PhD programs this cycle. I ended up with one acceptance (WashU PNP) and three waitlists (UCI LPS, UT Austin, UMass). My AOIs are: the Philosophy (nature and ethics) of Artificial Intelligence and its intersection with Phil of Mind + Cognitive Science. I'm super grateful for these decisions that did go in my favor but I regret not applying for MAs. In hindsight, I was arrogant and felt I had an unreasonably good shot at a T10 PGR school.

It's decisions time and I'm not quite sure how to proceed. On the one hand, I feel I could improve my writing sample (by how much I don't know) and reapply, including to MAs which could hopefully be a stepping stone to a T10 school. On the other hand, I know the cycle is getting harder every year and there's never a guarantee.

Advice appreciated

I believe almost all of the advice you will get from people here is to take the PhD, unless it has terrible placement! If you feel you would be happy in the location, the placement is good (or at least good enough where you think you could be one of the exceptions), there are people you'd enjoy working with for five years, etc., then you really don't have much of a reason to wait around and apply again! Especially since next year many programs will probably still have reduced admissions, and there will be several people reapplying who got shut out completely this year PLUS all the people who decided to wait until next year anyways. 

On the other hand, I believe UCI LPS has an outstanding placement record, so you may also want to consult with some faculty there about what to do if you don't get off their waitlist. They might recommend an MA, or reapplying, or they might even suggest you take WashU. 

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You can try your luck with waitlists if desired, but if WashU PNP has an adequate stipend such that you'll be able to live reasonably comfortably, and you think you'll be reasonably happy in the program, absolutely take it. There are too many risks to reapplying, and also opportunity cost. Chances of a TT job are so small anyway, and if anything (totally spitballing here), a PNP program might give you better non-academic job options than a straight Philosophy program.

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40 minutes ago, csandphilguy said:

Hey folks, it's decision time and I'm struggling.

I applied to a ton of PhD programs this cycle. I ended up with one acceptance (WashU PNP) and three waitlists (UCI LPS, UT Austin, UMass). My AOIs are: the Philosophy (nature and ethics) of Artificial Intelligence and its intersection with Phil of Mind + Cognitive Science. I'm super grateful for these decisions that did go in my favor but I regret not applying for MAs. In hindsight, I was arrogant and felt I had an unreasonably good shot at a T10 PGR school.

It's decisions time and I'm not quite sure how to proceed. On the one hand, I feel I could improve my writing sample (by how much I don't know) and reapply, including to MAs which could hopefully be a stepping stone to a T10 school. On the other hand, I know the cycle is getting harder every year and there's never a guarantee.

Advice appreciated

I'm surprised you find these results disappointing, especially give how competitive this cycle was and given it sounds like you are applying straight out of your undergraduate degree. @Marcus_Aurelius is right on this,  and the typical answer to questions like this is that you are better to take the bird in hand than to try again (and risk getting in nowhere). This said, it may be that you now think that they may not be a good fit or something else. If that's the case, think very carefully about which will be the best fit for you, your research interests (allowing that they may shift somewhat), and that gives you enough money (indexed to the living costs in the area). Talk to students at each school (include ABD students), do the visits, etc. to determine whether you would expect to be happy at the program.

WUSTL PNP and Irvine LPS seem like the standouts of the group in terms of placement (Irvine especially). Austin places well enough but has funding issue from what I understand (investigate this before they ask you to make a decision very quickly on, like, April 14th), and UMass seems greats.

 

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 Thanks, folks!!

52 minutes ago, Happybuddha said:

On the other hand, I believe UCI LPS has an outstanding placement record, so you may also want to consult with some faculty there about what to do if you don't get off their waitlist. They might recommend an MA, or reapplying, or they might even suggest you take WashU. 

I totally agree with this, @Happybuddha. I'll begin reaching out to folks at UCI LPS and talking to them, among other things, about fit. The program has a tremendous academic placement record, which matters to me, as I want to be an academic. I also wish to keep industry doors open though (I truly think philosophy in AI is applied).

38 minutes ago, Marcus_Aurelius said:

Chances of a TT job are so small anyway, and if anything (totally spitballing here), a PNP program might give you better non-academic job options than a straight Philosophy program.

@Marcus_Aurelius I'm not fully sure about this myself TBH. I presume brand value matters quite a bit in keeping industry doors open. I don't know how a WashU or UCI would compare. I want to be in an interdiscplinary program, something like LPS/HPS (Stanford's symbolic systems track was my dream program).

16 minutes ago, Mischief said:

This said, it may be that you now think that they may not be a good fit or something else. If that's the case, think very carefully about which will be the best fit for you, your research interests (allowing that they may shift somewhat), and that gives you enough money (indexed to the living costs in the area). Talk to students at each school (include ABD students), do the visits, etc. to determine whether you would expect to be happy at the program.

@Mischief Thanks! Rookie question...what is an "ABD" student? Are they students who are beyond coursework who now just teach and research?

Edited by csandphilguy
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Just now, csandphilguy said:

Thanks for the replies, folks!!

> On the other hand, I believe UCI LPS has an outstanding placement record, so you may also want to consult with some faculty there about what to do if you don't get off their waitlist. They might recommend an MA, or reapplying, or they might even suggest you take WashU.

I totally agree with this, @Happybuddha. I'll begin reaching out to folks at UCI LPS and talking to them, among other things, about fit. The program has a tremendous academic placement record, which matters to me, as I want to be an academic. I also wish to keep industry doors open though (I truly think philosophy in AI is applied).

> Chances of a TT job are so small anyway, and if anything (totally spitballing here), a PNP program might give you better non-academic job options than a straight Philosophy program.

@Marcus_Aurelius I'm not fully sure about this myself TBH. I presume brand value matters quite a bit in keeping industry doors open. I don't know how a WashU or UCI would compare. I want to be in an interdiscplinary program, something like LPS/HPS (Stanford's symbolic systems track was my dream program).

> This said, it may be that you now think that they may not be a good fit or something else. If that's the case, think very carefully about which will be the best fit for you, your research interests (allowing that they may shift somewhat), and that gives you enough money (indexed to the living costs in the area). Talk to students at each school (include ABD students), do the visits, etc. to determine whether you would expect to be happy at the program.

@Mischief Thanks! Rookie question...what is an "ABD" student? Are they students who are beyond coursework who now just teach and research?

Hi again,

No problem: ABD means "All But Dissertation." Yes out of coursework, though not always teaching. Should be doing research, but it varies a great deal by department what the support is like during that phase, which is a key part of any program. It's easy to be excited about a program when things are well-funded, structured by coursework, and you have frequent contact with your cohort. Things get different when you are in the comprehensive exams and dissertation phase.

To your point regarding TT jobs: you should consider reading up on this through posts on DailyNous and Philosophers' Cocoon. One thing worth thinking about is what kind of job you would like to get if you were to get one: some people want teaching jobs, others won't be satisfied with anything less than a prestigious research job at an Ivy School. If you are only interested in jobs like the latter, you'll (almost without exception) have to go to a very narrow set of schools like Princeton, Yale, Rutgers, etc. But those same students, as it turns out, sometimes struggle to get the other kinds of jobs at smaller and teaching oriented schools. Not that any of them are easy to get. If you want to work in industry, your considerations will be drastically different--many of these programs will do a terrible job of preparing you to work outside of an academic setting and will even consider it a disappointment. If you want to keep that door open, you should be looking very carefully at each of these places to see how they set students up to make a transition to the non-academic job markets you wish to be in.

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4 minutes ago, Mischief said:

To your point regarding TT jobs: you should consider reading up on this through posts on DailyNous and Philosophers' Cocoon. One thing worth thinking about is what kind of job you would like to get if you were to get one: some people want teaching jobs, others won't be satisfied with anything less than a prestigious research job at an Ivy School. If you are only interested in jobs like the latter, you'll (almost without exception) have to go to a very narrow set of schools like Princeton, Yale, Rutgers, etc. But those same students, as it turns out, sometimes struggle to get the other kinds of jobs at smaller and teaching oriented schools. Not that any of them are easy to get.

This sounds pretty important. I'm pretty familiar with DailyNous and Philosophers' Cocoon, but any articles you found particularly valuable there? I'm mostly familiar with stuff like this that describes how dismal the odds of a TT-track job are.

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8 minutes ago, csandphilguy said:

This sounds pretty important. I'm pretty familiar with DailyNous and Philosophers' Cocoon, but any articles you found particularly valuable there? I'm mostly familiar with stuff like this that describes how dismal the odds of a TT-track job are.

On this, you'll be best off simply looking through the tags on Cocoon and following the cross-linked articles. Here's a few though: 

https://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2019/08/supporting-non-academic-careers-guest-post-by-kevin-js-zollman.html

https://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2020/07/can-good-publications-offset-grad-program-rank.html

https://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2019/06/aos-job-types-and-placement-a-hypothesis.html

https://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2020/05/motivating-phd-programs-to-focus-on-industry-jobs.html

https://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2018/01/grad-program-rank-publications-and-job-market-a-hypothesis.html

I'd look at the posts on Cocoon under "Real Jobs in Philosophy" and "Reader queries" especially, but be cautious of when people are speculating :) 

 

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It's largely a function of what kind of person you'd be excited to become.

Unfortunately, only a small portion of graduates from top 10 programs get TT jobs at top research universities. So, if you are ambitious to get that kind of job, maybe Irvine LPS will do, but maybe not.

Just look at the placement records of Irvine LPS and WUSTL PNP, and ask whether you'd be content with that. If yes, done. If not, check some top 10 department's records and compare. And be aware that only a few from these T10 programs really get prestigious jobs from the start.

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I, too, am waitlisted at Irvine LPS. I am in at UT Austin. For what it’s worth, UT has been transparent about their funding situation; they upped the first two years to 20k (so, not a ton, but not too different from many schools), and have additional funding opportunities down the road (e.g., if one teaches a class).

Irvine certainly seems like a standout in terms of placement- I would only choose a couple of schools over it for studying phil of science/logic (Pitt HPS, Princeton, Stanford). They also send people to good industry jobs. Have they given you any indication of the likelihood of admission? There are so few of us on the waitlist that I am hopeful.

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On 3/19/2021 at 11:33 AM, PhilCoffee said:

20k is not that bad. Thanks for the info as I'm on Texas's waitlist.

20K is actually very good in Texas, given the low COL. I would also say that the PhD programs that you're talking about are worth taking over reapplying.

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On 3/19/2021 at 11:28 AM, wwfrd said:

Irvine certainly seems like a standout in terms of placement- I would only choose a couple of schools over it for studying phil of science/logic (Pitt HPS, Princeton, Stanford). They also send people to good industry jobs. Have they given you any indication of the likelihood of admission? There are so few of us on the waitlist that I am hopeful.

No indication whatsoever...

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On 3/19/2021 at 3:06 PM, PolPhil said:

20K is actually very good in Texas, given the low COL. I would also say that the PhD programs that you're talking about are worth taking over reapplying. However, I have heard bad things about WashU's PNP program, so you may want to ask students there about that

Hello. I am a lifetime Austinite, and I'd like to let you know: Austin does not have low cost of living. The rent for apartments in or around UT is very high, as Austin has been "the new Silicon valley" for quite awhile. Even the surrounding areas of Austin are expensive because of its sprawling suburbs. Austin is much more similar to east coast cities like Boston or NYC than it is to say Plano or El Paso. It is expensive, and 20k/yr in Austin is not particularly livable. 

It is also important to recognize: Not only is UT-Austin's stipend low, it is infamously low. I would recommend strong caution against taking promises of higher funding in the future at their word. 

Sorry if this is bad news, I'd just like to prevent the spread of misinformation based on enthusiasm. Graduate programs in general are exploitative, but I have heard first hand accounts of how UT-Austin's program is particularly bad. They rely on this sort of misinformation to mislead students.

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14 minutes ago, Penny_Power said:

Hello. I am a lifetime Austinite, and I'd like to let you know: Austin does not have low cost of living. The rent for apartments in or around UT is very high, as Austin has been "the new Silicon valley" for quite awhile. Even the surrounding areas of Austin are expensive because of its sprawling suburbs. Austin is much more similar to east coast cities like Boston or NYC than it is to say Plano or El Paso. It is expensive, and 20k/yr in Austin is not particularly livable. 

It is also important to recognize: Not only is UT-Austin's stipend low, it is infamously low. I would recommend strong caution against taking promises of higher funding in the future at their word. 

Sorry if this is bad news, I'd just like to prevent the spread of misinformation based on enthusiasm. Graduate programs in general are exploitative, but I have heard first hand accounts of how UT-Austin's program is particularly bad. They rely on this sort of misinformation to mislead students.

I fully agree with you that people should be wary of UT Austin, but on COL, it's not that I don't believe you (after all, you've lived there and I haven't), but everything that I can find online doesn't corroborate what you're saying. For example, https://www.payscale.com/cost-of-living-calculator/Texas-Austin. Supposedly, the cost of housing is right around the national average. Is there something that I'm missing?

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7 minutes ago, PolPhil said:

I fully agree with you that people should be wary of UT Austin, but on COL, it's not that I don't believe you (after all, you've lived there and I haven't), but everything that I can find online doesn't corroborate what you're saying. For example, https://www.payscale.com/cost-of-living-calculator/Texas-Austin. Supposedly, the cost of housing is right around the national average. Is there something that I'm missing?

Maybe I'm wrong in the aggregate, but what I have been told by a large number of friends and acquaintances is that housing costs near central Austin are very high. This was confirmed by me just trying to look for a place near campus on apartments.com. Other people who live in the city are able to dodge these costs by avoiding central Austin, working remote, or in Georgetown/Round Rock, but if you try to dodge these costs by living far out as a grad student then you are eating other costs in transportation, parking, etc. One thing that is important to keep in mind about Austin as a city is that there is no effective public transit infrastructure. The buses are unreliable, there is no subway or similar system, and the highway system in Austin is a complete mess. I say all of this only to communicate how important it is to have money in the city. 

Maybe it is possible to make it work in Austin on 20k, but it is certainly not comfortable. My sense from the initial impression was that Austin was being lumped together with other small towns in Texas or rural areas as if the costs of living are similar. I know of programs which are much lower ranked than UT Austin and in much, much cheaper cities that have a higher stipend. Graduate students at UT have been trying to organize for some time because their situation is not livable. 

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Just now, Penny_Power said:

Maybe I'm wrong in the aggregate, but what I have been told by a large number of friends and acquaintances is that housing costs near central Austin are very high. This was confirmed by me just trying to look for a place near campus on apartments.com. Other people who live in the city are able to dodge these costs by avoiding central Austin, working remote, or in Georgetown/Round Rock, but if you try to dodge these costs by living far out as a grad student then you are eating other costs in transportation, parking, etc. One thing that is important to keep in mind about Austin as a city is that there is no effective public transit infrastructure. The buses are unreliable, there is no subway or similar system, and the highway system in Austin is a complete mess. I say all of this only to communicate how important it is to have money in the city. 

Maybe it is possible to make it work in Austin on 20k, but it is certainly not comfortable. My sense from the initial impression was that Austin was being lumped together with other small towns in Texas or rural areas as if the costs of living are similar. I know of programs which are much lower ranked than UT Austin and in much, much cheaper cities that have a higher stipend. Graduate students at UT have been trying to organize for some time because their situation is not livable. 

That makes sense. Thanks for the info!

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