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wideawake42

What were your criteria?

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I'm curious to know how you all made the decision of which schools to apply to. What were your criteria in choosing potential schools?

Personally, I couldn't afford to apply to more than 4, so I had to be more selective. I looked first and foremost at "fit" (by way of number of professors whose interests and research were similar to my own, not accepting any department with less than 3 potential advisors), then at factors like location, grad student happiness/involvement, funding potential, cost of living, types of classes offered, and overall department focus. I ended up surprising myself with how much the subject matter of courses mattered to me, particularly in smaller departments.

Less important to me were factors like rank and prestige, although I did give them some weight; that may seem insane, but I have a number of reasons for looking at it this way. Unfortunately, though, typing them out with my cell phone seems a chore, so I'll have to discuss them later, when I'm at a computer.

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First cut for me was by location. My fiancee would be coming with me so there had to be a Google office nearby. Second cut was by fit, just as you put it, though I had to settle for no less than one non super famous faculty I could work with. That left me with about nine and that's where I applied.

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I had a similar approach that prioritized fit. I knew my interests were in philosophies that speak to how we live together and experience the world, particularly feminist and continental approaches. This meant prestige in the Leiter sense immediately went out the window as a priority. I started by combing through faculty lists and finding places with a good selection of people with interests common to my own. For places with several good fits, I drilled down and read papers by as many of the philosophers as possible, which gave me an idea of what kind of thinkers they are (alas, not necessarily what kinds of teachers). I also looked at course offerings. Finally, I called or met with profs or grad students at almost all the programs to learn more. I ended up with 7.

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I might also mention that my letter writers told me I should aim high, which I took to mean not apply to anything under 25 on the PGR

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Fit: There's obviously no point in applying to a program that doesn't have multiple people who work in my areas of interest.

Prestige: Basically placement record and PGR ranking. (I want to work in analytic, so PGR makes sense for me.) Wanted a range of programs, a majority in the top PGR 25, a few down to rank 40.

Location: The program should be in a city I would enjoy living in, which takes into account my lack of a car, vegetarianism, etc. Unless it's a top 10 program...I could make do in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

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I chose most schools based on fit, and some for more strategic reasons (e.g. my letter writers are good friends with profs at those schools). I was told by a clever grad student who is coming out of a top 10 program that the best way to do it is to not stress too much on the specific people at each school, but aim high (and in his words, "aim high or go home"), apply to at least 10 schools, and then narrow based on specific professors after you get accepted. This advice helped me a lot.

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All but two schools were ranked in my AOS as indicated in my writing sample. Those other two schools were ranked in my second area of interest and were in the middle of the PGR rankings, so they were kind of like "just in case" schools - just in case I didn't get admitted to a program in my AOS, I would be happy going to those schools as they are decently ranked (and I would have a better chance of getting in due to their being not too highly ranked). I applied all the way up and down the PGR.

 

My criteria for picking a school I've been accepted to will be a weight of ranking, desirability of location, perceived ability to fit with specific professors, and financial assistance. Given my acceptances so far and my rejections/implied rejections, I already have an idea to what extent I am sure whether I am going to school X or not on the remaining list of schools applied to and the schools to which I've already been accepted. Some decisions will be harder than others to make, as I'm finding out...

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