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Have you considered teaching philosophy at a local community college? You can teach at that level with your master's, and it will give you a chance to see if you like teaching, as well as build your CV and allowing you time to mentor students and do some serious writing.

 

For the record: I'm definitely NOT discouraging you from getting a PhD. And if you want it bad enough, you will find a way if you plan smartly and work incredibly hard.

 

However: I just keep hearing you say "I had my heart set on a PhD"- but not enough about what you want your CAREER to be. I'd encourage you to think about your career first, what exactly you want to be doing and in what setting, and then work backwards. Maybe a PhD isn't what you need in order to have a career that you love. From me, I'm only doing a PhD because it will get me to the career I want. Otherwise, there is no way I would voluntarily choose to go through 5-7 years of poverty-level income and enough stress to make my hair fall out if there were more practical and faster avenues to do what I would love to do :-D. Again, I'm NOT discouraging you from getting a PhD. I'm just telling you NOT to put blinders on and not consider other options to getting where you want to be.

 

Good luck!

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1000Plateaus, I am very sorry that you are in this painful situation. It is very difficult to hear unfavorable assessment of your abilities and to realize the implications of having a unfavorable revi

Do NOT under any circumstance email potential advisers and "explain the situation to them". This is the worst advice I've ever heard. You're supposed to explain that you bombed your master's thesis an

First, I want to say that you're confusing bluntness with hostility. I don't mean you any ill will but I am being very blunt and honest with you, as I am with everyone else I know in graduate school o

All of this has made me realize that Grad school is full of petty politics, and that you have to learn how to 'play the game' to be successful at it. I just want to be a philosopher (I realize how pretentious that sounds..), write articles and books, teach classes, enlighten students, etc.

 

I hate to be the bearer of bad news and I am not sure how much you have worked outside of academia, but there are "petty politics" in all sorts of industries.  You just have to learn either how to ignore it or how to navigate the waters despite of it.  I recommend the later.

 

Also - something else to think about.  How is the job market for tenure track positions in philosophy?  Even if you can get into a PhD program - are most graduates getting jobs in academia?  It could also be that your advisor and reader don't think you'll be competitive enough on the market to get a job given the pools of candidates that they are seeing.  

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Be VERY careful with this advice. I'm not sure what is meant here by contacting potential advisors to "explain your situation" but I don't see any good coming of trying to explain that you didn't do well on your thesis (with or without blaming your advisor) and that you don't have LORs from your advisor or other reader, but you still want to go into a PhD program. Any kind of "explanation" about how the advisor wasn't supportive is going to seem like an excuse and will not help. It may even get back to the advisor and actively hurt you. Why would a stranger go out of their way to help someone who in their present state couldn't even get the support of the people who know them? Much stronger applicants get rejected from programs all the time. You should be thinking about getting the support of professors who already know you before you start contacting others. The other reader sounds like the best bet, but maybe there is some other professor you have a relationship with. Seriously, don't send out "dozens, if not hundreds" of emails until you have worked on improving your application, or you may just burn bridges. 

Well if they just come out and say "I was bad, people thought I sucked, and now I want to enter a PhD program" that isn't going to sound good.  The OP needs to passionately and intellectually express their interest and explain what they have going for them.  Perhaps high GRE scores, GPA, TA experience, something like that.  When I first received low GRE scores I emailed some professors I'd contacted before and who i wanted to gain admissions into their programs and was frank.  I said "my GRE scores are low BUT...." and they gave me an honest reply.  I also said "my language experience is this...." and they replied.  I didn't mean for the OP to email begging for admissions.  Simply say "I am interested in studying with you, I am considering applying" if the prof is interested and replies then the OP can say happy to hear and go into details.  If they aren't begging them for admissions I wouldn't say they are burning any bridges since I don't think the OP is going to be applying in the near future

Edited by shockwave
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So here's an interesting development. I have just learned from a former PhD student of my Dept. (now a Dr.), that my former advisor has had a bit of a track record of 'failing' MA students by being unsupportive and refusing to recommend them to PhD programs. Apparently the last guy this happened to managed to get LOR from other professionals who did value his work and he got accepted into a PhD program in philosophy.

 

While this doesn't change the fact that I don't have a LOR from my advisor, it does boost my confidence a bit to know that I wasn't the first student that my advisor has done this to. I am kicking myself for not doing better background research on him prior to selecting to work with him.

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When I am older and I hear about a great philosopher in the news, I am always going to wonder if it is that 1000Plateaus fellow from some old forum on something they used to call an "internet". 

 

 

Life is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short". But Hobbes was just an imaginary stuffed animal, so ignore him and do what you need to do, to get where you need to go. 

Edited by calvin8
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Well if they just come out and say "I was bad, people thought I sucked, and now I want to enter a PhD program" that isn't going to sound good.  The OP needs to passionately and intellectually express their interest and explain what they have going for them.  Perhaps high GRE scores, GPA, TA experience, something like that.  When I first received low GRE scores I emailed some professors I'd contacted before and who i wanted to gain admissions into their programs and was frank.  I said "my GRE scores are low BUT...." and they gave me an honest reply.  I also said "my language experience is this...." and they replied.  I didn't mean for the OP to email begging for admissions.  Simply say "I am interested in studying with you, I am considering applying" if the prof is interested and replies then the OP can say happy to hear and go into details.  If they aren't begging them for admissions I wouldn't say they are burning any bridges since I don't think the OP is going to be applying in the near future

 

But this is simply bad advice.  In general, PhD program applicants should not contact professors with a laundry list of their achievements - that's what the application is for.  Contacting potential advisers is best for finding a research fit and inquiring whether advisers are taking in students that particular year (in programs where the adviser primarily funds the student, or where an adviser has to be available to advise the student before they can get accepted).  The OP can certainly contact professors to express an interest in working with them as a philosopher, and talk about how their interests overlap.  But anything like "...but by the way, my supervisor and my second reader won't give me a recommendation to your program." as an explanation is going to raise a red flag, no matter how eloquently it's stated.

 

What the OP would be better off doing is finding other professors who are willing to recommend them to programs, and see if they can get in that way.

 

Also, 1000plateaus - It's good that your confidence has been boosted.  I caution you, however, in taking this piece of news as license to believe that your adviser was just being a mean old curmudgeon and that nothing he said applies to you.  A mean adviser can still be a correct adviser, and it's very possible that your adviser's reservations about your abilities are partially warranted (especially given that you took an extra year to finish a 2-year program and had to start your project over basically from scratch). I would take this more as proof that there are many students who gain admission to doctoral programs without the enthusiastic support of their advisers.  While it will raise a flag, it is still possible to get admitted without their letters if you have superb recommendations from others.

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I'm probably much older than anyone on this forum. I've held and hold lots of executive level positions and just reached ABD status after two half years of course work at a pretty prestigious university. This is one thing I know -  

 

 

Life is too short to let someone's opinion of your worth/value/intelligence deter you from going after your dreams. You seem like you are buying into the professor's assessment of your abilities. Stop.  Do what you want and worry less. Just Do It.

Read more, repeat yourself less.
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I really feel for you.  It sounds likes 3 years of hardship finally finished and your supervisor rubbed it in your face.  Whatever happened between you two, it sounds like he lacks any sort of tact to say that immediately after a second defense.

 

But yes, if your second reader and supervisor will not give your letters of recommendation that should be an indication that it is probably you that is at fault.  Research must be done in a timely manner, because money and time are in short supply and potential supervisors/granting agencies need to see that you can finish what you set out to do efficiently.

 

So don't take it too personally and beat yourself up about it.  You may be a great critical thinker, articulator of ideas, creative mind, etc. but you may not have proven to your committee that you can devise a successful thesis.  Being too ambitious can be a downfall of many grad students.  It is a degree after all, so time is of the essence.  Anyone can say they will solve all the world's problems in 2 or 4 years.

 

I would suggest having another meeting with your supervisor.  Forget how this matter interferes with your PhD aspiration, hurts the ego, and confirms your suspicions that your supervisor is an asshole.  Be civil and calm and genuinely seek his honest criticism, don't even think about a ploy to get a letter out of him (you wouldn't want one anyway, by the sounds of it). 

 

If this is your passion and philosophy is what makes you happy then pursue it by all means.  Suggesting not to do so is what is truly unimaginative.  But don't just go for the PhD because it was always the plan, maybe you'll have to wait a bit until the time is right.

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I would second the suggestion to try to find a job teaching at a community college. Doing so would give you a break from school (and it sounds as though you could use one) and would also give you experience teaching your own classes, which may help you decide if you really want an academic career. Also, you are still very young, and you have time. It may not seem so to you, but I am about 20 years older than you are, and I am in a science PhD now. I was not ready in my 20s, but I am enjoying the experience now. I don't actually recommend waiting SO long (I had kid obligations), but a few years away could give you a different perspective.

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I really feel for you.  It sounds likes 3 years of hardship finally finished and your supervisor rubbed it in your face.  Whatever happened between you two, it sounds like he lacks any sort of tact to say that immediately after a second defense.

 

But yes, if your second reader and supervisor will not give your letters of recommendation that should be an indication that it is probably you that is at fault.  Research must be done in a timely manner, because money and time are in short supply and potential supervisors/granting agencies need to see that you can finish what you set out to do efficiently.

 

So don't take it too personally and beat yourself up about it.  You may be a great critical thinker, articulator of ideas, creative mind, etc. but you may not have proven to your committee that you can devise a successful thesis.  Being too ambitious can be a downfall of many grad students.  It is a degree after all, so time is of the essence.  Anyone can say they will solve all the world's problems in 2 or 4 years.

 

I would suggest having another meeting with your supervisor.  Forget how this matter interferes with your PhD aspiration, hurts the ego, and confirms your suspicions that your supervisor is an asshole.  Be civil and calm and genuinely seek his honest criticism, don't even think about a ploy to get a letter out of him (you wouldn't want one anyway, by the sounds of it). 

 

If this is your passion and philosophy is what makes you happy then pursue it by all means.  Suggesting not to do so is what is truly unimaginative.  But don't just go for the PhD because it was always the plan, maybe you'll have to wait a bit until the time is right.

 

Yes I do acknowledge that I made many mistakes that resulted in taking an extra year to finish my degree. But this isn't an anomaly, lots of grad students take longer than they are funded for to finish, especially at the PhD level. The average # of years is somewhere between 6-8 years, when most PhD program are supposed to be 3-4 years. So this whole "you took too long" isn't convincing to me. 

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Yes I do acknowledge that I made many mistakes that resulted in taking an extra year to finish my degree. But this isn't an anomaly, lots of grad students take longer than they are funded for to finish, especially at the PhD level. The average # of years is somewhere between 6-8 years, when most PhD program are supposed to be 3-4 years. So this whole "you took too long" isn't convincing to me. 

Two points here.

1) Just because "lots" do it does not mean that you should. Some of those people in the "lots" take time to have children, go abroad to conduct research, have their field sites literally burn to the ground in a forest fire, etc. You can't compare yourself to anonymous data. You should be comparing yourself to the other people in your department. How many of them finish the master's in less time than you? How does your time to degree compare to the departmental average?

2) People don't generally take way longer than the norm on a master's and then get to go on to a PhD. A master's program is either 1 or 2 years. If you take 50% longer than everyone else, then that makes it really, really hard to believe that you'll somehow be able to finish a PhD in a timely fashion. So instead of the "average" you presented (which, btw, is not broken down to show whether or not those people already had a MA when they began), it becomes reasonable to suspect that you'd take 50% longer than that, so 9-12 years. No one would take on anyone who they knew would take that long to finish. No one sane, at least.

 

At this point, you seem both incredibly stubborn and thick-headed about all of this. It is clear that you won't listen to the collected wisdom of many senior graduate students so, why do you keep posting?

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That's a bit harsh. One year longer than expected really isn't that long...especially with the less than ideal advising the poster seems to have received. It does not mean that she would not do well in a PhD program. There is a lot about this situation that we don't know. I would rather err on the side of being too supportive, rather than being so discouraging. There are professors who are jerks (sadly) and it seems likely that the poster had the bad luck to be stuck with one. Her current difficulties may more validly be attributed to him than to any serious deficiency of hers.

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Whoa, rising_star what's with this the intense hostility? I know for a fact that the majority of MA/PhD students under the supervision of my ex-advisor have taken longer than others in my Department to finish. There were two other MA students who, like me, finished in their 3rd year, rather than their 2nd, all under the same supervisor.

The argument that I will take longer than most to finish a PhD because I took longer in my MA assumes that I will make the same mistakes and simply repeat the past (i.e., choosing a difficult topic, not research advisors prior to selecting on, etc). I believe that I have learned enough from my MA experience to recognize and acknowledge what factors contributed to my taking an extra year to finish.

And why are you being so hostile towards me? I have thanked everyone who has bothered to read my (rather long-winded) summary and have taken everything said into consideration. I do appreciate and am thankful for all the advice people have left for me on this forum, and have been reflective and self-critical. I have been actively replying to the majority of posts here, so I don't understand why you think I am being stubborn.

And why do I keep posting? Well, isn't this forum designed for graduate students to discuss and help each other out? I don't think I have been doing anything out of the ordinary here.

emmm, I am a he, not a she.  :)

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Yes I do acknowledge that I made many mistakes that resulted in taking an extra year to finish my degree. But this isn't an anomaly, lots of grad students take longer than they are funded for to finish, especially at the PhD level. The average # of years is somewhere between 6-8 years, when most PhD program are supposed to be 3-4 years. So this whole "you took too long" isn't convincing to me. 

 

That's a bit harsh. One year longer than expected really isn't that long...especially with the less than ideal advising the poster seems to have received. It does not mean that she would not do well in a PhD program. There is a lot about this situation that we don't know. I would rather err on the side of being too supportive, rather than being so discouraging. There are professors who are jerks (sadly) and it seems likely that the poster had the bad luck to be stuck with one. Her current difficulties may more validly be attributed to him than to any serious deficiency of hers.

 

One extra year is a pretty big deal for a Masters - it is 50% longer than what it should take!  I don't think you can compare the time people take for a PhD to that of a Masters, that isn't really valid.  A PhD is the end of the road academically and, unless you came out of your Masters with lots of papers, you have to show more for that extra year than simply completing the degree.

 

I'm not sure why you aren't seeing this. Regardless of your supervisor's personality traits, you should recognize your faults and try to make improvements. If 2 people who were part of your thesis refuse to give you a LOR and are disappointed in your efforts then it is most likely you at fault. Try to take something positive out of this situation, don't dwell on pointing fingers and refusing to even consider your hand in the issue.  It's flat out denial or delusions at this point.

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Whoa, rising_star what's with this the intense hostility? I know for a fact that the majority of MA/PhD students under the supervision of my ex-advisor have taken longer than others in my Department to finish. There were two other MA students who, like me, finished in their 3rd year, rather than their 2nd, all under the same supervisor.

The argument that I will take longer than most to finish a PhD because I took longer in my MA assumes that I will make the same mistakes and simply repeat the past (i.e., choosing a difficult topic, not research advisors prior to selecting on, etc). I believe that I have learned enough from my MA experience to recognize and acknowledge what factors contributed to my taking an extra year to finish.

And why are you being so hostile towards me? I have thanked everyone who has bothered to read my (rather long-winded) summary and have taken everything said into consideration. I do appreciate and am thankful for all the advice people have left for me on this forum, and have been reflective and self-critical. I have been actively replying to the majority of posts here, so I don't understand why you think I am being stubborn.

And why do I keep posting? Well, isn't this forum designed for graduate students to discuss and help each other out? I don't think I have been doing anything out of the ordinary here.

First, I want to say that you're confusing bluntness with hostility. I don't mean you any ill will but I am being very blunt and honest with you, as I am with everyone else I know in graduate school or that wants to be in grad school.

 

Second, I'm not saying that I believe you'll take longer than everyone else to do a PhD. I am saying that it will be hard for people evaluating your application to overcome that perception. They are going to know the overall time-to-degree for your program, if they know anything at all. Otherwise, they're going to judge your application by comparing how long you took to do the MA to that of their own MA students and others with a MA in the applicant pool. You may think that you have overcome those obstacles but, you continue to place the blame on your advisor and accept very little of it personally. That won't read well in an application, especially since you aren't going to have a rec letter that says "Oh, all of X's students take forever to finish so actually 1000Plateaus finished quickly given who he worked under." Do you see my point?

 

Third, while you may be taking what people say under consideration, you come across as dismissive of everyone that does not support your entrance into a PhD program immediately, that thinks you took a long time to finish, that thinks your difficulties were personal and not just due to your advisor, etc. You are fairly one-sided in your thankfulness if you read the comments carefully. Those of us who have said that applying without your advisor's letter is a bad move have been brushed aside, for example.

 

I'm not sure why you aren't seeing this. Regardless of your supervisor's personality traits, you should recognize your faults and try to make improvements. If 2 people who were part of your thesis refuse to give you a LOR and are disappointed in your efforts then it is most likely you at fault. Try to take something positive out of this situation, don't dwell on pointing fingers and refusing to even consider your hand in the issue.  It's flat out denial or delusions at this point.

I absolutely 100% agree with this. If I were in your shoes, I would try to schedule at least 45 minutes to meet with each one of them and find out what they genuinely wanted you to do, where they think you came up short, and why. Without their support (even if that just means they won't badmouth you if someone calls them), you are going to have a very, very hard time pursuing a PhD in a reputable program and with funding. If you don't care about either of those, then please tell us so we can stop giving you advice as if you do.

 

That's a bit harsh. One year longer than expected really isn't that long...especially with the less than ideal advising the poster seems to have received. It does not mean that she would not do well in a PhD program. There is a lot about this situation that we don't know. I would rather err on the side of being too supportive, rather than being so discouraging. There are professors who are jerks (sadly) and it seems likely that the poster had the bad luck to be stuck with one. Her current difficulties may more validly be attributed to him than to any serious deficiency of hers.

One year longer really is a lot longer for master's students. It's the same as going full-time, taking a full load of courses every semester, and taking 6 years to finish a bachelor's in the US. It's a lot of extra time and a lot of extra money, whether that's yours or the department's. And while professors may be jerks, it generally takes a lot to have two professors who worked with you on a thesis refuse to write you recommendation letters.

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