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Dumbnamechange

Value of Specialized Tracks

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I know this question's susceptible only to speculation, but what do y'all think is value of specialized philosophy tracks when it comes to PhD admissions? Positive, negative, or null?

 

By specialized tracks I mean, e.g., master's programs that offer Neuroscience/Neurophilosophy or Linguistics tracks. I know in philosophy culture generally, for instance, it's increasingly frowned upon to do philosophy of science without some kind of science background. Do you think a student who professes an interest in Ph. of Language taking a linguistics-oriented track would look better to an admissions committee, or does the impure transcript just look weak?

 

One of the reasons I ask is because I noticed they tend to have strangely minimal requirements. For example, GSU's Neurophilosophy track only asks for 2 electives to go to Psych/Neuroscience courses; UW-Milwaukee's "Language and Linguistics" philosophy track also only differs from the straight-and-narrow by needing 2 electives to be in Linguistics, and since the regular option affords up to 3 electives anyways, if those were in the right courses, all the sudden this special name could be slapped on their transcript. Do you think anyone would care? Lamest kind of bragging rights?

Edited by Dumbnamechange

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Especially in cases like this, I definitely agree that there are no real "bragging rights" that come with pursuing a specialized track. That said, I do not think that the "impure transcript will just look weak."  Actually, if I were an admissions officer I would think it a benefit that an applicant was "well rounded." Specifically for things like Philosophy of Mind, it's becoming more and more common and some would argue necessary to integrate some knowledge about empirical sciences, namely neuroscience and psychology. I don't think one should pursue a specialized track for the sole reason to add the "credential" (if it can even be called that) to one's transcript, however I think it can be a good way to demonstrate interest in a particular field. If I go to GSU I'm doing the Neurophilosophy track because I would like to take Neuroscience courses anyway, I think they are useful for the kind of Philosophy I would like to do, so it attracted me to their program that this would not only be allowed but even encouraged.

 

Edit: To really answer your question in terms of PhD admissions, I think it's probably null, depending on situation it might be very slightly positive. If its helpful to take courses outside of Philosophy, I think it would depend on the courses themselves not just the title slapped onto the transcript. )Of course this is speculation and dependent upon situation, and the ideals of the individual that goes over your transcript)

Edited by qualiafreak

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This definitely depends on your AOI and your proposed course of study for your Ph.D., I think. Next year, I'll be pursuing a one-year Classics MA with a focus on Ancient Philosophy, and my transcript will show a number of ancient philosophy courses - along with a massive amount of Greek and Latin reading courses etc. As I'll mostly be applying to Ancient/Medieval philosophy and philosophy of religion programs, I hope having the specialization will be a real bonus for my applications, even though it means I won't have done any contemporary analytic philosophy or value theory during my MA. I'm not sure how applicable this would be outside of the realm of ancient philosophy, but I'm sure that spending most of your MA studying pure mathematics would be useful if you wanted to work in phil of math, or studying quantum mechanics if you wanted to do phil of physics, and so forth.

 

From a number of conversations I've had with professors over the course of the year, admissions committees really are interested (to one extent or another) in the specific courses listed on your transcript. So if you say you pursued a phil of language specialization for your MA but your transcript shows you took a random smattering of metaphysics/epistemology/value theory/history of philosophy with a couple linguistics seminars thrown in there, I imagine it won't make much of an impression. But if your transcript shows that you took a couple phil of language seminars, and then a couple linguistics seminars on top of that, and your reference letters and SOP both show that you have a specific interest in how to resolve questions regarding the semantics of fictional singular reference that you've already been pursuing during your MA... that should make people pay attention to you.

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