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Can someone tell me my chances of making it in... well.. anywhere?


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Hello everyone!

First post here, and it might be too early to start asking stuff like this, but I've been heavily discouraged from having faith in getting accepted into anywhere I apply for Fall 2016. Let me try to paint a picture of myself as a student so you guys can get a clearer idea.


  • I have a 3.3 GPA (ouch) with a Philosophy GPA of 3.7-ish.
  • I come from an undergraduate school (graduating this December) completely unknown in terms of philosophy placement. I go to Purdue University Calumet.
  • I have not taken the GRE yet, and am very intimidated by it, even though I probably shouldn't be, as long as I refresh on some basic math concepts.
  • I've taken about double the required philosophy courses needed to graduate, as well as taken more top-level courses offered than any other undergrads here in the history of the program. None of the other majors or minors were rigorous or gratifying for me.
  • I've done several independent studies. One of them this Fall will be with the chancellor of my school who is a philosophy professor emeritus.
  • During this Spring semester, since I will have graduated, my philosophy department really likes me and is willing to give me a section of symbolic logic to teach during my semester of down-time, so I'll have prior teaching experience by the time I'd arrive at whatever grad school I'd be admitted to.
  • I've been a supplemental instructor, president of the philosophy club at my school, and leader of other philosophically oriented extra-curricular activities, such as informal presentations, being invited to lead philosophy events that faculty attend, etc.
  • I've been published for work in philosophy, but in a field completely irrelevant to most schools' specializations (philosophical counseling).
  • My dream school is University of Wisconsin - Madison's Ph.D program. Most of my interests lie in metaphysics (specifically personal identity), advanced logic, and philosophy of science. 
  • I'm also planning on applying to PhD programs at IU Bloomington, University of Washington, Bowling Green, and some other lesser known schools that are only a state away from me (REALLY wanna go somewhere in Wisconsin though). 

Basically, my grades are nowhere close to what the average applicant is, but I'm trying to use my experience with philosophy, the connections I've made with faculty at my school, and my personal statement as ways to outshine the grades.

What I'm asking is, do I even stand a ghost of a chance applying for a Ph.D program anywhere that I mentioned? I'm trying to avoid having to get a "leverage MA" to get somewhere else, but I'm also applying to the MA program of Milwaukee. I've heard of people getting into PhD programs straight from undergrad with 3.0's and those insane stories give me only the slightest glimmer of hope. 

Thanks for reading the wall of text, and I'm extremely grateful for any responses I may get here.

Edited by D-NixRT
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If it's not a huge financial burden, I see no reason why you shouldn't apply to the programs you mention. I won't try to estimate your chances, as this is an impossible exercise. Like most other applicants, your application has strengths and weaknesses. Based on what you've said, it seems like you'll have good letters of recommendation, but, as you mention, your grades might be slightly below average. Rather than trying to estimate your chances, I suggest you focus your efforts on your writing sample and the GRE. The writing sample, especially, is where you should try to outshine your grades.

Edited by aduh
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I'd like to suggest MA programs. PhDs are insanely competitive. People who are well qualified from good institutions often only get an acceptance or two, if any at all. Coming from a less well-known university, with less than a 3.5 average, you ought to be able to pitch yourself to MA programs with relative ease: you're the kind of student those programs purport to serve.

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I recommend the "cast a wide net" approach. I had a similar resume to yours going into applications last year. I ended up on two wait lists for PhD programs, was accepted to two (but did not get funding), and received several funded offers from MA programs. I applied to about 15 PhD programs and 6 MA programs. I got pretty close on PhD applications and did well with MAs. I'd recommend a similar approach. Maybe you'll get a bit luckier than I did and make it in off of a waitlist, or maybe some element of your app will push you over the top and you won't even be put on the wait list. Who knows? Worst case scenario you spend two years getting an MA in philosophy for free and then try again. I think the MA experience is actually pretty great. 

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