Jump to content
bluwe

M.A. advice

Recommended Posts

I'm planning on applying to M.A. programs this January. Only problem is I don't know which programs to apply to. I've got a few Canadian programs on the list: Queen's, Victoria, Toronto and two American programs so far: Houston and Syracuse. The only problem is I really don't know how competitive any of these master's programs really are, so I don't know whether I'm taking a risk by only applying to these programs. I figure no matter the competitive nature of these programs, I'm still taking some sort of risk. I'm wondering what other programs I should consider. I've seen the PGR and I'm considering some of those programs, however funding looks scarce, and I'm quite skeptical of the list. (Sure, those programs have great placement records, but is because there's something particularly special about these schools, or is it just because they admit the most promising students?)

My goal in entering a masters program is to get into a top PhD program, and to go deeper into philosophy. My main topics of interest at this point are truth (epistemology in general), and Phil. of Religion, and Philosophy of Art.

 

I know I must've left out some pertinent information, but I don't mind filling in the details if you think there's something that might help you in helping me out a bit. Thanks a lot everyone!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What is your background in? And how much experience do you have in philosophy? Those two pieces of information would really help in replying with some advice on what programs you should be applying to...

I am currently finishing at one of the PGR-mentioned programs, and from my experience many of the students don't have undergraduate degrees in philosophy—if they do, they come from lesser-known colleges and want to improve their chances of getting in to great PhD programs. The programs that were referred to as the "high-ranked" MA programs (though there is no official ranking as far as I know) when I was applying two years ago are, in no particular order: Northern Illinois University, Brandeis, Georgia State, Tufts, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Western Michigan, and Virginia Tech. If you're goal is to get into a top phd program, then I would definitely recommend applying to many—if not all—of those. But there are also other good programs to look into. For instance, UM-STL, SFSU, LSU, Cal-State LA. The reason why those programs is double. First, the faculty that teach at the "top" MA programs are most-likely well known, they are very active in their fields (publishing, conferences, etc.), and many of them have probably also taught at other PhD programs in the past. Second, because of the first reason the schools can, as you mentioned, admit the most promising students. That said, I would add that "most promising" can mean many different things to different departments—some programs feel that the 'most promising' students are not necessarily the ones that come from amazing undergrad situations but are students that have an obvious intensity of interest and have potential to grow. (See, for instance, Robert Schwartz's from UWM, post here: http://schwitzsplinters.blogspot.com/2009/09/applying-to-ma-programs-in-philosophy.html). 

Regarding funding: a high percentage of these programs have great funding opportunities. So I don't know exactly what you mean that "funding looks scarce." While it is true that Tufts and Brandeis are known for costing quite a bit...I don't think that those two serve as the standard. For example, NIU, UWM, GSU all offer funding through TA-ships, which (I think) most students admitted receive. Also: V-Tech, SFSU, and CSLA (and I think LSU) offer funding, though maybe not as much as the others. What makes you skeptical in this regard? Sure, the programs that offer funding don't pay a ton of money, but as far as MA-level study the money is totally live-able...how much would be necessary for it not being "scarce"? (Philosophy isn't necessarily known for leading to high-paying jobs...)

Anyway, I don't see why you shouldn't apply to several of the MA programs, if you have the money to apply to more than a few. I didn't have a background in philosophy and I was accepted into 3 of the 7 that I applied to. I would just recommend making sure your writing sample and letters of recommendation are promising.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
31 minutes ago, SamStone said:

What is your background in? And how much experience do you have in philosophy? Those two pieces of information would really help in replying with some advice on what programs you should be applying to...

I'm a Philosophy/Psych double major. Though my primary focus is on philosophy.

 

The reason I am a little skeptical of the funding situation is that if funding is chosen on merit, for example if the program has a limited number of TA ships, I'm probably not going to be chosen given that many top students apply to these programs incase they get rejected from all PhD programs. I didn't do great my first two years given I was as aimless as they get, but, although I've drastically improved, I'm not ignoring the simple fact that I won't be as competitive as a vast majority of candidates GPA wise (overall GPA will probably be 3.0/major GPA will be 3.7ish). I haven't taken the GRE yet, which is one of the reasons why I'm looking at the Canadian programs so seriously. That and they're only 1 year long. But I think I'll do well on the GRE, I just won't have really any time to prepare.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
23 hours ago, kickaguard said:

I'm a Philosophy/Psych double major. Though my primary focus is on philosophy.

 

The reason I am a little skeptical of the funding situation is that if funding is chosen on merit, for example if the program has a limited number of TA ships, I'm probably not going to be chosen given that many top students apply to these programs incase they get rejected from all PhD programs. I didn't do great my first two years given I was as aimless as they get, but, although I've drastically improved, I'm not ignoring the simple fact that I won't be as competitive as a vast majority of candidates GPA wise (overall GPA will probably be 3.0/major GPA will be 3.7ish). I haven't taken the GRE yet, which is one of the reasons why I'm looking at the Canadian programs so seriously. That and they're only 1 year long. But I think I'll do well on the GRE, I just won't have really any time to prepare.

 

Georgia State funds all students they admit. Not sure if other programs are similar. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/8/2015, 5:47:37, kickaguard said:

 (Sure, those programs have great placement records, but is because there's something particularly special about these schools, or is it just because they admit the most promising students?)

 

This is a legitimate worry about the ranking of MA programs. Here's the deal. Go somewhere where there are great philosophers who work in your area of interest. Contact current students to see if those philosophers write letters and if the students who work with them actually get into good PhD programs. Pay attention to whether everybody from a program is coming out of, e.g., metaphysics, or if people are doing well from all areas of philosophy (across the discipline). DO look at placement records, because they are at least suggestive. They also indicate the kinds of people with whom you'll study, and that's important!

In the US, the top MA programs are probably Brandeis, Tufts, Georgia State, and UW Milwaukee (in no particular order of strength). The latter two are great, because they fund you pretty well. The first two offer moderate funding but a great city in which to study philosophy. Brandeis has one or two full scholarships per year. There are other great MA programs in the US. Certainly Northern Illinois University has done well over the years. Also Virginia Tech is good. UMSL is good. There are still others that don't immediately come to mind. The rule here is to look at placement records and try to find a good fit. But since these are competitive programs, you might feel lucky being admitted to any of them. Good luck.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On a thread I recently created, someone suggested I refer to the list of funded MA programs that I could find floating around on the forum somewhere...

After a good bit of searching, I found it here, thank you @sidebysondheim! :D 

Also, I appreciated the straightforward advice given by @ianfaircloud

Cheers!

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can tell you that Houston is very competitive, or at least for funding, anyway (I was admitted but denied funding when I applied two years ago). They normally get 75+ applicants for 5-8 funding slots. I don't now about the others. Houston would be a good fit for your interests, though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@KevDoh thank you for your comment. Honestly, I still have to figure out whether I prefer analytic or continental...:unsure: So I'm glad you brought that point up, albeit a bit embarrassed to admit I don't yet know how to distinguish between the two branches. :blink:

I'm checking out an article on philosophical  gourmet about that now, in order to maybe learn a bit about the differences. (Link below for reference, if someone else comes across this thread and is in the same boat as me, trying to figure all this out after majoring in something other than phil during undergrad.)

http://www.philosophicalgourmet.com/analytic.asp

@dgswaim Wow, that does sound competitive...Great information though; I'm going to check out Houston's website now. Thank you for the suggestion! :D 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thoughts on this new topic?

I really appreciate anyone who takes the time to read this and give a thoughtful reply, even if it is brief! ^_^

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.