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Turning down all your PhD offers?


skaikru
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Anyone here who have turned down, or will be turning down, all their PhD offers?  

I've been lucky enough to receive a fully-funded offer from a program whose Leiter ranking is between #20 and #25 (and a couple of fully-funded MA offers from strong MA programs). However, I can't help but to think that if I were to be a little bit more patient and apply again to PhD programs in two years' time, I would have another shot at programs whose placement records are much stronger. One thing to note, though, is that the program in question is one of the top 3 programs in the area of my intended specialization. This last fact is what makes my turning down their offer especially difficult. Any advice? 

Edit: FWIW, the MA program that I'm considering almost always places its applying students into the T25 programs (and their equivalent).

Edited by skaikru
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3 minutes ago, skaikru said:

Anyone here who have turned down, or will be turning down, all their PhD offers?  

I've been lucky enough to receive a fully-funded offer from a program whose Leiter ranking is between #20 and #25 (and a couple of fully-funded MA offers from strong MA programs). However, I can't help but to think that if I were to be a little bit more patient and apply again to PhD programs in two years' time, I would have another shot at programs whose placement records are much stronger. One thing to note, though, is that the program in question is one of the top 3 programs in the area of my intended specialization. This last fact is what makes my turning down their offer especially difficult. Any advice? 

Alot of people would think this is very risky. I think it all depends on what sort of work you're able to produce and what sort of letters you're able to acquire. For instance, I had a friend a few years back that applied and was in at a top-30. He decided he thought he could do better coming out of a well-"ranked" MA program. His advisors agreed—and I think that might be most important, what your advisors/letter writers think. He attended the MA program, did very well, and is now at a top 15-ish program. That route worked out very well for him. 

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Just now, Duns Eith said:

I am one such person.

Why on earth isn't PGR 20-25 good enough????

I understand where you're coming from. I'd be thrilled to be at such a place! But, I also understand the desire to do better, given the job market; this is especially understandable when one hasn't gone through an MA program and, presumably, has the chance to do better (given the stipulations above). 

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6 minutes ago, Duns Eith said:

I am one such person.

Why on earth isn't PGR 20-25 good enough????

Perhaps I should have emphasized that my concern is largely with its placement record, rather than its ranking. 

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1 hour ago, skaikru said:

Anyone here who have turned down, or will be turning down, all their PhD offers?  

I've been lucky enough to receive a fully-funded offer from a program whose Leiter ranking is between #20 and #25 (and a couple of fully-funded MA offers from strong MA programs). However, I can't help but to think that if I were to be a little bit more patient and apply again to PhD programs in two years' time, I would have another shot at programs whose placement records are much stronger. One thing to note, though, is that the program in question is one of the top 3 programs in the area of my intended specialization. This last fact is what makes my turning down their offer especially difficult. Any advice? 

Edit: FWIW, the MA program that I'm considering almost always places its applying students into the T25 programs (and their equivalent).

No just risky, but also really misguided. The ranking of your program can be a bolster and make getting a job easier, but as far as developing yourself as an academic it just isn't enough. Being a successful academic really depends a lot on yourself as a scholar: pushing yourself, networking, reading everything ever and luck. Don't get wrapped up in the game of try to get the most prestigious name on your C.V., and instead just focus on your own development as a philosopher. You can do that nearly anywhere. Sometimes it would even be easier at a lower ranked school with faculty that have more time to give you more attention. 

 

It would be different if you didn't *click* with any of the professors, the campus, the students, etc. and just didn't feel right about the schools you got into. But a good placement record doesn't guarentee a job, and your much better off focusing on being maleable in the market and just being a good all-around academic. 

This is all just my opinion though, of course.

 

 

Edit: Oh and I just want to say that sometimes students that are stellar applicants as BA applicants dont do as well in the MA applicant pile. It is more rare to be a crazily dedicated and focused BA student than an MA one. 

Edited by MickeyRay
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9 minutes ago, MickeyRay said:

No just risky, but also really misguided. The ranking of your program can be a bolster and make getting a job easier, but as far as developing yourself as an academic it just isn't enough.

 

Presumably, they are prioritizing getting a job, which I think is wise. But, you're certainly correct that one should pick a program considering how well it will develop them as an academic generally, and a philosopher in particular—one shouldn't *merely* consider ranking and placement. But, I don't think this consideration makes prioritizing job placement really misguided. That's my take anyway. 

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I agree with @MickeyRay that scholarly development and hard work are essential to success on the job market, but it is simply not true that program prestige does not make an enormous difference. Academia is an intensely elitist institution, and there is empirical evidence to show that the majority of academic jobs go to graduates from the top programs. If you are not happy with a program's placement record, you should not attend with the belief that your outcome will be significantly better.

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What do people who know you and your work think? How much work did you put into preparing for this round of applications?

I'm in a somewhat similar position to you. I also got into some strong MAs with funding. I'm on wait lists at two PhD programs. One is in the top 20, the other is #31. I'm considering removing myself from the wait list for the program ranked 31 after consulting with one of my professors who knows my work. Is it risky? Yes, I suppose, but I feel like I have to try.

However, if I am offered admission to the top-20 program, I will certainly take it.

If I were in your position, I might consider accepting the offer, and aiming to apply out after 2 years. It doesn't seem to be extremely common, but I know people do it sometimes.

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1 hour ago, dagnabbit said:

I agree with @MickeyRay that scholarly development and hard work are essential to success on the job market, but it is simply not true that program prestige does not make an enormous difference. Academia is an intensely elitist institution, and there is empirical evidence to show that the majority of academic jobs go to graduates from the top programs. If you are not happy with a program's placement record, you should not attend with the belief that your outcome will be significantly better.

I mean I guess my perspective is different because I'm continental, but I think coming up with original ideas, publishing, and networking is really a huge part of it.

 

 

One question that hasnt been brought up yet:

Do you feel ready for a phd program?

Two years is a long time. If you really feel like you could benefit from two years of really learning how to do academic work then the MA would be a good idea. You definitely want to feel ready to kick ass and stand out.

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My thinking is one in the hand is worth two in the bush. I also didn't apply for any MAs, though. 

1 hour ago, dagnabbit said:

there is empirical evidence to show that the majority of academic jobs go to graduates from the top programs

While true, I do wonder how much 

1. How good the graduate education itself is and

2. How strong the students themselves are

skews this. The top programs usually get really good students and probably have some very good education. Granted, the good education is just another reason to want to be in such a program. That said, fit can be very important for learning.

Transferring PhD programs is a thing some people do. If you think you'd do well at the already-well-ranked program, you might be best off taking it and seeing if you can "move up" in two years.

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@skaikru I think the most significant thing you mentioned in your original post was that the PhD program you were admitted to is "top 3 in your intended area of specialization." I think you should consider that ranking much more important than the ranking of the school itself or the broader program.

Fit is the most important part of any PhD program, IMO. Do your research interests strongly align with those of your POIs and other faculty members in the department? Are the faculty members at that particular program publishing frequently? Will you have a lot of opportunity there to be a part of that research and maybe publish something yourself before graduating? Having one/multiple publications is one of if not the most important component of getting a job when you finish your program. Gaining teaching experience through TA positions can also be helpful. I would just think really critically about your decision before turning down a funded PhD offer to a program that could turn out to be great for you. Sure, going to a top tier school for your graduate education may look impressive on your CV, but it won't be all that impressive if you don't accomplish as much there as you could at a "lower ranked" program that is a better fit for your interests and skills.

Also, every application cycle is different, and there are certainly no guarantees that you will get into a better program the next time around even with a Masters. To be honest, I've heard a pretty 50-50 mix of opinions regarding whether or not a Masters will help you in future application cycles. In my area of study (and I think in a lot of programs), you receive a Masters on the way to your PhD anyway. It's pretty common for students with only a BA to enter a PhD program.

And I hate to overanalyze this, but I was in the same situation as you, choosing between a Masters program at a prestigious school and another PhD offer, and this is an important piece of advice I received: A lot of Masters programs will boast that they have an impressive placement rate in T25 PhD programs among their students, but what they don't tell you is that those statistics do not include students that drop out because they decide graduate school isn't for them, students who choose to pursue a job after completing the Masters program because they don't want to continue to the PhD, and students who do get into PhD programs after but don't receive fully funded offers. So when you consider that impressive placement rate, it might be representative of only a very small group of people. I was also advised that if I received a PhD offer with funding, I should not even consider a Masters offer. 

Final thing I'll say is: timing is also somewhat important to consider. Although I personally believe that it's never too late to pursue a PhD in the field you are passionate about, you have to consider how much time you will commit to a graduate education. It takes a long time to get a PhD. If you spend an additional 1-2 years getting a Masters, then spend another year working/applying, and THEN enter a PhD program, I would recommend being absolutely, 10000% sure you are prepared to invest that amount of time and money into your education before beginning a career, esp. if it's just to get into a school with a better ranking. Do what feels most right to you, but be sure of your decision.

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It's a risk, but for what it's worth, I was in a similar situation as you, took the MA and ended up doing very well as a result. I think you have to figure out two things:

1. how likely are you to get into a better ranked program after the MA?

2. how much better would the higher ranked programs be in terms of placement record and catering to your intellectual interests?

Question 2. is something you can figure out for yourself by researching the programs in question. Question 1. really depends on knowing your own capabilities and also thinking about what doing the MA would achieve for you in terms of improving your application. For example, in my case, I didn't have a philosophy undergrad degree, which was a major liability in getting into the top phd programs. I also felt fairly confident in my philosophical abilities, level of diligence and motivation, etc. So I knew I had what it takes to really make the most of an MA program, and I also knew that having the MA would "fill the hole" in my profile - i.e. it would give me the one thing I was missing, which was formal training in philosophy.

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18 hours ago, MickeyRay said:

I mean I guess my perspective is different because I'm continental, but I think coming up with original ideas, publishing, and networking is really a huge part of it.

 

 

One question that hasnt been brought up yet:

Do you feel ready for a phd program?

Two years is a long time. If you really feel like you could benefit from two years of really learning how to do academic work then the MA would be a good idea. You definitely want to feel ready to kick ass and stand out.

Honestly, no. But I'm not sure if this is just imposter syndrome kicking in early. Yes, I agree with you that going through an MA program first might better enable me to perform well in, and not merely survive, the PhD program.

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20 hours ago, hector549 said:

What do people who know you and your work think? How much work did you put into preparing for this round of applications?

I'm in a somewhat similar position to you. I also got into some strong MAs with funding. I'm on wait lists at two PhD programs. One is in the top 20, the other is #31. I'm considering removing myself from the wait list for the program ranked 31 after consulting with one of my professors who knows my work. Is it risky? Yes, I suppose, but I feel like I have to try.

However, if I am offered admission to the top-20 program, I will certainly take it.

If I were in your position, I might consider accepting the offer, and aiming to apply out after 2 years. It doesn't seem to be extremely common, but I know people do it sometimes.

I think that they think I could do better with an MA. A few months on the writing sample, some last minute studying for the GREs. 

I've considered that option before but I'm not sure if I'm comfortable enough to enter a PhD program with a mindset of transferring out. 

Edited by skaikru
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Was your undergraduate major in philosophy? Was it from a well known university and/or one reputed to be strong in philosophy?

If the answer to both of these questions is yes, then I'd be skeptical about how much your chances will improve with an MA. If, however, the answer to one or both of these questions is no, then I think the MA could have substantial positive benefits for your chances at top PhD programs. There are of course other factors involved here. A spotty undergraduate record may benefit greatly from an MA, and so on.

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1 minute ago, Glasperlenspieler said:

Was your undergraduate major in philosophy? Was it from a well known university and/or one reputed to be strong in philosophy?

If the answer to both of these questions is yes, then I'd be skeptical about how much your chances will improve with an MA. If, however, the answer to one or both of these questions is no, then I think the MA could have substantial positive benefits for your chances at top PhD programs. There are of course other factors involved here. A spotty undergraduate record may benefit greatly from an MA, and so on.

Yes. No. Yes, I have a spotty undergraduate record although my final two years' grades in philosophy were good.

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2 minutes ago, skaikru said:

Yes. No. Yes, I have a spotty undergraduate record although my final two years' grades in philosophy were good.

Given that, I think an MA could make sense in your case. But do remember that PhD admissions are a gamble and there's no guarantee of anything. It's not impossible that you don't get in anywhere after the MA.

Also, I'm assuming the MA is adequately funded. If not, go with the PhD, no question.

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4 hours ago, skaikru said:

Honestly, no. But I'm not sure if this is just imposter syndrome kicking in early. Yes, I agree with you that going through an MA program first might better enable me to perform well in, and not merely survive, the PhD program.

So I've been thinking, and another issue is figuring out your interests. A big plus of going to an MA would be to get a broader background in philosophy so that you can be more secure in your interests when you get to phd and you can pick a program that would be perfect for your interests and in which you can work on your dissertation. 

 

If you're really secure in your interests, and the school is like top 3 for your interests then I would definitely consider the PhD despite your fears. 

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21 minutes ago, skaikru said:

I'll most likely choose the MA option. ^_^

If I may, you should probably decide soon, as your declination will likely result in some significant movement, whichever way you decide to go. That said, I know this is by no means an easy decision. 

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2 minutes ago, Dialectica said:

If I may, you should probably decide soon, as your declination will likely result in some significant movement, whichever way you decide to go. That said, I know this is by no means an easy decision. 

Hi Dialectica! I have just made my final decision. :(

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