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Aspiring Phil. Student Help


Syndicatte

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I am interested in getting an MA in philosophy. However, I have many things going against my favor in the application process.

1) After graduating highschool, I actually had no intention on going to college. However, my parents (being good and concerned ones), had me sign up for my local community college. I did absymally the one semester I was there. I had to withdraw from one course, failed another course, and then got B's and C's in the other three courses I took. Now, I'm stepping things up... I am taking school. It just really sucks because I know you need to send in transcripts from all colleges attended and I will have this one semester on my record that I completed without thinking I would one day intend on applying for grad school one day. 

2) Now I am at a 4 year school and a Liberal Studies major. However, it is a completely unknown Bible college. I kept a 2.9 my first two years, but am now improving my grades. Now that I am applying myself more I think I could maybe even hold down a 4.0 for my final 3 semesters.  (Not that I wasn't applying myself before, but I was more just enjoying the college experience and doing what most people would considered as acceptable)

3) I have a philosophy teacher who could give me a reccomendation, but I don't think he is a big name in academia. 

4) As I said, I'm not a philosophy major. 

 

What can I do to combat my semesters of bad grades, lack of institution prestige and well known reccomenders? Or, what can I do in general to make myself a competitive applicant?

I having a strong desire to do philosophy, so I would be willing to do a lot of work to offset my obstacles/hinderances. 

 

Thanks

Edited by Syndicatte
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If you don't mind my asking, why do you want an MA in philosophy? Frankly, you won't be competitive, for all the reasons you mention. If you get all As for a couple semesters maybe you could get into a self-funded MA program at an unranked school. But would that be preferable to just studying philosophy on your own for free?

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Doing poorly early in your college career can sometimes be offset by excellent grades later. If you earn a 4.0 in your remaining semesters, what will your cumulative GPA be? Getting a very high GRE score would also be necessary.

I understand that you're not a philosophy major, but have you taken some philosophy courses, particularly upper-level ones? If so, what were your grades in those courses? Can you complete more advanced courses in philosophy and do well? If so, that will help to offset the fact that you're not a philosophy major, show some promise to admissions committees, give you more options for letter-writers, and connect you with professors who can help you with your writing sample.

My sense is that MA students, even at very good programs, often come from no-name schools.

My advice? Focus on bringing your GPA up as much as possible and taking more advanced philosophy courses.

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2 hours ago, rphilos said:

If you don't mind my asking, why do you want an MA in philosophy? Frankly, you won't be competitive, for all the reasons you mention. If you get all As for a couple semesters maybe you could get into a self-funded MA program at an unranked school. But would that be preferable to just studying philosophy on your own for free?

I want to teach philosophy. I am not picky about the level. I would be willing to teach at a private high school, community college, or four year college. 

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1 hour ago, hector549 said:

Doing poorly early in your college career can sometimes be offset by excellent grades later. If you earn a 4.0 in your remaining semesters, what will your cumulative GPA be? Getting a very high GRE score would also be necessary.

I understand that you're not a philosophy major, but have you taken some philosophy courses, particularly upper-level ones? If so, what were your grades in those courses? Can you complete more advanced courses in philosophy and do well? If so, that will help to offset the fact that you're not a philosophy major, show some promise to admissions committees, give you more options for letter-writers, and connect you with professors who can help you with your writing sample.

My sense is that MA students, even at very good programs, often come from no-name schools.

My advice? Focus on bringing your GPA up as much as possible and taking more advanced philosophy courses.

Not sure about cumulative GPA across all schools. But, I had a 2.9 after one year at a different college. And my gpa at my new school (not considering transfer credits) is 3.1

I have taken one upper level aesthetics class (A-) and epistemology class (C+, one major assignment missed, and the teacher doesn't accept late work) . I have taken a few (4) lower level ones too. I received As in every philosophy class I have taken except the epistemology course and during my bad community college semester I received a B in ethics. I took a genereal philosophy class at my school, but while it seemed to be a regular intro to philosophy class, it was a 300 level course there. Idk if they added more coursework or what. 

My school doesn't offer many philosophy courses. This semester they have two courses in hist/phil of math and hist/phil of science, but they are 200 level. 

 

Edited by Syndicatte
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14 hours ago, Syndicatte said:

 

1) After graduating highschool, I actually had no intention on going to college. However, my parents (being good and concerned ones), had me sign up for my local community college. I did absymally the one semester I was there. I had to withdraw from one course, failed another course, and then got B's and C's in the other three courses I took. Now, I'm stepping things up... I am taking school. It just really sucks because I know you need to send in transcripts from all colleges attended and I will have this one semester on my record that I completed without thinking I would one day intend on applying for grad school one day. 

It doesn't matter. It's your trajectory and the quality of your current work that matter. 

 

14 hours ago, Syndicatte said:

2) Now I am at a 4 year school and a Liberal Studies major. However, it is a completely unknown Bible college.

Doesn't matter, unless it's a fake university like Liberty University. You'd be surprised how many schools academics recognize. We're usually pretty familiar with the academic world. Plus, in order to get our jobs, we (literally) applied to hundreds of universities. Hell, I'm Canadian and I'm pretty sure I can name around 200 or so schools in the US alone, most of which most people have never heard of. I can even name at least one school in most European countries. So don't worry on that front!

 

14 hours ago, Syndicatte said:

3) I have a philosophy teacher who could give me a reccomendation, but I don't think he is a big name in academia. 

Very few students get recommendations from big names; most don't. What matters is that the professor is familiar with your work and interests, and can speak to your ability (and perhaps, in your case, your upward trajectory).

 

14 hours ago, Syndicatte said:

4) As I said, I'm not a philosophy major. 

Also not a big deal. But, as hector549 said, you'll need to clearly articulate why you want to pursue philosophy at the graduate level. And that justification will have to go beyond "I want to teach philosophy"; it'll have to talk about why it's philosophy in particular that you're interested in. What areas of philosophy do you want to study? Why?

 

 

Incidentally, wanting to teach philosophy generally isn't enough to get you through the PhD process. It's a grueling slog, and you need to know that there are no jobs for you at the end of it. You really need to be motivated by your research project, otherwise you'll burn out fast. You'll be competing with 600 other people for the same crappy job in a state or country far away. You'll apply to a hundred or more jobs every year, get zero to one interviews, and maybe if you're lucky after five or six years of that you'll earn 30-40k teaching five courses a semester in a tiny town somewhere you didn't especially want to live. Getting an MA is easier, but it's increasingly less sufficient for teaching at the HS or community college levels, because those markets are increasingly flooded by people with PhDs (note also that philosophy isn't usually a "teachable" for HS, so you need enough courses in other subjects to get certified). That's not meant to discourage you, just to give you an idea of what you're going into, and of the fact that the reasons you give for wanting to pursue the MA or PhD will have to look sufficient to counterbalance those factors.

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24 minutes ago, maxhgns said:

Incidentally, wanting to teach philosophy generally isn't enough to get you through the PhD process. That's not meant to discourage you, just to give you an idea of what you're going into, and of the fact that the reasons you give for wanting to pursue the MA or PhD will have to look sufficient to counterbalance...

I know some programs have concentrations in business ethics. And being that the philosophy job market is bad, maybe it wouldn't be a terrible idea to gear my philosophy studies towards a curriculum that would help me outside of academia. If I said that I am interested in part to hopefully become a better businessperson, is that better? Does the statement of purpose have to be strictly about what I hope the practical, monetary benefits of studying will be? Aside from that, I am interested in philosophy (of religion and epistemology) largely in part because I have a religious background, but now doubt religion and am hoping to confirm my beliefs one way or the other. So, I am sure to be motivated to study because I feel I have personal interests in doing good work. 

Edited by Syndicatte
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On 7/25/2017 at 3:18 AM, rphilos said:

If you don't mind my asking, why do you want an MA in philosophy? Frankly, you won't be competitive, for all the reasons you mention. If you get all As for a couple semesters maybe you could get into a self-funded MA program at an unranked school. But would that be preferable to just studying philosophy on your own for free?

I'd say it's pretty clear (s)he's trying to be competitive for reasons other than the ones he mentioned for which he won't be competitive, don't you think? Also, we live in a rather credential obsessed world, so if he/she wants to do anything with philosophy that has a straightforward chance of reaching others and/or earning income, then a degree of some sort is necessary. 

Now, to the OP... fortunately, logic is within the domain of philosophy, so you can be pretty optimistic that the people reviewing your application will be more logical than just traditional/perfunctory in how they look at your application. The question in their minds is, "will this person succeed in our program and take the degree with our institution's name on it to do things that make our community look good?" Figure out a way to argue that the answer to this is yes, and since you don't have the perfect GPA, GRE, or degree in philosophy, come up with something else that has a chance of being a sufficiently concise way to advocate for yourself.

What is/are your other degree(s) in? Develop something original within your own area of expertise, extend it to a relevant area of philosophy with which your particularly familiar... and submit it to some sort of conference. Then you can point to that, your writing sample, and say "look, I've already done philosophy before." In general, what is necessary is something by which you can be judged that is as straightforwardly relevant and measurable as possible. For the fortunate, that's a high GPA, GRE, and a degree in philosophy... but past admission to a program, what you still potentially have to offer is much more important in a career as a philosopher.

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Apply and see what happens. If you don't get in then take a bunch of philosophy courses at your local CC with good marks then reapply the following season.

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