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07/31/2020

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Evan

Personally, I would wait and take the extra time reading as much as I can, get some writing done, and start on part of the dissertation. Writing, reading, thinking, and understanding philosophy require time and patience as we all know.

Hence, utilizing that free time to write and read would be wise. Perhaps waiting a year is best to plan and *prepare* your materials for when you do get into the program. By the time you enter, you’ll have some or many papers and ideas ready for proposals and submissions into journals.

For example, write a lot of outlines of ideas and topics for future papers. You do not need to write whole articles, but having many detailed outlines of different topics would be helpful for your future self. That’s what I have right now: a file full of outlines of topics for my future self to write about and also to not let me forget certain points I want to make. Alas, our thought likes to circle back on itself. It’s ”elliptical” in nature and so new ideas might arise to add to the particular outline and hence paper later. In other words, I’m making a *guide* for my future self to refer to. Having good and lots of frames of references are crucial to write well and successfully.

Use your free time to write as much as you can because, as many people here have said, it’s instrumental to be successful in graduate school and that would also alleviate some of the burdens and stress during that time.

I would also take the time to reach out and email current graduate students and friendly ask them about their experience in that department to get an idea of what to expect. Preparedness is a virtue for a reason and so whether you take a year off or not, go in being adequately prepared for what’s to come (expected and unexpected).

go for it

I think that if you can get into a good grad program with funding do it. The alternative might be unemployment. That stinks. So it is better to work toward a degree - whatever results from it - than risk sitting around having to support yourself without a job. BUT do not take on debt.

original poster

Thanks again for posting this! Just to clarify, in case it affects people's advice: I said that I plan to go for a PhD basically no matter what because I have some highly in-demand and easily-transferable skills that would allow me to jump into industry, while still feeling strongly that a good academic job (if I win the lottery) would be somewhat more enjoyable. So I judge that the process of getting the PhD would be intrinsically valuable to me, would be able to get out pretty quick if my expectations were disappointed, and have no illusions about ending up with any academic job, let alone a desirable one. My thinking is eerily similar, I just noticed, to "Stubborn College Senior"'s, here: https://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2020/04/what-are-grad-programs-planning.html?cid=6a014e89cbe0fd970d0240a520a8aa200b#comment-6a014e89cbe0fd970d0240a520a8aa200b. Anyway, again, thanks to everyone who has offered or will offer advice!

Mike

I'm late to the party, but I agree with what Marcus says. Here are some other thoughts:

If you (the OP) *really* have enough of a financial safety net that you can put a reasonably secure and high-paying career on-hold for 7-10 yrs to pursue philosophy without risking your ability to support yourself later in life, then the uncertainty of whether academics will bounce back or crash harder after this year is kinda moot, no? I suppose in a year it might become clear that the odds of getting a job are *zero* (if the crash is huge), and maybe (despite their passion for philosophy) the OP wouldn't want to pursue a philosophy PhD if there were *no* chance in an academic job. But even in that case, you could just quit before starting your first year (if you applied this season and got accepted for next year).

... Actually, I'm now a bit unclear on the timeline. It's August. Don't people typically apply for PhD programs in Nov/Dec, and aren't acceptances sorted out in like March or even April? (It's been about a decade since I was applying for PhD programs.) Anyway, the point is that much of the uncertainty may be resolved before you have to accept any admissions offers. So Marcus' advice of "Apply this year -- and next, if this year doesn't pan out and you're still interested" sounds especially apt.

Second point: You say, "while still feeling strongly that a good academic job (if I win the lottery) would be somewhat more enjoyable", but I'd be a bit skeptical that you can know this, just from doing an MA. There are countless reports, on this blog and others, of people who get their first FT job (whether a VAP, TT, whatever), only to find it's not really at all what they thought it would be. The difference between the grad school experience and being a professor (especially at, say, a teaching institution not all like the one housing your fancy grad program) is *dramatic*. It's hard to know if you really want the job before you get it. (You may ask: So how can someone rationally make the choice to go to grad school? I don't think there are good answers to this question. My impression is that most people don't make the decision rationally; they follow their passion and work out the details later.)

Finally, not to knock on Evan, but I don't think waiting for the purpose of getting writing done makes sense. You've only done an MA. It's unlikely you're developed enough as a philosopher or writer to productively write on your own, at a level that actually advances the aims of a defendable dissertation or publishable papers. (I wasn't even really at that level when I finished my PhD; I still needed more guidance to really be productive.) If you want to think and write productively, with the aim of producing professional philosophy, best to do it under the guidance of other professional philosophers.

Evan

Hi Mike, you wrote:

[“It’s unlikely you're developed enough as a philosopher or writer to productively write on your own, at a level that actually advances the aims of a defendable dissertation or publishable papers. (I wasn't even really at that level when I finished my PhD; I still needed more guidance to really be productive.) If you want to think and write productively, with the aim of producing professional philosophy, best to do it under the guidance of other professional philosophers.”]

I agree, which is why I used the qualifier “part of” for a reason: it presupposed the variant-of something e.g. the dissertation. Obviously, you don’t have to start writing whole chapters and/or articles, which is why I suggested OP do some brainstorming via outlines during their free time. In other words, having multiple outlines of different topics and defenses as reference guides can be useful in determining what topic OP can successfully defend if their *primary* option is not viable in the future.

Second, OP is currently an MA student, which means they can also ask for feedback on these outlines from their *current* professors to assess whether there is a good and fruitful route (or multiple routes) they can pursue in regards to writing the dissertation. If OP is currently an MA student, there should be some professors who can provide guidance and advice to at least *prepare*.

Last, it’s dangerous to start early due to the pandemic, which is why taking a year to brainstorm and have multiple viable topics and guides to refer to and prepare for can be beneficial. A year off won’t hurt I’m assuming considering the uncertainty of this pandemic. I’d rather OP take a year off and prepare to not risk their health and end up juggling extreme caution, stress, and unpreparedness.

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