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Current PhD student

For what it's worth, I started my way into philosophy as a non-degree seeking student enrolling in graduate courses in a well-known department. I took French classes at L'Alliance Fran├žaise at the same time. Once I did those things, I was able to get into a fully funded MA program in philosophy, and then into a PhD program. I had no philosophy background before taking those initial courses, so they were pretty much my only available route. But, it worked.

Because I worked for several years before my MA, I have been on surer financial ground than a lot of my peers have during grad school. I'm so glad for that, it changes everything.

Working doesn't help you get into grad school, but if you work for a while and manage to get in after that, I think you'll be a better position to do well :)


My advice to students is always this:

If you can--that is, if you can afford to--do not go straight into grad school from undergrad! As almost everyone will tell you, if you're doing a Ph.D. in philosophy as a career move, do it only if you can't imagine yourself doing something else. But most undergrads do not have good imaginations in this sense, if only because they're likely to have been in school for most of their life. I would hate to think that someone could be happy doing ten different things, many of which are fairly attainable, and yet thought they could only be happy doing the one that is not easily attainable.

This doesn't offer any positive advice about how to spend the year. But that's because each person is different. If you can, spend it doing something that you think you is at least kind of interesting.

just me

Given the uncertainty of the times, I think young people who find themselves not getting into grad programmes with funding should approach things as if that possibility is closed to them for ever. That is, pursue your next career/life choice. One can ALWAYS try to come back to an academic life. But I think it is imprudent to assume that one can count on pursuing such a life/career in the short term. The more one makes of this time, the better. Do not let this time be a time of lost years.


If the question is what will look best to admissions committees next year when you try again, I don't think there are general rules. Audit courses? Get a job or internship with some relevance to what you want to study? etc? Which works out best probably depends on a million contingencies: Maybe that audited course will lead to a good connection, maybe not. Maybe someone on the admissions committee will be impressed by that internship, maybe not. I'd be surprised to hear there are de facto preferences that hold across the faculty that sit on admissions committees.

I'd focus on picking the option that looks best on its own merits. For example, if you have the option between auditing a course with well-connected faculty and taking an obscure hands-on internship in a field related to what you want to study, you should probably audit the course, even if someone here tells you that (in general) internships are more impressive.

I will also second the thought that you should consider closing the book on philosophy graduate school. Maybe that's too extreme. Instead, I would suggest not turning down long-term opportunities just because you hope to get into philosophy in the next year or two. A friend tallied postings to PhilJobs, and so far there are only about 25% the number of postings there were by this point last year. I know the philosophy job market isn't the same as the pool of slots for graduate admission, but the two aren't unrelated. The schools listed (UPenn, Rice, etc) have *serious* endowments, and if they are putting admissions on hold for a year, that's a bad sign of what's to come.

Paul Carron

i think Marcus's idea is solid. And since you can't make much money right now as a server (and there aren't any benefits with that job anyway), I think I would try to get a real (i.e. more stable) job near or at a University with a philosophy program you are really interested in. A lot of schools unfortunately have hiring freezes, but not all, so I would see if there are any admissions or IT jobs at the University first, and then look or other jobs in the city. This would a great time in your life to take a job that perhaps doesn't pay quite as well but does real good for people, such as Habitat for Humanity or an advocacy organization. Make sure they will give you enough flexibility to audit some classes and spend time at department and university events and get to know the profs. It could improve your chances at admission, but if it doesn't at least you have insurance and a little retirement and some really valuable work experience.

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