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sort of similar boat

I was in a sort of similar position (only 4 phil classes as an undergrad, then a few years doing other things before I decided to try philosophy). I ended up applying to good MA programs rather than trying to get into a good PhD program directly, and for me this was the right call. For one, I simply did not have the kind of writing sample that could have gotten me into a good PhD program, whereas after the philosophy MA, I absolutely did. Also, I really wasn't in a position to know whether I wanted the life of academic philosophy, and after the MA I was. On the whole though, I think that whether you can get into a good PhD program now depends a lot on the writing sample you have. So if I were you, my first step would be to try to figure out if my writing sample makes me look competitive. This can be hard if you aren't already connected to people in analytic philosophy whom you can ask, but I would say use whatever connections you have to try to figure this out.

Asst Prof

My sense is that getting anything less than As in undergraduate philosophy classes is a (defeasible) red flag at most top departments. It can be trumped by an excellent writing sample and good letters. Given that this individual doesn't have a background in analytic philosophy, however, it seems unlikely that they will be able to produce an excellent writing sample. I second sort of similar boat's suggestion that this individual consider doing a masters degree in philosophy. Getting good grades in a masters program would more than compensate for the lower undergraduate grades, and it would be an opportunity to craft an excellent writing sample which would appeal to analytic members of admissions committees.

Daniel Hoek

I agree with the previous poster! Especially if you are intending to apply to analytically-oriented philosophy departments, it sounds like you may not have enough experience of the field to (a) get admitted to a really competitive PhD program and (b) know if you even *want* to spend years of your life in that environment. A good philosophy MA program will help with both these things... At my department at least, that is what most of our students are taking the MA for.

Admission Committee Member

An MA could be good but Ph.D. programs are worth a shot too. My (good, not elite) program often seriously considers political theory undergrads and sometimes admits them. You'd need a good writing sample, with those grades. But maybe you're a natural, and you already have one!

Again, nothing against MAs (I need to, and did, do one, myself!). But it is two years of your life, and it involves uprooting to a new place. More controversially, maybe, I tend to think post-MA students can be a prematurely professionalized, having had some of their intellectual curiosity and breadth of interest already beaten out of them (probably more by their peers than MA program faculty!). A minor effect, I think, and thus a minor con, but one worth considering ...

tenured at an R1

In my experience doing admissions for a non-elite PhD program, applicants with weak philosophy backgrounds have writing samples that are weak or insufficiently philosophical. They are also kind of wild cards, because their letters are uninformative about philosophical ability; non-philosopher letter-writers are not well-placed to evaluate that. But the writing sample is the main reason they get rejected. Who knows, you might be an exception and might have a fantastic writing sample. But developing specifically philosophical skills in a philosophy MA might be a more feasible option at this stage. Suggestion: look for MA programs that provide funding.

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