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03/01/2023

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former thirtysomthing grad student

I've served on (but not chaired) grad admissions committees a few times, and so far as I can remember, no one has ever been worried about older students who took breaks between degrees. If anything, more mature students with were viewed positively, with the assumption that life experience would be an asset in grad school, and that these applicants were genuinely interested in philosophy instead of merely pursuing grad school from a lack of other life plans (which, by the way, is a real problem that negatively affects retention and student success).

Of course, it's hard to speak broadly to these sorts of things, as so many factors go into assessment. But for what it's worth, I would encourage the OP not to worry about this and to do everything they can to put together the strongest application possible.

Grad Student

I had the same situation 2 years ago. 7 years separate between my MA and my current grad studies in Oxford. For what it's worth:
1. Eventually, I did get into some (not a lot) good places, so it's not impossible.
2. A crucial part of that, I think, was that I had very good relationships with former professors, and I stayed in contact, even though less than I wanted and should have.
3. I took about a year of (part-time) working from scratch on a writing sample. This helped to indicate what my recent philosophical abilities are.
4. During these 7 years I did some things that are positive to an application, like studying math and science, a little TAing, and a job that is intellectually demanding.
5. I suspect that I would have gotten more offers had I applied earlier, but on the other hand, it was also a Covid year, with much fewer opportunities, so you can never know. Perhaps, like most of us, I took myself to be a more attractive applicant than I really was.

On another note, once you hopefully get into grad school, in my experience the extra years don't harm you at all in terms of philosophical abilities. Sure, you lost some opportunities to read more, and it takes about 1-2 to be fully back on track, but the extra experience you gain is very valuable.

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