Sunday, March 13, 2011

Graduate Community: Deciding Between Graduate Offers

     Admission decisions are coming back now and hopefully you were accepted to several places. While you most likely have all your applications ranked, I urge you to take a step back for a moment and consider the graduate communities of the schools in question.
 Beyond faculty and program pedigree, the graduate community is the most important aspect of a program. I believe that this is not brought up as an essential aspect of your education.

      One of the most important parts of graduate school is having a supportive and supported peer group of other philosophy graduates. The best way to learn about the state of the graduate community is to talk to the current grad students. In person is best, but you can also shoot them an email. Something to consider is how many of the grad students are publishing and presenting papers. Being part of a graduate community which is interested in the professional aspects of philosophy is quite important. Some people might not find the graduate community very important to their scholastic achievement but I would think that a peer group who wants to create discourse would be very important. Part of graduate education is training yourself to be a professional, and so having people around you who are trying to educate themselves and prepare for their chosen career is important.

I know at UCSC the grad students would organize car pools to other colleges in order to see colloquia and other philosophical events. activities like this created a close group of students and a feeling of community.

Questions to ask:

Do the grad students have a reading group, a journal, a philosophy library, a graduate philosophy society, or a graduate lounge?

Do they host colloquies, conferences, workshops or visiting faculty?

Are there departmental activities and events like lunches or yearly dinners?

Does the department cooperate with other nearby universities in order to share events or pool funds?

Is the department growing? Are they recruiting new faculty?

Are there funds for graduate student projects?

Does the department take graduate student suggestions regarding the department seriously?

Do the Graduate students feel supported by the faculty generally?

What is the ratio of grad students to TA/GTA positions available?

Have the graduate students organized to bring lecturers from other carpus' to give a talk

Are there reading groups?

How many graduate students are in your particular area of interest?

All these can be important for weighing out close choices.

I also suggest the following posts for indecisive applicants:

Ranking Philosophy Programs: Google Rankings Vs. Philosophical Gourmet Vs. Academic Analytics

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