Friday, February 15, 2008

Admissions (and Sleep)

I'm working hard today on graduate admissions and preparing for seminar. No time for my usual Friday post! But maybe I can take this occasion to remind prospective graduate students about my advice for what to do once you hear back.

(And by the way, I've been wondering if sleeping more makes you a better philosopher. I used to think, in grad school, that getting lots of sleep gave me a fresh, creative energy -- but now I'm not so sure it didn't just make me more contented and sanguine instead.)

Now if you don't think the parenthetical paragraph is related to the first paragraph, you've never had a stack of 100 graduate applications, each containing a 20-page essay, to evaluate.


Anonymous said...

Pick me, pick me!

Anonymous said...

Eager aspiring students are also foregoing sleep in favor of compulsively checking our email every few minutes to make sure we don't miss a time-sensitive offer! We implore you to speed up the process!

By the way, your post on "after you hear back" is fantastic, and has been a great help in the past week, and will continue to be a great help in the coming weeks. Thank you for the whole "applying to grad school" series.

The Financial Philosopher said...


Since you are grading 20-page essays, here's a thought for future essay requirements in your class (based on a true story):

A college philosophy professor suggested to the students on the first day of the course that, essentially, philosophy is more about asking questions than providing answers. A student raised his hand and simply asked, "Why?" The professor answered, "Why not?" Then the professor followed by replying, "That's philosophy."

Throughout the course and all its rigorous studies, the professor had built expectations of a final essay that was to be a large portion of the grade. On the last day of the course, the professor wrote one word on the chalk board: "Why?" The professor then instructed students to answer that question. The students frantically came up with pages of thoughts, quotations, and citations to answer the question. One student, however, seemed to write down only a few words and turned in their final essay within seconds... Surely that student did not study... Surely they will fail, thought the other students as they poured out their thoughts onto paper...

That student, the one who had asked, "Why?" at the beginning of the course, wrote "Why not?" on his paper, turned it in and was the only student to receive an 'A' on that final "essay..."

Anonymous said...

I certainly need to thank you Eric for your post. I came across it a little late in the admissions process but seeing at least an outline of the thinking of admissions committees is certainly welcome for a nervous applicant.
A quick question regarding hearing back that is probably most relevant to me and a few others. Are students generally notified by email, phone or letter? I know one school I applied to informs students via the online application site but I am curious as to how most contact their students. This question particularly relevant to me as I am a very great distance from the places I applied to. (16 hours ahead of EST for curious folks) So a phone call may not be very practical. Letters also seem more "official" than emails, but this will only add to my angst due to the lengthy postal times.
While this question will surely not dramatically alter anyone's thinking on the subject of applications or philosophy, I am amongst a pool of hungry applicants anxious for even the slightest bit of information.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Thanks for the kind comments. Anon2: You should receive a written offer, but most admissions committees also like to call. The time zone thing can be worked around.

Cute story, Financial. I'm not sure the instructor in that case was really living up to his obligations. The problem, I'd say, is not in his grading of the student's exam. He could hardly disapprove of that answer to that question, given the first day exchange. More problematic is his attitude on the first day -- as though simply saying "why" and "why not?" were good philosophy. (Still makes a good joke, though.)