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Grad School and Game Theory - A Recovering Physicist's Apology

About Grad School and Game Theory

Previous Entry Grad School and Game Theory Dec. 19th, 2007 @ 11:45 pm Next Entry
Well my loyal readers (and only friends) I need your help. This is a tough one. Both MIT and Berkeley require a 15-25 page writing sample of philosophical prose. Both websites specifically mention the philosophy program accepts people into the programs from a wide variety of programs and backgrounds, but requiring 15-25 pages of philosophy prose seems like it is stacked against non-philosophy people (like me). I assume that the admissions people the individuals background into consideration, but I could be wrong.

In my essays of why I want to go to the schools, I specifically talk about how I am not the traditional candidate. In that way I am able to frame it and show my strengths as a scientist wishing to fill out my understanding of science by going into the philosophy of science, rather than a philosopher wishing to now specialize in science.

I had one philosophy course in Oberlin and the final was 7 pages long. It has been 3 years since I wrote for the course and it was primarily lecture based. Needless to say, I am a bit hazy on some of the specifics, and I also find it really hard to expand on ideas that have been solidified. I was able to pretty easily expand it to 10 pages, but as I have been working on it, it feels like I am just watering it down and not making it better.

So what should I do?

I could stretch the paper out making it 15 pages, but having it end up kind of crappy.

I could submit it as is, along with my shorter philosophy paper from the course. And I could submit a lab report too. My strength is that I am a scientist, and a lab report would show that. I am not a philosopher, so my philosophical prose are understandably my weakness.

I just don't know what to do. More or less ignore the instructions and turn in multiple strong samples (summing to 15+ pages) or turn something in that isn't really indicative of my abilities.

Your thoughts, my loyal readers and only friends?
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From:sneakypeteiii
Date:December 20th, 2007 06:36 am (UTC)
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Hmmm...I would contact them, because they may be asking for 15-25 pages of prose, not a 15-to-25-page paper. It's probably a good idea to contact professors you're interested in anyway, just so they know your name come admissions decision time.

How'd the GREs go?
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From:biggrumpy
Date:December 22nd, 2007 12:45 am (UTC)
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GREs went well, I haven't blogged about it due to the non-disclosure thing I had to sign. I'm super paranoid about it. But I was pleased considering I:
1) didn't study for it
2) haven't done physics for like 4 years
3) haven't used a lot of "big kid" English for 3 years
All things considered it went well.
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From:stovelkor
Date:December 20th, 2007 10:56 am (UTC)
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I'd write a paper on the philosophy of page lengths. What is page length, anyway? It's such an arbitrary measure of the contents of one's heart and mind. And just what is a "page" in this day of computers? Seriously, I'd take what you have and adjust the page parameter to fit it. That's science and philosophy not only holding hands, but slipping each other the tongue as well. Lastly, whatever you write, for Omnius' sake, let me proofread it for punctuation! You, my friend, must eat Colon Blow for breakfast EVERY morning!
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From:superpastelgirl
Date:December 21st, 2007 12:09 am (UTC)

hmmm

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I second the advice to contact them for the sake of being admitted (from my experience, if there's not a prof who's like "I WANT THAT STUDENT!" then your chances of admission plummet astronomically). Also, read the essay instructions carefully; does it require a 15-25 page philosophy paper, or a prose sample demonstrating your ability to think philosophically? Those can be very different.
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From:biggrumpy
Date:December 22nd, 2007 12:46 am (UTC)

Re: hmmm

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Thanks, how do you think I should contact the prof? It seems so sketchy to just email them, but I also realize it is part of the "game" of getting into grad school.
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From:superpastelgirl
Date:December 22nd, 2007 04:17 am (UTC)

Re: hmmm

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I think e-mailing them is good, explaining what your interests are and what you would bring to the program (how awesome you are). Of course, I am not the best to give advice as I didn't get into any of the schools where I e-mailed profs. Bruce (my current advisor) was sociliting students in a behavioral ecology listserv so I just had to convince him that I was worth the grant money.
That's actually a good idea; look for people looking for students. That'll help your chances.
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From:biggrumpy
Date:December 22nd, 2007 12:53 am (UTC)

UPDATE

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I had a bit of a breakthrough on my essay. I'm very happy about it. The nice thing about philosophy prose is you can talk about kinda funny stuff in a serious manner to prove a point. So I got to go on and on about "exceptionally tasty beverages" and how different people may map the experience of drinking the exceptionally tasty beverages onto a 1-10 scale with 1 being minimally happy and 10 being super happy. I swear this all relates to consequentialism. Now my essay is up to 14 pages and I can probably find a few loop holes that need closing for a few more pages. Thanks Team Andrew (note: by reading this blog you are officially a member of Team Andrew)
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From:sneakypeteiii
Date:December 22nd, 2007 06:06 am (UTC)

Re: UPDATE

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Hooray! Team Canada is always there to back you up.'

Re: emailing profs, just do it, and express genuine interest. Ask them for papers, books, or something that could get you started given your particular interests. I think motivated students are picked from the lot moreso than merely qualified students.
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From:obie_in_exile
Date:December 23rd, 2007 08:23 am (UTC)

Re: UPDATE

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Can i have a title in team andrew? like General or Lutenint?
I agree w/ team canada. E^mal and ask.
can you tell me more about the GREs sometime? I gotta take them some day once japan finally beats me.
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