Listing MA Program Placements


A student has written with a question about how MA programs should list their placements: should the program list all of the PhD programs (or other programs) to which their students were admitted, or should the program list only those PhD programs which their students ended up enrolling?

My sense is that so long as the information is very clearly labeled, either is fine. Without such labeling—for example, when a list is provided of “PhD programs to which our students were admitted”—the following kind of problem might arise: one particularly exceptional student’s success in gaining admission to a large number of excellent PhD programs, if added to a general list, can give a misleading sense of the MA programs’s placement abilities.

Other thoughts about this?

I think this is an excellent model for how the listings should be done.

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Geoff Pynn
Geoff Pynn
6 years ago

I understand why prospective MA students want this information, but we have chosen to list only where our graduates enroll for privacy reasons (http://www.niu.edu/phil/graduate/placement.shtml). Even though we don’t list names, it’s relatively easy to figure out who’s who, and not everyone wants their whole PhD admission score chart available online. I’m always willing to provide more detailed information to people who ask & are concerned about the issue you raise. (To be clear, this isn’t meant as a criticism of Georgia State’s approach; their terrific website is the most informative in the biz. Just explaining our choice.)Report

Blain Neufeld
6 years ago

Here is how UWM presents its placement record: http://www4.uwm.edu/letsci/philosophy/graduate/placement.cfm
I think that the GSU format is superior, for the reason that Justin mentions, namely, that GSU makes clear the distribution of unaccepted PhD offers amongst students, whereas UWM simply lists unaccepted offers at the bottom of each year.
I’ll recommend that UWM adopt GSU’s format in the future.Report

Bradley
Bradley
6 years ago

There are sites that just list acceptances, and I have exactly the thought Justin describes: “Oh, did they have one really good student once who got in everywhere?” So I think the GSU model is great. But I would be fine with the labels “Student 1”, “Student 2”, etc instead of MA Thesis titles, so the labels aren’t definite descriptions.Report

Fritz Allhoff
Fritz Allhoff
6 years ago

WMU’s also decided against listing where people were admitted and didn’t enroll because of privacy reasons; it’s pretty public where students end up going, but less so where they were admitted. (We did list admissions for a while, and some students asked us to remove them.) We also don’t require theses and so have no way of individuating admissions (e.g., person who wrote X thesis is going to Y). That’s led to another problem, which is that, if we list all the institutions to which students were admitted, it could be misleading in the sense that a small number of students were getting the majority of admissions. So that was another reason not to just list admissions in a long list. I think a list of places people enrolled with full funding works, plus then there’s no multiplicity worry because nobody’s going to more than one place.Report

Anonymous Undergrad
Anonymous Undergrad
5 years ago

As a graduate school applicant in the upcoming application season, the placement records of MA programs is of little concern to me. Yes, some schools have better reputations and placement histories than others, but it is not the program which applies and gets accepted or rejected; it is the student.

I’m applying to both MA and PhD programs, but rather than feverishly looking for and comparing placement data, I’m looking for a department that I am a good fit for. For both MA and PhD programs, the applicant’s goal (generally and linearly peaking, of course) is to develop into a philosopher who is both prepared for and worthy of a position, be it as a doctoral candidate or professor. It makes sense to me that one would develop into the best candidate (for whatever position) by going to the best school for them. The “best school” is, in my opinion, the place where there are faculty who share the potential student’s philosophical interests AND the potential student can be enthusiastic about their work. The latter I feel is rather personal; i.e. a student who feels out-of-place , anxious, and stressed amidst the hustle & bustle of a big city should probably forego applying to schools such as NYU, Chicago, or Tufts. Certainly the existential anxiety of being in a place where one is uncomfortable (whether it has to do with the department at all or simply the geographic area) is counter-productive to developing into the philosopher one has the potential to be, especially when one accounts for the already reportedly stressful endeavor that is graduate school (evidenced not only by personal accounts, but also high attrition rates in PhD programs).

Remember, the goal (especially of MA programs) is to develop further as a philosopher not only to get accepted into a position, but to be prepared for said position. If a student goes to Tufts to study things vaguely associated with their own interests and endures the anxiety of living in an uncanny place (assuming they are not fond of big cities) in order to get accepted into a doctoral program based largely on the reputation of Tufts’ MA program, it seems that the joke is on everyone: the student for subjecting themselves to a program and place that is not well suited for them (thus setting themselves up to fall short of their potential), the PhD program who accepted a perhaps underdeveloped student, and the MA program for working with a student not enthusiastic about the MA experience, treating it as only a (perhaps bitter) means to an end. Nothing against Tufts, I just used it as an example because of its geographic location and exemplary reputation and placement history.

The moral of the story, from someone who has absolutely no experience in the matter whatsoever, is to care more attention about where you, as a student, can thrive and less about a program’s placement history of individuals very different from yourself. Remember, it is the student/graduate who applies for a position and is accepted or rejected, not the institution which they attended.

I’m applying to schools where I believe I can develop the most as a philosopher and be excited not only about my work, but also the place in which I am situated (the less auxiliary stress while pursuing graduate studies the better). Should I receive any acceptances, I will choose accordingly.Report

Anon Grad Student
Anon Grad Student
5 years ago

San Francisco State University’s Philosophy Department engages in the practice of an entirely undifferentiated listing of Philosophy PhD program admission results. See here:

http://philosophy.sfsu.edu/page/placement

Omit one or two or three select students’ admission results and their placement record may look significantly less impressive.

This practice misleads prospective students and is ethically suspect. This is particularly so, considering that SFSU’s philosophy department maintains a standing graduate student body of approximately 150+ students who do a huge amount of the teaching of undergraduates without tuition remittance.Report

Tim O'Keefe
5 years ago

Nice to hear that some people like GSU’s placement data format. For what it’s worth, I see two advantages to listing thesis titles: it helps gives prospective students an idea of what sorts of thesis projects our students work on, which can help them decide whether we’re a good fit for them. And it also gives them an idea of what our PhD placement is like for students with certain sorts of interests, because–just as with job placements for PhD programs–a department’s placement may be stronger in some areas than others.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

“The moral of the story, from someone who has absolutely no experience in the matter whatsoever, is to care more attention about where you, as a student, can thrive and less about a program’s placement history of individuals very different from yourself. Remember, it is the student/graduate who applies for a position and is accepted or rejected, not the institution which they attended.”

I am going to say this as nicely as I can, but also forcefully: I think you are being dangerously naive. Generally speaking it is not a good idea to confidently derive morals from things one has no experience with. More specifically though,

(1) It’s not just the student who applies for a position and is accepted or rejected. For better or worse, pedigree matters. It has been *shown* to matter (http://schwitzsplinters.blogspot.com/2011/10/sorry-cal-state-students-no-princeton.html ).

(2) Even if it were the case that pedigree didn’t matter, the best MA programs produce tend to produce the best students. If you want to “develop into a philosopher who is both prepared for and worthy of a position, be it as a doctoral candidate or professor”, you need to go to the best program(s) for that. And the best programs, generally speaking, are the ones with the best placement rates. MA programs are expensive. If you merely go to one that “sounds like a good fit”, you might come out the other side with little to show for your time or money.

(3) If you are worried about something as simple as the stresses and bustle of city life getting in the way of your studies, I worry that you are not prepared for graduate school. You will face far worse stresses and potential distractions in graduate school. Graduate school has an incredible and varied number of stresses. You have to learn how to deal with stresses, not avoid them.

(4) Tufts is not in a big city. It is in a rather sleepy suburb of Boston.Report

Geoff Pynn
Geoff Pynn
5 years ago

I agree with some of what Anonymous says, but I would like to guard against one misconception people might get from the observation that MA programs are expensive. While MA programs can be expensive, at many (my impression is: the majority, though to verify that claim would require work I haven’t done) terminal MA programs in the US and Canada, funding comparable to that at good PhD programs is common (i.e., tuition waivers plus living stipends, usually linked to assistantship positions). Here is some info I compiled last fall: https://www.academia.edu/9666729/Funded_MA_Programs_in_Philosophy. You’ll see that most of the programs with the “best” placement records offer such funding.

And now I’m gonna throw down: far from being sleepy, Somerville, MA, the most densely populated municipality in New England, is a vibrant, diverse city full of interesting and stimulating people. Moreover , it can be *extremely* difficult to find parking there. Those looking for sleepy towns should consider coming to DeKalb, IL.Report

a MA student
a MA student
Reply to  Geoff Pynn
5 years ago

It’s true that lots of MA programs offer funding. While I suppose it’s also true that most (or at least more than half of) students in MA programs are unfunded. Though some MA programs get funding, but the funding is quite limited.Report

Lydia Patton
Reply to  a MA student
5 years ago

I suggest strongly that you check Geoff Pynn’s link above, to a document with details on the funding offered by MA programs. The statement that more than half of students in MA programs are unfunded is not true for many programs. I know with certainty that it is not true of Virginia Tech, nor is it true of Georgia State – the opposite is true, in both cases.Report

Anon Grad Student
Anon Grad Student
Reply to  Lydia Patton
5 years ago

That may very well be the case for Virginia Tech and Georgia State, but suggesting that SFSU provides funding for any of its 150+ MA students strains the imagination at best.Report

Anon
Anon
Reply to  Lydia Patton
5 years ago

But the statement that more than half of students in MA programs are unfunded is also true for many programs.Report

Just a Guy
Just a Guy
5 years ago

I agree with others above that GSU has probably the most helpful and transparent placement record.Report

anonymous
anonymous
5 years ago

Anonyous undergrad: I really don’t want to be patronizing or condescending, but I also really recommend you talk to as many people (in the programs you are considering) as you can who are either just finishing or have recently finished/tried to find jobs (or if it’s an MA program, tried to get into PhD programs) about the difference between their priorities now and their priorities when they were in your situation. And that then you try not to think of yourself as somehow special or unique–which is a recipe for disaster in grad school anyway–but rather take what they say as fairly good evidence for how your priorities/views about this will change in the future. I was going to say some stuff here about my experience, but I think it’s really best to ask people at the programs you are considering.Report

Chris
Chris
5 years ago

Wouldn’t it also be valuable to list the year the MA student entered the program and whether they received funding while in the program?Report

Lydia Patton
5 years ago

Here is Virginia Tech’s placement site: http://www.phil.vt.edu/ma/placement.html We switched to the GSU format recently when we saw how informative it is. In the past, we didn’t keep records of offers that students didn’t accept, so that information isn’t available for past years, but it will be in the future. We do have GTAships available, as well as other sources of funding, some of which are listed in Geoff Pynn’s excellent document (link in Comment 9 above). We provided information about funding, placement, and other matters to the APA graduate program guide: http://www.apaonline.org/?page=gradguide.Report