An undergraduate student writes:
I'm in a small and unrenowned state school, with wonderful but unrenowned philosophy faculty. I've been given the impression that, not coming from a typical feeder school, I'll need to prove myself outstanding in every way to catch the attention of the top phil mind / phil cog sci programs. My grades are top notch (4.0), my GREs are good (1600), and I expect strong rec. letters--though the signatures on the bottom of most probably won't have the sort of cachet that moves mountains. However, I fear my writing sample is not going to be where it needs to be this time around.
And so the short of it: If I apply to my top programs this year and meet disappointment, have I put myself at a disadvantage trying again with those same programs next year, with a more professional piece of writing? Is it poor form to present myself twice to beleaguered admissions committees? Finally, if I put off applying anyway this year, and pursue an overseas / non-academic opportunity, does this weigh against me at all? In other words, do philosophy B.A.s go stale in the same manner as philosophy Ph.D.'s?
I've gotten many questions like this over the years, so this student's situation is not anomalous I suspect. Philosophy BAs certainly don't go "stale" in the same way as PhDs, though someone too many years out from undergrad will likely present the question, 'Does this person remember enough philosophy? Is s/he serious about philosophy?" But this student's question is more specific, and here it would be helpful to hear from philosophers with experience in admissions. How do "repeat" applicants fare? My anecdotal impression is that there is a fair amount of turnover in admissions committees, but not total turnover: in other words, there is an institutional memory in the form of faculty who are on admissions committees several years in a row. If that anecdotal evidence is reliable, then it's fair to say that applying two years in a row back-to-back is not a great strategy. Comments? I'd ask faculty to post under their own names, but students with experience may post anonymously, as long as there is an e-mail and IP number I can verify (neither will appear). Thanks.