I had a largely misguided journey through college, then fell in love with scholarship in the last 3 semesters when I began studying philosophy. The change in attitude is extremely clear on my transcript: before beginning philosophy, I had a smattering of every grade from A to F, and after beginning philosophy, I have almost completely earned A's. It's now my last semester, and even if I earn all A's this semester (which is certainly a possibility), I won't be able to break a 2.95 GPA.

I think I have what it takes to study in graduate school, and I really love philosophy. My goal would be to study philosophy in graduate school and produce research in either technology ethics or philosophy of mind. That said, I know my record is kind of abysmal, and philosophy is particularly competitive.

I'd like to know how I can work towards achieving this goal, or figuring out a comparable goal that would allow me to pursue my philosophical interests at the level of graduate study. Even if the odds are against me, what could I do?

  • Assuming US: Could you go to graduate school unfunded and pay tuition in addition without risking financial ruin? Sep 21 at 3:55

I would apply to the master's programs at a few second or third-tier graduate schools and see what happens. Explain your late bloom and newfound goals in your statement of purpose and personal statement. The worst they can say is no.

  • 2
    And get some really good letters from a couple of your recent profs. But a second BA would require repeating too much other stuff in US.
    – Buffy
    Sep 21 at 20:21

While I agree with the answer of Nicole Hamilton, let me add a bit more.

I think that a second bachelors in the US would not be your best option as you would probably need to repeat a lot of courses that you already had. What you need to do is find a way to convince people that the past is the past and that you have good potential for success in the future. Your recent grades help with that but you likely need more.

It might, however, be important which courses you earned bad grades in. If they are foundational in what you want to study in future it is a bigger problem. Some places will let you take individual courses as a non-matriculated student, though you need to pay for them.

Letters of recommendation are relatively important in the US and, if they are the right letters, can give you a big boost. The reason is that when others say how serious you now are, for example, it holds much more weight than when you say it for yourself. I'll guess that there are a few faculty that can help you here, especially in philosophy.

But you should talk to them about your options. Perhaps they can suggest a grad school where they have a bit of influence on some colleagues. Perhaps they just know of some schools that would be compatible with your goals and skills.

If you apply for graduate school, note that you should do a broad search. Schools ranked around 50 to 75 are still very good. There are a lot of state schools that have good programs in philosophy. They also tend to have larger faculties and more options for advisors. The tuition, which you are likely responsible for, can be reasonable (or not).

And also note that funding for masters level students is generally much harder to obtain than for doctoral programs in which TAs are normally employed.


Your general idea of doing another degree to prove your ability in this field is a reasonable one. However, since you already have an undergraduate degree, you could probably go directly into a graduate diploma or masters degree in philosophy (by coursework) as a preferred means of showing your abilities. These are higher level degrees and they are also generally shorter, so you could demonstrate greater knowledge in less time. If you can maintain your present high grades in a masters program then that would give you a good launching point for an application for a research degree.

Obviously there are a lot of factors to weigh off in this decision, including the costs of study (which depend a lot on where you are). However, for students like yourself who have found your passion at the end of their undergraduate degree, pursuit of a higher level coursework degree can be a good idea.

  • Thank you, I have been looking at masters programs and it seems as if that would be a better goal. And I appreciate your last sentence, it is encouraging!
    – Ethan
    Sep 27 at 23:34

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