Philosophy Admissions Survey: Traditions

Thank you to Ian for sharing the data from the philosophy admissions survey! All the data came from here:

Edit 7/27: Please read here:  about some of the issues with the data set generally, and the conclusions of this post. I’m leaving this post as is for now, but there might be an update in the future. 

First, I wanted to see how many people had been successful. I calculated a ‘success rate’ by finding the number of denials, acceptances, waitlists, and acceptances to other programs (Edited to add: this ended up not working as well as I thought it originally had. I revised substantially in light of this).  I calculated the percentage of admittances vs total notifications for each profile*, then found the mean for an average acceptance rate of 16.09%.

This is high, all things considered. I think we all know it’s much, much lower at top departments (Michigan said they had ~250 applicants for ~4 spots this year, for example). This includes departments both on and off the PGR. The median and the mode were 0%.

When I looked a little closer, it seemed like continental students were having slightly more success. Ian helpfully included a question about the tradition people were working in. The answer options were analytical, continental, “no such commitment is reflected”, and of course the ever popular leaving it blank. I broke the data down into three categories (combining blank with no commitment) to get these results:

  Average success rate by tradition std deviation
N=67 Analytic 16.8899197817 28.70916639
N=14 Continental 24.7997835498 23.26700998
N=19 “No such..”/none listed 9.0052336724 19.96581012

So it does appear that continental students do better. However, a t-test showed the differences between analytical and continental acceptance rates are not statistically significant (p = .3010). The difference between continental and ‘no such’/none was statistically significant (p = .0445)** although the difference between ‘no such’/none and analytical was not statistically significant (p =.3050). So, if you’re considering between continental and not taking a stand, perhaps you should go with continental!

I also calculated a ‘positive outcomes’ category based on acceptances, waitlists, and acceptances to alternatives.  Especially since we started the survey before April 15th, there were likely some people who ended up getting off those waitlists. The average positive outcomes rate was 24.32%.

So, some interesting things: 0% was again the median and the mode, but there were multiple people who had a 100% positive outcomes. This does make me wonder how complete the data is, if people left off rejections for the sake of time or simplicity.

Positive Outcomes by tradition  
Analytic 24.5141860627 35.6047528641
Continental 38.5642135642 30.4808285299
“No such..”/none listed 13.1676003735 26.7242422519

Again, continental candidates outperform analytical candidates by quite a bit. A quick t-test between the two does not show statistically significance, however (p = .1735).
If you have any questions or comments on the procedures I used, let me know! I’m a philosopher, not a statistician, so I likely made some mistakes here. I hope to look at a few other things, including gender breakdowns and more about what makes a ‘strong’ candidate, over the next few days!

*As Ian noted, a number of people who filled out the survey did not include any data about their results (ie. they filled out the demographics questions, but didn’t say if they were admitted/rejected). I left them in initially, although I might redo it without them.

**When my spouse (who has a strong statistics background for social science research) looked at this, he said because I’m comparing 3 groups across 3 tests, the level of statistical significance in the p-value drops to 1/3 of .05, or .0166. Therefore, this might not be a statistically significant difference. We did a one-way ANOVA which gave a p-value of .118 (not statistically significant). I’m hoping he’ll explain more about this to me and I’ll be able to update/clarify this post further.


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