I'd like to eventually earn a PhD in philosophy. I'm currently choosing between undergraduate programs. Due to personal and complicated reasons I'm unable to even attempt to attend some of the more prestigious universities (Yale, Duke, etc.). I'm worried this will have a strong negative effect on my chances of graduate school, and after graduate school my chances of securing a career in academia (philosophy). I read somewhere that it's nearly impossible to publish in the best journals if you don't come from a big-name university. What is the reality of my situation?

You should try to go to an undergrad program within your constraints that has a strong philosophy department and ideally has had some success placing their majors in strong PhD programs. There are many such programs that are not "prestigious" in that they don't even have PhD programs. There are so many amazing philosophy PhDs produced now, that liberal arts and public universities have hired people who are producing great research and are 'plugged into' the profession such that their advice and letters can get you into graduate programs, assuming you do all the hard work of getting near 4.0 grades and writing excellent papers, at least one of which is strong enough to be a writing sample for applications to grad school.

Whether or not you can find and attend such an undergrad program, you may also have the option of attending a strong MA program (like mine at Georgia State) which can give you further training in philosophy and situate you to get into strong PhD programs. It can also give you a good sense of what it would be like to spend 6 or so years doing grad work in philosophy (and then going on to academia), which leads some of our students to move on to other things and some of our students to be that much more motivated and prepared to go on.

Best of luck!

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