Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most important considerations in making admission decisions?

We do not attach decisive importance to any one factor but instead weigh all four sources of information that are required for the application: the writing sample, letters of recommendation, grades in courses (particularly grades in philosophy courses), and statement of purpose. A weakness in one area can be counter-balanced by strength in another. We are trying to form an estimate of how you will do in a demanding graduate philosophy program, and we look at all the evidence available. We are also looking for evidence that you have a deep and genuine interest in doing philosophy; you are unlikely to have the motivation and commitment to carry you through the difficulties of pursuing a philosophical career unless you have such an interest.

How long should my statement of purpose and writing sample be?

There are no strict word limits, but as a rough guide: the statement of purpose should be 1-3 pages, double-spaced; the writing sample, not more than 20 double-spaced pages, unless there is a good reason to exceed that length.

What grade point averages are you looking for, and what is your acceptance rate?

In recent years, the average  GPA's of those offered admission have been as follows: undergraduate GPA, 3.81. The program is highly selective in terms of its applicant to acceptance ratio. All offers of admission come with full financial support consisting of tuition remission, health insurance, and a stipend unless the applicant can provide evidence of sufficient external support to complete the Ph.D. degree.

Do you favor applicants with an M.A. degree over those with only a B.A.?

No. We are looking for philosophical talent and that can be evidenced in a wide variety of ways. In the last decade we have admitted students from many different types of backgrounds--from prominent research universities to small liberal arts colleges with small philosophy faculties. Our admissions committee takes into account differences in educational preparation and is looking for both demonstrated achievement and future promise.

Should I apply for the M.A. Program or the Ph.D Program?

We offer a terminal M.A. only for joint J.D./M.A. students. For more information on the J.D./M.A. program, please contact Antonia LoLordo in Philosophy or Daniel Ortiz in the Law School.

Is there a way to waive the application fee?

U.S. citizens and permanent residents with a demonstrated financial hardship (or who meet other criteria) are eligible for an application fee waiver. The waiver is administered by the graduate school, not the department. You can find more information here:

What is the timetable for admissions decisions?

Usually by March 1 offers of admission have gone out to the top applicants. Around the same time notification will be sent to those on the waiting list and those to whom offers will not be made. This timetable is not rigid and depends in part upon the number of applications received. A candidate nominated for a Jefferson Fellowship will be notified by mid-February and should expect to attend an on-Grounds interview weekend in late February. Between March 1 and April 15, the situation is fluid. Across the country, the strongest applicants, at least as perceived by philosophy departments, will have received a number of offers from which they must choose. There is a national deadline of April 15 for offers to be accepted and as that date approaches offers are accepted or declined, at which point further offers are made using the waiting list. If you are on the waiting list, keep the Graduate Admissions Director informed of your interest or change of situation, preferably by e-mail, but please be patient. Often there is no movement on the waiting list until close to April 15. If you receive an offer from us, although we understand that many of you have choices, it is a disservice to those on the waiting list to hold on to an offer that you do not intend to accept.

Can visits to the University be arranged?

Applicants who have been accepted in the first round of admissions offers are invited to come to the University for a weekend in March to meet faculty, already enrolled graduate students, and other admitted applicants. We will subsidize travel expenses.

How long does it take to get a Ph.D.?

Five years is standard: any student good enough to be admitted should be capable of completing the program in five years of full-time work. (Obviously, leaves of absence or other special circumstances could extend the number of calendar years it takes to get the degree.) Thus, beyond five years, there is no presumption of eligibility for financial aid.

What help is given to graduates and graduate students seeking teaching jobs?

The Placement Director assists graduates in finding academic employment. Placement services include departmental compilation and mailing of student dossiers, committee review of dossiers and letters of recommendation, regular advising and placement meetings to prepare prospective job candidates, departmental representation at major philosophical conventions, mock job interviews, and financial assistance to help defray the costs of job-hunting and presenting papers at conferences. Graduate students also receive assistance in the preparation of papers for presentation and publication.

Graduate teaching is taken very seriously in the department, and all graduate students will serve as teaching assistants and teach small courses of their own design during their time in the program.

What is your record in placing graduates with Ph.D.'s in teaching jobs?

Click here to see our placement record since 2004.