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General Advice on Graduate Studies in Philosophy

[Please note that if you have questions that are not addressed below, you can always contact a member of the Department]

When are graduate applications due?

Although there is some variability here, typically graduate school applications are due in mid-December. With this in mind, one should start preparing to apply to grad schools several months in advance. Ideally, one should start in the second semester of their junior year.


What will you need to apply to graduate school?

1. Three letters of recommendation from professors familiar with your work

     a. Approaching professors: Do not assume anything; give professors at least a month’s notice.

2. Your strongest writing sample (between 8-20 pages)

     a. Your papers from philosophy classes, if strong, will suffice.

     b. If you choose a paper you wrote for a class, make sure to look it over and improve it before sending it out.

     c. Writing samples should show familiarity with secondary sources.

     d. Have someone proofread your work.

3. GRE general test scores

     a. Start studying for this early. Try to find actual copies of old GRE tests.

4. A personal statement explaining your areas of interest and your future plans in philosophy

     a. Try to show that you have specific interests

     b. If possible, it sometimes helps to mention a desire to work with specific professors in the schools to which you apply

5. Official university transcripts


Do any other factors affect acceptance?

1. Your GPA

2. Evidence of early professional activity in philosophy:

     a. Conference attendance

     b. Conference presentations

     c. Publications

     d. Membership in student philosophy organizations

     e. Academic awards/honors (also: Honors thesis work)


Where should you apply? (assuming that geographical or financial constraints aren’t in play)

1. Try to find a program that has strengths in your areas of interest

2. Try to apply widely, if possible


Are there any further resources to help?

1. The Philosophical Gourmet report

2. Graduate programs in Continental philosophy on a webpage for the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (SPEP)

3. “Should I Apply to Grad School?” on the U. of Alberta’s Department of Philosophy webpage

4. Get into Graduate School: A Strategic Approach, by Kaplan (Simon and Schuster, 2008)

5. Graduate Admissions Essays, by Donald Asher (Ten Speed Press, 2008)

6. How to Write a Winning Personal Statement, by R. Stelzer (Petersons, 1993)

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