How to Apply
The application must be completed online by the end of the day January 1 (to enroll the following Fall):
Be sure to include
- a statement of purpose, and
- writing sample of 12-18 pages that demonstrates philosophical ability; longer samples may not be read in their entirety
Also, please note:
- Letters of Recommendation must be submitted on-line. Additional recommenders can be added by the deptartment; you must send them all the contact information listed on-line for recommenders.
- GRE scores must be submitted automatically, using the Washington University code: 6929 and Philosophy Dept. code: 2801.
- We DO NOT require the official, confidential transcript from each institution (undergraduate or graduate) the applicant has attended; only an unofficial copy with your application. If admission is offered, we will then require the official versions of all. You may upload you transcripts to the application.
Special Fellowship Opportunities
Washington University offers several special fellowships for qualified graduate students, and because these awards bring with them additional funding and opportunities, all applicants are encouraged to consider their eligibility.
Frequently Asked Questions about Admissions
What are the most important parts of my application?
The most important parts of your application are the writing sample and the statement of purpose. If your academic background, GRE scores, and letters of reference mark you as a serious applicant, you can expect your writing sample and statement of purpose to be read carefully. The writing sample is our best clue as to your philosophical abilities. The area of philosophy that you write about is much less important than that you demonstrate the ability to think clearly and rigorously. Your statement of purpose should explain your academic interests and why you think that they would best be served by our philosophy department.
How important is the GRE? Is there a required minimum?
We make no cuts based on the GRE alone, and while opinions on our admissions committee about the predictive value of GRE scores vary, there is no firm minimum. We know that there are people who do not perform well on such tests, for various reasons, and who would nevertheless make excellent philosophers. Nevertheless, we do look at these scores, and if they are not above average, we expect the rest of the application to assure us that they are not a reliable indicator.
I did not get interested in philosophy until late in my undergraduate career. Is this a problem?
Not necessarily. We look primarily for philosophical aptitude. Most applicants who have a stronger background in philosophy have an easier time giving evidence of their philosophical aptitude, and we do advise those who have not studied much philosophy to look into terminal master's programs. But we welcome applications from a wide range of backgrounds, and we have accepted students who show great promise in philosophy despite a relatively weak background in the field.
I have an MA already and would like to transfer credits into a PhD program. Is this possible?
No. All of our students, whether they enter with an MA or not, must fulfill the same requirements, and no one gets credit for prior work.
I am an international student. Is this a problem? Is there a minimum TOEFL score required?
We have recently had (and currently have) several students from abroad, including students from Canada, Colombia, Germany, Greece, South Korea, and Turkey. There is no minimum TOEFL score, but we are concerned that our international students be fluent when they arrive, to get the most out of the program. Not only the TOEFL but also the writing sample and statement of purpose help to indicate this, as do letters of reference. The university offers additional training for international students before they begin serving as teaching assistants, but our students need not worry about this until after their first year.
What if I want to work with Professor So-and-So in the PNP program? Do I have to be in the PNP program to do this? What is the relationship between the philosophy department and the PNP program?
All of the core faculty and graduate students in the PNP program are also in the philosophy department, and philosophy students who are not in the PNP program are welcome not just in the courses offered by PNP faculty but also in PNP colloquia and such. We expect our PNP students to be interested in philosophical matters outside of PNP, and we expect our philosophy students outside of PNP to be interested in matters inside of PNP. These things said, one admissions committee handles the decisions for both the "regular program" and the PNP program, and that committee typically admits into the regular program students who are likely to write dissertations with faculty outside of PNP, as this provides balance to our student body and to our faculty's workloads.
Are students in the PhD program fully funded?
Yes. We do not admit students unless we are prepared to fund them for six years (subject of course to satisfactory progress). A stipend for graduate students is based on the 9-month period from September to May. In addition students may apply for, and generally are successful in receiving, summer funding. For further details, please contact the graduate advisor.
Are there any additional fellowships for which I can apply?
Yes. We strongly recommend suitably qualified applicants to apply for the Chancellor’s Fellowship program and/or the Olin Fellowship. These are prestigious awards that bring with them additional funding. Philosophy students have been successful in these competitions in the past.
Can I apply to do a master’s degree at Washington University?
Yes. We focus on the PhD program and do not often accept students for the MA. But we do make exceptions for promising applicants when we can accommodate them without compromising the work we do with our PhD students.
Are students pursuing a terminal MA funded?
No. Master's-only students receive a 50% tuition remission, but they are responsible for the remaining 50% of tuition and living expenses.
I want to pursue a second degree (MD, JD, or MA) alongside the philosophy PhD. Is this possible?
Yes. We do not have any formal dual-degree programs to which one application suffices, but it is possible to pursue both degrees by applying (not necessarily simultaneously) to both programs. It is not possible to work full-time on both degrees simultaneously, and so in any given year, one would need to be enrolled in one program and on leave in the other. But some overlap in work is possible. Students working on the philosophy PhD can take courses in other disciplines (Classics; Law; Political Science; Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; etc.), and in some cases, these courses can count both toward the philosophy PhD and toward another program's requirements for a certificate (which does not require separately applying) or a degree (which does). In addition (cf. next question), students enrolled in other programs are welcome to take philosophy courses.
I am a student in another program (law, comp. lit., etc.) at WUSTL. Can I earn an MA or PhD in philosophy?
We welcome students from other units in our philosophy course, subject to the published prerequisites or permission of the instructor. To receive a degree from philosophy, though, one has to apply to our program and be admitted. Any courses taken before being admitted can be counted toward the course requirements (but not toward the total number of units required) after admission. So you are invited to take some philosophy courses, and if things go well, you should apply for the degree program.
I am thinking about applying to the Philosophy Dept. Should I schedule a trip to campus?
This is strongly recommended. You should contact us in advance and we will arrange for you to meet with faculty and some current students – as well as to sit in on one of our graduate classes, if you wish.
I have been offered a place in the Philosophy Dept. Can I come to campus to look around?
We bring all applicants to whom we have made offers to campus. Of course, we cover the travel, housing, and dining expenses.
If you have a question about applying to our program that is not addressed here, please contact the Director of Graduate Studies, Anya Plutynski.