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Ph.D. Admissions: Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have a separate Masters’ program?

No.  The Philosophy Ph.D. program is designed as a five-year B.A. to Ph.D. program. Masters’ degrees are either interim, given once the comprehensive exam is passed, or terminal.  Students are only admitted to the Ph.D. program.

What is the application deadline?

Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. of the first business day following January 1 of each year.

When should I apply for next year’s admission?

You may begin applying any time after September 1.  Early applications are not given special consideration, and review of all applications begins immediately after the application deadline in January each year.

How do I get an application for admission?

Please go to our website, http://philosophy.la.psu.edu/graduate/admission, for the link to the Graduate School’s electronic application.

Is my application complete?

Please log in to the Graduate School's online application to determine the status of your application. The link is: http://www.gradschool.psu.edu/index.cfm/apply/.

Do I need to take the TOEFL test?

You must take the TOEFL test if your primary native language is not English, or if you have not earned a baccalaureate or master’s degree from an institution in one of the following countries: Australia, Belize, British Caribbean and British West Indies, Canada (except Quebec), England, Guyana, Republic of Ireland, Liberia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the United States, and Wales.  As an alternative to the TOEFL, the Department of Philosophy will accept an IELTS score as part of the application packet of an international applicant.

The Department of Philosophy requires the following as minimum scores:

  • TOEFL:  650 (paper); 280 (computer); 114 (internet)
  • IELTS:   7.0

What are the average GRE scores of the students admitted?

GRE scores are but one of a number of factors the faculty considers in determining admission to the Graduate Program in Philosophy at Penn State.  Other factors, such as undergraduate junior-senior GPA, experience in Philosophy, faculty recommendations, the writing sample, and the personal statement often carry more weight with the faculty.

However, in order to compete for many College and University level fellowships (as opposed to the standard departmental fellowship), a combined quantitative and verbal GRE score of 262 (1250 if prior to 2011) or higher is the norm. Such scores, however, are not a requirement and several prestigious University fellowships do not give much weight to the GRE score at all.

Students with lower GRE scores but strong applications in other respects are strongly encouraged to apply to our program.

What should I include in a personal statement?

There is no standard format for the personal statement. However, you should use the personal statement as an opportunity to articulate your philosophical interests and to provide us with specific information that you think would give us insight into the sort of scholar, student and professional you will be.  The most effective personal statements allow our faculty to get a sense of who you are as a scholar and a person, beyond what your other admissions materials demonstrate.

If I my Bachelor’s degree is not in philosophy, can I be admitted to your program?

You need not have a BA in philosophy to be admitted to our program. In practice, however, most of our graduate students have been philosophy majors or minors.

If my baccalaureate degree is a tertiary (3-year) degree, can I still apply?

You may apply with a tertiary baccalaureate degree.  That being said, the process for applicant review begins with the Department of Philosophy and is completed by the Graduate School, which has the final say about applicant eligibility.  The Graduate School will review your transcripts to determine whether or not the tertiary (3-year) degree is equivalent to a four-year baccalaureate degree.  If it does not meet the requirements for equivalency, you will not be eligible for acceptance to The Pennsylvania State University.

Do you require a form for recommendation letters?

Please request recommendations directly from faculty who know your work. If possible, at least two of your letters of recommendation should come from philosophy faculty. Individuals listed in your application as providing a letter of recommendation will be instructed to upload their letter via the Graduate School's Reference Submission Portal.

What are your language requirements?

For admission to the graduate program there are no specific language requirements. However, for information on language requirements for the Ph.D. program, please see the Ph.D. Requirements page at http://philosophy.la.psu.edu/graduate/admission.

What is the GRE code for the Department?

The school code for Penn State is: 2660

Because all scores are received electronically at the university level, no department code is necessary.

What if my GPA or GRE scores are low?

Your junior/senior major GPA should be above a 3.0; however, if there are extenuating circumstances for a lower GPA, you may still be considered for admission.  Please address those issues in your personal statement.  

Your GRE score is only one of the several factors we consider, so again, if there are extenuating circumstances, we encourage you to use your personal statement to address those issues.

What kind of funding is available, and how do I apply for those funds?

Typically students admitted to the program receive an assistantship that includes a tuition waiver, health, dental and vision insurance, and a ten-month stipend.  No separate application for these assistantships is necessary.

What is your placement record?

We have a very strong placement record in the Department of Philosophy. We regularly place students in elite liberal arts colleges and major research institutions. For more information on our placement process, see http://philosophy.la.psu.edu/graduate/resources/placement.