Applying

Although this page contains a significant amount of content, please read it carefully, and as you take each step in the process please re-read the relevant section. 95% of the questions applicants ever ask are addressed below, and it will save you time and anxiety to find the answers you need right here! (Of course, for that other 5%, please use the contacts listed below.)

The graduate program

Studying at UIC

The Philosophy Department site contains much useful information about studying at UIC.  To get a list of faculty and links to their webpages go to Faculty, and please see the Philosophy at UIC page. For information on our graduate program, go to Graduate Studies. You are also encouraged to look at our Placement Record. Looking at our courses, news and colloquia will give you a sense of what the intellectual life of the department is like.

You should feel free to contact our Graduate Admissions Officer, Daniel Sutherland, or any member of the faculty in an area of interest to you with questions about our program. (Unlike some programs, our admissions are not handled by the Director of Graduate Studies, but by a separate faculty member.)

The program at UIC

We admit people only to a PhD program; there is no MA program. (The department confers an MA, which is why you may see references to an MA degree in philosophy, but we only confer an MA to those students who are enrolled in our PhD program who meet the requirements.)

Details about application materials

Important advice

This section contains advice that will help you prepare a more effective application and to navigate some of the issues that can come up.

Despite its name, the personal statement should not be too personal; rather we want to hear what about philosophy motivates you intellectually. The statement is your opportunity to convince us that you understand what a graduate degree takes and that you have the motivation to complete it, and also to add anything relevant that isn’t obvious from your file. At UIC the personal statements are generally not a major factor, as long as they fill out details about your philosophical career so far and your philosophical interests, so don’t over-think this part of the application. (Undergraduates in particular need not have very specific plans for graduate study; indeed, the most common way a personal statement does hurt is when an applicant is so specific that they do not sound interested in learning anything new.)

Far more significant in our decisions are the letters of recommendation (so make sure you impress your teachers) and your writing sample. Sometimes undergraduates submit a brand-new piece of writing, but that is neither required (at UIC at least) nor encouraged. Most likely, you will do better polishing up an essay for a course on which you received a high grade; presumably you have comments from the instructor to use, and it is worth sitting down for more help. Writing a piece from scratch is a lot of work, and it is hard to get the same guidance that you will from an instructor on coursework. Of course you should get more specific advice from your instructors. (Sometimes students at large institutions do not know instructors well; if so, you should get to know them – most will be very happy to get to know you and to help.)

Applicants from MA programs often send thesis work, which is appropriate; naturally we expect a higher standard from such advanced applicants, as we gauge promise for our program.

Finally, please do not submit excessively long samples; given the enormous time pressures, you are more likely to engage and impress the reader with a piece that makes a clear and interesting argument in fewer pages – around fifteen, say.

Letters of recommendation from your undergraduate (or graduate) philosophy professors are usually most valuable, but letters from anyone else who is in a position to evaluate your capacity for academic work may also be sent. You should ask for letters in plenty of time; six weeks is not too much, two is too little (though you may get lucky) – good ones take work, and you should show respect for that. If possible, talk to potential letter writers when you are first thinking seriously about graduate school to get their advice, and to make sure that you will be able to put a good application together.

Once again, if you have any questions about the program or about admissions, please feel free to contact the Director of Graduate Admissions, Daniel Sutherland, or any faculty member in your area of interest. If you have any questions about admissions or the application process, please feel free to contact the Department of Philosophy Graduate Program Coordinator, Kei Hotoda.