Applying to the UIC Philosophy Graduate Program
We welcome applications from all qualified applicants. This page is designed to help you decide whether graduate school is for you and if so, whether UIC is a good fit for you – and if so, to help you with the application process. But the first, and perhaps most important, piece of advice is to speak about graduate school early (a year before the deadline is not too soon) and often with someone who works in the field and knows you and your work; most likely, someone at your current institution.
Although this document is fairly long, 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.)
Graduate Study: A PhD is a major commitment – only a minority finish in the States within six years – with (at best) uncertain employment prospects at the end of it. So you should treat the decision to apply seriously (even the application is time consuming and expensive).
For insights into programs you should look at the Philosophical Gourmet Report at http://www.philosophicalgourmet.com/. Don't just read the rankings, as there is much useful advice elsewhere on the site. The Report has flaws, and it would be unwise to use rankings as the sole criterion in making choices, but it does make a sincere effort to provide useful information for prospective graduate students. Notable among the problems is that it works by faculty reputation, thus over-counting senior faculty with respect to emerging junior faculty, with whom you are likely to end up working. It also discusses PhD and MA programs; for students with a less solid undergraduate career in philosophy, attending an MA program first is becoming a popular route to a PhD program.
Study at UIC: This web site contains much useful information about philosophy at UIC. To get a list of faculty and links to their webpages go to Faculty. For information on our graduate program, go to Graduate Program. You are also encouraged to look at our Placement Record. You can also download the Graduate Brochure (a .pdf file). Looking at our courses, news and colloquia will also give you a sense of what the intellectual life of the department is like.
You should feel free to contact our Graduate Admissions Officer, A.W. Eaton, 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 Ph.D. program who meet the requirements.)
Application Process Overview
Deadlines for Application: Application deadlines for the UIC graduate program in philosophy are January 7 for those who wish to be considered for a fellowship, and February 1 for applicants who wish to be considered for teaching assistantship only or wish to apply without being considered for financial support.
We are now only accepting online applications. The online application service will allow you to make sure your application is complete, specify those who are writing letters of recommendation, and to see when those letters have come in.
If you have any questions about or problems with the application process, please contact the Department of Philosophy Graduate Secretary, Valerie Brown via email or phone at (312) 996-3023.
The following is a summary of the materials required to apply.
Summary of application materials:
- Online Application
- Unofficial University-Issued Transcripts
- GRE Scores
- TOEFL scores (if required)
- Personal Statement
- Writing Sample
- Graduate Appointment Form
- Three confidential letters of recommendation
- International Applicants Only: Declaration and Certification of Finances
- Application Fee
More detailed information about application materials:
1. Online application
You should begin your application process by going to the UIC Admissions website at http://www.uic.edu/depts/oar/grad/index.html. This website will guide you through the application process. You need not have all the materials assembled in order to start the process; you can log out and log in again at a later time. Note that the “Graduate FAQ” is very useful. It provides answers to most of the common questions that you might have.
To start, click “APPLY” and next to “Fall 2016,” click on “Apply to Graduate Degree, Non-degree & Certificate Programs”. Go to the bottom of that page and select either “Domestic Degree Seeking” or “International Degree Seeking.” (There is a description below each with qualifying categories in case you are unsure which to select.)
You will be asked to choose a login ID and a password, and you will be on your way!
You will then be asked to fill in contact and other information. The online application includes a checklist of information you will need to provide. Please note that this is a two-step process: once you have submitted the contact and other information, you will be sent a notification that will explain how to upload your materials. All materials should be PDFs.
You can verify that your documents were properly uploaded, check what documents are still required, and view the final decision on your file online. Log into http://www.uic.edu/depts/oar/grad/check_status_grad.html using the ID and password you created during the online application process and choose "Edit your incomplete application/View your application". Any documents that we are currently requesting will be posted under the Requirements section. Updates made to your account will be reflected immediately in both the "Received Date" and "Status" fields.
Once a decision has been made on your application, it will be viewable online next to "Decisions" and an official letter of admission will be mailed to you. A decision of "Pending - Manual Review Required" means that your file has been sent to your department and is awaiting a decision. The Office of Admissions cannot give you any further information on a deferred application.
2. Unofficial University-Issued Transcripts
Domestic applicants need to submit university-issued transcripts for all undergraduate and post-baccalaureate course work. They need not be official transcripts. If you are admitted, official transcripts and certification of completed degrees will be required when you begin enrollment. Important note: Permanent residents or students who have completed course work at foreign institutions should follow the instructions for international applicants in submitting foreign academic credentials.
International applicants need to submit:
- Attested/university-issued transcripts or marksheets for all undergraduate and all post-baccalaureate work in the original language.
- Proof of all degrees awarded. If the degree awarded and the date of award are not clearly posted on the transcript, attested degree certificates or diplomas should be submitted.
- Certified English translations of all credentials. You should arrange to provide both original transcripts and translations meeting the conditions described in the Graduate Admission Application.
3. Graduate Record Examination (GRE) Scores
The philosophy department requires GRE scores. If you have not yet taken the GRE, you should arrange to do so as soon as you can. You must have your GRE scores directly sent to UIC. You will also be asked to self-report your scores and your percentile rankings for the three portions of the test (for a total of six entries). For more information about taking the GRE, go to International Applicants: GRE or IELTS scores
4. International Applicants: TOEFL or IELTS scores
A TOEFL score is required for international students. Very Important Note: you may be required to take a TOEFL even if English is commonly spoken in our country or even if all your classes were taught in English at your university. In general, you need to take the TOEFL unless the only official language of your country is English, though exemptions can be made under certain specified conditions. For a description of TOEFL requirements and exemptions, go to
If you need to take the TOEFL and have not yet done so, you should arrange to do so as soon as you can. You must have your TOEFL scores directly sent to UIC. (The UIC institutional code is 1851.) You will also be asked to self-report your scores on the online application. For information about taking the TOEFL, go to http://www.ets.org/toefl. You may instead take the IELTS. If you do, you should specify that in your online application. For more information about the IELTS, go to http://www.ielts.org/.
5. Personal Statement
Your Personal Statement should be no more than 300 words, explaining your background and interests in philosophy. It should be in PDF format. (See below for important advice.)
6. Writing Sample
Your writing sample should demonstrate your capacity for philosophical work, preferably an essay you have written for a philosophy course. It should be in PDF format. (See below for important advice.)
7. Application for Graduate Appointment
You will need to fill out and upload the Application for Graduate
Appointment form. It can be found at:
Download the PDF file, fill in the fields and then save it before uploading.
Note that if you fill out the form online and hit the save button, it may not
save the file with the information you entered.
8. Three confidential letters of recommendation
You will be asked to waive your right to see the letters during the online application process. The letters should be on letterhead. The university application system requires that they be in PDF format. If the recommender cannot convert their letter to PDF format, they should contact Valerie Brown.
9. International Applicants Only: Declaration and Certification of Finances
As part of the online application, international applicants will also be asked to complete a Declaration and Certification of Finances.
10. Application Fee
The application fee is currently $70.00 for both domestic and international applicants. You will be asked to pay the application fee after you have submitted the application.
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 – mid-teens, 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, A.W. Eaton, 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 Secretary, Valerie Brown.