Admissions FAQ

Admissions FAQs

The Admissions Process

When is the deadline for applications?

All materials must be submitted by Wednesday, January 7, 2015.

When will I be notified if I have been admitted?

No later than March 15th.

How do I apply?

All the following materials are should be uploaded into your online application by that date:

  • A completed Rackham Graduate School online application
  • Three letters of recommendation. Make sure to register your recommenders when you fill out the online application, indicating the academic position of the recommender or, if the recommender is not an academic, the individual's current position and relation to you or your work. If your recommenders will be submitting letters of recommendation by paper (not recommended), click on thisLetters of Recommendation form, which should accompany all letters. Letters can be sent by regular mail to the Michigan Philosophy Department.
  • An academic Statement (500 word limit). Upload at the Academic Statement page.
  • A personal Statement (500 word limit). Upload at the Personal Statement page.
  • A Curriculum Vitae. Upload at the Resume or CV page.
  • A sample of philosophical writing (normally 3500-5000 words in length). Upload at the Writing Sample page.
  • One copy of official or unofficial transcript from undergraduate institution. Upload the scanned copy at the Transcript page.
  • Optional:Scores on the aptitude portions of the Graduate Record Examination, (not the philosophy achievement test, however). To have your scores reported directly to the University of Michigan, please use code number 1839.

You are fully responsible for the submission of a complete application. You will be able to keep track of which materials for your application have arrived and which ones are still outstanding by consulting your Web Application Status page, to which you will have access once Rackham has received your application and application fee.

What should be in my “academic statement”?

Please explain briefly the nature of your study in philosophy or related fields thus far, your current primary areas of philosophical interest, what studies you would like to pursue in graduate school, and whether there are any Michigan faculty members with whom you would especially like to work. If you are interested in Michigan’s interdisciplinary Program in Ancient Philosophy please note this in your academic statement and explain something about your background in philosophy and in classical studies (e.g., your knowledge of Greek and Latin).

What should be in my “personal statement”?

The Rackham Graduate School requires a statement of purpose of not more than 500 words. Please use this statement to help us understand how you have come to be interested in philosophy, what special challenges you might have faced, what relevant experiences you might have had, and what aspirations you have for the future. We also suggest that you use your personal statement to address any aspects of your application that you suspect might require special explanation (though it is not worth your time to explain GRE scores or your GPA, see below). Also, if you feel that you might be eligible for a Rackham Merit Fellowship please provide information about your suitability as a nominee by telling us whether

  • you come from an educational, cultural or geographic background that is underrepresented in graduate study in philosophy;
  • you have made efforts to reduce social, educational or economic disparities based on race, ethnicity or gender, or to improve race relations in the U.S.
  • you have experienced financial hardship as a result of family economic circumstances;
  • you are first-generation U.S. citizens or are in the first generation of your family to graduate from a four-year college.

Is there a minimum GPA required to apply, and what are my chances if I do have a low GPA?
The most critical components of the application are the writing sample and letters of recommendation. No minimum undergraduate GPA is required, and we pay most attention to grades in philosophy courses. (In recent memory successful applicants nearly always have a GPA above 3.8 in their philosophy courses.) In considering your GPA, we will certainly take into account the varying difficulty of courses, the varying degrees of grade inflation among institutions, and any relevant circumstances you discuss in your personal statement.

Am I required to take the GRE exam?


How long are GRE scores valid?
GRE scores are valid for 5 years.

How many letters of recommendation should I submit, and who should they be from?

We like to see three letters of recommendation. Four is fine, but the marginal value of adding letters declines steeply after that. While we read all letters we receive, those written by professional philosophers who know you and have read your work are especially valuable. That said, letters from non-philosophers can be quite valuable if much of your course work was done outside philosophy or if you intend to focus on particularly interdisciplinary areas of philosophy. (For example, if you are planning to pursue ancient philosophy then a letter from your Greek Professor might be useful, or if you want to work in the philosophy of physics then a letter from your thermodynamics professor might be called for.) Ideally, at least two letter writers should have served as your professor in college classes.

Can letters of recommendation be sent electronically?

Yes, all application materials, including letters of recommendation, are accepted electronically through the Rackham Graduate School's online application process.

What is the recommended length of a writing sample?

While we have no fixed requirements, it is a good idea to submit a sample of between 3,500 and 5,000 words since samples much shorter or longer that that might be counterproductive. We recommend that you send us an example of your philosophical writing at its very best since our admissions process places heavy emphasis on the quality of writing samples.

What if my undergraduate degree is in an area other than philosophy?

We do not regard that as a problem. As long as you took rigorous courses and did well in them, we are happy give your application the most serious consideration. While we do like to see some philosophy courses on a student’s transcript, it is not necessary to have majored (or minored) in philosophy to be a successful candidate. In general, we consider it an advantage for a student to have taken a selection of rigorous upper-level courses outside philosophy.

Do I have a better chance of being accepted if I already have an M.A.?

Not a better chance, but not a worse chance either. While an M.A. from a strong program can increase the chances of admission for someone who took little philosophy as an undergraduate, students with an M.A. have no special advantages or disadvantages in our process.

How many people apply for admission?

In 2014 we received 259 applications for our Ph.D. program.

How many students are likely to be in the entering class next year?

We aim for a class of five or six students per year, but our actual number of matriculations has varied from four to nine in recent years. We admit only students that we fully expect to complete the Ph.D. and to be credible candidates on the job market. It is invariably true that we have many more qualified applicants than we are able to admit. Last year seven students matriculated into our Ph.D. program.

How many students are ordinarily offered admission?

Normally, we offer outright admission to between 15 and 17 applicants, and place another 6 to 8 on a waitlist. Since we compete with other top-five institutions for students, we expect that only about a third of our initial offers will be accepted. This means that, in typical years, more than half the candidates on our waitlist are eventually offered admission.

Financial Support

What financial support is offered to graduate students?

The Department guarantees six years (12 semesters) of full financial support to all Ph.D. students who are making satisfactory academic progress and performing adequately as classroom teachers. Students do no teaching during their first year in the program, and can expect to receive at least three, and often four, additional semesters of non-teaching fellowship support during the dissertation-writing period (years four, five and six). Students will be supported by teaching assistantships during their remaining semesters in the program.

How much teaching will I do during semesters when I am not enjoying a non-teaching fellowship?

Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs) in philosophy are normally responsible for running two discussion sections drawn from a large lecture course taught by a faculty member. Each section enrolls 20-25 students, and the GSI is expected to do the grading (under the supervision of the faculty member leading the course). Workload varies by course, but students generally spend about 18-20 hours per week (all inclusive) on instructional duties. Advanced students have the opportunity to teach their own courses.

How much money will I receive (in addition to tuition and benefits)?

For the 2015-16 academic year we estimate that the total yearly funding packages (fellowship support, teaching, summer funding) will be not less than $23,300 for students in their first three years and will range between $23,300 and $28,000 for students in later years.

Will I get health care benefits? What are the out-of-pocket costs to me?

All graduate students in good standing receive a standard package of medical and dental benefits, at no costs. We do not offer vision benefits.

Students from outside the United States

If I am a foreign student, do I still receive financial support?

Yes, foreign students receive the Department’s standard support package.

If I am a foreign student, do I have to show that I can support myself financially?

Yes, the United States Government (INS) requires you to prove that you can support yourself during graduate school. However, you may legitimately count the fellowships and stipends you would receive from us as financial support.This is should be sufficient to appease the INS.

What is the minimum TOEFL score required?

Minimum scores are: 84 (internet based), 220 (computer based) and 560 (paper based).

How long are TOEFL scores valid?

TOEFL scores are valid for 2 years.

Can the TOEFL score be waived?

Yes, if the official language of instruction in which you received your undergraduate or previous graduate degree was English, the TOEFL score may be waived.

Miscellaneous Matters

May I come to Michigan just for a M.A.?

Yes, but in practice we rarely admit M.A. students who are not pursuing advanced degrees in other academic units at Michigan. Ph.D. students in our program can obtain a Master’s en passant.

Can graduate courses taken elsewhere be transferred?

Students who have completed graduate coursework elsewhere may be able to count some of it towards the satisfaction of the Department’s program and distribution requirements. There is, however, a maximum of four course credits that can be transferred, and transfer is not automatic. In general, a student who desires to transfer credits will bring a petition to the Graduate Studies Committee at the beginning of his or her second year in the program. It is important for students who plan to make such requests to keep documentation from all relevant courses (syllabi, reading lists, completed papers, tests and homework, and so on). The Department does not grant transfer credit for courses taken during a student’s undergraduate career, even when these are taught at the graduate level.

What is typical timeline for achieving the Ph.D., i.e., when will I be done?

The Ph.D. requirements are designed to be completed in five to six years (ten to twelve semesters). The first five semesters are dedicated to coursework, and the sixth is used to achieve candidacy and defend a dissertation prospectus. The dissertation is meant to be written during semesters seven through ten (years four and five). Students should expect to enter the academic job market in their sixth year, though some enter in the fifth or even fourth. For more information see: FAQs: Timeline to Ph.D.

How much of the program can be completed through online classes or distance learning?

None. You need to be in residence for all your course work. Students who have achieved candidacy and are actively writing their dissertation can, with special permission, work from afar provided that they make plans to return to Ann Arbor as least once a semester for meetings with their dissertation committees.

In what areas of Philosophy does Michigan specialize?

You can find faculty research interests by going to Faculty Research Interests.

What is the cost of housing in Ann Arbor?

Most graduate students live in apartments or houses around town. The costs vary greatly depending upon the sort of dwelling and its location. During the 2011-12 academic year, the average monthly rent paid by philosophy graduate students for one-bedroom apartments or studios within walking distance from campus ranged from $700 to $1100. Rooms in group houses ranged from $350-$700.