Frequently Asked Questions
I did not major in philosophy. Do I have a chance?
We require a strong background in philosophy. If you have taken a significant number of upper-division or graduate-level courses in philosophy, or have taken philosophy courses as part of an interdisciplinary major, your background may be adequate. You should use your personal statement to explain what work you have done in philosophy, and why you want to pursue graduate work in this discipline. To strengthen your application, make sure that you have letters of recommendation from philosophers, and that your writing sample is indicative of your work in philosophy.
Do you have minimum required scores on the GRE’s? How important are GRE’s in the admissions decision?
We have no minimum required GRE score. We use GRE scores merely as one of many indicators of your overall promise as a graduate student. Mediocre or even low scores can be overriden by other factors – letters of recommendation, writing sample, undergraduate GPA – if these are exceptionally strong. In general, if you are admitted, your prospects for financial aid will not be compromised just by virtue of poor GRE scores. Still, you should try to do well on the test.
What do you look for in the Writing Sample? How long should it be?
The writing sample should be a substantial piece of work in philosophy, demonstrating your ability to understand and discuss philosophical issues, and displaying your mastery of relevant philosophical literature, whether classical or contemporary. Students often send a paper (or a revised version of a paper) that they wrote for a seminar or advanced undergraduate course. Some students send a chapter of a senior thesis. Try to be as clear and as concise as possible; make sure you explain your central thesis within the first few pages. There is no standard length, but in the past, many of the most successful writing samples have been between 3,000 and 5,000 words (12–15 pages) long.
Do I need to submit official transcripts with my application?
No. You may submit copies of unofficial transcripts with your application. If you are accepted for admission to our PhD program and choose to attend UMass, you will then be required to submit official transcripts prior to your enrollment in the Fall.
I am an International student. Am I eligible for financial aid?
Yes. You are eligible for every form of aid that we offer, and will be considered automatically for aid as we review your application. If you have questions about your visa, please contact the International Programs Office.