Admissions FAQs

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When is the deadline for applications?

December 15, 2018 at 11:59pm (EST)* is the deadline for all applications, and since the Admissions Committee gets to work right away, it is strongly recommended that all of your application materials reach us by the deadline.

What financial support is offered to graduate students?

We guarantee 5 years of funding for every student we admit (presuming, of course, that the student remains in good standing). In practice, students receive an additional year of support, if they need it in order to be well prepared to go on the job market.

The Department provides each graduate student with a non-service fellowship during her first year and another year of non-service fellowship support while she is writing her dissertation. (“Non-service” means that the graduate student is not teaching any classes.) To complement these fellowships, graduate students receive stipends first as teaching assistants and then as teaching fellows (when they are teaching their own courses). Our graduate students find that the fellowships and the teaching stipends allow them to live in reasonable comfort. In addition, the Graduate School makes various fellowships available on a competitive basis; our students have been quite successful in these competitions.

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

Yes, foreign students receive exactly the same financial support as domestic students.

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

Yes, the INS (not the Department, and not the University) requires that you be able to show that you are able to support yourself. However, you may legitimately count the fellowships and stipends that you would receive from us, should you come, as among the resources available to you. Given the cost of living in Chapel Hill, this is generally sufficient to qualify applicants financially in the eyes of the INS.

How important is the GRE?  What is the average GRE score for admission?  Is there a minimum required score?

The GRE is just one factor that we consider, but we do so recognizing that someone can be a brilliant philosopher despite not being very good at multiple choice exams, and recognizing as well that someone might do extremely well on the GREs and yet not have a gift for philosophy. So although we do consider the GRE, we give substantial weight to your GPA (in particular your Philosophy GPA), your letters of recommendation, and especially your writing sample.

My GRE scores will not be available until after the December 15th deadline.  Will this affect the review of my application?

The Committee will review your application as long as the rest of the materials were submitted on time. If possible, please post your unofficial test scores, which will be replaced by the official scores once they are received by the Graduate School.

What is the average GPA of successful applicants?  Is there a minimum GPA?  

The Graduate School requires a minimum GPA of 3.0. For the Philosophy Department, the GPA is just part of the mix, so there is no fixed requirement. We are particularly interested in your Philosophy GPA.  Successful applicants will typically have a very strong background in Philosophy, with a very high Philosophy GPA (usually 3.8 or higher).

Can letters of recommendation be sent electronically?  Can I submit more than three?

Yes, all application materials, including letters of recommendation, will be accepted electronically through the Graduate School’s online application process. Hard copies may also be sent to our Department if that is your letter writer’s preference. You may have more than three letters sent on your behalf. Predictably, letters are generally especially valuable if they are written by philosophers who know your work and your abilities well.

Is a statement of purpose required? How long should it be?

Yes, the Graduate School requires a statement of purpose. A typical statement is 1-2 pages in length, but we have no fixed limits. We suggest that you use the opportunity to indicate your philosophical interests and, if necessary, to address any aspects of your application that you suspect might be weak or require explanation.

What is the recommended length of a writing sample?

Writing samples vary widely in length – some are 10 pages, others are much longer. We have no fixed length requirements. We recommend that you simply send us an example of your very best philosophical writing. Successful applicants have often spent considerable effort in rewriting a paper they wrote for a course (or a chapter from their undergraduate thesis) in light of comments and suggestions made by their advisors. The quality of the writing sample plays a very significant role in our admissions decisions.

How many students are in an entering class each year?

A typical entering class is composed of 6-8 students. We admit only students whom we fully expect to complete the Ph.D. Normally we offer admission to approximately 15 people.

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

The students we admit have all had a proven academic record in philosophy, even if it wasn’t their major. So although we have sometimes admitted students who have majored in another subject, these students have all taken a good deal of philosophy.

May I come to UNC just for an M.A.? 

No: we do not have an M.A.-only program. Students obtain an M.A. en passant, at the end of their second year, before continuing on to the Ph.D.

What if I already have an M.A.?

Every student we accept follows the same course of study, whatever degree they come with – whether a BA, or an M.A. or a BPhil. As a result, every student entering with an M.A. is usually required to obtain another M.A. with us, whether or not they already have a graduate degree from another institution. However, students who enter with an M.A. may very occasionally be able to count some of the coursework they have completed elsewhere towards the satisfaction of our distribution requirements. In addition, some students who enter with an M.A. have found themselves able to move through the program more quickly than they might otherwise have been able to manage.

Can graduate courses taken elsewhere be transferred?

Those students who have completed appropriate graduate courses from other universities or colleges may (with the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies) be able to use some of those courses to fulfill our Department’s course distribution requirements – but not to reduce the overall number of courses they take.

Do I have a better chance of being accepted with an M.A. from another institution?

A number of our graduate students have M.A.s from other institutions. An M.A. from a strong program does tend to increase the competitiveness of a student who did not major in philosophy or who came to philosophy relatively late in his or her undergraduate career.

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

We do not offer any online graduate courses.

Can the program be completed with a part-time schedule?

No – the program is full-time and intensive. It is not manageable on a part-time basis.

May I take classes at Duke?

Yes, with approval from the Director of Graduate Studies.

What areas of Philosophy does UNC specialize in?

Our faculty cover all the major areas of analytic philosophy. You can find faculty research interests by going to

Should I visit Chapel Hill to meet with faculty and students?

Applicants are welcome to visit the UNC campus. However, we do not encourage students to meet with faculty members until they have been offered admission. This ensures that all of the applications we receive are reviewed without bias. Once we have offered admission, faculty and graduate students are happy to meet with prospective students during our annual three-day “Prospective Graduate Student Weekend”. During this time, we are able to subsidize prospective graduate students’ travel expenses and also to arrange airport transportation and accommodations, usually with a graduate student host.

*Due to administrative reasons, the application deadline posted here on our website and the deadline posted on the Graduate School’s website differ. However, December 15th is the deadline for all applications, including those who wish to be considered for a fellowship and international applicants. In order to maximize your chances of consideration, please make sure that all of your materials are submitted by December 15th.