Graduate Admissions

How to Apply

Application program selection opens September 1st. Applications (for enrollment the following Fall) are to be completed and submitted online by December 31st.


Be sure to include:

  • a statement of purpose, and
  • a writing sample of 12-18 pages that demonstrates philosophical ability; longer samples may not be read in their entirety.

Frequently Asked Questions about Admissions

What are the most important parts of my application?

The most important parts of your application are the writing sample and the statement of purpose. If your academic background, GRE scores, and letters of reference mark you as a serious applicant, you can expect your writing sample and statement of purpose to be read carefully. The writing sample is our best clue as to your philosophical abilities. The area of philosophy that you write about is much less important than that you demonstrate the ability to think clearly and rigorously. Your statement of purpose should explain your academic interests and why you think that they would best be served by our philosophy department.

How important is the GRE? How do I submit scores?

*Due to Covid-19, GRE scores for both Philosophy and Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology PhD applications for Fall 2022 enrollment are optional.*

GRE scores must be submitted automatically, using the Washington University code: 6929 and Philosophy Department code: 2801.

We make no decisions based on the GRE alone, and while opinions on our admissions committee about the predictive value of GRE scores vary, there is no firm minimum. We know that there are people who do not perform well on such tests, for various reasons, and who would still make excellent philosophers. Nevertheless, we do look at these scores, and if they are not above average, we expect the rest of the application to assure us that they are not a reliable indicator.

I am an international student. Is there a minimum TOEFL or IELTS score required?

We encourage applications from abroad. There is no minimum TOEFL score, but we are concerned that our international students be fluent when they arrive, to get the most out of the program. Not only the TOEFL but also the writing sample and statement of purpose help to indicate this, as do letters of reference. The university offers additional training for international students before they begin serving as teaching assistants, but our students need not worry about this until after their first year. Yes, we will also accept IELTS scores.

Can additional Letters of Recommendation be submitted with an application?

Yes. Three letters of recommendation may be submitted through the online application. Additional letters of recommendation can be added by the department; please email the Philosophy department administrator all the contact information listed for recommenders on the online application and then have your recommender email their letter to the Philosophy department administrator.

Can the application fee be waived?

This is a decision made by the Graduate School. Within the CollegeNet application on the "Program Selection" page, after a program has been selected, there is a Graduate School email contact regarding fee waivers. Please reach out to the contact listed in the application and they will be able to assist.

Are official transcripts required for the application?

No, we DO NOT require the official, confidential transcript from each institution (undergraduate or graduate) the applicant has attended; only an unofficial copy with your application. If admission is offered, we will then require the official versions of all transcripts. You may upload your transcripts to the application.

Are students in the PhD program fully funded?

Yes. The Department and the Graduate School support every student in the program. 

The Department and the Graduate School also provide some funds for travel to conferences.

Special Fellowship Opportunities

Washington University offers several special fellowships for qualified graduate students, and because these awards bring with them additional funding and opportunities, all applicants are encouraged to consider their eligibility.

Mr. and Mrs. Spencer T. Olin Fellowships (for women)
The Chancellor's Graduate Fellowships (to foster diversity among future college and university teachers)

I did not become interested in philosophy until late in my undergraduate career. Is this a problem?

Not necessarily. We look primarily for philosophical aptitude. Most applicants who have a stronger background in philosophy have an easier time giving evidence of their philosophical aptitude, and we do advise those who have not studied much philosophy to look into terminal master's programs. But we welcome applications from a wide range of backgrounds, and we have accepted students who show great promise in philosophy despite a relatively weak background in the field.

Can I apply to do a master’s degree at Washington University?

No. We do not offer a terminal MA program. However, PhD students can earn an MA after completing certain requirements.

Can I transfer credits from another institution?

No. All students (in each program) are required to take the same number of units. However, students may apply for a waiver of up to two specific course requirements on the basis of previous work. Students may contact the Director of Graduate Studies to inquire about this waiver process.

I want to pursue a second degree (MD, JD, or MA) alongside the philosophy PhD. Is this possible?

Yes. We do not have any formal dual-degree programs to which one application suffices, but it is possible to pursue both degrees by applying (not necessarily simultaneously) to both programs. It is not possible to work full-time on both degrees simultaneously, and so in any given year, one would need to be enrolled in one program and on leave in the other. But some overlap in work is possible. Students working on the philosophy PhD can take courses in other disciplines (Classics; Law; Political Science; Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; etc.), and in some cases, these courses can count both toward the philosophy PhD and toward another program's requirements for a certificate (which does not require separately applying) or a degree (which does). In addition (cf. next question), students enrolled in other programs are welcome to take philosophy courses.

I am a student in another program (law, comp. lit., etc.) at WashU.. Can I earn an MA or PhD in philosophy?

We welcome students from other units in our philosophy course, subject to the published prerequisites or permission of the instructor. To receive a degree from philosophy, though, one has to apply to our program and be admitted. Any courses taken before being admitted can be counted toward the course requirements (but not toward the total number of units required) after admission. So you are invited to take some philosophy courses, and if things go well, you should apply for the degree program.

What if I want to work with Professor So-and-So in the PNP program? Do I have to be in the PNP program to do this? What is the relationship between the philosophy department and the PNP program?

All of the core faculty and graduate students in the PNP program are also in the philosophy department, and philosophy students who are not in the PNP program are welcome not just in the courses offered by PNP faculty but also in PNP colloquia and such. We expect our PNP students to be interested in philosophical matters outside of PNP, and we expect our philosophy students outside of PNP to be interested in matters inside of PNP. These things said, one admissions committee handles the decisions for both the "regular program" and the PNP program, and that committee typically admits into the regular program students who are likely to write dissertations with faculty outside of PNP, as this provides balance to our student body and to our faculty's workloads.

I have been offered a place in the Philosophy PhD program. Can I come to campus to look around?

We invite all applicants to whom we have made offers to campus. Of course, we cover the travel, housing, and dining expenses.

Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology Program Admissions

The PNP program admits a number of new graduate students each year. A PhD in PNP is not a PhD in cognitive science, but a PhD in Philosophy with a specialty in the PNP-related areas. We do not accept applicants interested in pursuing only an MA.  Admission to the PNP program does not require undergraduate training in philosophy, but applicants must demonstrate a strong competence in and aptitude for philosophy.  Students with strong backgrounds in any academic discipline are invited to apply

As noted in the FAQs above, successful applicants are eligible for support for up to six years (contingent on continued successful performance in the program). Stipends are available. Prospective students should indicate whether they are applying to the regular philosophy program or to the PNP program.

Further Questions

If you have a question about applying to our program that is not addressed here, please contact the Philosophy office via email or call 314-935-6670.