Graduate Admissions

The Department of Philosophy at Berkeley seeks graduate students whose talents and interests will enable them to benefit from the distinctive intellectual resources on offer here, and who will contribute to a stimulating and friendly philosophical community. The Department values a diversity of interests, perspectives, and backgrounds among its students.

Admission to the Ph.D. program in Philosophy at Berkeley is highly competitive. We typically receive hundreds of applications each year, and can offer admission only to a small handful of students (the entering class generally numbers fewer than ten). Students are admitted only for the Ph.D. degree; there is no M.A. program in philosophy at Berkeley. All students who are admitted must begin their study at Berkeley in the Fall semester. Applications from women and members of underrepresented groups are strongly encouraged.

In reviewing applications, the Admissions and Fellowships Committee looks for evidence that applicants have the training and intellectual characteristics they will need for success in a rigorous graduate program such as ours. Candidates for admission are not required to have majored in philosophy, but applicants who have not taken a considerable number of courses in the subject are unlikely to be admitted. The intellectual characteristics that the Committee looks for include the ability to write clear and well organized argumentative prose, the ability to discriminate between promising and unpromising lines of inquiry, the capacity to develop independent arguments and insights, and a nuanced appreciation of philosophical problems and issues.

The Admissions and Fellowships Committee attempts in each case to arrive at a fair assessment of the candidate on the basis of the totality of evidence submitted for review. It pays particularly close attention to the candidate's sample of written work, as well as to the letters of recommendation that are sent in support of the candidate's application. Candidates should seek letters of recommendation from teachers who are in a position to comment in detail both on their general scholarly abilities and on their distinctively philosophical talents and achievements. These same qualities should be evident in the writing sample submitted for review; it should go beyond mere exposition or superficial analysis of a philosophical text or problem. A good target length for a writing sample is 15-20 (double-spaced) pages.

Detailed information about admission to graduate study at UC Berkeley is available on the UCB Graduate Admissions website of the UC Berkeley Graduate Division. The Berkeley campus as a whole is home to a richly diverse intellectual community; for more information see the Graduate Diversity Outreach site.

How to apply

To apply for admission to the Ph.D. program in philosophy, apply online through the campus-wide UCB Graduate Admissions site. Do not send materials to the Department of Philosophy.

A complete online application would contain the following:

For information on application deadlines and other important dates please see the UCB Graduate Admissions site.

Fee waivers

In some cases, the application fee can be waived. Berkeley's current policies regarding fee waivers are listed here. To summarize:
  1. Fee waivers for international students are not available at this time.
  2. U.S. citizen or current permanent residents can apply for need-based application fee waivers.
  3. Undocumented students (not international) may be considered for an application fee waiver if they demonstrate financial need.
  4. Participants in certain programs and summer institutes can receive a fee waiver by documenting program participation. See the list of pre-approved programs here.