Graduate Program

Prospective Ph.D. Students

This page gathers some information and advice about the application process that we hope will be useful to potential applicants.  If you have specific questions we can answer, you may call (858) 822-0082, or write to:

University of California, San Diego
Graduate Advisor; Philosophy, 0119
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla CA 92093-0119



Tuition and Fees

Financial Support

Almost all Philosophy graduate students are supported by some form of financial aid. Most work as Teaching Assistants at 50% time. Typically this involves running discussion sections and grading papers for lecture and introductory courses in philosophy, humanities, and writing programs. An assistantship is also regarded as a full credit course, so Teaching Assistants usually take two graduate classes each quarter.

In addition, some Regents' fellowships are available for first-year students, and the department usually awards one or more dissertation fellowships a year for its advanced graduate students. Various fee, tuition and tuition/fee scholarships are also available, as are San Diego fellowships.

Advanced graduate students who have just completed or nearly completed their dissertations are sometimes hired by the department as Teaching Associates or Lecturers. Under these titles, advanced graduate students autonomously plan and teach their own courses.

Acceptance Rates

Our department attracts very high quality applicants, and admission is very competitive, as expressed below.

Year Acceptance Rate Number of New Students
2005 13.7% 6
2006 12.4% 7
2007 12.7% 5
2008 15.7% 8
2009 20.0% 17
2010 10.0% 5
2011 18.9% 7
2012 16.9% 5
2013 18.2% 14
2014 7.9% 2
2015 13.7% TBA

It is also worth pointing out that UC San Diego Philosophy does not operate with a waitlist (as do some other programs); this makes our acceptance rate appear slightly higher than programs that do.

GRE Scores

Mean (standard deviation)

Year Verbal Quantitative Analytical Analytical Writing
2013 166 (3.8) 160 (4.8) N/A 4.9 (0.59)
2014 167 (2.8) 162 (6.1) N/A 5.2 (0.54)
2015 168 (2.5) 160 (5.8) N/A 5.1 (0.56)

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Q: My GRE scores are low (say, substantially lower than those of the average applicants as reported above), but these scores don't represent my true promise -- I took the test while being bitten by my neighbor's dog, and there was loud music playing, etc. Anyway, I'm brilliant and now I really want to study philosophy at UC San Diego. Will my low GRE scores automatically disqualify me, or will you be willing at least to read the rest of my admissions dossier?

    A: There's no firm floor GRE score that would by itself prevent the committee from reading the rest of your dossier. That said, obviously your low GRE scores (relative to the pool) are a risk factor for admissions, so this puts an extra burden on the other materials in your dossier to show that you've got what it takes to make it in our program.

  2. Q: What about undergraduate GPAs? I concede that I spent too much time playing pool and too little time studying in college, but now I really want to study philosophy (and I'm brilliant). Will my low GPA exclude me automatically?

    A: Again, your low GPA won't exclude you automatically or prevent the admissions committee from looking at the rest of your file. But, once again, this would probably raise a worry in the minds of most committee members, who would then take an extra hard look at the other materials for evidence of promise in graduate school.

  3. Q: My major is x, where x ≠ philosophy. Will you even consider admitting me?

    A: Absolutely we'd consider you; our program is interdisciplinary in lots of ways, and we find that applicants with diverse intellectual backgrounds often enrich what goes on once they get here. In fact, we have accepted many students in this situation, and almost all have gone on to do very well in our program and beyond. That said, part of what the admissions committee looks for is promise and talent in philosophy in particular, so if the undergraduate coursework in x (where x ≠ philosophy) doesn't demonstrate that, we need some other kind of evidence in the other materials (especially the writing sample) that does. Consequently, applicants in this situation really need to send a writing sample and other materials that show them at their philosophical best.

  4. Q: What part of the application dossier is most important?

    A: The unhelpful (but true!) answer is that they're all important. Unfortunately, it is a bit hard to generalize beyond that because different readers weight the different components of the dossier differently. Still, if I have to choose one, I would say the writing sample is most important because it represents the fullest opportunity for applicants to showcase their abilities to think and write clearly about philosophy.

  5. Q: Whom should I ask to write my letters of recommendation?

    A: Usually the best letters come from professors of philosophy who have taught you and know your work. Such writers know what admissions committees in philosophy departments are looking for (since often they serve on those committees themselves). Moreover, they know what doing philosophy requires and so are able to assess applicants' promise in philosophy in a way that others -- even professors in other fields -- cannot. On the other hand, if the choice is between a philosophy professor who doesn't know you and a professor in some other field who does, I'd choose the latter because the resulting letter will be more substantive and helpful to the admissions committee.

Staff Contact

Anna Shonle
Graduate Program Coordinator
Phone: (858) 534-3076

Faculty Contact

Eric Watkins
Director of Graduate Studies
Phone: (858) 822-0082