Carnegie Mellon University

Graduate Application Frequently Asked Questions

For specific admissions-related questions not answered here, please contact Adam Bjorndahl, Director of Graduate Studies.

Our department greatly values cross-disciplinary research that uses a range of tools to address philosophical and foundational questions. We are well aware of the difficulties involving in doing such research, and the challenges of gaining expertise in more than one domain. Most students come to our program with either a background in philosophy and interest/ability in math and the sciences, or vice versa. When we review applications, we try to assess overall promise, and the ability of students to carry out the type of research that is supported in our department.

The best way to answer that question is through review of our department web pages, and the individual faculty web pages in particular. Faculty publications and previous Ph.D./M.S./M.A. theses can both provide a sense of the type of work that goes on in the department

Individual students are provided with financial assistance packages in their offer letters. Individual offers to students may vary. As a general rule, master's students are provided with a scholarship that covers one-half of CMU's yearly tuition. Master's students are often hired as Graders which pay $5,000 per semester, or can be hired as a Teaching Assistant (TA) which pays $6,000 per semester.  Student employment as a TA or grader is not guaranteed; additional language certification testing might also be required.  

Ph.D. students are provided with a scholarship that covers 100% of CMU tuition and a twelve-month stipend of $27,000. This support is guaranteed for five years, conditional on satisfactory progress in the program. Because the stipend is twelve months, students are required to perform work either as an instructor or research assistant over the summer. Students may decline summer work and pay. Additional years may be provided, at the department's discretion, if circumstances warrant.

Admission is competitive. We have a small doctoral program, and only accept highly qualified candidates. That being said, we do not have any minimum admissions requirements, cutoffs, or other quantitative thresholds (see next question).

No, there are not. All admissions decisions are made only after multiple people have read the full application, and we use all of the information in the application to make our decisions. Admissions decisions are based on judgments about the full profile of the applicant, and not just a few numbers. Please be advised that admitted students with a TOEFL combined score below 84 or overall IELTS score below 7 may have significant difficulty obtaining a visa.

We treat all applicants the same, regardless of their country of origin. Unlike some graduate programs, there are no restrictions on the number (or country of origin) of international applicants that we can admit, and admitted international students receive the same financial support package as U.S. students.

Graduate admissions is done by the Philosophy faculty as a whole. Each individual faculty member is only one vote of many (in contrast with many graduate programs in the sciences, where applicants are admitted by particular faculty to work in particular labs). You should feel free to contact individual faculty members to learn more about their research, but no one person can guarantee admission to the graduate program.

NO, absolutely not. The doctorate admissions decisions are made entirely independently from any admissions decisions about the master's programs. In particular, when we are making our doctoral admissions decisions, we pay no attention to whether the applicant is interested in being considered for the master's program.

We aim to make all graduate admissions decisions by mid-March, but please be advised that we cannot respond to queries about the current status of the admissions process. We ask admitted students to decide whether to accept our offer by April 15th; most philosophy graduate programs use a similar date.

The writing sample provides us with significant insight into your ability to conduct sustained, original, challenging thought. We thus encourage you to submit your best work, regardless of the particular subject matter or format. We have historically had a wide range of material submitted for the writing sample, including philosophical papers on many different topics, problem sets (when the answers show original thought), and computer science "lab" reports. Whatever you choose to submit, please remember that this is your best opportunity to show your ability to tackle hard challenges.

As a general guideline, the Personal research statement should answer three questions: (1) What areas/problems do you want to study/research? (2) Why those areas/problems? and (3) Why do you think that CMU is the right place for you to study/research them? You should not be concerned if your answers are relatively high-level; many successful students start graduate school with only general ideas about exactly what issues they want to pursue.

Please note that the Personal research statement should (in general) be forward-looking, not backwards-looking. This is your opportunity to explain what you want to do at CMU, why you want to do it, and why you think that we are the right place for you. As such, it should focus on what you will do, not what you have done. In particular, the Personal research statement is not the appropriate place to explain why you think that you are qualified to pursue graduate study; that is the purpose of the rest of your application.

When you fill out your application, you provide the email addresses for your recommenders. For each recommender, there will be a button to send an email message (to that recommender) with information about how to submit the online recommendation. Please note that letters of recommendation are due at the same time as the full application. Even if you will not be submitting until close to the deadline, we strongly encourage you to send the recommendation request email as soon as possible.

We strongly prefer recommendations through the online recommendation system, but we recognize that this may pose a challenge for some recommenders. An acceptable alternative is for the recommender to email his or her recommendation (from an official email account, such as his or her University account) directly to the Director of Graduate Studies. If neither of these options is possible, please contact the Director of Graduate Studies for instructions.

Yes, but only in exceptional circumstances. If your situation requires that you submit a paper application rather than online, please contact the Director of Graduate Studies.

Carnegie Mellon requires the TOEFL, IELTS or Duolingo exam for all non-native English speaking applicants, regardless of where they have done their education. It can only be waived in exceptional circumstances (e.g., living in an English-speaking country since early childhood). If you believe you qualify for a waiver, please contact the Director of Graduate Studies.

In exceptional circumstances, we will waive the GRE requirement when taking it would impose a significant burden on the applicant. This waiver may put you at a disadvantage when compared with students who have taken the GREs. Please contact the Director of Graduate Studies to request a GRE waiver.