Increased Philosophy Grad Program Applications?


There have been informal reports from people at various universities indicating that there are substantially more applicants to their philosophy graduate programs than in recent years.

[photo by J. Weinberg]

The exact extent of the increase is unclear, as is whether there has been more (or less) of increase in applications to philosophy programs compared to other fields. (Harvard University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences saw an average 8% increase in applications across all of its programs since last year.)

It may be that philosophy and other humanities fields in particular are are part of a trend of increased applications. In its report covering the 2021-22 application season, the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) says that “at the doctoral level, arts and humanities (12.2%) had the largest one-year increase of all broad fields of study.” CGS has not yet published its report for last year.

Information about whether applications are up at your program, as well as thoughts about what might explain the increase, are welcome.

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Fritz Allhoff
Fritz Allhoff
1 month ago

Ours have been pretty consistent over the past few years. Our issue is reduction of TA lines, of which we seem to lose one about every other year. Our cohorts have been very good, but we don’t like the trend on size.

I think one trend is toward “self-funded” TA’s, such as could be written into NSF grant proposals, as opposed to being funded directly by the university. That presents additional challenges. But most of this just goes back to falling enrollment in Arts & Sciences, and reallocation of university resources toward colleges and units that are grabbing more undergraduate enrollments. (Most of our department’s are in general education classes or applied ethics classes, as opposed to majors.)

Curtis Franks
Curtis Franks
1 month ago

Notre Dame’s Philosophy PhD. program received 21.3% more applications this year than last year. Last year saw its own increase of 6.4%.

Hypotheses non fingo, but the current numbers are roughly 60% higher than the pre-pandemic trend (although we just received the modern era record in total applications, the biggest jump was 47.5% increase between 2020 and 2021).

Errol Lord
1 month ago

Penn’s were slightly down from last year but last year was a banner year. We saw a big jump 5 or 6 years ago and have remained high ever since, with another fairly substantial jump last year.

Tim O'Keefe
1 month ago

This year, Georgia State’ MA program had 176 people meet our Feb. 1 deadline for consideration in the initial round of review. (We accept later applications that are considered on a rolling basis up to April 1.) Last year, we had 156 such applications.

Kay
Kay
1 month ago

Seven years ago, each applicant applied to about 12 programs. Nowadays each applicant applies to about 20-25 programs. So not necessarily more people are applying to philosophy programs. Just more applications submitted.

Jonathan Kendrick
Jonathan Kendrick
Reply to  Kay
1 month ago

Yeah, when I applied to grad programs six years ago, I applied to only 6 programs and this is my major piece advice to current applicants: don’t do that! I was wailisted at my current program (Leiter T35) and another program (Leiter T15), and rejected everywhere else.

But, I’m not sure applying to 20+ programs is worth it?!? Unlike, say, the academic job market, where you incur no real opportunity costs by applying for every job remotely connected to your AOS/AOC, I less convinced this strategy should be applied to grad school apps. First, it’s good to tailor your grad school apps to each department, making it clear that you know something about the faculty and their research and demonstrating why your a good fit for that program. This is hard to do if your a applying to 20 programs. Second, the apps cost money. The application fee for each is usually pretty small $50 to $70, but that can quickly balloon if you apply to 20 schools. My family’s finances weren’t in a great place when I was applying for grad school so this was a major consideration for me.

Michel
Reply to  Kay
1 month ago

When I was applying, in the 2008-10 range, most applicants who were in the know–i.e., who had faculty guidance or spent time in the relevant online locales, such as the GradCafe–applied to ~20. Judging from posts on the GradCafe, this went on for years afterwards, and only tapered off recently.

This was reflected in the application numbers, which were in the hundreds pretty much everywhere (as I understand it). I was admitted in 2010; my non-Leiteriffic program received ~340 applications, admitted 4 outright, and waitlisted two (including me).

Last edited 1 month ago by Michel
Rejected grad applicant
Rejected grad applicant
1 month ago

For anyone who’s interested in the actual numbers, as opposed to the percentage increases, apparently Yale received 580 applications this year for 3 places (with 9 offers made). Happy to be corrected if these numbers are wrong, of course.

Grad Student
Grad Student
1 month ago

Doctoral programs in the US are expected to see an increase of international applicants because of policy changes been made in the UK – this could be impacting our numbers as well.

Grad student
Grad student
Reply to  Grad Student
1 month ago

Which policy changes are those? To do with the AHRC?

A Philosopher Named Slickback
A Philosopher Named Slickback
1 month ago

Some programs, like Cornell, had a huge spike from 200 applications to 300ish applications for 6 spots (I applied and was rejected twice), and most schools that I inquired about had more applicants than the previous year (as someone pointed out, Yale, for example); the competition is growing fierce (purely anecdotal, I know, but it made the rejections a bit less of a sting). And most schools, I’ve heard, now have sub-5 % acceptance rates, whereas before, most “safety” schools had around a 10% acceptance rate. Most schools now in the T20 PGR are becoming increasingly selective, with the applicants being increasingly highly qualified; I mean applicants having prestigious MA’s from top schools, JD’s, some even Ph.D.’s in other fields, publishing as undergraduates in T25 journals, presenting at conferences, and I have heard, even referring for journals as undergrads! Typical applicants like me have no shot anymore…

Robin McKenna
Robin McKenna
Reply to  A Philosopher Named Slickback
1 month ago

Wow. That is just terrifying.

DepressedGrad
DepressedGrad
1 month ago

I am just left wondering when having a paper published in a top-ten journal will become necessary to even be wait-listed at decent grad programs, all for the privilege of competing for non-existent jobs 5-6 years down the line by continuing to stack publications as high as you can before ever even having, you know, learned to philosophize.

WishI'dBeenTold
WishI'dBeenTold
Reply to  DepressedGrad
1 month ago

Haven’t you heard? We don’t do philosophy anymore. Our job is to publish mediocre, unreadable dreck in the “tOp JoUrNaLs” and then adjunct and live in poverty.

potential applicant
potential applicant
Reply to  DepressedGrad
1 month ago

while, since top-ten journals don’t have as many spots as the number of accepted grad students, I think there won’t be any possiblities for professors to publish in top-10. Good news! The tenure bar is decreasing!

Last edited 1 month ago by potential applicant
DepressedGrad
DepressedGrad
Reply to  potential applicant
1 month ago

No, see, your mistake is to think that already having tenure won’t eventually become a prerequisite for admission to a decent a PhD program.

Last edited 1 month ago by DepressedGrad
DepressedGrad
DepressedGrad
Reply to  DepressedGrad
1 month ago

Having just learned about Perry Hendricks and his 18 publications during his first three years of graduate school, it seems that the portended fate is not only upon us now but has been since at least 2021. Woe betide us!