How competitive is the application process?

Very (I know, informative right?).

But really, on a recent post about graduate admissions on Leiter Reports, Mark Schroeder (USC), commented “This year at USC we had just over 130 applications. Of those, no more than five were weak enough to be ‘not serious candidates’.” And actually 130 seems like a relatively low number of total applicants to me, when compared to the number of applications other schools received this year. I imagine it becomes even more competitive, the more applications a program receives in a given year.  

To put it in perspective, Columbia Law School’s acceptance Rate is about 16%; Harvard Law School, 11%; Yale Law School, 7%; Cornell Law School, 21%. Of the schools I was accepted to this year, the highest acceptance rate (that I know of, and not including waitlists) was about 10%, and the lowest was 3%.

According to the (self-reported) information that philosophy applicants posted on a private forum on Live Journal, called philprospective , the competition is steep. I don’t want to share individual profiles (since philprospective is a private forum) but, to give you an idea I’ll share some general statistics.

There were 47 applicants this year who shared profiles on philprospective. Profiles included GRE scores, GPAs, GPA within one’s major, graduate GPAs (if applicable), and schools that one was applying to. Many people only shared partial profiles, and some shared additional information (e.g., number of conferences that one has presented at, publications, etc.). So while my numbers below are averages for 47 applicants, each category may be the average from a smaller number of profiles. I suspect that some people may have underreported the number of schools they were applying to, because several of us realized later that we had accidentally left one or two off the list, and posted corrections. I can’t verify the data is correct because it is self-reported, and I don’t know most of the other people who shared. For those who said something like “average verbal score” I estimated based on national averages. All of those qualifications aside, here you go:

Average GRE verbal score: 673   

Average GRE quantitative score: 705

Average GRE writing score: 5.2

Average undergraduate GPA in philosophy classes: 3.84     

Average undergraduate GPA: 3.70         

Average graduate philosophy GPA: 3.94           

Average number of schools applied to: 13 (high: 23, low: 1, mode: 16)

Number of applicants with M.A.s: Roughly 36%

Of course, really, the most important part of an application is the writing sample, so it might be that someone scores 800/800/6 on the GRE isn’t necessarily as much of a competitor as someone with mediocre scores—but almost every applicant posted further information that indicated they were “stand-out” students in some way (e.g., publications, conference presentations, awards, special circumstances that they were able to overcome, etc.).  All in all, you’d be wise to put forth your best effort on every aspect of your application–and apply widely. Just given how well-qualified most applicants are, I suspect there’s a fair bit of luck at play in the process of schools choosing between us.


~ by humeisapotato on April 8, 2011.

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