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I would be surprised if applications are really rising so drastically, but then again, PhD applications certainly don't follow traditional rules of supply and demand.

The nervous applicant asked for advice, so I suppose I'll just say what every applicant should hear: run for your life from a PhD in philosophy unless you are independently wealthy or have tried your hand already in other fields and realized that philosophy is your only love.


I too am an applicant this year. I want to share some thoughts I commented on in the "Philosophy Graduate Applicants" Facebook group:

I expect more applicants across the board, and I’m worried because I was going to apply this cycle whether there was a pandemic or not. CMU is likely an exceptional case. Some other potential factors (non-lexical):

1. Three different postgrad degrees with funding at a university with clout.

2. Two of those programs are also of interest to math, CS, cogsci, and statistics applicants and offers funding.

2.5. some of the philosophy MA applicants certainly will include
- 2.5.1) students who want to pursue a philosophy PhD, but casted a wider net and plan on trying again in two years.
- 2.5.2) people without a substantial enough background to apply to a philosophy PhD.

3. Free application (yes, they offered it before but this is pertinent holistically with the pandemic and the potential increase in less qualified applicants; there is no financial risk and people want to apply at as many places as possible).

4. No GRE requirement (again, no financial risk - no pressure for the “less qualified” to send a 150/150/4 score to a program that probably expects high scores in all three areas {My guess, based on nothing, would be 162V/162Q/5}).

All of these factors would contribute to more apps at CMU from people who wouldn’t have applied or are searching for more opportunities. I’m guessing a lot of these factors give an increase in applicants including from other fields and “less qualified” applicants.

anonymous admissions committee member

My department's PhD program (which for now I'd prefer to keep private) has received more applications than it usually has at this point, however our deadline isn't until February 1 so this could be explained by people applying earlier than usual. (I suspect that there will be at least a slight increase, possibly a significant one, based on current numbers compared to normal numbers at this time.) We are (very) dissimilar from CMU. I would expect an increase in applications across the board this year--the (non-academic) job market for recent college grads is horrible, which usually corresponds to an uptick in applications, and some programs are either not accepting applications or have reduced numbers, so applicants who would be applying there might switch to a different school.

Mike Titelbaum

For what it’s worth, UW-Madison has received between ten and twenty percent more applications than in 2020, but fewer than in 2018 or 2019. So I wouldn’t say there’s a dramatic increase.

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