Applying for an Undergraduate Degree in Philosophy
Applying for any degree can be a complex process. It is important that international students who are applying for an undergraduate degree in philosophy make sure to follow all of the necessary steps. Researching and contacting programs of interest can make all the different for international students who want a degree in philosophy.
Applying for an undergraduate degree in philosophy is not much different than applying for most other degrees—it's important to know the details of what the school expects from their admitted applicants. While the application procedure differs depending on whether it's an undergraduate degree or a graduate degree, international students should due their due diligence and make sure that the schools they apply to have strong philosophy programs that are in line with their area of interest.
Undergraduate applications are a good deal simpler than graduate applications. For information on applying to graduate school in philosophy, please see Applying to Philosophy Graduate Schools in the U.S. International students who are seeking an undergraduate degree should largely concern themselves with the overall excellence of the schools. An undergraduate level student is unlikely to know which areas of philosophy he or she wishes to specialize, so what really matters is the general strength of the philosophy program.
The first step, then, for international students interested in undergraduate degrees is to research your schools, look at rankings, speak to faculty, and connect with current students. When choosing a list of schools to apply to, applicants should choose a few schools that are top tier, a few schools in the middle, and a few at the bottom. As students narrow down their list, important considerations include the schools' location, tuition costs, and general appeal. Once the student has a list of at least five (or more) potential schools, all of which students have a good opportunity of being accepted, the student should begin the application process.
Students should only apply to schools which he or she can actually attend, if accepted. So location and transportation is very important. Most schools charge at least $100 dollars just to apply, so to save money students should only apply to those colleges and universities they are serious about attending—especially since the money is non-refundable. Additionally, international students should be sure to check the cost of international tuition at each school, and see if there is any available financial aid. Once the applicant has chosen their schools, the next step is to look up the application procedures and note any deadlines. Most colleges in the U.S. will end with a ".edu". These websites will include a section on "how to apply," "applications" or "potential students." In that section, under the "undergraduate" listing the school will detail what paperwork they must receive in order for the student to be eligible for acceptance to the school.
The vast majority of schools will require SAT and/or ACT scores along with the TOEFL. The school's website will indicate which test results are required so that students can prepare appropriately. Most international students will find that the "Admissions" page provides a special section specifically for international students with details on the admission process. These requirements will likely include high school graduate information (with an English translation, if necessary), standardized test scores, and may require a letter explaining why the student wants to attend that school.
Next, students will need to collect all of the required information and complete their application:
- Standardized test scores—test scores are typically sent from the exam administrator to the schools directly. When students take the exam, they will pay a fee for each school they select to have their results mailed to.
- Transcripts - transcripts must be official and unaltered. Many schools, for a fee, will mail transcripts upon the student's request directly to the college. If transcripts are from the student's home country, there may be some additional work involved in getting the documents evaluated and transcribed into US standards.
- Letters of recommendations—many schools now require letter(s) of recommendation to be submitted in advance. Be sure to ask references early to ensure the highest quality recommendation. Students should also follow-up with their references to ensure they are submitted before the deadline.
- Statement of intent—most colleges and universities require students to explain why they choose their school, to provide details on their background, and explain their academic interests. While this varies by school, students who take this seriously may find that this could sway admissions to extending a welcome to their philosophy department.
While requirements can vary by school, international students should make sure they have submitted all of the required documentation by the required deadline. Even once the application has been sent, make sure to follow-up to ensure that all documentation has been received by the school. At some colleges, however, this may be available online instead. While the hardest part may be behind you, for many students this may be the wait. Most schools notify the student, usually via mail, of acceptance or rejection.
The key components to applying are research and diligence. Applicants should be diligent in researching the quality of the school, the focus of the school, and the requirements of the school. One late document will usually result in a complete cancellation of the student's application. So not only will the student not only have to wait another semester to apply, but he or she will have to resubmit everything. Most schools are picky about admittance, so it is important to apply to a number of schools to increase the chances of acceptance. International students who want to attend a school to study philosophy should make sure to pay close attention to both what the school has to offer, and what the school requires for admittance. Students who do those two things have a much higher chance of success.