How to Pick the Right Philosophy College in the U.S. – Cheat Sheet for International Students

How to Pick the Right Philosophy College in the U.S. – Cheat Sheet for International Students

Philosophy is one of the hardest courses to undertake because of the nature of the discipline. It asks the tough questions in life, and strives to answer them. It questions the nature of life itself. If you want to major in philosophy, it is very important to pick a college or university that will be the right fit for you. Otherwise, you’ll end up in a university that does not align with your expectations. Here’s some key points you might want to keep in mind while looking for the right college to earn your philosophy degree.

  1. Breadth of Curriculum

The nature of philosophy is vast. It ranges from ethics, to politics, to the nature of life, to even the field of hard sciences. If you want to pursue a degree in philosophy, chances are, you might later specialize in one of these fields. The only way you can make the right decision is by gaining some insight into all of these spheres. Make sure the curriculum does its best to cover the vast discipline and gives you enough data to make informed future decisions.

  1. Faculty-to-Student Ratio

In philosophy there is no one right answer. Everything is highly debatable, and the important thing is to be able to find your right answer and explore the ideas you might have. The cultivation of your own thoughts is possible only with a dedicated faculty advising you. If the student-to-faculty ratio is 60:1, any hope of individual attention is unlikely. Aim for universities with maximum 30:1 student ratio who show a keen interest in providing research facilities for students. Like the University of Cambridge, which offers one-on-one supervision for its students, where you have to work on an essay each week under the guidance of a faculty member.

  1. The Examination System

How is your knowledge of philosophy assessed? Is it just exams? If a college sticks to a rigorous examination system, it may not be the best choice for you. Philosophy requires you to think, and your best work will not come in the matter of two hours. Aim for colleges that grade on other aspects as well. Graded essays, class participation, and debating ability are all important and gradable aspects of this field.

  1. Credibility of the Faculty

No doubt the faculty at any University must be qualified enough to teach an undergraduate program, but it never hurts to check. See who your faculty has worked with before, and look at their research papers. Are they well-regarded, published philosophers?

You can also go through the journals published by your university or the research papers produced in it. This will help you understand the areas your faculty excels in, and if they align with your interests. For example, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is an excellent source used by colleges to facilitate the teaching of philosophy across the world. In addition to this, they produce excellent research on a broader spectrum.

  1. Interdisciplinary Courses

Does your college offer interdisciplinary courses, or are you supposed to stick with only philosophy? Go through the course document and make sure that there are a wide range of electives or interdisciplinary courses to choose from. As we highlighted before, philosophy is very broad. Learning about physics in an actual course, if you’re interested in the philosophy of science, or taking an education course if you’re interested in the philosophy of education, will provide you with a deeper understanding of the subject.

  1. Scope of the University

Just because you’re studying philosophy now, there is no guarantee you will want to do it for the rest of your life. Look at how the curriculum and the degree from the university can facilitate you into further education and jobs. Would a subsequent degree in finance be possible? You do not want your options to be limited, especially if you’re unsure. Therefore, look at what your university can make possible for you and how much effort it is putting into it.

  1. Further Education

There is a good chance you’ll decide to pursue philosophy for further education. To make the transition easier, ensure that your degree can secure an advantage. You’ll have an edge and more knowledge if you’re doing an Honors in Philosophy. Try to look into colleges which offer the opportunity to convert your degree into an Honors degree or enroll into an Honors course if you’re sure you want to pursue philosophy further.

You can also look for colleges that provide extensive research opportunities or offer the choice to assist your faculty with their ongoing research. Research papers you have written or collaborated on will greatly improve your chances of securing a seat for graduate school.

  1. Contact the Alumni

If the program description on the website has too much information for you to process and it’s all just overwhelming, take a peek at the alumni section. Look into the alumni’s profiles, what they have said about the university, and what they have managed to accomplish with the degrees. You can also reach out to them via email or LinkedIn and speak to them about your reservations. This will help you in making an informed decision and better understand what you’re getting into.

  1. Go to YouTube

It would be so convenient if you could glance into classrooms, but unfortunately, the U.S. is miles away. Instead, you can attend philosophy classes for free on YouTube. Just type the University’s name and philosophy lecture, like “Stanford University Philosophy Lectures,” and you’ll be able to find recordings of live class lectures. You can do this for all your top choices. In case you’re unable to find the university’s lecture, you can look up the Professors of Philosophy from that university and you’re bound to get some insight.

  1. Teaching Methods

Last but not the least, what kind of teaching methods does the university use? Are the classes only lecture-based? If so, you should avoid this program. Do not go to a university where they treat philosophy as a mundane subject that you just have to attend lectures for. Your teaching experience should be a mix of lectures, seminars, public debates, active communication, and talking to people in real life. It should consist of taking trips in small groups and asking hard questions to people belonging to different walks of life and then documenting them. This is the only way to get the most out of the program. Classroom lectures alone are not enough.

Most of this information is easily accessible on the college websites. Do not just rely on the rankings Google pushes at you. Just because a university is good, doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Going through websites and reading can be tiring, and we get it. Go to YouTube; most universities talk about their departments in their YouTube videos. That is a great way to get a head start.

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