The University of Chicago | Graduate Admissions

Committee on Social Thought - PhD

Division: Social Sciences
Degree Type: PhD (For the MA degree, see the Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences)

Program Description

The Committee on Social Thought is an interdisciplinary, PhD granting graduate program. Its guiding principle is that the serious study of many academic topics, and of many philosophical, historical, theological, and literary works, is best prepared for by a wide and deep acquaintance with the fundamental issues presupposed in all such studies, that students should learn about these issues by acquainting themselves with a select number of major ancient and modern texts in an interdisciplinary atmosphere, and that students should only then begin intense work on a specific dissertation topic. In their first few years of study, students (1) select 12 to 15 foundational or fundamental books that best inform the context and background of the issues they want to write about; (2) read and study these books in discussion groups, tutorials, seminars, and independently; and (3) sit a weeklong qualifying exam on some selection of their books.

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Admissions Office:
Committee on Social Thought:

Application Method

Applications should be initiated through the online application. Paper applications are not accepted.


Deadline for admissions and financial aid: December 15

The Committee on Social Thought admits applicants once a year for the following Autumn Quarter. Applications received after the deadline cannot be considered.

Campus Visits

Campus visits and interviews are not required. Contact the department for more information.

Degree Objective

The Committee on Social Thought admits applicants only for the PhD degree. We do not offer an MA program. If you are interested in pursuing an MA focusing in Social Thought, look at the Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences (MAPSS).

Application Requirements

  1. Online Application Form
  2. Non-refundable application fee Fee waiver information »
  3. GRE and TOEFL Scores
  4. Statement of Academic Purpose
  5. Resume/CV
  6. Writing Sample
  7. Transcripts

More application information »

Admissions Decisions

Admissions decisions are emailed in early March. Direct all questions about your application directly to the admissions office.

Program Requirements

Requirements for First and Second Years

To be eligible for continuation of financial aid, students must (1) take three courses per quarter and (2) complete at least five graded courses from the Autumn and Winter Quarters by the beginning of the Spring Quarter of their first year, and complete at least 12 graded courses by the beginning of the Spring Quarter of their second year.

Requirements for First through Third Years

Students must submit in each of their first three years two substantial essays certified by a member of the Committee faculty and written that year for regular courses, tutorials, reading courses, or independent study. At least one should be submitted by the time the Committee has to make recommendations for renewing financial aid at the beginning of the Spring Quarter.

Students must achieve a "high pass" in a foreign language exam administered by the University "prior" to taking the Fundamentals Exam.

Requirements for the Third Year

Students are expected to take their Fundamentals Exam in their third year.

Requirements for Fourth Year and Beyond

Students are expected by the fourth year to prepare a doctoral dissertation in close consultation with potential faculty members of their dissertation committee. Once the dissertation proposal is approved by the dissertation committee, it is distributed to all Social Thought faculty. Once the proposal is approved by the Social Thought faculty, the student is admitted to candidacy and continues to write the dissertation. To obtain dissertation fellowship support, it is important to have an approved proposal and a dissertation chapter by the second quarter of the fourth year.

Costs & Financial Aid

As a general principle, we provide extensive funding for all students who matriculate in our doctoral programs. Applicants to our doctoral programs are considered for all fellowship resources at the University of Chicago for which they are eligible. More information »