Letters of Recommendation
You need to have three letters of recommendation sent to us. Try to give your recommenders plenty of time to do the job. They should either send their letters directly to us or should give them to you in sealed envelopes for you to enclose with your application. (But do not let letters hold up the rest of your application.) As the deadline approaches you should check back with your letter writers and ask them whether they have sent their letters for you. To help your letter writers remember you and your work, give them back the written work you have done in their classes. Later on, do your recommenders the courtesy of telling them how your applications came out and where you have decided to go. At least one of your letters should definitely come from a philosophy professor. As for the rest, letters from philosophy professors are preferred, other things being equal, and letters should in any case come from college professors. Letters from family friends and community leaders will in most cases carry little weight.
Your writing sample should be the best paper you have written in philosophy. It will probably have originated in work you did for a class or in a senior thesis. But you should have another look at it and see whether you can make improvements before submitting it with your application. It should be well written and exhibit clarity of thought, and it should contain some insight of your own (as opposed to merely summarizing something somebody has written). It should deal with some topic in philosophy, but it is not important to us that it represent your primary interests in philosophy. For instance, you might think you are mainly interested in philosophy of mind, and yet you might still submit a paper on ethics if it is your best work to date. (We hope that you will come here with an open mind, ready to take an interest in the subjects the faculty are most interested in.)
Statement of Purpose
We would like to know a little about your background, but you need not write a comprehensive autobiography. This is an opportunity to provide a narrative for anything unusual about your record or application. We would also like to know what your interests are in philosophy, and why you are seeking a PhD in philosophy.