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Applying to the PPL Program

Program in Political Philosophy, Policy, and the Law class of 2026

Applications are due Sunday, March 10, 2024 by 11:59 PM


Details on information sessions are forthcoming.


When can I apply for admission to the PPL program?

The application process takes place in the spring semester. More information about how to apply and deadlines will be available in early January 2024. 

Why should I consider applying for entry into the PPL program?

The question of how people might succeed in living together under conditions of justice and well-being has engaged thinkers for as far back as the historical record reaches. PPL investigates this fundamental question from various disciplinary perspectives. Although some attention will be paid to the nuts-and-bolts of politics, the emphasis is on underlying theory. James Carville probably wouldn’t find this a satisfying major, but Mr. Jefferson very likely would.

Why should I prefer a PPL major to one in History or Philosophy or Politics?

Maybe you shouldn’t. These are all excellent fields of study, and UVA offers outstanding opportunities in each for students to pursue an interest in the theory of politics. But if you’re looking for a course of studies with a distinctively interdisciplinary orientation, that is what PPL provides. Also, because only 30 students will be admitted each year, we will constitute a human-sized community where people ought to be able to get to know and usefully interact with each other. Finally, PPL is new (born 2004). We’re still in the design phase, recently revamping our requirements. If you want to help shape its further development, sign on!

Why should I prefer PPL to the Program in Political and Social Thought?

Again, perhaps you shouldn’t. Each is small, interdisciplinary, and affords excellent opportunities. PPL has a tighter focus on political theory. PST is more elastic. These are two good choices.

I want to get in to Law School? Will a PPL major help me do so?

Yes-but neither more nor less than any of a dozen other majors in the College. It would be a mistake to declare this major because of where you wish to be three years from now. What you should instead be thinking about is the most personally satisfying and rewarding way to get there.

Who is eligible for admission into the PPL program?

You must be a Second Year student in good standing. Rarely we have accepted applications from third year students.

The published requirements say that students must have taken at least two of three prerequisite courses prior to admission. I haven’t been able to do so. Does that mean I cannot apply? 

No. We realize that some very qualified students have either not been able to sign up for these classes or found out about PPL too late in the game to satisfy these criteria. That is why, in recent program revisions, we changed the terminology to “co-requisite.” So don’t let this keep you from applying. We will, however, look more kindly on applications from those who have completed one or more of these courses.

My grade point average isn’t quite as good as I’d like. Does that mean I won’t get in?

Grade point average will be one important criterion for admission, but it usually won’t be decisive. The admissions committee will look carefully at all elements of the application package.

What if my schedule does not allow me to take one or both of the required core PPL courses? Can I substitute something else? 

No. If you are not able and willing to enroll in PPL 201 in your third year and PPL 401 the following year, you should declare some other major.

Will it be difficult to complete both the PPL major and a minor in some related area? 

No. In some cases completion of a minor will entail taking only one additional course.

Will it be difficult to complete both the PPL major and a second major? 

Possibly. That will be a function of individual circumstances, including which courses you have previously completed and, obviously, which other major you wish to complete. IF doing a second major is important to you, then you should carefully review your schedule in order to ensure that completing both PPL and that major will prove feasible.

I want to study abroad. Will that work out? 

Yes, but not during Fall semester of your third year or Spring semester of your fourth. That is when required core courses will be offered.

Will I have to write a thesis to graduate with a PPL degree? 

Not exactly. We deliberately phrase the requirement as a “research paper” instead of a “thesis” to get away from the impression that the emphasis is on massive length. Rather, the aim is rigorous, original research. Your project will, however, be a substantial effort that suitably caps your undergraduate experience at UVA. If your favorite literary genre is instant messaging, there may be problems.