PhD Application

Application Deadline

The PhD Program considers students for fall semester admission only. The application deadline is listed below.

Program Application Application Opens Application Deadline Start Term
PhD Application Wednesday, September 1, 2021 Tuesday, December 1, 2021 Fall 2022

Items listed in the Application Checklist below must be submitted by 11:59pm (CST) of the deadline date.

Admissions Requirements

The University of Wisconsin Graduate School sets the minimum admission requirements for all prospective graduate students; however, program admission requirements are often more rigorous.

School of Social Work PhD Admissions Committee requires:

  • An undergraduate grade-point average of at least 3.00 (on a 4.00 scale) on the equivalent of the last 60 semester hours. Those entering with a master’s degree should have a strong graduate record.
  • All students are required to have completed a statistics course and 30 semester credits of social science courses.
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) Scores taken within 5 years of application date. Official scores are submitted to the University of Wisconsin – Madison (institution code 1846).  Due to Covid-19, the GRE requirement is optional for the Fall 2022 admissions cycle. 
  • Evidence of research interest and potential for scholarship in a relevant social problem area. This is demonstrated in a carefully thought-out Statement of Reasons for Graduate Study, and other application materials.
  • TOEFL or IELTS scores, if applicable, taken within two years of application date. Official scores are submitted to the University of Wisconsin – Madison (institution code 1846). Minimum acceptable scores are:

In addition, the PhD Admission Committee prefers but does not require, that applicants have an MSW from a U.S., CSWE-accredited program upon entry to the doctoral program.

How to apply

Apply online to the UW-Madison Graduate School. The Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work’s PhD Program in Social Welfare application is a supplementary section found within the online Graduate School application. Admission to the doctoral program requires admittance to both the Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work and the Graduate School. For more detailed information, refer to the Graduate School’s Application Process At A Glance.

Application Instructions

Click on the application sections below to expand the section and review the details.

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Social Welfare PHD Supplemental Application

  1. Add the number of earned credits (including credits for failed courses) for your most recently completed undergraduate semester to the number of earned credits in the preceding semesters until you reach a total of at least 60 undergraduate credits. If you reach 60 credits in the middle of a semester, count all credits from the whole semester.
  2. Add up the grade points for all of the semesters included in Step 1.
  3. Divide the total grade points from Step 2 by the total credits from Step 1. This number is your GPA for the undergraduate semesters in which you earned at least 60 credits.

Writing Sample

Submit first-author journal articles, chapters, theses, term papers, or research reports that represent your writing ability. All materials must be written in English and be an equivalent of at least 5 pages double-spaced, 12pt font. The writing sample is submitted as part of the supplemental application.

Official Transcript(s)

For the purposes of submitting your application, you are required to upload transcripts in PDF format from all post-secondary institutions you attended after high school. You can upload scanned copies of official paper transcripts or official electronic transcripts. Non-English international documents must be in the original language accompanied by an official English translation.

For the purposes of finalizing your admission after the PhD Admissions Committee recommends your acceptance to the Graduate School, we will request a new set of official transcripts. At that point, you will be required to mail us official transcripts in their original sealed envelopes or request official electronic transcripts be emailed directly to us from your institution. Further information will be provided upon admission.


Your statement should discuss the reasons for pursuing graduate study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work PhD Program. Clearly specify research interests so the PhD Admissions Committee can determine the fit between your research interests and those of social work faculty members. Also, describe educational and career achievements and goals that support the pursuit of a doctoral degree. Length should be 3-4 pages double-spaced, 12pt font.

Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Submit your resume or CV. CV preferred.

Three Letters of Recommendation

Three letters of recommendation are required and must be submitted electronically as part of the online application.

Letters should evaluate your potential to plan and implement a program of research and independently develop original ideas that contribute to your field of study. At least two letters should be from professors or PhD level researchers who can evaluate your research competency and potential.

International applicants should ensure that reference letters are written in English.

Please inform your recommenders of the December 1st deadline for submission and follow-up with them to make sure the letters have been submitted properly.

Letters from friends, family members, or others such as therapists or clergy who cannot address academic capabilities will not be accepted and the application will not be reviewed.

Application Fee

The application fee must be paid online before you can submit your application. If the fee is a financial hardship, you may be eligible for a Fee Grant. Click here to learn more about applying for a Fee Grant through the Graduate School.

Official GRE Scores

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is required for all applicants. Due to Covid-19, the GRE requirement is optional for the Fall 2022 admissions cycle. 

If you have taken the GRE, but your scores are more than five years old from your application date, you will need to retake the exam. GRE scores take approximately five weeks to reach the University if you take the paper-delivered test or 10-15 days if you take the computer-delivered test. Tests should be scheduled with the application deadline in mind. Official scores are submitted to the University of Wisconsin-Madison (institution code 1846).

English Proficiency Test Scores (if required)

English proficiency tests must be taken within two years of your admission term. Official scores are submitted to the University of Wisconsin-Madison (institution code 1846).

The Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work’s minimum requirements are higher than the Graduate School’s:

  • TOEFL iBT (internet-based test): 100
  • TOEFL PBT (paper-based test): 600
  • IELTS: 7

For more information about scores and exemption from English proficiency test requirements, visit the Graduate School’s Requirements for Admission.

Application Checklist

A complete application to the PhD Program in Social Welfare includes the following:

  • Social Welfare PHD Supplemental Application
  • Writing Sample
  • Official Transcript(s)
  • Statement
  • Résumé or Curriculum Vitae
  • Three Letters of Recommendation
  • Application Fee
  • Official GRE Scores (optional for Fall 2022)
  • English Proficiency Test Scores (if required)

Joint MSW/PhD Application

If you are interested in applying for the Joint MSW/PhD Program, you must select “Social Welfare PHD” as your program as you fill out the Graduate School Application. You will be able to indicate you are interested in the Joint MSW/PhD option within the Social Welfare PHD Supplemental Application. Do not select “Social Work MSW” unless you are interested in applying for the MSW Program separately in addition to the Joint Program. Read more about the Joint option.

Contact the PhD Admissions Office at if you have any questions about the application process.

International Applicants

For information on additional requirements, please see the International Applicant Requirements.