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 4, 2024 Sunday, December 1, 2024 Fall 2025

Applications must be submitted by 11:59pm (CST) of the deadline date.

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

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.
  • A completed statistics course and 30 semester credits of social science courses.
  • 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.
  • English Proficiency test scores, if applicable, taken within two years of the application date.  For additional information, test waiver criteria, and test submission instructions, please go to Requirements for Admission
    • The approved tests and required scores are listed below.

International Applicants

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

How to Apply

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

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

Graduate School Application

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.

Current UW-Madison Students

Currently enrolled UW-Madison students applying to the PhD Program must add the program through the electronic Add/Change/Discontinue Program Request before the application deadline.  In addition to the Add/Change/Discontinue Program Request, all application requirements must be submitted to the Program Coordinator, and the materials will be reviewed as part of our applicant review cycle.

Applicants Without an MSW

Applicants without a Masters of Social Work (MSW) have several application options. Determine which option applies to you, and refer to the application directions.

PhD-Only, for applicants that do not wish to obtain an MSW.

Joint MSW/PhD for applicants with a BSW that would like to earn their MSW as part of the PhD Program.

  • Joint MSW/PhD track, for applicants with a Bachelors of Social Work (BSW). This track allows students to earn their Masters of Social Work (MSW) while earning their PhD.
  • Follow the admissions process found here:

PhD with MSW Consideration

  • PhD with MSW Consideration is for applicants applying to the PhD Program AND the MSW Program.
  • Use the PhD with MSW Consideration option if you want to be considered for the MSW Program if you are NOT admitted to the PhD Program.
  • Select Social Welfare PhD AND Social Work MSW-Full Time MSW under the Program Select tab of the Graduate School Admission ApplicationApplicants that do not select MSW in the Admissions Application will only be considered for the PhD Program

MSW Only, for applicants wishing to apply only to the MSW Program.

  • Click here to learn more about the MSW program, and their admissions process.

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 your research interests, so the PhD Admissions Committee can determine the fit between your research interests and those of social work faculty members.
  • Describe your educational and career achievements and the goals that support the pursuit of your doctoral degree.
  • Explain what you see as your potential role and/or contribution to create a more diverse, accepting, and stimulating community, campus, and society. 
  • Statement 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

Domestic Applicants

The Graduate School offers a limited number of application fee grants to make sure that the application fee is not a barrier for students from our key recruiting initiatives. Fee grants are currently available to U.S. citizens, permanent resident applicants and students with DACA status who can document that they:

  1. participated in selected pipeline programs designed to prepare students for graduate studies, or
  2. grew up in a low-income family.

Learn more about applying for a Fee Grant through the Graduate School by clicking here:

The PhD program does not provide fee grant waivers to domestic applicants.  Please contact the Graduate School for waiver details.

International Applicants

A limited number of fee grant waivers will be offered to international applicants by the PhD Program to ensure the application fee is not a barrier. Please note that waivers are not guaranteed, and as of 9/2022, candidates are only eligible to receive 1 waiver total from the PhD Program.  The application fee coupon codes currently only cover the standard application fee and international applicants will still need to pay the international document fee. International applicants needing financial assistance to waive their application fee must:

  • Have all application materials submitted at the time of the request, including 3 letters of recommendation
  • Meet application criteria, including language scores
  • Contact the PhD Office to request a waiver once everything is completed

Please ensure your application is completed, and fee grant or waiver is requested at least five (5) business days prior to your earliest application deadline to ensure there is enough time to process your request.

English Proficiency

All international degree-seeking applicants must meet at least one of the waiver criteria OR provide official and admissible results of an English proficiency exam.  Learn more here:

English Proficiency Test Waiver Criteria

To demonstrate English proficiency, all international degree-seeking applicants meeting at least one of the following criteria may waive the English proficiency test requirement.

  • Earned a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited United States college or university.
  • Earned a Masters or PhD degree from a regionally accredited United States college or university not more than 5 years prior to the anticipated start of enrollment.
  • Earned an undergraduate degree equivalent to a bachelor’s degree from an international institution where English is the exclusive language of instruction. The language of instruction must be stated on the official transcript or verified as the only language of instruction.
  • Completed at least two full-time semesters of graded coursework from an accredited institution where English is the exclusive language of instruction not more than 5 years prior to the anticipated start of enrollment. This coursework cannot include English language learning classes.

English Proficiency Test Requirements

All international degree-seeking applicants that do NOT meet at least one of the English Proficiency Test Waiver criteria must provide English proficiency exam results.  Scores must be within two years from the anticipated start of enrollment.

  • The approved tests and required scores are listed below.

How to submit English proficiency test scores

You must submit your scores following the directions below:

    • TOEFL scores must be submitted electronically via ETS.
      • Our institution code is 1846.
    • IELTS scores can be submitted electronically or by mail via IELTS.
      • To send electronically, select our account name UW-Madison Graduate School.
      • To send by mail, use the following address:
        UW-Madison Graduate School, Office of Admissions
        232 Bascom Hall
        500 Lincoln Drive
        Madison, WI 53706
    • Duolingo English Test (starting spring 2025 admit term) scores must be submitted electronically via Duolingo to University of Wisconsin – Madison – Graduate Admissions.