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 6, 2023 Friday, December 1, 2023 Fall 2024

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.
  • 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).  The GRE requirement is optional for the Fall 2024 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 the application date. Official scores are submitted to the University of Wisconsin – Madison (institution code 1846).  For additional information, please go to English Proficiency and International Application Requirements.  Minimum acceptable scores are:

International Applicants

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

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.

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.

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 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.

Official GRE Scores

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is required for all applicants. The GRE requirement is optional for the Fall 2024 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 UW-Madison.

Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements ( and the higher Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work minimum requirements for the TOEFL:

  1. TOEFL iBT (internet-based test): 100
  2. TOEFL PBT (paper-delivered test): 600

Joint MSW/PhD Application

Joint MSW/PhD Application

Applications for the Joint MSW/PhD Track are currently paused.  For the Fall 2024 admissions cycle, open September 6th-December 1, 2023, we will NOT accept PhD applications for the Joint MSW/PhD Track.  We welcome applicants without an MSW to learn more about the PhD-Only Track.

To be considered for the PhD Program under the PhD-Only track, select Social Welfare PhD under the Program Select tab of the Graduate School Admission Application.

Applicants applying ONLY to the PhD Program under the PhD-Only track and are not accepted will NOT be considered for the MSW Program.  To be considered for the MSW Program, follow the instructions under PhD Application with MSW Consideration.

PhD Application with MSW Consideration

Applicants interested in being considered for the MSW Program if they are NOT admitted to the PhD Program should apply to BOTH the PhD Program under the PhD-Only track, and the MSW Full-time program, by selecting 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.

Click here to read more about the MSW/PhD Joint 1 and 2 tracks. Click here to learn more about the MSW program.