Ph.D. Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible to apply for the doctoral program?

Social work scholars who:

  • have a Master degree in social work or relevant disciplines 

  • are eager to do meaningful research, contribute diligently to projects

  • aspire to redefine the future of social and economic justice

What kind of writing sample should I submit as part of my application?

Your writing sample should reflect your best capability as a scholar to date. If possible, it should draw upon a specific literature base, reflect critical thinking and editorial capability. It should show an understanding of the role of producing and presenting information in a manner consistent with principles of recognized scholarship.  It is desirable for the sample to be solely authored by the applicant if possible.  

Who are the best people to serve as my official references for the program?

Ideally references should primarily be comprised of people who know your work and capability as a scholar or are familiar with your academic work in an in-depth way. Friends or unrelated professional contacts are not necessarily in the best position to be able to attest to your ability to succeed in an academic environment.  

What makes a competitive application to the Ph.D. Program?

It should be complete, submitted on time, reflect your ability to present yourself clearly, have a strong focus in your interests and lines of scholarly inquiry, and demonstrate your commitment to a long-term and rigorous program of study.  

Work experience in social work and social work-related fields is valued. Applicants who wish to become university faculty members in schools of social work are strongest if they have the MSW and two years of post-MSW social work experience before beginning doctoral studies.        

Some GRE preparation is suggested before taking the GRE. 

Would it be possible to apply to the doctoral program without having previous experience in research although I have a passion for research? 

Yes, you could apply to our program. However, we strongly encourage you to examine carefully which aspects of social problems you are interested in doing research on and for which populations you are interested in advocating. We also encourage you to take courses that help you gain and improve your research experience.

May I keep my full time job while in the program?

Most students in the Ph.D. program say that it is very difficult to be full time in both a job and the program.   If you are considering a Ph.D. program, it is important to factor in the reality that the first 2 years are extremely demanding. Students are advised to make a space in their life to accommodate the many demands the program requires in order to be successful.  While students are not forbidden to work full time while in the program, it is not advised.  

How do students locate and connect with faculty who share their research interests?

This process begins before students enter the program with the assignment of advisors. Although it is not always possible to directly match student and advisor interests, we do take them into account when making assignments. Students have the opportunity to meet informally with faculty at a student-faculty supper during orientation. The Ph.D. Seminar is attended by a number of faculty members, and faculty members also give presentations about their research at the seminar. Students may become acquainted with instructors both within the program and in other departments in the university through their course work, in their research assistantships, and as part of their research practicum experiences, among other contexts.

How do students from different cohorts have the opportunity to get acquainted?

Important program mechanisms include the new student welcoming event; the GRA orientation for new students, which is attended by faculty and Ph.D. students; the Ph.D. Seminar, which is attended by all first and second year students and often students from other years as well; and other elective courses which are taken by students from various cohorts. Students may also work with students from other classes as part of their Graduate Research Assistantships. In addition, the Ph.D. Social Work Student Association (PSSWA) meetings and social events provide great opportunities for students to meet and interact.

Do I have to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) to be admitted to the Ph.D. Program in Social Work and Social Research?

Yes, your scores from the GRE are a required part of the admissions application. We do not have "cutoff" scores. We use the GRE results as advisory, and consider them along with all other parts of your application. Our experience is that very low scores in one or more areas may flag areas of academic weakness that should be addressed before entering any program of advanced study.  Especially if you have been out of school for some time, we recommend that you obtain and use study guides for the GRE, which contain sample tests and support for reviewing important concepts.

How is financial aid distributed? Will my GRE scores make a difference as to whether I get financial assistance?

In recent years we have been able to offer financial support through the assignment of Graduate Research Assistantships to all incoming students who want them. A Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA) provides full tuition (in- or out-of-state) plus a modest salary (GRAs are allowed to work up to .49 FTE, or almost half time). Once students are admitted, we do not refer to their GRE scores as a basis for assigning GRA assistance. There are some scholarship opportunities at the university level that are distributed on the basis of merit, and the applicant's grades and GRE scores may be used by faculty who write letters of support as a way of building a strong application package.