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Joint PhD Program Application Instructions

The SSW Joint PhD Program is no longer requiring the GRE scores to be submitted as part of the application process.

Unfortunately, the Political Science department will not be accepting Joint Social Work students for Fall 2024 admissions. 

* Please note that all applicants who are interested in the School of Social Work Joint PhD Program need only to apply to the School of Social Work, NOT to the Social Science Department.

Admissions Considerations

Applicants must also designate one of the three social sciences in which they plan to specialize.

Application Introduction

These instructions are meant as a guide for your application process. Please read all instructions carefully before starting the application process. Applicants are responsible for ensuring the submission of a complete application.

* Please do not contact the Doctoral Office to check the status of your application. All applicants will receive an email regarding the status of their application from a representative of the Social Work PhD Office once the deadline has passed. Any information regarding the status of your application will be from this office only. All applicants will be given an opportunity to send in any materials that may be missing within a reasonable amount of time before the review process begins.

Application Materials

Applications for fall admission are due November 18 of the prior year.

Pre-MSW Applicants

* These instructions are for applicants who currently do not hold an MSW degree. They also apply to students who are currently in an MSW program but who will not graduate by the fall term of the year in which they are admitted to the PhD program from an accredited U.S., Canadian, or South Korean Institution. If you currently have an MSW or will have an MSW by the time you start the PhD program from an accredited program, please skip to the Application Forms section below. If you have questions about the acceptance or equivalency of foreign degrees, please contact the Doctoral Office at [email protected].

MSW Application Form: Because you do not yet have an MSW degree, you must submit applications to the Rackham School of Graduate Studies as well as to the School of Social Work. The application to Rackham is submitted online (see above).

The MSW application may be submitted online as well. On page 1 - Getting Started of the online MSW application, please select "Yes" to the question, "Have you applied to another department within the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor Campus) for the same term as this application?" and then select the department/school of "Joint Doctoral Program in Social Work and Social Science" from the drop-down box. You will not need to pay another application fee. Answer "Yes" to "Did you pay an application fee with that application?" if you have paid an application fee for your doctoral application.

You do not need to submit additional copies of your transcripts, recommendations or statements if you have submitted them to the School of Social Work Doctoral Office via the Rackham online application. On the MSW application recommendation page, please simply enter the names of your doctoral recommenders in the appropriate areas and answer 'No' to using the Online Recommendation System for each since they will be submitting recommendations on your PhD application. On the Supplementary Statement page of the MSW application, you may upload your PhD statement in lieu of the MSW supplementary statement.

The School of Social Work offers various scholarships and special programs, some with significant financial assistance, that can enhance your learning and preparation for your social work career. To be considered for these scholarships and special programs, your MSW application must be complete. Also be sure to view deadlines and instructions for special programs application. If you are admitted to the Joint Doctoral Program, you will not be eligible for these programs; instead, you will be offered doctoral funding.

Application Forms for All Applicants

Please read the instructions carefully before completing the application forms.

Statement of Purpose

The Statement of Purpose is part of your Rackham online application. It is perhaps the single most important item in your application. Keep in mind that it will be reviewed by faculty in both social work and your social science discipline. Therefore, you need to help your readers understand how your interests are relevant to the professional and intellectual commitments of both social work and your social science. We also want to understand why the Joint Doctoral Program is more appropriate for you than a doctoral program in social work or a social science alone.

Even if you do not have academic training and/or professional experiences in social work or your selected social science, your essay must demonstrate an understanding of the social science discipline and the social work profession.

We recommend that you prepare this statement as a separate document and upload it into your application. This statement should not exceed five double-spaced typewritten pages, using a font no smaller than 10 points. It should give clear information on:

  • The research questions or problems that interest you
  • Your interest in and preparation for doctoral studies in social work
  • Your interest in and preparation for doctoral studies in your preferred social science
  • Your interest in the joint PhD
  • Your career objectives
  • The connection between your research interests and those of U-M faculty, both in social work and in your social science. Include a list of several faculty members in both social work and the social science discipline whose research interests overlap with yours.

Personal Statement

This should be a concise (one to two page), well-written statement about how your personal background and life experiences, including social, cultural, familial, educational, or other opportunities or challenges, motivated your decision to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Michigan. This is not an Academic Statement of Purpose, but a discussion of the personal journey that has led to your decision to seek a graduate degree.


Three letters of reference are required for a complete application. Where possible, at least two of the letters should be from university faculty or advisors who can assess your potential for doctoral studies in a research-oriented program. If you have been employed in social work or a related field in the past two years, at least one letter should be from a supervisor familiar with your work. Letters without the form are acceptable but should provide similar information. All letters of recommendation should be submitted using the online form found within the rackham application.

If more than three letters are submitted, there is no guarantee all letters will be read.


Upload a scanned copy of the unofficial transcript: Please upload unofficial transcripts only from institutions where a degree or certificate was earned or is being earned to your online application. Upload your transcripts/academic records for each institution you listed. Review Transcript/Academic Record upload requirements.

Transcript Submission Tips:

  • Transcripts MUST be Adobe Acrobat files (PDF format) and under 10MB.
  • If you are unable to upload a copy of your unofficial etranscript due to security settings.
    • Print a copy of your etranscript,
    • Scan the printed transcript and upload.

Rackham Transcript Submission Page


Applicants must submit a current curriculum vita or résumé, listing relevant employment and volunteer experience, academic honors, financial awards, research experience, publications, presentations, theses, other major papers, honor society and other memberships, and other relevant activities and experience.

English Proficiency Requirements

Applicants whose native language is not English must demonstrate English proficiency. Language test scores are valid two years from the test date. The official scores must be received from the testing agency no later than the graduate program application deadline. NOTE: Applicants who have earned a degree from an institution where the language of instruction is English and/or within a country where that native language is English are exempt from this requirement. Please contact the Doctoral Office if you wish to receive confirmation of your exemption.

Other Written Materials

Applicants in Social Work and Anthropology, Psychology, or Sociology will complete the appropriate supplemental form with your online application. Examples are below. All applicants must submit the social work supplemental form:

Supplemental Form Faculty
Social Work (Primary) Social Work faculty interests and research
Social Work and Anthropology Anthropology faculty interests and research
Social Work and Psychology Psychology faculty interests and research
Social Work and Sociology Sociology faculty interests and research

Writing Sample

Applicants in Social Work and Anthropology or Sociology MUST submit a writing sample (e.g. senior thesis, term paper, research report, grant application). The writing sample should be NO MORE THAN 30 PAGES, UNBOUND. It should provide evidence of writing ability, creative and critical thinking, and potential for independent research. Applicants in Social Work and Psychology do NOT need to include a writing sample.

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