Application Requirements for Doctoral Program

The application for admission to the 2024-2025 academic year closed on December 4, 2023.

An applicant for admission to the doctoral program must have demonstrated potential to contribute to scholarship in the field of social work and social welfare. Judgments on applicants are based on academic records at undergraduate and graduate levels, prior research and professional experience, writing samples demonstrating analytic ability, and other evidence of superior achievement and of interest in pursuing an academic appointment.

With the exception of applicants seeking admission to the combined PhD/AM program, applicants to the PhD program must have completed a master’s degree in social work or a related field prior to beginning advanced study. Applicants without a master's degree can apply to our combined PhD/AM Program. Applicants who wish to seek faculty positions upon graduation in schools of social work are advised that the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) requires a master’s degree in social work in order to teach practice courses.

The application deadline for the Ph.D. and A.M./Ph.D. program is December 1st.* Admissions decisions are made in mid-March. Doctoral students enter the program in the Autumn Quarter.

* = With the deadline falling on a Sunday this year, we will accept applications until 11:59 PM CST on Monday, December 2.

Crown Family School faculty and staff recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to major disruptions, hardship and ongoing challenges to daily living and learning. The PhD admissions committee has taken the exceptional circumstances of the recent years into account when reviewing application materials. We understand and respect decisions on the part of students and universities to adopt Pass/Fail and other grading systems during the pandemic. Our review process will in no way penalize applicants whose transcripts reflect these personal or institutional decisions. In addition, the GRE test score is optional for the Autumn 2025 application cycle. We will follow our longstanding practice of reviewing applications holistically and aiming to admit an outstanding cohort of PhD students whose applications demonstrate promise, commitment, and demonstrated potential to contribute to scholarship in the field of social work and social welfare.

Applications & Procedures

You will need the following materials before applying online:

The application will open in September.  Applicants can pay the $75 fee electronically at the time they submit their online application. The application fee is not refundable and does not apply toward tuition or other charges.

Indicate your reasons for applying for doctoral study, covering the following points:

a) this program seeks to develop scholars who will assume leadership positions in higher education; reflect on how you will make use of and contribute to scholarship in the field

b) describe your plans for study, including a specific statement of your academic areas of interest;

c) given your interests, why do you think this program is a good fit for you?

d) briefly describe your career plan

e) (optional) provide other information useful for the admissions committee, such as explaining inconsistencies in your academic record.

Statements are typically 3-4 single spaced pages. Please do not submit a statement longer than 4 single-spaced pages.

Doctoral applicants are required to submit an academic writing sample of no more than 25 pages, excluding any bibliography, endnotes, or reference pages that might be included at the end of the sample. Papers written for an academic audience (class paper, journal manuscript, book chapter) are preferred. If a coauthored paper, a first-author paper is strongly preferred (i.e., the applicant is the first author). The committee uses the paper to evaluate the strength of the applicants writing quality, conceptual/analytic thinking skills, empirical skills, and other qualities relevant to doctoral training. We realize that applicants may not have a writing sample that fits all of these criteria; please submit something that you feel represents your interests and capacity to engage in rigorous doctoral studies.


Transcripts are required from every institution where an applicant has taken 3 or more courses unless these courses and their grades appear on the home transcript; this includes courses taken Pass/Fail. We accept electronic delivery of official transcripts provided directly by your university; transcripts would be sent to Crown Family School at  You may upload scanned or digitized unofficial transcripts in support of your application only if they are accompanied by institutional grading and credit system information (most commonly found on the reverse side of paper transcripts).  If you are scanning transcripts make sure to include this information. If work is in progress, you should submit a supplementary transcript at the end of the term.

References: You are responsible for securing 4 letters of reference. We especially value letters from former professors or academic advisors. References should be qualified to speak regarding your ability for graduate study, preferably those familiar with your academic ability or research skills.

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If you are applying for federal financial aid, you should submit your FAFSA soon after January 1st.  If you are admitted to the doctoral program, you will need to complete the University's financial forms which are available on This form will not be available until you have received an offer of admission.

Applicants to the graduate schools and divisions of the University of Chicago who do not meet the criteria below must submit proof of English language proficiency. This policy applies to all graduate programs; the score level required for admission varies by program. Only the TOEFL iBT or IELTS Academic tests are accepted as proof of proficiency.

Waiver Criteria:

  • English has been a primary language of communication and schooling for you since childhood; or
  • You were enrolled for at least one academic year in full-time status in a course of study at an accredited English-medium post-secondary institution in one of the following countries or territories within the past ten years: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Hong Kong, Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Singapore, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Kingdom, the United States.
  • Education in English-medium institutions in other countries or territories does not qualify for the exemption.
  • Only full-time coursework in a degree program at a college or university in one of these countries or territories qualifies. Remote study, lab or research work, non-degree programs, intensive English language courses, or high school/secondary school do not qualify. The qualifying academic year must be completed – i.e., if you are now in a program and are planning to have completed a year by the time you enroll, it will not meet the requirement.

The minimum required score for the TOEFL is 104 overall (IBT) with a sub-score of 26 in each category. The minimum required score for the IELTS is 7 overall, with sub-scores of 7 in each category. Check the TOEFL and IELTS sites for more information about the test. The results of the test will be sent to the University by the Testing Service. Official reports of any required scores must be received in order for a decision to be issued. Committees will use unofficial scores for review purposes if an official score report is not available, but you should provide official reports of any required scores as soon as they are available. Applications will not be given final consideration until the results of the test have been received. The University of Chicago Institutional Code for TOEFL is 1832; the department code for Crown Family School is 95.