PhD in Social Welfare

Application Process

Each year, the online application opens in September. Applications and transcripts must be submitted through the online application system by December 15th. Supporting materials (letters of recommendation, official GRE scores, and, if applicable, official TOEFL scores and evaluated transcripts) must be received no later than January 15th for applications to be considered complete. Please note that official copies of test scores typically take 3-4 weeks to arrive, so schedule your GRE and TOEFL exams accordingly. Only files completed by January 15th will be reviewed by the Admissions Committee; this is a hard deadline.

Recognizing the challenges of teaching, learning, and assessing academic performance during the global COVID-19 pandemic, Penn’s admissions committees for graduate and professional programs will take the significant disruptions of the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020 into account when reviewing students’ transcripts and other admissions materials as part of their regular practice of performing individualized, holistic reviews of each applicant. In particular, as we review applications now and in the future, we will respect decisions regarding the adoption of Pass/Fail and other grading options during the period of COVID-19 disruptions. An applicant will not be adversely affected in the admissions process if their academic institution implemented a mandatory pass/fail (or similar) system for the term or if the applicant chose to participate in an optional pass/fail (or similar) system for the term. Penn’s longstanding commitment remains to admit graduate and professional student cohorts composed of outstanding individuals who demonstrate the resilience and aptitude to succeed in their academic pursuits.

Students are required to have a master’s degree in social work or a social science field before they can enter the PhD program.

The PhD in Social Welfare is a full-time degree program.

All applicants for admission to the PhD program must submit:

  • Transcripts for all graduate and undergraduate programs attended
  • Official GRE scores, that is, scores within the past five years (Institutional Code: 2926, Department Code: 5001)
  • Three references:  two academic and one employment reference
    At this time, the School does not accept more than 3 references. 
    All references must be submitted via the online application system.
  • A sample of written work
  • A statement of academic and career goals
    If interested in working with a specific faculty member or members, please include that information in the statement. Applicants are not responsible for finding their own advisors. That decision is made by the faculty and takes into account faculty availability, the match between faculty and student interests, and other considerations. Given the number of applicants, we are not able to address advisor-advisee assignments until after admissions decisions have been made.

Applicants whose first language is not English and/or international applicants are required to submit TOEFL (www.toefl.org) or IELTS (www.ielts.org) scores taken within the last two years. This requirement applies to all such applicants, including those who have studied in the U.S. A minimum score of 100 is required for the iBT TOEFL (Institutional Code: 2926; Department Code: 95). A minimum Overall Band Score of 7.5 is required for the IELTS. Information about submitting IELTS scores can be found on the IELTS website. The PhD in Social Welfare is a rigorous program that requires strong comprehension and communication skills.

Applicants must submit transcripts detailing all undergraduate and postgraduate study. This includes coursework conducted at an applicant’s degree-granting institutions(s) as well as in study abroad programs and at institutions out of which an applicant may have transferred. Applicants should upload copies of their official transcripts (i.e. not screenshots from a student record or student grade system) that clearly displays their name, dates of enrollment, the names of all courses in which they enrolled, and the credits and grades awarded for each class. Applicants should not mail hard copies of transcripts to the School for purposes of application review.

Applicants who are admitted are required to submit final, official copies of all transcripts prior to matriculation. Transcripts must provide confirmation of degrees conferred.

Please Note: Transcripts reflecting more than two semesters of study at institutions based outside of the United States must be evaluated on a course-by-course basis by a third-party evaluation service such as WES or Educational Perspectives. This applies even if the studies were conducted in English and even if the transcript is printed in English.

Applicants with these international transcripts should upload their university-issued transcripts into the online application and order their official, third-party evaluations sent to the School of Social Policy & Practice. Please note that these international transcripts cannot be considered official until they have been evaluated and that their respective applications cannot be reviewed until the evaluations have arrived in the Admissions Office.

Upon notification of acceptance for admission to the University, applicants are required to deposit $500. The deposit due date is provided with the offer of admission. The deposit will be credited to the student’s account upon matriculation. If the applicant does not matriculate, the deposit is not refundable.

Please note: Interviews and campus visits are not part of the admission process for all PhD applicants. Contact will be initiated by the program after files have been reviewed.

Tuition and Finances

Each student is supported financially by the School of Social Policy & Practice in the form of tuition, fees, individual health insurance, and a nine-month research and teaching stipend for the four years. More information is available here.

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