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PhD Application Process

How to Apply to the Social Welfare PhD Program

UC Berkeley Online Application for Graduate Admission

All applicants to doctoral study at Berkeley apply for graduate admission online, through the UC Berkeley Graduate and Professional Application for Admission

The online application becomes available in early September each year. Berkeley Social Welfare only admits for the fall semester each academic year; no spring or summer admissions are offered.

All application supporting materials, including transcripts, written statements, letters of recommendations, curriculum vita, must be uploaded as PDF files directly into the online application by the application deadline. No paper copies are accepted. The application fee must be paid online with a major credit card.

Application Deadline for Fall 2018 Admission

The application deadline for Fall 2018 admission was December 1, 2017, and the Fall 2018 admissions cycle is now closed. The next cycle, for entry in Fall 2019, will open in early September 2018. Information about the Fall 2019 admissions cycle will be updated on our website in May 2018.

Admissions Decisions and Notification

All applicants to the PhD Program and Combined MSW/PhD Program will be notified of decisions and offers of funding support in early February.

The University of California, Berkeley is a participating institution in the Council of Graduate Schools' (CGS) Resolution Regarding Graduate Scholars, Fellows, Trainees and Assistantships, also known as the “April 15 Resolution.” Students are under no obligation to respond to offers of financial support prior to April 15. For more information please see the CGS April 15 Resolution website.

Required Application Materials

ALL of the following items are required for an application to be considered complete:

UC Berkeley Graduate and Professional Application for Admission
Online application fully completed, including uploads of all required supporting materials and payment of application fee, and submitted by the application deadline.

Faculty Adviser Choice:
It is highly recommended that applicants research and reach out to faculty before submitting an application. In your online application you will be required to enter the name of the faculty you wish to work with and whose research best reflects your interests. You will also be asked to briefly state why you chose these faculty members and why you chose them in your particular rank order.

For the Social Welfare PhD Program, you may choose from the following doctoral faculty advisers for applications due December 1, 2017:

Adrian Aguilera | Jill Duerr Berrick | Julian Chun-Chung Chow | Jeffrey L. Edleson
Neil Gilbert | Anu Manchukanti Gómez | Erin M. Kerrison | Kurt Organista
Steven P. Segal | Valerie Shapiro | Jennifer L. Skeem | Paul Sterzing | Susan Stone

Transcripts from ALL college-level coursework undertaken:
Unofficial copies are acceptable for the graduate admissions application, but they must include the full name of the applicant and the name of the academic institution. Official copies will be requested by the Graduate Division for all applicants who are admitted.

Letters of Recommendation:
 Letters of Recommendation are required. For applicants to doctoral study, recommendations from individuals who have supervised your research and scholarly work (e.g., research project supervisors, thesis advisors, professors) tend to be the most useful to our selection process and should comprise the majority, if not all, letters. Recommendations are submitted directly to your online application by your recommenders, and must be received by the application deadline. 

Graduate Record Exam (GRE) Scores:
Applicants to the PhD Program are required to take the GRE. We do not require any GRE Subject Exams. Acceptable GRE scores are from tests taken between December 1, 2012 and November 17, 2017. There is no minimum GRE score required, though previous successful applicants typically score above the 70th percentile in the Verbal section, and above the 50th percentile in the Quantitative section. All test scores should be sent directly to UC Berkeley Graduate Admissions (Institution Code: 4833); they do not need to be sent to the School of Social Welfare. All test scores must be received by the application deadline: December 1, 2017.

Written Statements:
Three written statements are required as part of your application to the Berkeley PhD Program:

  • Statement of Purpose
  • Personal History Statement
  • Sample of Scholarly Written Work

Please see "Preparing your PHD Admissions Application Statements" [pdf] for instructions and guidelines for the required written statements. All written statements and work samples must be uploaded as PDF files to your online application.

Curriculum Vita/Résumé:
You are required to upload a current CV/résumé to your online application. You may format your CV/résumé however you wish. Please include contact information; educational background; relevant work/ volunteer experience; teaching experience; and research experience, publications, and presentations. Previous successful admits have had 1-2 years of formal research experience.

Combined MSW/PhD Program Applicants

Applicants to the Combined MSW/PhD Program must also submit all materials required for the MSW Application Process.

International Applicants

Evidence of English Language Proficiency:
International applicants from countries in which the official language is not English and who do not meet the TOEFL exemption qualifications must also take the TOEFL exam. For Fall 2018 admission, acceptable TOEFL scores are from tests taken between December 1, 2015 and November 17, 2017. TOEFL tests taken after November 17, 2017, will not be valid for admission into the 2018-19 academic year. For the TOEFL, a minimum score of 90 is required. All test scores should be sent directly to UC Berkeley Graduate Admissions (Institution Code 4833); they do not need to be sent to the School of Social Welfare. All test scores must be received by the application deadline: December 1, 2017.


Re-applicants are required to re-submit all elements of the application. However, you may not need to submit all three letters of recommendation again. At a minimum, one new recommendation letter must be submitted. If you applied for the Fall 2014 admission cycle or later, we may be able to additionally upload your previous letters of recommendation into your current application. In order to utilize this service, we must receive your request in writing by email to by November 1, 2017. Please include your full name as it appeared on your previous application. If your letters are available, we will then upload your previous letters of recommendation to your online application. If we are unable to retrieve your letters, you will be notified in time to request the letters again from your recommender. Requests are handled in the order they are received. If you do not make this request by the stated deadline, you will be expected to send in all new letters of recommendation.

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