Skip to main content

Application Materials — Statement of Purpose, Doctoral Program

Students can best achieve their goals for doctoral education at UNC School of Social Work when there is a fit between their interests and the resources of our School and the broader UNC-Chapel Hill community. Applicants are asked to prepare a statement of purpose as part of the admissions packet. This statement serves as your personal narrative and is one of the most important elements of the admission process, helping the admissions committee to understand how your research interests developed.

A primary objective of our doctoral program is to prepare researchers. Therefore, your statement of purpose should describe in detail any experience you have had with research — taking research courses, studying and using statistical methodology, and participating in research projects.

Your statement of purpose should be a maximum of 12 double-spaced pages and should address each of the questions below. Please restate each question before your answer.

Questions for All Applicants

  1. What experiences have led you to seek a research career?
  2. What specialized area(s) of study within social work are you most interested in pursuing in your doctoral education (i.e., a social program or issue, a field of practice, a practice method, or some combination of any of these)? What experiences have led you to believe this area is important to pursue?
  3. What research problems or questions might you wish to pursue within your specialized area of study? (Please discuss fully and be as specific as possible.)
  4. What do you envision as your long-range contribution to the development of the social work knowledge base?
  5. What are your career goals and plans after receiving your Ph.D. in Social Work, and how will this degree contribute to your ability to realize those goals and plans?
  6. There are more than 50 universities in the United States that offer a doctoral degree in social work. What do you consider the most important criteria in selecting a doctoral program in social work, and why have you chosen to apply for the doctoral program at UNC School of Social Work?
  7. We expect students to enroll full time (9 or more hours) and to hold half-time assistantships. Priority in admissions is given to students who are able to enroll full time for the first two years of study. Only full-time students will be eligible for financial support. If your intention is not to enroll full time, please provide the rationale for this choice.
  8. Leadership, initiative, and persistence are important for doctoral education. Talk about a time when you encountered a challenging situation and how you addressed it.
  9. Please share any additional information you wish to communicate that will help the admissions committee better understand your interest in pursuing a Ph.D. in Social Work at our School.

Additional Questions for Applicants Who Have a Master’s Degree in a Related Field, Not a MSW

  1. On what experiences or beliefs are you basing your choice of social work as the field in which to pursue your doctoral degree? What experiences have you had with the social work profession?
  2. Explain how experiences in paid or volunteer work (as an undergraduate practica, summer camps, extracurricular activities, faith-based groups, and social work jobs) related to your choice of social work as a profession. Describe relationships and/or other experiences that led you to an interest in entering social work rather than another profession. What are your experiences in giving and receiving help?
  3. How will doctoral studies in social work relate to and build upon your master’s degree work?