Graduate Application FAQs

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Can you mail me an information packet and/or application materials?

We do not mail information packets or application materials to prospective applicants. If you have a specific question that cannot be answered after visiting our website, please contact our Graduate Program Manager, Lindsey Bliefernicht, at

When is the application deadline?

The application submission deadline is December 15 for admission in the following fall semester. We will accept letters of recommendation for several days after that date.

What should I say in my Statement of Purpose?

The graduate committee pays careful attention to an applicant’s ability to outline clear and appropriate goals for graduate study. Provide a brief, focused statement of your educational and career goals and your reasons for selecting this graduate program. Discuss those factors — personal, professional, academic — that have prepared you to pursue a graduate degree. All Professional M.A. applicants should indicate in some detail what kind of specialty they will seek and why. The statement should be about 750 words in length.

Can I include samples of my work (i.e., published newspaper articles, journal articles, etc.) with my application?

Applicants to the Professional M.A. program, Research M.A. program and Ph.D. in SJMC must submit a writing sample.  Please limit any supplementary materials to 25 pages. Please do not submit CDs, DVDs, etc.

Do I need to have experience in the field or an undergraduate degree in journalism and mass communication?

No, but you should demonstrate a strong interest and genuine aptitude for the field that might help you compete with applicants with a background in mass communication.

Do I need to take the GRE?

The School of Journalism and Mass Communication no longer requires or reviews GRE scores for any applicants to our graduate programs. The Graduate Committee takes a holistic approach to admissions, reviewing all parts of the application to get a picture of the person’s academic and professional background, interests and goals, and fit with what our program offers. For applicants to the Ph.D. in Mass Communications in LSC, the GRE scores are optional. Please refer to their website for information.

How will my application be evaluated? Are some parts of my record more important than others?

A five-member committee of faculty members examines all aspects of an application — grades, statement of purpose, recommendations, resume/CV — and provides an overall judgment of the applicant’s qualifications.

When will I hear if I was accepted?

You will be notified sometime in February.

Can I visit the school before deciding to attend?

Yes. Please make arrangements with our Graduate Program Manager, Lindsey Bliefernicht. You can email her at We host a visit day in March every year for prospective recruits.

How many students are in the program?

There are approximately 85 students in our graduate degree programs at various levels of progress.

How long will it take to complete the M.A. program?

The Research M.A. degree usually requires four semesters. Professional M.A. students typically graduate in three semesters.

How long will it take to complete the Ph.D. program?

Typically, completing a doctorate, including coursework, preliminary exams, research and dissertation defense, takes four to five years.

What are the differences between the M.A. options?

The Professional M.A. focuses on specialized training in journalism and communication skills that lead to careers in the information industries. The Research M.A. focuses on developing skills in mass communication research and writing a thesis and often leads to enrolling in a doctoral program. You may only apply to one of the Named Options. If you are unsure which one fits your goals, please reach out to our Graduate Program Manager, Lindsey Bliefernicht, to discuss.

Which classes count towards my degree?

Officially, any class designated 300 and above can count towards a graduate degree. However, doctoral students are strongly advised to register for courses with small enrollments and avoid large lecture courses. Skills courses such as 400-level undergraduate offerings on reporting or strategic communication would count towards the professional M.A. degree, but not towards other graduate degrees.

How many credits per semester do students usually take?

Students take about nine credits per semester.

What courses do students take in their first semester?

New Ph.D. and Research M.A. students enroll in J901, Mass Communication Colloquium.  Course work for the Research M.A. should be planned in consultation with your advisor. As for the Ph.D., you will work with your advisor to select courses from departmental offerings as well as from other appropriate departments to craft a plan tailored to your interests and needs. As a general rule, doctoral students should strive to balance theory and methods, deepen their knowledge in areas of specific interest, and broaden their intellectual horizons.

The Professional M.A. requires enrollment in J335: Intermediate Reporting in the first semester. In the first semester, students develop a program plan in consultation with their advisor.

Do you offer funding to graduate students?

We offer funding to our top-ranked Ph.D and Research M.A. applicants. The typical funding package includes 4 years for Ph.D and 2 years for Research M.A. as a teaching assistant (TA) or project assistant (PA). These positions include tuition remission, a biweekly stipend and eligibility for high-quality, low-cost health insurance. Depending on available funds, we offer scholarships to our top-ranked Professional M.A. students. Some students work as TAs or PAs in other departments on campus. They apply through the UW student job center website.

Do I need to find an advisor or supervisor before applying to the graduate program?

No, you do not need to identify an advisor or supervisor before applying. If you are admitted to our graduate program, we will match you with temporary faculty contacts who will help you select courses for the initial semesters. After a year or more, we ask that Ph.D. and Research M.A .students identify who would be the best fit as an advisor for your program. Professional M.A. students will work with the program director and may identify a closer fit for advisor after one semester.

What does it cost to attend Graduate School?

Please visit the Office of Student Financial Aid website for the estimated cost of attending Graduate School at UW Madison.