Graduate Application FAQs

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

We’ve tried to go as paperless as possible, and therefore 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 Advisor Lisa Aarli at

When is the application deadline?

The application deadline is December 15 for admission in the following fall semester. All materials must be post-marked before the deadline.

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. 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?

Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores are optional for the fall 2022 admission cycle

No. We acknowledge that due to the COVID-19 pandemic many GRE testing centers are closed and access to preparation materials and reliable online versions of the exam may be difficult or impossible for many applicants. We are therefore NOT requiring the GRE scores for admissions purposes. If applicants do not take the test or submit scores this will NOT count against you in the admission process. We recognize that some applicants will take the test and submit scores to the University of Wisconsin, but all applicants will be given equal consideration regardless of whether they submit GRE scores or not. 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 match with what our program offers.

NOTE: The GRE is no longer required for applicants to the professional M.A. program on a permanent basis.


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

A six-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 by March 1.

Can I visit the school before deciding to attend?

Yes. Please make arrangements with our Graduate Advisor Lisa Aarli. You can email her at

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—course work, 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.

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?

Generally, students take about nine credits per semester.

What courses do students take in their first semester?

We strongly recommend J901, Mass Communication Colloquium, for first year Research M.A. and Ph.D students. The Professional M.A. requires enrollment in J335: Intermediate Reporting in the first semester. 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.