Ph.D. Program: FAQ





How many students do you accept each year into the Ph.D. program?

Typically, 10 to 12 students are offered admission each year. Annual enrollment in the program, which normally takes three years to complete, totals about 30 students.


What are the areas of research emphasis in the program?

The Ph.D. program is focused on five substantive areas of study:

  • Media processes and production
  • Legal and regulatory issues in communication
  • Media uses and effects
  • Health communication
  • Political, social, and strategic communication

Visit our curriculum page to read about these research areas and the affiliated faculty members.


How long does the program take to complete?

Most students complete the Ph.D. program in three to four years. The program requires 48 hours of coursework (typically four classes each fall/spring semester in the first two years). In the third year, doctoral students take comprehensive exams, defend their dissertation proposals and complete their dissertations. Some students elect to stay a fourth year in order to compete more effectively for research-intensive positions at Research 1 universities or to pursue more ambitious dissertations.


Can I transfer credits or grades from other institutions into the program?

The School of Media and Journalism does not accept credit-hour transfers from other graduate programs.


What is tuition for the Ph.D. program?

  • Full-time annual tuition and fees for in-state students for 2017-18 are estimated at $7,257 per semester ($14,154 per academic year).
  • Full-time annual tuition and fees for non-residents for 2017-18 are estimated at$15,283 per semester ($30,566 per academic year).
  • Tuition and fees are subject to change and generally increase each academic year. New rates will be posted by the University Cashier.
  • The Graduate School provides cost-of-living estimates and comparisons with other institutions. 

How do I establish residency to qualify for in-state tuition?

Accepted students who wish to be classified as a North Carolina resident for tuition purposes must complete and submit the online residency application, available from The Graduate School.


What funding opportunities exist for Ph.D. students (e.g., fellowships, assistantships)?

Each applicant is automatically considered for school-based fellowship funding, which may cover tuition, fees and health insurance, as well as a stipend. We typically offer 8-10 fellowships for each entering class. The Graduate School also awards a few highly competitive fellowships and merit assistantships. The school nominates applicants each year for these awards. More information is available on our cost and funding page.


How can I learn more about the program?

We offer online info sessions every fall for prospective students. Our graduate program staff and Ph.D. program director are available to answer your questions and connect you with more resources. Contact the Office of Graduate Studies at or (919) 843-9471 to be added to our program email list or ask a question.




When is the application deadline for the Ph.D. program?

Our application deadline is the first Tuesday in December. More information on the application timeline is available on our admissions page.


How do I pay the $87.50 application fee?

The $87.50 application processing fee can be paid online with your application via credit/debit card (Visa or MasterCard). You may also send a check drawn on a U.S. bank in U.S. dollars, payable to UNC-Chapel Hill to:

The Graduate School – Admissions
Campus Box #4010, 200 Bynum Hall
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC, 27599


I cannot afford the application fee. Is it possible to request a waiver?

Please visit The Graduate School's website to determine whether you are eligible for an application fee waiver and for instructions on how to request an application fee waiver.


What are the minimum requirements for admission?

Minimum criteria for all applicants include:

  • A recognized undergraduate and master’s degree
  • An undergraduate GPA of “B” or better (3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale)
  • Minimum Verbal GRE score at 55th percentile
  • Minimum Quantitative GRE score at 50th percentile
  • Analytical Writing GRE score of 4.5

For more information, please visit our admissions page.

Applicants below these standards will need to demonstrate substantial compensatory qualifications to be considered. Meeting the above criteria is not a guarantee of admission.


If I am an International student, must I take the TOEFL or IELTS exam?

International students must take the TOEFL or IELTS exam and achieve the following scores:

  • Internet TOEFL exam: 105 or higher
  • Computer TOEFL exam: 260 or higher
  • Paper-based TOEFL exam: 620 or higher
  • IELTS exam: 7.5 or higher

When and how and do I submit my GRE scores?

Applicants must take the GRE before the application deadline and self-report their scores in their applications. The scores are to be sent to UNC-Chapel Hill's Graduate School (code #5816) to be matched in the application system.


What is the minimum GRE score required and how have admitted Ph.D. students scored on the GRE?

The following table represents the minimum standards for The Graduate School, the School of Media and Journalism and average scores of admitted students.

  Graduate School minimum MJ-school minimum Admitted-student average, 2017
  # % # % # %
Verbal reasoning 151 50 152 55 157 74
Quantitative reasoning 153 50 153 50 154 54
Analytical writing 3.5 - 4.5 - 4.3 72

Where and when should I take the GRE?

GRE test scores are good for five years. Applicants may take the GRE at any local testing center. The ETS website provides information on test dates, locations and seat availability. We recommend that you take the GRE between August and October, in case you want to take the test a second time. Testing sessions fill up quickly, so it is important to reserve your test date early.


If I hold a research or professional doctorate, will I need to take the GRE?

Applicants who already hold a Ph.D. or equivalent degree may be exempted from the GRE standardized test score requirements. Please contact the Office of Graduate Studies about a waiver request.


Can I take the GRE exam more than one time?

Yes. It is typical that students perform better if they take the test again. A higher GRE score may improve students’ chances for funding and admission, so it may be wise to take the GRE exam again. GRE exam sessions book up quickly, so it is recommended that you schedule your GRE exam as early as possible to allow time to retake the exam if desired.


My official GRE scores will not be available until after the application deadline. Will this affect the review of my application?

Applicants should take the GRE exam before the application deadline and report their unofficial test scores in their application. The admissions committee will review applications as long as the rest of the materials have been submitted by the deadline. Unofficial test scores will be replaced by the official scores once they are received by The Graduate School.


Can letters of recommendation be sent electronically? May I submit more than three letters?

Yes, all application materials, including letters of recommendation, must be submitted electronically through The Graduate School’s online application system. Applicants will be prompted to provide the names and contact information for a minimum of three people who will write letters of recommendation. Each recommender will receive an email with instructions on how to upload the letter of recommendation into the online system or how to mail a sealed, hard-copy of the recommendation directly to The Graduate School. You may have more than three letters sent on your behalf.


Is a statement of purpose required? If so, how long should it be?

A statement of purpose is required for each application. A typical statement for applicants to the Ph.D. program is 3-5 pages in length. In the statement, the applicant should indicate his or her research interests and career goals, and how they fit with those of the program and specific faculty.


How do I go about sending in my transcripts?

One unofficial transcript from each university attended must be uploaded into the application by the application deadline. We only accept unofficial transcripts for application evaluation. Please do not mail transcripts. If you are offered admission, you will be requested to obtain one official transcript for each university attended and given instructions on how to submit those official transcripts.