Frequently Asked Questions

General Joint PhD Program Information
Admissions Procedures

Application Process
Certificates in Women’s Studies and LGBTQ Studies

Understanding the application processes, procedures and specific program requirements for various graduate programs can be quite challenging. This “Frequently Asked Questions” section has been created to help answer the most common inquiries. It contains general program information, as well as information about admission procedures, the actual application process, funding, and language requirements.

General Program Information

Is there information you can send me about your joint Ph.D programs?
The best source of information about our joint PhD Programs is our website. Please feel free to contact us at if you cannot find the information you need.

Can I get a tour of your campus?
While the Women’s Studies Department is unable to provide personal campus tours for prospective graduate students, we encourage you to come for a campus visit. Also, in many Women’s Studies joint programs, admitted students are invited to campus for a recruitment weekend before decisions are required.

If you are in Ann Arbor, feel free to stop by our office and say hello and pick up a campus map for a self-directed tour. You can also get information about visiting campus, directions, and more, by visiting the Campus Information Center website.

Is it possible to attend your program part time?
No. All Women’s Studies students must be full time.

Do you offer online courses?
We do not offer any online or distance learning courses.

Are there any courses offered during the spring/summer term?
In general, there are very limited course options during the spring or summer terms. Current students may be able to elect independent study options if they are deemed appropriate to their program of study.

Do I need a Master’s degree to enter the program?
A student can apply to any of our joint programs with either a Master’s or a Bachelor’s degree. Those with Master’s degrees are reviewed in the same applicant pool as those with Bachelor’s degrees.

Do I need to have majored in Women’s Studies to be eligible to apply to the PhD program?
Not at all. The admissions review committee will look for relevant exposure to Women’s Studies via coursework, but it is not necessary to have majored or minored in Women’s Studies.

Will I receive any credit for coursework completed at another university?
Rackham Graduate School and each joint program have requirements regarding transfer of credits. Note that all transfer of credits must be discussed with the Director of Graduate Studies in both Women’s Studies and the other unit. For information about credit transfer policies specific to each joint program, please see the Individual Program Requirements page on this website.

What do the majority of graduates do with their degrees?
The majority of our joint Women’s Studies PhD graduates have gone on to obtain post-doctoral fellowships or college professorships. Some of our recent graduates have been placed at the following colleges and universities: Arizona State University, Bowdoin College, Dartmouth College, Eastern Connecticut State College, George Washington University, Lawrence University, Michigan State University, Ohio State University, Rutgers University, Smith College, University of Nebraska, Washington and Lee University, Wayne State University, Western Michigan University, Westminster College, West Virginia University, and Western Kentucky University. For additional information, visit the Graduate Student Placement page.

How many students do you enroll in an incoming class? How many applicants do you admit?
We aim for 8 per incoming cohort (2 from each of the joint programs).

Do you have a Master’s program?
The Women’s Studies Program does not offer a terminal Master’s degree. You can, however, receive an MA in English, History, Psychology, or Sociology on your way to completing the requirements for the joint Women’s Studies PhD. All requirements for the MA as stipulated by the other department must be met in order to do so. Students who choose to leave the program after two years or, in exceptional cases, are asked to leave the program after a formal review, may request an MA degree in either Women’s Studies or their discipline. To receive an MA in Women’s Studies, students must have completed 30 graduate credits.

How long does it take to earn a joint PhD at Michigan?
The timeframe for completion of the joint PhD is related to the field of study. Five years is a target goal for some fields, but it may take longer. Only five years of funding are guaranteed.

What teaching opportunities are available? Do you offer training for new teaching instructors?
All joint PhD students are guaranteed one year (two terms) of teaching in their department and one year (two terms) of teaching as a Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) in Women’s Studies. Students may apply for additional terms of teaching in both their department and Women’s Studies. Joint PhD students most often teach in their other department for a year before applying to teach in Women’s Studies.

Does the University have a graduate student union?
Yes, the Graduate Employees Organization is the second oldest graduate employees’ union in the nation. GEO represents approximately 1,600 Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs) and Graduate Student Staff Assistants (GSSAs) at the University of Michigan. They negotiate the contract that determines the wages, working conditions, health benefits, and tuition waiver.

Are there other universities in the U.S. that offer PhD programs in Women’s Studies/Gender Studies/Feminist Studies?
Yes, there are several, including: Penn State University, Emory University, Ohio State University, Rutgers University, University of California–Los Angeles, University of Iowa, University of Kansas, University of Maryland, University of Minnesota, University of Washington, Indiana University, and Arizona State University.

Admissions Procedures

Do you accept students for the Winter term?
The Women’s Studies Program accepts students in the Fall term only. Applications and supporting documents should reach us by the application deadline (December 1 for WS/Psychology and WS/History; December 15 for WS/English).

What is the institution code for the University of Michigan?
Our institution code is 1839

Is it possible to be accepted into your program without taking the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) for U.S. students or the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) for international students?
The Women’s Studies Program requires the GRE for all students and the TOEFL for international students. The IELTS (International English Language Testing System), the MELAB (Michigan English Language Assessment Battery), and the ECPE (Examination for the Michigan Certificate of Proficiency in English) are also acceptable tests for international students. International students who have studied in the U.S. and/or who have received a degree from an English-speaking university should take the GRE and are not required to take the TOEFL. The Admissions Committee will be unable to consider your application unless these test scores are received. More information on the IELTS, MELAB, and ECPE tests can be obtained on the Rackham website.

When will admission decisions be made?
We strive to review all applications as quickly as possible, while ensuring that each file is read with all appropriate care and deliberation. This can be a time-consuming process, and your patience is appreciated. In a typical year, all applicants will have received notification by early March as to their status.

In all programs but the joint Women’s Studies and Psychology program, admitted students are invited to campus for a recruitment weekend before student decisions are required. As part of the admissions decision process, Women’s Studies and Psychology applicants short-listed for admission visit campus for an interview.

If accepted, can I defer enrollment?
Deferment decisions are made on a case by case basis. Students must submit a request to the Director of Graduate Studies explaining why they would like to defer enrollment. The request will be evaluated and the student will be notified of the decision as quickly as possible.

Application Process

How does the application process work?
Rackham Graduate School provides a very informative flow chart on the application process. Please visit the Rackham website for additional information.

Is there a separate application or supplementary form for admission to the Women’s Studies PhD Program, or is it sufficient to complete the online application to Rackham?
There is no separate application that needs to be completed for the Women’s Studies Department; just be sure to select the appropriate degree program to which you are applying and include all of the required application materials (i.e. academic statement of purpose, personal statement, curriculum vitae/resume, writing sample, letters of recommendation). Once you submit your Rackham application online, our admissions committee will have access to your submitted materials.

When writing the academic statement of purpose, what type of information should be included?
The academic statement of purpose should explain why you are interested in attending graduate school at the University of Michigan; describe why you are interested in the joint program; provide a clear and concise representation of your specific interests; and include any faculty members with whom you are interested in working. Faculty are looking for focused statements that touch briefly on your background, but even more so address your plan to integrate your research interests.

When writing the personal statement, what type of information should be included?
As you write your personal statement, try to answer the following question: How have your personal background and life experiences, including social, cultural, familial, educational, or other opportunities or challenges, motivated your decision to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Michigan? This is not an academic statement of purpose, but a discussion of the personal journey that has led to your decision to seek a graduate degree.

How will I know if my application and supporting documents have reached the department?
A confirmation email will be automatically generated after your online application is received. The Women’s Studies Department uses the Web Application Status feature on Wolverine Access to notify applicants of receipt of credentials, including transcripts and letters of recommendation. Applicants will need to create a “friend” account and will be able to view what we have received to date.

Would it be acceptable to submit letters of recommendation through my university’s Graduate Letter Service? The forms completed by the recommenders would be similar, but not identical, to those accompanying the application.
Yes, you may submit your letters of recommendation through your university’s Graduate Letter Service.

What are the criteria for being admitted into your program?
There are no specific criteria. The admissions committee will look at all of an applicant’s qualifications, including GPA, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, academic and personal statements, previous research experience (if applicable), professional experience, volunteer experience, and other criteria. The way in which this information is weighted varies across programs, from year to year, and from admissions committee to admissions committee. There are always applicants who, undoubtedly, could perform well in a graduate program whom we may have to turn away because we have too many applicants for a limited number of spots.

What is the minimum GRE and/or GPA?
The Women’s Studies Program does not have a set minimum GRE or GPA. All applications are reviewed, and all are reviewed holistically.

When should I take the GRE?
It is advisable to take the GRE no later than November so the score report is available by the December application deadline. 

Are any advanced GRE subject tests required to apply to the joint programs?
No, the subject tests are optional when applying to the joint program. Note that this may be different for a stand-alone PhD (for example, in English).

What type of writing sample are you looking for?
The writing sample should demonstrate your research interests and academic capabilities. A term paper (ideally, but not necessarily) or an excerpt from a thesis is acceptable; the average submission is 10–20 pages. All writing samples should be no more than 25 pages total.


How do I get an application for financial aid?
There is no separate application for financial aid for our joint PhD programs. All admitted students will receive a full funding package that is explained in detail with their admissions letter.

What type of fellowship aid is available?
Typically, students receive five years of funding. The first year is funded through a departmental fellowship. Subsequent funding differs from program to program; generally support comes from two to three years of teaching and then an additional one to two years of fellowship. Women’s Studies doctoral students have been very successful in receiving internal (e.g. Rackham Predoctoral, Institute for the Humanities, Michigan Society of Fellows, Barbour, etc.) and external (Ford, NSF, AAUW, etc.) fellowships. Summer funding opportunities vary from program to program. Women’s Studies doctoral students have been successful in finding funding through the Institute for Research on Women and Gender (IRWG), Women’s Studies Summer Funding Opportunities, Sweetland Dissertation Writing Institute, etc. We work with each student to identify summer funding sources. See the Rackham Fellowships page for additional information about funding opportunities.

Are international students eligible for fellowship aid?
Yes, all students admitted to our program will receive a five-year funding package, regardless of citizenship. No extra forms need to be completed at the time of application to the program.

Are there funds available outside the standard funding package?
Both the Rackham Graduate School and the Women’s Studies Department have funds available for purposes such as travel to a conference, research, or emergency expenses. Students must apply for this funding.

How does one find out about Women’s Studies conferences?
The National Women’s Studies Association has a yearly conference. The NWSA website also advertises other relevant conferences.

Is there any research funding available for pursuing gender topics?
Some good places to look include:

Frequently Asked Questions about the Graduate Certificates in Women’s Studies and in LGBTQ Studies

When should I apply?
We encourage students to apply as early as possible in their graduate program, but Rackham requires that students wait to enroll until they have completed one full term of graduate study at U-M.

How do I register for WS 890/892?
Students should contact the Women’s Studies Graduate Program Office (1122 Lane Hall) to get an override. Once the override is entered, the student can go into Wolverine Access and register. Students enroll under the section of their advisor’s independent study instructor number (indi #).

Does my current certificate advisor need to be my advisor for my WS 890/892 project?
No; as long as another relevant faculty member agrees to advise you, it can be somebody different. Please let the Women’s Studies Graduate Program Office know if you choose to change advisors.

Can I switch either my certificate or my 890/892 advisor?
You can switch advisors at any time with the approval of the graduate director.

How long does the WS 890/892 project need to be?
If students are submitting a paper, the length should be no more than 25 pages. If students are submitting a dissertation chapter, maximum length should be 50-60 pages. Visual material accompanied by a framing statement, research projects grounded in the student’s professional practicum, or other alternate formats will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Can I complete my 890/892 project before I complete the other certificate coursework?
The 890/892 is meant to be a capstone experience and therefore should be informed by the other certificate coursework.

Are there any guidelines for the electives? What type of course is allowed to satisfy the elective requirements?
Women’s Studies Courses, courses in your discipline that focus on women/gender/sexuality, or courses not primarily focused on women and gender, but where a paper or other product is produced that focuses on women/gender/sexuality may satisfy the elective coursework requirements.

I am enrolled in a non-Rackham graduate or professional program (e.g., Social Work, Public Health, etc.). Is there anything special I need to do or keep in mind?
Yes, there are two things that you need to keep in mind:

  • The application process is a bit different for students enrolled in a non-Rackham program. In addition to the Women’s Studies Certificate application, you must complete a Rackham application (including submitting official final undergraduate transcripts/credentials) and pay the Rackham application fee. Note that new test scores are not required.
  • Any course that a student is using to fulfill requirements for a Rackham certificate must be registered through Rackham. Dual enrollment is permitted for students in a non-Rackham program concurrently pursuing a Rackham certificate.

Once I have completed all of the requirements, is there any paperwork I need to complete in order to receive my certificate?
All certificate students must apply for graduation via Wolverine Access in order to receive their certificate. (under Student Business—Apply for Graduation).

If a certificate student is in a Master’s degree program or has received an embedded Master’s along the way to their PhD, they must also complete a dual/joint degree course election form. This form is used to verify that not more than one-sixth of the credit given for any master’s or intermediate degree is double-counted between the certificate and that master’s or intermediate degree program. Double-counted credits also may not exceed one-half of the certificate requirements. Such credit may not be counted toward the fulfillment of any further degrees or certificates.

Is there a time limit (i.e. maximum number of years allowed) to complete the certificate requirements?
Rackham’s Graduate Student Handbook states that students must complete all work for a Certificate and file the diploma application within four consecutive years of admission to the certificate program.

When were the Certificate programs established?
The Certificate in Women’s Studies was established in 1982 as an 18 credits program and changed to 15 credits in 1996. The Certificate in LGBTQ studies was established in 2006.