Apply for a PhD in Special Education

Doctoral Funding in Special Education!

Accepted students will receive:

  • Full tuition
  • Competitive stipend
  • Health insurance

Apply by December 1, 2023!!

We strongly encourage applicants from persons who are members of groups that have been traditionally underrepresented based on race/ethnicity, language, gender, sexuality, age, neurotype, or disability. Students with a master’s degree in special education or a related field and applied experience are also preferred.

Application Deadline

The deadline for application to the SPED doctoral program is December 1st. For full consideration (including for funding), all application materials should be received by this time. The application portal will open in mid-October annually.

Application Instructions

Complete the UO Division of Graduate Studies Online Graduate Application.

Nonrefundable Application Fee: $70 (Domestic Students)/$90 (International Students), paid by credit card or eCheck. You will need to pay the application fee before you are able to submit the application.

  • You do not need to complete the online application in one sitting.
  • You will be able to log in and view/updated each section of your application until your payment is made
  • Once this fee is paid, your file is officially submitted to the department.

Within this online application, there are several sections to fill out including:

  • Personal information
  • Residency
  • Educational history
  • Names for professional references

International Applicants seeking program nomination for an international application fee waiver must have a completed UO Division of Graduate Studies Online Graduate Application and then submit a request to the program via email no later than one month before the initial application deadline. At that time, the applicant must have all components of the application completed, uploaded, and ready to submit for the request to be considered. There are limited opportunities for this waiver. Applicants will be notified if their request is approved within 1 week of the deadline to request.

Supporting Documentation

You will also have to upload the following documents as part of your department application:

Résumé or Curriculum Vitae

Your vitae should include the following information, beginning with most recent education, including degree and institution (with dates of graduation):

  • Work experiences in education
  • Presentations at conferences or workshops
  • Publications, if any
  • Organizational affiliations
  • Any other relevant professional information

Professional Goals Statement

The Admissions Committee is interested in your professional goals and reasons for advanced study. Your statement should address the following questions: (a) Why are you interested in a PhD in Special Education (e.g., specific research interests, career goals)? (b) How have your past experiences  prepared you for success in a PhD program in Special Education (e.g., research experience, technical and/or professional writing, teaching in higher education, practice in special education or related disciplines, leadership positions)? (c) How have you actively addressed disparities affecting marginalized children, youth, and families? (d) Describe your prior involvement in or leadership of activities related to diversity, equity, justice, and inclusion issues in education and society, and (e) Why is the program in Special Education at the University of Oregon the best fit for you (e.g., Department and Program strengths, alignment with your scholarly interests, courses, specific faculty with whom you would like to work and why)?

Writing Sample

The Admissions Committee is interested in reviewing the quality of your professional writing. Writing samples can be an undergraduate thesis, master’s paper, university course paper, published journal article, book chapter, draft manuscript, or published media article you have written (e.g., newspaper articles, magazine articles, blog posts). It is preferable but not required for the writing sample to focus specifically on topics pertaining to disability (e.g., early intervention; special education; academic intervention; behavior support; intersectionality of disability, race, language, and/or socioeconomic status; transition to adulthood).

Statement about Experiences with Individuals with Disabilities

The Admissions Committee is interested in a 1 to 2 page description of your personal and/or structured experiences with individuals with disabilities, including efforts to increase equity. Please emphasize professional licensures or certification related to Special Education that you hold, supervised experiences, and examples demonstrating your leadership ability in organizations. Examples could include paid or volunteer positions inside or outside of educational settings. Indicate the dates and duration of the experience.

Letters of Recommendation

Within the application, you will input contact information (email) for three people who will be writing letters of recommendation for you. Please select individuals that can attest to your ability to be successful in a doctoral program, your experience in schools, and/or leadership abilities in schools or community contexts.

Each recommender will receive an automated email prompt, directing them to an online system for providing input on you and submitting a letter.

Official Transcripts


At the time of application, applicants must submit unofficial transcripts from all colleges or universities previously attended, including the University of Oregon. Unofficial transcripts are uploaded as part of the online application. Applicants who accept their offer of admission and matriculate must submit official transcripts from all colleges or universities from which they received a bachelor’s degree or higher. Detailed information about submitting official transcripts is available here.

English Language Proficiency:

All applicants for whom English is not a native/primary language must satisfy one of the following English Language Proficiency criteria in order to be eligible for admission.

Holistic Admissions Review

Applicants will be assessed for eligibility for admission with a focus on the whole applicant, based on the uploaded information, rather than just academic information. Other factors considered include applied professional or personal experiences supporting students/adults or families with or at risk for disabilities in special education or related professional roles (family member, volunteer, professional internships, paid experiences). The admissions committee prioritizes applicants with the above experiences who demonstrate effective and culturally responsive communication skills. Black, Indigenous, other applicants of color, multilingual applicants, and other applicants with underrepresented identities including but not limited to persons with disabilities are strongly encouraged to apply and are encouraged to speak about how their experiences related to their identity/ies inspired, presented barriers, or otherwise influenced their professional and educational experiences in their Professional Goals Statement (see above). Finally, preference will be given to those who show persistence (e.g., re-taking a course to improve the application, navigating structural barriers to education such as racism, ableism, poverty, overcoming a life setback, etc.) and evidence of cultural humility and compassion.