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Apply to the Special Education Doctoral Program


Doctoral Admission Procedures

The first step to applying to Michigan State University and the Special Education doctoral program is to complete the University Application (with payment, see step 1 below). After completion of the University Application, you will receive an email inviting you to complete application materials in the GEA portal. (see step 2 below).


Admission requirements

Step 1: University Application and Fee

  • In selecting the "Semester you wish to enroll" please note:
    • Fall Semester = FS
    • Spring Semester = SS
    • Summer Semester = US
  • In this application, please leave the "Personal Statement" an "Academic Statement" blank.
  • Note the application fees, payable to Michigan State University, are non-refundable.
  • Note that the recommendation form provided in the graduate application is not required, and does not need to be submitted in conjunction with recommendation letters. Your recommendation letters are to be submitted through the GEA Portal described below.
  • After completion of the University Application plus payment, an email inviting you to complete the GEA Portal will be sent to the email address submitted on your University Graduate School Application.  The supplemental application will serve as an electronic depository for your student-generated application materials.

Step 2: MSU Graduate Education Application Portal (GEA Portal)

The GEA Portal allows you to upload supplemental documents, request letter of recommendations, check the status of your application, and send e-messages to the program. Log into the GEA Portal using your Applicant ID and Password to complete the application process and monitor your application status.

  • Provide contact information for 3 recommendation letter writers is GEA Portal
    • You will need to include: Title (e.g Dr.), first and last name, job title, employer, email address.
    • Please ensure you have a mutual agreement and understanding with your recommender prior to submitting their information into the system.  You are responsible for ensuring the required letters of recommendation are submitted on your behalf.  You may need to follow up with your recommenders regarding missing letters to complete your application.
  • Upload your Professional & Scholarly Goal Statement to GEA Portal (specify "other" as document type)
  • Upload your Writing Sample to the GEA Portal (required)
    • Submit an example of academic or professional writing, e.g., something that you have published, a master's thesis, or a paper you might have submitted to fulfill graduate course requirements. You must have authored the sample exclusively.  The purpose is to demonstrate your ability to write analytical English prose in order to give the review committee a clear idea of how well you will be able to carry out the kind of analytical writing that is such a central component of advanced graduate student.
    • Samples whose content is close to the applicant's stated interest are most useful.
  • Upload your Vita or Resume to the GEA Portal (specify "Resume" as the document type)
    • List professional experience, awards, honors, publications, presentations, professional affiliations, and professional development activities.
  • Send one official copy of your Transcripts from all previous institutions attended
    • Have the transcripts sent directly to: (Note that Transcripts and the CDGDC report (for applicants from Chinese universities) are the only materials to be sent to this address.)
      • CEPSE Admissions, Michigan State University 620 Farm Lane, Room 447, East Lansing MI 48824-1034 USA 517-355-6683
    • Applicants from Chinese Universities: Please arrange for a verification report of your university academic records with the China Academic Degree and Graduate Education Development center (CDGDC). The report must be mailed directly to Alice Blake (see address below) by the CDGDC, rather than by you or any third party.
      • China Academic Degree and Graduate Education Development Center Verification Division B-17. Tongfang Scientific Plaza No. 1 Wangzhuang Road, Haidian District, Beijing, 100083, P.R. China Tel: +86-10-82379480 Fax: +86-10-82378718 (24 hours) Email: Website:
    • These transcripts must be sent directly from the institution; please contact the Registrar's Office at the institutions you attended for the appropriate procedures and fee information.
  • Complete the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
    • The verbal, quantitative and analytical portions of the GRE should be submitted. Applications should have official test results reporting to institution code 1465.
    • Information on testing may be obtained from:
      • MSU testing office 207 Student Services Building East Lansing MI  48824 517-355-8385.
  • Upload Proof of financial support to the GEA Portal
    • International applicants are required to submit an Affidavit of Support and financial proof. This statement, which is found on the Grad School's website, must originate from your source of support and must be a certified, original statement with stamp and original signature.

Have Questions?

Dawn Therrian-Taylor ( is the program admissions representative and can answer questions related to the submission of your materials.  Note all decisions are made by the SPED program faculty.


Requirements for English Language Proficiency

Applicants whose first language is not English are required to be proficient in English as a condition for regular admission to MSU. Such applicants will be required to demonstrate their proficiency by meeting certain minimum standards on any one of the following tests:

  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
  • Michigan English Language Assessment Battery (MELAB)
  • Michigan State University English Language Test

More details about these assessments and minimum scores required by the University  are given in the "application for Graduate Study,: p. 10, and can be found at

A few suggestions...

As you prepare your application materials for submission, here are some specific suggestions to consider.

  • Shop widely for doctoral programs, in and out of the College of Education, and make sure that Special Education is right for you. If you are not sure, contact us.
  • If possible, don't wait until the December 1st deadline to apply.  Access to fellowships and the program itself are facilitated by submitting your materials before the deadline.
  • Like it or not, GRE scores matter in doctoral admissions decisions, here and elsewhere.  If you are not happy with your score, construct a plan to do a little study and retake the examination.
  • Give close attention to your Professional and Scholarly Goal statement and make sure that it articulates your research interest(s), how that interest has arisen, and why it is compelling for you. If possible, describe how you have been thinking about exploring that interest and draw links to SPED faculty whom you think are doing related work.
  • If possible, select a Writing Sample that is linked to your research interest.
  • Understand that you are responsible for making sure that Recommendation Letters are submitted in a timely fashion.  Access to fellowship support and admission to the program require 3 letters of recommendation.
  • Most of all, make sure that you are ready for 5 years (typically) of demanding and exciting work to become a educational researcher and scholar!

In general terms, the special education program is looking for bright, well-prepared, highly-motivated applicants who feel strongly drawn to research and scholarship in special education. All applicants must be ready for full-time study that is more demanding and consuming than all their prior education.  They must be ready to learn to conceptualize, carry out, and report innovative research.

Other Helpful Information

Financial Aid -- Information on graduate student financial aid is available from the Office of Financial Aid at

Funding Support -- Information on Ph.D. fellowships and assistantships can be found on the Graduate School web site at, or from the College of Education web site.
All Ph.D. applicants must meet a December 1 deadline to be considered for university and college awards.

Housing Information --On campus Graduate housing information is available at, and off campus housing information is available at