Special Education

International Admission to Ph.D. Program at KU

Apply On-Line

Apply and pay application fee online at the Office of Graduate Studies

Application Timeline Dates

Because of the procedures involved in reviewing applicants for admission to the doctorate graduate program, please adhere to the following deadlines. We only accept Doctorate students once a year for fall admission. Your application packet must be complete to be reviewed for admission by the deadline date.

Priority deadline for funding consideration is December 1. Application materials will continue to be accepted based on available space and funding. Please contact department admissions for more information.

You are strongly encouraged, however, to submit application packages in advance of these deadlines. Please be aware that until all components of the application package are received, the application will not be considered by the Special Education Department Admissions Committee. Only completed application packages received by the deadline will be considered. It is the applicant's responsibility to send all required components.

Application Packet Content


You will be required when you apply online to upload a copy of your transcripts. You must also forward official transcripts from all schools you attended showing degree conferral as applicable. Forward them by mail to: Graduate Admissions, University of Kansas, 1450 Jayhawk Blvd, Strong Hall 313, Lawrence, KS 66045. If your institution offers transcripts via electronic delivery, they may be sent to graduateadm@ku.edu. NOTE: Electronic transcripts are accepted only via an electronic delivery service.

Letters of Reference

You will submit three names and email addresses when you apply online. The system will automatically email them requesting them to submit a letter of reference for you. The references should reflect individuals who can provide a thorough and objective evaluation of your abilities as an effective practitioner with students with disabilities and your abilities to pursue advanced study at the doctoral level. Two of the three references should address this latter set of abilities.

Letter of Introduction

Prepare a personal letter of introduction addressed to the Department of Special Education Chairperson. (Upload this document under "Misc." documents on the online application".) The letter should present a thorough and precise summary of your professional preparation, qualifications, objectives for doctoral study, and projected career goals so that reviewing faculty members can become well acquainted with you. The quality and clarity of your writing skills will also be assessed through this letter. Follow this link for a copy of the areas and questions to be addressed in your letter. Please identify the specialization area and faculty member whom you would like to have serve as your primary advisor, please include that information in the letter at this point.

Professional Resume

Upload this document under "Misc." documents on the online application. Prepare a professional resume describing past employment experiences, licensure received, educational preparation, number of years teaching experience, publications and presentations, professional association memberships, and other professional activities.​

Official Statement of Financial Documentation

This document will be required to process your I-20. To expedite the process, you can upload this documentation when applying online. For more information contact International Student & Scholar Services.

Official GRE Exam Results

The GRE exam is required to be considered for admission to the Department of Special Education as a doctoral student. Request your GRE scores to be submitted as stated: for electronic submission (ETS), the Institution Code is 6871 and the Department Code is 3705. If you have an official copy of your GRE exam results, please upload a copy when applying online under "Misc documents". The Admission Committee can use unofficial copies of the exam results for reviewing applications. Official scores must be submitted if recommended for admission.

Applied English Center Proficiency Test

International students must meet one of the following English proficiency exam score requirements UNLESS they have completed a baccalaureate degree or higher from an accredited English-medium U.S. college or a college or university in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, an English-speaking province of Canada, or an English-speaking Caribbean country, with instruction conducted in English. To forward exam scores electronically, the University code is 6871 and the Department code is 85. Please see the English proficiency chart for more information.

  • TOEFL (paper): 57 or above on each section and 5.0 on the Test of Written English
  • TOEFL (iBT): 23 or above on the reading, listening, and writing sections
  • IELTS (Academic): 6.5 minimum overall score and at least 6.0 in listening, reading, and writing
  • PTE: 58 or above with no part score below 53 in listening, reading, and writing

Scholarly Writing Sample

  • Upload this document under "Misc. document" on the online application. Submit a sample of your scholarly writing. You have three options available to meet this requirement.
    • Option 1: you may submit a paper you have authored relating to any topic or issue regarding the education of students with disabilities or to a related topic. If you have published one or more articles in professional journals, you may select one such article to submit. All papers or articles must be in English and must represent your scholarly work. Thus, for example, you should not submit a paper or article on which there are multiple authors and for which you were involved in a secondary manner.
    • Option 2: if you completed an original thesis as a requirement of your master's degree, you may submit a copy of the approved document. While you may have had feedback during its preparation, it should reflect your independent thought and writing skills.
    • Option 3: you may elect to write and submit a 5 page (minimum) typewritten, double -spaced paper in formal academic style addressing either a current issue or evidenced-based practice.  Select one of the issues listed below that is important in special education today Review current journals and discuss opposing or multiple views of the controversy in your review of the literature. Take a position for one of the points of view and defend that position in a brief discussion of supporting details. Cite sources and prepare a reference list in accordance with the standard format described in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Present at least two possible points of view on the issue.​
      • Special education is defined in IDEA as specially designed instruction at no cost to the parents to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability. Historically, special education has been seen as a "place" where students with disabilities are served. How do these two views of 'special' education challenge practice? Discuss the types of specially designed instruction to be provided.​
      • How can students with disabilities be included in educational reform efforts? What needs to occur to ensure that students with disabilities are not marginalized by such reform efforts? What measures of accountability can be used to ensure that students with disabilities are effectively served in America's schools?​
      • Despite the emphasis on active parental and student involvement in educational planning, many barriers remain to meaningful involvement by parents or students. Why is such involvement so difficult to achieve? What strategies lead to effective parent and/or student involvement?​
      • Evidence-based Practice: identify a practical problem which has arisen in your teaching, administrative, or consulting work in an educational setting. Discuss the scope and implications of the problem. Review current journals to identify relevant evidence based practices. Discuss the extent to which the practices hold potential for addressing the problem, including the degree of confidence you have that they represent evidenced based practices. Cite sources and prepare a reference list in accordance with the standard format described in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.).
      • Listed below are examples of questions to help you identify a practical problem.​
        • Despite the emphasis on active parental and student involvement in educational planning, many barriers remain to meaningful involvement by parents or students. Why is such involvement so difficult to achieve? What strategies lead to effective parent and/or student involvement?​
        • What are effective models for preparing students to make successful transitions from secondary schools to adulthood?​
        • What strategies are effective for including preschool students with disabilities?​
        • The IDEA states a preference toward educating students with disabilities in typical classrooms with supplementary supports and aides. What effective practices have emerged to include students with disabilities in general education classrooms? What barriers remain?

Check Application Status

Approximately 2 weeks after you have applied online you will be able to go to your online application and check your "application status" to see what materials have been submitted and what application documents have not been received.

Additional Application Information

If you have questions or concerns regarding the application process, please contact the Department of Special Education Admissions and Student Affairs Administrator at specialeduadm@ku.edu or 785-864-4342. If you are admitted provisionally, you will be required to take the Applied English Center (AEC) Proficiency Test when you arrive at the University of Kansas.

  • If you pass all three parts of the AEC Proficiency Test (Listening, Reading & Writing, and Grammar for Communication), you may enroll full-time in university academic courses.
  • If you do not pass all of the AEC Proficiency Test, you will be required to enroll in 1 to 3 AEC courses (2 to 15 credit hours) depending on your scores.
  • If you are required to take a full load of AEC courses (15 credit hours) you will not be allowed to enroll in any Special Education courses.
  • If you are required to take 8-10 hours of AEC courses, you may enroll in one academic course.
  • If you are required to take 7 hours of AEC courses or less, you may enroll in two academic courses.

For more information, contact the Applied English Center at the University of Kansas by phone at 1-785-864-4606 or by email (aec@ku.edu).

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