The school’s graduate students are a diverse group. The majority of the school’s residential master’s students have worked for at least two or three years; in fact, it is preferred. Some have worked in journalism, public relations, advertising and other mass communication fields. Others come from careers in teaching, health care, finance, science, engineering and law. Some were journalism majors as undergraduates, but most majored in the liberal arts. Many of the school’s doctoral students have master’s degrees in journalism and mass communication, but, while a master’s degree or J.D. is required for admission to the doctoral program, the master's degree does not have to be in journalism and mass communication. Each year, international students make up about 10 percent of the graduate program’s student body. The average age of a residential master’s student entering in fall 2012 was 28; the average Ph.D. student entering in 2012 was 32. Age is not a barrier to acceptance.
The school’s master’s programs do not flow directly into the doctoral program, and already-enrolled master’s students are rarely encouraged to apply to the doctoral program. Occasionally, however, appropriate exceptions are made. The graduate program seldom admits applicants to the master’s program immediately after finishing an undergraduate degree. Program administrators feel it is best for students to work at least two or three years to gain real-life perspective before enrolling in graduate school. From time to time, appropriate exceptions are made here as well.
What it takes to get in
Minimum criteria for admission to the school’s graduate program include a recognized undergraduate degree and, for doctoral applicants, a master’s degree or J.D. degree; an undergraduate grade average of “B” or better (3.0 GPA); minimum GRE scores of the 55th percentile on the verbal portion of the test and the 50th percentile on the quantitative portion. The minimum score on the analytical writing portion of the test is 4.5.
In 2012, the entering residential master's class had an average score of 587 on the old verbal portion of the GRE test and 159 on the new verbal portion; 677 on the old quantitative portion and 153 on the new quantitative portion; and 4.5 on the analytical writing portion of the GRE. The entering Ph.D. class averaged 713 on the old verbal portion of the GRE and 157 on the new verbal portion; 674 on the old quantitative portion and 152 on the new quantitative portion; and 5.0 on the analytical writing portion. We strongly encourage all applicants, especially those people who have been out of school for a while, to study for the GRE.
We do accept scores for the new GRE, which began in August. Comparison levels between scores and percentages will be forthcoming after being determined by the testing service.
International students must score at least 105 points on the Internet-based exam, 260 points on the computer-based TOEFL exam or 620 on the paper-based exam.
Applicants below these standards can be admitted only if the school offers strong justification. Given the competition for spots in the program, applicants below these standards will have to demonstrate substantial compensatory qualifications to be considered. Meeting these criteria is not a guarantee of admission.
How to apply
Visit the UNC Graduate School website to complete an online application. The website provides complete admissions information, links to all programs offered, as well as an online application for admission (the preferred means of receiving applications). The online application provides for the prompt, secure and confidential receipt of application. Individuals who apply online can elect to pay the application fee by credit card at the time of applying, which means their application will be forwarded to the intended program the next business day.
The application must be completed and submitted to the Graduate School by Jan. 14, the official deadline for admission for the next fall. After that date, applications will not be accepted by the Graduate School. The priority deadline for those seeking graduate assistantships is January 1. The 2014 application opens Aug. 1.
Only complete applications will be be considered. Complete applications are defined as those accompanied by the $85 fee and containing transcripts, GRE and, if necessary, TOEFL scores, and the other materials described below. The school only admits new classes in the fall. Exceptions for summer admission will be granted only to those students who are enrolled in dual-degree programs supported by the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and who were enrolled as full-time students the previous semester.
The following required supplemental materials must be submitted during the online application process (PLEASE DO NOT SUBMIT PAPER DOCUMENTS — ALL DOCUMENTS MUST BE SUBMITTED ELECTRONICALLY VIA THE ONLINE APPLICATION SYSTEM):
- A $85 application fee. The Graduate School accepts online credit card payments. Applicants also may pay by personal check or money order (U.S. dollars only), but payments MUST be received by the January 8 application deadline or the application will not be processed.
- One copy of transcripts for all college work. Transcripts are submitted electronically with the online application and are considered unofficial. Once an applicant is admitted to the program, official transcripts must be submitted in hard copy from either the college or university or the student, but must have the official seal and signature of an official representative of the institution. If issued to the student, transcripts should be in a sealed envelope with an official signature across the seal. Transcripts are required from other institutions for classes appearing on a main transcript as transfer or study abroad courses if those courses are listed and have no accompanying grades. If grades are shown along with the credits, then another transcript is not necessary.
- Graduate Record Examination scores. Scores from computerized tests taken through November should reach the graduate program by the Jan. 14 deadline. Do not plan to take the GRE in December or January and expect to have test scores available to the selection committee. Test scores must be dated within five years of application. If test scores are more than five years old, applicants must retake the exam. When taking the GRE, please note that UNC’s Institutional Code is R5816. Please fill in this material correctly so scores will be applied correctly. The Graduate School requires an official copy of test scores be sent directly from the testing service. Contact the Graduate School for questions about GRE scores and their validity.
- A current résumé.
- Three letters of recommendation from academic and professional sources best qualified to evaluate the applicant’s potential as a graduate student. The online application requires the e-mail addresses of the three recommenders. They will respond with their recommendation.
- A brief statement describing background, career goals and research interests. This should be double-spaced and no longer than two pages for master’s applicants and no longer than four pages for doctoral applicants.
- Master’s applicants should include a writing sample, such as an academic paper or magazine or newspaper article. Doctoral applicants should submit a chapter from their master’s thesis or a copy of an academic paper.
- Doctoral applicants should also include a SEPARATE statement detailing a problem that they would like to solve during their time as a doctoral student. This statement should deal with a narrow topic, something that could be addressed in a semester’s research project, for example. Applicants are not committed to researching this problem after admittance to the program; this is to learn an applicant’s research interests.
- Financial certificate and official bank statement if an international applicant. The financial certificate can be found within the online application. Please note: The financial certificate and supporting documentation are required of ALL international applicants (except those with legal resident alien status, which is granted by U.S. Immigration — proof is required), including Ph.D. applicants who want to be considered for funding. INTERNATIONAL APPLICANTS MUST INCLUDE THE INTERNATIONAL STUDENT DATA FORM AND FINANCIAL CERTIFICATION WORKSHEET ALONG WITH SUPPORTING DOCUMENTATION. FINANCIAL ABILITY TO PAY MUST BE SHOWN FOR TWO YEARS FOR THE MASTER'S PROGRAM AND THREE YEARS FOR THE DOCTORAL PROGRAM. Information can be found on the Graduate School's website: gradschool.unc.edu/admissions/instructions.html#intl.
Unlike many graduate and professional programs, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication does not have a rolling admissions procedure. Because the school admits students only for fall semesters, the admissions committee meets only in spring semesters.
The committee generally meets in January, February and early March. Formal acceptance and rejection letters are sent from the University’s Graduate School. It can possibly take several weeks after the admissions committee finishes meeting.
The Graduate School, which supervises post-baccalaureate programs, sends out the official notification of admission. Applicants admitted to the program are required to respond affirmatively by April 15 or within three weeks of notification of admission, whichever is later, and to send a $250 non-refundable deposit. The offer of admission may be withdrawn due to the failure to respond within the stated time period.
Incoming residential graduate students must participate in an orientation program before classes begin. An orientation-information packet is mailed during mid-summer. At orientation, students meet with other graduate students, are introduced to faculty members and set up class schedules. Students are assigned a temporary faculty adviser to help select appropriate courses for the fall semester, and register for courses following the advising session. Students also sign up for e-mail addresses. It is imperative for accepted residential graduate students to attend these meetings.