Exceptional Learning Ph.D.

Graduate Admission Requirements

All application materials should be submitted as Adobe PDF documents.

Please note that the STEM Education has additional admissions requirements.

Students must submit a complete application by May 1 for fall admission, September 15 for spring admission, or March 1 for summer admission; applications received after this deadline may not receive full consideration.

Admission to the ELPhD program does not include a tuition waiver; please see information on Graduate Assistantships for additional information about funding.

2023-2024 Graduate Catalog

  • ELPhD Admissions Criteria


    Consideration for admission to the program is based on the applicant’s grade point average (GPA) in the last graduate degree or the last 60 hours of undergraduate work if no graduate degree has been completed. If a student has successfully completed some graduate hours but not attained a graduate degree, the GPA for these courses may also be considered. An average of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) or above from a recognized baccalaureate, graduate, or professional degree from an accredited college or university, or an international equivalent based on a four-year curriculum is required for admission.


    Valid GRE scores (score date within 5 years of application) must be submitted as part of the ELPhD application.

    Please make certain to send the scores to TTU (1804). You can use the major code for Curriculum & Instruction (3101).

    Scholarly Writing

    Students must demonstrate the ability to do scholarly writing by submitting a reference-based paper, thesis, or other written document in which information from various sources has been synthesized. The applicant must be the sole author. Please see Admission Tips for additional guidance.

    Letter of Intent

    One to two pages that must address the following: intended enrollment (semester & year), intended concentration, autobiographical statement, educational and professional goals, and areas of interest for future research. If you are applying to the ABA concentration, you must indicate the strand in which you wish to enroll: School-Aged & Adult Populations (ABAS) or Young Children & Families (YCF). Please see Admission Tips for additional guidance.

    Three Letters of Recommendation

    Recommendation letters should be from individuals, preferably professors, who are able to comment on your qualifications and scholarly aptitude for doctoral study. The letters should also address characteristics that will contribute to your success as a doctoral student should you be accepted in the ELPhD program. Consideration will be made based upon the content of these letters. Please make certain the recommenders know they must submit a letter as well as evaluate the applicant on a series of qualities (done when submitting the letter). Applications without three letters may not receive full consideration. Please see Admission Tips for additional guidance.

    Professional Curriculum Vitae (CV)/Resume


    Applicants who pass the initial evaluation will be required to have an interview with the Ph.D. program faculty and Director of Graduate Programs.

    International Students

    International students must also meet the English Language Requirement by providing TOEFL test scores: a minimum of 80 on the TOEFL iBT is required. If you have taken another TOEFL version that is still valid, the requirements are: 213 on TOEFL CBT or 550 on the TOEFL PBT.

    Note: Applicants who have citizenship in a country where English is a primary language or have been awarded a degree from a university in one of the following countries are exempt from the TOEFL requirement: Australia, Belize, the British Caribbean and British West Indies, Canada (except Québec), England, Guyana, Ireland, Liberia, New Zealand, Scotland, the United States, and Wales.

    If a candidate does not have access to a TOEFL testing site, it may be possible to accept another language proficiency test score. Please inquire before submitting a test score other than the TOEFL.

    *Please note the STEM Education concentration requires the following additional admission requirements:

    • Three years of STEM teaching/outreach (P–16)
    • Master’s Degree, and

    • One of the following:
      • A minimum of 18 semester hours of graduate credit in a STEM discipline;
      • Teacher Licensure in a STEM discipline (Grades 6–8, 6–12, or 7–12);
      • Teacher Licensure (K­–5) with 24 semester hours in math/science; or
      • Teacher Licensure (K­–5) with a passing score on the state-approved licensure exam for a STEM content area

  • Graduate Studies Admissions

    Prospective students are encouraged to make application to the College of Graduate Studies in time for admission to be completed at least one full semester before expected entrance to the Ph.D. program.

    • Admission is open for Fall semester only.
    • Please visit the College of Graduate Studies for admissions application deadlines and to apply to the program

    Submit Your Application to:

    College of Graduate Studies
    Tennessee Tech University
    Campus Box 5012
    Cookeville, TN 38505

    P: 931-372-3233

    1. complete the Graduate School Application for Admission;
    2. return the completed application form with application fee to the Tennessee Tech Graduate School;
    3. request that the registrar of all college and universities attended send one official transcript to the Graduate School;
    4. request that the Educational Testing Service (ETS) submit to the Graduate School an official copy of verbal, quantitative, and writing scores from the General Portion of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE);
    5. submit a scholarly writing sample (described in Admissions Criteria);
    6. submit a statement of intent (described in the Admissions Criteria);
    7. submit three letters of recommendation (described in the Admissions Criteria) required for the application file to the College of Education;
    8. submit a Graduate Assistantship, grant, or scholarship application (as appropriate)
    9. submit a professional curriculum vitae (CV) or resume.

    Processing of Application

    1. Once application materials reach the Director of Graduate Programs, the file will be reviewed to see if the criteria for admission have been met.
    2. The file will then be sent to the appropriate concentration leader for further deliberation.
    3. Once reviewed by the admissions committee and the concentration leader, it will be returned to the Director’s office with a recommendation about if the applicant should proceed to the interview.
    4. If the applicant continues to the interview, the interview will be scheduled with Ph.D. faculty and the Director of Graduate Programs.
    5. Once the interview is complete, a recommendation will be forwarded to Graduate Admissions. Graduate Admissions will notify each applicant of the final, official decision.

  • Graduate Assistantships

    Students may apply to be a Graduate Assistant (GA), as well as apply for various fellowships and scholarships.

    Admission to the ELPhD program does not guarantee tuition support. Applications for a Graduate Assistant position should be made no later than the time of application to the program*:

    GA Application Information

    *ELPhD GA positions are very limited. If you think you are interested in a GA position, let the Director of Graduate Programs know immediately – prior to application is best; assignments are generally full and a wait list is maintained.

    Please send the GA application to the Director of Graduate Programs, the Administrative Associate for the Associate Dean’s Office, and Graduate Studies as soon as you apply. More details about ELPhD GA positions can be found under the Admission Tips section below.

  • Admission Tips

    Please complete your ELPhD application as soon as is possible.

    While The College of Graduate Studies publishes application deadlines for each semester, it is better to submit your application well in advance of this deadline. For those seeking a Graduate Assistantship, this applies to the GA application as well.

    Applications are not sent to the ELPhD Application Review Committee until they are complete. This includes transcripts, GRE scores, health forms, and letters of recommendation. Graduate Studies sends reminders about the type of documents that are still missing; please take note of these and follow up with the appropriate individuals to ensure your application is whole and sent to the ELPhD Application Review Committee in a timely manner.

    GRE scores

    If you have an unofficial PDF copy of your GRE scores, please upload them as part of your application.

    Scholarly Writing Sample

    The writing sample is a piece of scholarly writing that uses multiple sources to support a particular point of view, argument, or claim. The scholarly writing sample does not have a specific topic or length requirement. We have had submissions ranging from 6 pages to an MA thesis (60+ pages). Topic and length are less important than the writing quality, skillful analysis/argument, and the proficient use of scholarly sources. You may have something appropriate from a course you have taken or you may wish to write something specifically for the application.

    Letter of Intent

    The Letter of Intent needs to address the areas noted: intended enrollment (semester and year), intended concentration, autobiographical statement, educational and professional goals, and areas of interest for future research.

    You may certainly include additional information, but those five areas must be included. We do look at them as part of the application evaluation, and those that do not include all five may not receive full consideration.

    Note: If you are applying to the ABA concentration, you must indicate the strand in which you wish to enroll: School-Aged & Adult Populations (ABAS) or Young Children & Families (YCF).

    Recommendation Letters

    Once you input your references’ contact information, the system will send them a request with a link. It never hurts to follow-up personally, however. Make certain they know that they must include a letter. They are asked to rate the applicant and the letter portion appears optional (as the system has to work for every program and some have different processes), but it is not optional for the ELPhD application.

    Think carefully about whom you ask to write a letter; a vague or lackluster letter may affect your application’s competitiveness.

    Encourage your recommenders to look over the ELPhD program and your intended concentration—provide them with the link to our webpage to make it as simple as possible for them. They can then best describe the ways your skills, talents, experiences, and qualities make you an attractive candidate and will set you up for success as a doctoral student.

    ELPhD GA Positions

    Admission to the ELPhD program does not include a tuition waiver. We have a limited number of Graduate Assistantships (GAs); only a small portion of ELPhD students are supported by a GA position. If you are interested & decide to apply to the ELPhD program, You are strongly encouraged to submit a GA application as part of your ELPhD application, as well as send a copy directly to the Director of Graduate Programs & copy Mrs. Denette Way ( Earlier is better; you may submit a GA application before your ELPhD application is complete.

    GA spots come open as GA students graduate & a chronological list of those who have expressed interest guides who will be asked about accepting a position (assuming the prospective student has applied & been admitted). The ELPhD GA positions are all research positions—though the tasks vary widely & offer a good variety of experience. All of our GA positions cover tuition & fees, plus have a small stipend. The ELPhD GA stipend is $1,000 per month. These positions are year-round (12-month).

    You may also apply to GA positions other than those in the ELPhD program; you are not limited to ours. Many other GA positions are only Fall & Spring semester positions. You may wish to consider this as you look at other potential GA options. Stipends also vary across campus. You may apply for multiple positions, but you may only accept one GA position.

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