Education, M.A.
(Early Childhood, Special Education, and Literacy)
(formerly called Early Childhood, Intervention, and Literacy)

Frequently Asked Questions

About the ECSEL

About Admission to the ECSEL Program

Is there an option to complete the program online?

No; the program must be completed on campus.  Some Ph.D. students are able to work on their dissertation from a distance after they have completed all of their coursework on campus, but they must be able to return to campus for various in-person meetings as well.

Can the program be completed part-time?

M.A. students may complete the program as part-time or full-time students.  Ph.D. students must participate in the program full-time.

What type of background and experience characterizes a strong applicant to the ECSEL program?

ECSEL students come from a variety of educational and work backgrounds.  A teaching license is not required for admission to the program, however strong applicants will have at least 3 years of full-time experience working with children, usually in a setting such as childcare/preschool, speech and hearing sciences, social work, disability services, or  public/ private school teaching.

What types of careers do graduates of the ECSEL program typically pursue?

ECSEL graduates most commonly obtain jobs in research or as university faculty.  Most M.A. students in the program plan to pursue a Ph.D. after completion of their M.A.

Do students obtain a teaching license upon completion of the program?

No, neither the M.A. nor the Ph.D. program includes a student-teaching component nor do they satisfy other requirements toward acquiring a teaching license.  The M.A. and Ph.D. programs are geared toward students who are interested in research.  Students who are interested in pursuing a Birth-Kindergarten teaching license in addition to their studies in the ECSEL program may contact Dr. Sharon Palsha (, the program coordinator for the Birth-Kindergarten Licensure Only program.

Who may I contact with questions about the program?

For general program inquiries, contact the interim Program Assistant, Sharon Powell, at or (919) 962-2511.  Also contact Sharon if you would like to set up an appointment with the Program Coordinator, Dr. Lynne Vernon-Feagans, to discuss specific questions such as whether the program might be the right fit for you.  It is encouraged that you read the faculty bios on the ECSEL website and also contact professors with whom you have shared academic interest.  Prospective students with an interest in literacy should contact Dr. Mollie Lloyd (

Can a new student enter the ECSEL program in either the Fall or the Spring semester?

Students are only admitted to enter the program during fall semesters.  If you miss the application deadline for the upcoming academic year, you must wait to apply for admission for fall semester of the following year as deadlines are strict and no extensions will be made.  New students start the program each August, at the beginning of the UNC Chapel Hill academic year.

When will I be notified of my admissions decision?

Admission to the ECSEL program occurs on a rolling basis.  Faculty members begin reviewing applications in late January and will finish reviewing applications by March.  Please note that if your application is not entirely complete by the posted application deadline your application will not be considered by the program.  You are personally responsible for ensuring that your application is complete and there will be no extensions or exceptions to the deadline.  The official letter notifying you of your admissions decision will come from The Graduate School.  It will take at least a few weeks after the faculty have made their decision for you to receive your letter. 

How can I be considered for funding support if I am accepted to the program?

To be considered for University Fellowships and Graduate School funding, be sure to submit your entire admissions application before the posted December deadline that is listed at  When ECSEL faculty review applications they will consider all applicants for any open funded positions they may have available, such as Graduate Assistantships, Research Assistantships, or Teaching Assistantships.  No additional materials are required to be considered for any Fellowship or Assistantship opportunities, but submitting your application early is suggested.  Faculty will make most student funding decisions in late April and will notify students of any funding opportunities that are available to them.  Faculty do their best to find funding for all Ph.D. students, though there is no guarantee that financial support will be available.  Funding for M.A. students is not frequently available, but M.A. applicants will be considered for any opportunities for which they might qualify.  For other information about funding your study at UNC Chapel Hill, please see

What test scores and other pieces are required as part of the admissions application?

Please see admissions information online at for all of the required elements of the application.  Please carefully and thoroughly read the information on this webpage and the pages to which it links.  GRE scores from within the past five years are required for all applicants.

What can I do to help my chances of admission?

In addition to submitting your complete application before the deadline, we strongly recommend that you look at the online bios of our ECSEL program faculty members and contact faculty members who share your academic interests.  Phone or in-person meetings are recommended to discuss your interest in the program, though no official interview is required for admission.  It is also recommended that you attend the ECSEL Recruitment Weekend that is usually held the last weekend in January, although this is not a requirement for admission.  Information on the Recruitment Weekend will be e-mailed around late December to prospective students who have contacted the program expressing interest; contact Sharon Powell ( with your e-mail address to ensure that you receive this information.

Who can I contact to confirm that my application is complete?

You may contact the interim ECSEL Program Assistant, Sharon Powell ( to confirm that your application is complete or learn what materials may still be missing.  It is your responsibility to ensure that your application is complete by the deadline, including the submission of all required materials and payment of the application fee.

Graduate Admissions FAQ questions can be viewed at: