College of Education and Human Development

School of Social Work

Applying to the Master of Social Work program

Priority Application Deadline:

January 13, 2023, at 5:00 PM CST. All required application documents must be received by January 13, 2023. Applicants who apply by January 13 will receive class-registration, financial aid, and practicum-placement priority over applicants applying after this deadline.

Applications received after our priority deadline (January 13) and before May 31, 2023, will be reviewed on a space available basis only. Please note that interested applicants who apply and are accepted after January 13 may not be able to enter fall-spring practicum placements during their first year in the program.

2023 Admissions Timeline

  • January 13, 2023, Priority deadline, end of business day (5:00 p.m., CST): MSW program application deadline
  • Mid- to late-January: Application reviews begin
  • Late February/Early March: Notification of admission decisions for priority applicants
  • May 31, 2023: final deadline for applicants if space is available

NOTE: The MSW program admissions cycle for the 2022-2023 academic year is now closed. Applications for the 2023-2024 program are now being accepted.

For more information about Graduate Admissions, and additional tips for applying, visit the Graduate Admissions page.

Before applying, prepare the following

    Personal statement

    In contrast with the formal academic writing sample, we use the personal statement to get to know you a little better. The personal statement should be a maximum of 1700 words and should address the following four questions:

    • What is your understanding of social work as a profession, and its role in creating a just society?What experiences (both personal and professional) have helped you prepare to work across differences and in multicultural environments?
    • What challenges will you face in preparing for and doing this kind of work?
    • What are your short- and long-term professional goals, and how do you see the MSW degree contributing to your professional preparation?

    Formal academic writing sample

    Students in the MSW Program will have a significant amount of writing in their graduate program, and we expect students to enter with strong writing and analytical skills. We ask all applicants to submit a formal writing sample that will allow faculty reviewers to assess your readiness for graduate-level writing.

    Prepare an essay that addresses the following prompt, using no more than 1250 words. In this writing sample you should draw from outside sources, you should cite your sources, and you should include a reference page. We encourage applicants to use APA style; however, you can use other citation styles as long as you are consistent throughout the writing sample. The essay should be typed double-spaced. In your writing sample:

    • Present a social problem and describe how it is relevant to the practicum of social welfare and the social work profession.
    • Briefly summarize two or more reputable and credible sources that have researched and analyzed this problem. Reputable sources can include, for example, research studies, editorials, government publications, etc.
    • Draw from these sources to suggest next steps for addressing this issue via social policy, social work practice, and/or social work research.

    Extenuating circumstances statement (optional)

    We look for an undergraduate grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or higher. We invite you to submit a statement of extenuating circumstances that may have affected your overall undergraduate performance, particularly if your GPA is less than 3.0.

    Résumé or CV

    Submit a professional résumé or CV that includes details for each professional human service position you have held. Include position title, name of agency, address, and the number of hours worked weekly.

    Three letters of recommendation

    We ask that at least two of the letters be from professionals who are able to comment on your human service experience, including your skills and preparedness to enter advanced social work training in an internship.

    Recommendation requests will come directly to the recommender from the Graduate School application site, once you’ve identified who will provide your letters.

    Please ask your recommenders to address the following:

    • Circumstances in which they are familiar with your work, and the nature of the work that you performed.
    • Your capacity to engage clients, to demonstrate empathy and rapport with clients, your level of self-awareness and emotional intelligence, and your ability to work effectively with diverse populations.
    • If applicable, your academic potential for starting graduate school; your capacity for engaging in academic and scholarly work.

    Additional requirements for advanced standing applicants

    Students applying for Advanced standing to the MSW program who do not have at least one year of post-BSW full time practice must submit the following as part of their application:

    • BSW practicum evaluation OR
    • Letter of reference from BSW practicum supervisor OR
    • Letter of reference from BSW Field Faculty OR
    • Letter of explanation as to why one of the above cannot be submitted

    Admissions FAQ

      All students are required to submit undergraduate and graduate school transcripts, a curriculum vita, a personal statement, a diversity statement, an academic writing sample, and three letters of recommendation. All international students must also take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), with the exception of students who earned an academic degree in an English speaking country.

      We accept Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores and recommend them for applicants who cannot demonstrate a strong background in research, writing, and statistics; however, GRE scores are not required.

      The GRE is only valid for five years. If your GRE is more than five years old, you will need to take it again.

      A master’s degree is required for admission directly into the PhD program. While we do accept people with master’s degrees in other related fields, we strongly encourage applicants to complete their MSW before applying to the PhD program. An MSW provides important theoretical and practice knowledge that is useful throughout the PhD program. In addition, applicants should know that many social work departments will only hire faculty with an MSW and at least two years of post-MSW practice experience, which is another reason why the MSW is valuable for applicants.

      The PhD program is very selective. Usually we accept less than 20% of applicants. Most applications are quite strong, so we have turn away many applicants each year who could potentially succeed in our program.

      Number of students: 5-8
      Average verbal GRE percentile: 75th
      Average quantitative GRE percentile: 65th
      Average analytic writing GRE percentile: 75th
      Average undergraduate GPA: 3.60
      Average graduate GPA: 3.85

      We are looking for students who will be able to conduct meaningful scholarship upon graduation and will eventually become national or international leaders in developing the social work knowledge base and providing academic leadership in the field. Thus, we are looking for people who excelled in their undergraduate and graduate programs, have excellent GRE (and TOEFL) scores, have had meaningful social work or related professional experience, have participated in research projects and publications, have strong critical thinking and writing skills, and have a strong interest in a career centered upon social work scholarship.

      General FAQ

        Students take two years of coursework both inside and outside the School of Social Work, including required courses in research methods, statistics, theory, history, policy and teaching, as well as supporting program courses from across the university. Students typically complete their preliminary examinations and defend their dissertation proposal, and then complete their dissertation in their fourth or PhD fifth year.

        No, the PhD program is a weekday program with courses offered during the daytime. Students should expect to be on-campus at least three days per week, if not more, for at least the first two years of the program.

        There is no formal, part-time program, though some students do work off-campus part-time and complete the program at a slightly slower rate. However, we do not encourage part-time study and give preference to students interested in full-time study and do not provide funding packages to part-time students. Full-time students are better able to engage in all aspects of the program and are more likely to complete the program.

        No, we do not have a combined MSW/PhD program. Applicants must have a master’s degree in social work, social welfare, or a related field, preferably from a school of social work accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. Applicants may be enrolled in a master’s program when they apply for the PhD program, but the program must be completed before they begin doctoral studies.

        No. Our PhD program does not focus on developing advanced clinical skills.

        Our program is designed so that students can complete the program in 4 years, though most finish within 4-5 years.

        The PhD program includes two years of coursework, examinations and the dissertation. Please see the PhD Student Handbook for the specific requirements and timetables for completion.

        An MSW program is an advanced professional practice degree geared towards preparing social work practitioners for work in direct practice social work or community practice social work. Our MSW graduates secure positions in a variety of areas, including clinical social work, case management/care coordination, advocacy, community organizing, planning, or leading. A PhD program is a research degree that focuses on the development of advanced research, theoretical and teaching skills. Most of our PhD graduates work in academia or research positions.

        Because of the rigorous demands of the PhD program, most students are unable to work full-time and successfully complete the program. A PhD program should be thought of similarly time wise to a demanding full-time job.