How to apply to the Master of Social Work program

Apply now

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 field-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 field 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. Apply today.

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

Frequently Asked Questions:

General Program Questions:

Q: How many credits is the MSW program?

A: Full Program students generally complete 53 credits over the duration of two years, which is usually 4-5 semesters. Advanced standing students generally complete 34 credits over the duration of 3 semesters.

Q: How much does it cost to attend?

A: The latest information about tuition for all School of Social Work programs can be found on the OneStop website.

Q: I want to pursue clinical licensure. Does this mean I should select the Clinical Mental Health Specialization.

A: Not necessarily. Selecting your specialization really depends on where you see yourself practicing in a few years. Students who are interested in specializing in Health, Disability, and Aging or Families and Children earn clinical clock hours in their classes, which can be applied to your requirements for clinical licensure. If you aren’t sure which specialization makes sense for you, email the MSW Program Director, Suzanne Shatila at She can talk to you about which option makes the most sense based on your career goals.

Prerequisite Requirements:

Q: I completed a biology course in undergrad, but it is not a human biology course. Can this course be counted towards my human biology prerequisites?

A: Applicants can submit the course description and syllabi to the MSW program after they have been accepted for review. The MSW Program Director will review this information and determine if the course is a match.

Q: I took research methods in undergrad, but not a statistics course. Can this course be counted towards the stats requirement for the MSW program.

A: Applicants can submit the course description and syllabi to the MSW program after they have been accepted for review. The MSW Program Director will review this information and determine if the course is a match.

Advanced Standing versus Full Program:

Q: Should I apply for the full Program or the Advanced Standing track?

A: If your undergraduate degree is in a discipline other than social work, you should apply for the Full Program track. If your undergraduate degree is a bachelor’s in social work from a school accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), you can apply for the Advanced Standing track.

Q: My undergraduate degree is in a discipline other than social work, but my degree is in a related discipline. Can I apply to be an Advanced Standing student?

A: The Advanced Standing track is for students who have a bachelor’s in social work or social welfare from a program accredited through the Council for Social Work Education (CSWE). Only students who have BSWs are eligible to enter as an Advanced Standing student. This is a policy established by CSWE and all accredited social work programs follow this policy.

Q: I do not have a BSW but am a licensed social worker. Can I be accepted as an Advanced Standing student?

A: Licensure standards and requirements vary by state and are not related to standards and policies for social work education. The Council on Social Work Education [CSWE] sets standards with which accredited American MSW programs must comply. CSWE is very clear that only students entering with a BSW or equivalent degree, such as social welfare, from a CSWE accredited program are eligible to enter as Advanced Standing.

Though you have knowledge and practice experience that will help you in the MSW program, we can only accept students who have earned a BSW from an CSWE accredited program into the Advanced Standing program.

Q: I earned my BSW from a CSWE accredited program more than 7 years ago. Can I still be accepted as an Advanced Standing student?

A: Prospective students interested in receiving an application fee waiver must submit the University of Minnesota Twin Cities MSW Admissions Application Waiver Request Form, which can be found at this website.

We will evaluate the requests as they are submitted. Please note that submitting the form does not guarantee that the request will be approved.

Q. I am an international student. Are there any additional requirements.

A. Yes. The University of Minnesota Graduate School Admissions has information for international students interested in applying to UMN programs, including the MSW program. That information can be found on the Graduate School Admissions page.

Q: My undergraduate cumulative GPA is less than 3.0. Can I still apply?

A: Yes! Your GPA is just one measure of your academic abilities. We recognize that students experience challenges in college and that people grow and change over time. If your GPA is less than 2.8, we recommend you include some information in your application addressing this. You can write a short statement discussing what factors contributed to your undergraduate GPA and what supports you have now that will help you be successful in graduate school.

Q: I have a bachelor’s in social work, but my undergraduate cumulative GPA is less than 3.0. Can I still apply?

A: Yes. We recognize that your undergraduate GPA is just one measure of academic performance and your abilities as a social worker. We will look at your undergraduate transcripts to determine if you need to enroll in any MSW equivalent classes for your BSW classes. If you received less than a B in a core BSW social work class, we may ask that you enroll in the MSW equivalent class as part of this degree. For example, if someone earned a C+ in their undergraduate research methods course, we would ask them to enroll in our MSW research methods class. In many cases, we are able to count the credits for the MSW class towards your free electives, so you will not have to spend additional time in school or pay additional tuition.

Q: I am interested in a dual degree. What do I need to do to apply?

A: You will need to submit separate applications to both the School of Social Work and the other program. Once accepted to both programs, our program will work with the other program and with you to plan your schedule.

Q: I plan to apply after the priority application deadline. Will this impact the classes I can take?

A: Though you can still enroll in many of your required courses, depending on when you apply, you may miss the deadline for a practicum placement and to apply for internal School of Social Work funding.

Q: Why should I apply before the priority deadline in January?

A: Students who apply by the priority deadline and who are accepted are able to enroll in MSW program courses, including some classes that fill up quickly. You will also have the opportunity to participate in the practicum matching process starting in spring, which increases your ability to be placed in a fall to spring practicum placement. Additionally, applying by the January priority deadline ensures that you are able to apply for funding available through the School of Social Work. Forms for SSW scholarships and fellowships are sent to current and incoming students in the spring.

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 field 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, contact information for supervisor, as well as 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

Graduate Record Exam (GRE)

You are not required to take the GRE exam unless your undergraduate degree is from an institution where you did not receive grades or if more than 1/3 of your undergraduate credits were pass/fail. Scores may be no more than five years old.


The TOEFL, IELTS or MELAB is required of an applicant whose first language is not English, regardless of citizenship status. For more information about these requirements, see the Graduate School webpage

Unofficial transcripts

Unofficial transcripts from all colleges and universities you have attended (including the University of Minnesota).

Note to applicants:

In accordance with accreditation standards from the Council on Social Work Education, the School of Social Work does not give academic credit for life experiences, including field. (Accreditation Standard 3.1.5 – Student Development: Admissions; Advisement, Retention, and Termination, and Student Participation.)

Contact us

MSW Admissions