How to apply to the masters of social work program

Thank you for your interest in the University of Minnesota MSW program! The deadline for applying for the 2020 program was January 3, unless you are a transfer applicant. The deadline for transfer applications is April 1.

2020 admissions timeline

January 3: Application deadline, 11:59 P.M., Central Time

Mid- to late-January: Application review

Late February/Early March: Notification of admission decisions

April 1: Deadline for transfer student applications

April 15: Deadline for admitted students to accept, defer, or decline

MSW students attend fall orientation.
MSW students attend fall orientation.

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 three 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?

Note: Please disregard the two written statements the online graduate application asks for. Instead, upload your personal statement and academic writing sample to your online application.

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).

Apply now
Download the checklist to help you through the application process.

Contact us

Zer Vang
Director of MSW Admissions