MSW Admissions & Application Requirements

MSW Admissions Requirements

The Master of Social Work Program seeks to identify and admit students who will succeed in the program and have a strong potential to provide valuable services to the community after graduation.

To identify such students, we utilize an admission process that allows us to review the applicant’s career goals and aspirations, work and volunteer history, education background, and capabilities.

Requirements for admission to any MSW Program option include:

  1. A bachelor’s degree from a regionally-accredited university or college
  2. Academic credentials attesting to strong scholarship – generally a grade point average of at least 3.0
  3. Completion of five required prerequisite courses

  4. In addition to the above mentioned requirements, we favor applicants who show:

  5. Adherence to the highest standards of conduct and ethics
  6. Emotional maturity
  7. Leadership and problem solving ability
  8. An aptitude for understanding and relating to people
  9. A demonstrated history of social service experience through volunteer or paid work experience in human service settings

These skills and qualities are assessed through professional recommendations, an autobiographical statement, a critical thinking essay, student transcripts, and a resume.

Admission to the MSW Program is competitive; approximately 105 students are admitted each year to the regular 2-year full-time (60-credit-hour) program; 5 to the MSW Distance Program in St. George every two years, 55 to the Advanced Standing program in Salt Lake City, 25 to each of the DCFS employee programs and 5 to the Advanced Standing program in St. George every two years. Students admitted to the 2-year full-time or 4-year part-time 60-credit-hour and the DCFS MSW Programs begin classes in the fall semester (August). Those admitted to the Advanced Standing programs begin classes in the summer (May).

Requirements for Application:

Minimum GPA:
The University of Utah requires that earned bachelor’s degrees are from a regionally-accredited institution. (Regional accrediting bodies include: Middle States Commission on Higher Education, New England Association of Schools and Colleges, North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and Western Association of Schools and Colleges.) Further, in order to be accepted into any graduate program, the University of Utah requires a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0. If the applicant has attended more than one institution, the GPA is a weighted cumulative GPA of all institutions. If the applicant has a weighted cumulative GPA below 3.0, he/she must calculate the last two years’ GPA (60 graded semester hours of undergraduate work or 90 quarter hours). If both are below 3.0, the appropriate examination must be taken as outlined below. Students with lower GPAs should consider earning a second undergraduate degree or completing a minimum of 30 hours of post-graduate study in order to strengthen their applications. Click here to calculate your GPA.

Students who have GPAs below 3.0 can still be considered for admission to the MSW Program. However, if the applicant’s overall GPA and last 60 credit hours are below 3.0, the applicant is required to take either the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or the Miller Analogy Test (MAT) before the application will be considered complete. Results of these examinations should be sent to the College of Social Work before the application deadline, and applicants report the score in the Apply Yourself program at time of application. Thus, prospective students should take the respective tests as soon as they determine their overall GPA. One source to find out more about these examinations is the University of Utah Testing Center. Please note that the University of Utah’s Graduate Admissions Committee is unlikely to approve admission for a student with a GPA under 2.8, even given a strong GRE or MAT score. Prospective students with a weighted cumulative GPA under 3.0 should consult with the MSW Admissions Coordinator, Farrina Coulam, at prior to applying.

Prerequisite Classes:
Applicants admitted to the MSW Program must complete prerequisite classes before beginning the MSW Program. These classes provide a foundation for graduate study in social work. The following prerequisite courses must be completed with a 3.0 (B) average across all five classes prior to students beginning their first semester. No class with a grade below C- can be used in this calculation.

  • Introduction to Sociology
  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Introduction to Political Science or U.S. National Government or Economics
  • Human Development Across the Lifespan (birth through end of life)
  • Research or Statistics – must be a social and behavioral sciences class

Prerequisite classes must be taken at a post secondary regionally accredited educational institution on a for-credit basis, with a letter grade assigned. AP credit or CLEP waivers will not be accepted. Applicants are highly encouraged to scan and email a copy of their transcripts or electronic student report to as early in their application process as possible. An evaluation of courses and substitutions will be provided, which will help eliminate delays once the application is submitted, and to help applicants in their planning.

Please note that a final official transcript must be submitted to the University’s Office of Admissions by the first day of class to verify receipt of an academic degree that was in progress at the time of application. A transcript must also be sent to the MSW Program office at least 14 days prior to the first day of classes, confirming receipt of a degree and any prerequisites in progress at the time of application. If an applicants’ bachelor's degree has not been awarded or prerequisite classes are not completed, the applicant will not be allowed to attend classes, even if admitted. To ensure classes are available and that applicants can meet deadlines, it is highly recommended that applicants complete missing prerequisite classes during the fall or winter semesters and not delay to the summer before potential admission!

For questions, please contact Farrina Coulam at

International Students

International students should review the University of Utah International Graduate Admissions Office requirements for information regarding English language proficiency, financial documentation, and other pertinent information needed. There is no specific financial aid to support international students at the College of Social Work MSW Program. Students may pursue scholarship opportunities through the College of Social Work and the University of Utah.

The University of Utah requires a minimum TOEFL score of 80 IBT or 550 PBT or a minimum IELTS score of 6.50. The College of Social Work, due to the intensive need for excellent communication skills, requires a minimum score of 100 IBT or 600 PBT, or an IELTS score of 7.0 to 7.5.

Transfer Students and Life Experience

The MSW Program does not grant social work credit for life experience, previous work experience or another master's degree program. Beginning 2011, the College of Social Work cannot accept transfer students from any other MSW program into any of its MSW Program options.


Application Instructions

The University of Utah Graduate Admissions office and the College of Social Work use an online application process, “Apply Yourself.” A review of the MSW Apply Yourself Instructions to assist applicants with information required for Social Work MSW application in the Apply Yourself online program is mandatory, as it contains critical information found nowhere else.

MSW application instructions and the Apply Yourself (AY) application program undergo yearly changes and updates. Applicants should wait to begin an application using the link in the Tutorial until after August 1 each year. There is no benefit to early application.

Click here for the Apply Yourself Instructions and Application.

The Admissions Committee engages in a holistic review process, drawing information from the following sources:

  1. Official transcripts from all universities/colleges attended
  2. Four professional recommendations from professors or supervisors in work and/or volunteer settings, particularly those in human services settings. It is suggested that applicants submit recommendations from persons who have been directly responsible for assessing the applicants' human service-related work/volunteer experience or academic performance. One or two letters from social workers are strongly encouraged.
  3. Written statement: autobiographical essay (see below)
  4. Critical thinking essay (see below)
  5. Resume or curriculum vitae (see below)

Occasionally, the Admissions Committee will request an interview with an applicant. Applicants may not request interviews.

Autobiographical Statement:
The MSW Admission Committee wants to know (a) why the applicant wants to be a social worker, (b) if the applicant has a sound understanding of what social workers do, and (c) how the applicant’s life experiences have prepared him/her to understand graduate studies in social work. To this end, applicants must write an autobiographical essay that is between three and four double-spaced pages, created in Microsoft Word using Times New Roman 12 point font with one inch margins. If the work of others is used or referenced, APA format must be followed. (Please reference the American Psychological Association Publication Manual, 6th edition for information on how to format work appropriately.) The autobiographical essay should consider the following elements:

  • Life experiences and family background
  • Work and volunteer activities (provide details on social work or human services-related experiences)
  • Educational experiences, including exposure to research
  • Leadership abilities and notable achievements
  • What led the applicant to choose social work as a profession and what his/her career goals are
  • Social welfare areas of interest, including how obtaining an MSW would enable the applicant to professionally address these.

Critical Thinking Essay:
Social Work practice is unique in that person-in-environment is the focus, taking into account the complexity of human experience at the individual level as influenced by policies, communities, state and federal laws, etc., that either support well-being or provide barriers to individuals’ or families’ abilities to function at optimal levels. The NASW Code of Ethics addresses these complex issues and provides guidance for practice and a framework for resolving ethical dilemmas. There is rarely only one answer or one course of action in the dilemmas social workers face.

To help the MSW Admission Committee determine the applicant’s ability to think critically about the complex and multi-level challenges in social work practice, he/she is required to write an essay after choosing one of the case studies provided. The applicant should write an essay identifying factors which should be considered if the applicant were the social worker in the case. Including how the applicant believes the NASW Code of Ethics would bear on the case.

The Admission Committee is interested in hearing the applicant’s critical thought about which factors should be considered and why. How does the case relate to the NASW Code of Ethics? How would the applicant prioritize competing demands or resolve ethical dilemmas? If there is missing information, how would the applicant go about gathering this information? Applicants should focus on the Preamble and Purpose of the Code of Ethics, and then under “Ethical Standards,” reference and cite the “Social Workers’ Ethical Responsibilities to Clients” section in their essay. Click here for Critical Thinking Essay Case Studies (choose one). Reapplicants must choose a different case study in their new application.

The applicant’s essay should be between four to five double-spaced pages, created in Microsoft Word using Times New Roman 12 point font, with one-inch margins. If the work of others is used or referenced, APA format must be followed.

Resume or Curriculum Vitae:
Applicants exhibit their understanding of, preparation for, and commitment to social work through their autobiographical statement and critical thinking essay. A resume provides the applicant the opportunity to highlight specific areas of experience. The MSW Admission Committee is particularly interested in the applicant’s work and volunteer experience in human services (e.g., community mental health, homeless shelters, child welfare agencies, hospitals), and for two reasons. First, experience in human service settings provides individuals with an opportunity to recognize whether or not social work is a good fit for him/her, and allows the applicant to communicate to the committee that he/she understands what social workers do. Second, working in human services requires unique skills and abilities. The applicant’s history with such agencies provides insight into his/her promise to succeed in these arenas. Such activities also are likely to expose the applicant to social workers who then can write letters of recommendation concerning the candidates fit and promise in the profession. Hence, applicants, while listing their experiences, education, honors, etc., on their resumes should highlight human-services work and/or volunteer experience with additional information, such as the position (activity) title, duties, and number of hours per month. There is no page limit to the resume, but the document must be formatted using Microsoft Word, Times New Roman 12 point font.


The deadlines for submission of applications and the date by which admission decisions will be made are outlined for each program in the program descriptions. Applicants can track their combined Office of Admissions application and the College of Social Work application status using the Apply Yourself website. It is the applicant's responsibility to check this website to determine if all the materials have been received by the deadlines. Documents or recommendations received late will significantly delay the application process, and may make candidates ineligible for admission. NO LATE APPLICATIONS will be accepted. Applications cannot be processed or evaluated until the applicant has submitted his/her application and paid the Office of Admissions fee. This is the final step in the Apply Yourself program and must be done by midnight EST on the application deadline date.

Students who do not satisfactorily complete the requirements for admission to any MSW Program, such as graduation, completion of prerequisite courses, or for Advanced Standing MSW Students, successful completion of practicum, will be removed from the program and not allowed to begin their MSW program of study. If wishing to continue in the MSW program after successful completion of any deficits, they must reapply following application guidelines and deadlines.

Background Check Information
All students accepted for admission to any of the College of Social Work MSW programs must complete a background check as a condition of admission. All information revealed in the background check process will be kept confidential within the MSW administration. Many human services organizations and agencies require individuals to pass background checks before doing field placements or for individuals serving as volunteers or employees, so additional background checks will be necessary at the beginning of each practicum placement. In addition, certain practicum agencies may also require additional security screening, fingerprinting, random drug screens, health evaluations, TB tests, immunization verification and valid Utah driver’s licenses, according to each agency’s policies. While past convictions do not necessarily preclude admission to the MSW Program, some past legal issues may prevent placement in practicum. Practicum is required for completion of the program. In addition, the student may be ineligible to receive a state license to practice or obtain employment in the field. Applicants should contact the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing if they answer “yes” to any of the questions in the licensure application (

Seating Fee
If admitted, a $150 non-refundable deposit is required by the College of Social Work to confirm acceptance of admission and to hold the student’s place in the MSW Program. If, for some reason, the student is not able to attend once admitted into the program, the admittance offer cannot be deferred to the next application cycle (full reapplication will be necessary) nor will the deposit be refunded. The deposit is due by the date outlined in the admission letter. Prospective students who fail to pay by the deadline will forfeit their positions, and the slots will be given to other applicants.

Admission decisions are based on the professional judgment of the MSW Admission Committee. Applicants with questions or those interested in reapplying and wanting guidance can contact the coordinator for MSW Admissions and Advising, Farrina Coulam at Those wishing to appeal the committee's decision should address their concerns to the director of the MSW Program, Dr. Joanna Bettmann Schaefer at

Financial Aid
Applicants should submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to the University of Utah by April 1 of the year they are seeking admission, even if they have not been notified of admission status by that date. The link can be found on the College’s Financial Aid and Scholarships page. Please contact the University of Utah Financial Aid Office if you have additional questions.

Scholarship Opportunities
Applicants are encouraged to apply for scholarships through the College of Social Work between January 1 and March 15 of the year for which they are seeking admission, even if they have not been notified of admission status by that date. Students interested in need-based scholarships must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by April 1 to be considered for such funding awards. The scholarship committee will insure that all students selected as scholarship recipients have been admitted to the MSW Program prior to the awarding of scholarships. This process typically occurs in June. Please see the College’s Financial Aid and Scholarships page for additional information.

Reapplication Process

Reapplicants must submit a new Apply Yourself application, using a different email address, and resubmit all the materials described above. Prior applications cannot be resubmitted.

In the autobiographical statement, applicants should clearly indicate what they have done to prepare for reapplication. Revisiting their previous critical thinking essay gives reapplicants an opportunity to review their work with a more critical eye and write their new essay about a different case study to include new insights in the areas pertaining to social work practice as outlined in the instructions. An updated resume, which clearly outlines the number of hours per month and duties for both work and volunteer experiences, is required. At the time of reapplication, applicants should have completed all the prerequisite classes listed in their initial application as needing completion.