MSW Admissions & Application Requirements

Application Deadlines
  MSW Advanced Standing (SLC): September 30 (every year)
  MSW Advanced Standing (St. George): September 30 (every 2 years in odd years)
  MSW Program Two Year Full Time (SLC): November 1 (every year)
  MSW Two Year Full Time Distance Program (St. George): November 1 (every year in even years)
  MSW Program Four Year Part-Time (SLC): November 1 (every year)
  MSW DCFS Employee Program (SLC): January 15, 2017
  MSW DCFS Distance Program : January 15, 2018
  Applications must be submitted by 11:59 pm MST on the deadline date
  NO LATE APPLICATIONS will be accepted.

MSW Admissions Requirements
The Master of Social Work Program seeks to 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 understanding of the social work profession, career goals and aspirations, work and volunteer history, education background, and overall capabilities to engage in masters-level education.

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 3.0 or above
  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.

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.)

If you completed your Bachelor degree more than 20 years ago, please contact the MSW Admissions Coordinator prior to submitting application materials:

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. Failure to take this test or to have test results sent to the MSW Program will result in an incomplete application which cannot be reviewed. Results of these examinations should be received by the College of Social Work before the application deadline, and applicants report the score in Apply Yourself at time of application. Thus, prospective students should take the respective tests as soon as they determine their overall GPA. Test results received after the deadline are accepted, but will delay review of your application and admission notification.

The University of Utah Testing Center has additional information about these examinations, and the Continuing Education department offers test preparation courses.

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 five courses must be completed with a grade of C or better, with at least a 3.0 (B) average across all five classes. These courses do not need to be complete at time of the application deadline, but must be complete with proof of grade submitted no later than 14 calendar days before beginning the MSW program, if admitted.

  • Introduction to Sociology
  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Introduction to Political Science (U.S. National Government) or U.S. History or Introduction to 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. Prerequisite classes must have been taken within the last 10 years. Applicants can address their prerequisite questions with the MSW admissions coordinator and should 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 and/or any prerequisites in progress at the time of application. These must also be sent to the MSW Program office at least 14 days prior to the first day of classes. 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!

Applicants for Advanced Standing must indicate which option they are using in their resume (see Resume Template). 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. Please note that the University of Utah does not accept 3-year Bachelor degrees from all countries. Please contact International Admissions for details on acceptable international degrees. 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.

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 Financial Aid and Scholarships Office.


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. 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/MSW AY application and MSW application instructions undergo yearly changes and updates. Applicants should wait to begin an application until after August 1 each year. There is no benefit to early application.

The University of Utah Graduate Admissions office and the College of Social Work use a combined online application, “Apply Yourself” (AY). A review of the MSW Apply Yourself Instructions to assist applicants with information required for Social Work MSW application is mandatory, as it contains critical information found nowhere else. Please follow all instructions in this document as well as in the actual Apply Yourself application, such as the MSW resume template carefully.

It is the applicant’s responsibility to upload all required documentation prior to submission by the deadline, and to ensure submission of a minimum of four recommendations. 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 11:59 pm MST on the application deadline date.

The College of Social Work and the University of Utah seek to provide equal access to their programs, services and activities for people with disabilities. If you will need accommodations in the application process, you will need to provide reasonable prior notice to the Center for Disability Services (CDS). The Center’s contact info is: 162 Union Building, 801-581-5020, The Center for Disability Services will work with you and the MSW program to make arrangements for accommodations.

Click here for the Apply Yourself Instructions and Application.


Application Evaluation Criteria
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 (if attending school or recently graduated) or supervisors in work and/or volunteer settings, particularly those in human services settings. It is suggested that applicants choose recommenders who have been directly responsible for assessing the applicants' human service-related work/volunteer experience or academic performance. One or two recommendations from social workers who have observed the applicant in an agency setting are strongly encouraged. Other licensed clinical professionals can be used if social workers are not available.
  3. Written statement: Autobiographical Essay (see below)
  4. Case Study Analysis (see below)
  5. Timed Social Issues Essay (see below)
  6. Resume or curriculum vitae (see below)

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

Autobiographical Essay:
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 the social work profession, and how it differs from other mental health disciplines, and (c) how the applicant’s life experiences have prepared him/her for 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.) Please do not use headers. The autobiographical essay should consider the following elements:

  • What led the applicant to choose social work as a profession and what his/her career goals are
  • 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
  • Social welfare areas of interest, including how obtaining an MSW would enable the applicant to professionally address these.

Case Study Analysis:
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 assess 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 study options 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. Reapplicants must choose a different case study in their new applications.

Click here for Case Study options (choose one).

The applicant’s Case Study Analysis 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.

Timed Social Issues Essay
As part of your application materials, you will be required to complete a timed 60-minute essay on a current social topic. You will be given a list of topics to choose from and will be asked to argue both for and against the topic.

Within approximately one week of submission of your Apply Yourself application, you will receive an email from Instructure Canvas with a link to the timed essay website. Please add Instructure Canvas to your list of safe senders and also check your spam folder periodically. The sender and subject line will show as follows:

You will then have 14 days from the date of the Instructure Canvas email to access the site, read the instructions there, and complete the timed essay. If you have not completed the timed essay within the 14-day period after receiving the Instructure Canvas email, your application materials will be considered incomplete. Having an incomplete application will negatively impact your chances for admittance into the MSW program. Please notify us of any potential scheduling conflicts once you have submitted your application in AY.

Your essay will be graded by our Admissions Committee members on the quality of writing, the clarity of arguments, and the presence of well-written arguments both for and against the proposal.

If you are requesting accommodations on the timed social issues essay, you will need to contact the Center for Disability Services (CDS) prior to submitting application materials. The Center’s contact info is: 162 Union Building, 581-5020 (V/TDD), The Center for Disability Services will work with you and the MSW program to make arrangements for accommodations.

Resume or Curriculum Vitae:
Applicants exhibit their understanding of, preparation for, and commitment to social work through their application materials, including a resume. The resume must contain applicants’ full work and volunteer history. However, a resume provides the applicant the opportunity to highlight specific areas of experience. For two primary reasons, the MSW Admission Committee is particularly interested in the applicant’s paid work and volunteer experience in human services (e.g., community mental health, homeless shelters, child welfare agencies, hospitals). 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 can sumit recommendations concerning the candidate's 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. The resume must be formatted using Microsoft Word, Times New Roman 12 point font. Applicants must follow the MSW resume template to ensure an adequate evaluation of their experience.

Click here for MSW Resume Template.


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. MSW application decisions are sent via email and are followed by a separate University of Utah decision, which is posted in the applicant’s AY application after final application review by the Office of Admissions.

Admitted applicants who do not satisfactorily complete the requirements for admission to any MSW Program, such as Bachelor’s graduation, completion of prerequisite courses, or for Advanced Standing MSW Students, successful completion of all BSW program requirements, including practicum, will be removed from the program and not allowed to begin or continue their MSW program of study. After successful completion of any deficits, such applicants must reapply for the following year, following all application requirements and deadlines.


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, 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


Background Check Information
All applicants being considered for admission to any of the College of Social Work MSW programs must complete a background check before final recommendation for admission is made to the University of Utah Office of Admissions. All information revealed in the background check process will be kept confidential within the MSW administration. Most 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/or 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 limit or prevent placement in practicum. Practicum is required for completion of the program. In addition, students with extensive criminal backgrounds may be ineligible to receive a state license to practice or unable obtain employment in the field. Applicants with concerns in this area should contact the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing if they answer “yes” to any of the qualifying questions in the licensure application(

In evaluating past legal charges, the MSW Admissions Committee uses the following guidelines: a) seriousness of the offense(s); b) number of charges and pattern of criminal behavior; and c) time elapsed since last charge. Minimum recommendations at application deadline for time elapsed and resolution of all charges (including fines, service, incarceration and probation) are:

  1. Felony charges/convictions should be at least 5 to 10 years old, depending on the severity of the charge(s). Certain felony convictions, such those involving violent crime or sexual abuse, may permanently preclude admission.
  2. Misdemeanor charges/convictions, including those related to substance misuse, should be at least 2 to 5 years old, depending on the number and severity of the charge(s).


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 email. Prospective students who fail to pay by the deadline will forfeit their positions, and their slots will be given to other applicants.


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 submit all the materials described above. Prior applications cannot be resubmitted.

In the autobiographical essay, applicants should clearly indicate what they have done to prepare for reapplication. Reapplicants should submit a new case study analysis essay about a different case to include new insights in the areas pertaining to social work practice as outlined in the instructions. Four new recommendations are required, as the recommendations from the previous application will also be available to committee readers. 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, and any new current year application requirements, such as the timed social issues essay, must also be completed.