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MSW Admission & Application

Department of Social Work

Applications for Fall 2020 are now being accepted! Deadline for applications is January 27th.


  • A bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university. The bachelor's degree should include a solid background in the liberal arts (courses in the arts, humanities, and behavioral and social sciences). Applicants should be knowledgeable about diverse cultures, social problems, social conditions, and the social, psychological, and biological determinants of human behavior.
  • Completion of at least 6 semester credits (or 10 quarter credits) in two or more social science disciplines, such as sociology, psychology, economics, anthropology or political science.
  • Strong academic preparation as demonstrated by undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0. The Graduate School normal standard for admission is a minimal undergraduate GPA of 3.0. However, the MSW program is allowed to make a limited number of exceptions.
  • Potential to contribute to the social work profession.

Admitted applicants must complete a college-level course in biology with content on human anatomical and physiological development and a college-level course in statistics. A grade of "C" or "better" must be received for the course(s). Applicants can be admitted before completing the enrollment prerequisites, although not having completed the prerequisites does influence the review of your application.

  • Biology prerequisite must be completed prior to registering for the first semester in the MSW program.
  • The Statistics prerequisite must be completed prior to registering for the first research course.
  • Based on the written materials submitted with the application, some applicants may be admitted with the contingency that they work with a writing tutor or take a writing course when they begin their coursework.
  • The University of Minnesota Duluth requires all students who are placed for academic credit in a UMD department in which there is direct contact with minors or other vulnerable populations to complete and submit a background criminal check prior to beginning their field placement. This includes all MSW students. The Department of Human Resources at UMD will facilitate these checks.

All materials are submitted electronically through the online application system, but please review the following sections first.

Required Sections

  1. Biographical Information
  2. Personal Background
  3. Academic History
  4. Test Scores – Upload TOEFL or IELTS scores if required. GRE is not required.
  5. Employment
  6. Three letters of recommendation from former instructors, professional colleagues or employers.
    • At least one recommendation should be an academic reference. If you are unable to obtain an academic reference, include one reference that can specifically comment on your academic skills and abilities.
    • If Graduate level "Non-Degree Seeking" social work courses were taken through UMD Continuing Ed, include a recommendation from the instructor of one of these courses.
    • If possible at least ONE reference should be from a professional who holds an MSW OR who has professional knowledge of the field.
    • PLEASE NOTE: The recommendation section will need to have the recommenders' contact information entered in order to submit the Graduate School application. For the question "Will this provider be submitting a letter of recommendation online?" Check "YES."
    • Letters of Recommendation will be assessed through Admissions Criteria 1-7 (See Below).
    • Recommendation Letters FAQ

For the Materials section, the following are required

  1. Personal statement - The personal statement should be typewritten, double spaced, and approximately 3-4 pages in length. It should demonstrate graduate level writing skills and include the following:
    • Provide a brief biographical sketch including personal family, and past experiences that have influenced your decision to enter the Social Work profession. Why are you interested in becoming a MSW Social Worker? What personal qualities do you possess that will allow you to contribute to the social work profession, including values and ethics of the profession?
    • Describe human service, volunteer and/or paid work experiences, which have contributed to your interest in social work. Include experiences working with diverse groups and how it has impacted you.
    • Explain your career goals and the professional activities in which you plan to engage after completing your graduate studies.
    • Describe how you believe UMD's Advanced Generalist MSW program will prepare you to achieve your goals.
    • Present any additional information you would like the Admissions Committee to consider in formulating recommendations concerning your admission.
    The Personal Statement will be assessed through Admissions Criteria 2-7 (See Below).
  2. Resume/CV - A brief document that summarizes education, employment history, and experiences. 
  3. Writing Sample - A two-page essay in Times New Roman 12-point font, double-spaced with 1-inch margins, on one of the following topics:
    • Disproportionate number of children of color in foster care
    • Social work as an art: Social work as a science
    • The intersection of clinical social work practice and social justice
    • Rural social work practice: Challenges and rewards
    Each essay should compare and contrast points of view, demonstrate critical thinking, be clear, logical, well organized and grammatically well written. Each essay should cite a minimum of three sources from the professional literature using the correct APA format. The Writing Sample is assessed through Admissions Criteria 1 & 5 (See Below).
  4. Graduate Program Additional Material - Please complete the 2-page MSW application (word doc) and upload into this section.

The following sections are optional

  1. Diversity Statement
  2. Extenuating Circumstances Statement
  3. Description of Research

If you need further clarification about the Graduate School admission requirements or procedure, you could refer to the Duluth Graduate Student Handbook. Also feel free to contact the Student Support Assistant about any admission questions you may have by email at or by phone at 218-726-8497.

  1. Academic potential for graduate study demonstrated through strong undergraduate academic performance. This potential is assessed through the review of the transcripts (with special attention to the last two years of study and/or study in the major field), formal writing sample, letters of recommendation, and explanation of GPA (if included).
  2. Professional preparation in a human service setting with preference for at least one year of experience. Greater weight is given to length of time served and direct service or client service management. Professional preparation is assessed through the resume, personal statement, and letters of recommendation, particularly those from a social service supervisor or manager. However, course credits are not awarded for non-academic or professional" life experience."
  3. Preparation for practice in a multicultural environment, including demonstrated sensitivity to issues of racial identity, ethnicity, national origin or culture, and a commitment to working with diverse populations, is assessed through the resume, personal statement, and letters of recommendation.
  4. Experience working with diverse populations is given special consideration and is assessed through the resume, personal statement, and letters of recommendation.
  5. Written communication skills include the ability to conceptualize ideas clearly and succinctly, to demonstrate critical thinking in written format, to organize and communicate ideas logically and to write using correct grammar and spelling. These skills are assessed through the personal statement, formal sample of writing, resume, and letters of recommendation.
  6. Congruence of applicant’s values and ethics with those held by the social work profession is assessed through the resume, personal statement, and letters of recommendation.
  7. Potential for leadership and advocacy in social and economic justice is assessed through the resume, personal statement, and letters of recommendation.