Master of Social Work Full-Time Program Application Instructions and Information

Admissions Deadlines
Program Application Application Opens Application Deadline Start Term
Full-Time MSW

Fall 2019

Items listed in the Application Checklist below must be submitted by 11:59pm (CST) of the deadline date. We highly recommend you submit your application early so that any issues can be identified and addressed prior to the deadline. After the deadline has passed, applications with identified issues will be considered incomplete and not be reviewed.

Application Instructions

Admission to the School of Social Work also requires admittance to the Graduate School. For more information, refer to the Graduate School's Application Process at a Glance.

Carefully read through the following instructions before completing the online application. The link to the application is at the bottom of this page.

Term and Program Selection

When you begin the application process, you will be asked to select a term and a program.

Select "Fall 2019" as your application term.

Select “Social Work MSW” as your program. Do not select the Part-Time MSW Program options. The admissions criteria is the same for both programs; therefore, the School of Social Work only considers your application to one of our MSW programs in an admissions cycle for an academic year.

Click on the application sections below to expand the section and review the details.

Social Work MSW Supplemental Application

Last 60 Credits

Follow the steps below to determine your undergraduate GPA based on your last 60 semester credits. Do not report your overall GPA.

  1. Add the number of earned credits (including credits for failed courses) for your most recently completed undergraduate semester to the number of earned credits in the preceding semesters until you reach a total of at least 60 undergraduate credits. If you reach 60 credits in the middle of a semester, count all credits from the whole semester.
  2. Add up the grade points for all of the semesters included in Step 1.
  3. Divide the total grade points from Step 2 by the total credits from Step 1. This number is your GPA for the undergraduate semesters in which you earned at least 60 credits.

Courses graded with no associated grade point, such as an I (Incomplete), U (Unsatisfactory), P (Progress), or S (Satisfactory), do not count toward the last 60 credit GPA.

If you are a current student, you do not need to wait for your current courses to be graded in order to submit your application.


It is important for you to provide an explanation of any special or unusual circumstances that may have have affected your GPA.

Focus Area Choices

Select your first and second choice of focus area. Your course selections and field unit placement are based on these choices. Since we cannot guarantee you will get your first choice, your second choice should be of equal importance. Before choosing, we highly recommend you visit our page on Advanced Generalist Specialization.


MSW Admissions Instructions


Please upload to the online application copies of official transcripts (including your institution’s grading scale) from all post-secondary institutions you attended after high school. If you are a current or former UW-Madison student, you may submit your UW-Madison student record that is available through your Student Center via My UW. However, if you attended any institutions other than UW-Madison, you are still required to submit copies of official transcripts from those schools. Screenshots, degree audits, advising reports, etc. will not be accepted. If in doubt, check with your Registrar's Office.

Do NOT mail or email the UW-Madison School of Social Work or Graduate School your official transcripts at the time of application, as applicants are required to submit all materials to their online application. If you were to be accepted, the UW-Madison Graduate School will request you send them official transcripts at that time. Further information will be provided upon admission.

How to Upload Your Transcripts

If you have an official paper transcript:

  1. Open the envelope.
  2. Scan it as a PDF document that includes your institution’s grading scale (usually found on the back page of the transcript). When scanned, the word COPY or VOID may appear on the transcript, which is acceptable for the purposes of submitting your application.
  3. Upload the PDF to the application and click the 'Save' button.
  4. Double check it uploaded correctly by clicking on the file name.


If you have an official electronic transcript, directly upload it to the application. If it is a protected transcript (encrypted, password protected, time-limited, etc.), the system will not allow it to be uploaded. If you have a protected transcript, follow the directions below:

  1. Print your transcript. When printed, the word PRINTED COPY or VOID may appear on the transcript, which is acceptable for the purposes of submitting your application.
  2. Scan it as a PDF document that includes your institution’s grading scale.
  3. Upload the PDF to the application and click the 'Save' button.
  4. Double check it uploaded correctly by clicking on the file name.

Additional Note for Current Students

Upload a copy of your official transcript as soon as you are ready to work on and submit your application. You do not need to wait until your current semester grades are posted before uploading your transcript. If you were to be accepted, be prepared to send the UW-Madison Graduate School your official transcripts twice: 1) first, send your current transcript shortly after you’ve been accepted and 2) second, send your final transcript after your degree is posted. For May graduates, this usually happens at the end of May or early June, but each institution varies. Please check with your institution when your degree will be posted before ordering and paying for another transcript.

Additional Note for International Students

Non-English international documents must be in the original language accompanied by an official English translation.


Your statement is very important and allows reviewers to assess your writing skills and your readiness for a graduate program in Social Work.

In your statement, you are required to address fully each of the following 5 questions.

When doing so, use a standard essay format with an introduction, body and conclusion: do not write and answer each question separately. Your essay should be approximately 5 pages in length (please number each page), and be formatted using a 12pt Times New Roman font, double-spacing and one inch margins.

  1. Why do you want to pursue a career in Social Work?
  2. Why are you choosing the UW-Madison MSW Program?
  3. What do you view as barriers to obtaining your MSW degree and what are your plans for overcoming them?
  4. How does your experience with and/or knowledge of diversity issues inform your desire to obtain an MSW degree?
  5. How have your past and current volunteer, internship, fieldwork, employment, and/or other experiences prepared you for graduate studies in social work? Indicate how these experiences have provided you with skills and an understanding of qualities such as leadership, creativity, ethics, and professionalism.

What Application Reviewers Assess When Reading Your Personal Statement

Reviewers will assess your writing skills to:

  • Insure that you have answered each of the five questions
  • Determine your ability to respond fully to the questions
  • Evaluate your ability to think critically
  • Assess your grammar and spelling skills


Reviewers will assess the content of your statement to:

  • Gain a sense of who you are as an individual, as well as what led you to choose a career in social work;
  • Determine the extent to which you are prepared and motivated for graduate education in social work;
  • Understand why you chose to apply to the UW-Madison School of Social Work;
  • Recognize the challenges you may face in completing your degree and your ability to address them; and,
  • Assess how your experiences, social work and non-social work related, have prepared you for graduate studies in social work.

Writing Tips

  • Write a draft of your statement, take a break, and come back to it later to work on editing and clarifying.
  • If possible, utilize the writing lab at your campus to obtain feedback on your statement.
  • Do not rely solely on spelling and grammar checks.
  • Read your statement aloud for flow and accuracy.
  • Be sure that your statement expands beyond your desire to help people and beyond your personal background.
  • For further guidance, please go to the UW-Madison Writing Center’s website on Application essays and personal statements.

Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV)

On the Statements & CV page of your application, you are requested to upload a PDF version of either a resume or CV.

Three Letters of Recommendation

Three letters of recommendation are required; additional letters will not be considered.

Letters should be from recommenders who know you professionally and/or academically. These recommenders should be able to assess your ability to do graduate level work and your potential for advanced professional social work practice. If your last 60 credit GPA is below a 3.0, we encourage you to ask your recommender to specifically address your academic ability in their letters and not just your grades.

Keep in mind that recommenders need adequate time to write letters and submit them electronically. Letters received after the application deadline will not be accepted and will result in your application being considered incomplete and not eligible for review.

The Graduate School requires that you waive your right to view your letters of recommendation. This requirement means is method exists for viewing them once they are submitted. We suggest you ask your recommender for a copy of the letter so you can ensure that the letter is at least a full page in length, strong and favorable.

Steps to requesting letters of recommendation:

  • As soon as possible, ask your recommender if they will serve as a reference. Explain that the letter should be one full page in length and explicitly discuss the qualities that make you a strong candidate for graduate school in social work.
  • Let your recommender also know they will receive an email from the Graduate School requiring: 1) information on how long  they have known you and in what professional and/or academic capacity; 2) completion of a short questionnaire rating your skills and character traits; and 3) they upload a letter that discusses your skills and ability for potential success in graduate school.
  • Input your recommender's information into the application.
  • Return to your application at any time to correct a recommender's email address.
  • Send email recommendation reminders to your recommender, as needed.
  • Submit your application as soon as it is completed; do not wait for your recommenders to submit their letters.

Recommendation Letter Do's and Dont's

Current students or those who graduated after August 2016 must obtain at least one letter:

  • From an academic instructor. An academic letter of recommendation should come from an instructor who has evaluated your academic work and/or who can assess your academic potential to do graduate study. We strongly recommend letters from a teaching assistant (TA) be co-written and co-signed by the instructor of record for the course.

For all applicants, it is strongly recommended that letters be:

  • From an academic instructor. See bullet point above.
  • From an impartial  employer, or employment or volunteer supervisor who can objectively assess your potential for practice in the field of social work and/or potential for graduate study. Inform your recommender that when asked on the letter of recommendation form “How long have you known this applicant and in what capacity?” that they are to identify themselves as either employer or supervisor, and not list any additional roles such as friend or colleague.

Your application will be denied if you are a current student or you graduated after August 2016 and do not provide a letter from an academic instructor.

Letters should not be:

  • From friends
  • From family member
  • From neighbors
  • From co-workers/colleagues
  • From personal counselors/therapists
  • From clergy
  • From individuals similar to those listed above
  • A generic reference letter from university/college placement office.

If such letters are submitted, they will lessen the strength of your application.


Application Fee

Your application fee must be paid prior to the application deadline in order for your application to be considered. If the fee is a financial hardship, you may be eligible for assistance. Visit the Graduate School FAQs for more information.

GRE Scores (Optional)

GREs are not required. If your last 60 credit undergraduate grade-point average is below 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, you can provide additional evidence of your readiness for graduate study by taking the GRE. The School expects a score of 150 or greater for Quantitative Reasoning and 153 or greater for Verbal Reasoning.

GRE scores take approximately six weeks to reach the University if you take the paper-delivered test or 10-15 days if you take the computer-delivered test. Tests should be scheduled with the application deadline in mind. Official scores are submitted to the University of Wisconsin-Madison (institution code 1846).

For more information, please visit the GRE website.

English Proficiency Test Scores (if required)

English proficiency tests must be taken within two years of your admission term. Official scores are submitted to UW-Madison.

The School of Social Work's minimum requirements are higher than the Graduate School's:

  1. TOEFL iBT (internet-based test): 100
  2. TOEFL PBT (paper-based test): 600
  3. MELAB: 90
  4. IELTS: 7

For more information about scores and exemption from English proficiency test requirements, visit the Graduate School's Requirements for Admission page.

Application Checklist

A complete application to the Full-Time Master of Social Work Program includes:

  • Social Work MSW Supplemental Application
  • Official Transcript(s)
  • Statement
  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae
  • Three Letters of Recommendation
  • Application Fee
  • GRE Scores (optional)
  • English Proficiency Test Scores (if required)
Technical Support

If you encounter any technical problems with the online application, direct questions to the Graduate School's Electronic App Questions email, You may also call the Graduate School's Admissions office at (608)262-2433.

Thank you for your interest in the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Social Work.