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

Admissions for the Full-Time MSW Program for fall 2024 are closed. Please check back in September 2024 for updated application directions for fall 2025.


Admissions Deadlines

Program Application Application Opens Application Deadline Start Term
Full-Time MSW September 9, 2024 Wednesday, January 10, 2025 Fall 2025

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 will not be reviewed.

Application Instructions

Admission to the Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work also requires admittance to the Graduate School. For more information, refer to the Graduate School’s Steps to Apply.

Carefully read through the following instructions before completing the online application; not following the instructions will result in a lower application score and your application could be denied. 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 2024” as your application term.

Select “Social Work MSW – Full-Time MSW” as your program; do not select “Social Work MSW-Part-Time MSW, Madison”. The admissions criteria are the same for both programs; therefore, the Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work only considers your application to one of our MSW programs in an admissions cycle for an academic year.

For detailed instructions, click on the application sections below to expand the section and review the details

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Social Work MSW Supplemental Application

Statistics Prerequisite

You will be asked to describe how you have met or are planning to meet the statistics prerequisite. There will be four options to choose from:

  • I have completed a statistics course that is on the School of Social Work’s list of pre-approved statistics courses.
  • I have completed a statistics course that is not on the list, but I think is eligible.
  • I have made plans to complete an eligible statistics course, or are currently enrolled in an eligible statistics course.
  • I plan on working with a Social Work advisor after being accepted to the program to enroll in an eligible statistics course this summer.

Whether you have completed a statistics course or are in the process of taking one, please be aware you will be required to submit more information about the course if you are accepted to our MSW program and confirm you will be attending.

Directions for submitting course syllabi and other information will be provided after acceptance.


A minimum undergraduate grade-point average (GPA) of 3.00 on the equivalent of the last 60 semester hours (approximately two years of work) or a master’s degree with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 is required.

Applicants from an international institution must demonstrate strong academic achievement comparable to a 3.00 for an undergraduate or master’s degree, using all credits from the degree to calculate the GPA equivalency. The Graduate School will use your institution’s grading scale. Do not convert your grades to a 4.00 scale.


When the pandemic forced colleges and universities to move online, many institutions introduced new grading schemes such as satisfactory/unsatisfactory, pass/fail, or credit/noncredit. Some institutions enforced the new grading schemes while others allowed students to choose between the new grading scheme or traditional letter grades.

The School of Social Work admission committee and the School’s administration have agreed to recognize that the grades earned between January 2020 and May 2021 may have been impacted by COVID. Grades, therefore, will be reviewed with empathy for the challenges presented by the pandemic.

Special Circumstances

If your last 60 credit undergraduate grade point average is below 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, it is important for you to provide a detailed explanation of any special or unusual circumstances that may have affected your GPA. In the supplemental application, you are asked to “please explain any special circumstances that may have affected your GPA (e.g., major illness, family crisis).” A text box is provided and there is no word limit.

GRE Option

Although GRE scores are not required for the MSW Program, you can provide additional evidence of your readiness for graduate study by taking the GRE. The School requires a score of 150 or greater for Quantitative Reasoning and 153 or greater for Verbal Reasoning.

If you take the paper-delivered test, your GRE scores will take approximately six weeks to reach the University; the computer-delivered test will take 10-15 days to arrive. 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.

Focus Area Choices

Select your first and second choice of focus area. Since we cannot guarantee you will receive your first choice, your second choice should be considered as carefully as the first. Your course selections and field unit placement will be based on your focus area. Before choosing, we highly recommend you learn about the Advanced Practice Specialization Year.

Analytic Essay

You will be asked to upload your completed analytic essay as a part of the supplemental application. Instructions for writing the essay are below in the Personal Statement & Analytic Essay section.


There are four prerequisites for the MSW Programs that are based on the Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work’s admission policies and the minimum Graduate School’s Requirements for Admission. Applicants must:

  1. Have completed thirty (30) semester credits of social science coursework before they apply;
  2. Fulfill the statistics prerequisite for the program you are applying to;
  3. Have earned a minimum undergraduate grade-point average (GPA) of 3.00 on a 4.00 scale for their last 60 semester credits before they apply;
  4. Hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or a comparable degree from an international institution before they start the MSW Program.

For more detailed information on each prerequisite, please continue reading on our Prerequisites page.


Please upload to the online application copies of your transcripts (including your institution’s grading scale located on the back page of the transcript) 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, which is available through your Student Center via MyUW.

FOR ALL TRANSCRIPTS: Screenshots, degree audits, advising reports, self-reporting etc. will not be accepted. Note that transcripts must be clear and easy to read, show the student’s first and last name, the name of the institution attended and dates of attendance, degree conferred and the date of the degree conferral, if applicable. If you have any questions, check with the institution’s Registrar’s Office.

If you would like your Fall 2023 semester grades considered in the review process, however, you should not submit your application until you receive an up-to-date copy of your unofficial transcript containing said grades. Please have your transcript(s) uploaded to your application by the January 10th deadline at 11:59pm.

At the time of application, do NOT mail or email your transcripts to the UW-Madison Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work or Graduate School; instead, you are required to upload your transcripts to your online application. If you are accepted to the MSW Program, the UW-Madison Graduate School will request you send official transcripts at that time. Further information will be provided upon admission by the Graduate School.

How to Upload Your Transcripts

If you have a 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. Click on the file name to check that your transcript has been uploaded correctly.

If you have an electronic transcript:

  1. Upload the PDF to your application and click the ‘Save’ button.
  2. Click on the file name to check that your transcript has been uploaded correctly.

If you have an electronic protected transcript (encrypted, password protected, time-limited, etc.), the system will not allow it to be uploaded. You must 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 (usually found on the back page of the transcript).
  3. Upload the PDF to your application and click the ‘Save’ button.
  4. Click on the file name to check that your transcript has been uploaded correctly.

International Students

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

Personal Statement & Analytic Essay

Personal Statement

In the space provided on the Graduate School application, please upload a PDF of your personal statement that fully discusses the three questions below. Paste each question into your document and then provide your response below the question. Your statement and each question do not require an introduction and conclusion. Your statement should be approximately 3 pages in length and formatted using page numbers, a 12pt Times New Roman font, double-spacing, and one-inch margins.

  1. What are your professional social work goals and how might the UW-Madison MSW Program best provide the knowledge, skills and practice necessary for meeting those goals?
  2. The MSW Program at UW-Madison requires students to learn about and demonstrate competence in advocacy, social justice, and anti-racist social work, including dismantling systemic or historical injustices. Please share a specific example of how you participate in and promote inclusive and equitable environments. In addition to discussing what you do, discuss the factors that motivate your actions.
  3. Reflect on a time when you were confronted with a specific situation that challenged your thoughts on an issue. In your response: 1) briefly describe the specific situation; 2) discuss how you were challenged to think differently about the issue; and 3) explain if you ended up thinking differently and why or why not.

Analytic Essay

In the Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work Supplemental application, please upload a PDF of your analytic essay that fully discusses the question below. Use a standard essay format with an introduction, body and conclusion. Your essay should be 3 pages in length and be formatted using page numbers, a 12pt Times New Roman font, double-spacing and one-inch margins. Your sources must be credible and cited throughout your essay with references for the cites included on a fourth page titled References/Works Cited. The University of Wisconsin – Madison Library guide provides information about Citing Sources according to different styles, all of which are acceptable for the application. Please note, applicants do not need to submit a cover page if a style requires it.

Analytic Essay Question:

Thinking critically about social justice issues is a key skill for both professional social workers and those studying to become one. Choose a social justice issue about which you feel strongly and would like to address as a future social worker. Thinking critically: 1) describe the issue; 2) discuss reasons why you believe this is an important social justice issue to address; 3) identify at least one relevant system, one relevant policy, and one relevant practice and discuss how each contributes to this issue noting when you are talking about a system, policy or practice; and 4) detail the action steps you could take to begin to create change around this issue.

What Application Reviewers Assess When Reading Your Personal Statement & Analytic Essay

For both the personal statement and the analytic essay, the reviewers will:

  • Assess your preparedness for graduate studies;
  • Confirm you have adhered to the formatting instructions for each document;
  • Validate use of credible sources cited in the essay that supports your analysis;
  • Appraise your grammar and spelling skills;
  • Evaluate your ability to think critically and respond in depth;
  • Assess your ability to write a clear and well-organized response; and
  • Verify that all questions posed have been answered.

Reviewers will read your personal statement to assess whether you have:

  • Expanded beyond the desire to “help people”;
  • Demonstrated critical self-reflection; and
  • Shown an understanding of and commitment to the field of social work.

Reviewers will read your analytic essay to assess that you have:

  • Described a social justice issue and its importance fully and clearly;
  • Discussed and justified at least one system, one policy and one practice;
  • Presented a well-thought out approach to create change around the issue; and
  • Cited sources used in the essay and listed the sources on a reference page.

Writing Tips

  • Write a draft of your personal statement and analytic essay, take a break, and come back to them later to work on editing and clarifying.
  • Both current UW-Madison students as well as non UW-Madison students can contact the UW-Madison Writing Center to obtain feedback on their personal statement and analytic essay.
  • Do not rely solely on spelling and grammar checks.
  • Read your statement and essay aloud for flow and accuracy.

Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV)

The Graduate School application requires that you upload a PDF version of either a resume or curriculum vitae (CV) to the Statements & CV section of your application. The Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work Admissions Committee reviewers, however, will not consider these documents when reviewing your application.

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 but not personally.
  • 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 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 you will not be able to see 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.

Approaching Potential Recommenders

  • As soon as possible, ask your potential recommender if they will serve as a reference.
  • Tell your recommender 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 assesses your qualification for success in graduate study.
  • Explain that the letter should be one full page in length and explicitly discuss the interpersonal, professional, and academic skills and abilities you possess that make you a strong candidate for graduate school in social work. For more detailed instructions, please see the Letter of Recommendation Tips that we suggest you share with your recommenders.

Requesting Letters of Recommendation via Your Application

  • Input your recommender’s information into the application as soon as possible so they have plenty of time to write your letter. When you have entered your recommender’s information, an email will automatically be sent to them requesting they complete their recommendation and submit it electronically by the deadline. Please note that you do not need to submit your application for emails to be sent.
  • You can return to your application at any time to update a recommender’s email address or enter a new recommender’s name and email address.
  • Send email recommendation reminders to your recommender, as needed. You are responsible for ensuring that your recommender submits their letter by the deadline.
  • Submit your application as soon as it is completed; do not wait for your recommenders to submit their letters.

Recommendation Letter Dos and Don’ts

Current students or those who graduated after August 2021 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 objectively 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 course instructor of record. Please note that when the TA and course instructor of record are co-writing the letter, the course instructor should be listed as the recommender on your application.

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

  • Academic instructor. See bullet point above.
  • Impartial employment or volunteer supervisor who can objectively assess your interpersonal and professional skills, as well as your ability to do graduate-level work and your potential for advanced professional social work practice. Inform your recommender that when asked on the letter of recommendation form “How long have you known this applicant and in what capacity?”, they are to identify themselves as either employer or supervisor, and not list any additional roles such as friend or colleague.

If you are a current student or you graduated after August 2021, you must provide a letter from an academic instructor or your application will be denied.

 Letters should not be from:

  • Friends;
  • Family members;
  • Neighbors;
  • Co-workers/colleagues;
  • Personal counselors/therapists;
  • Clergy;
  • Individuals similar to those listed above; or
  • A generic reference letter from the 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 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.

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.

Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements and the higher Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work minimum requirements for the TOEFL:

Graduate School School of Social Work
1. TOEFL iBT (internet-based test): 92 100
2. TOEFL PBT (paper-delivered test): 550-579 600
3. IELTS: 7 7

For additional information, please go to English Proficiency and International Application Requirements.

Application Checklist

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

  • Graduate School Application
  • Social Work MSW Supplemental Application
  • Prerequisites
  • Transcript(s)
  • Personal Statement
  • Analytic Essay
  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae
  • Three Letters of Recommendation
  • Application Fee
  • GRE Scores (optional)
  • English Proficiency Test Scores (if required)


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 Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work.