Application Requirements

    MSW Application Requirements and Instructions
    Spring 2024 and Fall 2024

    MSW Program Options

    (On-Campus and Online)

    The Two-Year Program consists of two academic years (four semesters) of full-time enrollment. Students in the Two-Year Program complete 60 credits and 1,200 hours of practicum learning, spending two days per week in the classroom and three days per week in a practicum placement. In the generalist year, students take foundational courses in social work practice methods, social work research, and psychological and social theory. In the specialized year, students select an area of specialization and field of practice for specialized courses and practicum. Students complete practicum hours during both years of the program. Throughout this program, students choose from a broad range of elective courses to best develop additional expertise in areas such as: family or group interventions, treatment of children, adolescents and young adults, responding to trauma, working with veterans and their families, and nonprofit management. Students leave the program fully prepared for entry into advanced social work practice in their area of choice.

    (On-Campus Only)

    The full-time 16-Month Program starts in the spring term (January) and is not available for fall entry. Students in the 16-Month Program complete the MSW degree requirements in four consecutive terms by continuing full-time through the summer term. Requirements mirror those of the Two-Year Program: 60 credits and 1,200 hours of practicum learning, completed over four consecutive terms of full-time enrollment.

    (On-Campus and Online)

    The Advanced Standing Program is designed for individuals who have earned a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Eligible applicants must have received their BSW degree within the past five years; if the BSW was earned more than five years ago, the applicant must apply for another MSW program option. Advanced Standing students complete their specialized year at Columbia School of Social Work and earn their MSW in one academic year. The program begins with a summer intensive that prepares incoming students to enter CSSW in the fall as specialized year students with advanced courses and specialized practicum.

    (On-Campus and Online)

    The Part-Time to Full-Time (Extended) Program is a pathway for students who wish to combine part-time and full-time study. The program enables students to complete the coursework and practicum learning requirements in three or four academic years. In the first year, students take courses part-time and are not enrolled in practicum. In the final two years, students complete 1,200 hours of practicum while completing their courseload requirements.

    NOTE: Once students begin practicum learning, they are considered full-time students, and must be at their placement site three days per week (21 hours total). Weekend and evening placements are not available.

    (Online Only)

    In this pathway, students complete the same amount of coursework and practicum as the Two-Year pathway: 60 credits of coursework and 1,200 hours of practicum. The difference is that they complete fewer credits per term and fewer practicum hours per week, allowing for more time to fulfill the degree requirements.

    (On-Campus and Online)

    The One-Year Residency for Working Professionals (Reduced Residency) Program offers students who are currently employed in social services or nonprofit agencies the opportunity to earn the M.S. degree while counting a portion of their employment toward the practicum learning requirement. Students in this program fulfill the same 60-credit degree requirement as other students enrolled in the School, and complete their degree through a combination of part-time and full-time study over a period of no fewer than four terms and no longer than four years.

    To be eligible for the OYR program, you must have completed two years of full-time, or four years of part-time, direct practice professional experience at the time of application. You must also be able to complete the residency requirement outlined below within your agency.

    The OYR program is structured into two periods: the pre-residency period (usually two years of part-time enrollment while continuing to work full-time at a social services organization), and the residency period (a year of full-time enrollment).

    In place of their generalist year practicum learning placement, students enroll in a practicum learning seminar in which they integrate classroom learning with their employment experiences. In their residency year, students complete a 28-hour per week practicum placement at their place of employment, of which 14 hours of their usual employment activities may be counted. The student must also be able to complete 14 separate hours on assignments outside of current work responsibilities with a different supervisor (Practicum Instructor) who has an MSW and is, or will be, SIFI certified (or its equivalent).

    NOTE: If you are working at an agency that has hosted a Columbia student within the last three years for a practicum learning placement, you may be eligible for a tuition discount.

    (On-Campus and Online)

    The Transfer Program is designed for individuals who have already successfully completed a full year (approximately 30 credits) of practicum learning and coursework at another CSWE-accredited graduate school of social work in the United States or Canada. Eligible applicants to the Transfer Program must have completed their credits within the past five years, and these credits and practicum must be equivalent to those offered in the generalist year at CSSW. Students who are accepted into the Transfer Program complete their studies within one year. Students enter the School as a specialized year student and follow the specialized year course of study in their specialization area and field of practice.

    (On-Campus Only)

    The International Students Program is the pathway for international students who are unfamiliar with the U.S. social welfare system and who speak English as an additional language. The program requires five terms of enrollment; the “extra” term is in the summer between the first and second years. Students enroll in a Professional Immersion Seminar during the first (fall) term and begin practicum and the corresponding practice courses in the subsequent spring term. Students continue with their practicum learning placement and courses during the summer term (late May through the end of July or early August).

    General Application Requirements

    Applicants must submit all materials directly to the Office of Admissions; items submitted through an agent or third-party vendor are not accepted. The following are exceptions to this policy: submissions by the U.S. Department of State’s Fulbright Program and its three partner agencies (IIE, LASPAU, and AMIDEAST); submissions by the Danish-American Fulbright Commission (DAF); submissions by Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD). Additionally, the applicant will be required to attest to the accuracy and authenticity of all information and documents submitted to Columbia. Questions about this requirement may be directed to the Office of Admissions at

    CSSW requires that the work contained in your application (including essays) is completely accurate and exclusively your own. CSSW permits the use of generative AI tools for idea generation and/or to edit a candidate’s work; however, using these tools to generate complete responses violates the Student Code of Conduct.

    Failure to submit complete, accurate, and authentic application documents consistent with these instructions may result in denial or revocation of admission, cancellation of academic credit, suspension, expulsion, or eventual revocation of degree. Applicants may be required to assist admissions staff and faculty involved in admission reviews in the verification of all documents and statements made in documents submitted by students as part of the application review process.

    All applicants to the Master of Science in Social Work program are required to submit the following:

    Application Fee
    The $75 application fee is required upon submission of the application.

    Application fee waivers are granted to alumni of AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, Teach for America, McNair Scholars, Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), and Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), and to veterans of the U.S. armed forces. Fee waivers are also granted to applicants who are experiencing financial hardship.

    To request an application fee waiver, applicants should submit their request via the Application Fee Waiver Request Form after creating an online application. Applicants must be prepared to submit an official document confirming participation in the appropriate program. The fee waiver must be requested prior to submitting the application and application fee. Applicants should not submit an application fee if they fall into one of these categories. All submitted fees are non-refundable. Please submit the application fee waiver request at least a week or two prior to the application deadline to allow for sufficient processing time.

    Resume and Professional Experience
    Submit a detailed current resume that lists paid work and volunteer experience separately, starting with the current or most recent position. Resumes should indicate whether each experience was full-time or part-time, paid or unpaid, and the nature of the client population served, if applicable. Part-time experience should also indicate the weekly hours worked. Be sure to use month/year to indicate the beginning and end dates for all activities included. The resume may be longer than one page.

    The resume should include:

    ● complete professional, academic, and volunteer history (provide sufficient detail; always include the name of the larger agency and name of program or department where you worked or volunteered),
    ● details about direct research experience and/or published papers or articles, if applicable,
    ● descriptions of community and leadership activities,
    ● awards, distinctions, honors, or other recognition received,
    ● other relevant life experiences, and
    ● all languages read/spoken in addition to English.
    Professional Experience:
    Calculate and submit the number of months of professional and volunteer experience. These should match what was submitted in your resume.

    Applicants are asked to respond to 2-3 essay prompts. These prompts must be addressed in separate essays. The essays are an opportunity for applicants to tell the admissions committee about their professional interests and experiences that have influenced their decision to pursue the MSW degree at CSSW. Please see the Admissions Essays section of this document for additional details.

    Two Letters of Reference
    Students who have received a degree in the past five years are required to provide at least one academic reference from faculty at that institution. Students more than five years away from their most recent degree are encouraged to provide an academic reference.

    All applicants are required to submit two (2) reference letters.

    Appropriate references include professors, the applicant’s most recent employer or volunteer supervisor, or those who know the applicant in a professional context. No personal references will be accepted, nor references from professionals with whom you have had a client or patient relationship.

    Under no circumstances should you upload a letter on behalf of a recommender. Any person who writes a letter of recommendation must submit that letter themselves. Letter of recommendation must be submitted digitally via the online application system. Applicants should not participate in the drafting of their recommendation letters.

    Our online application system accommodates only two letters of reference. CSSW adheres to the provisions of the Educational Privacy Act of 1974 in respect to references.

    Transcripts for Application Review
    During the initial phase of the application process, applicants may upload unofficial transcripts for evaluation purposes. Uploaded transcripts should include the following information: Courses, Credits, and Grades - including transfer and study abroad coursework. Applicants must submit a transcript from each university attended for at least one term, regardless of the number of credits received. Applications will not be reviewed until we have received all of your transcripts. NOTE: Printouts of web-based course records will not be accepted for admission review.

    Students with international transcripts will also be required to provide an ICAP course-by-course evaluation from World Education Services (WES) for your application to be considered complete.

    Please note that you must provide all grades earned at the time of application submission, as well as in-progress coursework when available.

    Transcript Requirements for Admitted Students
    Once a student has accepted an offer of admission, they must submit an official electronic transcript from each university attended for at least one term, regardless of the number of credits received. Courses, credits, grades and conferral must all be included. Graduate students should provide an official transcript indicating bachelor’s degree conferral prior to entering graduate studies. If the student received a bachelor’s degree from a U.S. institution, that institution must be accredited by one of the regional accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S. government.

    If you are in the process of completing a degree at the time you apply, final official transcripts with degree conferral (for domestic institutions) or a final official WES evaluation showing degree conferral, including your degree certificate (for international institutions) will be required for enrollment. Failure to submit an official transcript or WES with degree conferral within 30 days following the start of your first semester will result in a hold on your account and, if not remedied, can result in dismissal from the program.

    Official Transcripts from Domestic Institutions
    All admitted students who have attended a college or university in the United States must submit electronic transcripts directly from their school, delivered directly to the admissions office at Columbia School of Social Work. Transcripts and attachments provided by the student cannot be considered official.

    If an institution based in the U.S. does not offer electronic delivery, the admitted student must email the Office of Admissions ( with the link to their prior institution’s web page concerning transcript orders to confirm that paper is the only option and obtain permission to submit a paper transcript.

    If a paper transcript is the only option, it must be sent directly from the other institution to Columbia School of Social Work. It may not be delivered or forwarded via the student.

    Official Transcripts from International Institutions
    Applicants who attended institutions outside the U.S. must provide official records of study with your application. These should be issued as stated below and include all course titles, grades received, degree title and degree award date. Documents not in English must be accompanied by a certified translation. To qualify for an admission review, applicants who have completed a degree from outside of the United States must demonstrate proof of academic equivalency to a standard U.S. bachelor’s degree.

    For all international institution transcripts, the student must contact World Education Services (WES) and order a course-by-course evaluation and International Credential Advantage Package to be sent directly to Columbia School of Social Work. Students for whom this imposes a financial burden may contact the Office of Admissions directly at

    Admissions Essays
    Applicants are required to provide responses to essay questions, which are subject to change from year to year. Admissions essay questions will be available in September for admission to the following spring and fall terms. Please create an account to view the current essay questions.

    In general, applicants should use the essays as an opportunity to articulate their motivations for pursuing social work and explain why they wish to study at CSSW. Applicants are encouraged to discuss professional goals, the role(s) they intend to fulfill, their commitment to social justice, and what community or population they desire to serve in their career as a social worker.

    Additional Requirements by Program
    Applicants to the Advanced Standing, One-Year Residency for Working Professionals (Reduced Residency), and Transfer programs must submit all the required materials mentioned previously, and will have the following additional requirements:

    Advanced Standing Applicants
    1. Specific Admission Essays: Applicants should follow the instructions in the Admission Essays section, answering all three essays prompts listed.
    2. Practicum Learning Evaluation Form: Applicants must have an Undergraduate Field Evaluation Form completed by a field instructor or appropriate person at your BSW program. The form can be found in the Advanced Standing Program section of the application. The form should be submitted by email by the person who completed the form to
    3. List of BSW Courses: A list of all of your BSW program courses with course descriptions must be submitted for review. They should be listed by term taken, including course names and numbers, available grades, and course descriptions which can be taken directly from the school's course catalog or website. Applicants in the process of completing their BSW program should include a list of classes that will be taken in the final semester(s). Course descriptions should be uploaded in the Advanced Standing Program section of the application.

    One-Year Residency for Working Professionals (Reduced Residency) Applicants
    1. Specific Admission Essays: Applicants should follow the instructions in the Admission Essays section, answering all three essays prompts listed.
    2. Supervisor Recommendation: One of the two required recommendation letters must come from a current supervisor. The letter should confirm that you have discussed the requirements of the program as outlined above and that your site can meet them.

    Transfer Applicants
    1. Specific Admission Essays: Applicants should follow the instructions in the Admission Essays section, answering all three essays prompts listed.
    2. Academic Reference: One of the two required recommendation letters must be an academic reference.
    3. Practicum Learning Evaluation Form: Transfer student applicants must have a Graduate Field Evaluation Form completed by a field instructor or appropriate person at your current/former MSW program. The form is located in the Transfer Program section of the application. The form should be submitted by email by the person who completed the form to
    4. List of MSW Courses: A list of all of your MSW program courses with descriptions must be submitted for review. They should be listed by term taken, including course names and numbers, available grades, and course descriptions which can be taken directly from the school's course catalog or website. Applicants in the process of completing their MSW courses should include a list of classes you will be taking in your final semester(s). Course descriptions should be uploaded in the Transfer Program section of the application.
    Note: Transfer students are admitted for a maximum of one year of full-time study at CSSW.

    International Applicants
    English Language Proficiency
    To be considered for admission to a graduate program at the Columbia School of Social Work, students must be comfortable with rapid and idiomatic spoken English. If the language of the applicant’s undergraduate degree was English and they are a citizen or permanent resident of a country whose official national language is English, they need not take further steps to prove fluency. However, their undergraduate education was not conducted in English, the applicant must satisfy one of the following criteria:
    1. TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). Please visit the ETS TOEFL website for more information on this examination. A minimum score of 600 (paper-based test) or 100 (Internet-based test) is necessary for admission to Columbia. Note: Test scores are only considered valid for two years, and CSSW does not accept MyBest Scores.
    2. IELTS (International English Language Testing System). Please visit the IELTS website for more information on this examination. A minimum score of 7.0 is necessary for admission to Columbia.

    3. Duolingo English Test. Please visit the Duolingo English Test website for more information on this examination. A minimum score of 130 is necessary for admission to Columbia.

    Statistics Requirement
    Proficiency in statistics is not a requirement for admission. However, all Master of Science in Social Work candidates at CSSW must demonstrate proficiency in statistics and quantitative methods in order to graduate. Admitted students will be required to complete an introductory statistics course at CSSW during the first semester of their enrollment. Alternatively, all admitted students have an opportunity to demonstrate their proficiency in statistics via a waiver exam or previous coursework. For more information on how to fulfill this requirement, please visit this website.

    About CSSW

    Columbia School of Social Work has been a leader in social work education and research since 1898. It joins rigorous academic theory with real-world practice to enhance the welfare of citizens and communities in New York City, the nation and around the world.

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    New York, NY
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