Illinois State University
Illinois State University
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Application Materials

What exactly do I need to apply to the MSW program?

1. Complete the ISU Graduate School and School of Social Work online application. The application opens September 1st and closes March 22nd.

You will need the following information to complete your graduate school application:

  • Choose your area of specialization 
    • Advanced Standing and Full Program students WILL BEGIN COURSEWORK IN August of the year of which they are applying for.
    • Choose whether you will be pursuing the Child and Family Practice; School Social Work or Gerontology specialization. If you are applying to the School Social Work concentration, you must take the TAPS Test or ACT. These test scores are required to complete your application for the School Social Work specialization.
  • Resume
    • Your resume should include your educational and relevant employment history, social work-related activities and volunteer involvement, publications by you, and any professional organizational affiliation (i.e. National Association of Social Workers, etc.).
  • Essay
    • The essay should demonstrate an applicant's interest in obtaining their master's degree and working in the social work field. Applicants should draw from their academic, personal and professional experiences to respond to the essay questions. The essay should be 5-10 pages in length and follow the American Psychological Association (APA) format.
    • The questions that need to be addressed are:
      • Why are you interested in pursuing an MSW? What led you to choose ISU’s program? What are your intended career goals? How do your intended career goals and interests fit with either the Child and Family Practice, School Social Work or Gerontology specialization?
      • Explain your understanding of cultural competence? What challenges have you experienced and what have you done to address them? What actions have you taken to promote equality and inclusion?
      • Please identify a current social justice issue. As a social worker, what steps would you take to address this issue? What actions have you taken in your life to challenge any social injustice?
      • What is your history of academic and/or professional success? If you've had challenges academically, how have you addressed those challenges? What is your plan to be academically successful in graduate school?
      • What volunteer experiences and/or professional development activities have you participated in? How have these activities prepared you for the profession?
      • What is your plan to pay for graduate school and meet your living expenses? What changes do you plan to make in your daily schedule to accommodate the time demands of graduate school.
  • Transcripts

2. Two Letters of Recommendation

Applicants are required to submit two letters of recommendation to apply to Illinois State University's School of Social Work. Recommendations should be written by individuals who are familiar with your academic achievement, potential, and relevant professional and/or volunteer experience in the field of social work or other human service related field.

You will identify your two references with email contact information on the application. They will receive an email with instructions on how to file your letter of recommendation.

Advanced Standing Applicants: you must provide one academic reference and one reference from a field instructor. If you have not begun your field practicum, you may provide one reference from a professional or volunteer social service/human service experience.

Full Program Applicants: You must provide at least one academic reference if graduating within a year of applying to the MSW program and one reference from paid or volunteer experience in social service/human services. Applicants who are currently working full-time must provide any two of the following: one reference from a social service/human service supervisor, one reference from a professional colleague and/or former supervisor or one reference from paid or volunteer experience in social service/human services (especially for candidates who are changing careers).

Please provide the following guidelines to your recommender for completion of a letter of recommendation on behalf of an applicant:

  • How long and in what capacity have you known the applicant?
  • What is your evaluation of the applicant's capabilities and suitability for graduate education?
  • What is your evaluation of the applicant's capabilities and suitability for subsequent practice in the field of social work (i.e. applicant's level of competence in his/her ability to work with others, level of comfort with social and cultural differences, respect for differences, and commitment to social and economic equity)?
  • How would you assess the applicant's potential for professional growth and development, capacity for self-awareness, and sensitivity to the needs and feelings of others?
  • Identify leadership ability, work performance (academic or professional) and personal characteristics that you believe could either help or hinder the applicant's development as an effective social worker.
  • Other comments

Once we have received all of the required supplemental materials, we will send you a confirmation email. If you have any questions about the status of your application, please feel free to contact the Director of MSW Student Services Amy Dennison via email at or phone 309-438-5005.

2019-03-01T15:50:02.564-06:00 2019