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 1st.

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

  • Choose your area of 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 Questions.  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:

  1. Why have you chosen to pursue a MSW at this time and what are your intended career goals?  Please address which specialization (Child & Family Practice, School Social Work, or Gerontology) you are interested in and how that specialization fits with your career goals.
  2. Discuss your experience with individuals from diverse backgrounds and how these experiences have influenced your development as a future social worker.  Give examples of actions you have taken to remedy challenges and empower individuals from diverse communities. 
  3. Please choose one of the 6 values of the NASW Code of Ethics (service, social justice, dignity & worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity, competence) and describe how you have incorporated that value into your personal and professional/volunteer experiences.
  4. What is your history of academic and/or professional success?  If you’ve had challenges, academically or professionally, how have you addressed those challenges?  What is your plan to be successful in graduate school?
  5. What opportunities have you pursued outside of the classroom to facilitate your professional growth?  How have these experiences prepared you for the profession of social work?
  6. Please describe the volunteer experiences in which you have participated and how they have prepared you for a career in social work.
  7. Please address whether you plan to attend school full-time or part-time.  Discuss your plan to meet the demands of a rigorous graduate program, including financially, while managing your additional responsibilities and obligations

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.

2019-08-30T13:40:15.631-05:00 2019