College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

MSW Admissions

Master of Social Work Admissions Information

General Information

The following provides information on our program options, minimum requirements for admission, and application instructions/requirements.  Please be aware that meeting these minimum requirements does not ensure admission to the program. The Department of Social Work is committed to the selection of applicants who demonstrate strong potential to successfully undertake graduate studies in Social Work, who indicate commitment to the profession, and who have a liberal arts background.  The Department of Social Work Graduate Admissions Committee reserves the right to deny an applicant’s admission to the graduate program based upon factors related to potential to become an effective social worker and make positive contributions to the field.

The Master of Social Work Program at the University of Northern Iowa is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Students who graduate from our program are eligible to sit for the LMSW (Licensed Master of Social Work) exam. In most cases, the LMSW is easily transferable across state lines.

Program Options

Three program tracks are currently available:

  • Advanced Standing (on-campus)
    • Open to individuals who have completed a baccalaureate degree in social work from a program accredited by CSWE.
    • Full-time for 3 semesters
    • June start
  • Advanced Standing (distance education)
    • Open to individuals who have completed a baccalaureate degree in social work from a program accredited by CSWE.
    • Part-time for 9 semesters
    • January start
  • Foundation (distance education)
    • Open to individuals whose baccalaureate degree is not in social work.
    • Part-time for 10 semesters
    • January start

We are also accepting extended-enrollment (part-time) applications for these programs. Extended-enrollment students must be able to attend classes at the times offered (3 hr. blocks) and be available for the field practicum. Most practicums take place at agencies that operate during regular business hours (9 am to 5 pm). Extended-enrollment students must complete all requirements within seven years.

Minimum Requirements for Admission

  • A bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university (or equivalent degree from another country as determined by the Office of Admissions)
  • A minimum undergraduate GPA of (exceptions are considered based on other factors):
    • 3.00 on a 4.00 scale for Foundation
    • 3.20 on a 4.00 scale for Advanced Standing
    • The foreign equivalent as determined by the Office of Admissions.
    • At the request of the applicant, the Graduate Admissions Committee may consider the student’s GPA for the final 60 semester hours from the degree school.
    • Nine semester hours or more of letter-graded graduate work may be used to replace the undergraduate GPA. Graduate level courses may be completed in the following areas: social work, psychology, sociology, family studies, political science, economics, and other areas that are related to the profession of social work. For graduate level courses to be considered, a minimum grade of B (3.00 on a 4.00 scale) is required for each course and an overall grade point average of at least 3.25 must be achieved.
  • Applicants must demonstrate competence in the use of basic statistical methods by the completion of a statistics course from an accredited institution with a minimum grade of C. While not recommended, this requirement may be met after admission. Students who have not already completed a statistics course will be accepted under provisional acceptance status.

The University does not discriminate in access to, or treatment or employment in its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, age, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, veteran status, or disability.
The Department of Social Work Graduate Admissions Committee reserves the right to deny an applicant’s admission to the graduate program based upon factors related to potential to become an effective social worker and make positive contributions to the field.

Scholarships and Graduate Assistantships

If you are applying for our full-time, on-campus program and wish to be considered for a tuition scholarship and/or a graduate assistantship, please be sure to complete the Application for Graduate Tuition Scholarship and/or Application for Graduate Assistantship Stipend forms and return with your application materials. These applications are located online on the Graduate College's webpage for prospective students.  The Applications for both items are available at the bottom of the webpage under “Forms”.


Application Information & Deadlines

The following application information and instructions on this webpage is also available for download:  UNI MSW Program Application Information and Instructions (PDF)

Check out our Frequently Asked Questions page:  FAQs

Please contact the Social Work office at (319) 273-5910 with any questions.

Application Deadlines


For full consideration, all admission materials must be received no later than 4:30 p.m. on the required application deadline date posted on the UNI MSW program’s website.  Incomplete applications will not be reviewed. It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure all application materials are submitted by the application deadline, including transcripts and letters of recommendation.  Complete applications submitted after the deadline will only be reviewed if additional cohort space is available.

We are currently accepting applications for the following cohort(s) until the listed deadline, but please note that submitted applications will not be reviewed until after the deadline.:

  • Distance Education Program-Advanced Standing (starts Spring 2022)  
    • Application deadline: September 1, 2021 at 4:30 p.m. 
    • Interviews for 2nd Stage:  Saturday, October 16 (via Zoom)
    • Anticipated decision date:  October 27
  • In-Person Advanced Standing (starts Summer 2022) 
    • Application deadline: December 20, 2021 at 4:30 p.m.
    • Interviews for 2nd Stage:  Monday, January 10 (in-person)
    • Anticipated decision date:  February 14

Our next Distance Education Program-Foundation will begin in Spring 2023.  Applications will open in the summer of 2022.  

Evaluation and Admission Process

The UNI MSW program employs at two-stage admissions evaluation process. For the first evaluation stage, the Graduate Admissions Committee will evaluate candidates in a comprehensive manner and consider the following elements:

  • GPA (application weight: 40%)
  • Related work/volunteer/practicum experience (application weight: 20%)
  • Personal Statement (application weight 40%)
  • Three Letters of Recommendation showing evidence of the applicant’s potential for graduate social work education and practice.
    • All references should be from educators, professionals, supervisors, and/or people in administrative positions.
    • References from personal friends, coworkers, personal therapists, or relatives will result in the application being automatically denied.
    • At least one reference should be an academic reference regarding the applicant’s college experience.
    • If the applicant has ever been employed in social work or a related field, at least one of these references should be provided from the applicant’s most recent employer.
    • If the applicant has an undergraduate GPA lower than the required minimum, at least one letter of reference needs to specifically speak to the applicant’s readiness for graduate school.
    • If applying for the Advanced Standing program, at least one of these references should be provided from the applicant’s Practicum/Internship Instructor or Director of Field Education. If applicant has not yet taken the field practicum, a reference from a practice instructor may be used instead.

Based on the aforementioned factors, the Graduate Admissions Committee will invite selected applicants for a campus interview for the second evaluation stage involving group interviews. Interviews will be held on-campus for on-campus program applicants and via Zoom for distance education program applicants. Faculty and graduate students will conduct group interviews to assess applicants’ level of interest, motivation, and compatibility with the program.

The committee will inform candidates of the program’s decision within eight weeks of the application deadline. The potential outcomes are:

  • Full admission
  • Provisional admission
    • Statistics Requirement Unmet (Provisional status will be removed upon completion of an approved statistics course.)
    • Academic concerns due to low undergraduate GPA (Student will be required to achieve a grade point average of 3.00 in the first semester of graduate course work after which provisional status will be removed.)
  • Placement on a ranked waitlist
  • Admission denial

If accepted to the program, it is important that the applicant reply by the deadline date listed in the letter; otherwise, the offer may be passed to an applicant on the waitlist. The ranked waitlist will be maintained in the event of withdrawals until the first day of classes in each program.

As applications are considered on a cohort basis, applicants placed on the ranked waitlist who are not admitted before the start of classes or applicants who are denied admission would need to reapply for acceptance consideration to a future cohort.

 Application Procedures Checklist

  • Application for Graduate Study at the University of Northern Iowa (apply online on the Admissions webpage)
  • Résumé including education & work/volunteer/internship/field experience. To include all experience, it may be necessary for your résumé to exceed one page in length.
  • Personal Statement (see detailed description below)
  • Supporting GPA Appeal Statement (Required for those with a GPA below 3.00 for Foundation/3.20 for Advance Standing. Required applications not including this statement will not be reviewed.)
  • Three Letters of Recommendation (letter writers will be sent an electronic link via email during the online application process)
  • The University Application Fee of $40.00, unless the applicant received an undergraduate degree from the University of Northern Iowa.
  • Submission of official academic transcripts from all colleges and universities attended except from the University of Northern Iowa.
    • The official transcripts are to be sent by the college or university directly to: University of Northern Iowa, Office of Admissions, Gilchrist 002, Cedar Falls, IA 50614- 0018.
    • Applicants will not be considered if the Office of Admissions has not received an official copy by the deadline for applications.
    • We advise you to allow at least one-month lead time for requesting transcripts.
  • (On-campus applicants only; Optional) Application for Graduate Tuition Scholarship and Application for Graduate Assistantship Stipend. Graduate Tuition Scholarships and Graduate Assistantships require full-time student status, limiting these options to on-campus program students only.
  • Completion of the General Test of Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is optional. However, the GRE general test scores including the analytic writing score may be submitted in support of applications. If the GRE scores are to be considered by the Graduate Admissions Committee, the test should be taken as early as possible to ensure receipt of the test results by the Department of Social Work before the application deadline. Information on the GRE may be obtained from the Educational Testing Service, Box 955, Princeton, NJ 08541 or call 800/GRE-CALL. The GRE test scores are to be sent directly by the Educational Testing Service to the UNI Office of Admissions.

Personal Statement Details & Instructions

Social work is a profession guided by the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics, which includes clearly defined principles around social justice, treating all people with dignity and worth, valuing the importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence. Social work requires professional practice within the Code of Ethics and as such, our students are held to the same ethical and professional behavioral standards. Violations of ethical or professional behavior standards may result in dismissal from the program. Additionally, social work practice and therefore, social work education, require the discussion of and work around a number of sensitive topics, including acts of physical/emotional/sexual/mental/systemic abuse, violence, discrimination, and oppression. Applicants need to be aware that such sensitive topics will be a regular part of coursework.

Critical thinking skills and effective communication are necessary tools for effective social work practice. To help the Graduate Admissions Committee assess your skills and abilities, applicants are required to submit a writing sample in the form of a personal statement. In no more than three, double-spaced pages, please label your responses to the following questions:

  1. Why do you want to be a social worker and what impact does obtaining an MSW have on your goals? Feel free to highlight any experiences you have had that are relevant to the social work field (including work, field/internships, volunteer, and/or life experiences).
  2. Describe a time (past or present), where you advocated, demonstrated leadership, or spoken up for something you believe in strongly.
  3. What impact do you want to have on the people you work with?
  4. What do you foresee as your biggest challenge(s) in completing this program/meeting the expectations of the program?
  5. Supporting GPA Appeal Statement (required only if your GPA is below the required minimum): Include a one-page statement titled “GPA Appeal Statement” at the end of your Personal Statement (this does not count against page limit). Discuss the following:
    1. Contributing factors to your undergraduate GPA.
    2. How you have otherwise demonstrated a capacity for success in a rigorous graduate program (superior grades during the final semester(s) of work prior to graduation, success in another degree or certificate program, etc.)?
    3. If granted admission to the program, how you plan to address potential obstacles to successfully completing the program?