Admissions & Application

Application Deadline

MSW applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Priority consideration is given to Advanced Standing applications received by January 15th; priority consideration is given to all other MSW program applications, including Full-time (two-year), Part-time (three year), Employed Practitioners, and dual-degree programs, received by January 25th. The Advanced Standing program begins in the summer term; all other programs begin in the fall term.

Students are admitted to the MSW program once a year in the fall and to the full-time Advanced Standing program in July.

Admissions Requirements

Admission decisions are based on the applicant’s undergraduate record (and graduate transcripts when applicable), experience in human services (paid, volunteer, internships), the application essay, recommendation letters and the admissions interview. Applicants to the MSW program are expected to meet the following criteria:

  • A bachelor’s degree with a liberal arts perspective from an accredited college or university; or a bachelor’s degree in social work from an accredited undergraduate social work program. It is expected that a liberal arts perspective includes courses reflecting that applicants have backgrounds in several of the following areas: society, history and tradition, arts and letters, economics, formal reasoning and analysis, the living world, the physical world, and social studies.
  • Courses that contain these topics include, but are not limited to, a combination of studies in each of the following areas: the humanities (languages, philosophy, religion, art history, architecture, literature, classics, speech)social sciences (psychology, sociology, anthropology, ethnic studies, gender studies, international relations, human behavior, human development, political science, communications, education, urban planning, criminal justice), and natural sciences (statistics, astronomy, biology, botany, environmental studies, genetics, nutritional sciences, physics).
  • Applicants who do not have a background in liberal arts or social work may be required to take liberal arts courses prior to matriculation or may not be considered for admission.
  • An undergraduate record demonstrating academic achievement
  • Personal qualifications such as maturity, critical thinking, good judgment, oral and written communication skills, integrity, a respect for difference, capacity for self-awareness and commitment to social work values.
  • For international applicants whose first language is not English, TOEFL score (Institutional Code 2926; Department Code 95) or IELTS score taken in the last two years.

The School does not give course credit for life or work experience. GRE scores are not required for the MSW program.

Program-Specific Admissions Requirements:

All applicants must meet the requirements outlined above. Additional requirements are in place for applicants to the Advanced Standing and Employed Practitioners programs, as described below:

Applicants for admission to the Advanced Standing Program must have:

  • A bachelor’s degree in social work from a CSWE accredited social work program. Completion of the undergraduate degree must be within the past five years;
  • The grade of “B” or higher in all undergraduate (or graduate) social work courses; and
  • High academic achievement.

Applicants for admission to the Employed Practitioners Program must have:

  • A bachelor’s degree in liberal arts or social work from an accredited college or university;
  • Social work experience, having successfully completed the probationary period of employment, at an approved social service agency; and
  • Submission of the Agency Recommendation Form, a contract among School, employing agency and applicant confirming approval of the applicant’s Employed Practitioners Program plan.*

*The Field Education Office will determine if the employment site is an approved field placement for the Employed Practitioners Program.


Applicants must submit transcripts detailing all undergraduate and postgraduate study. This includes coursework conducted at an applicant’s degree-granting institution(s) as well as in study abroad programs and at institutions out of which an applicant may have transferred. Applicants should upload copies of their official transcripts (i.e. not screenshots from a student record or student grade system) that clearly displays their name, dates of enrollment, the names of all courses in which they enrolled, and the credits and grades awarded for each class. Applicants should not mail hard copies of transcripts to the School for purposes of application review.

Applicants who are admitted are required to submit final, official copies of all transcripts prior to matriculation. Transcripts must provide confirmation of degrees conferred.

Attention International Students:  Transcripts reflecting more than two semesters of study at institutions based outside of the United States must be evaluated on a course-by-course basis by a third-party evaluation service such as WES or Educational Perspectives. This applies even if the studies were conducted in English and even if the transcript is printed in English.

Applicants with these international transcripts should upload their university-issued transcripts into the online application and order their official, third-party evaluations sent to the School of Social Policy & Practice. Please note that these international transcripts cannot be considered official until they have been evaluated and that their respective applications cannot be reviewed until the evaluations have arrived in the Admissions Office.

Letters of Recommendation

Full-Time and Part-Time Applicants 
Full-time and Part-time applicants must submit three letters of recommendation, including at least one work-related (internship, job, community service) and at least one academic reference. The third recommendation is the applicant’s choice.

Advanced Standing Applicants
Advanced Standing applicants must submit three letters of recommendation, including at least one work-related (internship, job, community service) and at least one academic reference. The third recommendation is the applicant’s choice, but one of the three letters must be from an MSW who can evaluate the applicant’s performance in field placement (e.g., current or most recent practice professor or field supervisor) and specifically recommend the applicant for the Advanced Standing program.

Employed Practitioners Applicants
Employed Practitioners applicants must submit three letters of recommendation, including at least one work-related (internship, job, community service) and at least one academic reference. In addition, applicants to the Employed Practitioners Program must have an authorized agency representative complete the Agency Recommendation Form.

Transfer Applicants
Transfer applicants must submit three letters of recommendation, including at least one work-related (internship, job, community service) and at least one academic reference. At least one academic reference must be from a professor who has taught the applicant in her/his current MSW program.


Each applicant who meets admission criteria is offered an admission interview when his/her submitted application (application essay, financial plan, references, and transcripts) is complete. The interview can take place at the School or via Skype. Following the admissions interview, the faculty evaluates the application and makes the decision on admittance. Applicants are generally notified of the final decision within two weeks after the evaluation is completed.

Dual Degree Applications

Students who are applying to a dual degree program must submit separate applications to each program/school. For more information about the dual degree programs available to students and the application procedures for each program, visit the dual degree section of the website. Students in the Advanced Standing, Part-Time, and Employed Practitioners Program are generally not eligible for dual degree programs, but interested students should contact the Associate Director of Academic Affairs and Global Programs to discuss individual case scenarios.

Transfer of Credits

Credit may be granted toward the MSW requirements for work completed at any other accredited graduate school of social work in the past five years. Students who transfer from an accredited social work program having completed a full year within the last five years may be granted credit for up to one year’s work. Students entering with a Master’s degree in a related field may be granted up to a maximum of six credits based on the overlap of the courses they have taken with the courses in our curriculum. Students who have completed some graduate work within the past five years but do not have a Master’s Degree may be given up to a maximum of four credits for courses that have a high degree of overlap with our courses.

Application for credit for work completed elsewhere than at Penn must be made in writing to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs of the School of Social Policy & Practice. This should occur after a student has accepted the offer of admission and sent all final official transcripts to the admissions office. Students will be asked to provide the syllabi for all courses they wish to be considered for transfer credit. Transfer credits may only be granted for courses in which a student earned a “B” or higher. Transfer of credits must be granted before the student’s registration can be accepted.

Once enrolled in the School of Social Policy & Practice, credits earned concurrently from other accredited graduate schools outside the University will not be transferred unless approval was granted by the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs prior to enrolling in these courses.

Confidentiality of Student Records

Pursuant to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as amended, in general, personally identifiable information can be disclosed to people outside the University only with the written consent of the student or alumnus involved. A statement setting forth specific University policy concerning: (1) disclosing information to people outside the University; (2) disclosing information to people within the University; (3) permitting students to inspect and review records; and (4) providing students with the opportunity to seek the collection of their records is available in the Graduate Academic Bulletin. Students in the School of Social Policy & Practice may review their records in the SP2 Admissions Office in the presence of an admissions officer. Records may not be copied. For more information and the complete Code of Academic Integrity, refer to the Graduate Academic Bulletin or the University’s Privacy website.

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