FAQs

What are the basic requirements for admission to the MSW programs?

  • 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. Applicants who do not have a background in liberal arts or social work many be required to take liberal arts courses prior to matriculation.
  • An undergraduate record demonstrating academic achievement; and
  • 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.

What are the admission requirements for the Advanced Standing Program?

  • 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;
  • High academic achievement;
  • Three letters of recommendation: two (2) work and one (1) academic reference. One reference letter must be from a MSW who can evaluate the applicant’s performance in field placement (e.g., current or most recent practice professor or field supervisor);
  • Applicants must meet all other admission requirements for the MSW program.

What are the admission requirements for the Employed Practitioners Program?

  • A bachelor’s degree in liberal arts or social work from an accredited college or university.
  • Substantial social work experience and full-time employment at a social service agency.
  • Submission of a contract among School, employing agency and applicant confirming approval of the applicant’s Employed Practitioners Program plan.
  • Applicants must meet all other admission requirements for the MSW program.

Will I have to take the GRE?
No. This is not a requirement for MSW programs.

What is the application deadline?
Students are admitted once a year (fall semester) to the MSW program and in the summer for the Advanced Standing program. MSW applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Priority consideration for Advanced Standing applications received by January 15th. Priority consideration for all other MSW programs including Two-Year full-time, Three-Year part-time, Residency Program, and dual degree program applications received by January 25th.

What is the application fee?
The MSW application fee is $65.00.

All on-line applications received between September 1st and December 31st will have a reduced fee and be charged $25.00.

What information is required for an application to be considered complete?
Your application is considered complete when the following have been received:

  • Online application form;
  • Three letters of recommendation;
    • MSW Applicants
      • List three (3) references, including at least one work-related (internship, job, community service) and at least one academic reference. The third recommendation is your choice.
    • Advanced Standing Applicants
      • Following MSW program guidelines, but one reference letter must be from a MSW who can evaluate the applicant’s performance in field placement (e.g., current or most recent practice professor or field supervisor).
    • Employed Practitioner Applicants
      • In addition to the reference requirements for the MSW program, you must have an authorized agency representative complete the Agency Recommendation Form.
  • Transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate studies.
    • 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.
  • TOEFL or IELTS scores (if applicable)
    • For international applicants whose first language is not English, we require official TOEFL or IELTS scores taken in the last two years. A minimum of 100 on the Internet-based (iBT) TOEFL or a minimum Overall Band Score of 7.5 on the IELTS is required.
  • Application statement prepared in response to the questions listed in the admissions application on the web.

Is an application interview arranged with all applicants?
It is our policy to require an interview for all applicants who meet minimal admission criteria. This will help to assure that you have been well informed about our program and that you have been apprised of our expectations. It also helps us to get to know you better and helps you to make an informed choice of programs.

The interviews occur in-person or via Skype (when geographic distance poses a challenge).

You may also request a pre-application appointment before you complete or file an application. This appointment is primarily to clarify our program and your professional goals for social work practice. In order to schedule a pre-application appointment, please contact the Admissions Office (215.746.1934).

Who makes admission decisions? When can I expect a decision on my application?
Once the application is complete (including the interview), the Admissions Committee composed of members of the standing faculty makes all admission decisions. The Committee looks at the applicant’s complete file, i.e., transcripts, human service related experience, letters of recommendation and the application statement. You can expect a written notification within two to three weeks. If you have not heard from us, feel free to call the Admissions Office (215.746.1934).

Do you accept transfer students into Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice?
Yes. Transfer students from CSWE accredited MSW programs must meet the School’s admission requirements. Transfer credit review will occur after acceptance to the program. 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 classes.

Application for credit for work completed elsewhere than Penn must be made in writing to the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs for the School. 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 from 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 credits must be granted before the student’s registration can be accepted.

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.

Is there a deposit fee?
Yes. The fee is $300.00 payable after notification of acceptance. Your acceptance letter will tell you the date by which this fee is expected. This deposit fee is applied to your bill upon matriculation. It is not refundable if you do not matriculate.

For complete information covering all SP2 programs, please visit our Financing Your Education section under Admissions.

Does the School offer a part-time program?
Yes. The Three-Year MSW Program is designed for students who have chosen the profession but are not prepared to matriculate on a two-year basis. Participants in the three-year program must meet the same admission requirements as those for two-year students. They must also complete degree requirements in effect at the time of admission. Students admitted to this program are assisted by academic advisors who help them develop individualized plans of study.

The Three-Year MSW program includes six semesters and two summers for courses. Field placement begins in the second year of study.

Does the School offer an Employed Practitioners Program?
Yes. The Employed Practitioners Program is designed for experienced working professionals who have substantial social work experience at a social service agency and want to pursue a Masters of Social Work degree on a part-time basis. Students accepted into this program take two courses per semester (including summers). In the second year of study (Pre-Residency Year), students must complete a Field Lab during the fall and spring semester. In the third year of study (Residency Year), students must fulfill 900 hours of supervised field placement at their place of employment from September to May.

Does the School offer an Advanced Standing program?
Yes. The Advanced Standing Program is designed for exceptional BSW students who have graduated from a CSWE-accredited BSW program within the past five years. A limited number of students are accepted into this program. Students in Advanced Standing begin graduate studies in the summer, followed by two semesters of full-time study in the academic year. In order to enroll in the fall, students must satisfactorily complete the two (2) required summer courses and achieve satisfactory performance in the no-cost Integrative Practice Seminar and field placement.

How many courses do you take each semester?
Full-time students take four courses a semester. Each class meets one day a week for two and a half hours.

Three-year students and Employed Practitioner students take two courses a semester. Students in these programs must also take two courses in the summer. It is recommended that students take one course during each 6-week summer session. (The University offers Summer Session I and II.)

What is the structure of the program?
Full-time students are in the classroom two days a week and in field placement three days a week. In the first year of study, students must enroll in required courses. In the second year of study, students choose either a clinical or macro concentration. Students must take at least one of the one practice elective in their concentration area.

How many students are in a class?
Our classes are seminar style classes, averaging 25 students. Practice classes are capped at 20 to 21 students. This is a plan to promote the valuable classroom interaction and exchange between faculty and students. In other words, be prepared to participate, raise critical questions, and share your ideas and learning.

What is the size of your MSW class?
In recent years, the incoming class has averaged 150-160 students.

What are the joint/dual degree programs?
Penn Social Policy & Practice offers the following dual degree programs:

A separate application to each school is required. Acceptance into the MSW program is not contingent upon your acceptance into any one of the joint degree programs. In other words, if you apply for a joint degree, you are independently accepted (or not accepted) by each school.

What certificate programs are offered at SP2?
Penn Social Policy & Practice offers a MSW/Certificate in Jewish Communal Services in conjunction with Gratz College.

A separate application to Gratz College is required. Acceptance into the MSW program is not contingent upon your acceptance into Gratz. In other words, if you apply for both programs, you are independently accepted (or not accepted) by each school.

What is the grading system at SP2?
SP2 uses the system of letter grade evaluation that is used by other MA and PhD programs at the University. A cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or above is required for MSW graduation.

Does the School provide academic advising?
Yes. Each student is assigned an academic advisor who helps the student make the maximum use of the School and University’s resources for a rich academic experience.

How are field placements arranged?
Incoming or First Year students are sent a placement form from the Director of Field Education after they accept the School’s offer of admission and have paid the $300 deposit fee. The placement form, along with the personal statement and admissions interview, are reviewed by the Director of Field Education to determine the first year placement. Each student is expected to interview at his or her assigned placement before the placement start date. Phone or Skype interviews are acceptable if it is not geographically possible to have an in-person meeting.

Second year field placement processes begin in January of your first year. Students meet with their Practice Faculty and discuss their educational needs and objectives for their second year. Together they complete an educational plan which is forwarded to the Field Education Office in order to determine a field placement that meets the student’s needs. Again, each student is expected to interview at his or her assigned placement before the placement start date.

What are my chances of having a field placement working with children? Aging? Substance abuse?
Your chances are good. We have approximately 600 field placement sites. If you communicate your interests to the Field Office we will make every effort to link your placements with your area of interest. We do not, however, suggest that you choose an area of interest based solely on your past experience. Field Education is an opportunity to explore areas of Social Work practice that you believe will enhance your professional goals. Field placement is a vital part of your learning experience so we take great care in seeing that it meets your educational needs and interests.

How much time is spent in field placement?
Students spend the equivalent of three days a week (21-24 hours) in the field during each of their two academic years. Part-time students may make arrangements to do a 16 hour per week field placement that is extended over 39 weeks.

Will I need a car for field placement?
No. The Field Education Office takes in to consideration whether students have their own car or will require the use of public transportation to their agency. Students who do not have a car are expected to utilize public transportation. We have many field placement sites that are located in close proximity to public transportation. Some placement opportunities do, however, require the use of a car. If you do not have a car it may limit your agency options.

What are the field placement requirements for part–time (Three-Year MSW Program) students?
Students in the part-time program fulfill the same field placement requirements as full-time students but they reduce the number of hours they spend in the field each week to a minimum of 16 hours and extend the total number of field placement weeks to 39. If you are Part-time student you have two different start dates for you field placement.

  • Your Foundation (1st year) placement begins in September alongside the full time two year students.  In order to complete the required number of hours you will, however, end later.  Your placement ends the last week in June.
  • Your Advanced (2nd year) placement begins in early August in order to give you ample time to complete the required hours in the field.  It ends at the close of the spring semester so that you are able to graduate with your cohort.

When does field placement begin and end?
Field dates correspond to the program in which a student has enrolled.  Most students begin in September. Part-time and advanced standing students begin and end their field work at different times throughout the year. See below for specific information regarding field dates.

If you are a Full-time Two Year student you will begin your placement in September and end at the end of the spring semester. This will be your schedule for both years that you are at SP2.

If you are an Advanced Standing student you will begin your placement the first week of July and end at the end of the spring semester.

If you are Part-time student you have two different start dates for you field placement.

  1. Your Foundation (1st year) placement begins in September alongside the full-time two year students. In order to complete the required number of hours you will, however end later. Your placement ends the last week in June.
  2. Your Advanced (2nd year) placement begins in early August in order to give you ample time to complete the required hours in the field. It ends at the close of the spring semester so that you are able to graduate with your cohort.

Please refer to the SP2 calendar for specific dates and other pertinent information.

Can I choose my field placement?
Students do not arrange their own placements. Your field placement is a significant part of your academic record and, as such, should originate from SP2’s Field Education Office. The Field Education staff works in conjunction with practice faculty and students to ensure that field experience will support academic coursework and enhance professional growth.

For the Foundation Year (1st year)  and Advanced Standing students, the Field Education department reviews incoming students’ background, experience, and areas of interest to match students with agencies. Staff uses this information to make thoughtful decisions regarding where to place students. Students are notified of their placement by the Field Office.

Advanced (2nd year) students begin the process of securing their placement in January of their Foundation year (1st year). These students meet in-person with Faculty to choose agencies and areas of practice for their Advanced Year field placement. The Field Education Office provides a large selection of placement options to consider.

Can I do my field placement where I work?
Some students are able to use their work site as a field placement. In order for a work-site to be a successful field placement the following is required:

  • You must have been employed for at least six months and passed the probationary period.
  • You must have a new supervisor for the hours dedicated to your field placement.
  • You must be assigned to a new area of practice in your agency for the hours dedicated to your field placement.

Are there any specific requirements that may impact my choice of a field placement site?
Some agencies require flexible work hours and/or days.  FBI, Criminal Background, and/or Child Abuse clearances may be required.  Occasionally a car for travel is required.  Some agencies state that foreign language skills are beneficial for a successful placement experience.

What days of the week am I in Field Placement?
This depends on what year, program, and time of year you are in the field.  The following outlines the days for each program:

 SummerFallSpring
Full time 2 year:
Foundation (1st year)
N/AM, Th, FM, Th, F
Full time 2 year:
Advanced (2nd year)
N/AM, T, FM, T, F
Advanced StandingJuly–August
M, W, F
M, T, FM, T, F
Part-time Foundation
(1st year placement)
N/ADays/times depend on student availability and agency options.Days/times depend on student availability and agency options. Students are expected to continue in field through the end of June.
Part-time Advanced
(2nd year placement)
August startDays/times depend on student availability and agency options.Days/times depend on student availability and agency options.

If I am a part-time student, how many hours a week will I need to commit to field placement?
Part-time students complete 16 hours in the field per week. In the Foundation Year students are in the field from September through June. Advanced Year students complete their field hours from August through April. Each week, at least 8 of the 16 hours must be completed during the agency’s regular business hours.

Will I receive a grade for field placement?
Students will receive an evaluation of their performance in field each semester of both years. Placement performance is evaluated in terms of Pass, Marginal Pass, or Fail standards. This evaluation will be factored in determining grades for Social Work Practice courses: SWK604, SWK614, SWK704, SWK714, SWK708 and SWK718.

If I do not have a car, how will I be assigned to a field placement site?
The Field Education Office takes into consideration whether students have their own car or will require the use of public transportation to their agency.  Students who do not have a car are expected to utilize public transportation.

If I am planning to live outside of Pennsylvania and commute to classes, can I be placed in an agency near my residence?
The Field Office offers opportunities for placements in several states as well as Pennsylvania locations outside of the Philadelphia area. Students are encouraged to discuss a need for placement outside of the Philadelphia area early in the placement process so that a strong placement opportunity can be secured.

Will I get to interview at my field placement?
It is the expectation that students will interview at their field sites before they are accepted for placement. Some agencies are agreeable to phone or Skype interviews for students who are unable to interview in person due to geographical distance.

Does my supervisor have to be an MSW?
All first year field placements include supervision by an MSW. In the second year the School offers an Integrative Seminar for students placed in agencies who are supervised by a non-MSW supervisor.

Questions about the program? Contact Admissions at 215.746.1934 or apply@sp2.upenn.edu.