How To Apply

MSW Application Process for Domestic Students

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The fall 2020 application opens on September 1, 2019. The priority deadline (November 18, 2019) is for applicants interested in merit scholarships, the advanced standing program, and international students. The final deadline is March 9, 2020.

Admission Requirements

Academic Requirements for All MSW Programs:

  • Bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university.
  • Minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 (Based out of a 4.0 grading scale)
  • Minimum of 18 units of liberal arts coursework, such as coursework from humanities (E.g. Anthropology, communication studies, cultural studies), social sciences (E.g. Sociology, psychology, political science), biological sciences (E.g. Biology, zoology, ecology), and natural sciences (E.g. Astronomy, physics, chemistry).
  • Note: GRE scores are not required or evaluated.

Additional Requirements for All MSW Programs:

  • Dedication to the Profession: Potential for professional competence, strong interest and motivation, and commitment to social work values such as the appreciation for cultural and ethnic diversity; belief in the dignity and freedom of every individual; promotion of social justice and equal access to resources; and institutional responsiveness to human needs and social change.
  • Personal Qualifications: Professionalism, sensitivity and responsiveness in relationships, capacity for self-awareness, concern for the needs of others, the ability for abstract reasoning, conceptual thinking, and strong communication skills.
  • Experience: Providing service to people preferred (1-2 years of social work-related or volunteer experience).

Special Requirements for Advanced Standing MSW Candidates:

  • Bachelor’s degree in social work or social welfare from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)-accredited school of social work.
  • BSW degree earned within the past 5 years.
  • Cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher.
  • Minimum GPA of 3.0 in all social work courses.

Application Instructions

1. Start the online graduate admission application

Apply to the University of Southern California and the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work using a single online application portal: Graduate Admission Application 

For technical assistance with the online application portal (E.g. Trouble logging in, how to upload documents, how to request letters of recommendation), please contact USC Application Customer Service at 857-304-2092 or

There is a $90 non-refundable application fee paid through the online application portal when you submit your application.

Fee Waivers: The Office of Graduate Admissions offers a limited number of Application Fee Waivers to qualifying students: Application Fee Waiver Request Instructions 

City Year alumni are eligible for an application fee waiver from the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work: City Year Application Fee Waiver Instructions

2. Upload your resume

For admission, experience in the field of social work is preferable but not required. Applicants are expected to have experience in environments such as human services (E.g. Nonprofit organization, public health, healthcare, etc.) and education. Students should highlight their leadership, advocacy, and capacity to work with a variety of populations. Your resume will assist the admissions committee in assessing your level of knowledge, experience, and preparation for graduate social work education at USC. These experiences may include those in the workplace or academic settings (E.g. Internship).

Submit a resume through the online application portal that details the following:

Current Work Experience
Please describe your current or most recent professional paid position. This position does not have to be social work-related. Include the following details: company name, job title, dates of employment and responsibilities.

Professional Social Work Experience
Please describe any work you have done professionally in the field of social work or related fields. Include the following details: agency name, position/title, dates of employment and responsibilities.

Volunteer Social Work Experience
Please describe any work you have done as a volunteer or intern related to the field of social work. Please include the following details: agency name, dates of volunteer work, frequency and responsibilities.

Please indicate any of the following: affiliations with professional organizations (e.g., National Association of Social Workers) or honors/recognitions received.

Leadership Experience
Please indicate the length of time of leadership experience, the agency or community where leadership efforts occurred and a description of actual leadership activities.

3. Upload your five-page Statement of Purpose

The USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work does not offer in-person interviews as part of the application. This is our opportunity to get to know you and evaluate your preparedness for graduate-level writing. The Office of Admissions strongly recommends that you take the time to proofread and collect feedback from trusted friends, colleagues or mentors, prior to submission.

Your Statement of Purpose should be exactly five pages and address all of the prompts below. The Statement of Purpose is your opportunity to address your motivation in seeking an MSW. Your statement should demonstrate an ability to synthesize your professional/personal experiences and desire to enter the field of social work. This statement will be used to assess your creativity, critical thinking, self-awareness, and writing skills.

A note about privacy: What you write in your Statement of Purpose is considered confidential and will be used for the purposes of rendering an admissions decision and directing your educational experience.


  • A comprehensive essay encompassing ALL TOPICS.
  • Question and answer format will not be accepted.
  • Five double-spaced pages in length, with 1-inch margins, and 12-point Times New Roman font.

Topic #1: About you

  • Describe your understanding of the social work profession and its core values. How have you incorporated social work values in your human service experiences and interactions with others?
  • What significant relationships and life experiences have you had that motivated you to enter the field of social work? What personal qualities equip you for the social work profession?
  • What personal qualities equip you for the social work profession?
  • Please discuss your career goals. Include why the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work is a good fit for your goals.
  • The rising cost of higher education today is a key concern for the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work and we work closely with our students to ensure they understand the financial implications of graduate study. Given the variety of ways to fund your education, please describe in detail your personal plan to finance your education including what steps you have made to obtain necessary funding.
  • Field education is a core pillar of the Master in Social Work program. Our curriculum includes 1,000 hours of field placement conducted over 4 semesters. What is your plan for managing your personal and professional obligations while completing the required field placement?

Topic #2: About the Grand Challenges

  • The USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work is dedicated to providing excellent graduate education for people destined to create social change. In our work, we can refer to topics in the Grand Challenges of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare to assess our interests in field. Describe if or how your professional interests relate to any of the Grand Challenges.
    • Ensure healthy development for all youth
    • Close the health gap
    • Stop family violence
    • Advance long and productive lives
    • Eradicate social isolation
    • End homelessness
    • Create social responses to a changing environment
    • Harness technology for social good
    • Promote smart decarceration
    • Reduce extreme economic inequality
    • Build financial capability for all
    • Achieve equal opportunity and justice

Topic #3: Special Consideration (Optional)

  • Please address any special academic or other considerations that you would like the committee to take into account in the review of your application.
4. Identify two or three recommenders

In the online application portal, you will be asked to send electronic recommendation requests. We require a minimum of two recommendations with an optional third recommendation. There is no specific format or set of questions for the recommenders.

Preferred recommendations are those that come from:

  • Academic instructors
  • Professionals who have supervised you in a social work-related position (Paid, volunteer, internship)

Not accepted: Personal recommendations (E.g. Friends, relatives, therapists).

5. Submit official transcripts

USC requires official transcripts from all post-secondary schools (Including community colleges) you have attended, regardless of transfers or whether a degree was earned. Your application processing may be delayed if you fail to submit all undergraduate transcripts. Transcripts uploaded to the online application portal are not considered. 

There are two ways to send official transcripts to USC: E-transcript or through the mail. 

USC accepts official e-transcripts from institutions in the United States when the transcripts originate from a secure site formally linked to the sending institution. For instructions please visit the Office of Graduate Admissions website.

Regular Mail
If you are sending your transcripts via regular mail, please use the following address:

University of Southern California
USC Office of Graduate Admission
3601 South Flower Street, Room 112
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0915

Courier Service
If you are sending your transcripts via courier service, such as DHL or FedEx, please use the following address:

University of Southern California
USC Office of Graduate Admission and Financial Aid
3601 South Flower Street, Tyler 112
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0915
Phone: (213) 740-1111

Transcript Submission Instructions
It can take 10 to 15 business days for the Office of Graduate Admissions to process transcripts, so please plan accordingly.

Studied abroad? If it was for one semester or less, we do not need a transcript from that institution if the grades appear on your undergraduate transcript.

Haven’t graduated yet? You must complete the Concurrent Enrollment Form if you are submitting official transcripts without a conferred bachelor's degree. Sign and scan the form, then email it to your counselor.


Your application is considered complete once all application materials have been processed, including transcripts and letters of recommendation. Completed applications are reviewed on a rolling basis and most students can expect an admissions decision within 6-8 weeks of their application being complete. To check the status of your application contact the Office of Admissions at 213-740-2013.


Please note that applications, including all supplemental documents, must be completed by the listed deadline.

Advanced Standing (3 Semester)
Program Start: Summer 2020
Application Opens: September 1, 2019
Application Deadlines: November 18, 2019

Traditional (4 or 6 Semesters)
Program Start: Fall 2020
Application Opens: September 1, 2019
Application Deadlines: November 18, 2019 (Priority Deadline) / March 9, 2019 (Final Deadline)

Dual Degree Programs
Program Start: Fall 2020
Application Opens: September 1, 2019
Application Deadlines: November 18, 2019 (Priority Deadline)

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