The Application Process
All applicants must provide the following materials.
Some programs require additional application materials.
Essential Abilities and Attributes
This section outlines non-academic expectations for all applicants.
Essential Abilities and Attributes for Admission and Continuance in the School of Social Work
All applicants to the Master of Science in Social Work program are required to submit the following:
Candidates must choose a platform, program, and area of specialization when applying. Please review the range of choices on our Degree Options page.
The online application form can be accessed at apply.ssw.columbia.edu/apply. All students, regardless of platform, program or specialization, must submit their application through this portal. The portal opens in August of each year for admissions in January and September of the following year. Instructions in the portal guide your through the process.
The $75 application fee is required upon submission of your application. Application fee waivers are granted to Veterans of the U.S. armed forces, and alumni of AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, Teach for America, McNair Scholars, Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) and Educational Opportunity Program (EOP). To request an application fee waiver, you may email proof of participation/service to the Office of Admissions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that application fees that have already been paid will not be refunded.
Please submit a detailed current resume that lists professional and volunteer experience separately and in chronological order. Your resume should indicate whether the experience was full-time or part-time, by whom you were supervised, and the nature of the client population served, if applicable. Part-time employment should indicate the weekly hours worked. Your resume should also include descriptions of any community and leadership activities, other relevant life experiences and all languages read/spoken in addition to English. Your resume may be longer than one page but should not exceed three pages.
The admissions essays consist of three questions which can be answered separately or combined into a single essay. The essays give you an opportunity to tell us more about yourself, your professional interest and experiences that have influenced you to pursue an MSW degree.
Applicants are required to answer three essay questions, which change from year to year. If you choose the latter, please submit your essay in Question 1. Admissions essay questions will be available in August for admission to the following spring and fall terms. Please create an account on our online application to view the current essay questions.
In general, successful applicants will demonstrate the “Essential Abilities and Attributes for Admission and Continuance in the School of Social Work” below.
Letters of reference should come from professors, your most recent employer, a volunteer supervisor, or those who know you in a professional context. Letters of recommendation may be submitted digitally via our online application system.
Please keep in mind that our online application system will only accommodate three letters of reference. Additional letters of reference may be submitted by mail, however please note that your application may enter into the review phase after any three letters have been received.
CSSW adheres to the provisions of the Educational Privacy Act of 1974 in respect to references. No personal references will be accepted, nor references from professionals with whom you have had a client or patient relationship.
Transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended where you completed 12 or more credits are required for admission. To expedite the review of your application you are strongly encouraged to upload a digital copy of your official transcripts before submitting your application. This eliminates the need to have transcripts mailed to CSSW during the initial processing and review of your application and precludes any decision delays resulting from a missing document. If you are currently enrolled at your undergraduate or graduate institution at the time of applying to CSSW, please submit a current transcript indicating all courses taken and those in progress.
If you are unable to upload your transcript(s) within the online application system, you may submit them by regular mail. Do not mail in a paper version of your transcript if a digital version has already been uploaded to the online application.
All applicants who receive an offer of admission are required to provide an official copy of their final transcript prior to enrollment. A transcript is considered final if it includes the final grades for all of your coursework and confirms that your degree has been awarded. This document must be sent directly to Columbia School of Social Work by the issuing institution. Student copies or copies issued to the student are not accepted as official documents. Columbia School of Social Work reserves the right to rescind any offer of admission if discrepancies between unofficial and official transcript(s) are found.
Official transcripts submitted in paper form should be mailed to: CSSW Office of Admissions, 1255 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10027. Official transcripts can also be transmitted digitally to email@example.com. Digitally transmitted transcripts must come from the sending institution or the third party your institution has contracted to send official transcripts.
The best way to upload a transcript is to request a digital copy of your official transcript (where available) from your institution and upload the file to your online application. If your institution does not issue digital transcripts, you should request a paper copy of your official transcript and have it scanned, so it can be uploaded as a digital file. Scanned transcripts should clearly display the institution’s name and other identifying marks seen on the original paper copy. Digitally submitted transcripts should include the transcript legend, which may be on the back page of the transcript.
Unofficial versions of your transcript, such as a screenshot of your coursework and grades on your institution’s website, will not be accepted. If you are unable to upload a legible document, you must arrange to have an official paper transcript mailed to CSSW.
Additional Requirements by Program
Applicants to the International, Advanced Standing, Reduced Residency, Professional Option, and Transfer programs must submit all the required materials mentioned above, and will have the following additional requirements.
Applicants who are not U.S. Citizens or Permanent Residents and who are citizens of non- English speaking countries must have a working knowledge of English. To meet this requirement, applicants must achieve the following minimum score on the TOEFL or IELTS exam:
IELTS Minimum Score = 7.0
TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)
- Internet-based Test (iBT): Minimum Score 98
- Computer-based Test (CBT): Minimum Score 233
- Paper-based Test (PBT): Minimum Score 577
Applicants submitting Paper-based Test scores only must also submit the following individual scores:
- TWE (Test of Written English): Minimum Score 4.0
- TSE (Test of Spoken English): Minimum Score 4.0
Applicants are not automatically exempt from taking the TOEFL if they have received a degree in the U.S. or from an institution whose official language is English. Please contact the Office of Admissions for more information.
Applicants who attended institutions outside the U.S. must provide official records of study with your application. These should be issued from or certified by the institution and include all course titles, grades received, degree title and degree award date. Documents not in English must be accompanied by a certified translation.
To qualify for an admission review, applicants who have completed a degree from outside of the United States must demonstrate proof of academic equivalency to a standard U.S. bachelor’s degree.
A SKYPE interview may be required for applicants who are not U.S. Citizens or Permanent Residents. The admissions office will contact applicants to set up interviews following receipt of the online application.
1. Specific Admission Essays: Applicants should follow the Advanced Standing Program instructions in the Admission Essays section, answering essay questions 1, 2, and 3B.
2. Field Work Evaluation Form: Applicants must have an Undergraduate Field Evaluation Form completed by a field instructor or appropriate person at your BSW program. The form can be found in the references section of the application. The form can be submitted by mail, fax, or as an email attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org
3. List of BSW Courses: A list of all of your BSW program courses with descriptions must be submitted for review. Please list by term taken and include course names and numbers. The course descriptions can be taken directly from your school’s course catalog or website. Applicants in the process of completing their BSW program should include a list of classes you will be taking in your final semester(s). Course descriptions should be uploaded in the Admissions Essays section of the application. The list may also be sent by email, fax, or regular mail to the Office of Admissions.
1. Specific Admission Essays: Applicants should follow the Reduced Residency Program instructions in the Admission Essays section, answering questions 1, 2, and 3C.
2. Supervisor Recommendation: One of the three reference letters must come from a current supervisor.
Applicants should submit a participatory letter from Columbia School of General Studies.
1. Specific Admission Essays: Applicants should follow the Transfer Student instructions in the Admissions Essays section, answering questions 1, 2, and 3B.
2. Academic Reference: A minimum of one of the three required letters of recommendation must be an academic reference.
3. Field Work Evaluation Form: Transfer student applicants must have a Graduate Field Evaluation Form completed by a field instructor or appropriate person at your MSW program. The form is located in the Reference section of the application. The form may be submitted by mail, fax, or as an email attachment to email@example.com
4. List of MSW Courses: A list of all of your MSW program courses with descriptions must be submitted for review. Please list by term taken and include course names and numbers. The course descriptions can be taken directly from your school’s course catalog or website. Applicants in the process of completing their MSW courses should include a list of classes you will be taking in your final semester(s). Course descriptions should be uploaded in the Admissions Essay section of the application. The list can also be sent by email, fax, or regular mail to the Office of Admissions.
Note: Transfer students are admitted for a maximum of one year of study at CSSW.
Non-Degree applicants only need to submit their transcript(s) and a $95 application fee. This option is based on space availability. Students who are interested to apply as a non-degree student may submit this form.
Note: Materials such as course descriptions and field evaluation forms can be submitted by email, regular mail, or fax.
The following standards, distinguished from academic standards, describe the physical, cognitive, emotional, and character requirements to provide reasonable assurance that students can complete the entire course of study and participate fully in all aspects of social work education and practice.
Acquisition of competence as a social worker is a lengthy and complex process that will be undermined by significant limitations of the student’s ability to participate in the full spectrum of the experiences and the requirements of the curriculum.
Students in the Columbia School of Social Work are expected to possess the following abilities and attributes at a level appropriate to their year in the program. They are expected to meet these standards in the classroom, in their practice, and elsewhere. Attention to these standards will be part of evaluations made by faculty responsible for evaluating applications for admission as well as by faculty responsible for evaluating students’ classroom and practicum performance.
The social work student must have sufficient motor abilities to attend class and practicum placement. Reasonable accommodation through technology for limitations in motor abilities will be allowed. The Office of Disability Services may be consulted regarding reasonable accommodations. For more information, please visit health.columbia.edu/disability-services.
Social work students must have the ability through their senses to participate in classes and practicum placement. Students must acquire and integrate data through the use of their senses. Reasonable accommodation through technology for limitations in sensory abilities will be allowed. The Office of Disability Services may be consulted regarding reasonable accommodations. For more information, please visit health.columbia.edu/disability-services.
The social work student must communicate effectively and sensitively with other students, faculty, staff, clients and other professionals. Students must express their ideas and feelings clearly and demonstrate a willingness and ability to listen to others. They must have sufficient skills in spoken and written English to understand the content presented in the program.
The social work student must have a strong commitment to the goals of social work and to the ethical standards of the profession. The student must be committed to the essential values of social work, which are the dignity and worth of every individual and one’s right to a just share of society’s resources.
The social work student must know how one’s values, attitudes, beliefs, emotions and past experiences affect one’s thinking, behavior and relationships. The student must be willing to examine and change one’s behavior when it interferes with working with clients and other professionals and must be able to work effectively with others in subordinate positions as well as with those in authority.
The professional activities of social work students must be grounded in relevant social, behavioral and biological science knowledge and research. This includes knowledge and skills in relationship-building, data-gathering, assessment, interventions and evaluation of practice.
The social work student must be able to objectively and systematically evaluate clients and their situations in an unbiased, factual way.
The social work student must endeavor to seek to comprehend another individual’s way of life and values. The social work student must be able to communicate this empathy and support to the client as a basis for a productive professional relationship.
The social work student must be resilient to the undesirable effects of stress, exercising appropriate self-care and developing cooperative and facilitative relationships with colleagues and peers.
The social work student must appreciate the value of human diversity. The social work student must serve in an appropriate manner all persons in need of assistance, regardless of the person’s age, class, race, ethnicity, religious affiliation (or lack thereof), gender, ability, sexual orientation and value system.
The social work student must demonstrate the interpersonal skills needed to relate effectively to other students, faculty, staff, clients and other professionals. These include compassion, altruism, integrity, and the demonstration of respect for and consideration of others.
The social work student must behave professionally by knowing and practicing within the scope of social work, adhering to the profession’s code of ethics, respecting others, being punctual and dependable, prioritizing responsibilities, and completing assignments on time.
Office of Admissions Contact Information
Columbia School of Social Work
Office of Admissions
1255 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10027
Telephone: (212) 851-2400
Fax: (212) 851-2305