PhD in Social Work Admissions

The application deadline for 2018 admission
to the MSU PhD Program in Social Work is

January 1, 2018

The online admission system is now closed for 2017 admission and will be accessible in Fall 2017 for 2018 admission.

How to Apply Decision Process

All applicants to Michigan State University graduate programs use the online application system through the Office of Admissions. This interactive form will allow you to send all of your information electronically to MSU. All information is secured with SSL encryption.

Early application is encouraged. All materials must be received by the School of Social Work by the published deadline. Admission decisions are made when completed applications are received. Applicants will be notified of their acceptance via mail and/or e-mail by April 1, 2017.

The university will only allow you to apply for one graduate program at a time. You will need to identify your major program code option. The option you need to select on the university application or the PhD Program in Social Work PhD is 4746.

You are only considered an applicant to the School of Social Work PhD Program when we receive all required social work application materials and your application fee has been paid. It is your responsibility to check the status of your application by logging in to your personalized online admissions portal with your applicant ID and password. All application materials must be received by the deadline.

During the admissions process we will be using e-mail to communicate with you. Please check your e-mail regularly (at least 2-3 times per week). You must have access to a computer and the Internet in order to complete the admissions process.

Who is Considered for Admission?

We invite applications from:

  • Experienced social workers who hold an MSW from an accredited program and show evidence of outstanding academic excellence, professional competence, research aptitude, and demonstrated career interests in social work research and education
  • Recent graduates of MSW programs who, although limited in post-master’s experience, have outstanding academic records and the capacity to conceptualize and research issues that inform social work practice

How to Apply

Step 1 - Applying to the School of Social Work PhD Program

  • Basic information about the online application process for Graduate Admission at MSU is found HERE.
  • The online application process for admission to the School of Social Work PhD program from the MSU Office of Admissions begins HERE. This step initiates your application process by generating an applicant ID. In order for your application to be considered for admission, your application fee must be paid and all required documents must be uploaded to your University application.
  • After starting your application you will receive an email with a unique applicant ID and password. Go HERE to log in to your personalized online admissions portal using the box at the top of that page. Using your personalized portal allows you to check the status of your application and view supporting documents, as well as make changes to your application information.

Please read the following critical information regarding the application process to maneuver through the University’s Admission application website

  • Before you pay your fee you can save your application and update the information and complete the personal statement (social work questions). After you pay your fee, this application is locked and you do not have the ability to change any information you have entered.
  • To access a saved application, click HERE.
    • Select “Saved Application.”
    • Enter your applicant ID and password. This will allow you access to work on your application.  
Please remember: Once you have completed all information, submitted it, and paid, you will no longer have access to update and/or change any information.

Step 2 - Application Uploads and Items to be Submitted Electronically

When filling out the application, documents that say “required” must be completed and uploaded. There are multiple items that you must upload or have submitted electronically. Please note that you do NOT need to fill out the personal statement or the academic statement section on the university application. Instead, you will write your personal statement and upload it as a PDF document.

Click the links below for more detailed information about what is required and for access to the specific forms:

Personal Statement

We are interested in gaining a better understanding of your relevant background, your interest in the PhD program at MSU, and your particular research focus. Please write an essay in which you address the following questions:

  • What life events or circumstances have influenced your career trajectory? If you have had to overcome any challenges, please address those.
  • What education and professional experiences have prepared you for pursuing a PhD? Please focus particular attention on experiences that have involved research.
  • What are your current research interests?
  • What are your career goals and how would obtaining a PhD in social work help you realize those goals?
  • What leadership qualities do you possess?
  • The School of Social Work faculty are conducting research in a wide variety of areas: Are there particular faculty members with whom you would like to work?

You are expected to organize your personal statement as a cohesive essay, rather than a list of discrete answers to the questions posed. In other words, you should use the questions to guide your personal statement, but organize it like an essay or paper. The personal statement is a critical part of the application: We will assess your ability to address the questions, as well as your writing skills, research aptitude, and fit with our PhD program. Your statement should be double-spaced, and 3-5 pages long.

The personal statement should be saved as a PDF document and uploaded to your application.

  1. Log in to your admissions portal and in the right-hand corner of the page put in your applicant ID (this is emailed to you once you have submitted your application) along with your password.
  2. Under “Control Panel” click on “Files Upload”
  3. Upload your personal statement

Curriculum Vitae (CV)

You must submit a current CV or résumé. The CV should be saved as a PDF document and uploaded to your application.

  1. Log in to your admissions portal and in the right-hand corner of the page put in your applicant ID (this is emailed to you once you have submitted your application) along with your password.
  2. Under “Control Panel” click on “Files Upload”
  3. Upload your CV

Examples of scholarly work

Applicants are required to submit two (2) examples of scholarly work as part of the application. These may include publications, papers completed when you were a student, research reports, or presentations. Ideally, these examples will highlight your writing ability for the admissions committee.

The two scholarly works should be saved as PDF documents and uploaded to your application.

  1. Log in to your admissions portal and in the right-hand corner of the page put in your applicant ID (this is emailed to you once you have submitted your application) along with your password.
  2. Under “Control Panel” click on “Files Upload”
  3. Upload your two examples of scholarly work

Three (3) letters of recommendation

We require three (3) letters of recommendation from people who can evaluate you academically and/or professionally, such as former professors and work/practicum supervisors. Do not use personal or family acquaintances, friends, relatives, therapists, ministers, or religious leaders. Please click here review the information requested from your recommenders. Once you have identified your recommenders, they will be emailed and asked to electronically submit their letter to us.

To enter the names and contact information of your recommenders:

  1. Log in to your admissions portal and in the right-hand corner of the page put in your applicant ID (this is emailed to you once you have submitted your application) along with your password.
  2. Under “Control Panel” click on “Letters of Recommendation”
  3. Please enter the names and contact information for each recommender
    PLEASE NOTE: We are unable to accept hard copies of recommendation letters.

Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores

Applicants are required to submit their GRE general examination scores, which will come directly to us via ETS. The Michigan State University code is 1465, and the code for Social Work is 5001. The PhD program admissions committee does not have a required minimum GRE score.

TOEFL scores (international applicants only)

International applicants are required to submit TOEFL scores, which will be sent to us via ETS. The Michigan State University code is 1465.

For regular admission, MSU requires a minimum average score of 80, with no sub-score below 19 for reading, listening, and speaking, or below 22 for writing (these scores are for the Internet-based test). If you score below these minimum levels on any of the sub-scores, you may still be admitted, but your admission will be provisional.

Provisional admission means that you will be required to take the MSU English Language Test upon arrival at MSU; based on the results of this test, you may be required to take English language courses at the start of your PhD program, as well as fulfilling all of the requirements for the PhD in social work.

While these are the University requirements related to TOEFL scores, the PhD admissions committee may impose additional criteria. Please see this web page for further information.

Step 3 - Submitting Transcripts

Non-MSU students

Submit one (1) official transcript for the purpose of admissions for each and every university/college attended for all previous undergraduate and undergraduate course work. Unofficial copies of your transcripts will not be accepted. Official transcripts should be mailed to:

Graduate Programs
School of Social Work
655 Auditorium Road Baker Hall Room 239
East Lansing, MI 48824

If your university/college provides official electronic transcripts, these can be emailed to the School of Social Work.

Current MSU students/graduates

An applicant who has been or is currently a student at Michigan State University does not need to order official MSU transcripts. We will obtain an applicant's MSU records from the Registrar's Office. You will, however, need to submit one official transcript from any college(s) and/or university(s) that you have attended (MSU excluded) to:

Graduate Programs
School of Social Work
655 Auditorium Road
Baker Hall Room 239
East Lansing, MI 48824

Applicants from Chinese Universities

If you are pursuing or have earned degrees from universities in China, the Office of Admissions requires you submit not only transcripts and graduation certificates from China, but also obtain verification of these documents from the China Academic Degrees and Graduate Education Development Center (CDGDC).  Michigan State University requires these documents in the original language (Chinese) as well as an official English translation. All documents should be sent to:

Graduate Programs
School of Social Work
655 Auditorium Road
Baker Hall Room 239
East Lansing, MI 48824