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Online Master of Social Work Admissions

Online MSW Admissions Requirements

The strongest candidates have the following characteristics:

  • Bachelor’s degree shows a distribution of liberal arts and social science courses
  • Earned a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher during the last two years of academic study or an overall undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher
  • Social service practice experience (paid or volunteer)
  • Personal essay is written in a clear, well organized manner with no or few grammatical errors
  • Recommendation letters indicate strong potential to succeed in graduate program
  • Background check and response to criminal history presents no issues
  • Confirmation to understanding the NASW Code of Ethics is complete

If you reside outside of Idaho, please review this section carefully

The Master of Social Work (MSW) program is available to students in all states. More information about State Authorization is available at About Boise State Online. Students must reside within the United States throughout their time in the MSW program due to the field work practicums which require the supervision of an experienced master’s level social worker in an agency setting.

Application Deadlines by Semester

ALL materials listed in Steps 1 through 4 below must be received by 11:59PM MST on the posted deadline.

SemesterApplication DeadlineAdmission DecisionsCourses Begin
Spring 2019August 15Late OctoberEarly January
Summer 2019January 15Late MarchEarly May
Fall 2019April 15Late JuneLate August

Review the online program calendar (PDF) for semester start dates and deadlines. Please note: This is a summary of key dates within the academic calendar for online programs and is subject to change. For current official academic calendar details, please refer to the Boise State Academic Calendar.

To apply for this program

Step 1 – Apply to Boise State University’s Graduate College

Complete the Boise State Graduate Admissions Application. On the Degree Path page within the application, select the appropriate program from the dropdown list:

  • Social Work Online-Advanced Standing – select if one of the following apply:
    1) you graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work from a CSWE (Council of Social Work Education) accredited school within the last 5 years.
    2) you graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work from a CSWE (Council of Social Work Education) accredited school within the last 10 years and have significant post-BSW social work practice experience.
  • Social Work Online-Regular Standing – select if you do not have a Bachelor of Social Work OR if you have a Bachelor of Social Work but do not meet the years since degree requirements listed above.

  • Submit official transcript(s) from all previous colleges and universities you attended. Please note: All transcripts must be RECEIVED by Graduate Admissions and Degree Services by the above application deadline.
  • Pay the non-refundable Graduate Admission Application fee online at the time you complete the application.

Step 2 – Apply to the MSW Online Program

After submitting the graduate admission application (Step 1), you will complete the Social Work program application. You can access the program application by logging into your application account, clicking “View Application” and selecting the “Social Work Online Program” orange link in the left menu. The program application includes the following elements:

A personal essay

Your personal essay shall address how your experiences, strengths, and distinguishable qualities will make a positive contribution to the Master of Social Work program and the field of social work.

The essay shall be no more than seven (7) double-spaced pages with 1-inch margins on all sides and your name in the header of each page. Your essay should reflect your best professional writing. The information presented will assist the Admissions Committee in evaluating your capacity and readiness for graduate social work education. In essence, this is an opportunity for the Admissions Committee to get to know more about you and your previous experience.

Your essay must include these headings and follow this format:

Heading for section 1: Life Experience, Education, and Volunteer Experience

In 1-2 pages, describe how personal life experiences, formal education and/or volunteer work have contributed to your decision to seek admission to the graduate social work program and the impact you expect them to have on your professional practice.

Heading for section 2: Social Work Philosophy

In 1-2 pages, reflect on the following statement from the preamble to the Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers, and explain how it relates to your career goals:

“The primary mission of the social work profession is to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty. A historic and defining feature of social work is the profession’s focus on individual well-being in a social context and the well-being of society. Fundamental to social work is attention to the environmental forces that create, contribute to, and address problems in living.”

Heading for section 3: Diversity

In 1-2 pages, discuss how contact with persons who differ from you in race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, economic class, political perspectives, religion, or cultural background have affected your personal philosophy, values and world view.

Heading for section 4: Personal Strengths

In 1 page, discuss the strengths you bring that will contribute to your success in graduate social work education.


In 1-2 additional pages, discuss the contributions of your Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) education and post-BSW professional practice experience to your preparedness for graduate social work education. Include practice responsibilities, accomplishments, recognitions, professional development and continuing education activities.

A current resume

While you are in the online admissions application, you will be asked to upload your resume or CV. The document must include any paid or unpaid social work experience – including volunteering – shown in chronological order, with the most recent activity listed first. We recommend you compose your resume as if you are applying for a position in social work.

List each paid or unpaid social work experience in the following format:

  • Agency/Company name
  • City and State where Agency/Company is located
  • Start and End dates (mm/dd/yyyy)
  • Position title
  • Major responsibilities of this position

Answering a question about the NASW Code of Ethics

The NASW Code of Ethics is intended to serve as a guide to the professional conduct of social workers.

In the online application, we ask for a confirmation that you have read the NASW Code of Ethics and are aware that violation of the code may result in the termination from the program.

A signed and notarized criminal and substantiated abuse history disclosure

At the time you are in the online admissions application, you will be asked to upload a signed and notarized Criminal and Substantiated Abuse History Disclosure form. This form is available within the application under the “Downloadable Forms” link within the left navigation menu.

If you answer “Yes” to any of the questions within the Criminal and Substantiated Abuse History Disclosure form you are also required to upload a separate statement with complete information with respect to all circumstances and the final result, if such has been reached. You must submit a complete narrative of the circumstances that occurred for each and every criminal action, conviction, plea-in-abeyance, and/or deferred sentence, including the year of disposition, and also an explanation of your plans to cope with potential post-MSW limitations on your practice of social work. You must also enclose copies of all applicable police report(s), court record(s), and probation/parole officer report(s). If you are unable to obtain any of the required records, you must submit documentation on official letterhead from the police department and/or court indicating that the documentation is no longer available.

A “Yes” answer to question(s) on the Criminal and Substantiated Abuse History Disclosure form does not necessarily mean you will be denied admission to the School of Social Work program. Additional documentation and/or information may be requested if the submission with your application is deemed insufficient.

A signed and notarized applicant’s verification of candor and accuracy

At the time you are in the online admissions application, you will be asked to upload a signed and notarized Applicant’s Verification of Candor and Accuracy form. This form is available within the application under the “Downloadable Forms” link within the left navigation menu.

Step 3 – Letters of Recommendation

Three (3) letters of recommendation are required. In the online application, you will give information regarding the people who will write your letters of recommendation. Provide each recommender’s name and email address.

For more details about completing the Letters of Recommendation, read the information below.

About the Letters of Recommendation

At least one (1) letter must be sent by a previous instructor and at least one (1) from a supervisor. Please note that recommenders may be contacted to verify information. Recommendations from relatives, friends or colleagues will not be accepted. If it has been more than six (6) years since you last worked with the selected instructor, you can replace this recommendation with a letter from a second supervisor. If you do not have professional work experience, you can replace the letter from a supervisor with a recommendation from a second instructor.

Only a letter received through the Boise State online application system will be considered for review. Thus, you must complete all fields, including an email address for the recommender, as your letter must be uploaded through this system. The program will not accept letters sent in hard copy or emailed directly to the program. The process is streamlined, and your recommendation writers will receive an email informing them of your request. Your recommenders will be asked to create their own accounts and upload the recommendation letters/documents.

NOTE: Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, students have access to their education record, including letters of recommendation. However, students may waive their right to see letters of evaluation, in which case the letters will be held in confidence. In the application, you will be asked if you wish to waive this right, and your decision will be communicated to the recommenders.

Step 4 – Background Check

A background check must be completed as part of the application process. To order your background check, you should complete the following steps prior to the application deadline:

  • Go to
  • Place order with Boise State University School of Social Work’s package code (BJ53)
  • Pay background check fee

About the Background Check

A background check is required for all Social Work students. To ensure the safety and well-being of all clients/patients, background checks are becoming a standard requirement for employment in social services and healthcare. Background checks are required by most agencies that serve as field placement sites for social work students. It is therefore important that all applicants being considered for admission into the MSW program complete a background check before final recommendation of admission can be made.

The School of Social Work offers professional education in preparation for social work licensure and practice. Evaluation for the license to practice social work in Idaho and other states also includes a review of the applicant’s criminal record. After graduation, a past conviction may impact the ability to be licensed as well as employability.


Application Checklist

  • Apply to Boise State University
  • Submit all official transcripts
  • Upload a current resume
  • Upload a personal essay
  • Answer NASW Code of Ethics question
  • Upload signed and notarized criminal and substantiated abuse history disclosure
  • Upload signed and notarized verification of candor and accuracy
  • Apply for Financial Aid

Download Application Checklist (PDF)


  • International Students – Due to visa restrictions, international students currently living outside the United States or in the United States on any visa are not eligible for admission to this program.
  • Veterans – For military benefits information, see Veteran Services.

“The Boise State staff HAS BEEN AMAZING so far in helping me get to this point.”

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