the msw essay

There are many California State University full-time MSW programs and also part-time and online programs. Most programs ask applicants to answer a series of questions, providing the admissions committee with information similar to what you would write for a Personal Statement or Statement of Purpose. Some programs require these questions to be addressed in a cohesive essay, others ask for separate 500 word answers to each question. Once you write an essay for one program, you can usually adapt your answers to fulfill the requirements for another program, but be careful that you address all the issues that any given essay requires. Always check both Cal Apply and the program website to make sure you are following their instructions.

OTHER CALIFORNIA MSW PROGRAMS: In the UC system, only UC Berkeley and UCLA have MSW programs. Their essays follow the standard UC graduate school application format using a Statement of Purpose and a Personal Statement, with slight variations for their MSW programs.

Below are the instructions for three CSU programs. These are examples of what will be required for an MSW essay.

CSU East Bay: Personal Statement should use American Psychological Association (APA) format of typed, single-sided, double-spaced, 12 point font, with 1 inch margins and not exceed 3 pages. Applicants address the following three questions as separate answers.

  1. Please discuss your reasons for wanting an MSW, your expectations for being a professional social worker, and any particular populations or social issues of interest.
  2. Discuss at least two (2) social justice issues (“isms”) you have experienced because of your involvement with and/or membership in a culture with which you identify. Social justice issues often relate to those items listed in our mission statement above, as well as many other experiences that can result in oppression such as health/mental health status, immigration, addiction, poverty/social class, educational access, criminal justice/incarceration, human trafficking, and violence.
  3. Finally, make your “elevator pitch”: what makes you uniquely qualified to be accepted into the CSUEB MSW program?

Cal State LA: Personal Statement of approximately six to eight (6-8) double-spaced pages, (one-inch margin all around, 12-point font) in essay format discussing each of the points listed below. Answer the questions in order.  Please do not copy/paste the questions but instead provide the headings.

Professional Information

  • Describe how your work history and related volunteer experiences have prepared you to pursue a Master’s degree in social work.
  • Describe how your strengths and limitations may influence your development as a professional social worker.
  • What are your short-term and long-term goals for a career as professional social worker?
  • Our school has a strong cross-cultural emphasis and values diversity. What attributes and values do you possess that can enrich our school’s cross-cultural orientation?  How do you think your worldview regarding diversity will influence your work in school and as a social worker?
  • Please describe any professional cross-cultural experiences you have had, especially with regard to value conflicts and how those conflicts were resolved.

Educational Plan
Our program is rigorous and demands a great deal of time and attention.  In the two-year program, students spend an estimated 52 total hours per week for their studies (which includes 12 hours of classes, 16 hours of field internship, and 24 hours of reading, studying, and preparing class assignments). In the three-year program, students spend an estimated 24 total hours per week in the first year, and 37 total hours per week in the second and third years. (Please note these are estimates and a student’s hours may be higher or lower.)

  • What is your plan for managing your responsibilities with such a rigorous graduate program? For example, there is no flexibility when it comes to class and internship schedules, as it is a cohorted program; therefore, if you will be working while in the program, please explain how you will reconcile this with such a rigorous program.  Please consider financial and time management issues.

Vignettes/Case Illustrations

  • Discuss a situation in which you were confronted with a difficult value or ethical conflict. How did you resolve it? What were some of the factors you considered in making your decision? How was the person and/or other individual affected by the situation?
  • Please draw upon your own work/volunteer experience to illustrate how you managed the situation described.  If you have not had such an experience in a professional setting, please draw upon a personal experience and discuss how you would manage the situation if it occurred in a professional setting per the questions above.
  • Do not use names or information that might violate the confidentiality of the individuals you decide to use in your descriptions.

CSU Dominguez Hills: Personal Statement must incorporate each of the questions in an essay of 4-6 double-spaced pages (one-inch margins, 12-point, typed font).

  1. Discuss how your interest in social work evolved and the philosophy upon which this interest is based. Illustrate this discussion using examples from educational, vocational, and/or personal experiences.
  2. The social work profession is rooted in a set of core values. These values are: service; social justice; dignity and worth of a person; importance of human relationships; integrity and competence. Explain how your own values are aligned with those of the social work profession. 
  3. The MSW program at CSUDH emphasizes Critical Race Studies and Intersectionality as frameworks to inform Social Work practice. Please discuss your understanding of systems of oppression (race, class, gender) and how they interact and affect disenfranchised communities (low income, LGBTQ, homeless, immigrant populations, etc.).
  4. Which personal strengths will assist you in your graduate education and as a professional social worker? 
  5. Please share at least one personal limitation that you are aware of that can be challenging as you pursue your graduate education and career as a professional social worker. 

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