Skip to main content

How To Make Your M.S.W. Application Stand Out

February 6, 2024

If you ask a social worker why they chose their profession, their answer is usually simple: They want to help people. Social workers tend to be empathetic communicators and resourceful problem solvers eager to make an impact in their communities. They’re trained to help individuals and families from diverse backgrounds overcome such challenges as mental health disorders, substance use and housing insecurity. 

You can get started in social work with a bachelor’s degree, but a master’s and state licensure are necessary for clinical social work and high-level positions. With a social work master’s, you can pursue various roles, including licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), child and family social worker and health care social worker. Some social workers run their own counseling practice; others work in hospitals, schools and other community-based facilities. 

If you want to advance your social work career or transition into the field, consider applying to a Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) program. In this article, we’ll discuss the application process for the Master of Social Work Program online format at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), one of the nation’s preeminent social work schools. 

Gain Clinical Skills in VCU’s M.S.W. Online Format

Prepare for a Rewarding Career in Social Work
Find Out More

Are You Eligible for the M.S.W. Online Format at VCU?

VCU’s M.S.W. online format offers two admission statuses: regular standing and advanced standing. The two differ in the number of credits to graduate, degree completion time and the admissions requirements.

Regular standing requires 60 credit hours of full- or part-time graduate study over two to four years. To be eligible for this format, you must have a four-year undergraduate degree in any major, a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0. or greater and a passing grade of C or above in at least one three-credit behavioral sciences class and one social sciences class. 

Advanced standing requires 42 credit hours of full-time graduate study in one year. To be eligible for this format, you must have a Bachelor of Social Work degree from a CSWE-accredited institution earned within the last five years, an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher and at least a B or pass in your senior field placement.

For both admission options, you must submit the following materials with your application:

  • A statement of intent
  • A current resume/CV detailing your social and human-services related experience
  • Official transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate institutions attended
  • Three letters of recommendation from individuals who can speak to your academic abilities and professional experience
  • Case assessment and field requirement (advanced standing only)

If you meet the eligibility requirements, review the following tips for submitting a strong application. 

How to Write a Compelling Statement of Intent

VCU’s M.S.W. application requires applicants to submit a three-part statement responding to the following prompts:

  • Familiarize yourself with the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics and identify one core value that resonates with your desire to earn an M.S.W. degree. 
  • Describe your social work career goals.
  • The VCU School of Social Work stands against oppression of all groups and acknowledges specifically anti-Black racism and white dominance within communities. Comment on what the School of Social Work commitment statement means to you and your desire to be a social worker. 

Your statement of intent should clearly articulate how your career goals and past experiences align with the program curriculum. Telling a compelling personal story will convey to the admissions committee your commitment to successfully completing the M.S.W. Program. When you finish your statement, have someone you trust proofread it to ensure it is easy to read and free from errors. 

How to Craft an Impressive Resume

Your resume showcases who you are and what you’ve accomplished. It should highlight your academic background, professional and social services work, awards and certifications, and leadership experience. If you have any volunteer, military, AmeriCorps or Peace Corps experience, be sure to include it. 

To make your resume easy to read and use straightforward, bold category headings and concise bullet points for each experience. When you’re done, proofread your resume or ask someone to edit it for you. First impressions are important and you want to avoid submitting documents that are confusing or include errors. 

How to Submit Effective Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation help the admissions committee learn more about you from the professional and academic connections who know you best. Your three recommenders should be people who can speak to your academic abilities and/or related social work or volunteer experience. This could be employers, professors or mentors. 

Your recommenders should explain how they know you and why you are a good fit for VCU’s social work master’s program. They should share specific examples to highlight how your skill set, experience and achievements align with the program. 

As you prepare your application, think about who you might ask to write a recommendation. You’ll be prompted to provide details about each recommender along with their email addresses in your application. Obtain your recommenders’ permission before including them among your references. 

Advanced Standing: Document Your Field Placement and Provide a Case Assessment

Advanced standing applicants must meet specific admissions requirements, which include earning at least a B or pass in a B.S.W. senior field placement. 

If you have not completed a field placement, one of your letters of recommendation should be from someone who can assess your potential to succeed in a field placement. This could be a social work professor, field liaison, field instructor or current or former supervisor. You’ll also need to upload a response to a case statement and meet additional field requirements as part of your application. 

Consult With a VCU Enrollment Advisor

Before submitting your M.S.W. program application, it’s helpful to meet with a VCU School of Social Work enrollment advisor. They can offer crucial advice on what the admissions committee is seeking in applicants and help you craft an application that reflects your strengths. 

Paying Attention to Application Deadlines

Since preparing a strong application takes time, giving yourself task-specific deadlines can help you stay on track. To be considered for VCU’s Master of Social Work Program, you must submit your application by the posted deadline for your desired start term. The program offers three start dates in the summer, fall and spring; each term offers early and final application deadlines

Why Earn Your MSW Online From VCU?

A master’s degree can provide aspiring social workers with the skills needed to join an in-demand field and help their communities thrive. To accommodate their busy schedules, many professionals choose online master’s programs, which enable them to learn on their own schedule from any location. 

With small class sizes and two part-time options, VCU’s M.S.W. online format makes balancing school, work and personal obligations easier. Since the program is online, students also learn how to effectively communicate in a virtual setting, an essential skill in the age of telehealth.

Students also develop essential clinical skills, including how to address problems and assess client needs. Classes cover topics such as social welfare policy, human behavior and research methods to give students the foundation they need to put their skills into practice. The VCU Master of Social Work Program culminates with a field placement opportunity so students can apply what they learn under the direction of an agency-based field instructor in their community. 

As one of the largest comprehensive social work programs in the United States, VCU’s Master of Social Work Program offers an innovative curriculum and diverse experiences to prepare the social work leaders of tomorrow. Ready to make a difference? Start your application today or contact an enrollment advisor for one-on-one support. 

Make a Difference in Your Community

Earn an M.S.W. Online From VCU
Apply Now