Msw Columbia Application Essays

Note: This final question differs slightly between applicants to Columbia College or to the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. For applicants to SEAS, there is no option to apply as undecided, so the second sentence is omitted from this prompt.


The admissions committee is interested in knowing what you find fascinating about your field and what you have done to broaden that interest. They are trying to weed out people who are applying for a given major just because it sounds fancy. But, more than that, they also want to see what makes you tick, how your passion for learning carries you beyond your high school classes, and what keeps you up at night in a fever pitch of wonder and excitement. You want to find the best, and most concise, way to showcase your passion. 300 words are a lot fewer than you would think!


At CollegeVine, we have broken down the “Why Major?” essay into two main questions:


  1. Why do you want to study this subject?
  2. Why are you qualified to study this subject?


Your essay should seek to address both of these questions with as high a degree of specificity as possible. Because this essay is so short, it is difficult to address a general field. You cannot fully explain your love of a subject with a mere 300 words. “I love astronomy” is not sufficient. Instead, you could write more specifically about your interest in exoplanets and astrobiology. Include a personal story about stargazing as a child that sparked your love of the field and mention scientific research completed in high school that further cultivated your interest in the stars.


It’s also possible that you are still figuring out what you want to study. No intellectually curious seventeen-year-old is ever certain about the topics and disciplines that will drive their future studies.


One way to communicate your interest and your desire to continue exploring a given topic is to talk about a recent conversation you had with someone who is already immersed in a field that you are curious about. An essay might begin: “Ever since my high school teacher combined potassium permanganate and glycerol and set his lab coat on fire, I’ve been fascinated with the chemical property of flammability. In order to learn more, I reached out to John McJohnson, a graduate student studying autoignition temperatures at the University of California, Davis. What most excited me about our conversation was…”


Of course, in order to write this essay, you need to actually have a conversation with someone who is working in that field. If you live in a town that has a research university, and if you are considering majoring in chemistry, you can actually go to the chemistry department’s university website, find a professor or graduate student whose work looks interesting to you, and send them an email asking to meet for coffee.


This may seem intimidating, but we can assure you that there are lots of researchers who might be willing to take 30 minutes out of their day to talk with a young person about their work. You might not get a response (most of these people are very busy), but the sooner you get used to reaching out to potential future colleagues and making connections, the better off you’ll be.


No matter what approach you take to this question, you’ll want to be sure to avoid cramming in too much jargon in an effort to communicate your technical mastery. You only have 300 words, and the point of this essay is not to dazzle your reader but rather to show what practical steps you’ve taken to explore and develop your intellectual interests. 


However, you choose to write your essays, dare to be a little creative. Don’t just describe the university that the Columbia admissions officers already know. Ideally, they will see their campus a little bit differently after having read what you imagine it might be to you. As Columbia’s website says, they are looking for students who “will take greatest advantage of the unique Columbia experience and will offer something meaningful in return to the community.”

Columbia University’s School of Social Work offers an online Master’s of Science in Social Work (MSSW) designed for traditional standing students. The program has two concentration options:

  1. Advanced Clinical Social Work Practice: This concentration prepares students for direct practice work with individuals, families, and groups.
  2. Social Enterprise Administration: This concentration prepares students for mezzo and macro-level practice roles in which they can manage larger organizations such as non-profits and social service organizations or manage human resources and staff development departments within larger organizations.

Currently, the program only offers a Traditional Standing track comprised of 60 course credits and a total of 1,200 hours of field practicum. Students can complete the MSSW program in approximately two years of full-time study or about four years of part-time study. Columbia also offers a Reduced Residency track that requires a total of 900 hours of field education instead of 1,200 hours. This program requires at least two years of full-time (or four years of part-time) direct practice work experience in a social services agency or human services organization.

Columbia University’s online MSSW program is available to residents of New Jersey, as well as individuals living within a 90-minute radius of the following cities: 

  • New York: New York City, Albany, Buffalo, and Syracuse
  • Connecticut: Hartford and Stamford
  • Pennsylvania:
  • District of Columbia: Washington, D.C.
  • Florida: Miami and West Palm Beach
  • Illinois: Chicago
  • Texas: San Antonio, Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin, and Houston
  • California: San Francisco and Los Angeles

Both the Advanced Clinical Social Work Practice and Social Enterprise Administration MSSW concentrations have the same Foundation Year curriculum, followed by an advanced year of specialized courses. The Foundation Year includes classes such as Human Behavior and the Social Environment, Foundations of Social Work Practice, Social Welfare Policy, and Advocacy in Social Work Practice.

The Advanced Clinical Practice (ACP) Concentration is comprised of classes such as Clinical Case Evaluation, Advanced Clinical Practice, The Health Care System, Motivational Interviewing, and Complicated Grief. The Social Enterprise Administration (SEA) Concentration includes classes such as Social Planning and Program Development, Human Resource Management, Supervision and Staff Development, The Health Care System, Macro Community Practice, and Program Evaluation.

Students in the program complete two field placements over the course of their four terms in the program. During their first year of study, students are matched with a field agency within their geographic location, and fulfill three days of practicum per week throughout their first and second terms. The Field Education Department is responsible for placing students at agencies. During their second year, students’ placements are determined by their academic concentration, and they work with the Field Education Department to determine an agency that fits their academic and career goals.

Columbia University’s School of Social Work is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and the university is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Columbia University Online MSSW Programs: Overview

Department: School of Social Work
Degree Types: Traditional Standing Only
Concentrations: Advanced Clinical Social Work Practice; Social Enterprise Administration

Program Structure: Online with field education (students must visit the campus twice during the program for orientation and a final Capstone Integrative Project)
Instruction Methods: Program combines synchronous real-time instruction using Adobe Connect with offline learning through the Canvas learning management system
Social Media: Facebook and Twitter

Disclaimers: Program currently only accepts students from New Jersey and who live in the following metropolitan areas: New York City, Albany, Buffalo, and Syracuse (NY); Hartford and Stamford (CT); Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg (PA); Washington, D.C.; Miami/West Palm Beach (FL); Chicago (IL); San Antonio, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Austin, and Houston (TX); San Francisco and Los Angeles (CA)

Program Information – Traditional Standing Students

Program Overview
Program Name: Online Master of Science in Social Work
Phone Number: (855) 532-5200

Program Requirements
Field Education Requirements: A total of 1,200 hours
Number of Credits Required: 60 credits needed to graduate

Program Length
Program Options: Full-Time and Part-Time Options
Program Length: Full-Time program takes approximately 2 years to complete; Part-Time Extended Program take approximately 4 years to complete
Program Start Dates: Fall admission only

Admission Requirements
GPA: No Minimum GPA (Average GPA 3.5)
GRE Information: Not Required
Tuition: Inquire with school

Program Information – Traditional Standing Students

Program Overview
Program Name: Online Master of Science in Social Work – Reduced Residency Program
Phone Number: (855) 532-5200

Program Requirements
Field Education Requirements: A total of 900 hours
Number of Credits Required: 60 credits needed to graduate

Program Length
Program Options: Part-Time Only
Program Length: Program takes 3 years to complete and combines part-time and full-time enrollment
Program Start Dates: Fall admission only

Admission Requirements
GPA: No Minimum GPA (Average GPA 3.5)
GRE Information: Not Required
Tuition: Inquire with school
Work Experience: Requires two years (full-time) or fours years (part-time) direct practice work experience in a human services organization


U of Southern California (USC) (T, A)Top-Ranked Program with Multiple Concentrations and Options
No Campus Visits Required, Dedicated Field Placement Team
Simmons College (T)Top-Ranked Clinical Social Work Program with Specializations
Dedicated Field Placement Team, Multiple Start Dates
University of DenverA Social Justice–Focused Online MSW
Fordham UniversityAn Online MSW with a Future-Focused Curriculum
These schools offer online MSW programs with 100% online instruction - no campus visits required
(T) = School offers an online MSW program for traditional students
(A) = School offers an online MSW program for advanced standing students (BSW required)

Sponsored MSW Programs

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