Stepping into the world of Social Work

Monthly Archives: May 2011

Why I chose USC

I mentioned yesterday that I finally got the third notification from the last MSW program I applied to – CSUN. The materials I received from CSUN made me believe that I was held on a waiting list (unofficially, at least) until they heard from those they had initially offered acceptance. They had even already had an orientation session for the new class.

I got the call from CSUN during a doctor’s appointment, so I wasn’t able to give my statements a lot of thought, but the upshot was that she would send me the official form and some other materials and I would contact her later with any questions.

She sent me the form and the presentation from the orientation. I did give it a good looking over, and then faxed her the form declining enrollment. I also e-mailed her and explained my reason and apologized for not having just declined over the phone that morning (I did want to see the materials first).

Others will wonder why I even cared – USC’s program is so highly rated that it should have been a no-brainer. But CSUN is so close and so easy to get to, and I do still have a little bit of pain from being declined by them a couple of years back for school psychology. So having the official acceptance was a little boost to my ego. But I seem to be tempering it with the realization that I was second or even third choice for them.

So in the end, why did I choose the more expensive program?

1. USC is nationally ranked by USA Today and another similar publication ( While such rankings might not be a perfect guide to the quality of a program from any one person’s perspective, it does say something.

2. I’m informed by several people that there is a high degree of loyalty among USC alums. This, plus the high profile of the program, may open some doors for me when it comes time to find a social work position. Admittedly, I expect that the positions I look at will be more interested in my experience than the ranking of my program, but one extra door opened can make the difference.

In my career, I’ve found that my best job opportunities came from relationships with people. The highlight of my online career, GeoCities, was offered to me because I happened to connect reasonably well with the manager at the time (in fact, she couldn’t hire me for the position I applied for, but contacted me months later when a position opened that she wanted me for). My hope is that the high profile of USC will provide other similar opportunities.

3. It appears that USC’s schedule at the Skirball Center (the cohort I’ve been assigned to) is more conducive to my maintaining a full-time job for the next year or so. At CSUN, I would have a long evening one night a week (instead of 2 shorter evenings) and have to make time for a field placement right away. If I were not starting a brand new job next week, I’d have had more room to consider the CSUN schedule, but in this case USC works better for me. If I had  a behavior interventionist position, which would have wanted me available nearly every late afternoon and evening, the situation would have been reversed.

4. I think the USC curriculum is a better match for my long term goals.

5. The Skirball cohort I’ve been assigned to for my first year or two is small, which will benefit me as a re-entry student and as a fairly introverted person.

All in all, even if the decision was somewhat delayed, I think I made the right choice. Now that all three shoes have dropped, I can finally get excited about becoming a Trojan and annoying my husband!

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Eye and MSW program update

Cataract surgery performed, IOL inserted. Note...

Image via Wikipedia

It has been an interesting couple of days!

Yesterday, I had cataract surgery on my right eye. After a rather uncomfortable day and night, everything seems to be fine!

The procedure itself went very well and was not stressful at all. At the surgery center, an LVN checked me in and put tons of drops in my eyes for dilation and numbing, as well as antibiotics. After having an IV started and other things connected to me, I was wheeled in to the operating room. They gave me oxygen and (though I didn’t notice them doing it) a sedative. The next thing I know, they’re almost done.  I’m wheeled back into the area they prepped me, fed an English muffin and coffee (yay! I was starving by that time)  and was walking out the door within two hours of my start time. My eye was heavily bandaged and shielded and I was told to leave that on until I saw the doctor again first thing the next morning.

The discomfort came from a couple of situations. First, the shield and bandage they put on doesn’t really accommodate eyeglasses very well. So I spent the day having a really hard time watching TV or using the computer. Since I can crochet and read without glasses, I spent quite a bit of time doing those things.

Then, towards dinner, as the local anesthetics started to wear off, I started to feel like I had an eyelash in my eye. I took Tylenol as directed, which let me go to sleep. Around 2AM I woke up with that feeling even worse, so I loosened the bandage to check my eye and see if there was anything I could do. The eye looked fine (not even red!) so I took another dose of Tylenol and tried to go back to sleep.

The doctor checked me out and took off the bandage/shield today, told me I have a slight abrasion on my eye (probably from the eye working its way open under the bandage) and that would heal itself (or at least stop causing discomfort) within about 48 hours. Everything else checked out very well! I’ve got another appointment for a week from today, another eye drop prescription to pick up, and instructions to use all three dye drops 4 times a day until I run out.

In an interesting set of circumstances, I also got a call from the last of the three MSW programs I applied to, offering me admission! While I’m 99% likely to decline, it is a shot to my ego that I was at least accepted by 2 of the three schools I applied to.

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Afghans for Project Linus

While I’ve got some time… here’s how I’ve been keeping busy while out of work, crocheting afghans for Project Linus.

fishie afghan for Project Linus

Kitty afghan for project Linus


New Job and surgery next week

Before Cataract Surgery

Image by mmahaffie via Flickr

It seems like the things that have been troubling me are gradually taking care of themselves.

My cataract surgery (I know I’m a little young at 47, but it happens, I guess… nobody seemed all that surprised) is next Wednesday. I went to get final medical clearance and the lab work on Thursday. All I need to do now is put in some eye drops twice a day starting tomorrow for the three days before the surgery and show up Wednesday morning.  As you can imagine, I’m nervous, but looking forward to the improvement in my vision.

I’ve also finally been hired for a new job! I’ll be back to job coaching, which is what I did up until November, at an agency very much like where I worked before.  A little less money, but that’s OK – not having to deal with a particularly nasty supervisor at my previous employer is worth any amount of money! I start June 1, I thought that was long enough after the surgery that I’d be OK but still short enough time that it didn’t inconvenience the employer.

Now to get Hubby working again – he is also now unemployed. But he’ll be back on his feet shortly, I know him. He’s the type who would even deliver pizza in order to pay the bills.

No major news brewing about starting grad school. Interestingly enough, I still haven’t heard from the last of the three I applied to! Funny, since they are the one NOT nationally ranked by anyone, so they should be trying very hard to get decisions in early to catch the good ones.

I have found the syllabi for previous terms for the courses I’ll be taking in the fall, and it’s obvious that I’ll be working very hard! But I welcome an intellectual challenge at this point…. it has been a very boring 6 months out of work.

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Random thoughts including financial aid

I got my financial aid information this week – I’ve been approved for enough loans, at least, to get through the first year. USC is expensive!

Part of the problem will be that my first year will be part time, so I’m not eligible for some financial aid I would be as a full time student. But then again, I’d have to work, and the idea of full time school plus work sounds impossible.

One option I will be looking into for my second year (if I’m eligible) is a grant/stipend program that will give me something along the lines of $18,000 a year with a commitment to work for a county or state agency in a couple of areas for a year or two for each year of support they gave me. That’s fine with me, as I can see myself working for one of these agencies anyway.

Interestingly,  I have yet to hear from CSUN officially about my status, even at this late date. A quick look at gradcafe shows me that at someone else has been called back for a SECOND interview (note: CSUN was the only one that interviewed, despite being a lower tier school than UCLA or USC). I suspect I’m one of those they’re waiting on in case some of their others decline. I think if they call me to offer me another interview, I’ll decline anyway.

I’m spending a lot of time trying to gear myself up for the fall – it’s a scary thing I’ve gotten myself into.  A lot of work, a major commitment of time and money. But I know it will be worth it.

I’m also spending some time thinking about what concentration I’ll choose. I have some strong connection to medical, mental health, and child and family social work. I think I could be comfortable in any of the areas, so it’s a matter of where I’d be happiest, and to some degree which has a better outlook.

I printed out the brochures on each specialty at the National Association of Social Workers Web site, and it appears the outlook is very similar for each.  None of them is collapsing while others will be growing.

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