Stepping into the world of Social Work

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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