Stepping into the world of Social Work
Now I’m in the thick of my first semester, I know others are gearing up to the application process for next year, so I thought I’d give some thought to what I did “right” in my application process last winter.
On a personal level, I think an important factor is that I chose the right direction. A few years ago I applied to a school psychology program, but was not admitted. After spending more than a month with this curriculum, it’s a much better fit for me than school psych would have been. Perhaps the program that rejected me also saw that.
While I didn’t start the application process until after Christmas, I did put full energy into it at that point. I made the deadlines at all three schools I wanted to apply for.
I worked very hard on my writing samples/statements of purpose/essays and am still proud of the work I did on them.
Applying to 3 schools was a good decision – not too many, and not too few. I knew one of them was a long shot and not the best match for me anyway, one was an excellent match but expensive, another was the least expensive (and really close) but perhaps not perfectly matched to my needs. I was accepted by two and chose the more expensive option but good personal match in the end. I did have a couple of other Cal States available if something had gone wrong in the other application processes.
All in all, I’m still very pleased with my decision and where I have ended up.
More later on what I would do differently…
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.
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.
If this were a month ago, I’d do something to keep up the suspense, but I’ve started this blog a bit late for that. It has been a suspenseful couple of months for me, though, since turning the applications in (mid-to-late January). I’ve also had a group interview at CSUN and a flurry of requests for documents from USC’s financial aid office.
It appears my hard work paid off, and I have been accepted at USC! I’m really excited about the wonderful opportunity that will bring. I got that letter on April 9th.
The next week, I got an e-mail directing me to the UCLA website, where I learned I had been turned down. I’m certainly glad the two events happened in that order, or I’d have been a little hurt. I knew I was not likely to get into UCLA, and with an acceptance under my belt it didn’t seem like a particularly big deal.
I have yet to hear from CSUN, though I expect to over the next week. They’ve been back from spring break for some time, and they indicated they wanted to have the decisions made by the end of April in order to get everyone situated with field assignments over the summer and all.
My husband and others tell me that with an acceptance to a top 10 program, it should be all over but the shouting, and I shouldn’t care about CSUN because I should turn them down anyway. To be honest, though, I think I am craving the validation of a second acceptance just for my own self-esteem. And if CSUN has something good to offer in terms of financial aid, perhaps it won’t be such an automatic decision after all.
The program I was accepted to at USC was the three-year program (two years part-time, the third full-time or nearly so), with my first year or two at the Skirball Center. So I should be able to have a regular business hours full-time job for the next year, as the classes are in the evening. Next year I’ll have to find some way to accommodate a part-time field assignment, but there’s time to work that out later.
Hubby and I went to the USC campus last week to visit and soak up the atmosphere. We walked around a bit, found lunch and watched people. I enjoyed that, and it helped me get myself a bit more excited.
The new worry, of course, is how to fund this wonderful opportunity?