Welcome to the Student Ambassador Blog! This blog was created by current student Ambassadors of the UNC School of Social Work MSW programs for people like you: Prospective students interested in getting a glimpse of our Master of Social Work program from the student angle. Feel free to contact Student Ambassadors if you want to learn more!
First, I would like to say, “OH MY GOSH, it’s the end of the semester.” You know what that means; the last semester is coming and coming quickly. As you can imagine, there is the end of semester scramble that just so happens to occur right before one of the best holidays ever. So needless to say, when I’m not cooking, eating, or passed out, I will be working on the two papers and studying for the exam that I have the week after Thanksgiving. So as I think about next semester, I think about the load I’ll have of 18 hours, the job hunt, and how to take care of myself while doing all of that. When I figure it out I’ll let you know!
I know last time, I told you I would update you on the CSWE conference and it was awesome. Not only did I get to attend the conference, but I was able to explore Tampa, a place I had never visited and met some awesome social workers in the process. I also had the opportunity to meet Congressman Ron Dellums, who was awesome by the way and has an MSW. I enjoyed attending my first professional conference. I think it was something I needed to experience to understand how our education continues to grow. I’m also considering a Ph.D. which I was adamant about not pursing post-MSW. So as your journey continues especially with the application process coming to the end, remember to take care of yourself and enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Can you believe December is only 9 days away?! I don’t know about you but I feel like this year went by extremely fast. On top of feeling like I don’t have enough days in the year, the hours in a day go by even faster. The days and hours creep up on you..and so do the deadlines. I’ll admit something (just between you and I okay?!)..I need to change my tendency to procrastinate on a variety of things especially assignments. I’ve reaped the negative consequences of not planning ahead and not managing my time wisely–#teamallnighter. But I’ve also seen and experienced the benefits of planning ahead. If you’re like me you know there is no better feeling than crossing something off of your to-do list! This post is going to focus on how to make best use of your winter break and/or the month of December to get your GRAD SCHOOL APPLICATIONS submitted! I hope this post can provide you with some much needed encouragement and motivation.
DISCLAIMER: I’m going to be focusing on 3 components of the UNC-CH SSW application requirements..because come on ideally I want you to come here!
1) Letters of Recommendation (3)
Hopefully you’ve already decided and asked the 3 people who will be writing your letters of recommendation. If not and you are reading this and planning on applying by December 17th…CONTACT THEM. Even if you are choosing to apply for the January or February deadline it is best to give the people writing your letters of recommendation plenty of time. The worst thing that could happen is you’ve worked so hard on your entire application and are ready to press submit and realize one of your references has not come in (talking from personal experience). If you have not contacted them don’t start freaking out..breathe. You can still do it! Just make sure to be honest…“I am in the process of applying to the School of Social Work and their early application deadline is December 17th. Would you be able to complete my reference before this date?” Obviously add more to the email but this is just a very general example. You are letting that person know the deadline date and asking for it BEFORE that date. I don’t want you all to have to write that awkward email..”Hi…where’s my reference?!?!?!!“
2) Personal Narrative
Chances are you’ve been dreading to write the 4-5 page personal narrative. I’ve heard from many people that this is one of the most important parts of your application. In my opinion, I agree. This is your chance to highlight why social work and what you’ve done up to this point has lead you to this choice. This may be awkward for some because we are used to being modest. For the purposes of this..DO NOT HOLD BACK. You are allowing the admissions committee to get to know you in your own words. References matter don’t get me wrong (don’t choose someone who can’t vouch for you POSITIVELY) but there is something about YOU writing about about your journey that leaves a lasting impression. I found it difficult at first but it definitely helped me reflect on my entire life leading up to this moment.
Okay, so now what can you do during the month of December to get your personal narrative completed? Once your finals are over or if you get a break from work sketch out a complete day to just write. Go somewhere with little distractions and where you can have YOU time. Write an outline of your main points you hope to discuss. I know this sounds so elementary but it really does help organize your thoughts. You probably won’t get the perfect draft on your first attempt. That’s okay! I don’t think anyone does! Once you’ve completed your first draft find a friend and/or professor who you trust and don’t mind being vulnerable with and send them your personal narrative. If you have a friend nearby you can also do this: 1) Read it to yourself out loud 2) Read it to a friend out loud 3) Have a friend read it to themselves 4) Ask your friend to edit the narrative.
*Make sure when anyone else is editing your narrative to TRACK changes in the word document. You want to be able to see what changes they made.
The three letters no one wants to see together–the dreaded GRE. I was so nervous about this exam. I felt pressure to study for it but could never find the time to do so. I decided this is a part of the application so I need to do my part and study. I dedicated each Saturday for the month of November and 2 weeks in December to study for the exam. That may not be feasible for you. But at least take some practice tests online during the month of December. If you google ‘free GRE practice tests’ you will find some good ones. If you already took the GRE good for you! If you haven’t don’t let that stop you from applying! I’m not that great of a test taker but here I am as a SSW Ambassador writing to YOU.
I encourage you to not let your self-doubts get in the way of a rewarding career as a social worker. Make the most of your time in December and get that application submitted! I recommend doing it before family members start coming into town or holiday events start popping up. Once you have it submitted you can take some much needed RELAXATION time. YOU GOT THIS!
If you have any questions please feel free to contact any of the ambassadors! Here’s my email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Important Dates for UNC-CH School of Social Work Application
MSW Program Application Deadlines:
- December 17, 2014: Early application due today! It’s always best if you can apply early. Full-time applicants should complete their applications by this date if they would like to be considered for the University Merit Assistantship or the Weiss Urban Livability Masters Fellowship.
- January 13, 2015: Chapel Hill 2-year Full-time Program and the Advanced Standing Program (The Advanced Standing Program will begin the week of May 11, 2015; the 2-year Full-time Program will begin the week of August 10, 2015.)
- February 10, 2015: Triangle and Winston-Salem 3-year Distance Education Programs (The 3-year Distance Education Programs will begin the week of August 3, 2015.)
Doctoral Program Application Deadlines:
- December 16, 2014: If you wish to be considered for a UNC Graduate School fellowship, you should apply by this date. The Admissions Committee will begin screening applicants for these award recommendations at this time
- January 13, 2015: Final applications accepted. Note that the Admissions Committee begins making decisions the first week of January.
When I came to UNC I expected to receive an excellent education, after all the program is ranked number 5 in the country. However, what I didn’t expect was the emphasis the school puts on professional development, and I have been pleasantly pleased. The school has a staff member dedicated to student development and they do this in a number of ways. What I’m going to let you in on is the Professional Development Workshops that are offered.
During the Fall and Spring there are a variety of workshops the school has to help the students develop professionally. I have been able to attend a few of the workshops and I have yet to be let down. They have all been a valuable use of my time! A few of the workshops this semester have been: A Pathway to Effective Communication (all about how to be a good presenter), Resume preparation (career services came to the school and did this one), Job searching (career services again for the win), and a luncheon with Macro and Direct practice faculty for first year students debating on their concentration.
I went to the resume and job searching workshops and they were fantastic. I learned some good tips on resume writing, for example, if you are applying to jobs out of state it’s not necessary to put your address on your resume. I also learned some good tips at the job searching workshop (beef up your LinkedIn profile!). I also made my way to the Career Services building for resume review, and WOW! I am so thankful I ventured out of the social work building, the Career Services has so much to offer and it was pretty cool just seeing a new building.
Next spring they are offering: Before, During, and After the Interview, How to effectively Network and conduct Informational Interviews, Negotiation Social Work Salaries and Benefits (totally pumped for this one), NC Licensure Process, and a Licensure Exam Preparation. I think there has been a wonderful variety of subjects offered during the workshop series.
I am really thankful the School puts emphasis on professional development. These workshops have provided insight for me as well as the conferences I have been able to attend and be reimbursed for through the SOWOSO fund. All of these opportunities have been extremely helpful for me as I am going to be entering the work Social Work work force again, this time seeking a Macro position. Take advantage of as many things as possible during your graduate experience.
By my own admission, I struggle with patience. And the past few weeks of my field placement have been a true test of mine, to say the least. The obstacles that have arisen in my work with clients have been so frequent that after a while, it has become funny (or, perhaps, it’s the only way I could stop from crying hysterically). You see, it’s gotten down to those final few weeks of the semester, where assignments, readings, and responsibilities are great and energy is little. With the pressure of school, field, work, and life, I simply wanted clients who would comply. Wouldn’t we all like that?
As a home visitor teaching parenting skills, I have lately found myself getting frustrated when I feel that my clients are being “flaky” or avoiding me. For example, one week, every single one of my clients cancelled, rescheduled (for the second or third time), or simply failed to call or show up. At other times, I find it difficult to keep them engaged and consistent in our work together. Some weeks, I feel like I’m chasing my clients down more than I am working with them. While this would be difficult at any given time, at what I would consider the “crux” of the semester, I find myself having to muster more energy to continue to engage and re-engage clients in the midst of my ever-increasing to-do list. Like many, I’ve found myself asking, “Why won’t they just cooperate?”
However, I obviously forgot one important fact. As social workers, we are called to work with some of the most vulnerable populations as they face some of the most difficult issues in their lives. And while we would often like for things to go exactly as our curricula or training manuals dictate – I know it would make our jobs a lot easier – rarely is this how it works. Rarely is this how life works. Like the systems theory informs us, my clients are facing a host of external factors such as poverty, homelessness, mental health issues, and legal issues. To add on top of that a parenting program is often more than some people can take. So while to me, it may come across as being flaky or avoidant (which sometimes it may be), they are simply trying to stay afloat. Also, many of my clients have had interactions with various agencies in the past, some of which have tainted their view of social workers and other helping professionals. When working with clients, especially seemingly difficult ones, I have to remind myself that there are often other factors at play that I may be unaware of.
This realization is changing the way that I view my work as a home visitor. Though I would like to simply teach parenting skills, graduate families from our program, and let them live happily ever after, it is not always so simple. Oftentimes, I find myself having to educate myself about affordable housing, the legal system, and other more immediate needs so that I can help families gain the stability they need to make working on parenting skills easier. Instead of becoming frustrated with clients, I have learned to look at what underlying causes might exist and try to serve as a resource person to help clients address these needs. And though I am still learning, from the lens of empathy, I believe that the next time around, I’ll pass the patience test. :)
I wanted to share with you all about my experience attending the Council on Social Work Education Annual Program Meeting in Tampa, Florida in October. This event was my first professional development event as a social work student. From this conference, I developed the desire to attend social work conferences annually, to continue developing myself as a social worker and to be a life long learner. The conference was a great experience for me! Since most people were social workers, networking didn’t seem as daunting and it was quite easy speaking with Deans, Professors, and other professional social workers and students. I really enjoyed myself at this conference and I encourage you to attend one in the future. Next year it will be in Denver, so bundle up!
This conference really gave me clarity with my quest of obtaining a doctoral degree. At the conference, they had an Exhibit hall where a little over 100 universities had representatives there to share about their programs. I was able to speak to every program that was on my list of schools to apply to. I was strongly encouraged to work for at least two years– post MSW, to be most competitive, not only for entrance into a doctoral program, but for future employment opportunities. This clarity was much needed and has lessened my stress level this semester! If you’re in school currently and applying for another program, you can relate! Whew! A LOT of work!
Aside from those things, the conference offered hundreds of presentations, poster sessions, paper sessions, and workshops you could choose to attend! Almost any topic that you could possibly be interested in, within the field of social work, were covered! These sessions were great and very interactive! I tended to migrate toward the career development sessions mostly and learned great things about writing research statements, teaching statements, resume and CV writing, and tips on the job search.
Below you will find a few pics from my trip!
1. Flying into Tampa was extremely beautiful! Breathtaking view!
2. I was selected as the only MSW student in the country to receive a Travel Award to attend the conference. All of my conference expenses were paid for! The scholarship opens every August, I encourage you to apply next year! Check out the page here: http://www.cswe.org/Meetings/2014APM/2014APMStudents/74831.aspx
3. The Tampa Aquarium was soooooo cool! I loved all the beautiful sea creatures!
4. The Tampa weather. O.M.G. It was October but felt like NC does in June/July! It was perfectttt!
5. If you’re in Tampa and love fresh, authentic, Mexican food. Go there. No other comments.
6. Perfect ending to a great conference! Pictured here you see Kayla Humphrey, Capricia Davis, and myself relaxing at the beach!
From this post, I hope you’re encouraged to attend a Social Work conference in the future!
My foundation field placement is at UNC Family Medicine Center in the Department of Family Medicine at UNC Health Care. UNC Family Medicine is a primary care clinic where physicians and support staff serve over 17,000 patients. I am part of the Care Management team consisting of one other MSW intern and two full-time clinical social workers. The culture at UNC Family Medicine is such that Care Management is not only appreciated but almost depended on for providing the best care possible for our patients.
The Care Management team conducts brief supportive therapy, provides referrals, assists with financial aid applications, frequently checks in on patients, supports transitions from hospital admission back home, consults with the home visiting medical team, and generally resources for holistic care. Most days, I make phone calls to patients, see patients in clinic, debrief with my supervisors and attend planning and consult meetings. Everyday I experience new and interesting cases that challenge me and expand my knowledge related to not only medical care management but social work as a whole.
Fortunately for medical social work, the health care and health insurance industries are moving toward a preventative model, specifically in terms of preventing hospital readmissions. Social workers are a huge part of this effort as we work to secure financial, social, and mental health stability that are all integral to good health. Further, we advocate for patients when collaborating with health care providers and other community resources. This care management piece has been shown to reduce overall health care cost to health insurance companies and health care systems and is therefore a rapidly growing field. Additionally, due to the Affordable Care Act, more low income, under-served populations are beginning to use the health care system more heavily and therefore can greatly benefit from care management.
UNC School of Social Work has recognized this expansion of the medical social work field and is now gearing up to launch the UNC-PrimeCare program centering on preparing MSW students to work in the interdisciplinary medical field in a primary care setting with a focus on adolescent and young adult mental health. This program will work with medical and primary care field placement agencies such as UNC Family Medicine to collaborate on this project. This is such an exciting time for medical social work and UNC School of Social Work!
To those of you who are applying to the UNC School of Social Work right now, GOOD LUCK! I’m nearing the end of the first semester of my second year in the MSW program, and I have been thinking about some of the things I have done during my time at UNC that have helped me grow as a person and have prepared me to become a great social worker… the first thing that came to mind was my involvement with SoWoSO (the Social Work Student Organization)
In addition to classes, lots of homework, many hours at field, and trying to squeeze in time for friends and loved ones, I have found a great opportunity to become a leader at the School of Social Work by getting involved with SoWoSO. SoWoSO is a student run organization committed to providing a voice to students within the school, helping create a sense of community and strong communication between students and staff, and organizing events each month based on students’ interests. SoWoSo has numerous student-run interest groups called caucuses, that put on amazing events each month such as movie-screenings, panel discussions, guest speakers, advocacy events and more.
This year we have 9 active student caucuses: (http://ssw.unc.edu/index.php?q=node/574)
- Aging caucus
- Homelessness caucus
- Military caucus
- Black Student caucus
- Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBTQ) caucus
- Macro caucus
- Mental health caucus
- International caucus
So where do I fit into all of this? I am one of the SoWoSO chairs- more specifically I am the SOCIAL chair! I am responsible for maintaining the SoWoSO calendar, sending monthly emails regarding upcoming events, planning the beginning of year potluck and end of year mixer, attending SoWoSO meetings, planning monthly social events, and assisting the other two chairs in making decisions regarding SoWOSO.
In addition to executive chair positions, each caucus has 2-3 caucus chairs, and SoWoSO also has student representatives who attend different faculty committees and serve as the students’ voice in those committee meetings. SoWoSO has OVER 25 leadership positions, meaning if you come to the UNC School of Social Work, we will be looking for future leaders like you to fill some of those positions!
Being a SoWoSO chair has been a fantastic opportunity for me to develop and improve upon my communication skills, organizational skills, and leadership skills! I have also learned to work in a team to make decisions, and have enjoyed being a middle-man between the students and the faculty. I strongly encourage incoming students to get involved in SoWoSO, and become leaders in your social work community! :)